Tag Archives: time & values

the final scancafe review, part three

Seema & Becki. San Francisco. May 1992.

(Continued from part two.) When it was clear I had only two weeks to review the 6000 images again, which took me over 50 hours the first time, I asked the manager if it was possible, because of the the lack of time I had to make selects before my trip due to their many problems, to process the images I had chosen at no further cost, in essence, paying 50% for about 68% of the images (which they had already scanned anyway. It would cost them all of one DVD). He said no, and offered me $100 off my final order. I didn’t appreciate this arrangement much, as my suggestion actually served us both better. They would have made more money (because I then made it a point to delete 50% of my order, ultimately paying $100 less than 50%, their required select rate) and I would have saved time and felt that the massive amount of my time wasted by their mistakes was truly acknowledged, backing up their, “We’re so sorry for the inconvenience” blather.

In the end, maybe it’s better I edited more fiercely then, as I’m not impressed by the quality of the end result, and am spending a fair amount of time archiving them. But then, maybe it’s not.

Another issue that popped during this time is that no nudes were scanned. Not even some playful images of the fully clothed. This I covered in a previous post.

Because I didn’t finish the selects until just before I left for Australia, I was concerned about my images being returned when I was away. I didn’t really want them sitting around somewhere, in NYC or in India. Regardless, I chose to keep them in India given the option as scancafe would remain responsible for them, which still seemed better than, say, my super. And so, the manager held them in India until I would return in late January. This much worked out well. The images were sent back when I returned and I received them on February 4, 2010.

I started going through the scans, not overly pleased with the results. By February 9th, I emailed the quality manager the following:

Dear Joson,

I’m sorry to trouble you with this, as you’ve been as helpful as possible given the circumstances.

I have to say, though, that the quality of the scans is not great. The technicians don’t seem to know anything about photography and perhaps have been trained to apply automatic adjustments to each image.

Some of my negatives are quite old, and I understand the low quality on these. However there are slide scans that I have in better quality from a scanner/photocopier circa 1999. This is not acceptable in 2010. All of these images need to be fixed in photoshop, which would not be a problem if scancafe did not claim to correct each image, and charge for it.

An example: The back lit silhouette is a fairly common principle in photo, especially film photography. The subject is MEANT to be a shadow, lit from the back. In many (all? I’m not near through all of them yet) of my backlit photos, the image has been ruined by blowing out the image until the background is lost and the subject is seen on the subject. I gave you an example of this last November my image #, but it was never addressed.

Some of the scans are quite good, and other batches are quite bad. Was the technician having good/bad days or moods? It’s quite odd.

The quality of these scans renders them $.10 each, perhaps $.15. Because the quality of scans is not what you advertise, I would like to be refunded the difference.

Again, I’m sorry to trouble you as you’ve been helpful, but I am not at all happy with the overall scanning experience. Thanks so much for your help in all of this.

I think the blown out silhouettes are what took me over the edge. Saved in small jpg files, these scans are totally worthless. I have them for reference, but nothing else. If I’d want to use them in an online gallery, I’d have to rescan them.

As before, I didn’t hear anything back. Until I posted my grievance on photo.net. Possibly coincidental, the next day, their chief operating officer in California contacted me with the following message:

Hello Anastasia,

Your issue has been escalated to my attention. It is unfortunate that we have not been able to meet your expectations.

Please bear in mind that the color balance, tonal balance etc in photographs is a subjective judgment and in your case we haven’t been able to match your expectations even after multiple interactions with our quality staff. As you desire, I will have all your orders refunded down to 10 cents per scan. I apologize for the inconvenience. In the 3 years of ScanCafe’s operations, you will be truly the first customer whose issue we have not been able to resolve.

Also, I just saw your blog today and noticed that you are concerned about how well our staff is treated and paid. For the record, we pay the highest in the city of Bangalore for the skill sets we employ. Our employee attrition rates are lowest in the industry. You, your friends or journalists are welcome to visit our facility at any time without notice. We also employ staff that have hearing and speech impairments and we conduct training for them in sign language as part of our social responsibility in enabling the differently enabled. Also, we have an annual celebration day at ScanCafe coming up pretty soon that we would like to invite you to. It will be a great opportunity for you to interact with our staff and truly assess to your satisfaction if they are happy. The management of ScanCafe has worked in companies like Cisco, eBay, Yahoo etc. I am just curious if you checked with the CEO of Intel if his staff was paid appropriately prior to purchasing your computer with an Intel processor.

Your refund will appear soon on your credit card if we can still process the last transaction electronically. If not, we will mail a check.

Best regards,

N. Dubey, Ph.D.
Chief Operating Officer
ScanCafe Inc

Whoa. A bit intense. My reply:

Dear Naren,

Thanks for your reply. I agree that the situation is unfortunate.

