Wednesday, December 30, 2015

From the archives: Natural Swimming Pool, Colombo, Ceylon, 1959

Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), 1959. Breaking swells from the Indian Ocean supply this cleverly-designed pool with clean sea water. In the 1950's, Ceylon's economy was thriving and Colombo's harbor facilities were inadequate for the amount of shipping trying to use the port. As a result, freighters often rode at anchor in the roadstead for days or weeks.

My dad took this photograph on Kodachrome film with a Leica IIIC camera and 5cm ƒ/2.0 Summitar lens (still in use). I do not know the exact date and am not sure where the Kodachrome was processed then. I doubt the family sent it back to USA, but possibly Kodak had laboratories in Bangkok or Tokyo.

Monday, December 28, 2015

On the Waterfront: Movie Stars of Kowloon (Hong Kong)

Victoria Harbour is one of the great natural anchorages of the world. It is sheltered from the worst of typhoons and, at least before super-sized vessels came into use in the mid-20th century, was a natural deep-water port. As stated in Wikipedia, "The harbour's deep, sheltered waters and strategic location on the South China Sea were instrumental in Hong Kong's establishment as a British colony and its subsequent development as a trading centre."
The original British settlement of 1841 was on Hong Kong Island, while the Kowloon Peninsula, on the mainland side of the waterway, became a colony in 1860, followed by the New Territories further inland. Great Britain gained a perpetual lease to Hong Kong island 1842 when the Treaty of Nanking ended the first Opium War with China. At that time, many in Britain felt the country had been duped by the Chinese because Hong Kong was sparsely populated and far from any of the centers of imperial Chinese trade. But after Britain proclaimed Hong Kong to be a free port in 1842, the colony grew and flourished, eventually becoming the great center of finance and commerce that it is today.
Hong Kong (Kodachrome, Leica IIIC, 5cm ƒ/2 Summitar lens)
The Kodachrome slide shows Victoria Harbour and Kowloon in 1950, before the waterways had been subject to extensive landfilling (often called "reclamation," as if something in nature needs to be reclaimed). The U.S. fleet is showing its presence. The Communists under Mao Tse-tung (or Zedong) had just completed their occupation of mainland China, and I am sure the United States was saber-rattling to warn Mao to not even dare think of invading the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong.
Today the Kowloon waterfront is a refined and popular tourist attraction, especially the Avenue of the Stars. 
Bruce Lee is here along with other Hong Kong movie stars. You can be a film director, too. (Trivia note: Bruce Lee, like yours truly, was a former University of Washington student.)
This is a popular destination for visitors from the mainland. I did not realize it before my 2014 trip, but residents of the mainland need a visa or permit to travel to Hong Kong - they can't just drive in or take a train on a whim. We noted that the ladies were typically immaculately and fashionably dressed, while the gents often looked like Bubba came off the farm and took the bus to Hong Kong.
This is the clock tower, near the ferry terminal. Take the ferry across the harbour and watch the scenery unfold as you cross to Hong Kong Island.
Sampans in Hong Kong Harbor, 1 Oct 1950. Only a year after the Communist conquest of the mainland, thousands of refugees had fled to Hong Kong, settling in Kowloon and on innumerable floating communities. These sampans were highly vulnerable to typhoons that periodically swept across the South China Sea. The small boats are now gone and the setting is much more industrial and sterile. 

1950 photographs taken on Kodachrome film with a Leica IIIC camera and 5cm ƒ/2.0 Summitar lens (still in use occasionally 65 years later). The 2014 frames are from a Nexus 4 phone (sorry). I made the map with ESRI ArcMap software.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

On the loose in Arusha, Tanzania

So, you have arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport before embarking on a climb of Kilimanjaro or a safari to one of the game parks. You are tired, jet-lagged, and grubby. Other than a sleep, what should you do? Explore Arusha, what else?
Arusha is a bustling commercial city in north central Tanzania. It is not a tourist destination in itself, but is certainly worth a day or two of exploring. The central market in any city is worth a visit. This one was a bit smaller then I expected, and seemed quiet, but possibly my friends and I arrived too late in the day for the main action. The produce looks good!

Some big beefy ladies haunt the market district.
The market is next to the bus station, which is really active. There is no train service to Arusha now, but by bus you can go to Kenya or Uganda, and possibly further. That might be an interesting adventure.
Heading into town in the direction of the Clock Tower, the streets are commercial and lined with shops, small manufacturers, banks, mobile phone stores, and scooter/car repair shops. From what I can tell, everyone is busy, doing something, or plying some trade. Many of the stores run generators because while I was there, the mains electricity went off mid-morning and stayed off until early evening. Often the merchants sat on the sidewalk next to their generator. Yum, exhaust fumes.
A surprising number of merchants downtown were Indians (or Pakistanis?). We heard that many are descendants of Indian troops who were sent to Tanganyika in the early-20th century. When Britain gave up its colony, the former troopers stayed behind (or were left behind). Is this story true? In neighboring Uganda, the business class during the mid-20th century was dominated by Indians. Dictator Idi Amin (the "Butcher of Uganda") expelled the Indian traders, bankers, and merchants, and Uganda's economy virtually collapsed. (This sounds like the folly of Ferdinand and Isabella in expelling the Jews from Spain in the late-1400s - stupidity cloaked in religion.)
We came across a building with post office boxes, not a post office, just hundreds of boxes.
Near the bus station is a large and lonely cemetery. In the colonial era, it may have been the European cemetery. Sadly, it is neglected now.
On a clear day, Mount Meru looms over the city. Meru is a stratovolcano with peak elevation of 4,562.13 metres (14,968 ft). Our guide said there are climbing routes but it is not a common tourist destination.
We looked for English cultural remains, but I was surprised how few English buildings were left. This long colonnaded building was in the grounds of the Mount Meru Regional Hospital. Rangoon (see my Burma blog posts) has a much richer colonial architectural legacy.

