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.
Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.
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.
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!
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”.
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.
15 thoughts on “Discovering My Long-Lost Time Capsule”
Awesome post, Gregg! These slides predate my arrival in Austin by about 12 years, but they show Austin very much as it was when I arrived in 1992. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane. Can’t wait to see what else you’ve got to share.
Well, thank you, Teresa. I’m glad that you liked seeing my meager little collection of old photo. I will definitely share a at least a couple more little series of photos from my long-lost slides. I realize that they are not very “artistic”, but they are still interesting enough to me that makes me want to share them with others. I just need to get better at how to go about scanning them!
How fun. It’s hard to imagine how small Austin looked in the early 80s. Quite a difference 10 years later when I got to town.
Indeed this is a bit of treasure you found. Imagine what Austin will look like in 30 more years?
I never mentioned in the post that our family moved to Austin in early August 1972, so these photos were all taken 9 years after that. Unfortunately, the only photos that I have from the 70’s are simple snapshots from a Kodak Instamatic camera. I only seem to have photos of friends, pets, my residences, and vacations in my old photo albums. I don’t really have any “Austin shots”, except a few of the state capitol building and some UT football games.
I am excited to get back into that box of slides and see what other “themes” that I can identify to put together as a blog post. Stay tuned!
Looking forward to it, thanks.
Would be interesting if you went back to one of the places to stand in the same approximate spot to do a comparison.
I would be interested in seeing some of the early Lake Travis.
I have some old Niagara Falls stuff from about 1980. On the Canada side where all the tall hotels are now, the only thing there at that time that had any height was what is now called the Minolta tower. I think it was built in the early 1960s and it was originally called the Seagram’s tower, like the whiskey. Old locals still call it the Seagram’s Tower. Funny how that is.
I also have some old NYC stuff where the entire street is now gone.
Digital ICE is a cleaner of sorts. It does ok. I find only spot sharpening is best for film using the high pass method and a mask. Be gentle about it and leave the rest alone. It is what it is – film – with a chaacteristic all its own.
Libby, I also think that would be a very interesting thing to go back to one of the locations with the view of the downtown buildings and compare them to the current view. I’ll try to do that sometime before the end of this year. For the other two photos, however, those buildings no longer even exist!
I will probably show a handful of the Lake Travis photos, as the lake was full when I took those photos, and nobody around here remembers what that looks like, even though it has only been 5 years since it was nearly full.
I’m playing around with the Digital ICE (turning it on and off). It helps on some images, but on the ones where it doesn’t make much difference, I go back and scan the slide with the Digital ICE turned off. I am also discovering some other “problems”, or things that don’t always behave the same way every time. I’m sure I’ll tell about that in a future post, too.
Even f the building isn’t there anymore, could still be an interesting Then And Now.
One hint for scanning, and it’s a simple one. Divide your slides into little piles with similar negative density. For instance, you don’t want to try and scan a slide of slightly overexposed pastel flowers and then one of night time baseball. Do all the similar flowers at once, then switch your gears. If you’re just picking and choosing and considering density, you’ll be all over the place.
Also you might want to consider looking for an adapter for the old FD lenses if you still have them and try them on the OMD. There is lots of life left n some f that old glass.
Cats Jan 1982 LOL – I wanna see stuff out of that batch!
Libby, that’s a good idea about repurposing the FD lenses, but I sold them all on eBay back in July of 2006. I guess I was turning them into cash at that time, because it was in early August of that same year when I bought my first DSLR. Inside of that box with the long-lost slides there was also my 2nd 50mm f/1.8 FD lens. (My 2nd one came with the A-1 camera that I purchased in about 1987 or 1988. I would have sold it along with all of the others, but remember, this box was “lost” well before 2006.) I suppose I could buy an adapter so that I could use this single lens with my Micro Four Thirds camera, but it wouldn’t really add a meaningful lens to that collection, other than the very bright f/1.8 aperture.
Cats… that entire box is just photos of my first wife and our house pets. The only thing interesting in that whole batch was that I can see that I knew how to bounce my flash off of the ceiling or wall, and I got pretty close to them with my macro lens. I may show one or two of those. Maybe…
That was the great thing about Nikon. In the 1990s I had both Nikon and Canon. When the decision was made to transfer to digital, all of my old Nikon film lenses mounted and worked on their digital bodies, plus the Kodak SLR/n. So the transition to Nikon for me was a no brainer. Sold all of the Canon film stuff around 2002 and the guy who bought it still uses it. So a win for everybody here.
On the adapter – unless you have a bit of a collection, probably not worth it for you then. And you need to have in your heart that sense of exploration – meaning not getting your pants in a twist because the pixel peeping is unsatisfactory when compared to today’s sterile digital standards, but to embrace with your heart what the lens can bring to you, whatever it is.
I want cat pics LOL!
How fun, thanks for sharing. I love the look of the slide film. I need to try shooting some of that soon.
Michael, I’m glad that you enjoyed seeing these old photos. When I first saw the grain structure in these scanned slides, I was pretty well confused! When zoomed in to 100% view, it was almost chaotic compared to what you see coming out of our modern digital cameras. When viewed at the size that I present in my blog post you don’t see any of that, and I supposed their is a “special” look to them that you don’t seem to get from a digital camera. Buy who knows, maybe it’s just because I’m using a $150 scanner.
I’m fairly new to film and I have only shot B&W so far. I’ve noticed that grain is fairly prominent in 35mm scans, even in fine grain films. In 120 scans, you can barely see it. I think the issue is that 35mm is just a smaller piece of film so everything gets magnified quite a bit in a scan. It’s not unlike the fact that we get more noise out of small digital sensors with extreme pixel densities than larger sensors with smaller pixel to sensor area ratios.
Michael, you seem to have much more experience with this than I do, so I completely believe what you have to say about this. Thanks for your comments!
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