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.