Photo walk: Expired Velvia 50 in the historic Baker neighborhood

Alley Toyota
We spent lots of the walk in Baker’s eclectic alleys, spotting things like this old Toyota Tercel. (Daniel J. Schneider)

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.

Baker house for sale
A house coming up for sale in Baker — no doubt it won’t be cheap, given its existence at the intersection of a desirable and gentrifying historic district, and the current grossly- inflated housing market in Denver. (Daniel J. Schneider)

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.”

Fading paint on bricks
The peeling white paint on this historic garage’s bricks may be 50 years old or more. Note the slight distortion from the 45mm lens at very short focus — but also note that the wall itself was a bit distorted, too. (Daniel J. Schneider)

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).

Baker Victorian homes
Victorian homes in Denver’s Baker Historic District. Note the enclosed balcony on the home to the right — a common sight on this style of house on Denver’s south side. (Daniel J. Schneider)

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.

First Avenue Presbyterian Church
Stained glass windows across the southern wall of the south transept of First Avenue Presbyterian Church in Denver’s Baker Neighborhood. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Garden walkway
A brick path leads through a densely planted flower garden in the side yard of a historic Baker home in varied light. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Dirt alley and trellises
A dirt alley in the Baker neighborhood, with a trellised flower garden next to it. This frame came out oddly underexposed and lost quite a bit of shadow detail. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Light fixture
A lonely light fixture on the side of an old, brick building on Broadway in Denver’s Baker neighborhood. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Sweet Action
Midway through the photowalk we approached Sweet Action Ice Cream — and stopped in for a vanilla waffle cone with rainbow sprinkles (I have no idea what anyone else had). Sweet Action is seriously about the best ice cream anywhere. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Famous Pizza
Another frame that came out less exposed than I wanted — I think the bright reflection in the window fooled the meter and I forgot to compensate for that. Delicious New York-style pies are sold whole or by-the-slice at Famous Pizza. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Broken window
A broken window messed up the Famous Pizza name. The store has been at 98 S. Broadway for as long as I can remember, and is famous enough that they manage to stay in business despite having no apparent web presence. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Sleeping on Bayaud
It was a scorching 95-plus degrees the Saturday of the photowalk, and the historic Baker neighborhood has lots of mature shade trees — whose respite was enjoyed more blatantly by some than others. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Vespa 400 B-pillar
This Vespa 400’s B-pillar shows the faded signs of having been painted colorfully — sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, I’d guess, based on how badly dulled the paint is. From the much-more-underexposed third roll. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Two Vespa 400s
Two Vespa 400 cars in rough shape at Sportique Scooters on Broadway. The tiny 400 was made from 1957 to 1961. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Vespa 400 roof cut
A previous owner (according to the current owner) started work to make this Vespa 400 into a convertible. I suspect they found the car suffered too much body twist to be safe once the roof was cut. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Erin Brinkley-Burghardt
Photo walk leader and Englewood Camera manager Erin Brinkley-Burghardt. We headed to Historians Ale House as the sun dipped lower to geek out and sample local craft beers. (Daniel J. Schneider)