Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Fade To Black And White

A couple of weeks ago I had occasion to move my files of film negatives and, to my dismay, as soon as I picked up a file half of the pages slipped to the floor.

The "pages" were plastic sheets, each holding seven strips of negatives. Whilst these do not get used all that much, they are still the definitive version of my early photographs and for any publication work a fresh scan is needed at high resolution.

The problem was time. Isn't it always...? But in this case it was the effects of time on thin plastic sheets bought around 35 years ago. They had degraded to the point where the punched holes for the file's ring binders just ripped out. Indeed huge chunks of plastic were breaking free at every single touch. So I've had to buy a new supply of sleeves, choosing Kenro paper sleeves this time. Whilst I had the negatives out I thought I might run a few through the scanner again.

Each time I do this I'm amazed at the leap in the quality of reproduction. When I first scanned them onto a computer it was at the size of 320x240 pixels when the entire VDU screen could squeeze no more than 800x600 pixels altogether. Photo screen savers were as yet unknown so I didn't think at the time to try scanning any larger. These days I can scan a 35mm negative up to tens of thousands of pixels. My current screen size is 1680x1050 and for reproduction a scan of over 5000 pixels is required for a sharp image. I'm amazed at people who think they can take a small image off the web and resize it, thinking that the "hidden details" will adjust the sharpness as they go along. Nooooooo!

This image was taken in 1971 from the interior of a cave on the beach outside the harbour wall at Polperro in Cornwall. Not an easy topic for a light meter to cope with...

Moving north into Devon in the same year, here is a shot taken from the top of Clovelly's main street which descends down to the beach at a gradient that taxes the back coming up and the knees going down! This was not a sunny day...!

1972 and that's me on the right on stage with the band Spiral somewhere in Oldham. At the time I was working in a photographic studio and was necessarily in trendy mode...

The year after I was working for myself and the hair had grown a bit again, before it all fell out a few years after... I'd never fit into those dark green velvet trousers these days either...

Also from 1973. Spiral it's fair to say, was not a top-earning band... When we didn't have a gig we would go out for last orders at a pub in Failsworth (between Oldham and Manchester) and as it was on a cul-de-sac, we would park near this house. It was always in darkness, unless the inhabitants only occupied the rear of the place, and we always used to joke it was haunted. We called it Terror Towers or something similarly ridiculous that would appeal to a teenage mind after a pint of Watneys Red...

In 1974 my parents moved to Blackpool to take over a small hotel on Trafalgar Road, which runs between the Promenade and Lytham Road, close to The Manchester pub. I stayed on in Rochdale for a while and came over to Blackpool for free food at weekends... This was the view of the Pleasure Beach from the South Pier in 1974. Not only is this pre-Big One roller coaster and Ocean Boulevard, it's before the Space Tower was built or the Avalanche. The old Aztec frontage to the River Caves can be seen extreme left. In front of the Big Dipper with its old spherical finial is a simple roundabout ride, dating back to the late 50s or early 60s, of space rockets that could be raised or lowered by means of a joystick in each rocket.

Circa 1976-78 this shot from the Central Pier shows Blackpool's previous sea wall and the slade used for vehicle access to the beach. The pedestrian footbridge is very new and Lewis's and Woolworth's stores bookend the Tower. Visitors are enjoying a lively sea and the beach food carts and caravans sit waiting for the tide to go out.

From the pedestrian footbridge we can look along the Promenade roadway, looking north. This was taken on August Bank Holiday Monday, 1978. The Vauxhall car in front of the bus is brand new as the T-registration only came out on the first of that month. The bus is single-decker 571 and on it's way to Manchester Square. There's a healthy crowd of visitors on the Promenade and the roadway has two lanes of traffic in each direction with room for a central refuge for crossing pedestrians.

1976 and Brush tramcar 638 turns off the Promenade to return to the Rigby Road depot along Lytham Road. A car driver is hoping the tram will let him scoot in front once the pedestrians have cleared the way. At this time no other town in England had had street trams for over twenty years and many visiting drivers had sudden panic moments as they realised that Blackpool's trams were not going to swerve away from their antics...

In 1977 riding the Grand National roller coaster meant bouncing out of your seats and holding a handrail on the back of the seat in front of you. Restraints of any kind were not thought necessary. Just to make sure however, as the coaster trains neared the top of the lift hill a recorded voice politely said: "Please... do not stand up..."

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