Film, Hole in the Wall, and Kelso Depot

[1] New Ektar Film - Hole in the Wall

[1] New Ektar Film – Hole in the Wall

A friend mentioned yesterday that young people today are content to visit Hole in the Wall in Mojave National Preserve virtually, rather than by driving to the spot and hiking about. Imagine what a powerful sense seeing is. We can see something on a touch screen and have that substitute for an actual experience.

Of course, I believe that photography can inspire us, remind us, encourage us, and give us the experience of beauty and majesty, but when I can go to Hole in the Wall and tramp about, that’s REALLY a great experience.

Visits to our national parks have gone up and down over the decades. I remember in the 60s when the Flower Generation exploded out of the cities and into the parks by the millions. Chemistry drove them to it.

[2] Old, original Hole in the Wall

[2] Old, original Hole in the Wall

Film – yes f-i-l-m – captures light using chemistry, the emulsions concocted by greats at Kodak and Fuji and other film manufacturers. Today, such captures for most is done by the application of math, algorithms, but films still offer some hidden delights, and, say many experts, a greater dynamic range.

So what is dynamic range, and why is it important? Dynamic range translates into a cameras’ ability to capture light, and approximate what we see with the human eye. It’s said that we see about 20 F-stops, but high-end digital cameras capture only 10 F-stops. That’s why we must choose to shoot for the “highlights” or the “shadows.” We can’t have both.

[3] Kelso Station

[3] Kelso Station

I read the other day that Kodak’s Ektar film has a 20-percent greater dynamic range than any high-end digital camera. Don’t even talk about a cellphone for comparison. Twenty percent – that means it should come close to capturing 12 F-stops. That’s a lot. In fact, it’s huge.

Here is an image captured the other day at Hole in the Wall using Ektar. [1] Compare it to one I shot six years ago while an artist-in-resident in the Preserve. [2] Vibrant, warm, lovely, I think, the Ektar photo.

[4] Barker Dam

[4] Barker Dam

And here’s one demonstrating what Ektar can do to capture the beauty of the Kelso Depot in the morning light. [3] I remember when I first came upon the depot in the late 90s, before it had been refurbished and made into the remarkable spot that it is today. When I drove past the Kelso Dunes from the old Route 66 and came upon the station, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it, as we said in the 60s, “blew my mind.”

[5] Pastel view from front yard

[5] Pastel view from backyard

It still does, a chance to get transported back in history to the 1920s when giant steam engines huffed between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City along the Cima grade. The railroad had to stack locomotives at Kelso to get the engine power to pull the grade, one of the steepest along the route.

But Ektar is my topic, and I have included a recent photo of Barker Dam, in the Joshua Tree National Park, near my home [4], and another from my backyard of a recent sunset. [5]. The dam has not had any water in it for five years – we are in a drought, remember. It provides an amazing panoply of color, bright oranges and greens.

Ektar is one of my favorite recent discoveries. And I am glad I found it and use it today.


Jim Smart
Vice President