The Texas Panhandle is the land of big skies, big farms, big men and women, enormous pickup trucks, and fading towns and farm houses. The Panhandle is the northern rectangle of the state, bordered by Oklahoma and New Mexico, northwest of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolis. Most people drive through in a hurry, but the area offers a wealth of photographic topics. The famous Route 66 crosses the northern Panhandle.
Highway US 287 takes you from Dallas to Amarillo and passes through a number of small towns. These were bustling and active up through the mid-20th century but today are slowly fading. I drove east on US 287 in 2017 and saw numerous abandoned farm houses that caught my eye. I promised to return and record them before they disappeared. For a trip west this year (2019), I loaded my Hasselblad and Kodak Tri-X film into my camera bag, but at the last minute added my little Yashica Electro 35CC with one of my remaining rolls of discontinued Kodak Ektar 25. Long-term readers may recall that I have experimented with Ektar 25 before and concluded that it is well past its prime. Of course, I am unable to follow my own advice and decided to use it for this trip to the Southwest. For the trip west in September, I took my time, stayed in seedy motels long past their prime, and enjoyed warm summery weather (I almost stepped on a rattlesnake in my sandals). A month later, an ice storm was threatening and I drove back east in a hurry.
Photographs from the Panhandle
Here are a selection of pictures from the great open spaces of Texas. The captions will note the locations. In a future article, I will share some of my medium format Tri-X frames. Also, I can share some Route 66 (known as the Mother Road) photographs.
I took these exposures with a Yashica Electro 35CC camera with a fixed 35mm f/1.8 Color-Yashinon lens. This is a handy compact camera with an excellent lens and a genuine rangefinder. “Color” was the advertising buzzword in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, it would be “digital.” I scanned the film at 3,600 dpi with a Plustek 7600i film scanner using Silverfast Ai software to control the unit. I saved the scans as 16-bit TIFF files. The Silverfast does not have an Ektar 25 profile, but I found that the Royal Gold 1000 profile worked reasonably well. The colors were off, and I sometimes used the grey dropper to select a grey area on the frame as a reference. Some of the colors are slightly odd, but it suits the subject matter (and if I wanted boring perfection, I could use a digital camera or mobile phone). A few frames needed some cleaning or scratch removal; Pixelmator 3.8.8 has one of the best healing tools that I have tried. To resize for this article, I used an old version of ACDSee Pro 2.5 running under Windows XP.
Texas is a lot of fun for a photographer. The people are friendly and travel is easy. There are plenty of gasoline stations along the way. But beware, other than fast food, the Panhandle is a food desert outside of Amarillo and Wichita Falls. It is even more of a coffee desert (with the surprising exception of the Turquoise Coffee Shop in Chillicothe). Take a thermos and brew your own. Also, watch out for rattlesnakes.
For more urban and rural decay from Texas, Mississippi, and other places, please look at my blog: https://worldofdecay.blogspot.com. Thank you!
Update: I posted some more photographs taken with Ektar 25 from in and around Vicksburg, Mississippi (please click the link).
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21 thoughts on “Kodak Ektar 25 – Urban/Rural Decay in the Texas Panhandle – by Andrew Morang”
Great pictures, very evocative and beautiful colours.
Andrew, another fine set of images in your urban decay series. I find the colours suit your subject matter very well, and also show what an excellent lens the camera has. Keep up the good work!
Wow – many thanks to you for documenting yet another fading piece of American history. Reminds me of the work Roy Stryker, Elliott Erwitt, Dorothea Lange and others did during the 1950s, in Pittsburgh and also across the midwest for the Farm Security Administration.
Best pictures I have of my son were done on Ektar 25. Rich, marvelous film.
Love this beautiful desolation, your eye and this film catch it well.
Did you shoot at EI 20 like in your previous post? Any changes to development time? Those colors absolutely pop for an expired film. My results were muddier (uncertain how the stock was stored though). I shot at one stop less per decade on the last roll, willing to try EI 20 on the next.
Thank you and the other writers for your kind comments. I exposed the film at about EI=20. The metal tab on the lens of the Electro 35CC has a minimum setting at EI 25, but it moves a slight distance below, so possibly it was around 20. As for development, I sent it to Dwayne’s in Kansas (USA), and they did regular C41 processing. Dwayne’s also will print a color proof sheet for only $3 extra.
Great photos! Urban decay photos always trigger a sense of wonder in me. Who lived or worked there. What was the daily life and routine like before it became what the photos show. As a historian I am fascinated by these relics of the American past. Thanks!
