Photography much easier today

Most people don't know this, but I actually have a photographic memory.

The only problem is I ran out of film somewhere back around 1993.

My immediate family didn't take a lot of snapshots when my brother and sister and I were little. Mom's albums and picture boxes are filled with a few snapshots of us from Polaroid shots that visiting family took and left with us. A lot of the family photos from the 1960s are black and white school photos or baseball and basketball team photos taken by Bill Wahlman.

Somewhere about the time I turned 10 or 12 someone gave me what they called a pocket instamatic camera. It looked a lot like a camera a secret agent would use to photograph secret documents. It took pretty good photos though if you pointed it in the right direction.

From that point on I was in charge of documenting my family's life on film. Oh just a minute, I guess some of you under the age of 25 might not understand this concept of film so I'll explain.

It was a celluloid material (like plastic) coated with silver halide crystals which would react to light when exposed to an image through the camera's shutter and when properly focused on a flat plane . . . oh never mind. Just suffice it to say we rolled the film back into a little cassette, which was eventually taken to the drugstore (guess I need to explain that concept too) where they would mail it off to be developed.

A few weeks later you would go back to the drugstore where you would shell out most of the money in your wallet to get your pictures. Then while sitting in the car in front of the drugstore you would find that half the prints you paid for were fogged.

Along about 1973 Paul Simon pinned the hit song "Kodachrome" promising that 35 mm slide film would, "give us the nice bright colors, . . the greens of summers . . . like all the world is in a sunny day." Paul said it himself, "Everything looks worse in black and white." I had to find better ways of capturing the world in color.

I got a 35 mm camera and took a lot of photos with that Kodachrome, problem was I just couldn't afford a real slide projector. I got better and I put my shutterbug talents to use on the staff of the annual staff and school newspaper and then later in the newspaper business that bummed me out because for most of that time we did nothing but black and white.

I got good at processing film while writing football stories at 11 p.m. on Friday nights. Back then with less than adequate equipment under less than adequate lighting conditions we made Kodak Tri-X film do things it wasn't made to do. Paul Simon had somehow steered me wrong.

Finally, after years of tank and tray processing black and white film, process film and even composition room film the digital age arrived.

Finally, I was shooting Kodachrome professionally, even bulk loading it as we used slide film and then scanned it into the computer. That phase only lasted an eye-blink though.

These days the image is captured digitally in the camera and downloaded quickly to the computer sometimes in the field. In mere minutes that true-to-life color digital photo can be displayed on a web page on the other side of the world.

When I look back on all those years of black and white film and chemicals, Maypoles, graduations and grade school plays "it's a wonder I can think at all."

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

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