madshutterbug (madshutterbug) wrote,

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State of the Economy

Above and beyond all the usual little and sometimes not so little indicators of exactly how our economy is doing, things like groceries, gasoline, and oh, say, investment bank firms, another jog came along this week. This one is a lot closer to my heart than some.

There is a fairly to very good photographic processing lab in Hoggetowne called Flair Lab. If one does follow that link, you will still see the header on the page declaring Harmon's and Flair Pro Color Lab. Harmon's comprises their photo equipment store, and it's really quite a nice well rounded place, unlike the Ritz Camera chain place out in the Oaks Mall. It's possible to purchase some equipment from places like Best Buy and Circuit City as well, but these two are the only camera stores in Hoggetowne that I know about.

Or... were.

It seems that Harmon's is closing, though Flair Lab is not. There'd been two branches besides their big store that I use, one which closed a couple years back when the small shopping center where it was located was closed and demolished... for an apartment building construction project. The other small branch closed last year, but that one was located up north in Millhopper Plaza, an area which caters somewhat to a clientele which doesn't describe me. It was also quite a ways out of my way, excepting only when I'd go to my dentist. So I didn't notice that closing.

A couple days ago one of my co-workers mentioned that Harmon's is closing and my breath jerked and heart skipped a beat. Closing? Well, yes, though not the lab which brought along a great deal of relief. Converting photos from either film (negatives or colour transparencies) or digital requires some pretty significant investments, always has, and one of my particular problems, living where we do, is that silver as an element possesses antibiotic characteristics and septic tanks are a biotic waste processing system.

There used to be another film processing/printing lab in Hoggetowne I used a lot as well, Light Work Labs; they closed nearly six years ago. What killed them is a combination of what's killing the one location for Harmon's, plus the general trend to digital anyway. Light Work Labs was strictly that, a photographic chemistry business. They did excellent printing and film processing, but no digital work at all.

Flair does digital work, and still provides film processing as well. The owners worked hard to fill an ecological niche as it were, for those who do still shoot film. They've got a very good presence on the Internet, and do a lot of mail-order work as well including print restoration and digital data recovery. When (not if, in my figuring) they close, getting film processed will probably involve a trip to Orlando, Jacksonville, or Tampa. With luck, possibly only a trip to Ocala. Or, mail order work with some other concern.

Because Hoggetowne wanted the University, badly, when the search was on a century and some ago a number of concessions were made which still affect the business climate of Alachua County. Little things (it seemed) like, free water. Didn't seem like much 100 years ago, but you know, 60,000 some students can use a lot of water. And tax exemptions, too, on property owned. University owns a big chunk of the land in Alachua County.

Baja Jorja does not levy an income tax; property (land primarily but not exclusively) tax and sales tax provide the state with income. What this means is things like business and private landowners in the county pay higher taxes. Much higher taxes. My neighbors across the road at the Ranch, owning the same number of acres as we do pay five times the taxes we do without agricultural exemption. By this I mean, with both of us not getting that agricultural tax exemption. We're in Levy County, they're in Alachua. Even with them getting their agricultural exemption, they're paying more taxes than I am... and I've still not filed for that ag exemption.

So rent, taxes, and utilities, combined with health insurance coverage for employees finally caught up with the folks who own Harmon's, and they're closing the camera store. This involves down-sizing the employee base as well, and since the square footage of the lab facility is limited, also the inventory. Thus, they're having a sale.

I wandered over there yesterday on the way home. Not everything is on sale (no surprise), so I still can't quite afford that additional, new, Nikkor lens I want for the D70s alas. And my funds are just as limited, the economy being what it is after all. I did supplement some studio supplies with the purchase of three reflector umbrellas for my lighting setups, a LowePro Stealth Reporter D200AW camera bag, and a Promaster monopod. Oh, and a replacement camera strap for the D70s as well.

There are other companies out there making really good camera bags. I like LowePro. They're tough, well padded, fairly easy to carry bags which provide excellent weather protection if needed. They're so tough, in fact, it is possible to somewhat overload them, which is why I wanted a slightly smaller bag than the other two I've got. Yes, that's right the other two LowePro camera bags I've got. I told you I like LowePro.

The Reporter D200AW (All-Weather) will hold the D70s, with lens attached, plus a couple other lenses and at least one flash unit, or two flash units but no extra lenses. Along with this it will fit the usual suspects of additional small accessories like memory cards or film (if I pack the Mamiya C330 which the bag will also hold), lens cleaning supplies, and spare batteries. LowePro makes add-on pouches for their system, and this bag is small enough that adding one or two pouches means those extra lenses and the flash units will fit without seriously increasing the size. Though the weight will go up a bit. Plus, it's designed to slip over the retractable handle of a carry-on roller bag, which will prove very convenient on the types of trips I usually make, where I'm building in a few extra days for photography after an AORN related meeting.

Monopods are an interesting beast. Camera stability is what contributes to sharp photographs, often even moreso than the ability of a lens to focus cleanly. Minute camera shake results in blurred images, particularly with long lenses. This includes zoom lenses at their telephoto lengths. There's ways to minimise this of course, even hand-held, but the gold standard is a tripod. Tripods, however, can be somewhat clumsy to carry. A monopod is something of a compromise, additional stability but not quite so much as a tripod, less bulk and weight so easier to carry. With thought and practice, that additional stability can be maximised. Still, I expect to prefer the tripod overall. Particularly in studio, where I use a fairly heavy one since I don't need to carry it far.

I started thinking about using a monopod back in '01, after watching a pleasant gent using one on the Milford Sound cruise we took. I call him pleasant but that didn't have much to do with the monopod, rather with his demeanor and the conversations we enjoyed about photography. I won't call him elderly, but he was at least 30 years older than I. He started using the monopod for it's lightness and to add that stability I mentioned above, due to his age. So, since this one was on sale, I think a good time to get one.

The three reflector umbrellas upgrade the system I've currently got primarily by construction. I didn't get any additional lights or stands; looked like those mostly sold out, excepting their kits and those cost more than I've got to spend just now, even on 30% off sale. The two electronic lighting stands I do own (also purchased from Harmon's, eh, and usable with incandescent lighting as well) came with very basic white umbrellas, which function either as reflector or as diffuser. Which means, actually, they don't reflect 100% of the light directed at them.

The three new ones provide choice of silver or gold reflective surfaces and a black backing, which means reflective values increase. I got two 40" / 101cm reflectors and one 24" / 60cm reflector. I'll probably swing by Harmon's again today on the way home to pick up a couple small items I didn't think of yesterday, which will help in setting up to use all those reflectors with equipment currently on hand.

So, yup, another sign that the economy isn't doing quite so hot as some folk would have us believe. Two signs, actually, both the move and sale itself, and the fact that I don't have as much to spend to help them out in reducing their inventory.
Tags: camera store, economy, photography, studio, supplies

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