I’m not a major proponent of organized photo walks, but sometimes it’s nice to hang out with other photographers. So I joined one in Denver’s historic Baker neighborhood.
The photo walk was hosted by Englewood Camera and led by manager Erin Brinkley-Burgardt, and included that mainstay of events whenever photographers gather — a stop for beers and burgers in the evening afterwards.
The Baker neighborhood is one of Denver’s oldest. Notable Coloradan and Rocky Mountain News founder William N. Byers first settled in the area in 1859, and after the first subdivision exploded in 1872 the residential portion of the neighborhood began to expand rapidly. A major surge of development in the 1880s had filled out most of the present neighborhood by the early 1890s.
Dozens of buildings, both residential and commercial, designed by architect William Lang remain in the neighborhood. Despite only living in Denver from 1885 until shortly before his death in 1897, Lang designed over 250 buildings in Denver, including the Molly Brown House, St. Mark’s Parish, the Zang House and Castle Marne. In fact, a rough accounting indicates that more of his buildings now reside on the National Register of Historic Places than have been demolished in nearly 125 years. Many more are designated local landmarks or preserved in several historic districts.
The Baker Historic District is a smaller subsection of the overall neighborhood, but encompasses some 30 square blocks of commercial, industrial and residential properties — most dating to 1895 or earlier, and at least 11 designed by Lang. Created as a local historic district in 2000, the same area had already been designated the South Side-Baker Historic District on the National Register in 1985.
Baker boasts the most Queen Anne-style buildings anywhere in Denver, and the area is where Denver’s numbered avenues all began. According to Confluence Denver (and corroborated by other sources), “Broadway, Baker’s most commercial street, came to be when Thomas Skerritt drug a lengthy tree behind his wagon to clear [a] broad way into Denver in 1871.”
Community gardens, artisanal foodstuffs, shops stuffed with locally-sourced and handmade goods, crafty meccas, a high-density live music scene, homeopathic health and wellness providers, scooter and bike shops, a historic arthouse theater, and arguably the best ice cream in the state round out the neighborhood’s easily walkable commercial concentration on Broadway.
Unlike the last photo walk I went on, I wasn’t the only one with film. This was also a much, much smaller group — about 10 people in all, I think. Erin had her M-series Leica with her, and another attendee (whose name I’ve already forgotten — sorry!) had a Canon EOS film camera. Of course, I mostly saw mirrorless digital cameras.
I took a super stripped-down kit with me, comprised of the Pentax 6×7 MLU and 45mm f/4 lens on one shoulder, and my Domke F-5XB on the other, carrying the 105 f/2.4 lens, the 165 f/2.8, and my JapanCameraHunter 120 film case (loaded up with three rolls of expired 200 Fujichrome Velvia 50 and a couple rolls of 220 Kodak Tri-X 320).
I never cracked into the Tri-X, but I finished all three rolls of Velvia. I knew it was expired, but it was three rolls from the same pro pack (a common term for the 5-roll packs of 120 or 220 roll film sold by Fuji and Kodak — Ilford, where’s the love?) and likely came from a professional switching to digital. I expected it to have been pretty well-stored, and for all of it to perform equally well.
Since the Velvia had expired in 2005, I decided to rate it down two thirds of a stop to ASA 32. I debated going all the way to ASA 25, but didn’t quite feel it. Somehow, though, while the first roll came out basically perfectly, some frames on the second roll seemed to be underexposed by a third or half a stop, and much of the third roll was under by more like a full stop.
I still got plenty of useable results, but some of them really don’t have that pop you want from Velvia. Some of the results, too, may have shifted toward the magenta a little — although it’s hard to tell for sure because Velvia tends toward magenta in the first place, and it’s been awhile since I’ve used it.
Nevertheless, I found a few things I was really pleased with, and some more that I’m at least not embarrassed to share.