I was working on this issue and it became necessary to scan a couple of pictures from old issues for the RIP Smoke Out article that Hammer wrote. Usually, I prefer using the original files but we only have files that go back to 2007 here. I had to go back as far as issue #11 for a Smoky Mountain Smoke Out picture.
The thing that struck me was how crappy the pictures looked. I took a lot of the shots featured in that issue using my trusty Nikon 35mm film camera. Between whatever scanning process they used back then and the lack of definition by the printer, the pics looked pretty bad.
Which is weird because at the time they seemed just fine. I suppose it’s a lot like looking at a 13” black and white CRT television. At the time, it didn’t seem so bad as long as you weren’t getting ‘ghosting’ from the antenna not quite being aligned for the particular station you were trying to pick up. I’d say a lot of us have some experience with moving the rabbit ears antenna around on top of the TV, perhaps augmented with aluminum foil attempting to get the perfect picture… but perfect then was really far from perfect.
When we did bike and cover shoots and the like, we’d use the good old KodaChrome slide film. My camera had manual focus, manual film advance and a built in exposure meter so aid me in setting the aperture and shutter speed. So a fair amount of the setup for a shoot was predicated on experience with settings and an eye for the light conditions. With the regular 35mm film, at least you could run to Wal Mart or one of the other ‘one hour’ photo developers that were round. If you were using slide film, you had to mail it out and wait a couple of weeks before you got to see the results.
The definition of the slide film was really good. Scanning the slides on a dinosaur 50 pound scanner and getting good results was quite another thing. Plus the conversion the dots for printing equalled some not so great result. There was always the possibility that the slide could be scanned upside down.
Exhibit A: The amazing right side primary on the cover of issue #16.
Our first digital picture for a cover was issue #23. If you have this issue, you can easily see the pixels on the cover.
The pic that illustrated this for me was from #11, a pic taken of the motel with The Horse banner (which was stolen before we left).
These days it’s all instant gratification. You shoot the pic, you see it right away. Digital cameras have come a LONG way over the last 20 years. As has publishing in general. You think of the old timers actually manually setting the type letter by letter, physically adjusting the leading.. which was lead strips separating the lines of letters.. it’s mind boggling.
It just goes to show how much your mind adjusts to remember what was, with the standards of today applied.