Share |

Island Life

Default Settings

I will admit that back in the day, when the announcer at the beginning of each ‘Outer Limits’ show proclaimed that they were in control of both the horizontal and the vertical  on our TV set, I did not totally believe him. I did know where those control knobs were, and I do remember that it was the vertical hold that went haywire way more often than the horizontal. I could deal with that, but what I had problems with was why I could not tune in the color on our black and white set. I do remember seeing the spaces back there that were labeled for color adjustment- the problem was that there were no knobs in those spaces that I could then magically turn to make the NBC peacock and Walt Disney’s wonderful world shine forth in living color. Eventually and finally we did get a television set where the knobs that tweaked the color were all there, and not missing and hinted at in the back. For some reason, as time passed, controlling the vertical slowly became less of a problem than having to adjust for skin tones that were too blue or green. As I recall though, there was no magic button that one could fall back on once one had totally screwed things up- no default setting that would bring everything back to some semblance of a pre-established normal.

Cameras were way more simple then, even if you had one that was completely manual. First you chose the film type- black and white or color, and if it was color- daylight or tungsten. At this point you also chose a film speed- fast for the ability to capture motion and action and slower for more detail and less grain. Then you set the film speed on your camera or meter and then just had to chose f-stop and shutter speed according to the light conditions as per what your meter told you. As I learned a little more about color and film sensitivity, I began to keep an 81A filter on hand and on my various lenses in order to warm scenes, which for me usually were made up of plants or plants and gardens. This filter added a richness to the scenes which I mostly captured on slide film that could not be color corrected for afterward in the way that color print film could. And since this subject matter was pretty much all that I shot, I did not have to worry about changing filters or film speeds, all of which narrowed the act of picture making down to three variables beyond the basic composition- shutter speed, focus and depth of field. And then along came digital photography.

I will admit to grand skepticism at first about the digital revolution, and initial image quality on an affordable scale bolstered my steadfast opinion that film would always reign supreme. In recent times, the opinion in these parts has been radically shifted in favor of the magic performed by microchips and firmware that transform optics from reflected light into an image recorded onto ever smaller cards that can hold ever greater amounts of 0’s and 1’s that together form ever finer renditions of things that I see and what I want to capture, as well as varying exposures of high and low light that allow me to see what otherwise I might never have imagined possible. All of this can be done with settings already dialed in on the cameras as they come from the factory, or one can go into the settings and muck about with how the camera might see things a little differently.

Generally now when I go out to record events and things I try to run through a mental checklist of settings that I need to make sure are set properly before things start happening and prior to my pressing the record button- mostly I get that right. There are times though when I simply forget that a certain filter or setting has been used in the last outing with that camera and, I wind up with a recorded result that  requires more work in the editing room than should have been necessary. And then there are the rare times like last week at the ferry meeting at the high school where something goes wrong that has never happened before and one tries to make things work while still trying to capture what it was we came to record.

Part way through the proceedings, after I had zoomed in on one of the participants at the meeting, instead of staying zoomed, in the camera slowly began zooming out on its own. I thought that perhaps the remote I was using to control the zoom had malfunctioned and so I detached it and began zooming with the zoom rocker on the camera. This did not fix the auto zoom out, but if  I held the button in just the right place I could maintain the close up, although awkwardly. I finally gave in and just recorded things in the wide mode, and then when the meeting was over I found that no matter how I pushed the stop record button it wouldn’t stop recording. I then went to simply turn the camera off and that switch did not work either, so I pulled the battery off. I replaced it with a fully charged battery and found that all the data had been deleted, and was then asked by the camera if I would like it to be recovered. Not seeing a “duh” functioning I hit yes and all of the night’s events were restored. While this was a relief, the camera malfunction seemed to be somewhat of a metaphor for the evening.

My first experience with a WSF meeting was way back when they were bringing the foot ferry service to the Island. This seemed like a good idea to me since it would theoretically help eliminate more cars from Seattle roads, which at the time was nowhere near the problem it is now. What I found at this meeting though was that it was not so much an information gathering outing on the part of WSF as it was an informing of the Island as to what we were about to get, as the ferries had already been ordered. One of the things that struck me as odd was that they were only allowing three bicycles on at a time, which seemed basically ridiculous. That was just one of the bad ideas that we were having to accept thanks a lack of vision on the part of WSF. What I was hearing at the meeting the other night, between efforts at getting my camera to function properly, was that the changes WSF had tried this past summer to make a bad situation at Fauntleroy supposedly better were ridiculous and seemingly as baseless in reality as well.

There were a number of suggestions from the crowd that seemed to make a lot of sense, at least to me. One of them was to treat the Fauntleroy dock not as a special case in the system. Another suggestion that would follow along these lines was that the toll booths be moved to the lower parking lot at Lincoln Park. In thinking about this afterward, it would make more sense to me to move them to the upper parking lot, expand that lot so that there is parking to the north of the current entrance with the toll booths just to the south as you currently enter and the have striped lanes that you file into as the line backs up from the dock with a toll booth bypass lane for people who already have tickets. Then it would make sense to have no on street parking between that upper parking lot and the dock. This would eliminate the unticketed backlog from the bottleneck at the dock, allow for a greater pool of already ticketed cars that could be directed to fill a boat, and possibly cut way back on line-cutting. I am skipping some of the other logistics which would theoretically be worked out by people smarter than those currently working for WSF. I am also not figuring in the thousand plus new residents to the Island that has been suggested by the county in the latest comprehensive plan. At the point they all arrive it would seem that the default setting for a solution would be closer to a Mercer Island than a Vashon, which perhaps has been the plan all along.