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Here are articles on topics of interest to me over the years. Some are informational and others casual but in either case they’re heavily illustrated with photographs and/or videos. Browse the site by clicking on a Search by keyword item below.

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Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

This is not the rally that I remember

As a frequent visitor to the Tetons and Yellowstone, I often travel along Interstate 90 through Wyoming and South Dakota to reach these national parks. More than a few times I’ve passed through western South Dakota near the small town of Sturgis. Coincidentally the iconic Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that takes place each year in early August.

Leaving the national parks we passed and were passed by dozens (maybe hundreds) of motorcycle riders, pickup trucks and motorhomes towing trailers of motorcycles of all types and styles.

Here’s what I learned about the rally after talking to some of this year’s attendees.

One motorcyclist told me: “Attendance is way down”. This gentlemen, a senior about my age, tells me he’s been to the rally many time since the 1980s. The Dakota News Now (television station) said that attendance has been dropping steadily since 2015 when it was a record 740,000.

This year estimated attendance to be about 500,000 according to rally organizers. They attribute the drop to inflation, fuel cost, weather and aging demographic.

A group of motorcyclists were at the same hotel as we were staying. I mentioned to one of them that in the 1980s I used to see tents on the hills of Sturgis where motorcyclists would camp. He said that since then, so many attendees have become financially well off. His days of camping were long past and he pointed out his motor home saying that he drags his bike behind in a trailer from North Carolina and then drives his bike from the nearby RV park into Sturgis.

One of Sturgis’ nearby attractions is Mt. Rushmore National Monument. During our visit there we couldn’t help but notice the hundreds of rally attendees also at Mt. Rushmore. Here they were having an impromptu meeting to show their support and loyalty to our country’s veterans.
The city of Sturgis have been targeting younger attendees. They say that its efforts are paying off. A survey last year showed the average age of attendees was 50.8 years old compared with 53.5 years old in 2017. Most of the motorcyclists that I talked to were older than this 50.8 year average.

This same survey noted that 40% of rally goers in 2022 had household incomes of more than $100,000 a year. With the price of a road motorcycle hovering at the $20,000 mark, motorcycling most likely requires a decent income.

Written by:

Arnie Lee

Red Star Line Museum

Emigration to America

A couple of years ago while visiting friends in Belgium we drove a short distance from Brussels to the nearby port city of Antwerp.

Antwerp is Belgium’s second largest city. It’s situated along the Schedt River which empties into the North Sea which is turn connects to the Atlantic Ocean.

One of the world’s biggest ports, Antwerp handles more cargo than any other port in Europe except nearby Rotterdam. Seeing the inviting waterfront surrounding us, we took a very pleasant sightseeing boat ride on the Sheldt.

After our sightseeing excursion, we explored the streets of Antwerp and stumbled upon the Red Star Line Museum.

The Red Star Line was a shipping company that operated between Antwerp and the eastern seaboard of the USA and Canada. Throughout Europe they advertised their routes and from 1873 to 1934 – sixty years – Antwerp was a center for emigration from the continent. Emigrants from Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Netherlands, France, Italy and other countries traveled to Antwerp to board the ships bound for North America.

More than two million Europeans were passengers on the Red Star Line steamships from Antwerp to America’s large metropolitan centers – New York, Philadelphia, Boston. Paintings and displays in the museum depict the many travelers in Antwerp’s streets preparing for the long and challenging journey across the ocean to a destination that promised them a new, brighter future.

On display are curated personal belongings – clothing, suitcases, diaries, photographs, jewelry, toys – that punctuate the stories of individuals and families who decided to leave their homeland hoping for a better life.

For me, the Red Star Line Museum highlighted the overwhelming struggle that millions of individuals experienced reaching for a better future by having to brave the unknowns of emigrating to America.

If you’re interested in learning more, here’s the link to the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp.

Dye Transfer

Highest Quality Photos from an Earlier Era

As a youngster I caught the photobug early. I took loads of pictures and used my modest allowance and money gifts to buy darkroom supplies and equipment.

In high school I was thrilled when Mom helped me find a part time job working for a local photographer (a schoolmate of Mom from her earlier years). John taught me the ins and outs of the photography profession and later helped me land several jobs at high end photo labs in the Park Ave area of New York City where many large ad agencies were based.

In the 1960s these large ad agencies and their clients were requiring top notch photographs for their advertisements in the colorful gloss magazines and newspapers. Many of them insisted on dye transfer prints. These were photographs that had “exacting” contrast and coloring to make them pop on the publication pages.

The process to make a dye transfer print is quite involved. The original transparency is dissected into the three component colors and photographically transferred to dye-absorbent matrices – often referred to as a “mat”. The mats are bathed in three different color dyes and deposited one at a time onto white photo paper. The resulting print is a high quality reproduction of the original transparency. The intensity and brightness of the scene can be precisely adjusted at each step of the process allowing for the extremely fine quality prints demanded by the clients.

For those techies who are interested in the dye transfer process, you’ll find a short description here.

Below are a couple of sample dye transfer prints used in the advertising industry from the 1960s that I helped to produce. Both of these prints are approximately 20″ x 24″ in size.

a dye transfer made for an airline circa 1969

a dye transfer print made for a cigarette company circa 1968

The popularity of this form of photography especially in the advertising industry stems from the extensive precision the user has in controlling the individual colors, saturation, shading, contrasts, etc. This precision was not possible with any other process at the time.

However the arrival of digital photography changed the print processing landscape and dye transfer lost many of its advantages. By the early 1990s Eastman Kodak decided to stop making the dye transfer chemicals which portended the end of its run as the high quality king of prints.

While dye transfer is no longer a viable way to produce high quality prints, I thoroughly benefited and enjoyed learning in-depth photography from my several jobs making these photographic relics.

Written by: Arnie Lee