San Diego Rollercoasters and Large-Format Photography with Susan J

The old rollercoaster in San Diego before restorationLarge-Format Photography

It's fun digging around in old photos. That's something I miss about film photography. I miss the darkroom too, though I don't miss being exposed to all the chemicals.

I was sorting through some old CDs, and I came across a CD with some photos on it. I loaded it into Lightroom. 

Exciting find!

I took this photo in the late 1980s using a large-format film camera.  I borrowed the camera from the Photo Department for one of my photo classes at UCSD and dragged it around San Diego for a day.

It was hard to get the camera - there was a long waiting list.  

It wasn't easy dragging it around.

The camera and tripod were big and cumbersome. I needed a black cloth to throw over my head (and the camera) so I could see the image on the back of the camera while focusing. But, I got some great photos that day.

I also got some strange looks!

A large-format camera with 4 x 5 film is like having a 50MP camera.

So. much. detail.

In one photo I took, you could see the grains of sand on the beach even though the sand was at least 50 feet away. A large-format film camera is the bomb when it comes to landscape photography. 

About four years ago, I found the old 4 x 5 negatives. I had a couple of them digitized using a process that captures a higher-than-average amount of information. 

The file is huge! 

The photo I took with the 4 x 5 is a rollercoaster in San Diego -  the Giant Dipper. It's one of only two antique rollercoasters still left in California.

It opened on the 4th of July, 1925. The old wooden rollercoaster was a big attraction in San Diego. But it was closed in 1976 after falling into disrepair. 

The huge indoor pool (The Plunge) shared the same parking lot with the Giant Dipper, but the pool remained in use. I got my WSI swim instructor certification there, also in the late 1980s.

But the rollercoaster was closed. The parking lot desolate and deserted. I remember parking on the side near the pool when I went to my WSI classes.

The classes were in the evening, and it was dark when I walked to the car afterward. The area was creepy at night. 

But as soon as I had that large-format camera in hand, the rollercoaster was the first place I headed.

I was scrolling through some other photos in Lightroom recently and came across this:

Belmont Rollercoaster in San Diego

Yep. It's the same rollercoaster - many years later.

This was taken in 2017 with my Nikon D610 24MP camera. It's not the same side of the rollercoaster. I wish I had the exact same shot for comparison. Next time I go to SD, I'll have to get it.

The rollercoaster was restored and put back into operation in 1990. It's hard to tell on the computer, but if you saw prints of the two photos side by side, you'd see the quality of the 4 x 5 film. It's beautiful. 

My kids grew up in Atlanta but we visited their grandparents in San Diego every summer. And we always made it to Belmont Park at least once during the trips.

It's hard to imagine the rollercoaster was run down and abandoned. Now it's one of the busiest beach-boardwalk areas in San Diego. If you ever go, be sure and visit!

And if you love architecture, visit the Geisel Library at my alma mater, UCSD. It was featured in "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes."

Geisel Library at UCSD I'm getting a little homesick...  Hope you have a great rest of your week!

And see you between the raindrops!