Sunday, December 30, 2018

Wandering around Eagle Lake, Mississippi

Background

Eagle Lake is an oxbow lake northwest of Vicksburg. A short geology explanation: When a river flows through a wide alluvial valley (a geologic depression filled with riverine-deposited sediment), the river usually meanders, meaning it develops into tightly curved S-shaped channels. Often the channel almost curves back on itself. Over time, some of the curves are breached and the river rushes through the new opening to flow through the lower part of the S. The former bend of the river is abandoned, forming an oxbow lake. Eagle Lake, Lake Chicot, and Lake Washington are examples of oxbow lakes. These lakes become valuable habitat for fish and numerous bird species. Gradually (over hundreds of years) the lakes fill with organic debris and silt. The Mississippi valley between Cape Girardeau and the delta in the Gulf of Mexico shows evidence of hundreds of changes in these meanders as well as buried former channels throughout the alluvial valley (Fisk, 1944).
Eagle Lake, Mississippi. Map from ESRI ArcGIS online based on US Geological Survey topographic maps.
The town of Eagle Lake lies along the eastern shore and consists of mostly vacation and retirement homes, although some residents commute daily to Vicksburg for their jobs. I have not photographed in the town itself, but MS 465 has some interesting sights. (Warning, "pretty" pictures below.)

Some Sights near Town

Mt. Zion Church, near Laney Camp Road, Mississippi. Hasselblad, 50mm Distagon lens.
Lightning-struck tree at Mt. Zion Church, near Laney Camp Road, Mississippi.
North of Eagle Lake, MS 465 runs along the top of the levee. This is an unusual opportunity to drive along the levee top on a public road and watch wildlife in the ponds and hardwood bottomlands below. In many areas, levees are not open to the general public (they are restricted to hunters with permits, employees of levee boards, or the US Army Corps of Engineers). The Mount Zion Church is on a dirt road south of the levee, adjacent to where the Laney Camp Road joins 465.
This little church is east of 465 south of where the highway joins the levee. I do not know the name, but the modest little church had been deteriorating for at least 4 or 5 years. A few graves are located on the grounds south of the building.
In late December of 2017, I helped with the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. The early morning light was misty and soft, perfect for tree pictures. These are on Kodak Panatomic-X film from a Hasselblad 501CM camera (tripod-mounted).
This is a store I photographed in 1997. It faced 465 but I cannot recall the exact location. This was a frame from Agfa Scala 200 black and white positive film (meaning black and white slides), taken with a Leica M3. The Scala scans really well. Of course, now I wish I had used more of it in the past.

Beaches and forest

Beach near Tara Wildlife Center with non-native rock in the foreground.
This is an example of a beach near Eagle Lake with access via a dirt path only during low water. The sand is carried naturally down the river from the central North American continent, but the rocks in the foreground were artificially placed. No rock of this size is carried by the Mississippi’s flow in this region.

Access like this to the river is relatively rare. Many visitors to the region are surprised that normally they can only see the river from high towns, like Vicksburg or Natchez, or from an occasional commercial loading facility. The reason is the placement of the flood-control levees. The main stem levees of the Mississippi River extend from Cape Girardeau in Missouri to the mouth of the river at the Gulf of Mexico. The levees are usually built some distance from the low water river channel, sometimes as much as one or two miles away (see Figure 1). The low terrain between the main channel and the levees is usually forested and subject to inundation whenever there is a high water event. The purpose of the forest is to provide friction to reduce the velocity of the water during high water. In effect, the forest helps protect the levees by preventing high currents from washing directly against the flanks of the earthen structures.
Example of pond and vegetation found in hardwood bottomland.
This is a pond in the hardwood bottomland that naturally forms on the river side of the levees. Note that up through the 1800s, much of the delta was hardwood bottomland, but the land was laboriously cleared and drained in the late 1800s and early 1900s to form the farmland that we see now. These bottomlands are characterized by being periodically inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater during the growing season. Common tree species in the area are adapted to survive, reach maturity, and reproduce in an environment where the soils within the root zone may be saturated or anaerobic (lacking oxygen) during part of the growing season (Clark and Benforado, 1980).

