I never stop bemoaning the loss of my favorite Aerochrome EIR that Kodak stopped making while I wasn’t looking. Even though I found a little left, it was super spendy, hand-rolled, and only in a larger format. Folks like Lomo have stepped up with some similar films, but nothing is exactly what I wanted – nothing is Aerochrome.
But these days, what I really wish I had was a digital version. When one of my friends got the hotfilter on his digital camera removed (making it sensitive to IR light), I started looking into it and after making the mistake of buying a Canon 5D (which we won’t talk about), the good folks at Kolari Vision sent me out for a Sigma DP2x – a “pro-grade” point and shoot with a 2.8 fixed lens and a Foveon sensor. It’s one of the easiest cameras to convert and they told me it gave a very Aerochrome-like look when it was done.
So how did it turn out? Well I’m still figuring it out.
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The camera wasn’t built for this, and it’s not sure how to meter, so I’m back to bracketing and then composing into HDR to get things right. This one is still a bit blown out. I’m also trying to figure out just what the characteristics of the color shift are, and it will take a little time to do that.
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That’s more what I was looking for. I still miss my Aerochrome, but this sure is easier.
I keep a list of photo ideas on my phone. Since my daughter was born and I’ve been not-unemployed, I find time for none of them. Recently a friend asked about taking some pictures at night, and I remembered my list. At the top for the longest time has been going down to the Jose Rizal Bridge to shoot the traffic coming into downtown.
Winter nights are great, because it’s always dark, and a cloudy backdrop is fine. Rain actually makes the reflections better, but you’ve got to want to stand in the rain to take the pictures – probably not the best idea, but right after a storm would be great. This was good enough for me.
You’ve also got a great shot of the 90 ramps headed toward Bellevue from up here, and I just love watching the lights blur – the headlights in white and the taillights in red. Letting the camera see things I can’t see.
The biggest issues shooting from here, other than a few sketchy folks walking by when you’ve got a bunch of camera equipment out is the bridge itself – cars and buses share it, and you can absolutely feel the vibrations when buses go buy or even when big trucks go underneath it. If you’re looking for a sharp long exposure, a good tripod is a must, but when the ground shakes, there is only so much you can do. Along with Kerry Park, the Sculpture Garden, and a few more, this is one of the places I always knew I wanted to take some pictures from. Glad I had the chance.
Engineering megaprojects often seem unstoppable. With the notable exception of the current attempt to dig a tunnel under the Seattle waterfront, these things usually progress in a pretty visible and inexorable way. Turns out this is not always the case.
In 1972, voters backed the City Council’s plan to cancel the R.H. Thompson expressway, which was to be a third north-south freeway link cutting through the heart of Seattle. Planning for this freeway started in the 1950s and by the time of the vote, concrete had already been laid in places. With the cancelation, all work stopped but some elements of the freeway that never was were never removed.
Three ramps still dot the Washington Park Arboretum, mixing with the trees and the edge of Lake Washington as a sort of monument to what was. For years they’ve been there, hiding in plain sight of the active bits of Highway 520 that pass nearby, but as I found out from The Stranger, the upcoming Highway 520 replacement project will finally see these ramps removed.
I’ve always known these things were here – in the summer, people dive off them into the lake. Driving by, you can often see their barricaded lanes and abrupt endings, but I’d never taken the time or figured out how exactly one gets atop these fantom spans. It turns out it’s not so hard. Parking at the edge of the Arboretum, you hike down a foot-warn path and into the shade of some overhanging trees and brambles. The edge of the construction is abrupt – you’re scrambling up five feet of solid concrete, to stand atop several lanes of proto-freeway.
Once atop, only a few barricades and an overhanging tree block you way. The part that surprised me most was that I always assumed that these things were forbidden – I mean – they’re bits of freeway, not hiking trails, but the upside of the fact that nobody ever planned to just *leave a piece of freeway in a park* is that nobody ever planned to leave a piece of freeway in a park. There are no signs and no fences. You just do, or don’t do, what you want. Clearly people have been doing what they want for a long time.
