February 03, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

                                                       SPRINGTIME, SOMEWHERE IN SPACE AND TIME : FINAL VERSION

This week I’d like to discuss another four secret documents that I recently found in my basement. I assure you that none were top were TOP SECRET, and I am releasing them to the public with no intervention from the Justice Department - in fact the National Archives doesn’t seem the least interested in my photo archives.
These four images were lost to the ages because they were saved as color slides, a format whose display is now just a memory. My scanner has allowed me to turn them into proper digital images. I can now process them any way I want, mostly to improve the original files as images by correcting the young photographer’s  mistakes in exposure and composition.

Slide film was a very intriguing medium. It provided Twentieth Century photographers with the sharpest images possible with the best color rendition in the world. Unfortunately it also was pretty unforgivable in terms of exposure, which had to be “right on” to the point where even the best photographers in the world had to “bracket”, to take a number of different exposures of the same scene in order to find one that came close to optimum. Needless to say, ordinary people with a camera were more often than not reduced to tears when their slides came back from Kodak or wherever, usually gloriously over or under exposed.If you didn't shoot for Life or National Geographic there was little chance to see your images in print or on the wall. All you had was a tiny artifact that could be projected to a very large size in a darkened room. These viewing conditions, accompanied by your stimulating color commentary, usually led to groans no matter how good the actual images were. The actual printing of slide images was very expensive, to the point that it was not really available for most photographers. And of course it was pretty impossible to change anything after the fact.


These four images that are included in this essay are so much better than the original slides that it is not really worth comparing them. It is often an act of faith in actually scanning your slides to see if there is something there. So there existence as forgotten images is not just because disorganized people like myself can't find them - but because when you actually find them, you don't really know what you have. In contrast to color prints in a shoe box, you usually have only your younger self to blame, not the incompetent minimum wage worker in the one-hour kiosk.

These images can now be viewed in their best form - at least as well as my current post-processing skills can manage. Of course I cannot go back to move a little to the left or right, and can only crop the original frame rather than expand it. And to tell you the truth I can only discuss them as "images", since even I do not remember their exact place in the space/time continuum.

So the first image is an idealized tree, since only Google can actually identify it. It is Springtime, and it is purple, and that is about it. I couldn't tell you the actual time or place. But there is a certain charm in the lightness of the foliage in contrast to the ancient solidity of the tree's structure, which cannot be duplicated in an engineer's office.

I believe the second image is from Colonial Williamsburg, but I couldn't swear to it. I love the receding fence line, and the play between shade and shadow on the fence itself. Since I balanced the color based on the highlight portions of the fence, the obvious blue tint of the shadows is true - shadows will be blue, especially on a white fence. Think of shadows on snow, for example. The color rendition hides the noise in the sadows much better than the black and white conversion. I also love the idea of such craftsmanship on a simple picket fence bordering a dirt road, which says something about public and private expenditures. The probable fact that the builder of this fence was also the owner's property is also something to contemplate.

                                                        A WATERFALL WITHOUT A NAME IS STILL A WATERFALL : FINAL VERSION

This scene also exists out of place and time, so it's value is simply as another example of my tendency towards intimate landscape images. I cropped the left edge to get rid of a thinner and lighter portion of the forest that competed for attention with my waterfall. I was amazed that this was a rare case that my exposure was so correct that I had not actually blown out the highlights in the water. I lightened the shadows to reveal a little detail in the forest while bringing down the real blacks to deepen the colors without actually saturating them. I was also pleased with my shutter speed, which achieved both detail and milkiness in the same waterfall. This image really works better in color than black and white, since the extra detail in the black and white version does not compensate for the contrasting color of the leaves, whose light tone was not really that much different than the water. The tree complements the water rather than competing for attention.


Finally, we are "Somewhere in England", as the espionage film would say. These two views of a small but spectacular church interior show the limits of my wide angle lens. What's funny is that this is so much wider than my usual view point - but a 28mm lens, broken long ago, was not really wide enough for interior work. And yet it is already distorted, which show the limitations of such lenses. These days I could stitch a half-dozen shots together to maybe achieve a complete and vertical view of the church, but his is what I have. At least the present-day photographer knows enough to understand what "young professional" saw in this monument - those incredible fan vaults that formed the ceiling. This is almost certainly an example of an East Anglian parish church, which approached a cathedral in sumptuous if not in size. This area in England was so rich in Medieval times that these churches dwarf the rest of what are now small rural market towns. The two versions both have their charms. The color version shows off the color of the stone and especially those mysterious red dots that appear randomly in the stonework - the church seems to be getting over a case of Chicken Pox. The Black and White rendition ups the detail and contrast to really show off the ribs of the vaults. To each his own.

I will let you go now without inflicting you with a slideshow, which is now just another way of viewing your photos on Lightroom, unless you show it to a crowd on Power Point. We now have slideshows with out actual slides. My father's student gig as an aide in the Art History class, working the slide projector is as foreign to our reality as his playing both ways on both the Offensive and Defensive lines on the Dartmouth football team. I hope you have enjoyed this trip back to the past thru these four images.