References

Clark, J.R., and Benforado, J. (Eds.), 1980. Wetlands of Bottomland Hardwood Forests: Proceedings of a Workshop on Bottomland Hardwood Forest Wetlands of the Southeastern United States. Developments in Agricultural and Managed-Forest Ecology, 11, Elsevier Science, Amsterdam, 401p.

Fisk, H.N., 1944. Geological investigation of the alluvial valley of the lower Mississippi River. U.S. Department of the Army, Mississippi River Commission, 78p. Online:  http://lmvmapping.erdc.usace.army.mil/index.htm  Accessed Sep. 13, 2018.

Camera notes

The square photographs were taken with a Hasselblad 501CM camera on Kodak Panatomic-X film. I used Zeiss 80mm CB and 50mm Distagon lenses. Praus Productions in Rochester, NY, developed the film in Xtol. The two rectangle frames are from a Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera.

End-of-year salutation

Dear Readers, this is the last article of 2018. Thank you for reading and occasionally commenting. If you have ideas on places to photograph or comments of any type, please feel free to forward them to kodachromeguy - at - gmail - dot - com. A prosperous 2019 to you all. Stay well and explore your world.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Abandoned Resort Hotel, Nerantza, Greece (black and white film)

The hulk of the Angela resort hotel looms above the coast road in the little town of Nerantza. Nerantza is a seaside resort or summer-home community about 10 miles west of Corinth, facing the Gulf of Corinth. The town had a building boom of sorts in the 1960s and 1970s, which led to this 4-story concrete hotel. It may have once been known as the Angela. My brother-in-law recalls teaching wind-surfing to tourists in the 1970s, and he said the hotel closed in 1981 after a major earthquake caused structural damage. The hulk has been empty since then.
The fence around the back lot has fallen down, so it is easy to enter the grounds. In 2011, I took digital pictures inside, but now the structure looks dangerous, and I did not want to venture inside. The former kitchen area had a mess of fallen debris on the floors. The courtyard in the second photograph above formerly had a metal framework to support awnings, but the steel has been removed.
Someone had dumped bricks and building material into the pool. Hmmm, mosquito-breeding habitat?
A short distance to the east, an unfinished concrete edifice sits along the coast road. Is it awaiting another developer??? Awaiting hope?

These photographs are from Fujifilm Acros black and white film, exposed at EI=80 and developed in Xtol by Praus Productions (Rochester, New York). I used a 24mm Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lens with an adapter on my Leica M2 camera. Framing is a bit difficult because I do not have a 24mm viewfinder, but a wide lens is valuable for close quarters in this type of setting. I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Some Thoughts on Film versus Digital

Introduction

Dear Readers, you may have noticed that you see more film photographs here recently compared to a few years ago. I am an old geezer, so of course grew up during the film era. My dad used a handsome little Leica IIIC, which, at the ripe young age of 69, still works perfectly. My first camera in the 1960s was a Kodak Instamatic 500, a German unit that had manually-controlled aperture, shutter speed, and focus. My first serious camera was a Nikon Nikkormat FTn, which I bought in 1968 at Lechmere Sales in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Lechmere was a well-known discounter in the Boston area, but it closed many years ago. In subsequent years, I moved on to various other cameras, both 35mm format, medium format, and 4×5 inch.

The first digital camera in the family was my daughter's Kodak LS743 in 2004, a convenient little machine that took reasonable (but over-compressed) jpeg files. My first interchangeable lens digital camera was an Olympus E-330, which took excellent files. I now have a Fujifilm X-E1, which does an amazing job in most circumstances and produces RAW files that you can manipulate to your heart's content with PhotoNinja or other software.

The vast bulk of people around the world use digital. Digital imaging is convenient, quick, and usually "accurate" technically. They can take thousands of pictures on a weekend, sort and process with their workflow, upload them to Flickr or wherever, and then???

