Saturday, September 30, 2023

On the Pier at Old Orchard Beach, Maine

The ocean pier is a time-honored cultural and recreation tradition in American beach communities. The pier typically housed restaurants, a dance hall, snack shops, penny arcades, and places for people to fish. It was the fun place to foregather after sunning in the sand, eat hotdogs, and play arcade games.

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Heinz Ocean Pier, Atlantic City, New Jersey, after the September 1944 hurricane (photographer unknown, Beach Erosion Board Archives)

This is the remains of the Heinz Ocean Pier, also known as “The Sea Shore Home of the 57 Varieties,” in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The September 1944 hurricane tore off much of the famous boardwalk and part of the pier. It was demolished after the storm.

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Old Orchard Beach is a popular tourist destination in southern Maine. Its famous pier first opened to the public on July 2, 1898. This original pier suffered from storms over the century, and the Great New England Blizzard of '78 washed away the remnants. From

The middle of the century saw the heyday of the Pier Casino Ballroom, which held as many as 5,000 people. The Ballroom was noted for its moving picture shows and live entertainment, featuring acts such as Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Guy Lombardo, and Benny Goodman. Over the years, a series of storms ebbed away at the pier causing the casino to be razed in 1970. Then the great blizzard of 1978 destroyed what was left of the pier. The Pier, as we know it today, was re-opened in 1980, and houses many fine shops and restaurants. The current Pier stretches 500 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. The wooden walk way is lined with souvenir shops, food vendors, restaurants and a night club at the end of the pier.

The view under a pier is a photographic cliché, but it is fun nevertheless. This is the new (1980) pier. 

It is a short beach season in Maine, so locals and tourists soak in the rays.

The gift shops and snack bars on the pier are the fun places to explore. 99¢ for a hot dog (of dubious ingredients) and a Coke? An Internet cafe with AOL? I love it.

I took these photographs on Kodachrome slide film (probably K25) using a Pentax Spotmatic camera with 55mm and 28mm lenses. Great optics, and still totally usable today.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Salvaging Faded Ektachrome Slides

1957 Ektachrome booklet (courtesy of Mr. Maurice Fisher at Photographic Memorabilia)

Eastman Kodak introduced Ektachrome transparency film in sheet film format in 1946. The big advantage of Ektachrome over the famous Kodachrome was the former could be developed at local laboratories or even at home. In Ektachrome, the color couplers were included in the emulsion and processing required only one color developer. Kodachrome required a major laboratory operation for developing, and this meant a turnaround time of several days for most users. 

The film that my dad used in 1959 would have been the version that required the E-2 Process or the Improved E-2 Process. The film speed was probably 32 ASA. His slide mounts have the same blue pattern as the example on the cover of the Kodak booklet. The text on the slide mount is in English, but I do not know where he had them processed. Were there color photo labs in Rangoon at the time?

The big failing of early Ektachrome was that colors faded. Most 1950s and 1960s Ektachrome slides are now a red mess. Image data is there, but much of the color information has been lost. In the days before Photoshop or other sophisticated software packages, there was not much you could do with one of these faded slides. I threw out hundreds of family slides decades ago when my wife and I sorted my dad's archives. 

Let us look at one example from Rangoon, Burma, from 1958 or 1959. I scanned the slide on a Plustek 7600i film scanner using Silverfast software via a Mac mini computer with the BigSur 11.7.4 operating system. The original slide shows the characteristic red color shift. You see the same with Anscochrome slides from the 1960s. 

Standing on a furniture box that came from Hong King

This is the scan on "Auto" mode as a 48-bit TIFF file (16 bits for each color). There does not appear to be much useful color data left. (I have resized for this article but not changed color).

This is the "Portrait" mode in Silverfast. I am amazed how well it did with no more intervention on my part. The software is doing some clever work in the background.

This is a 16 bit monochrome scan. This does not look too bad and demonstrates that there is still image data on this media. In another 64 years, will there be retrievable image data on our digital storage media or on our accounts in the "cloud"? Sorry I keep asking this, but you readers know the answer.

Photoshop's automatic color correction tool did not work well on a slide this badly shifted. The grey dropper also did not work. On the Photrio forum, experienced Photoshop users said the best way to correct a faded slide was to use the curves tool manually. I moved the curve to the extents of the color data and adjusted the amplitude. The example above is or the blue channel. I am far from a sophisticated Photoshop user but did the best I could in CS5. The result is slightly different than the Silverfast "Portrait" scan, neither better or worse. 

Summary:  There is some recoverable color data in old faded Ektachrome slides. And a conversion to monochrome can look surprisingly good. Maybe future software will be more sophisticated, but I have not seen many (or any?) new scanners in the last decade. But we can always hope for software development.

