Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Radio Shack Cell Phones 1987

This rocked my mind when I saw it yesterday. The first time I remember seeing... man, what were we calling them back then? Were they "cell phones" already? Anyway, the first time I saw one was in 1988 when I went to Chicago for Thanksgiving there. My cousin's husband picked me up at O'Hare... he was a contractor and just like Dad in the commercial below, he was wearing that thing swinging from his belt. He called my cousin to say he found me and we were on our way. Colour me impressed, yes, I admit it. :)

Check out the prices, though. The one the dad has is something like a month's worth of an average salary at the time, and the price is before taxes. Oy vey. O_o

Monday, January 05, 2015

James Salmon photos

It's been a long, long time since I've mentioned James Salmon on the blog. So if you're just passing by, James V. Salmon was an amateur photographer in Toronto, whose personal work spans mainly the 1940s to the end of the 1950s, when his life was cut far, far too short by cancer. He was also a collector of vintage photographs and he left a wonderful legacy to the people of the GTA when his family donated his collection to the City of Toronto Archives and the Toronto Public Library. A large portion of his accession has been digitized and is available online. And what a wonderful legacy it is for anyone interested in the development of the suburbs.

When James Salmon started doing his work, essentially at the end of World War II, Toronto was taking a deep breath and preparing to burst its old bounds, and it's never really looked back. But thanks to him, we can look back. A couple of days ago I happened across a handful of photos of his I'd downloaded from either the Archives or the Library, so let me show you what I mean.

One bridge that clearly held James's (can I call you James, Mr. Salmon?) fascination  was the Islington Avenue bridge over the West Humber at Thistletown.This was, obviously, a one-lane pony truss bridge. The first and second photos face north and the third faces south. Evidently the road was in the throes of its upgrade in the latter two shots; the current four-laner dates to (if I'm reading the side plaque in the street level view correctly) 1959. Since he died at the end of 1958, there's a good chance he was already ill when those two photos were taken, in what might have been the spring and summer of that year.

For a long time I was frustrated that he spent so much time photographing this particular bridge on Islington while completely ignoring the one further north where Finch Avenue used to end in a T-junction with Islington Avenue. He must have taken well over a dozen photos of this one bridge alone. But I've realized from aerial photos that the bridge that was there in his time, though it was itself subsequently replaced, was an already fairly modern and relatively uninteresting bridge, and the real prize was this long-last look at rural southern Ontario's once-ubiquitous pony trusses. I guess I can understand why he didn't waste the time or film.

Below are a pair of shots (top facing east, bottom facing west) of the bridge that once carried Sheppard Avenue across the West Don River between Bathurst Street and Yonge Street. Around 1960 this bridge was replaced by a real monster that spans the valley with scarcely a drop in elevation.

I've posted these two (below) before, but I think they bear repeating.  These continue to astonish me; that up until about 1960, this was the bridge that carried Lawrence Avenue across the East Don River; one of the little one-lane pony trusses that used to be a dime-a-dozen around here... and everywhere else, too, I suppose. I can't show you this bridge, of course; it was removed a few years after James took these photos. Even then, at the time he took these, it looks like the bridge was closed to traffic. I believe this was one of the bridges compromised by Hurricane Hazel in 1954. Whether or not it was open to traffic subsequently I can't say; I do know it was removed when the the Don Valley Parkway was pushed through, literally just the other side of the trees in the upper photo, circa 1962. The current Lawrence Avenue bridge, about 100 yards to the north, carries six lanes of traffic today. I became aware of this site thanks to Dave Till's photos, which featured a photo of the support under the bridge at the near end in the upper photo. But without James Salmon, I wouldn't have seen what the bridge itself once looked like, or been given the ability to imagine driving across it on a summer day over a decade before I was born.

Not far away from that Lawrence Avenue bridge was this one; it carried Victoria Park Avenue over the railway tracks that ran south of Lawrence Avenue. In fact, at the time this photo was taken, James was standing literally at the end of Lawrence Avenue at the time... it was immediately behind him. I've seen some photos of this bridge and believe it was largely composed of wood. It's hard to imagine a wooden road bridge now, and this one looked pretty substantial. Clearly a two-laner. This bridge was replaced around 1960 with the current four-lane bridge.

