Discovering My Long-Lost Time Capsule

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Last Sunday, I was rummaging around in one of our storage closets, where I had remembered seeing a box of old shorts that had become too big to wear. I was now tired of my size 36″ waist shorts being too tight, so I had succumbed to the disgusting reality that I now needed to get out those old size 38″ shorts again. After I got onto our short step ladder, I saw that there was a small box on top of the box labeled “Shorts – 38”, so I took that box down and opened the lid to see what the heck other useless junk we’d been saving around here.

What I found made me immediately start to tremble with excitement! This wasn’t a box of junk. This was a box I had been looking for for years. This was my box of 35mm slides!

After I put all of the “big boy” shorts into the washing machine, I sat down at the kitchen table and sorted out my new found treasure. Fortunately, inside the box I also had a GAF Pana-Vue 1 Lighted 2×2 Slide Viewer. Today, I am absolutely shocked to see that B&H still sells the exact same model that I have!

I was thankful that I never installed the size C batteries, as I was certain that they would have been corroded and ruin the electrical contacts. Instead, I just plugged in the AC adapter into the wall, pushed down on the light bar, and instant glow! The light bulb still worked, but man, was it ever dusty inside of this thing. A few blasts of air from my Rocket Blower, and I was all set to find out what sort of photos that I would find.

There was only one specific box of slides that I had been looking for, and it contained photos that I had taken inside of a famous local nightclub / concert hall just a few nights before it closed its doors forever. Those photos will definitely be used sometime soon for a blog post, as I am sure that they will be of interest to many other longtime Austinites!

That box of photos was plainly marked “AWHQ 12-27-80”, but only a few of the other 11 boxes were labeled in any way whatsoever. One said “Cats Jan. 1982”, one said “Fireworks Fujichrome 50”, and the others said “Zilker Gardens”, “Foreigner 4Ā  1-17-1982, Cars 1-24-82”, “Lake Travis 3-81”, “Good Shots 1” and “Good Shots 2”.

Obviously, I didn’t know anything about proper library management of photos 30 years ago! Even after I went fully digital in 2004, and right up until sometime in mid-2008, everything, and I mean everything that was worth keeping, ended up in a photo album. There are about 20 of these behemoths on a couple of bookshelves in one of our spare bedrooms. I listed the range of dates inside the front cover for the time span that was contained within that album, but rarely did I write any descriptions about who was in the photo, or where it was taken.

I got my first “real camera” in 1980. It was a Canon AE-1, and I got it with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. A year or so later I bought two more used Canon FD lenses from and advertisement in the newspaper. One was a 100mm f/2.8 macro lens that came with an extension tube. The other was a 200mm f/2.8 that came with a 2x extender.

I mention that because I know for certain that this is all of the camera equipment that I had when all of the slides in this box were taken. Well, yes, I also had a Canon flash and an inexpensive Manfrotto tripod… And about 1987 or 1988 I replaced my camera body with a used Canon A-1 and also bought a 28mm lens. There wasn’t any Image Stabilzation back then – that’s what a tripod was for. The lenses were all manual focus back then, too. There weren’t any High ISO sensors, either. I am rather certain that the highest sensitivity slide film that I ever used was ASA (ISO) 64. (Now I also shot a lot of ASA 400 print film, but slides were slow. Very slow.)

So I sat at the kitchen table for nearly 3 hours last Sunday trying to figure out what I had. I got through 10 of the 12 boxes. I took yesterday off of work as a vacation day and used that time to go back through, from the beginning, and document what was in each box. 5 hours later, I had finished that task.

The photo above was the first slide in the box labeled “Zilker Park”, and so I can only say that this view of downtown Austin was taken from Zilker Park, or somewhere very near to there, like Barton Hills Dr. What I do know, is that this photo was taken in the spring of 1981, and I was using Ektachrome slide film, which I mailed to Kodak for development. I’d guess that it was ASA 64 film.

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The photo below was also taken during the spring or summer of 1981, also on Ektachrome. This was a few months after the Armadillo World Headquarters had closed its doors.

Yesterday evening was the very first time in my life that I have ever scanned a slide into my computer. I am using an Epson V500 scanner, with the Epson Scan software. I played around with the settings in the histogram area for several attempts before I got something close to what I could work with. I’m not sure exactly what Digital ICE does, but it does seem to remove most of the smaller dust spots. (I have cleaned the glass surfaces with a lens cleaner, and blown the dust away from the scanner and the slide using my Rocket Blower.) I can get a pretty decent TIFF file from the Epson software, but thank God that Lightroom 5 can take it from there. Add a little Exposure, a little Clarity, bring down the Blacks, and it’s pretty much done.

