Photography Places

From the Archives

I have been scanning old negatives, many of which are starting to deteriorate, years earlier than I expected. The trouble with color film is that over time, the color fades and the film gets grainer and the picture can begin to degrade, especially if the film is not carefully preserved. The deterioration is hastened if the negative is put into an ill fitting plastic sleeve. No film does well when stuck to the sleeve and after having to be pulled out by force.

Luckily most of the negatives are salvageable, including some of my favorites. They are damaged, but a little careful work with Photo Shop hides much of the damage. It’s funny really how easy it is to fix a scratch with Photo Shop, because years ago, when I used to work for photographer in Yakima, one of my jobs was to use dyes and pencils to correct dust spots and damage in color photos or to add tints to black and whites. When I showed both an aptitude and interest for this type of work, the photographer had me trained in Seattle by a professional lab. It was less expensive to have me to do the work and I enjoyed it–better than doing books and waiting on customers, trying to get them to buy cheap wooden frames, while lying to them about how good they looked in their photos.

I worked for Bob off and on for four years, and in the last year all I did was freelance photo correction work for him, using a studio I created in my Dad’s garage. You couldn’t do the work in the house because the fumes from the sprays used to provide a work surface on the photo were nasty without a protective mask.

Now, tonight, a little Photo Shop magic helps me fix the scratches in an old photo in ten minutes that used to take me hours. Sometimes progress is a good thing.


This photo sure brings back memories.

I grew up in a small town dominated by an old fashioned saw mill. Some days the smoke from the mill would be so thick that our eyes would water, and an acrid taste would form in our throats, causing us to cough. Driving to and from our farm 12 miles outside of town we would pass big lumber trucks along the way; we kids would yank our arms up and down and the drivers would catch the hint and pull the cord for their horns, letting loose huge blasts of sound, smiling at our delight.

The risk and threat of fire was a part of our lives living in and among the trees of the national forest area. Once a fire got close enough to our place to leave scorching on our garage, like the dark spit from the tongue of a giant rapacious lizard. I grew up in and among those trees, spending more time in with them than with people.

(I imagine this accounts for my shyness at large parties and formal gatherings–after a few hours I am overcome with a strong urge to find the nearest stand of trees and quickly disappear from sight. Heck, give me a large enough bouquet and I’ll make a run for it.)

Of course, this explains my love of hiking. When I’m out on the paths, I’ll sometimes see a particularly big and beautiful tree, and I’ll just have to stop and admire it. After checking carefully around to see that I am quite alone, I’ll reach up my hand and touch the rough bark, lay my head against the surface, and listen to the heart of the wood; breathing deeply the wonderful brown-green and slightly pitchy gold smell. I used to think in more fanciful moments that I could actually sense the tree pulse with life.

Trees have the most wonderful feel to them.

I moved to Seattle in my teens, then away, then back after I was married. I and my husband used to explore all the wonderful forested area in and around the city and on the Peninsula. Driving toward the ocean, we’d see stands of trees surrounding the roads and it would make us itch to get out and explore.

One day we decided on impulse to follow a lumber road into the hills to see if there might be good hiking. After we crossed over a small hill separating the trees from view of the road, the sight that met us shocked us both into silence. Ahead of us was what was left of a once proud and old forest, now clear cut with only a few trees left standing among the barren and ripped fields.

We parked the car, got out, and just stood there, not saying a word to each other. I grabbed the camera I always carried with me and shot this photo along with others.

I’m glad I was able to preserve the image with my scanner, and correct the damage with Photo Shop. Wouldn’t want to lose it.

Yes, progress is a good thing.


Crestwood mall and intelligent thinking

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The mall closest to where I live is the Crestwood Mall, a rather sad, indoor mall that has lost much of its business in the last few years. Last year it was purchased and the new owners will be converting it into an outdoor, village like setting, which I think is a great idea. However, they have to wait until the long-term leases expire, which means that we’re stuck with the sad, indoor mall for another 3-5 years.

Enter a little creative thinking.

The owners of the mall contacted several art groups with a question: if we convert the large, vacant department store into an artist area, could you use the space? Not only were the artists interested, the owners received more applications than they could grant.