Beer bottles and cans lay thick. Without any sort of cleaning, the smashed glass in the gutter almost looks like beach sand. People have been drinking here for a real long time.
As you hike up the hill, the road bends and you’ve got a view across the Montlake Cut toward the back of Husky Stadium and the University District. Something feels very wrong about being up here, but at the same time, the view is great. Looking down toward the lake, it’s all peace and tranquility. Probably the best part of the ramps is that at the end of the day, they’re surrounded by the Arboretum. I’m glad they never built the thing – that they would have cut a swath freeway-wide through these parts of Seattle seems completely ridiculous in retrospect.
Turning around, it’s back down into the darkness. I’m glad I saw it – they won’t be there much longer.
There’s another issue though – that film was hard to use. You had to load it in complete darkness. It had to be unloaded and processed in complete darkness. Neither the camera nor the processor could have an infrared detector to read the film codes, which most do. It was expensive. You had to process it E-6 – it was slide film. Don’t get me wrong – if I found some new 35mm stock, I’d immediately buy a ton, but it’s not without issues.
Enter LomoChrome Purple. To be clear, this isn’t infrared. It’s a color-shifting print film. Ignore the chrome part of the name – it’s print, not slide. Ignore the implication of infrared – it does some of the same stuff, but it isn’t. That makes it less cool, but much easier and cheaper to work with. Although the film isn’t cheap or readily available, you can get it processed the “normal” way at your corner drug store. And how does it work?
Pretty darn well in the same places that EktaChrome EIR worked best – trees and foliage. I took it out for a day at the beach in Carkeek Park, and I was happy with the tree shots, fairly happy with the broad panoramas, and a little less happy with people. Things get a little weird with a green tint on skin, which is too bad – when your jacket turns from purple to green it’s neat. When your skin turns from tan to green, it’s a little creepy. The grain is pretty pronounced as well, but the effect is nice. I’ve left these pictures more or less how they scanned. You can also shoot and process the film anywhere between 100 and 400 ISO – these I shot at 200. I’ve got a bunch more so I’ll see what else I can do, now that I know how these came out.
I’m clearly city people. Lake Chelan seemed like quite the agricultural showpiece. But maybe I’m just thinking of things like these:
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Yeah… that’s a lot of apples
Instagram? Great stuff. Easy to use, lots of filters, and an awesome way to show people the taco truck you’re currently visiting. Strip of all the glossy varnish and what you’ve got is a pretty impressive digital picture – at least for something that came out of a phone. Want to get those saturated and then washed out colors? That great film noise? Those warps and lines that sometimes look so artificial when you digitally create them? There’s an easy system to do all that.
Film. If it’s been sitting in your fridge for upwards of 5 years like this Kodak Gold 200 has, so much the better. If you want to get into it this way, it’s not even too expensive. Film will set you back a few bucks, but really not much. Processing is an even better deal. Most big photo labs will develop negatives for a couple bucks (at Target it’s less than $2) and if you don’t have a film scanner, most places will scan the lot straight to CD-ROM for another few bucks – probably about the same cost as getting some crummy prints, which you probably don’t want anyway.
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You might not even have a 35mm film camera sitting around anymore. I do have the last SLR I used before switching to digital, but frankly I don’t like it. That’s why I went back out and bough my first camera love all over again – the Canon A-1. Great camera, and after a little tune-up, it’s in good shape. They are also fairly easy to find with a high-quality 50mm 1.8 lens (and remember, since this is 35mm film, it’s actually 50mm – we don’t have the APS-C crop factor you get on consumer-grade digitals). The sound of that film-advance lever? Priceless.
Sure you can clean it up in Photoshop, but don’t do it – the first button you hit loses that look you’ve been trying so hard to create. Here it is, in all it’s questionable glory.
This time of year, the leaves remaining on the trees have usually turned colors already. This shot is from all the way back in July, but catches the maples of Volunteer Park in full red glory. Yeah – Aerochrome EIR will do that.
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This one was also shot with my Rollei, using the same Aerochrome EIR as the other shot here.