Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The [last] Greens of Summer

Remember your first camera? the first pictures you took? all by yourself? Today I see five year olds with palm-sized digital cameras shooting away at whatever, but more than fifty years ago when I got my first camera it was a much different process... and a much bigger deal.

My dad had long recorded both family and work history with a series of big, heavy and very serious 35mm cameras - his most beloved a Nikon that belonged to his employer, but which for all practical purposes was "his". Certainly no one else ever touched it. I well remember his putting together slides of everything he shot, and mother painstakingly putting prints into albums, or more often putting the envelopes of prints into "the box" that she would get to "sometime soon".

At nearly ten, though, all that changed for me. For Christmas in 1956 Dad gave me my first camera - a Kodak "box". It was only a few months before our summer trip to Virginia where we would visit Jamestown (for the 350th celebration) and Williamsburg, and then participate in the International Fleet Review in Hampton Roads. He had decided that it was time for me to learn to take my own photos. Never was a girl happier. My first few rolls of black and white film were sent off to be processed and were probably pretty bad - I can find no sign of those photos. But with a little practice, I got better.

This picture was taken [by me] during the Fleet Review. It is a Curtis Bay tugboat and was taken from a second Curtis Bay tug. My granddad had made arrangements for the entire family to go out on these two tugs to be out on the water among the sailing ships and military vessels during the Review. Look carefully and you can see the "Jun 57" on the edge of the paper.

By the next year I was going "down to the office" with Dad on Saturdays and spending time with him in the lab developing my own pictures. I remember my excitement the first time I saw an image appearing on the sheet of photo paper in the solution. For the youngsters, it's a lot like what happens when a Polaroid picture materializes, only sharper and wetter!

Color came into my life a few years later. Dad was still paying for most of my film and color was pricey for a pre-teen girl to mess up, and of course required that we pay for processing. But what COLOR it was! Like virtually everyone of my generation and several before and after, I started with Kodachrome. Over the years I tried lots of other things - Ektachrome, Fuji, and even some Technicolor film that I had to special order and pay a fortune to process and print - but until I finally went digital several years ago, I always used Kodachrome when I could find it. It is a fine film and makes gorgeous pictures for us duffers, as well as for the pros.

You may have seen the news yesterday that Kodak has produced its last run of Kodachrome. The hue and cry from amateurs all over the world is loud and unhappy. Many of the bloggers say they have 100+ rolls in the freezer, so some folks will have access to it for a while, but effectively it's no longer available to most of us. Another victim of modern technology. Less than 1% of Kodak's sales were for Kodachrome.

If you would like to see some really gorgeous photos like this one, you should look at the kodachrome slides montage on the Kodak site. And while you do it, you might want to play a little Paul Simon:

They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the worlds a sunny day, oh yeah
I got a nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama dont take my kodachrome away"

The world will be a little less colorful and summers a little less green without this old friend. RIP.

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