Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Where Did the Mayans Go?

TRAVEL TALK: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF A CULTURE

Last week I mentioned the Spanish and their influence on Mexico.  I was horrified by the Mayan culture at its apex, but by the time the Spanish arrived, the jungle had reclaimed Chichen Itza.  All that remained was a pile of stones to loot for building materials.  The magnificence of that society had crumbled.

Peeling Back the Jungle

Historians and archaeologists have many speculations on the downfall of the Mayans.  Their glorious city of Chichen Itza was first taken over by the Toltecs and then abandoned for reasons that are still unknown.  How did it happen?  How did such an advanced society merely fade into the jungle?

When you go to Chichen Itza today, you must use your imagination to understand just how astounding it would have been to walk among the monuments in their glory.  The rain and the wind have softened the many carvings on the faces of the buildings and walls.  Mere shadows of pigment hint at the remarkable murals once covering every inch of exposed stone.  How overwhelming it must have been!

Standing in the Plaza

As I stood there trying to imagine the city ripe with the beauty it once displayed and the engineering it had taken to create it, I was distracted by those around me.  Overweight senior citizens from America, sweltering in the sun and wondering why they had ever paid someone to bring them to this overrated steam bath.  Younger and thinner tourists, from around the world, frolicking like they were at a theme park, rather than an archaeological site.  Native Mayans leading tours, some trying to be comedians, while others shared the importance of the site’s history, but all hoping their meager salaries would be supplemented by generous tips from their audience.

And throughout the site, along every pathway, under every tree, were other Mayans.  Their marketplace no longer had a roof, so they huddled, one after another in the shade, to avoid the blasting heat of the sun, selling their wares.  One vendor offered pretty much the same thing as another.  Some focused on wearable souvenirs, while others sold trinkets to decorate your home.  Too many vendors demonstrated a wooden device that made the sound of a jaguar when you blew into it.  We were sick to death of the sound before we left.  More pleasantly, some vendors played melodies on rustic pipes.  Occasionally, you would see a craftsman, carving a beautiful statue with his own hands, while a quick inspection of other souvenirs would reveal a label professing they’d been made by hands in other countries, where the workmen would earn even less than a native craftsman.

How much easier it would have been to join my fellow tourists in their boredom or their freewheeling photography sessions.  I could have spent my time shopping among the tables of the modern day merchants, comparing the prices and workmanship of their offerings.  Why was I mired in gloomy thoughts of horrific bloodletting and an advanced society which was doing almost everything wrong when it came to the good of their citizens?  What was Chichen Izta trying to tell me?

This is not a conundrum I was able to solve in the few hours I walked among its monuments.  Instead I would walk back to the bus with a heavy heart and conflicting thoughts.  My conclusions would have to work themselves out over the coming days.

On to More Amusing Adventures

It was time to board the bus.  A buffet lunch waited for us and then we’d be headed to visit a cenote.  I shook over my pondering and looked forward to a good meal.  The traveler in me made way for the tourist.  Come back next week and we’ll consider lighter subjects.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Just How Civilized Are We?

TRAVEL THERE: MORE IMPRESSIONS OF CHICHEN ITZA

Last week I shared my first impressions of Chichen Itza.  The longer I stayed the darker my thoughts became.  As if in response to the cartwheeling girls in front of the pyramids, I felt the lives of the Mayans deserved to be carefully considered and now, days later, I am still pondering my observations.

Marketplace of the Macabre

As if to emphasize my train of thought, I realized the structure adjacent to the altars was the marketplace.  Beautiful rows of columns raised their heads to the sky, but like the Hypostyle Hall in Karnak, these columns once bore the weight of a heavy roof to protect the items of commerce available in the market.  Like us, Mayan traders traveled to distant lands and brought back beautiful items used for adornment, which were sold next to agricultural products and weapons and cosmetics.  Did the market close during the sacrifices?  I doubt it.  Instead, like a big box store getting ready for Black Friday, they’d hired extra help and filled their shelves with extra merchandise.

