iary, Photos, and Scanning
December 11, 1999 - January 30, 2000
Other China Pages
Before we ever set out on this trip we decided that we would try to keep an accurate diary and post as much (interesting?) stuff as we could on the web. We still think it is a good idea, but we really didn't know how much work it would take. A proper diary for a day takes one of us an hour or more. All too often we would get behind two or three days and then have to rack our brains to determine what we did. In Hong Kong we decided to lay off — three months travelling around China were worth recording in detail, but sitting at home in HK didn't require the same effort.
While in Beijing Jan had taken about ten rolls of pictures and Gerry another ten rolls. Near the end of our stay there we'd had most of Jan's pictures developed but in the end weren't happy with the quality. We had not had any of Gerry's films developed because they are APS (taken with the Olympus camera Jan got as a door prize at PC Expo) and we didn't want to pay the high prices and did not trust a corner shop. In the time since we left Beijing we had taken about 25 more rolls of film and had not had any of them developed. So now in HK, at hundreds of dollars of expense, we had them developed and printed.
And now the work really began. In place of daily detailed diary, we began to label pictures. Determining temple names or whatever -- not always successfully — took an unexpectedly large number of hours. We shared that task, but Jan did the bulk of it. Gerry's task was scanning. In Paris we had bought a scanner and Gerry had spent many an hour with it. But that was left in Darlington. Once in HK we looked around the shops for a replacement; by the second or third round, and just about the time of the new year, we had one.
Many of our more advanced friends upon hearing or our work and delays due to scanning propose a digital camera. We are not so trogloyte that we have never heard of a digital camera. In fact, Jan used one for her work at Tellium and, much earlier, Gerry was a co-founder of Electrim, which make digital cameras. No, we aren't (too) ignorant. The problem is one of quality, which is poor at the price we want to pay. A reasonably priced digital camera has a few megapixels; that is, it takes pictures at best around 1700 x 1200 pixels. If printed in 6 x 4 inch format that amounts to about 275-300 ppi (pixels/inch). Good inkjet and laser printers now easily do above 600 ppi; magazine photos are printed at about 2500 ppi. If we want to have that kind of quality pictures, we have to take photos and scan them. However digital cameras are getting better and there certainly is one in our future.
It can take several hours to process a roll: For each picture Gerry places it on the scanner; that take him about 10 seconds and there his active participation ends. Then our slow scanner takes about 40 seconds to do its job and finally then out notebook computer with its 366 MHz processor takes up to a minute to compress the data and save it in JPEG format. During all this time Gerry reads or runs off to do tiny errands. After a roll is completely scanned some pictures need to be cropped and some have their orientation changed. That can take another elapsed hour.
Good idea or bad idea, Gerry set to work scanning the waiting 35+ rolls and the new ones that we "acquired" in HK. They say that the work expands to fill the time available. That must be, because as our stay in HK was drawing to a close we spent a higher and higher fraction of our time processing our photos. In the end, the last three or four days in Hong were nearly nothing but scanning for Gerry. Some of the results can be seen here.