A friend told me the other day that she had made a discovery.
“I have a picture that you took from some overpass. You want me to take a cameraphone picture of it and send you a message?” Sure, I said. I couldn’t recall exactly which photo it was. When I got her MMS, I was floored.
She had last remaining print of the first long-exposure photo I had ever taken.
The picture was taken December 1984, on the NE 185th Street Overpass of Interstate 5 in what is now Shoreline. The camera – given to me by a family friend – was a 35mm SLR and a 105mm lens (the only one I had). I don’t recall what brand of camera it was, but I know it had a screw-mount lens. To capture this scene, I parked my car at Shoreline stadium (look for the stadium lights in the left side of the photo), and walked out on the bridge. I didn’t own a tripod; somehow I managed to stabilize the camera above traffic by hand, braced on a rail, while holding the camera shutter open for about 10 seconds (and maybe longer).
While it was never far from my thoughts, I hadn’t seen the shot in two decades. The negative is long gone, and all my copies of the photo got lost one by one over the years. I asked her if she could mail the picture to me so I could scan it. “Sure, but you have to promise that I get it back!” LOL no problem.
The 3x5 print survived well, albeit discolored along the lower edge. I scanned it, cleaned it up using Picasa and Photoshop Elements, and cropped it as a 5x7 print. It’s not perfect or show worthy, but it’s interesting to view anyway. I don’t recall what kind of film was used, but given the fine grain evident even in the original 3x5 print I’d say it was probably some slow film like ISO 100 or even ISO 60. Some proof to that would be that the sky lights in the left side of the photo were very bright that night, and would have drowned out just about any film with faster speeds than ISO 100. Plus the tail light and head light trails are long and generally smooth.
To me, the overall quality of this photo is less important than the fact that my friend found it. I now have a high-dpi scan of the very first long-exposure picture I took, thanks to her willingness to dig through boxes. FYI: If you visit this scene today, it doesn’t look much different. Maybe an extra lane but the lighting would be generally the same!