After showing us the main plaza and describing the crowds that once filled it during the days of sacrifice, our guide took us to the back of the pyramid where evidence of vandalism was apparent, but the vandalism is not recent.  The Spanish came and disregarded the value of the Mayan ruins by peeling off layers of stone to build their own homes.  The Spanish were not alone in this type of activity.  The beautiful marble which once covered the Egyptian pyramids was used to build later monuments for people who saw little reason to protect the beauty of past engineers.  How is that different from the cartwheeling girls?

Men of Science

At the back of the pyramid, the guide gave us a choice.  We could stay in the plaza to shop and take pictures or visit the observatory.   I was hungry for more, so we followed the guide.  Removed from the plaza, but still in the shadow of the pyramid stood an edifice for tracking the stars.  They performed accurate science in this place, science that measured the routes of the stars and their dance across the sky.  The statistics they calculated have proven to be as accurate as those of our own scientists, with their modern equipment, almost to the second.

The men of science in that day, knew from centuries of observation, the days would get longer, just as surely as they watched them get shorter.  It had always been that way.  Instead of proclaiming proven fact, they used their data to pick the day the sacrifices would be made.  To declare the truth would have reduced their own power, so they ignored what they knew and instead worked hand-in-hand with the politicians, celebrities and leaders to deceive the general public – those standing below the pyramid and those falling lifelessly down the steps.  Does that sound at all familiar to you?  It does to me.

The Pleasure Palace

Just beyond the Observatory, still in sight of the pyramid, is a huge palace, mostly still standing.  You can see intricate lattices of stone decorating the walls of the building, graceful columns in the walled garden and steps winding up to a balcony.  Was the spot chosen for its proximity to the pyramid?  Did they walk to the plaza or watch them from their pleasant garden?  Who were the royals who lived in the shadow of so much death and right next door to a scientific institution that could have used their data to end the grisly performances of religion?

The palace marked the beginning of a residential area.  Their neighbors were priests, other members of royalty, high level political appointees, the families of warriors and of the successful merchants whose businesses filled the market.  Their primitive HOA offered a steam bath and water was delivered daily from the cenote by slaves.  Other slaves brought food from the harvests to feed them.  Their house slaves swept the floors, served their meals, dressed their hair and raised their children.

It was fantastic, this life the powerful had built for themselves.  Certainly, it was also horrific, but did they notice or even care?  What if you had lived in those times, at that place?  Would you have joined the circus that protected your place in society or would you have lived each day in horror, wondering how your lone voice could make a difference against the odds?

If these impressions seem different to you from my usual travelogue, I must agree with you.  They seem different to me, too.  Wherever I travel and whatever I see, I try to put myself in the place of those who lived the life I am observing.  I try to use their experiences to better understand what I observe in my own world. I’ve stood alongside ancient monuments like Stonehenge and the Temple at Karnack.  I’ve visited magnificent cathedrals and breathtaking palaces.  I’ve walked through significant battlegrounds and beautiful gardens.  Never have I been as disturbed by what I saw as I was at Chichen Itza.

I’ve barely touched on the influence of the Spanish in Mexico.  At Chichen Itza all you really see of them is the stones they took away from the pyramid, which is in many ways symbolic of the other things they took away.  What they brought with them was a religion, which would replace the grisly sacrifices of thousands upon thousands with the sacrifice of One, but were they in truth any more benevolent than the murderous priests of Chichen Itza?  Let’s talk about that next week.

ART, Photography, TRAVEL

Neophyte Smartphone Operator

Worst Glasses Ever!

TRAVEL HERE: RESISTANCE TO CHANGE

OK, I admit it. When it comes to technology, I’m resistant to change.  My husband would tell you I am inflexible – period – but I tend to be more generous with myself.  I actually love new things and changes of scenery, but I want you to leave my technology alone.  Usually, the “improvements” and updates to my technology just deliver more woes than solutions.  You know what I’m talking about and you know I’m right!

