The Land Before jpegs

The lights go off. My whole family is sitting in the dark facing one wall. There’s a faint humming and then a blinding flash! KA-Click! And up comes the first image!

These are fond memories for me. Actually, memories of memories. The family slide shows were always fun despite the hoots from the audience that the projector runner was going too fast, too slow or that the picture was out of focus. That big silver screen was magical and the “Zoooop!” sound that it made as it was extend up, ready for the show to begin was always so appealing to hear.

The piles of carousels from vacations past. The pictures of aunts and uncles who looked impossibly young. The popcorn!

It’s interesting to think back to a time not so long ago when I was carefully picking out the right ASA film for the picture taking that I was planning to do. The special holsters for the telephoto, macro and zoom lenses. The equipment was fun. It made you feel professional. You knew what you were doing and the fourteen pounds of camera equipment lashed to your torso proved it.

When I was young, like so many other kids, I got a little Instamatic 110. It even had the pedestal for the flash cubes, supposedly to cut down on redeye. That little black rectangle and I went all over the place. It was dragged to camp, hiking and Disney World. I vividly remember taking “pictures” even though I knew it was out of film, just for the satisfaction of hearing that “click” of the shutter and the ratchet sound to advance the film.

The 110 naturally, took print film and in various dusty boxes are zip lock baggies with piles of thick prints, corners neatly rounded and going sepia with time.

Then at some point, I got my Dad’s old 35mm. It was a Minolta. Its steel body made it weigh a ton and there was only the one, do everything, lens. It was fully manual and the as far electronics went, there was built in light meter. That’s it. I loved it, used it well and if the lack of lenses made it difficult, if not impossible to take some photos, it made up for it by taking the most exquisite black and whites of any camera I’ve ever owned.

On one particular trip to the Middle East, we took a long bus ride and I foolishly put it in the pocket of the seat in front of me. Naturally, being a kid, I forgot it when we disembarked. I realized it just as the bus was pulling away and started going bananas. My Father quickly left me with the baggage and managed to chase down the bus after a few blocks. To this day, I’m totally astonished that he managed to get the camera back. I also NEVER put personal belongings in the seat pouch again. I still have the camera.

For some reason, taking slides always seemed to be the realm of adults. My Father, Grandfather and uncles took them by the pound. Somewhere there is a picture of me on a family vacation, holding up a plastic bag full of shot rolls of slide film. There are easily fifty rolls in that bag. Over the years and a few cameras later, I too took some slide photos, but never like they did. I still preferred the prints. I could flip through them as I pleased and it was never too fast or too slow. If they were out of focus, you tossed them.

The other day, I went down to our local landfill. I hate going there, not because I dislike the duty or the smell, but because right next to the entrance, there’s a little hut. That hut is where you can leave stuff that still works but that you don’t want. I’m a packrat by nature and places like that call to me like a siren’s song. Despite my best efforts, I looked as I passed by. My eyes popped and I hustled to the different bins, metal, plastic, lawn clippings, in an effort to ditch my load and claim my prize before it was nabbed by some other, speedier packrat.

Quickly trying it out to make sure it was not broken, I happily toted my brand-old, slightly dented, but other wise perfectly good, projector screen back to my now empty trunk. With childlike glee, I snuck in into the basement in an effort to avoid the “What did you bring back now?” that would likely get lobbed my way from my very understanding, but not infinitely patient wife. I can’t say that my dump-return track record gives me much room to argue the point.

So… Now all I need is a functional projector and once again we can turn out the lights, sit down and argue that the pictures are going by too fast, slow, out of focus, backwards, where they were taken and by whom. The meager number of slides that I have will make this a slightly less lengthy experience than the family slide shows of yore. I’m betting that my Father’s collection alone is in the several thousands.

Still… there are more than enough to make an few evenings out of it. The real question is whether I’ll be able to resist getting my old 35mm back out and picking up some fresh slide film.

So, who’s making the popcorn?

6 Responses

  1. The first SLR I bought was a Minolta and I’m currently going through all my old slides and scanning many of them.

    Some memories have been triggered once again.

    There’s nothing like a good slide show.

    I concur. There is nothing like a good slide show. What are you using to scan with? I’d love to start the process but want… well… something good, cheap. I’m a Scottish Yankee. I can’t help it.

  2. I remember Instamatics, Polaroids, slides, and film movie cameras. Gads I’m old and pathetic!!

    Eh. I wouldn’t feel too bad. Being able to say that you remember old stuff just means that so far, you’re doing a good job attaining immortality. Don’t screw up though. Most folks can’t keep it up for more than 75-85 years!

  3. I love this post. It brings back awesome memories. After my 110 I got a what the hell was it called, with the little disk thingy. It looked like negitives but they all came out on this little round disk. I remember when that came out, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

    I have a ton of slides I want to get from my dad so that I can scan them into digitals.

    My amazing 35mm is sitting in my closet and I also have been thinking of getting a battery, some film and taking some classic pictures. The kind where you have to pay and wait to see if they are worth saving.

    I think they were just called “disk cameras”. Those little 110’s were great, weren’t they?! They were the ultimate kid camera. You really couldn’t screw it up with them. I miss that simplicity sometimes.

    And by all means, go and dust off your 35mm! I need to do the same.

  4. I scan with a Nikon Coolscan IV. It’s a bit old and it’s not that great to use but it’s better than nothing.

    I find scanning very tedious and the results aren’t as good as digital photos.

    I have to tweak the scans quite bit in photoshop to bring back the colour and saturation as well as getting rid of dust, srcatches and fungus.

    Yah, that’s what I’m afraid of getting into. I really want a nice slide scanner, preferably capable if doing six or more in one shot. They exist, I know. It’s just that I’m also cheep… I mean, “frugal”.

  5. We have a lot of slides (both my parents and my husband shot slide film). H was a photography major in college for a while. We’re saving for a digital SLR.

    Mom lost a camera by leaving it in the seat back on a return flight from Europe. The cleaning people at the airline sure got lucky that day! (I wonder how much cool stuff they get to take home at the end of the day! It’s probably mind-boggling.) Sadly her media card was still in the camera so she lost all her pix. ::sigh:: We don’t do that anymore. Now we leave connecting airline tickets (will we ever learn?).

  6. Frugal is good. So is passing on something we no longer have use for and using something that still has life in it to save it from the landfills.

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