Monday, September 11, 2023

From the Archives: A Couple of Days in Paris

Once awhile (well, rather often now), your airline schedule gets confused or abruptly changes. "You will be flying to Charles DeGaulle and your next flight out will be three days later. You said what? Well, OK, I can handle a few days in Paris. Who couldn't? But, um, who will pay for my hotel and food?

Regardless of the logistics, I had a pleasant if short sojourn in Paris in summer of 2009. Being an American in Paris is great fun, but I did not run into Gigi, Ernest Hemingway, or Ninotchka.  

The tourist office in the airport found an inexpensive hotel for me on the commuter rail line part way between the airport and the city center. 

Room with a view
Loo with a curtain

Not a bad room for a reasonable price (on Paris standards). The rooms looked like prefab modular units inserted into a building built for the purpose. The breakfast was basic, but the coffee and croissants et confiture put the vile offal at any American chain hotel to shame. 

The Seine River of history and literature. In preparation for the Olympics, it is clean enough to swim in again!

The Seine in 2001 (Kodachrome 64 film)

This photograph is from a previous trip to France. It is a medium format Kodachrome 64 transparency that I took with a Rolleiflex. Kodak made the 120 size film from 1986-1996. These slides were spectacular when projected. As I recall, Kodak announced that they would do one last processing of the 120 Kodachrome at their UK laboratory in Luton, so I used all my remaining stock that summer. Photographers from around the world sent their 120 Kodachrome to Luton, similar to the way that 35mm Kodachrome users sent their film to Dwayne's in Parsons, Kansas, in 2010 for the final processing.

On the left bank

Oh oh, another digression into the past. Once upon a time, we were young, energetic, healthy, and dressed reasonably well. And Notre Dame was still intact.

From the roof of the Musée d'Orsay
Lunch behind the clock at the Musée d'Orsay
Former rail platforms

The Orsay Museum, once a railroad station, contains the world's largest collections of Impressionist paintings and Art Noveau rooms, decorations, and furnishings. It is spectacular. Spend a day there.  

The famous independent book store, Shakespeare and Company, opened in 1951 in this spot in the Left Bank. (The side of a river is denoted when you are looking downriver, meaning towards the sea.)

Quiet afternoon in the left bank

This covers our short sojourn to Paris. All too soon, I had to return to the airport and board my flight to Atlanta. What a culture shock to return to the USA after a month in Europe.

Charles de Gaulle airport

Even CDG has some interesting architecture. I have always found it to be a confusing airport, partly because it is always crowded and the signage is difficult to interpret. 

Regardless, Paris is a gem. Book a small hotel on the Left Bank and spend a week exploring. Better yet, rent a flat for the autumn or spring. Get immersed in art, culture, and music. Eat a family-owned bistros, toss back a glass of wine.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

From the Archives: Summer on the Beach in Calabria (Italy)

Cosenza study area

In mid-2000, two of my coworkers and I conducted a study of beach processes and structures along the west coast of the Province of Cosenza. The Provincial Government of Cosenza asked us to examine coastal structures and beach erosion. The beaches has suffered serious retreat over the years, and various types of seawalls, beach armoring, and detached breakwaters had not done much to stabilize the coast. 

This is the rugged and mountainous part of Calabria in southern mainland Italy facing the Tyrrhenian Sea. The first major landforms to the west are Corsica and Sardinia. The Aeolian Islands, including the active volcano of Stromboli, are also west near the north coast of Sicily. I had never been to Calabria, so this was a geological and cultural treat. 

Our hosts were fantastically generous. They provided some superb meals (Calabria has a distinctive cuisine), a helicopter, boats, and a van with a driver. He was a burly, friendly fellow. When he wore his sport jacket on certain days, he had a mysterious bulge under his left armpit. Hmmm...  But seriously, there were no security issues of any sort. Everyone we met was friendly and curious. 

Here are a few Kodachrome slides from our project, organized from north to south. There were many more slides, but I sent them to the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association along with thousands of other beach and marine photographs

Beaches and coasts

Marina di Belvedere view south

This aerial view of Belvedere Marittimo shows the complicated topography and modified coast in this part of Cosenza. In the foreground, the beach was massively armored with detached breakwaters but this did not result in an attractive recreation beach. One major failing: the engineers did not artificially add sand on the landward side of the breakwaters after initial construction. All of these types of structures need sand to be mechanically added.

Eroded sandstone and poorly consolidated riverine sediments south of Diamante

Near Diamante the geology is a challenge. The rail line is perched between an eroding upland and a retreating coast. To prevent mud- and rockslides from disrupting the railroad, the engineers built concrete protective walls. But then sediment no longer enters the marine littoral system, contributing to sediment starvation on the beaches. But storm waves cause the shore to retreat. So, to protect the railroad, construction companies added huge rocks along the shore. The result: no beach and a vulnerable railroad.

Recreation beach at Guardia Piedmontese Marina

Here you can see a sand and gravel beach, with the railroad embankment immediately behind. During especially rough winter storms, salt spray reaches the rail line and causes arcing across the electric lines. This is the main north-south rail line along western Italy, and service disruption has major economic consequences. 