I Can’t See This!

Vision has been one of my problems since 4th grade.  Before school began I was 20/20.  Before the school year was over, I’d been sent home with a note.  This child cannot see!  Get her some glasses. My life has never been the same!

My first glasses were the ugliest pair of cat-eye frames you’ve ever seen and my parents made me wear them until I was 16!  Finally, I got contacts.  They made it easier for me to see, but what a hassle.  If I thought that was bad, Mother Nature had another surprise for me as I aged.  My eyes got too dry to tolerate contacts, so I had to go back to glasses.  My pink cat-eye wire frames were a lot cuter than my original glasses, but I began a series of losing and breaking glasses that keeps me in hot water until today.  Lasix gave me a brief respite from glasses, but while my long range vision is still decent, I soon required glasses for reading.

When I gave up my flip-phone, the vision problem came into play.  I could read my flip phone fine without my glasses, which vanity demanded I go without as often as possible.  That darned smart phone keypad was my Waterloo.  To answer my flip phone, all I had to do was open it.  The smart phone wasn’t that smart.  I had to squint my eyes and find the right icon to answer.  In fact, I had to squint my eyes for everything.  While the rest of the world was loving all the smart things a smartphone could do, I mainly used it as a phone.  I couldn’t see anything else.

Besides, the picture quality, while better wasn’t all that great.  What’s more, it had that viewfinder screen and I’m still partial to the other kind.  I was in limbo.  I wasn’t in love with my smartphone – primarily because I couldn’t see.

My Fingers Won’t Do This!

I had another challenge when it came to smartphones.  I not only had a hard time seeing it, my fingers were too fat for it.  I abhorred texting with the darned thing, because typing was an exercise in frustration.  My fingers just could not hit the right letter.

To boot, I have arthritis in my thumbs.  All those Millennials who look so cute speed typing with their thumbs?  I’d like to see them thumb-type with mine.  They’d have a Go-Fund-Me page for the cure of arthritis in a New York minute.

Nothing Smart About a Smartphone To Me!

So big whoopee!  I had a smartphone, but all I used it for was calls and the only people I wanted to call were those for whom who I had programmed a speed dial button.  I didn’t use it to text.  I couldn’t see it well enough to figure out the other features and I sure as heck wasn’t going to use it for photos.  The pictures still weren’t all that good and I still hated the viewfinder display.  (Perhaps because I couldn’t see it?)

My first brush with smartphones did not loosen my grip on my DSLR camera one bit and you’re not going to find any pictures from it in my scrapbooks.  All that was about to change.  I just didn’t realize it yet.  Come back next week and see what turned me into a smartphone addict.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

Visiting Chichen Itza

The Famous Pyramid of Chichen Itza

TRAVEL THERE: A VERY LONG DAY

Our visit to Chichen Itza was a very long day and there is no way I can cover all of it in one post, so I’ll start with the logistics of the day and we’ll work from there.

Finally Chichen Itza

Though Chichen Itza has always been at the top of my Yucatan Wish List, I didn’t make it either of the other two times we visited the area.  Both of our previous visits have been via cruise ship to the port of Progresso and Chichen Itza is significantly inland from there, so we chose more accessible Mayan sites.

The first time we visited the ruins at Dzibilchaltan and it was a particularly enjoyable shore excursion, complete with lunch and a rodeo.  The archaeological site was interesting and there was a wonderful museum.  Last time we went to Xcampo.  It was a smaller site, but still interesting.  So, we’re getting pretty knowledgeable about the Mayans, but nothing can prepare you for Chichen ItzaIt is both marvelous and horrid.

Up Early  & Out Late

The first thing the guidebook I bought warned me about Chichen Itza was to avoid excursions from Cancun, because so much time is spent in transit.  Well, I appreciated the advice and understood the reasoning, but this was it.  If I didn’t go this time, chances are I might never again get the opportunity.