Back to Film

All right, you are probably wondering: with all the advantages of digital, why have I reverted to the primitive, messy, clumsy, inconvenient, slow, low-dynamic-range, toxic, and expensive chemical recording medium?
  • I like the way film depicts my typical subjects. Urban decay calls for black and white film. 
  • The resulting pictures do not look digital!
  • For awhile, I experimented with DxO FilmPack software which offered film emulation modes to be applied to digital files. But this bothered me. Why emulate something when I can use the real thing? Why emulate anything in life when the real thing is available? (Like the paddle shifters on the steering wheel when what you really have is a car with an automatic.)
  • I am awed by the technology used in the mid-20th century to manufacture film and build wonderfully precise mechanical cameras. 
  • I like old cameras. They are fun and feel solid and stable in the hand.
  • Using old cameras is a deliberate and slow process. It is valuable to test yourself with something that makes you think just a little bit harder (paraphrased from Hamish Gill on 35MMC). You can't spray and pray as with a digital camera and then mess around with software to see if you made a meaningful image.
  • Being comfortable with the old technology, why not continue to use and share this knowledge? Why throw it into the dust bin of history just because it is no longer trendy among the masses?
  • Possibly using black and white film today helps my pictures stand out. After all, millions (billions?) of digital snaps are taken daily. And they look all alike. Just look at the ubiquitous wide-angle, over-saturated, HDR-looking, exaggerated-sky, elevator music landscapes you see on the upload sites. 
  • Film may be the media that survives the decades, providing you or your family store the negatives in a climate-controlled home and avoid floods and fires. Digital media? Maybe, but only if someone periodically save the files to whatever is the new and current storage media. The "cloud?" Bwahaahaahaa!
Despite denials by film-haters and photo-frauds on equipment web pages like Dpreview, there has been a revival of film usage around the world. It will not again become a major business as it was in the 20th century, but Kodak Alaris is even reintroducing Ektachrome slide film. An article in Popular Photography shows what an astonishingly complex and precise process is required to produce this little 35-mm-wide piece of sensitized film stock. This new production follows a century of chemistry, experimentation, and mechanical engineering excellence; there is nothing primitive about it! The Phoblogger presented an interesting interview with Richard Photo Lab in Los Angeles about the revival in film use:
Phoblographer: What do you believe to be the biggest edge or selling point of film photography today?
Richard Photo Lab: There’s probably two big selling points for film. First, film has a way of turning you into a better photographer. It is not a magic gateway to better images, but it slows you down and makes you more cognizant about things like framing and lighting and composition—every frame counts! Second, lots of folks think that film is too expensive and that will be its downfall—but, they forget that the tradeoff for the upfront cost of film is the money saved (both actual dollars as well as time) in digital post-processing—an often overlooked expense of digital photography. Professional photographers can use that time to grow their business, book more paying gigs, or just focus on other priorities in their life like family, travel, etc.

Some Comparisons

Let us do an experiment. Here are digital and film views of the same subject, from which you can form your own opinions of which media depicts the scene more effectively. Comments are always welcome.
Oasis Motel, 11th Street (Route 66), Tulsa, Oklahoma. Fuji X-E1 digital camera.
Oasis Motel, Kodak BW400CN film, Olympus trip 35 with polarizer filter.
This is a motel on 11th Street in Tulsa, along one of the urban streets used by Route 66. The digital frame shows the red background behind the word "MOTEL." You lose that in the black and white film frame, but the cloud jumps out at you more prominently.
Closed car dealer, 11th Street, Tulsa. Fuji X-E1 digital camera.
Kodak BW400CN film, Olympus Trip 35 with polarizer filter.
Here we have an old car dealer on 11th Street. Color digital or monochrome film? Note the light was more dramatic for the B&W frame.

Ranch House Cafe, Route 66, Tucumcari, New Mexico, Fuji X-E1 digital. 
Kodak BW400CN film, Yashica Electro 35CC camera.
In this scene, the digital color file shows the faded blue of the truck, the matching struts of the sign, and the matching window frame on the cafe. But do we need that data? Is an old truck and abandoned restaurant better in black and white?
Last gas in Texas, Route 66, Glenrio (100° F, Fuji X-E1 digital)
Last gas in Texas, Glenrio, Tri-X 400 film, Hasselblad 501CM, polarizer filter.
Continuing with our Route 66 trek, Glenrio is a cluster of semi-abandoned gas stations and motor courts at the New Mexico/Texas border. It was hot, dusty, and dry. Color or monochrome?
Maria's Kitchen, W. Cordova Ave., Santa Fe, New Mexico. Kodak BW400CN film, Yashica Electro 35CC, polarizer filter.
In the color digital image, the yellow of the hydrant stands out. The skies are dramatic in both versions. The rainy season in Santa Fe is fantastic for photography.
Valles Caldera, New Mexico, Kodak BW400CN film, Olympus Trip 35 with polarizer.
Here is a landscape as opposed to architecture or decay. Which works better?

