Waxing Nostalgic


Even though I have pretty much embraced the concept of digital photography, there’s still a place in  my heart for all things film. This comes from my high school days when I started taking photo classes in 10th grade and continued with a few courses in college as well as occasionally processing my own film at home.

In fact, I taught Ann all there is to know about doing that. I had (and still have) everything I need to process my black-and-white film at home. There’s just something special about shooting a roll of Tri-X loaded from a bulk film roll and loaded into a canister that will pop open if you drop it on the floor. The process of transferring the film in the changing bag – it’s like feeling your way around a pitch-black room but with more cussing – and onto a reel then into the developing tank takes time but is worth the effort.

Then the fun part of getting your chemical-to-water ratio and temperatures just right kicks in. Once they are, it’s time pour them into the tank then agitate and tap the tank to get rid of the bubbles. The process is repeated for the fixer.

So yes, I know a bit about photography. It’s something that never leaves you.

I also still have all of my 35mm cameras, an enlarger with lenses as well as a printing easel and contact printer in my garage that I just can’t seem to part with. I don’t think I ever will.

It was while cleaning  the garage last week when I came across a set of large-format negatives that I bought at a yard sale while still in high school. I know it was high school because I remember making contact prints of them that I would have loved to scan and show off here but they were nowhere to be found and by now, no doubt damaged after almost 25 years of being stored in a box somewhere.

But I decided to try something.

Through trial and error, I was able to get decent scans of the best negatives in the bunch by placing them face-down in my scanner, putting a piece of glass over them, then backlighting them with an LED flashlight off to the side. Primitive, but decent quality at 600 dpi (but shown here at 300).

Here are the results with some adjustments made in Photoshop (contrast and dodging and burning but no touch-ups). Click on each one to see a larger version.

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I found it ironic that the best photos were of this Harley-Davidson motorcycle that was presumably used to deliver photos around the town of Beaver Falls, PA. (How do I know the location? Or that the bike is a Harley? You’ll see later.) I really dig the hand-painted Reynolds Kodak Finishing logo as well as the old Mobiloil “Genuine Gargoyle” sign in the background on the left.

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Here’s the right side of the motorcycle.

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This guy was a Qualex delivery guy before he even knew what Qualex was.

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Ah, so it is a Harley-Davidson. See? It says so on the gas tank. And what’s cool about this photo is if you look over the handlebars, you can see the head and shoulders of a novelty Bibendum or as you young punks might know him, The Michelin Man.

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I get the feeling that this was the delivery vehicle the motorcycle replaced. Perhaps it was costing too much to get the tires revulcanized.

And finally…

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It seems we’ve left Beaver Falls and made our way to Chestnut Ridge. I don’t know who these guys were or why they were mixed in with the bunch of negatives I purchased, but I do know one thing: I sure as hell wouldn’t have messed with them.

There are still a few more negatives to scan but because of their quality, it’s going to be difficult to get a nice, quality images so I’ll leave it with what I’ve got here. I hope you enjoyed them and if you have any information about any of them (era, better idea of location, etc.), please feel free to post in the Comments section.

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Living in the 80s


Sounds cliché but hey, why not?

For a good portion of my life, I worked in photo labs. In fact, my first job back in 1987 was at a photo lab in Long Beach, CA inside Ralphs “The Giant” store on South Street. The next one was also in Long Beach and because she lived right around the block from the place, I could have quite possibly had my (future) wife as a customer. Of course back then she was a teenager and I probably wouldn’t have given her the time of day, but anyway…

If you work in a photo lab and are even remotely interested in photography, naturally you take tons of photos. It costs you nothing provided the boss/owner isn’t around and isn’t anal about print counts matching the day’s take.

Since I was just out of high school and my Minolta X-370 still had that opened-on-Christmas-Day freshness, you bet I took lots of photos. The content didn’t matter; I was doing it because I loved to shoot pictures.

Flash-forward to a dusty storage shed in 2008. I was cleaning out said shed and came across a box of photos I took between 1986 when I first got my Minolta X-370 (which I still own), and 1989 when I started to work at Knott’s Berry Farm (and my free film-processing ride ended). I found it hard to believe how many pictures I took between those years but then again, my camera was my constant companion no matter where I went: Disneyland, baseball games, car shows, Las Vegas, etc.

As I looked through them, I realized how lucky I was to take so many damned pictures of so many stupid things. Back then they were just ordinary snapshots but today they are a slice of Americana from a crazy time to be alive.

That said, I thought it would be fun to share some of the best with everybody. I started to scan them last night and will begin to upload them to my Flickr account when they are all done, which could take a while after I crop, adjust, rename, save, upload and then tag, add descriptions, etc.

Either way, I’m sure they will be a hoot when finished and when they are, I will post a link to the album for all to enjoy.

Let’s just say this: my 1982 Chevy Chevette was awesome! Okay, not really.

Oh, and about the banner, aka Noritsu Nora (courtesy astropix.com) That is a print from a Noritsu control negative, which was used to color-balance Noritsu printers. Each different film type had its own channel which had to be set manually by the person printing: Kodak was 1, Fuji was 2, Agfa was 3, etc. Then they had to set the ASA: 100 was 1, 200 was 2, 400 was 3, etc. So the Fuji 400 film channel setting was 2-3.

Pain in the ass? Oh yeah, but every film type–35mm, 110 and even 126–and manufacturer had to be calibrated. Thank [insert appropriate deity here] Fuji came along with their Frontier system and pretty much eliminated that whole mess.

And I always thought a mannequin a perfect gauge for measuring human skin tones. Thanks, Aperion, Inc., for using a real person on your control negs!

Hi, I'm Trudy TruColor!

See? You kids have no idea what you missed out on!

Stay tuned…!

UPDATE: I scanned a few pictures of friends/relatives last night and e-mailed them. Their reactions were as follows, along with the image sent.

From one friend (jokingly):

"Good GOD! Can't you find anything better to do with your time?"

From another:

"Shit, dude! I had to look at that for a few minutes before I realized who it was and where it was taken!"

Either way, they have brought smiles to their faces. Cool.