All of my cameras, including my pocket-sized cameras, are designed to shoot either jpg, which is the standard publication format for graphics on the Internet — or RAW, which is strictly data, but can capture subtleties of detail, color, and texture of which jpg is not capable.
I have always been advised to use RAW because it produces finer detail and gives you more room for advanced processing.
I don’t use it.
I did try it in the beginning when I got a camera that could handle it, my first Olympus. I was underwhelmed. Sure, you could process for those fine details, but since I wasn’t printing my pictures or publishing them in a book, the difference between RAW and jpg was invisible to most viewers and RAW files take up a staggering amount of room on ones hard-drive.
I finally asked a few people I knew well what they did with all that RAW data? Surely they didn’t try to store it on their computer — or even back it onto a hard-drive. Each raw image was at least triple the data quality for an equivalent jpg. The answer was the same, often a slightly ashamed and embarrassed “I don’t use RAW … there’s no point when you are using a computer and not printing.” Or, alternatively, “I transfer it into jpg then dump the RAW files.”
It turns out I was far from the only shooter who just couldn’t see substantive advantages to using that much memory. Memory may be cheap at the moment, but they will make changes to it and suddenly — again — we will all have to buy entirely new external back-up devices because the industry changes constantly.
Worse, RAW data is always changing. For me, that additional step of having to transfer the RAW into a processible image was one step beyond my time constraints. If I was doing this professionally, maybe. But maybe not. I rarely — if ever — have images that profoundly out of normal range to work with and since I overshoot everything anyway, I always have another, a nearly identical image with which to work.
All these are jpg images.
For those of you who have grappled with this RAW versus jpg issue for years, there are tons of articles about it all over the internet. But consider how much time you already spend processing and ask yourself if you have the time to do that much more processing on top of what you already do. Get back to me on that. I’m genuinely interested. I doubt I will change how I work, but I’d like to know how other people feel about it.
So I don’t shoot RAW. Sometimes, I have a guilt reaction about it. Maybe I should be using the format. “Everyone says so.”
Except that everyone doesn’t say so. Everyone thinks everyone else is saying so.
The lie has become so ingrained in our culture that we accept it without question. Today, I question it, its validity and its basis. Just because it has become our national motto doesn’t make it right.
This is the lie we tell ourselves and our children:
“If you want it bad enough and try hard enough, you can achieve anything. If you don’t achieve it, it’s because you gave up, didn’t try hard enough. Not achieving your dreams makes you a failure.”
That is not true.
We cannot achieve anything because we want it. Trying terribly hard can take you only so far. The rest of the distance requires actual ability in that field of endeavor, talent to make a dream come true.
You can’t be a blind artist. You can’t be a tone-deaf musician. You can’t write when you’ve no gift for words. You can’t be physicist if you find mathematics incomprehensible. You can’t be a carpenter or an engineer if you cannot visualize in three-dimensions. You can’t take pictures if you don’t see them in your mind’s eye. That’s not defeatism. It’s reality.
I don’t know when being a pragmatist became synonymous with defeatism. It infuriates me when someone tells me I shouldn’t give up on a dream because if I keep trying, I will succeed.
No, I won’t. It isn’t going to happen. It was never possible. I know what I can do. I know what I can’t do. Being told that I should never give up my dreams makes me want to whack the speaker of this un-wisdom upside the head.
I’m in favor of dreams as long as you know the difference between a dream and an expectation. I’m in favor of knowing who you are, evaluating your talents, recognizing your abilities. Everyone has dreams. Everyone has gifts. Sometimes the two coincide so that you can ride your dreams into a golden future. This outcome is not in everyone’s cards.
I wanted to be a musician. It wasn’t an outlandish dream. I had started piano when I was only four. I continued with it all through my school years and was in college, just one credit shy of completing my B.A. in Music when a professor took me aside for a chat.
He said: “You do well in your courses. You get As in everything, so there’s no problem with grades. Except I see you. Your heart isn’t in it, not the way it needs to be. Music requires total commitment. Maybe you would be happier doing something else. Keep music as a hobby. Do something you’re really good at, really passionate about. Being a second-rate musician won’t make you happy.”
I was mortified. Crushed. I played pretty well. I suffered from terminal stage fright, but I had a good ear and I loved music. I still do. Yet when I gave it serious thought, I knew the truth. I would never fully commit to music. It was not the right path for me.
My real talent lay in words. I could write as soon as I could read. It was as natural to me as breathing and I never even thought of it as a gift because it was so easy. I just figured anyone could do it. I had to do some major rethinking and revise my self-image. It was painful and difficult. I never gave up playing the piano, but it stopped being my professional goal. As a bonus, when I stopped trying to become a professional musician, I began to enjoy music more.
I refocused my energy on writing and immediately, life turned around. I stopped plodding and began to fly. I never took a writing class. I just started working as a professional writer from my first job after college and never did anything else professionally for the next 40 years.
If Dr. Deutsch (thank you, Herb, you really gave me a push in the right direction) had not sat me down and told me the truth as he saw it, I’d probably have continued down a road that would have led me nowhere I really wanted to go. He didn’t buy the lie and refused to let me buy it.
