Monday, August 23, 2010


For some unknown reason I was thinking about Rochester, New York today; don’t know why. I attended college back there a long time ago before moving out to California. I first attended Rochester Institute of Technology when it was on the old campus, located right in downtown Rochester, with buildings scattered around town. The dormitory I stayed in was the old twelve story Manger Hotel with only the first ten floor used. The top two floors were just used for storage; the elevators did not go up to there, and only one stairwell provided access to the top. The buildings used for classrooms were a combination of older buildings purchased by the school and a few new ones built for that purpose. I stayed for a while and was not enjoying myself, so I dropped out, joined the Navy (to see the world) then for some strange reason returned.

When I got back to RIT the second time they had moved to a brand new campus outside of the city, in a suburb named Henrietta. But the name was not changed to Henrietta Institute of Technology; I guess RIT sounded better than HIT. The new campus was out by itself in the middle of farm fields, all new buildings built of the same red brick surrounded by empty fields and trees, with big parking lots out front. RIT had a lot of full time students, most living in the dorms, but there were about three times as many part time students living around the area that would drive out for night classes. My major was Photographic Illustration, but that eventually changed to Computer Science when I realized that I was better with hard technical subjects rather than artistic stuff.

There were several large companies that had headquarters in Rochester. The most well known was Eastman Kodak, but DuPont and Xerox also had large facilities. RIT was one of the first schools to offer internships as a standard part of their curriculum. Classes were on the quarter system, your first two years were spent doing three quarters of classes, with summer off. The next three years you alternated quarters between classes and working at a related industry. So it took five years to get a BS degree, where other schools offered four year terms, but you left with work experience, and usually a job offer from the place you interned. Back then RIT was the only college on the east coast that had a school of photography; my alternative would have been a tech school in Los Angeles. Growing up in New Jersey made Rochester a stretch, much less convincing the parents that I needed to go to LA for school.

RIT also housed the NTID (National Technical Institute for the Deaf), with about a thousand deaf students living in the dorms and attending classes. The school of photography was part of the art department, which also had a school of craftsmanship where you could specialize in glass blowing or wood working or metal craft in addition to the ‘standards’ of painting and drawing. Most of my classes were based on how to take pictures, composition and color and framing, in addition to darkroom time learning techniques to print pictures. Now that probably has changed to digital stuff with classes in Photoshop techniques rather than darkroom techniques. The Photo Illustration program was more art oriented, with lots of basic art classes included. Other photography majors were more technical, with investigations into high speed photography, the chemical composition of film, and that type of stuff.

While in the Navy I purchased a lot of 35mm camera equipment, several camera bodies and lots of lenses. When overseas we could order things on ship that were about a quarter of the price in the states so I took advantage of the shipboard stores. I had classes on studio photography, learning how to use 4x5 view cameras and large film, which required a lot of setup time and precise lighting and angles. I learned how difficult it was to create some of those print advertisements, and how many hours it took setting up even simple studio shots. But I liked the candid stuff more, carrying around my 35mm camera and shooting things on the fly. In high school I took sports photographs for the area newspaper, shooting football games was my favorite, and I might have kept on in that direction if computers didn’t catch my interest. Sometimes I think of getting a 4x5 or 8x10 view camera and doing some outdoor photography, but it’s easier with a digital camera, the good ones providing images of very good quality without all the work.

But back to Rochester: the things I remember most about living there were the grey skies and the cold. It seemed like the cloud cover moved over the city sometime in October, and we didn’t see the sun again until April. Buffalo, 100km to the west, got lots of snow because of its location in relation to the Great Lakes, but Rochester received considerably less of the white stuff. If Buffalo had a three foot snowfall we would only get six inches, but it never got warm enough to melt so by springtime we ended up with significant piles of snow around the parking lots and walkways. There were also periods of cold; I remember one week where the temperature never got above -28 (-20f). You would walk outside and almost immediately lose all feeling in your face, with your toes going not long afterwards. The dorms were located a bit away from the classroom buildings, with one long exposed pathway between the complexes. It was a very cold walk in the morning, with the low temps and strong winds blowing, by the time you got to class you were frozen, and took a while to thaw out before you could work the equipment.

I was out cleaning our pool in the 42c (108f) sunshine Saturday when cold Rochester came to mind. A lot of people ask how we can live with such temperatures, but if 22c (72f) is the ideal comfortable temperature, then we are only 20c (35f) away from that, while Rochester has a swing of 50c (90f) away from comfortable. I would much rather be here, sweating a little in the sunshine than spend a winter there, wondering if I would ever feel my nose or toes again. It was a beautiful weekend, with the same weather forecast for every day this week. Daughter and E are coming in on Wednesday for a week’s stay, so I have to be sure the pool is clean and toys all set up. We redid her room; I built a bed (finger photos from that posted a while back, medical bill summary to come) and B painted and fixed things, so it is a lot different. All pink: for some reason that has become her color. On Saturday we will be having the annual E end of summer pool party, which should be lots of fun with a pool full of kids and relatives we only see once a year. Those trips plus one from across the street will be over, they are quite noisy just hearing them from far away, should be quite a bundle all piled in the pool together.
Missed posting Friday: here she is with an Ikea heart Grammy got her


Unknown said...

Awww, my husband is from Rochester!

Virginia Gal said...

This Arizona summer is killing me!

A Daft Scots Lass said...

I'm wish for summer to arrive here in SA.

Unknown said...

Hi, Joe! Just wanted to let you know I've spent a lovely 15 minutes perusing your blog. Your granddaughter is adorable (too bad you don't love her more - hee hee!) and she lives in my favorite part of the country. We spent 7 glorious years in Seattle, and I'd go back tomorrow. I'm not a huge fan of Las Vegas, but we've had such great experiences here how can we not at least appreciate that? Anyway, thanks so much for dropping by my blog regularly. I look forward to reading your comments, every time! (And I have a 115 ft pool, too, except for the first 100 feet.)

The Blonde Duck said...

So cute!

SOL's view said...

E is definitely in the pink. :)

-28! I'd die......

The Blonde Duck said...

Everyone loves malts!

will said...

We spent 6 years in Syracuse and what miserable weather we had, 365 days a year!

RIT is also known for their furniture design program and they have produced some really good woodworkers. I think I once applied for a teaching or lecturing position at RIT but nothing came of that.

And I totally understand what you wrote concerning 4x5 cameras.