This next photo was the very next photo in Box #9 after the Armadillo sign photo. I must have gone about 1 block over to Auditorium shores and taken this photo of downtown Austin.

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I hope that these photos look decent enough when you view them from my blog post. I scanned them at 4800 dpi, and honestly, when I zoomed in for my first 100% pixel-peeping view, I was very surprised, and disappointed by all of the graininess that I saw. These photos are in some serious need of sharpening, but so far my attempts to do that only bring out the graininess even more. I have played around with the Luminance Noise Reduction slider, and that helps. I have also used the Masking slider for the Sharpening amount, and that helps some too. My inspection of these 1200 pixel wide JPGs that I am putting here look surprisingly good, considering what I saw on the full resolution versions. I’ve been at this for less than 24 hours so far, so hopefully I will get a better with some more practice!

This next photo should interest a few of you. This was taken on July 4th of 1981 (I think). I was on the north shore of Auditorium Shores along Town Lake (as it was known then), and the rounded top building behind the crowd on the south shore is the no-longer-existing Palmer Auditorium. This is the facility that my high school graduation took place in. That building was demolished years ago, and this is where the Long Center is located today!

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Even though I still have to use this very low-tech Pana-Vue slide viewer to see what “treasures” I have uncovered, I am very glad that I have a modern scanner, attached to a modern computer, running modern software that allows me to bring these photo to an acceptable digital state.

Contrast that to a photo that I took some time in late 1981 or very early 1982. I was still in electrical engineering school at The University of Texas here in Austin. This was my desk where I spent countless hours doing my studies. On the left was my “computer”.

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Oh, it was a real computer, alright. A Radio Shack Color Computer 2. The monitor was a 19″ Motorola Quasar TV. To the right of my monitor sits a little tape deck that was used for storage. That was before the 3.5″ floppy disk was widely accepted. This was about 3 years before I spent $2000 on the very first Apple Macintosh computer (in 1984)!

Maybe now you can realize what I realized as I viewed these 12 boxes of slides. It was like opening up a time capsule that I had buried more than half of my lifetime ago. Austin had changed. Technology has changed. I have changed!

Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog today.

Austin Shutterbug Club Picnic at Emma Long Park

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Last Saturday, July 13, 2013, the Austin Shutterbug Club had a picnic at the Emma Long Park in west Austin.

You get to the Emma Long Park by going west on RM 2222, for about a 1/2 of a mile west of Loop 360, and then turning south on City Park Road. Stay on this windy, scenic road for about 7 miles to get to the park, which is on the north shores of Lake Austin. Now Lake Austin isn’t really a lake, it’s really the Colorado River immediately downstream of Mansfield Dam (which creates Lake Travis) and the Tom Miller Dam in west Austin (West Lake Hills) near the Hula Hut restaurant.

This was not an actual club “photography outing”, but rather an actual, old-fashioned picnic, as seen in the opening photo. (Only half of the members even brought a camera with them.)

I got there right at 9:00 AM, and after spending about 45 minutes socializing with the other club members who had also arrived, I grabbed my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, with my “usual” Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, headed across the street and over to the water.

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The photo above is the root of a bald cypress tree. They grow right along the shores of the rivers here in central Texas, and extend their roots right into the water at the shore. Here’s a photo of the leaves and branch structure of this tree.

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Here’s a photo looking across Lake Austin to the south shore.

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With drought-stricken Lake Travis so low, there are no longer any public boat ramps still open (they don’t go down low enough to get to the current water level), many weekend boat owners have taken to using Lake Austin instead.

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As this is a dammed-up river, there really aren’t any waves, except for the ones created by the ski boats!

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While standing around talking to a few other club members who had brought their cameras and had come down to join me at the water, this tree seemed to catch my attention.

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A couple of the ladies in had even waded into the water, looking for interesting and different photographic opportunities.

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Linda, the lady on the left, had a Canon 5D Mark II, with the EF 70 – 200mm f/2.8 L II lens on it. She was not happy with the focusing of her camera, even after Canon had examined it.

After less than 10 minutes at the water’s edge, I decided to head back up to the rest of the group under the large oak shade tree. On the way, I passed this unused cooking grill.

