After spending a few years with bare necessities, I have now planned on getting all my stuff shifted to my new place. It is a small house but with a view of the hills. While packing my things, I saw a drawer full of 35mm slides or transparencies. There was a small portable slide viewer too along with them. All this was quite nostalgic and made me take a trip down the memory lane while I sat there, among all these priceless treasures scattered all around me. Packing tape and cartons could wait a few minutes.
(Kittens – even after the flood of cute kitten pics all over internet and social media, I can’t help posting another one. Captured on Kodachrome. It imparted an old vintage look to all photographs. No digital filters required !)
Among my collection, there were two sizes of these slides. One was the regular 35mm format that I had captured using my old Nikon SLRs. The other one was an obscure 127 square format. The slide projector was kaput and all I had was the battery powered slide viewer (Pana-Vue) to see them. I have already scanned (digitized) all my slides. Still, holding them in my hands was something else. There was an emotional bond that I could feel. These slides or transparencies spoke to me of the careful photography, the visualization and the fabulous time I had spent with them.
The Art was in Capturing
Unlike the digital era now or for that matter the dark room of the yester-years, the slides were created completely in the camera. No post-processing of any kind. The art was in capturing those frames. Everything had to be right before the shutter release was pressed.
The right aperture and shutter-speed was understood, but getting the frame right was also required. The composition had to be perfect. The slides were never ‘cropped’ later on. Underexposure or overexposure was there to stay. I favored mild underexposure to get deep colors, as did most of the photographers then. Graduated ND filters had to be placed in front of the lens. For slides, my most used filters were – Polarizing Filters, Neutral Density Filters and UV filters that actually worked.
Changing the ISO meant changing the film roll. That mid way rewinding the film till it came loose of the sprockets and then loading a new film roll was the only way to change ISO. No, not the only way. The other was to use another camera body with a different ISO roll, an expensive option for a poor student… that was what I was. Come to think of it, I didn’t care much about ISO then. The lowest ISO film had the finest grains. Fujichrome Velvia 50 was my first choice. Kodachrome was the most popular one and a treasured roll when it could be found in our little town. Did Paul Simon’s song had anything to do with its fame? I am not sure. Living in small towns for most of my life, procuring good slide films was a challenge. Whenever the slide films rolls became available, I would buy as many as I could. Once in a while I ended up using some really obscure brands and even expired rolls too.
(A sail-boat’s snapshot. The slide film that I had used was an expired one and yet I enjoyed clicking this photograph)
A knock on the door. I came back to the present, sitting there on the carpet, surrounded by old slides. Maybe I should put the batteries in viewer, but where were the batteries? Already packed. Another knock on the door. It seems a buyer had come to purchase some of the furniture that we will be reducing. Ah… seems like someone else is taking care of that matter. I can get back to packing the slides… or maybe remembering all those fun times.
(Another capture on a no-name slide film. These no-name slide films and even the expired rolls were inexpensive and worked reasonably well at times. What mattered here was getting the placement of the bikes right.)
The Emotional Bond
Each film roll had a limited number of exposures. Each and every frame counted. Every photograph had emotions attached to it.
For developing, I usually used a corner store’s services. There was little that could go wrong with slides. Sometimes when I got a chance, I did try E-6 process but that was when I also got a chance to print them too (more about it later on).
Cutting out each and every frame from the film roll and mounting them on the frames was a task that I loved. The aim was to mount them straight without getting any fingerprints on them. This was an art. Each mounted slide thus created was done with affection.
The viewing of slides was an experience in itself. Forget the prints, the fun was when the slide projector was setup. The model that I had used a tray where slides had to be inserted, all of them upside down! A remote pushed them into the projector. One white wall in our house used to be the screen. The best part – it used to something of a celebration when the slide-projector was set-up. All the friends and family would sit down, some snacks and drinks would be passed around, rooms lights dimmed, and the enlarged prints lit up the wall in full glory. The bright reds appeared deep and yet with character, the greens were refreshingly fresh, blue skies free from haze! A images looked beautiful. The best part was the company. Everyone talking about the single image that was being projected, some jokes, some comments, sometimes behind the scene discussions. Even the vacation photographs captured on slides made me live the vacation again when I discussed about the photographs with others.
Printing the Slides
No, I did not keep all the slides for projector use only. For some of the good frames, I used the Cibachrome method for printing on paper. This did permit some amount of darkroom work but I never got down to doing that. Maybe because of the way they were captured… perfect to the last detail or maybe to some extent due to my laziness. After all Cibachrome was expensive and I got a run at it once in a bluemoon, when a friend’s studio was vacant or closed for vacations. This friend of mine was the only person I knew who would close his studio for weeks and go on a vacation. I was the master of the place and incidentally he had a very nice color enlarger too.
Some of those prints are still there with me, a tad faded but still vibrant in my memories.
(Sunset on Netravati – an underexposed frame on Fujichrome Provia 100F to bring out the orange hue)
A Sad Goodbye.
The fond memories flooded me while I packed all my slides. I had scanned most of them earlier. Slowly and slowly I packed them in the carton, once in a while raising a slide or two to the streaming light from the window. Carton was full, the slide-viewer went in and then the packing tape sealed everything off.
Now they were going to be given away as toys to some kids in the old neighborhood. All those landscapes and sceneries for them to enjoy, when their phone batteries die down!