The view below is Bayview Avenue looking north to Steeles Avenue. It probably goes without saying that the bow arch bridge seen here no longer exists; it was replaced in the 1960s. Bow arch bridges were reasonably common in southern Ontario, but nowhere near as common as pony trusses. Perhaps as a result of that a surprising number of them still exist and are still in use (a number of them appear in the video I posted here at the end of the summer of 2013). But they tend to persist where the traffic doesn't overtax them, and Bayview is no such road. The view is far busier today... and, oddly enough, more heavily treed as well.

The photo below is kind of a treat. It's what's left of a bridge that used to cross the Don River just north of the Bloor Viaduct (which you can see in the distance). This was once a pleasant drive, and two roads (whose names escape me at the moment) once met at this bridge. I have a few earlier photos of the bridge when it was a going concern but I like that James Salmon, like me, had an eye for what was as well as what is but soon might not be.

Finally, let's round it out with this one. James Salmon was fascinated, judging by the number of times he photographed it, with the Old Dundas Street bridge across the Humber River. Even though it was superseded by the existing bridge to the north, it remained open to traffic until it was effectively ruined by Hurricane Hazel. Not long afterward, it was removed. James's portfolio, as I recall, includes the bridge in all three phases: going concern, damaged, and, as you see below, gone. This photo looks south and was taken from the current Dundas Street bridge over the Humber.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What do you say, LeMay?

I wrote this script several weeks ago to amuse a few of my friends. We got together and I wrung a few performances out of them and assembled them in Adobe Audition, then built the video in the Adobe Premiere. It was a fun project and if you have a few minutes, you might get a chuckle or two out of it.

Kirkhams Road...

I never actually followed up on Kirkhams Road after I was out there in the fall of 2012. I was back a couple of times in 2013... guess I never made it out there this year (he says, with three hours to go in "this" year). But there wasn't much to see. The bridge was finally taken out sometime between my last visit to it in October of 2012 and April of 2013. I suppose the only thing to do as the years go by now will be to follow up on the way that nature reclaims the old road and banks, which have been planted with young trees. Obviously it won't be long before it looks very, very different.

Here's how it looked, variously, in April and August of 2013. These views (largely in contrast to the ones from October, 2012) approach from the north and generally face southward, with the exceptions of the three or four photos of the treed hillside that was formerly the road course, which face back northward.

Thinking before red

Last week when I was looking over some of the old infrared shots, the loveliness of them kind of inspired me. I started thinking back to when digital photography was new and exciting... when I carried a camera (sometimes two) on my person at all times; when I took pictures of virtually anything, just because I could. I look back now and I can see casual, ordinary working days when I went strolling at lunchtime and took literally hundreds of photographs. I'd be surprised if I take a half a dozen in a week now. Wow, what happened?

Anyway, I decided I should really get back out this spring and summer and do some more infrared work. There are great parks around here; nice places at the edge of town... I just need a bright day, the contrast of dark sky and inky-black water and the trees like snow, and I can get some more of that wonder. A couple of weeks ago I went looking for replacement batteries to fit the S80 (and the S70 and Rebel XT, for what it's worth: same battery). A place in British Columbia was selling them for about $8 apiece, so I bought four. They're here and waiting.

Had a roam through my old IR shots again yesterday evening and uploaded nearly two dozen to Flickr. Some of them are probably already there, but I don't care. It was just a way to start to get back into it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Quick revamp

I took five minutes and edited the links list for the first time in years. Gone are The Roads Scholar (farewell, old friend) and Dave Till's Toronto Photos (aw, Dave, why'd you ashcan that gold?). In their places, The King's Highway, an excellent site about the history of Ontario's provincial highway system, chock full of vintage photos and written by a man with a passion who, apparently, works for the Ministry of Transportation itself; and the City of Toronto Archives' online digital collection of aerial photographs of the lay of the land across Metropolitan Toronto, and often beyond, in various years after World War II. Excellent resources both!

Monday, December 22, 2014

A revamp may be in order...

I guess I've taken a momentary renewed interest in the blog. I remember years ago I used to have a list of blog links as long as your arm. Some time ago, that got shortened to about a half dozen or so. Just out of curiosity, I tried them. Most still work; one is a page to redirect you; and two 404 because they've gone by the boards. Specifically, they're The Roads Scholar and Dave Till's Toronto Photos... a real shame in both cases. The Roads Scholar, as I recall, was a retired gentleman who wrote extensively about old roads here in Ontario. Dave Till is a writer here in the city who wrote some excellent articles about the neighbourhoods around here back ten years ago or so, and while I think he's still out there blogging, the moorings of what he was posting and maintaining seemed to start to shift a while ago and I'm afraid I'm pointing now at something that's no longer there. A pity; his stuff was wonderful and personally inspiring. I can honestly say that his Toronto neighbourhoods pieces were a big reason I started going out and taking shots like that myself.