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It will remain unused for the time being; due to the severe drought, there is a burn ban, even in the parks.

Even at 10:00 AM, in mid-July, the cloudless Texas sky is very hard and contrasty. There isn’t much you can do about it, other than just not take any photos for about 10 hours of the day….

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Or you can just try to make the best of it.

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Here’s a photo taken from the position of that rusty grill, looking back toward the water, and the other club members under the tree on the left.

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Looking for pretty much anything interesting to take a picture of, I spent a minute playing around with the colorful balloons that Brian had tied to the light stand that he had set up to let the arriving members that this was our spot.

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Not wanting to immediately sit down, I wandered around the picnic site for a few minutes, while listening in on the various conversations taking place around me. While doing that, I noticed this unusual axe head (someone had brought it to drive the stakes into the ground for the horseshoe game).

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And now to the point of being silly, here is the webbing on the back of the lawn chair that I had brought. šŸ™‚

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About 10:15 AM, I headed off to the restroom, which was a clean, but steaming hot outhouse. The temperature was certainly close to 90 degrees (32 C) by now. On the way back, I noticed this tiny little flower, so even though it was in direct, mid-day Texas summer sun, I put my lens into macro mode, flipped out my rear LCD panel, held my camera about a foot (30 cm) off the ground, and snapped this photo.

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Since we weren’t going to eat until about noon, I still had plenty of time to wander around and take some more photos before it really got hot.

I headed back down to the water’s edge and just waited for some “interesting” waves to roll in.

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Even in the summer sun, you can still slow down the shutter to 1/80th of a second (f/7.1 and ISO 200) to get some motion blur to make these tiny waves appear to be much more active than they really are….

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Even though my “kit lens” only zooms out to 100mm equivalent (on a full frame camera), it still had enough of a reach to get a few photos of the passing boats. This next photo was cropped to show about 2/3 of the original image’s length and height.

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It was now close to 10:30 AM, and the temperature was certainly above 90 degrees, so I decided to head back to the picnic area (again) and put away my little camera and be more social than I had been.

And I’ll let this photo be my closing photo (as the boat goes away into the distance).

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We had a very, very nice picnic lunch, and I enjoyed the conversations that flowed around the group. There was a gentle breeze blowing under our large shade tree, which made it surprisingly pleasant – as long as you didn’t move around too much. When we packed up the cars to leave at 1:00 PM, the temperature had already risen to 104 degrees (40 C).

Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog today.

Austin Shutterbug Club at Zilker Botanical Garden

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A couple of weeks ago, on Saturday, June 15, 2013, the Austin Shutterbug Club had an outing where we met at 8:30 AM at the entrance to the Zilker Botanical Garden here in Austin. This outing was organized by myself.

I brought my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, and the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens. Even though I had three other great prime lenses in my camera bag I never used them. I also brought my Olympus FL-600R flash and my little Gitzo GT1542T tripod.

After my last post where I seemed to have more “screen area” occupied by text, rather than photos, I thought I would try something new in how to present my photos – and keep the words to a minimum.

 

Helpful Hint: If you click on any of the photos in one of these “mini galleries”, you can then see all of the photos in that mini gallery at a much larger size. When you are finished looking at the larger photos, and wish to return to my blog post, click on the little “X” in the upper left corner of the mini gallery.

 

All of the photos above were taken in theĀ parking lot or in the Rose Garden area.

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About 9:45 AM, I decided to head on over towards the Oriental Garden section.

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After spending quite some time in the Oriental Garden area, I got off of the main trail and walked westward, parallel to Barton Springs Road, back toward the main entrance. Since it was still only 10:35 AM, and we were not supposed to leave for lunch until about 11:15, I had some time to kill. While enjoying the shade, and since it was one of the rare times that I had my tripod with the little Olympus camera, I played around and took a few “self photos”.

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Near the entrance, but still off of the main path, I discovered a very nice little cactus garden.

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It was now 11:00 AM, so I headed back toward the entrance, where I found several of the Austin Shutterbug Club resting in the shade of some grand old trees. After 10 minutes or so of socializing, 15 of us went over to Schlotzsky’s near Zach Theater for lunch – where it was air conditioned!

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Although I had a fun time walking around with my camera and mingling with fellow photographers, this set of photos didn’t cry out to me that I really wanted to share them. They are pleasing enough, I suppose, but something is lacking. I’m not sure….

Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog today.