sunday 083103

September 03, 2003

Jamie Adington has seen quite a few beaches this summer, but he hasn't dipped his toe in the ocean. He's been processing vacation film at Coleman's Family Film Express on Main Street in Stanford.

"Usually people bring in six to 10 rolls per vacation. Half of them are usually the beach. Probably a third of them are throwaway cameras," says Adington, who has been working at the one-hour lab since June 2000.

Summer is peak vacation time and that means lots of rolls of film are dropped off at one-hour labs in Danville and the one in Stanford.

Kathy Gaffney, who has worked at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter photo department for 10 years, says their lab averages 120 rolls a day, but holidays can put the employees on double-time.


"Then it can push 300. Here lately, we've been averaging close to 200. That's reprints and roll work together."

Like Adington, Gaffney has seen her share of beach photos, but notes that many people travel out west. As a former Washington state dweller, her co-worker, Wanda Kopczynski, says in the heat of summer is not the time to sightsee there.

"If it was me, I'd go out west between October and February," she says.

Kopczynski notes that they've also seen lots of pictures from families taken at the aquarium at Newport.

"It's just whatever their pocketbook can afford."

Wherever the customers choose to go, when they deliver their film, it's like handing over a part of themselves.

"You're dealing with people's memories and they can be upset if they're not here on time," Kopczynski says. "They can be so happy if they turn out nice."

Crystal Powell, who has worked at the CVS one-hour lab almost since the service began a couple of years ago, says in addition to the standard vacation shots, customers bring in film in preparation for travel.

"We get a massive amount of passport photos. It shows that a lot of people leave the country," she says.

One of the features that attracts customers to CVS, Wal-Mart and Kroger are the Imagemakers. People often want to enlarge photos they have taken or make duplicates. Kopczynski says they often want to duplicate old photos.

"Until recently, they had to pay a high price. Now with Imagemaker, they can make them."

Nikki Sperry, who works at the Kroger photo lab, says one drawback is that they are not allowed to use the Imagemaker to duplicate another photographer's work.

"A lot of people are disappointed when we can't copy a professional picture," she says, noting that many people wanted to use the machine to duplicate military photos after the war began in Iraq.

For Sperry, who has worked at the Kroger lab for a year, the customers and her co-workers are the best part of the job.

"People talk about rude customers and I've never dealt with a rude customer. If there is a problem with their film, they understand," she says.

Maybe it's the bond formed when they hand over their film, but all the photo lab technicians say they enjoy a close relationship with customers.

At Wal-Mart, Kopczynski says technicians feel like they've watched on little girl grow up since she was adopted from China.

"We actually have her on a T-shirt picture hanging above our photo lab," she says. "She's a special one, but there's a lot of children we watch grow."

Sometimes, the film processing machines are the source of frustration for the technicians. Gaffney says the machines require weekly maintenance and have to be calibrated before each day's work begins.

"They've got to be babied. If they ask for water, you've got to give it water or it will freeze up on you."

Even if technical difficulties occur, the technicians say that seeing the work of their customers can brighten days.

"That breaks the monotony for us. You can be having a bad day and a funny picture will change everything," Kopczynski says.

Some people may like to capture those Kodak moments, but know little about the mechanics of their camera.

Adington says it's not unusual for him to return from a break to see a customer has left a camera sitting on the counter.

"They tell us, 'Process these and put new film in my camera," says Adington's wife, Miriam, who assists him.

Miriam Adington says that many people bring their film to the lab at the rear of Coleman's Drug Store because they're the only one-hour lab in town.

"Nothing leaves the lab and that's the important thing. It's all done in-house," she says.

Customers may like the fact that there's little risk with losing their film, but there are other attractions for bringing film there.

Adington says he tries to look at each negative during printing.

"One reason people bring their photos back is I custom print each negative. I don't put the machine on auto and run off."

His wife says many people like the photography tips her husband provides.

"People bring them to us because Jamie gives them free photo lessons," she says of her husband, who has a photography degree from the Fort Lauderdale Art Institute.

Adington says it behooves him to offer advice.

"It makes my job a little easier if I tell you, 'Don't backlight your subject,'" he says.

At CVS, a handy booklet for sale on the counter tells people how to take better shots and explains about taking digital photos. It's available just in time for shutterbugs to study before the next big round of picture taking - the holidays.|8/31/03***

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