Auschwitz I concentration camp, Poland. Fuji X-E1 digital camera braced on door frame. 
Auschwitz I, Poland. Kodak Tri-X 400 film, Rolleiflex 3.5E with 75mm Xenotar lens.
This is a more gruesome subject, the concentration camp at Oswiecim, Poland, where about 1.1 million prisoners were killed during World War II. Color shows the dingy yellow walls but monochrome makes you concentrate on the shapes and side lighting. The format is different, so this is not an exact compositional comparison. Which image tells the story more effectively?

Film and Artificial Intelligence

A recent article in the Nov. 12, 2018 issue of The New Yorker is pertinent for photographers and those of us who use film. The title is: "In the Age of A.I., Is Seeing Still Believing? Advances in digital imagery could deepen the fake-news crisis—or help us get out of it." It is about the pitfalls of A.I. and digital imaging, and the problem of when people cannot tell what is real versus manufactured. Many people are now suspicious of still pictures that look too amazing to be real. But the dilemma runs deeper than this as to whether most people even care if it is manufactured (sounds like politics in USA in this era of non-critical thinking, abject ignorance, and stupidity). That is one reason why I have turned back to film. Despite its many flaws, the little piece of polyester and its gelatin coating shows exactly what the photons converted into an image. There it is, proof of what was out in front of the lens. That piece of film was witness to a piece of time and space. You can manipulate it subsequently in the darkroom or if it is scanned, but the film was there.

Mike Johnston, author of The Online Photographerwrote about how he used to call work with digital cameras "digital imaging":
"Years ago I tried to assert that digital imaging should not be called "photography," that the word photography described what we now clumsily know as analog or optical/chemical photography (I usually dislike back-formations), and that the new medium was sufficiently different that we should know it by a different name. I thought "digital imaging" or D.I. served just fine, since that had currency at the time. 
I've never changed that opinion, but I learned to back off on it, because people didn't like it—in the early days of digital, any comparison of film vs. digital quickly devolved into a status dispute, and people on Team Digital were immediately and automatically prickly about imagined slights to their standing. They wanted the main word applied to their chosen tech. So "digital photography" it was. As Mad magazine used to say, Yecch." 
A reader named Andre commented on one of the The Online Photography articles, "the thing that impresses me most about the medium is that the film itself is a physical witness to whatever event was photographed. That is, actual photons from the scene physically altered the film. For me, that gives film a unique kind of authenticity: the film was present and bears an imprint of the event itself." Andre stated his thoughts eloquently.

More discussion on the topic of film reality versus non-reality is in a follow-up note in The Online Photographer. Comments to the note are erudite, mature, and well-considered.

Standby for more film photographs in the future.

Old Friends (My Film Cameras)

  • Kodak Instamatic 500
  • Canon unknown model rangefinder
  • Certosport unknown model
  • Nikon Nikkormat FTn
  • Nikon F (non-metered prism)
  • Nikon F3
  • Pentax Spotmatic (my wife's camera, in regular use)
  • Pentax Spotmatic II
  • Pentax MX
  • Leica IIIC (my dad's 1949 camera, in regular use)
  • Leica M3
  • Leica M2
  • Leica M2 (family 1962 camera, in use)
  • Rollei 35S
  • Yashica Electro 35CC (in use)
  • Olympus Trip 35
  • Canon QL19
  • Voigtlander Vito BL (my brand new $34 camera)
  • Rolleiflex 3.5E
  • Rolleiflex 3.5F (sorry I sold it)
  • Rolleiflex 3.5E (in use)
  • Hasselblad 501CM (in use)
  • Fujifilm GW690II (in infrequent use)
  • Tachihara 4×5" (not much use; I am embarrassed)

Closing Thoughts


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Railroads of Greece 8: Ag. Theodoron

