Tag Archives: Zilker Park

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 4¬† 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 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 the 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.

Zilker Kite Festival

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Last Sunday, March 3, 2013, was the 85th annual Kite Festival held at Zilker Park here in Austin, TX. Barb had an engagement with one of her friends for that afternoon. Since the weatherman said it was going to be a spectacular spring day, I headed downtown to catch the shuttle.

I was travelling light. I brought only my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, with the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, a circular polarizer, and my hat. No camera bag, no tripod, not even a spare battery.

I only had to stand in line for 45 minutes before boarding the yellow school bus. The ride to Zilker Park took more than 30 minutes, in what would normally be a 10 minute ride at 1:00 PM on any other Sunday afternoon. I took the photo above just moments after I got off of that school bus. Even though the trees still haven’t yet leafed out, it definitely felt like springtime, and it was a great day to be outside!

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My first reaction was to get close and try to photograph some of the more interesting kites.

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Zilker Park is just across the Colorado River (and slightly west) of downtown Austin. As you can see, there were a lot of people and a lot of kites!

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It was definitely a warm, springtime day. The TV news and the newspaper both reported that 20,000 people made it out to the park that afternoon.

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The circular polarizer can make the blue sky a unnaturally dark. I usually tried to rotate is so that the sky wouldn’t appear that way, but sometimes the action just happened so fast….

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There were hundreds, if not a thousand kites in the air simultaneously. With that many kites in close proximity, there were bound to be some entanglements.

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Some kites just never seemed to get off of the ground – it was usually the ones without a tail that didn’t seem to take right off.

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Note the condition of the grass in that previous photo. While I wouldn’t say that dust was a problem for the people, but with all of the wind, the dust that was in the air was quickly accumulating all over my camera – and especially the front of the polarizer. I kept blowing it off. I was glad that this camera and lens combination is supposed to be weatherproof. I was also glad that I had only brought one lens, as there was no way that I was going to be changing lenses under these conditions.

This tree seemed to be a very popular final resting place for many of the kites. I was wondering just how many Charlie Browns came out to the park today.

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After a while, I found the official Kite Contest Field, where people would enter into actual kite flying contest. I think they have different contests for smallest kite, steepest angle of flight, a 50 yard dash (where you kite must remain in the air). When I got there, they were about to start the contest for the largest kite.

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I positioned myself with the downtown buildings as my backdrop and waited for that black “balloon kite” to take off. This is as high as I saw it get.

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While I was standing there watching that black blob of a “puffer fish”, I noticed another animal was watching me. The owner told me that this is an African Grey Parrot.

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Everyone was watching that black balloon kite roll around in the dusty field, including this other kite!

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After an hour and a half, I decided to start heading out of there. But first, just one more look northeast towards the downtown buildings, with all of the kites up in the air.

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During my one hour wait in line to get back onto the shuttle bus, I took this parting shot looking to the northwest.

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It was certainly fun to get out and enjoy the weather, photographing something completely new to me.

Thank you for visiting my blog!