So, anyway, I suppose I should rejig my links section. I don't blog as much as I did years ago, or read as many, or comment on as many... actually, I think YouTube largely subsumed that role, now that I come to wonder why. Same with Flickr; I used to be all over that. Now a year can go by and I haven't thrown anything up there. I should probably have another burst of both. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Infrared revisited

I don't post a lot here these days. I guess I've really fallen out of the habit of just writing up everything I've seen, everything I've done, etc., etc... which, in a way, is a shame; because I look back at the last half of the previous decade and really see how I was spending my time and what I was doing with my life. A diary, of sorts, and I seem to have lost the desire to take the time. I regret it. No promises. I guess the best I can do is the best I can do...

But anyway, blah blah blah; the standard "sorry I haven't posted anything for a while" apologies out of the way; here's what I'm actually interested in this morning.

One of the things I do, sporadically, is take pictures and videos of the changing (or changed) landscape around here. Given that I've been doing this ten years now, or so, it's actually beginning to pay dividends that even I can now appreciate. I have a dash cam and not quite a month back, P-Doug and I were up in Bolton where considerable changes are happening to an area northwest of town that we know and love well. This morning I've been processing the video. But that's not what I'm here to talk about. :)

One of the many dated folders of "The Millennium Project"

In the process of doing it, I was strolling through the old photos, which are arranged by date. I noticed in one of the folders, I had a few infrared photos. Now, I've had digital infrared cameras since March of 2006; all of them Canon reconditioneds... G1 (subsequently sold to a friend), S70 (backup), and now an S80. I probably have several thousand infrared images... most of them nothing special, once you get over the fact that they're, y'know, infrared and all. But some of them, maybe one in every 25 or so, really do stand out. If the photo is taken between May and October, and it's a bright, sunny day with just a few interesting clouds in the sky, and you catch the angle of the sun on the leaves against the sky or water just right (and I still haven't put much thought into what that actually entails), you can really get some shots that you can really stare at for minutes and feel like you're not really on Earth when you do.

I spent maybe 15 minutes rolling through some of the stuff and picked out about a dozen images, then touched them up just a bit to boost the contrast (IR photography does have a tendency toward being a bit hazy). Other than that, I haven't altered them.

These following six photos were taken Canada Day, July 1, 2007 at Scenic Caves in Collingwood, Ontario. To my real surprise, I find I never blogged about this; especially given how many ethereal photos I took that day. I suppose I meant to at the time but never got around to it. One of the reasons might be because almost immediately afterward I and P-Doug and G took off for several days in Ottawa, and I did blog extensively about that.

What I really like about these photos is how much like, well, I guess a stereotypical idea of Heaven they seem to represent. Sunny. Serene. Timeless; even breathless. Everyone appearing to be dressed in white (natural fabrics tend to reflect infrared wavelengths; it's important to plants to be able to do this or they'd overheat). Oddly enough it was a surprisingly cold day for July; as I recall, it felt more like early spring than early summer. The day was unsettling somehow; I still don't think of it as joyful or contenting, and I'm still not sure why. But the photos I took in infrared light that day still impress me.

A few shots from Twelve Mile Creek; specifically, the Dundas Street bridge over it in Halton. I love how the water is black as ink but the trees look almost snow-covered. The abandoned supports once held a two-lane bridge that spanned the valley from the early 1920s till the late 1940s, when it was removed and replaced by the current four-laner (whose own days are numbered, I think, given the work recently completed at Sixteen Mile Creek not far down the road). The interesting thing is that not only did these supports survive, but within the past year or so they've been put back into use carrying a large water main, and even the bridge span was resurrected in the same original style (though narrower than two lanes). I'm hoping they eventually open it to pedestrians; it would seem a real shame not to.

Finally, a few shots from my second expedition under the 407 to the closed, cut-off stretch of Burnhamthorpe Road at Sixteen Mile Creek. These shots were actually taken by P-Doug, whom I asked to man the infrared camera for me that day. The low angle wheat stalks shot that ends this exhibition has always dazzled me and still fills me with good-natured envy. I only wish I could claim that shot, and the eye to compose it, as my own, but credit where credit is due.