No one can create talent. That’s why talents are called gifts. You get them free of charge along with the breath of life. Yet we keep hearing that lie — try hard and you can make it happen. We waste years trying to achieve the impossible while dismissing the achievable. We neglect real gifts in favor of magical thinking. What a waste!
Dreams are not the goal. Creating a good and satisfying career and life should be the goal. We all need to take stock of ourselves, look hard at what we do well, focus on our strengths, hone our talents, and plan a future that works.
The freedom you gain when you stop trying to do the impossible and put your whole heart into using your abilities is inestimable. You stop feeling like a failure. You get to love your work. You can dump the dead weight of dreams as well as the guilt and frustration of not fulfilling them. Just because you can’t be a ballerina doesn’t make you a failure. Being a lousy dancer when you could have been a great something else IS a failure … a lose-lose for you and society.
Distinguishing dreams from reality is a winning strategy. Like it or not, we live in the real world. Dreams are not real.
The first big concert that I attended in my life was at DePaul University Alumni Hall on May 13, 1971. Three DePaul alumni and two other DePaul music students, along with a Roosevelt University music student and a local musician were making it in the big time and were coming home to play a benefit. The concert ticket prices were a rather high 3.50 and 6.50 US dollars. I am sure I went for the cheaper ticket. I had been to many Blue Demon basketball games in Alumni Hall so I knew there would not be a bad seat.
The band’s first album came out 50 years ago and was the self-titled The Chicago Transit Authority. While on tour the local transit authority actually threatened legal action if they kept the name. Thus the band name was shortened to just Chicago. The first album was doing OK, but did not garner any indivdual hits in the beginning. We didn’t care. We liked what we heard. Then something happened.
While the boys were on the road, their songs were finally making it from the FM album-oriented stations to AM radio. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, Beginnings and Questions 67 & 68 climbed the charts. When Chicago the band made it back to Alumni Hall, they were rock stars, “rock with horns,” that is. The student newspaper noted at the time: “The memories are there, as are the photographs and copy, but no camera or pencil could have successfully captured the exchanges of expression between the members of the band and the proud, beaming faces in the front row of Alumni Hall – their parents.”
CTA, as we liked to call the album in Chicago, stayed on the Billboard 200 for a record 171 consecutive weeks. It was helped along by the success of the next album just titled “Chicago.” The album that followed in 1971 was “Chicago III.” Singles were making it to the AM radio where we could all hear them without buying the album. There are now 36 albums, the most recent being “Chicago Now,” or Chicago XXXVI.
I have seen Chicago in concert about a dozen times over the recent decades. Besides seeing them at the site of my high school and college gym, Alumni Hall (now gone), I also saw them at Poplar Creek (also gone), Soldier Field for a “Saturday in the Park,” Northerly Island, Chicago (more of a pennisula, methinks), Grant Park for “Taste of Chicago,” and several times in recent years at Ravinia Festival just north of Chicago.
Ravinia Festival is reported to be the oldest outdoor music festival in the United States. It began in Ravinia Park in 1905 and now runs from June to about mid September each year. The calendar of events typically contains 120 to 150 events. In addition to the 3400 seat outdoor pavillion, there is the 850 seat Martin Theater used largely for classical works, and the 450 seat Bennett Gordon Hall.
The outdoor concerts encompass every type of music from classical to jazz, show tunes to opera, rock to blues. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra finds a summer home there and they perform many outdoor shows. The popular site can fill the Pavillion and put thousands more on the lawn.
The original purpose of Ravinia Park was in support of the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad. This stop along the line was meant to provide a variety of amusements just a short distance from the city. The railroad went bankrupt in 1911 putting the festival in jeopardy. A group of local residents, including prominent Chicago businessmen, purchased the park and secured its future as an entertainment spectacular.
Ravinia Park is spread across 36 acres. Theaters, restaurants, souvenir stops, refreshment stands, a food court and beverage store help to fill the space. The lawn frequently includes a giant screen for all those who can not see the stage. The sound is great everywhere.
Unique to this venue is the picnic aspect of the lawn. Not only can you bring in your own lawn chair, but also your own food and drink. People arrive with coolers and picnic baskets. Even low tables to hold your candles, and wine and cheese are allowed. If you forget anything or did not want to carry items in, just run to the store on site.
I like to take the Union Pacific North line from the Ravensood stop at Lawrence Avenue, just two stops from downtown Chicago, right to the gate at Ravinia. The entrance is literally steps from the train. On the return, they hold the train until the show is over, including encores, and people have a chance to get to the platform. Don’t be too late or you may have to call an Uber! Of course, you can drive out there. The park has adequate parking if you did not make it to the train on time, or have a lot of picnic gear to bring.
Chicago the band is 10 now instead of just 7 they had at the start. There are two pecussionists, not a single drummer as in the beginnings. Replacing the multitalented Terry Kath following his death in 1978 added to their numbers as well. When Jason Scheff (Pete Cetera replacement in 1985) recently left the band, a bass player and singer were added to cover the parts. In fact, many lineup adjustments have been made through the years.
The current line up still provides the same great sound. Remarkably, original trombone player James Pankow and trumpet player Lee Loughnane are as stong as ever. Robert Lamm (from Roosevelt University), the heart and soul of Chicago, still delivers on multiple instruments and lead vocals.
Chicago the band is a major component of the soundtack of my life. Even though it is 50 years on, the music never gets old.
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