In 20 years of dealing with color labs in New York, I have never been told that color
balance, tonal balance, exposure, etc, are simply subjective because there are industry
standards that labs work to meet. When learning photography, students are not taught
color balance is subjective when the image is +40 magenta or a woman’s face is pale cyan.

I am delighted to hear that your staff is well treated and well compensated, and that
your company is socially responsible. You should make a page about this on your website,
as I assure you that I am not alone in wondering how your employees are treated. I’d love
to attend your annual celebration. I’m sure it would be fascinating as well as good fun.
Are you providing a plane ticket with your invitation?

Never have I enquired with a CEO about staff pay, so I’m not sure why I’d start with Intel. I did not wonder aloud about them on my blog because 1) now that mac has switched to Intel, ever major computer company in the US uses Intel processors, so there is no choice, as there is with where I have my images scanned. 2) Intel was never in possession and control of my most valued possessions. I would hope that you understand that people are trusting your company with treasured belongings, which means more consideration goes into it than say, selecting a word processor. If I sent a hard drive off to be fixed with the only copy of every word I’ve ever written, yes, I’d look into that company carefully. 3) If you were actually curious about whether or not I wonder about the treatment of workers elsewhere, yes, I do. And I spend my money accordingly.

Thanks for your attention to this matter,


And so it goes. I got the check in March, which means that in the end, I paid $370 for the scans. I was happy with this, until later in March when I unpacked the box of negatives and chromes and confirmed through my files that the Pakistan images were gone. Scancafe claims that they’ve never lost an order. But images within an order? I read on a forum that another photographer found after he got his images back that a number of them hadn’t been scanned. Sigh. After the previous exchange above, I wasn’t willing to push it further. I am upset about the Pakistan negatives—they were among the images I was most excited to see. But such is life. The scans are back, I’ve reordered them all (took a few weeks) and am now entering them into Lightroom, with keywords (tags). I’m glad I have them done, but I’m not sure I’d do it that way again.

As for scancafe, if you are the kind of person who took her photos to the 1-hr photo place down the block during the analog years, and that was fine, then sending scancafe your not-too-large order will also be fine. I wouldn’t send them anything over 500 photos. And I’m not sure how happy anyone will be who wasn’t happy with the 1-hr photo place. I definitely think they are a legitimate company, and they want to be a great company. They just aren’t there. They did send the check for $315, which means I paid $370 for the service, which would have been $785. But given the quality of the scans, the lost photos, and the lost time in the review process, I’m not sure that’s a deal. The pro-photo services scancafe charges are about as much as getting them done locally, so, why not do that? That’s my plan, next time around.

they’re off

slides01I did it! I wrapped up every neg and slide taken from 1988 to 2003, packed them in a box, and set it inside the back of a UPS truck. Shipped them off to be scanned by scancafe. About 2797 slides and 2936 negs. Total ~5733. Wow.

It kind of took me over this weekend, one of those big decisions that made itself. I thought I’d just send half, but I realized that everything from June 2003 on was already digital, either shot digitally or scanned by my lab when I processed the film. So I kept going and sent it all.

It was a big decision not just because of the cost, but because I’m sending off all of my images. It will take them two months to be scanned. What if they’re damaged or lost? Honestly, I don’t care. It felt great to have those big black binders emptied and packed for transformation. It’s all but impossible to see the tiny film images in there. Now I’ll have jpegs and be able to see what I have. I’ll use it or rid of it, and archive the rest. I didn’t send the grandpa images (yet), and everything else I have paper prints or scanned images of the important stuff. If it’s gone, it’s gone. I will be traumatized, but it’s great to feel that I could handle it and let them go. Before, the thought of losing my most adored possessions? Couldn’t do it. There were so many I had to pack them into a suitcase and take the bus to work (instead of the subway).

slides02I just made the UPS pickup and saw them into the truck myself. It felt fantastic—but I delight in getting rid of things or making things new and usable. I also donated a few books and clothes this weekend, and trashed the 100CDs full of pics that I’d converted to a few DVDs. Yay!


sunday night on holiday

It’s Sunday night. 8:09pm. I start an intensive yoga training tomorrow at 8:30am, which runs through Saturday. Good word, I have to get up at 6:30am. Where went my week off?

I’m slowly going though the Sri Lanka pics, only about 70 more to edit until I am done with the pics from ashtangalanka and environs. It’s taking a long time because they are all quite similar and I’m not sure which to cut. I’ve never mastered my digital camera, because I quit professional photog when film was still the standard, and I’ve simply not shot that much digitally by comparison, though my SLR is five years old. The way it reads light is still strange to me, which in Sri Lanka wasn’t helped by the fact that one of the two batteries I took with me was so old as to only hold charge for about 3 minutes, before the meter went mad. I discovered this when Andrea and I went to the surf beach (as we called it, because the waves were suitable for body surfing) and there were two sweet cows on the beach. I kind of fixed the exposures, but alas.