As we shopped excursions I saw two versions of the trip over and over.  Either you had to be on a bus by 4 AM or you left between 7 and 8.  The problem I discovered however, was that when you took later tours, you were in Chichen Itza during the hottest part of the afternoon, because all the tours stopped for lunch before going to the site.

Then Sandra Rubio, my travel agent at CTC Travel turned me on to ShoreTrips.com and they had a package called the Chichen Itza Plus.  This version of the trip would pick us up between 7 and 8, but we’d go to the site before lunch.  SOLD!

Since we were among the first to be picked up, we had to be in the lobby at 7:10.  When we got there after a quick visit to the breakfast buffet, they were waiting for us.  It was quite the ordeal to get out of town though.  The bus they picked us up in was bigger than the airport transport vans, but not as big as the full-sized tour buses.  We stopped at several hotels in the smaller bus and then traded to the big bus, but even then we had many more stops to make.

All that driving took a long time, but it was interesting to drive around and see other parts of Cancun.  I’d say it was about nine when we finally headed to Cancun.  They served a small breakfast – pastries, coffee and orange juice.  We were glad we’d hit the resort’s buffet.

The drive to Chichen Itza was about an hour and a half.  They stopped off at a shopping opportunity to use the restroom.  I was focused on sightseeing, not shopping, so they didn’t get to sell me anything.  Another short drive took us to the archaeological site – which I’ll go into in detail later.

After a couple of hours at the site, we went back to the shopping opportunity to have a very nice buffet lunch.  In my opinion, they would have gotten a lot more shopping out of me if they’d have let me use the restroom at Chichen Itza and given me shopping time after lunch.

Then, after lunch we made another short drive to Ik Kil Cenote.  I’ll also tell you more about that in a later blog, but it was a great way to end the day.  Well, the day wasn’t quite over.  We still had to drive back to Cancun, which seemed to take forever in the dark.

As we neared Cancun, the lights inside the bus switched on, a recorded version of “Tequila” was played on the loudspeaker and one of our guides had donned a wild get-up that I supposed was intended to be Mayan.  They served shots of tequila to anyone who wanted one, but right then it didn’t even sound good to me.  I was whupped.

It seemed like midnight when we got to the hotel, but I think it was only about 8:30.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about our time in Chichen Itza.

Photography, TRAVEL

Digital Camera Nirvana

White River Falls Oregon
Oregon’s Beautiful White River Falls

So, after losing all the digital pictures we took on our cruise to the Yucatan, I was pretty disgusted with digital photography.  However, 35mm film was becoming harder to find and more expensive when we found it.  We stayed in photography limbo for awhile, but then we found the inspiration to embrace DSLR.

Coming Over to the Digital Side

In 2012 we planned a trip to the Pacific Northwest and we knew one thing: we were going to need a new camera.  I had two requirements.  The new digital camera had to have a traditional viewfinder and I wanted it to be fast.  If you’re wondering why we didn’t just use our phones, then you’ve forgotten that in 2012 most of the world was still using flip-phones.  While the flip phones took pictures, they didn’t take good pictures.

We bit the bullet and spent more money than we’d ever spent on a camera, but oh what a camera we found.  Before Bill bought the DSLR, he insisted that I attend photography classes with him on how to properly use the new camera.  Since the new one had a viewfinder and I could click one photo after another, without having to wait, a few photography classes seemed like a small sacrifice.

Suddenly, we were in digital photography heaven.  Even before the trip, Bill and I would go on photo safaris around town.  Photography was no longer a touchy subject where Bill resented the cost of film and I refused to use a digital camera.  Our time in Oregon was a photographer’s dream.  Bill took hundreds and hundreds of pictures.  The resulting scrapbook album was inches and inches wide.

The Photographic Bliss Continues…for awhile

After the Oregon trip we became photography fanatics.  It seemed as if every trip we got better at it.  We took cruises in the Caribbean and on the Danube.  We visited glorious gardens in California.  During this photographic period we also went to Egypt for a family wedding.  Oh what amazing, beautiful images we captured on these trips.

