Seeing Things, Saying Things

Musings About Writing, Photography and Teaching

Archive for March 2012

Dividing Line

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It’s late on a Sunday morning in Chicago. March 11, 2012. We had disembarked from an Amtrak train, stowed our luggage and headed out for Millennium Park where my mission was to photograph the Cloudgate sculpture. A detour on Adams Street due to construction that had closed the sidewalk and street forced us south to Jackson Boulevard.

“That’s fine,” I thought.  I could grab a shot of Willis tower (nee Sears Tower). I paused, got my shot of Willis Tower at the corner of Jackson and Wacker Drive and begin to move on.

As I neared the entrance to the Willis Tower observation deck, I happened to look up again and saw a jet soaring high overhead. I looked again and saw the plane’s contrail making a neat dividing line between Willis Tower on the left and the 311 South Wacker Drive building on the right.

At the time, I didn’t know the name of the other building. I had no doubt seen it on previous trips, but paid little heed to it.  There are so many tall buildings in Chicago.

I later learned that 311 South Wacker Drive is the seventh tallest building in Chicago, the 16th tallest in the United States. But it stands in the shadow of the largest building on both counts.

I had to act fast to capture the image. Within seconds the high winds aloft began to distort the contrail and, indeed, my subsequent shots showed the “line” to be fuzzy already.

During our trip to New Orleans and back, with two long layovers in Chicago, I would fill four memory cards. I recorded many good images, but this may be my favorite due to its fleeting nature and unexpected occurence. So many images in life are like that.



Written by csanders429

March 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Curtains for Etkachrome, but Few Tears Here

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This not only is likely to be the last box of Ektachrome that I buy, but it also may be my last roll of slide film.

If Kodak’s announcement early this month that it will cease making Ektachrome, its last line of slide film, had been made a year ago, I would have been concerned. A year ago at this time I was still photographing exclusively with slide film. My conversion to digital photography was nowhere in sight.

But the announcement came on March 1, 2012 and not March 1, 2011. I made the switch to digital last July and haven’t bought a roll of slide film since.

Although I never shot exclusively with Ektachrome, it was the film that I bought the most often during my final months as a film shooter. That’s because the suburban Dodd Camera store that I frequented always had Ektachrome in stock. It did not stock the Fuji slide films that I favored, Provia and Velvia.

To get Fuji film, I had to drive to Dodd’s downtown store or have the film sent via a special order to the suburban store. The latter option was time consuming.

When Provia became almost impossible to find anywhere last summer, I found myself buying Ektachrome more often.

Ektachrome always seemed to be the poor cousin to Kodachrome, which developed a cult-like following because, as Paul Simon sang in his epic song Kodachrome, “you give us those nice bright colors.”

Ektachrome had good color quality, too, which is why I liked it. But with film, there is often an emotional attachment. How many photographers did you know who shot one type of film and one type of film only? 

The big upside to Kodachrome was that it was said to be permanent. No color shifts or fading over time. Freeze the image in the processing and it would live that way forever.

Not so Ektachrome. Just ask any veteran photographer and he’ll show you a tray full of Ektachrome slides from the 1960s that have faded.

Besides, Ektachrome had a bluish cast, photographers would say. Who wants to be blue?

Even the Kodachrome box in its red and gold was more vibrant than a blue and gold Ektachrome box. “Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah!” Indeed.

But Kodachrome was also a complicated film to process and far fewer labs could handle it than could handle Ektachrome. Another advantage to Ektachrome was that it could be developed in a home lab, not that many photographers did that.

Ektachrome came in 100, 200 and 400 ISO, but I always preferred the 200 speed. The 100 speed was too slow for my zoom lens in many conditions and 400 was too grainy. The 200 seemed to work well most of the time.

But not always. The ability of digital cameras to change ISO settings for every shot was a major factor that convinced me to go digital and forsake film.

At the time that I went digital, I thought I would still shoot some slide film every now and then. My film camera still works fine and it is hard to give up old habits. I hate the thought of not using something that is still functional.

But once I went to digital, it became unlikely that I would even shoot slides “now and then.” Being digital was more advantageous than I had imagined that it would be. My Canon 60D is a better camera and can do far more than my Canon Rebel G.

Yet I still had a roll of film in my Rebel G and two other rolls of Ektachrome in my refrigerator.

Most of that film I shot off in August and early October. But my last roll of Ektachrome is still in my Rebel G and I have nine frames left. I still haven’t decided what will be the subject of “the last nine.”

Kodak’s announcement has tempted me to buy a few rolls of Ektachrome for old time’s sake.

But that probably won’t happen. I imagine the hard core slide film shooters have already descended in droves upon camera stores – about the last places in American where you can still buy Ektachrome – and snapped up as much of the remaining inventory as possible.

That is going to take awhile.

Kodak indicated that Ektachrome will be available for several more months as the company works through its existing inventory of the film. Ektachrome won’t completely go away, either. Kodak will, for now, continue to make Ektachrome movie film. But the company acknowledged that the market for that product is way down.

Maybe it’s not too late. Those Norfolk Southern heritage units that are going to be plying the rails soon would look good on Ektachrome. Sounds like I have a plan for my last nine frames.

One Fleeting Moment

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Everything about this image is fleeting. Within a couple of minutes after I recorded this image, the early morning fog would lift. I would not have time to linger at the water’s edge for I would be called to come across the street to join the group for breakfast. And it  may be the last time that I’m in Findley Lake, N.Y., in the early morning hours.

It is August 2011. I am here because my wife is attending a meeting of a group for which she is a trustee. For the past few years, the trustees have met in Findley Lake. I typically join them for breakfast, then head off to a railroad museum in North East, Pa., for the day. I rejoin them in the evening for dinner.

But Mary Ann is stepping down as a trustee and we probably won’t be making this trip anymore. So perhaps it was only fitting that I had but just enough time to see the image, record it and then leave it behind. Everything was just so fleeting.

So much of life is like that.

Written by csanders429

March 4, 2012 at 10:19 am

It Just Caught My Eye

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I was waiting with a friend in Painesville, Ohio, to photograph a train on the CSX mainline that runs between Cleveland and Buffalo, N.Y. An Alberta Clipper was moving through with high winds that at times blew the falling snow sideways.

Within a matter of minutes, snow covered the once bare ground. The train I was waiting for arrived and I got out to get what I hoped would be a killer snow shot.

But something caught my eye as I got out of Jeff’s truck. A section of rail lay nearby and the top of the rail was stubbornly resisting the efforts of the snow to cover it.

I’m sure there is a scientific explanation as to why snow stuck to the bottom portion of the rail, but not so much to the top.

But I was intrigued by the texture of the snow on the rail from top to bottom. It is the sort of spur of the moment image I like to make. Something catches my eye, click. A moment in time is recorded.

The snow no doubt melted from this section of rail within a few days. Will this pattern ever repeat itself? Maybe not exactly this way, but close. I might never see it though. But I’ll have this memory.

Written by csanders429

March 4, 2012 at 9:59 am