Cows on the beach in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Cows on the beach in Tangalle, Sri Lanka

I’ve also been reading a novel in the blissful quiet of my home, the most vacation-y thing I’ve done this week. I can’t recall the last time I indulged. It’s quite good, though I’d have cut a hundred pages plus, easily, and tightened up the story (which you’ll be saying upon viewing all the ocean photos in the upcoming photo essay). I’m two-thirds through the book, A Trip to the Stars, and am waiting to get through the rest to see as if ends as I’ve expected since page 37.  I just want the separated lovers to reunite and kiss, damn it.

A week from now will be the eve of my return to the bread and butter job, and the next six days are full of yoga. The last 7 days have been full of yoga as well, lest you think I was clever enough to take the week to laze about my home and stroll in the park. Other than the novel and editing, I’ve been fulfilling the requirements for my advanced training, as well as teaching, and reading about php/wordpress, to see exactly what I can do in this realm. I taught five classes, did five hours of required, supervised privates, and assisted/observed other classes for six hours. That was my week off.  I did lunch with friends three times, squeezed in chats with a few others, and reunited with lost friends Ilona and Narimantas, whom I’ve searched for since I last saw them in Kaunas in 1995 (yes, of course it was assbook). Remarkable. I managed to clean and do laundry in <3 hours today and was delighted to have the rest of the rainy day to read, edit and finally write before it all starts up again tomorrow. I think this might inspire the next post on the yoga blog: what does it take to be a yoga teacher?

My mother told me tonight that Mr. Brown, Herb to my parents, died on Thursday, which was 10 years to the day that my paternal grandmother/namesake died. Mr. Brown lived across the street from us when I was a child. He was incredibly sweet and funny. When I went knocking with my girl scout cookie sales sheet each year, he’d tell me with twinkling eyes what a good girl scout he was in the day—sold more cookies than I would imagine. He’d also mow his lawn in the dark (when it was cooler) and sometimes in circles, walking around in the street to get the edges. The Brown’s daughter, about ten years older than me, was the town’s star softball player, which seemed very tough and glamorous to my eight-year-old self. Mr Brown often practiced his golf in the front yard for hours, and hollered jokes over while I mowed the lawn. “What??” Ah, memories. You were a great neighbor and you made us laugh, Mr. Brown. May you rest peacefully.

grandpa’s house

This might be my best photo essay ever. I love it.

I’m behind on the Sri Lanka stories, of course. Pattabhi Jois died on May 18. He was 93. I’m beginning to feel like the trip will fade out of memory if I don’t write it soon.

It’s not a matter of procrastination but a lack of time (as usual). Any free time I have outside of work, teaching, and teacher training has been spent culling over a hundred CDs worth of images—in the end over 9,000 files. They were burned over time so everything was in chronological order, and I wasn’t sure what exactly was there. Now everything is ordered by place and topic, so I can find it and I know what I have.

photo from forgotten essay on Oomoot, a center for the elderly in kyrgyzstan

In the process, I found photos I’ve totally forgotten about. Essays shot but never edited. Because after the work day (and school, and whatever else keeps me busy), there was no time. I did manage to put this photo essay on my grandpa’s house up last week. Though the images are from scanned contact sheets in plastic sleeves—scratchy with imprecise exposures—the result might be my best essay ever.

When I was almost finished going through the images (I began in February, a few weeks before Sri Lanka), I blew out my OS by hitting the power cord while installing software updates last Friday. Lost all the info (it was backed up, of course—in more than one place) but it’s been a nightmare time wise. Googling “restore time machine” did not give me the info I needed once the OS is reinstalled.

grandpa's kitchen. barberton, ohio, 2001
grandpa’s kitchen. barberton, ohio, 2001

(To restore a full system that’s been backed up on time machine using Mac OS X Leopard, go into applications, find Utilities >> Migration Assistant >> restore from Time Machine >> then choose your date. The only info I could find was about booting from the utilities disk, which I did not have).

That’s not quite complete. Regardless, with no time on my hands and too many pet projects in the balance, I need to redesign and reorder my website. It’s become unwieldy. I need to reorganize it, create a new home page, and use blogging software for the blog. Once again, I am overwhelmed by how much I want to do and how little time I have to do it.

This theme has gone on for years (no time!) and my desire to give time to the right places begs, as ever, to be satiated. Oh, this I must do. But how to do it, and pay the rent, is a real question.


Next: (maybe) ashtangis and other guests