While we were wallowing in this photographic bliss, something else was going on.  Suddenly, phones had great cameras in them and the world was taking pictures of things they’d never noticed before.  Remember how odd it was the first time you saw someone take a picture of their food in a restaurant.  I remember looking at them like they were crazy.  Now I do it, too.  We all do it.

I will confess that it was with great reluctance that I gave up my flip phone.   We’d found me an industrial strength flip phone that didn’t mind falling and the new phones had huge screens that seemed to crack when you looked at them.  As with many technical innovations, I ran into some difficulties.  The first problem was not my fault.  Bill proudly presented me an LG smartphone that wasn’t all that smart.  It didn’t ring.  We still don’t know why and the problem wasn’t on any of the customer service scripts.  Their computers told them it was ringing, but it wasn’t.  He’d ordered it online, but we had to go to a big box store to prove to them that it was, in fact, not ringing – regardless of what the computer said.  I moved on to Samsung.

If it had rung, the LG would have been great, but it didn’t and in spite of what other marvelous features it had, one thing a phone needs to do is ring.  So, how did I do in photography with my new Samsung.  Well, come back next week and I’ll tell you about it.

ART, Photography, United States

Scrapbooking Fever

old photos in the wooden box
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

TRAVEL THERE:  THE MADNESS ESCALATES

If there was an organization called Scrapbookers Anonymous, my husband would nominate me as its president, but I would never go to a meeting, because I’d never pretend I was going to quit scrapbooking.  Old scrapbookers never die, we just order more supplies!

Loading and Unloading

When I first took up this obsession/hobby, I was carting my stuff back and forth from one place to another.  I had a nifty case to carry my album-in-progress and a few essential supplies.  At this point in my scrapbooking career, I hadn’t found my scrapbooking corner of the world.  For a while, I set up in the upstairs office, but then Bill sold his business and started using the office for his new career.  I tried using the table in the breakfast room, but it seemed I spent more time setting up and breaking down than I did actually scrapbooking.  That’s when I moved my stuff to the laundry room.

The laundry room was long and narrow – larger than most laundry rooms, but the space wasn’t very usable, until I discovered our old pub table fit in there.  The laundry room became my scrapbooking haven.  It wasn’t perfect, because the laundry room connected the garage with the house, but at least I wasn’t packing and unpacking all the time.

Becoming a Consultant

It was about this time that my Creative Memories consultant pointed out how much money I could “save” by being a consultant myself.  Because I was already buying so much, I wouldn’t really need to sell to anyone, I could just support my own habit.  So, I became a consultant and almost put us into the poor house.  I only had to buy stuff once a quarter to keep my consultant status, but that was like telling a cocaine addict that they could use for recreational purposes.  I was able to keep my scrapbooking habit afloat with my paycheck from my real job, so things seemed fine at least for a while.

Then Bill decided we were moving to California.  Well, we decided together, but it was his idea.  My idea was that I could get serious about being a CM consultant.  I was passionate about the mission, so who knows, maybe I could make money at it.

Kicking Off My Business

I started my business by walking around my new California neighborhood and putting a flyer in every mailbox.  I had barely gotten home before someone called, not to sign up for a class, but to tell me putting stuff in their mailbox was illegal.  California is like that.  Our first morning there, a neighbor walked over to the house and I assumed it was going to be a visit to welcome us there.  It wasn’t.  She came over to tell us we couldn’t leave a particular light shining past a certain time, because it shone into her bedroom and kept her awake.  (Yep, I’m glad to be back in Texas.) I apologized to the mailbox lady, but she was still disgruntled.

My next obstacle was my husband.  He encouraged my entrepreneurial endeavor right up until the point it inconvenience him.  Having classes and workshops in our house inconvenienced him.  So, I started looking for people who were willing to have the classes at their house and started having the workshops at a nearby resort.