Thank you for writing. There are so many towns in rural America that are drying up and fading away, I am always amazed how these changes occurred in only a few decades, within my lifetime. As recently as the late 1960s or early 1970s, small towns in the South were vibrant. Where did the residents go? Why? Are they happier now in their new city/suburbia? Is this what we really want? Is this really progress?
“Boring perfection” is what you captured on your negative. Ektar 25 is an extremely high resolution film with very characteristic colour rendering. I don’t get this odd modern fixation with scanning shortcomings. btw, “color” on the lens means it’s multicoated for colour, as opposed to the amber single-coating used for B&W
Thanks for writing. Some comments:
1. Ektar 25 when fresh was ultra high resolution. Decades later, these rolls appear granier than film I exposed in the 1980s, but I am not sure about resolution.
2. The Color-Yashinon lens has a blue coating. I do not see the characteristic multi-color sheen of multi-coated lenses. I have never read any advertising about multi-coating. The camera was introduced in 1970, before the era of multi-coating for consumer optics, especially for a point-an-shoot item. The term “color” was advertising copy.
3. You don’t need to get this odd modern fixation with scanning shortcomings. Use digital if it suits your photo vision.
Andrew, from what I I’ve gleaned from the lenses in my camera collection, referring to lenses as “color” really started to make an appearance post WWII, although as you know Zeiss invented the process in the late 1930’s, when it started to become more common for some manufacturers to add the word “Color” as part of the lens name. Not all manufacturers felt it necessary to do so, notably Zeiss and Leitz (in my experience) but Agfa, for example, did re-brand some, if not all, of their lenses thus. So their Agnar, Apotar, and Solinar were re-badged as Color-Agnar, etc. Balda did the same with the majority of their lenses, as did Voigtlander.
There was an advantage possessed by these so-called “color” lenses with their single coating (less prone to flaring and thus higher contrast) but as it was evident simply by inspecting the lens that it was coated, I suspect this was an advertising ploy. I used to think that these lenses possessed some special optical qualities missing from their non-coated siblings that made them especially suited to colour photography, but as the un-coated 4-element Solinar was already very well colour corrected, this couldn’t be the case.
Yes, indeed! I have a 50mm f/3.5 Color-Skopar lens on my little Voightlander Vito BL camera. It is single-coated, and they added the term “color” as well.
Sorry to say, Alvaro, but your observation about what “color” on a lens means is completely wrong. If you’d care to do some basic research into lens coatings you’d learn a lot more. Lenses started with single layer (blueish) coatings courtesy of Zeiss and this was taken up post-WWII by other lens manufacturers. Later, multi-coating became the norm. It needs to be understood that colour and B/W film responds in the same way to coating as the defect that coating was designed to mitigate is flaring. Light transmission reaching the film is “purer” in that reflections from each glass/air surface and from within each lens element are reduced resulting in reduced flare. As flaring has a deleterious effect on contrast and sharpness it will affect images shot on colour and B/W film. The different “colours” that we see when looking at a lens are the result of which wavelength(s) of light the manufacturer wishes to suppress. Depending upon the price point of a lens, this will result in our perceiving different colours because fewer or more layers of coatings have been used.
It is easier to appreciate the impact of coating with colour images, but it doesn’t take much for the viewer to see the same impact on B/W images, too.
Great photos and a fascinating read – thanks for sharing.
Huh, just yesterday I stumbled upon your 35CC review through google as I’m considering to buy one and here’s a new post as well. Great pictures.
Nice work. I’m convinced that the light is just different in your region. Here in New England, light is cooler.
It’s just not the current status of your past date film, I’ve seen it in work of other photographers working with color film.
Thank you, you are right about the light. However, on my October trip through Texas, an unusual tropical storm was approaching, one that had pushed in across the Pacific coast of Mexico. For a few days, the light reminded me of an approaching front in New England. The skies were ominous and very interesting. I hope some of the Ektar frames show this.
Very much like these shots of faded Americana. You quite rightly got into the spirit of the trip by staying in seedy motels long past their prime. If you do this again please take some photos of these motels, they are interesting in their own right and would be quite entertaining to look at too..
I did take a few Tri-X photos at motels. I will try to share them later. These old motor courts are hard to photograph because they are very linear with boring concrete driveways. It is hard to make them look like much. Here is an example in Albuquerque, New Mexico (sorry, digital): https://worldofdecay.blogspot.com/2017/05/travels-on-mother-road-route-66-part-9.html
Here are some from Tucumcari, New Mexico: https://worldofdecay.blogspot.com/2018/08/travels-on-mother-road-route-66-part-14.html
Thank you for taking the time to comment.
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