When we think of nostalgia, boomers rarely think of the year, 1983. Perhaps we should. It was the year that Space Shuttle Challenger took off on its maiden flight. ARPANET shifted to Internet Protocol, creating the Internet. It was a great year for Duran Duran, Phil Collins, and Culture Club. Many of us watched “Terms of Endearment”, and “Tootsie”. Yuri Andropov headed up the USSR, and Ronald Reagan ruled the USA. Oh, and I was shooting a lot of Ektachrome slides.
1983 was the year I turned 31. It also marked one year of being room mates with Felix. He was the last pal to ever bake me a birthday cake from scratch. I should have taken another auto-timer snapshot. I didn’t realize he blinked when the flash gun fired. Also, I was caught up in the moment.
Still photographers used to use a lot of Kodak Kktachrome slide film, the utilitarian, go-to sibling of Kodachrome. It was based on the “E-6” process, using a simpler technology than Kodachrome. I liked it because it was practical for a wider range of shutter speeds, as in this western Nebraska sunrise.
The “free-standing” tower for WJAG-AM received a fresh coat of paint in 1983. When the boss had me photograph it, I wished I had loaded my camera with Kodachrome, but the Ektachrome performed very well with brilliant, Kodachrome-like primary colors.
One of the benefits of Ektachrome was that it captured images across a wide intensity range of lighting. I had backed my car into a dark, north-facing garage. What you see in the slide is pretty much the way it actually looked in life.
Skyview Lake within the city limits of Norfolk, Nebraska still had remnants of the trees that were flooded when the lake was filled. They made interesting subjects for photographers in 1983. This one was a hand-held shot at dusk.
Of course, nighttime images required a sturdy tripod. My employer’s other station, KEXL-FM had a 1,000 feet tall tower several miles southwest of Norfolk. One night, the program director and I drove out to the site specifically so I could experiment with night photography. This shot was taken by guess work. I carefully held the cable-release for a few seconds, approximated by counting out loud.
My apartment was located a few blocks away from Norfolk High School. One late summer night, I couldn’t resist shooting some night images around the empty school grounds.
The radio station gave me a standard two-weeks vacation. In 1983, I took a western Nebraska road trip. One of my favorite places is near Valentine, in Cherry County. One of the very few waterfalls is Horseshoe Falls, west of the town.
I nearly fell to my death after shooting this late afternoon shot in Western Nebraska. I had climbed a rock formation called “Courthouse Rock” with two friends. While climbing back down the formation, some of the rock broke away when I stepped onto it. I started to slide down the steep slope. Fortunately, I had put a heavy-duty strap on the camera. It snagged onto an outcropping before I picked up much downward momentum. The camera literally saved my life.
I hope you enjoyed this nostalgic capsule of my view of 1983.
The Blue Jay of Happiness remembers this old anonymous insider photography quip: “If you saw a man drowning and you could either save him or photograph the event, what kind of film would you use?”