Finding hostesses was a lot harder than having the classes at your own house and paying for the workshop space was expensive.  I tried a few other things, but Bill wasn’t exactly on board.  Without my own house to work from, things weren’t going so well. 

By then, Bill had decided what I really wanted to do was become a real estate agent.  It wasn’t really, but that’s another story for another day.  I kept my CM consultant status, but once again, I was merely supporting my own habit.  Not running a business.  Come back next week and I’ll get back to cameras.

ART, DFW Metroplex, Photography, TRAVEL

Let the Scrapbooking Begin

TRAVEL HERE:  FROM ADHESIVE PHOTO ALBUMS TO COMPULSIVE SCRAPBOOKING

In many cultures throughout history, women entered into the contract of marriage with a dowry.  Bill wasn’t quite that lucky.  All he got when we married was a stack of photo albums, clothes to clutter his closet and a bunch of other things which didn’t exactly improve his net worth.  He convinced me to get rid of some of my property in a garage sale.  It didn’t do much for his bottom line, but he did regain a little of his space.  One thing he couldn’t convince me to get rid of was my photo albums.

Can You Say Tacky?

I’ll admit it.  My collection of mismatched photo albums was down right ugly.  Some had their spiral rings showing.  Others had hideous covers.  And yes, most of the photos were mediocre at best, but they held my memories, so they weren’t going anywhere.

Then a couple of things sort of happened at once.  I met a girl at work who was a Creative Memories Consultant and I signed up for a scrapbooking class at church.  I found out that while I’d been smart to collect memorabilia and include it with photos in my albums, I learned I’d been doing pretty much everything else wrong.  I don’t recall who sold me my first album and stickers, but that day, a scrapbooking legend was born – and she was me!

After My First Album

What had inspired me to sign up for the scrapbooking class was a cruise I was about to take.  With one CM Consultant teaching me to scrapbook at church and another one giving me delicious catalogs at work, my days of sticking photos into adhesive albums were over.  I completed the first album in no time flat and then the girl at work invited me to bag up all my loose photos and let her help me sort them.

OK, I sort of get into organizing.  I’m not crazy about cleaning, but I will organize a messy desk drawer at the drop of a hat.  I actually stand in stores and neaten their displays.  I will be in the line at Fry’s and suddenly I’m sorting out their candy display and putting things back into a semblance of order.  Clothing is a particular favorite of mine – sleeve length, color, neckline, solid or pattern.  One minute I’m shopping for a blouse and in a few moments I organizing the rounder.   Drives my poor husband crazy.

The minute organizing was tied to scrapbooking the hook was set.  Not only were Creative Memory albums more attractive than the other albums, they preserved the pictures and memorabilia put into them and, most important for me, they were a great way to organize my pictures.  If I was scrapbooking along and discovered a cache of pictures that belonged in an album I had already finished, no problem, I could add pages into the completed album wherever I wanted to.  I could also keep on adding pictures to an album long after one of those adhesive albums would have been filled.  My first album is about an inch and a half wide.  The last one I finished was more like five and a half.

I made my first CM scrapbook in 1998.  Twenty years later, I’m still scrapping.  From my office chair I can count over 40 albums in my bookshelf  That doesn’t include all those I have done and given to other people or those in a closet I will not name.  Those 40 some odd are just my favorites!

But it’s time to go for today, so let’s pick up here next week!

ART, Photography, Real Estate Photographry, TRAVEL

Hello to Real Photography

Bill and his camera at Stone Mountain. I took it with my disposable!

TRAVEL HERE: MARRYING INTO BETTER PHOTOS

I rarely run short of reasons to be glad I married Bill.  I may, at the same time, be so mad at him I can barely breathe, but the mad times come less frequently as we near our 25th wedding anniversary and when they do, they are short-lived.  He really is a wonderful man and he’s so darned handsome.  He’s also an amazing photographer, just ask any Spot On Images customer.

