Sunday, July 2, 2017

Designing A Travel Album With Apple & Shutterfly

Remember the Kodak Carousel Projector?

   After years of being subjected to dark rooms of endless travel slides ... while always interested, even, yes even fascinated, I began finding, as I got older,  myself more and more nodding off. I mean after a good meal, a few glasses of wine ... in a darkened room, well, you get the picture!
   After a few such episodes of friends travelogues, I decided to try something else. A Mac user because of my graphics business, I discovered that Apple's iPhoto program offered the opportunity to create a printed photo album. No more slides, hundreds of glossy photos laying around and especially, I wouldn't bore friends that were bribed to watch my travels with the promise of food first, booze and a na... travel photos, later. The  advantage was that you could show a large number of people your travels at the same time. The disadvantage was you felt you were bribing them to enjoy your vacation with the risk they wouldn't. You hoped no one noticed their, ugh, nap!
Kodachrome ... "gives you those nice bright colors"
memorialized by Paul Simon, was the standard film 
of the era before digital.
  I had my first camera at 5. My parents, especially my Grandmother were picture takers! Born in 1900 Grandma called every camera a Kodak even when I showed her my first SLR, a Minolta SRT-101. Purchased in Ethiopia during my Peace Corps years she marveled at what it could do but never understand why you would shoot slide film and not photos!
   My first photo class was in high school where as yearbook editor I printed about half of the photos, even taking some, that were used in the yearbook. As a Journalism / Advertising major in college I again had to take photography using a YashicaMat twin-lens camera with 120, a square format film.
You could print photos of your vacations or ...
 as I discovered, print your very own photo book!
   After shooting hundreds if not a few thousand slides during my Peace Corp years, I turned again to photography as a hobby. I found a darkroom that you could rent by the hour, then my girlfriends family let me turn an old outdoor playhouse into a darkroom. I purchased a Durst enlarger and would spend a few hours each week printing photos for a hobby and now and then freelance for various organizations.
   Every year I printed my Christmas cards and my helpers were children that even barely sitting up had a job exposing, developing or fixing the prints.
   When in my 50's I started my own graphic design business, I quickly realized that desktop publishing was here to stay and found scanning slides was an expensive proposition forcing me to consider, then use, digital cameras. You very quickly learned that while before you might have been limited to 36 frames on a roll, digital photos allowed far more photos with the only limitation being the size of your card. And you printed only those you wanted, not all.
   Then when we started a family hundreds more photos accumulated. For many years I created a yearly album but finally after several trips to Europe in desperation I decided to try what Apple's iPhoto had to offer. I have to admit it wasn't love at first sight. By then I was pretty experienced using QuarkXpress, a desktop publishing program that in the 80's and 90's was the most popular program around. iPhoto just didn't "seem" to have layouts I liked. I soon learned to adjust. Over the years it too has become more sophisticated allowing a broader ranges of choices that compliment the kinds of images we can take today, especially the panorama that the iPhone touts and I use, often!
iPhoto then, Photos now, presents many options for creating an album

   My first attempt in iPhoto was after a trip to Europe in 2007. It was a struggle with options I often didn't like but once published, I was proud of what I had created. Being anal I carefully picked each photo, ran it through PhotoShop to tweak and then reimported the images back into an iPhoto album so that I could arrange in what I thought would be a sequential order, something I quickly learned was not an always simple thing to do. Unless you sit right down after you get home, load the photos into your computer and get to work, you begin to ask ... "were we there Tuesday or Wednesday, or did we go before or after ...?" In fact, I am still having trouble with this. With my last album I decided to give up sequence and instead focus on the place or event! Yes, I could have kept a daily diary of my trips but I preferred to take photos instead. Evenings were for meals, chatting and sleep!
   My second album was with Shutterfly on the recommendation of a friend. This was a trip to Egypt, a trip I had dreamed of since I was in grade school. We started out with a gaggle of friends going but as the year went on, one after another dropped out. Finally in October, my spouse asked if I really wanted to go ... and I said yes! Just the two of us went. It was a good thing we went. Soon after getting home the Arab Spring began and we may not ever be able to safely return there again.
   This was the trip of my lifetime ... or at least one that I had wanted to take all my life. Yet, after a red eye to Paris, resuming the next day to Cairo then on to Aswan to our boat near Luxor and Karnak, my DSLR Nikon DX-40 refused to fire. Here we were in front of The Avenue of the Rams at Karnak and my camera wouldn't work. I cried. Then I remembered I had thrown in my tiny Canon Elph, smaller than a deck of cards with only 10 MP images, and 3X telephoto at the last minute. I ended up taking 2400 photos with it and the images I got from this tiny camera were stunning! Best of all I could carry it in my pocket or hide in the palm of my hand. Things were SO huge, you often wished for a wide angle lens instead of a telephoto!
   Shutterfly had many of the same features that Apple offered and the prices were about the same. What I found in both cases though that if someone asked about your trip you could say a few words, hand them your album and they could go as fast or as slow as they wanted and there were no lights out nor soft snoring in the dark!

   It is truly a wonderful way to remember a trip. All the places you wanted to remember are there, at hand in a book with the original digital images safely stored in an external hard drive in a folder that, should you want, allows you to make a separate print to frame or give as a gift. A book takes up little space or at least far less than those photo boxes at Michael's that clutter up your shelves! 
   Here is the trip to Norway and Denmark in 2013. The fjord that morning was like a mirror stunning in stillness and clarity. Below are the opening pages of the eventual 100 page record of our trip.
   The book once laid out, as you can see, right, allows you to see the layout from page to page creating a tapestry of images. Each page can be enlarged to see greater detail and allow you to write descriptions of the layout and edit what you have written. Though if there is one complaint, editing text is harder than picking photos. You only have Twitter length type spaces to write descriptions. 
  Apple has all the images rest on the bottom of each page and you pick and drag them to your spot. Both are quite similar. I finally went back to Apple because every computer has Photos as a program and I found it easier to use after a long time away from it. Shutterfly seemed to have become more complicated.

  This is a wonderful way to remember a vacation and share with friends. If you traveled with friends, it makes a nice thank you gift for sharing their time with you. After a few years, you will look back, as I have, to where you have gone and refresh in your mind what you have seen. Friends, while browsing my books often stumble on them I find. They too look them over and ask questions about where you have been. Its a wonderful memory and worth the effort!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

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