Agios Theodoron (also translated as Agioi Theodoroi; Greek: Άγιοι Θεόδωροι) is a small town facing the Saronic Gulf, about 5 miles east of Isthmia, at the eastern end of the Corinth Canal. The 1-meter gauge Piraeus, Athens and Peloponnese Railways (SPAP) formerly passed through Ag. Theodoron. The 1-meter train is no longer in use, having been replaced by the regular gauge Athens Suburban Railway.
The old stations were well-built, and most of the ones I have seen are secure and in good condition. The Greek railway appears to have done a lot of maintenance on tracks and infrastructure up to about a decade ago, when they abruptly discontinued use of the 1-meter system. Possibly this coincided with the onset of the Greek economic malaise around 2007, but I just do not know.
So, what do we do after a day of exploring railroads? Eat a Greek meal, of course, and finish off a bottle of wine (or two) - and then a chocolate torte. The food is locally-sourced, fresh, and home-made. None of that vile fast food crap here. It is a culture shock returning to USA after eating like this.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Railroads of Greece 6b: The Lost Locomotives of Myloi (with Tri-X film)

Myloi is a sleepy town on the west side of the Bay of Naufplio (Nauplion), which is at the north end of the Argolic Gulf in southern Greece. The narrow-gauge (1.0-meter) Peloponnese railroad passes (more accurately, passed) through town. The main line from Athens comes in from the north via the town of Argos. Heading south, the line runs along the coast to Myloi and then turns west, ascending the mountains towards Tripoli. I found some Tri-X frames that I took in 2016 in Myloi at the old rail yard. Here, steam locomotives had been parked and semi-forgotten for decades. I presented some digital frames from Myloi before.
The old locomotives are rusting away slowly, although with Greece's dry climate, the deterioration is not nearly as severe as it would be in a rainy climate. Giant eucalyptus trees loom over the tracks and old locomotives.
The label of "mouseío" indicates that at one time, this locomotive was to be used for some sort of display or museum. What happened to that plan? I would not be surprised if the economic crisis that started in 2008-2009 dashed hopes for a rail museum.
This is the depot, which, as of 2016, was secure and in good condition. Many of the tracks had new ties and bedding. Status of the Peloponnese railroad and all this equipment and infrastructure: unknown.
Water spigot for steam locomotives, Myloi, Greece.
These photographs are from Kodak Tri-X 400 film exposed with a Rolleiflex 3.5E twin-lens reflex camera with 75mm f/3.5 Xenotar lens. The negatives are rough. I did a poor job with developing, and the film was thin and had spots and lint. I cleaned the lint with the heal tool in Photoshop CS3. I scanned the negatives with a Minolta Scan Multi film scanner, operated with Silverfast Ai software.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Railroads of Greece 7b: The Corinth Railroad Station with Black and White Film

When I visited the now-unused train station in Corinth, Greece, last October (2018), I had two cameras with me. The little Yashica Electro 35CC had color Kodak Ektar 100 film, and my Leica M2 was loaded with Fujifilm Acros black and white film. Last week, I showed you some of the color results. Here are some of the black and white frames.
Corinthos train station (not in use), 35mm f/2.0 Summicron lens, Leitz polarizing filter. 
Control lever for points, Corinthos, Greece
Being a sunny day with the classic brilliant Greek light, the setting does not have quite enough of that urban decay aura. The Acros film is very fine grain and does not look gritty, unlike 1960s Tri-X.
When I was last here in 2011, there was more rolling stock on the tracks, but much of it is now gone.
I am surprised that these rotating water spigots were preserved. I have seen other spigots at stations throughout the Peloponnese.
End of the line, Corinthos, Greece.
Dear Readers, you can decide if you prefer color or monochrome for this type of setting.
Ticket for the full-gauge Athens Suburban Train.
Photographs are from Fujifilm Acros film exposed at EI=80. I used a Leica M2 rangefinder camera with a 35mm f/2.0 Summicron lens, with yellow or polarizing filters to darken the sky. This is the Type 3 35mm, the pre-aspherical model. The film was developed in Xtol by Praus Productions, Rochester, New York. I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner controlled by Silverfast Ai software.