The 35mm vs The Disposable

By the time I met Bill, the Instamatic’s days were over and done with.  The digital camera was breaking into the market, but they were pretty expensive, so this working girl couldn’t afford one.  Most people were using some form of a 35mm, but not me.  I had a hard time finding film for my Instamatic, but I had discovered the disposable camera and that worked well enough for me.

Enter Bill with his fancy Canon Rebel.  By then he was already pretty darned good at photography.  He’d had some lessons and was fairly serious about the medium.  My disposable cameras probably made him a little crazy, but he was trying to romance me, so he left me to my point and shoot bliss.

Well he almost left me alone.  He gently began to introduce me to 35mm.  Not only did he think disposable cameras were a waste of money, he rightly pointed out the poor quality of the results and coerced me into giving his camera a try.  I guess here’s as good a place as any to admit he not only introduced me to 35mm photography, he also made me learn how to use a mouse and had me sign up for my first personal email address.  In other words, he brought me into the 20th Century, which was already on it’s way out.

Where’s the Auto Button?

His first attempts at turning me into a real photographer were not so good.  He was all about F-stops and exposure.  All he could get me to do was use the Auto Button.  Twenty-five years later, I’m still all about the Auto Button, but I do appreciate what he is able to do with a camera.

About this time he also decided to get a camcorder.   Video cameras were this huge thing you had to carry around on your shoulder and there was no sound.  Over time the cameras shrank and they figured out how to include sound.  Bill entered the market when Hi8 was all the rage.  If he had thought it was tough getting me to use a 35mm still camera, he quickly realized that was nothing compared to getting me to hold the camcorder.

That sneaky guy bought the camcorder into time capture his proposal – quite a treasure.  His plan was to get me up to speed on the 35mm, so he could be the videographer.  What happened was he ended up being the primary cameraman, regardless of the media, and I filled in when he forced me to.  Thanks to him we have a marvelous record of our early years together – yeah Mr. Bill!

There’s more to tell you about our photographic history together, so come on back next week!

Photography, TRAVEL

Developing Memories

assorted color photo lot
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

TRAVEL HERE: THE OTHER PART OF ANALOG

While digital photography is here to stay, there are reasons I remember analog fondly.  Last week, though I moaned about the quality of analog snapshots, I found a number of reasons for enjoying photography the old fashioned way.  Whether you think taking pictures in analog was a blessing or a curse, let’s move on to the next part of the equation, getting the pictures developed.

Film Processing

Analog film came in different lengths.  A roll or cartridge of film could have anywhere from 12 to 36 shots on it.  When traveling, I always bought the 36 shot length, but when I was around home I switched to 12, so I could finish up the roll faster.  During some periods of my life, I was so boring it could take years to finish up 12 pictures.  One thing is for sure, you’d never just go ahead and develop an unfinished roll of film.  That would have been some kind of sacrilege.

So, whether I was finally through with a boring roll of film or had handfuls of rolls from a trip, when it was time to take them for processing, I first had to decide where to take them.  This is not unlike having photos developed today.  Sure you can share them indefinitely without printing them, but if you are a scrapbooker like me, you gotta print them.  (Yes, I know you can make online scrapbooks, but that’s not the same thing.)

Some people mailed off their rolls of film.  They’d boast of saving money or assure me that was the way to get the best quality processing, but that just didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to keep up with where to send them or store a stack of their envelopes or pay the postage, especially when I could drop them off around the corner and then go back by and pick them up later.

Used to be “later” was later than it is now.  One-hour photo processing has been the norm for so long, that most of us don’t remember a time when it wasn’t, but yes, you used to have to wait days to get back the photos you dropped off.  They were probably sending my photos to the same place they would have gone to had I been able to wrap my mind around mailing them, but whatever the case,  an hour or a week, the anticipation was part of the fun.

