Yet as popular interest in the field waned, so did the availability of equipment. Companies stopped making the cameras -- "There are some handmade ones, but you don't want to know the cost," Wray observes -- as well as the projectors; these days, newcomers scour eBay for Fifties-era equipment. Film processors no longer offer to mount the slides, leaving hobbyists to do their own mounting. The hurdles have discouraged all but the most dedicated. In an age of point-and-click disposables and digital cameras that offer instant gratification, who wants to mess around with transparencies, projectors, screens and those goofy 3-D glasses?
"Stereo is a time-consuming hobby," notes RMSC secretary Ray Kluever. "Digital's the new kid on the block."
This photo of hobbyists, taken by R.G. Perry, was
published in Stereo World, a magazine devoted
Kluever has been involved in the club for a decade and used to write its newsletter. But as membership has dropped, so has the news; the group's moribund website hasn't been updated in two years. "Right now I'm basically sending postcards to people," Kluever says, "letting them know when the next meeting is."
Some fans believe that new technology will be the savior of stereo photography. Three-dimensional effects have enjoyed a sporadic resurgence in movies and gaming systems (IMAX, Spy Kids 3-D), and several companies are promoting equipment that allows the user to take stereo shots with digital cameras, usually by mounting the camera on a slide bar and capturing images from a perspective a few inches apart. But to see the results on a computer screen requires the viewer to cross his eyes, put on special glasses -- or invest in a $3,300 laptop with a multi-layered LCD display.
For the most part, the core believers of the Rocky Mountain Stereo Club prefer the older, more familiar technology. Their cameras may be half a century old, they say, but they still work pretty well.
"There's a group of us who just keep going with the whole thing," says Kluever, "to see what we can come up with."