Let me start by admitting that here in California we have a slightly different view of what is “historic” than our fellow 35MMC readers in England and the rest of Europe. Where I live in Northern California, anything more than 50 years old is considered old. A building 100 years old is really old… the state of California, after all, has existed for just over 170 years.
Readers in England, no doubt, are thinking, “My local pub is older than that!” True enough, but here in California we value what history we have.
With this in mind, a recent business trip took me to one of the oldest places in the state: the city of San Juan Bautista, home of the Mission San Juan Bautista, one of the original missions founded by the Spaniards in the 18th Century. The mission was founded in on June 24, 1797, and the existing buildings were constructed starting in 1806, making the chapel almost 50 years older than California (in other words, really, really old)! The quaint downtown district features a number of buildings dating back to the 1800s (again, very old for California) and a wide assortment of antique stores. (Film buffs, by the way, might recognize the Mission from its appearance in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film, Vertigo, although the famous scenes inside the bell tower were actually filmed on a sound stage elsewhere).
To document my trip to Old California, an Old Camera seemed to be most appropriate, so I loaded a roll of Ilford HP5 in my Leica iiic (1950-ish) and mounted a 50mm f2.0 Summitar lens. I shot 36 frames over the course of two photo walks in the afternoon and the next morning, and selected five of the best to share here. Everything was metered with a Gossen Luna Pro, a pocket-sized electronic meter that I use when I’m looking for slightly more accurate results than the metering app on my phone can provide.
So… here are 5 Frames in Old California with an Old Leica:
San Juan Bautista is a charming small town with–for California–a great deal of history. Shooting pictures with a mechanical camera on black-and-white film added to the experience, harking back to an earlier era of photography.
P.S. Those horizontal bands on the negatives? Yes, I noticed them, too. My guess is that they were in film. They are consistent across all 36 frames. The other roll of film I processed in the tank with this roll (Kodak Tri-X) doesn’t have them, so I don’t think they have anything to do with how the film was processed.