Sunrise near Orford, Tasmania 1984
Full size image on my photo web site here

In this blog posting I commemorate the passing of Kodachrome. Kodak have announced that they are ceasing production of the most venerable films that is also one of the best film types ever produced. (But fiendishly difficult to process.)

One of my books, The Handbook of Color Photograpy, by Ellis Herwig (Amphoto, 1982) described Kodachrome as follows:

"The introduction of Kodachrome in 1936 was a color photography milestone. At last, anyone with a 35mm camera... could use this superior-quality dye-coupler film. At one stroke, all other color processes had been rendered obsolete, and Kodachrome's reputation for excellence has endured from that day to this - never equaled, never surpassed."

Kodachrome also had had another quality: its longevity. Kodachrome slides are expected to keep their colour for 100 years, which far surpassed the 10, 20 or possibly 50 year lifespans of other films being used in the 1980s. Frustratingly, although the many Kodachrome slides I took in the 1980s and 90s still have great quality, I'm holding off on scanning them because unless I'm extremely careful they tend to flare in areas of high contrast with my Nikon Super Coolscan 5000.

The image above is a slide that I took during the most astonishing sunrise of my life. It was so good that I took 18 photos of the sunrise: an extraordinary 'waste' of film back in the days when the cost of a roll of Kodachrome (with processing) was a very expensive $25 or so.

I'm eternally grateful to Mark Attard for waking me up to see this sunrise. The night before as we camped on the foreshore I contemplated getting up to see the sunrise. When morning arrived it was cold and I never like getting up early. Mark put his head out of the tent and told me that I should get up to see the sunrise. "Is it good?" I asked. "It's good" he said. "Very good?" I asked. "Very good. (long pause) I think you should get up." he said, in a tone that left me with no choice. In every direction in the sky there were bright red, orange and yellow clouds. Kodachrome caught them and, unlike most of my negatives from the 1980s, the colour is still perfect today. Follow the link to my web site and choose the largest size that your screen can support to a get a feeling for what it was like. (It looks great on my 27" Dell monitor.)

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Anthony Holmes June 30th, 2009 11:33:07 PM

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