This is the fourth of a series of Tanzania articles and has covered a short tour of Arusha. Should your travels take you there, do walk or take motorbikes round town.

Photographs taken with a Panasonic Lumix G3 digital camera with Panasonic 12-32mm lens. I  opened the raw files with Adobe Camera Raw 7.4 and processed most of the frames with DxO FilmPack 5 using the Kodachrome 25 emulation. I think it does not quite look like Kodachrome, but have no direct comparison available.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

More Urban Decay: West Porter Street, Jackson, Mississippi

Jackson west of the railroad tracks was once a prosperous, busy area of small shops, warehouses, and industrial concerns. Further west were tree-shaded neighborhoods, schools, and churches. Today, warehouses are boarded up, houses are abandoned or crumbling, and empty lots give little clue as to what was once there. A few weeks ago, I drove south on South Gallatin Street and saw a brick warehouse at the intersection with West Porter Street. It warranted a few photographs. I think the street address would be 2034.
This is the view west along West Porter at sunset in November.
The little cottage at 2032 West Porter was abandoned. The small fireplace was probably intended for a coal stove insert.
The resident at 2030 restores interesting old American cars, real Detroit iron.
On the north side of West Porter is another warehouse or shop. I could not tell if any part of the building is occupied.
This is the view north along Gallatin Street. It is somewhat desolate now.
These are the Kansas City Southern railroad tracks at the Gallatin Street underpass. These massive girders are early 20th century, the great era of railroad construction.

Photographs taken with a Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera, with some frames through a 35mm f/2.8 Olympus shift lens (to eliminate converging lines). I processed some of the RAW files with PhotoNinja software.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Arusha with Film Emulations

Long-time readers know I often convert my digital RAW files to black and white. Recently I tried the DxO FilmPack 5 film emulation software. I thought it would be interesting to see how some scenes in Arusha, Tanzania, would look if I had been using film (click any of the pictures to see them at 1,600 pixels wide).
This is the central bus station in Arusha. This is the RAW file from my Panasonic G3 camera opened with Adobe Camera Raw 7.4 with minimal manipulation other than  increasing exposure in the shadows. The colors are good and there is a long range of exposure from dark to white. Digital capture is amazing.
This is the simulation of Kodak Ektar 100 film. It was an excellent emulsion and looked a lot like the pure digital capture. Note that this was a negative film, meaning it was intended for printing on color print paper. Depending on the type of paper used and the filtration during printing, the final print might look quite different.
Here is my favorite slide film from the past, Kodachrome 25. Note the "clean" high contrast appearance.
Here is my favorite black and white film, Kodak Tri-X, with yellow filter added to enhance contrast a little. You can still buy Tri-X in various sizes.
Finally, here is the Kodak BW400CN black and white film with red filter. The BW400CN was discontinued in 2014 but can still be found in bulk on ePrey. This was a convenient  film because it was developed in C-41 chemicals at any color print lab (in other words, color print film but with monochrome dyes only). It scanned well - buy some while you can.
This is the abandoned railroad station. This is the standard digital output with good exposure range and reasonably realistic colors.
Here is the same scene but processed with DxO FilmPack 5 with the Kodak Tri-X film emulation. I added the yellow filter, which darkened the sky when using real Ti-X. Depending on filtration (green, yellow, orange, red, etc.) there are almost endless ways you can modify the tonality.
Her is another scene from the rail yard, the standard digital RAW file opened in Adobe camera Raw 7.4.
Here is a film that DxO labeled as Generic Kodachrome. Note the bright blue of the warehouse in the distance. The Kodachrome of the 1950s and 1960s was highly saturated, resulting in the "Kodachrome look." Kodachrome is gone forever, but many other films are still available. Borrow a film camera and try some traditional (real) photography as an aesthetic challenge.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Hanging Around in Mto Wa Mbu, Tanzania

What do you do on a hot sunny afternoon when your driver broke the tip of the ignition key off in the ignition while he was refueling? Well, you walk around Mto Wa Mbu, check out the scene, take some photographs, and wonder how long you might be hanging around.
Mto Wa Mbu is on Route B144 just north of Manyara National Park and a few kilometers north of Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. It is about 3 hours drive west of Arusha, and most tourists probably rush on through unless they need some diesel.
This is a cheerful town. There were people fixing things, carrying bags of grain or rice, working on motor scooters, and selling souvenirs. I do not understand: Tanzania is a poor country, but it looks like it is on the way up. Streets are being paved, people are working, internet is spreading, shops sell goods, traffic is heavy, farmers are busy, small schools and training academies thrive, and the people are proud, cheerful, and polite. But when I drive through the Mississippi Delta, Greenville, Rolling Fork, or even Jackson, the towns are crumbling and dirty, demonstrating our race to the bottom. Enough said.
As I wrote above, Mto Wa Mbu is a transit point en route to the national parks. Tarangire National Park, a few km south, is a place of profound beauty and peacefulness. We had wonderful birding and saw the usual cast of larger residents, such as elephants, gazelle, and baboons.
The ancient baobab trees are absolutely amazing. And they may be over 1,000 years old.

I took these photographs with a Panasonic Lumix G3 digital camera and the Panasonic 12-32mm lens. I opened the raw files with Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 (with Adobe Camera Raw 7.4) and then used the Kodachrome 25 film emulation in DxO FilmPack 5. The K25 increased contrast (as per the original film), so I had to reduce contrast when initially opening the RAW file. Also, on most, I increased exposure in the shadows to prevent their becoming completely featureless, so possibly I am not really replicating K25. But all in all, I like the K25 look; it reminds me of my film days.