The area that used to be the large Dillard’s Department store is now the new ArtSpace: a theater, dance studio, and artist gallery, where the artists get the space for nominal rent, as long as they pay the utilities and fix the area up. The mall owners fill the dead space, and attract new visitors. The artists get a communal area that is guaranteed to attract people from far and wide, because nothing like this has ever been done before. From the Post Dispatch Story:

Those that have started to move in include Laumeier Sculpture Park, DaySpring School of the Arts, Jeane Vogel Fine Art, Marble Stage Theatre, the Hangar and the bookstore I Don’t Want to Kiss a Llama.

In exchange for the space, the arts groups agree to decorate the shop windows, a convenient way to call attention to their work. They have to pay for utilities, but the rent “is just north of nothing,” said Son, in some cases as low as $50 a month […] Each space will be arranged to suit its group’s needs. For example, Son expects several dance companies to share one of the big spaces. One painter — who enjoys talking to visitors while he works — plans to turn his space into a studio; another group of artists plans to work elsewhere, but show and sell their paintings in a collective gallery. A fabric artist, a jewelry designer and an organization that recycles industrial materials for school art projects will be ArtSpace neighbors, too.

Absolutely brilliant idea. This ensures that not only will the mall attendance dramatically pick up, which will be healthy for the existing stores and restaurants, but the art groups get an excellent chance for exposure to a wider audience.

Critters Places

Zoo Stories

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The St. Louis Zoo is a favorite place of mine, but the web site for the Zoo doesn’t provide all the back stories to the animals. Or at least, not as many as I would like.

Happily, I spotted a story on the Amur Tiger cubs’ father, Khuntami by Dr. Jeffrey Bonner, in St. Louis Today—the latest in a year long series on the Zoo. I asked the St. Louis Today for links to the other articles, and the site was kind enough to link the others in.

This is a wonderful series, which I now see is also linked more prominently at the Zoo site. What I especially like about the series is that it focuses on the Zoo’s conservation efforts, rather than the “entertainment” items, so many other zoos feature so prominently. For instance, the Amur tiger cubs are winners with the public, true. How could they not be? What’s more important, though, is that the Amur tiger is one of the rarest cats in the world, and these five tiger cubs are especially critical for the program to save this endangered cat. The cubs’ father, Khuntami, was born in the wild, and orphaned as a cub. His genetic contribution to the Amur Tiger breeding program has been invaluable in the desperate attempt to save this beautiful cat.

But yeah, OK, they are cute little buggers.

Amur tiger cub


Johnson’s Shut-Ins 2008

Johnson's Shut-Ins 2008

I visited Johnson’s Shut-Ins last week, before it closed for the season on the 24th. I hadn’t visited since 2006, and was very pleased to see how much progress has been made. The water quality is much improved, and most of the small particulate debris is gone. The Shut-Ins aren’t completely healed— you don’t heal from such a devastating flood in a couple of years— but both the DNR and Ameren have made significant inroads in correcting the damage.

The fens look nicely restored, and I could barely recognize the flood path, the green growth has done much to help it blend into the mountainside.

It does look like some of the boulders will be left in the restored park, which I think is a good thing. They won’t impact on the area, but will serve as a reminder, as well as historical marking.

I thought about doing a before/after/after slideshow, but I think I’ll wait on this until after the park is officially open, hopefully next May.


Cheap gas

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

You can tell when the gas prices are lower: the stations are filled with big SUVs and trucks. And today we find out that Missouri has the lowest gas prices in the country. For now, that is.

I used some of the lower gas prices to fuel a trip to see Johnson’s Shut-Ins before it closed this year. I’ll have pictures in a later posting, but for now, it was good to see the park, and good to see how much it has improved.

I’ve been critical of both Ameren and DNR (Department of Natural Resources) in the past, but they both did a good job cleaning up the shut-in area, and restoring the Fens. I’m looking forward to the full opening of the park next year, when we’ll be able to walk around the entire park. I’m also looking forward to a fully restored Ozark Trail.

The park is still fragile, though, and use is severely restricted. Rightfully so—such devastation won’t be cured overnight. Food and drink are strictly forbidden, as are dogs. I was therefore irritated to see a couple of ladies carrying their food hamper and McD’s soft drink cups to the shut-ins, and even more at the couple letting their dog piddle on some of the newly growing rare and endangered fens. How quickly people forget how close we came to losing a natural treasure.

I want to save the world, but can we save it for just some of the people?