Flyer in Blue

From a warm summer day in 1891, this cyanotype of the legendary SS Flyer tied up under the Northern Pacific coal bunkers. The shadow direction indicates its morning and a line of loaded coal cars are standing by to fuel a modern steamship while an aging three masted sailing vessel from the quickly passing era of sail rocks on the tide below. Under the fastest conditions of wind and current, the Flyer could return to Tacoma from Seattle in less than an hour and even in the fog the swift passenger ferry could make four round trips a day. Its rare to see a photo of the Flyer at rest with no smoke coming from the stack.

The cool indigo coloring of cyanotypes like this is typically identified with blueprints and typography but inventive photographers appreciated how well the process worked with bright sunlight. The process had a magical aspect that could not be matched by silver nitrate or other light sensitive materials. A cyanotype left too long in the light would fade almost to blank but if left overnight, the image would return like it was gathered again from the dark.

Like the Flyer in the fog a century ago, there and gone and there again.

cyanlFlyer

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