The Reveal

When you casually check out your phone to see the picture you just took, you can’t begin to imagine how much fun it was to wait.  I’ve already said not being able to immediately see the photos took some of the anxiety out of it.  Instead of anxiety, you had anticipation and lots of it.  You had to get home from vacation and unpack your bags.  Then you had to find time to drop off the film and time to go pick it up.  Then you got the envelope with your photos.

There was a time when I couldn’t even wait to get out to my car to look. I’d rip open the envelopes the second I got them and started looking at the pictures.  I’d go through the pictures two or three times before I could stand to put them away and go on with my business.  Many places would give you a refund for any picture you didn’t like, but it was only a few cents per picture and I thought even my worst picture was worth an ounce of gold.

Having to wait to see your pictures might seem like an inconvenience to many, but it was really just part of the fun.  Come back next week and we’ll share another stroll down the photographic memory lane.

 

Photography, TRAVEL

Living the Instamatic Lifestyle

TRAVEL HERE: ACCUSTOMED TO MEDIOCRITY

My parents gave me my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic, for my 16th birthday.  Until then, I’d never been on the business end of a camera and I have the pictures to prove it.  None of them were selfies though, because if you’d have taken a picture at arm’s length, all you have gotten was your nose.

Flash!  You’re in the Picture

The Kodak Instamatic had a real innovation, the flash cube.  Up until then most amateurs made do with an old fashioned flash attachment, which used a single-use flash bulb.  So a flashcube which attached directly to the camera and was good for four photos was a great innovation.  Eventually, you could buy a flash bar with even more bulbs, but that was later.

The flash, cube, bar or bulb was quite irritating.  It made a loud pop and then a bright white light would blind everyone in your picture, leaving them with spots hampering their vision.  That’s the reason why so many people in old pictures have their eyes closed.  As soon as the flash went off the shutter opened, but not before most of us closed our eyes.

You might think with all that noise and brightness, the flashes would light up the pictures, but you’d be wrong.  In the finished photo, the items closest to the camera were too bright and behind that it was all darkness.   The results were pretty pitiful – usually a bunch of over-exposed faces with their eyes closed.  Combined with the expense of the film, it really didn’t make a lot of sense to take pictures when a flash was required, so most of us didn’t.

Accustomed to Mediocrity 

I’ll just say it.  My Instamatic photos weren’t all that great, but then again, neither were anyone else’s.  Oh, there were serious photographers using 35mm cameras, but they weren’t the norm.  A lot of folks were so dissatisfied with the whole snapshot thing they had their photos developed into slides.  Perhaps you have a grandfather or great-grandfather who turned off the lights and bored you to death with their slides.  The processing quality was better, but there were also a lot of bad slides, because your average guy was a pretty bad photographer.

My Instamatic was my only camera for years, but I really only pulled it out when I traveled alone and that was usually for church trips.  The rest of the time my dad was in charge of family photography.  For years he used a Brownie Hawkeye, which was actually a pretty good camera.  Then he moved into Polaroid, which was definitely a step in the wrong direction.

I guess I’m telling you all of this as a form of apology for all the bad pictures I took, but they didn’t bother me, because everyone else’s pictures were almost as bad as mine.  The mediocrity of the pictures actually added to the fun of photography.  Few of us really bothered with setting up a shot properly.  You just whipped your camera up to your face and snapped.  Sometimes you would get lucky.  Sometimes you wouldn’t.

Lucky or not, at the time the picture was taken, you took it and forgot it, because you wouldn’t see it until you developed the film.  There was no stopping the action to oooh and aaah or moan and groan.  You didn’t have to share it on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.  You didn’t have to text it to anyone.

What you did have to do was carry film with you and a few flashes, just in case.  This was perhaps the worst part of analog photography.  You could almost guarantee that should a really unique photo opportunity arise, you would usually miss it, because you just ran out of film.  Now all you have to do is be sure your phone is charged.

Well, I have run out of words for today, so we’ll move on to the introduction of 35mm to my life. Come back next week and we’ll chat some more about the good old days before digital photography.