Saturday, June 7, 2008

Philadelphia International Bike Race

There are two days a year I’d would be rather be in Philadelphia than anywhere else. The first is New Year’s Day. While many people watch football on television while nursing hangovers, we Philadelphians make our way downtown to watch the Mummer’s Parade. The Mummer’s Parade is a day long procession of String Bands in elaborate costumes and magnificent floats, kind of like a one day Mardi-Gras.

The other day I look forward to, is the first Sunday in June (tomorrow) when Philadelphia hosts the top cycling teams from around the world.

The race, now in its 24th year, was always named after a big bank but mergers and losses in the mortage sector, have left this years race without a major sponsor. The race is now simply called The Philadelphia International Bike Race.

In the early years I photographed the race for the original local sponsor. I had a press pass, transportation around the course and I was paid well. That bank is long gone. Now it’s a family outing with my wife and son. I take a camera but without access to the course it’s hard to get good shots of the racers. The constant changes in helmets and cycling attire emblazed with ever changing corporate logos date the images, giving them a short life span for a stock file. I've let go of the angst, shoot what I can and just try to have fun.

Our friend Neil lives in Manayunk, only one block from the infamous Wall. Each year he opens up his house and patio for a bike race party. We use to live on the same street so it’s good to see some of our old neighbors again, some we only see once a year at Neil’s party.

We socialize, drink beer and eat burgers from the grill until we hear the helicopters overheard, telling us it’s time to stroll over to The Wall to watch the riders’ arduous accent. Then back for another beer or another burger and watch the race on T.V. until we hear the helicopters again.

If you plan on visiting Philadelphia to watch the race get here the day before or take public transportation. Septa’s R6 Norristown train will drop you off right at foot of the Wall. It will get crowded, very crowded, especially after Noon. If you have a car, park it! Do not even try to drive anywhere near the race course! Take public or better yet ride a bike!

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Save Polaroid!

In February of this year Polaroid announced they would cease production of instant film, closing two plants and laying off 150 employees. No doubt in reaction to decreased sales, as digital has become the new instant photography. While Polaroid does produce point and shoot digital cameras, there is virtually nothing that distinguishes them from others on the market. The company is turning its attention to consumer electronics such as televisions, digital frames, printers and scanners.

The announcement sent Polaroid film lovers scurrying to buy up as much stock as possible. Others took action by starting web sites to circulate petitions hoping to convince Polaroid to license the instant film process to another film manufacturer. Fuji and Ilford being the most likely candidates. For information on what you can do to help save this art form as well as learn about the history of Polaroid and it’s creator Edwin Land, visit Save Polaroid.

I used an SX70 to create the image of the motorcycle engine. After taking a photo I would fold up the camera and lay the photo on it’s leather surface. I then used the wooden end of small paintbrush to rub the emulsion around until it looked more like a painting than a photograph. I liked to use this camera in the summer when it was hot, as the emulsion stayed pliable longer.

With its sharp, focusable lens, through the lens viewing, automatic exposure and folding design, the SX70 was the pinnacle of Polaroid cameras. Another interesting fact is that the batteries for the camera are in the film pack. While later in production SX70’s were made of plastic but the original version was chrome and real leather.

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