On the way it to the beach, Guardia Piedmontese Marina

  Here the rail line is reasonably protected by being well above the level of the parking lot.

Historic houses, Marina di Fuscaldo

Marina di Fuscaldo is a resort village with a number of pre-1900 houses clustered next to the beach. Fishermen pull their boats up across the gravel beach. The road runs above a concrete seawall.  

Former railroad bridge near Marina di Paola

This railroad bridge is an example of the beautiful stonework by master craftsmen during the original construction of the railroad in the late-1800s. The original rail was run along the landward edge of a formerly broad coastal plain. In this area, the coast retreated almost a kilometer in a century. The new railroad bridge is a short distance behind the historic bridge. There is no more room for the railroad to relocate further landward. 

San Lucida, south of Paola

These monumental T-shaped groins near San Lucida are in too deep water, the gap is too wide, and the builders did not add sand. This section of coast is sediment-starved. 

San Lucida
Checking the catch at San Lucida
Reviewing beach measurements in San Lucida

The old town of San Lucida is up on the bluff. The plaza was secured with a monumental concrete buttress and wall. 

Typical Calabrian lunch

What do you do after a morning of surveying the beaches, riding boats, or flying in a helicopter? Well, of course, you eat a giant Calabrian lunch. Add a bottle or two of wine.....


Ready for a ride, San Lucido
On the beach, Guardia Piedmontese

We were surprised that the tiny Fiat 500 cars (the Cinquecento) are popular again and are being restored. Fiat produced them in various models from 1957-1976. These were a brilliant way to help Italians motorize in the post-war era, and they continued in production into the 1970s. Nice! 

Motoring in Cetraro


If you are interested in more technical details, here is the Coastal Sediments '03 conference proceeding. It is a .pdf file that the link will open. 

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Footloose in Costa Rica 2000-2001

Some 24 years ago, the family and I took a 3-week Christmas season trip to Costa Rica to look at birds and nature. Wilderness Travel of California operated the trip via local guides and drivers. We had a great time. We visited both coasts, stayed in the rain forest, tromped through the jungle, ate black beans and rice, drank coffee at 05:00, and flew on small propellor planes. Our fellow travelers were friendly and the guides knowledgeable. I had not been to Latin America since my oil industry years in the early 1980s, and it was nice to get back to the foods, smells, sounds, and vivid colors of the middle latitudes. Here is a small sampling.

San José

We flew into San José and were immediately whisked off to a luxury hotel. Wait, I prefer to be downtown where one can wander around and look at the shops and stalls. San José is a bit rough - possibly the trip organizers were concerned about security issues. Or maybe the typical American tourist does not like to mix with the locals. Before we returned to USA three weeks later, we opted to stay in a hotel downtown and we spent some time walking around.

Supplies and soda
I think they like Coca Cola here
Sunglass Hut San José style
Don't forget your Coca Cola

Well, San José is a bit beat-up. We had to constantly scan the sidewalks where we walked because often paving stones were missing or there were construction holes. I can't recall where we walked or where we ate, but it was fun. The city does not have ominous overtones like San Pedro Sula or Guatemala City. The local citizens were cheerful.

La Fortuna

La Fortuna is a nice little provincial town in the central highlands. It serves as the gateway to rafting on the Arenal River and to visiting Volcan Arenal. 

Kapok tree near La Fortuna

You occasionally come across one of these astonishing kapok (Ceiba pentandra) trees. They can grow over 200ft high. The tree produces pods that contain seeds. These are surrounded by a fluffy, yellowish fibre that was formerly used in pillows and life jackets (therefore the term kapok jacket that you hear in World War II movies).

More chance for a Coca Cola
Waiting for a call

Monteverde Cloud Forest

There is the Resplendent quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) - way up there
Taking milk to market
There is the Violet Sabrewing hummingbird - way up there

The Monteverde Cloud Forest is an astonishing biological preserve of hundreds of species of birds, mammals, and insects. It rains often, like every day. Pack your rain gear and camera protection. What do you do there? Arise at 05:30, drink a strong and delicious Costa Rican Coffee, don your boots, and head off with your group to looks for birds. It does not get much better than this.

Costa Rica is a fantastic destination. Book a trip with a company that provides a naturalist, buy some top grade binoculars, and have fun. And be sure to drink the coffee and eat the fresh fruits.

I took these photographs on Kodak Gold 100 film via an old Nikkormat FTn that I borrowed from a friend. The Nikkormat was a beater and I was not sure if the back was still light tight. But some electrical tape ensured a safe seal. For color slides, I used my Nikon F3. But after all the dampness and rain on this trip, I opted to send it to Nikon USA for a thorough cleaning and checkup. I scanned these negatives on a Plustek 7600i film scanner operated by SilverFast software.