Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

To the Indianapolis Museum of Art: Way to shoot yourself in the foot


Last week, the Indianapolis Museum of Art announced that admission to the museum and its gorgeous grounds will no longer be free starting in April. It will cost $18 for adults, $10 for children.

Entering the IMA

IMA welcome pavilion

It’s neither unusual nor unreasonable for a museum to charge. But the IMA bungled this announcement, slathering it in suspicious PR doublespeak. They are also making this enormous price jump too suddenly, leaving a feeling of sticker shock and pricing visits out of reach for many.

In all, this announcement has damaged community goodwill. I think they just shot themselves in the foot. I think they’ll lose visitors to the point where the admission fee doesn’t generate the revenue they seek.

In a press release, the IMA announced this change as a “campus enhancement plan to improve the visitor experience and financial sustainability.” The IMA’s admission fee appears to cover both the museum and grounds. They will reconfigure access to require all visitors to pass through the museum building’s welcome center to build “long-lasting relationships with IMA guests.”


Oldfields, on the grounds

Hogwash. News reports say that the museum is using too large a portion of its endowment for operations, and the IMA needs to correct that so the endowment can serve long term. It’s obvious that money entirely drives this decision, and that requiring all visitors to enter through the welcome center is how they will collect admission fees.

It would have been better for the IMA to just own that. They should have said plainly that they need to charge admission to ensure the museum’s long-term operation, and skipped the “campus enhancement” and “long-lasting relationship” nonsense. Nobody’s falling for it. Transparency engenders trust; bad PR-speak makes everybody think you’re hiding something.

On the bridge

$18 to ride through? Seriously?

But more importantly, the IMA appears not to have thought through the emotional impact of this tall admission fee. Cries of elitism and exclusion pepper the comments sections on every news story posted about this change. The IMA was not going to entirely avoid that even if admission had been set at $5; it takes quite an adjustment to pay for anything that had been free. But after you cut through their invective, many of those commenters have a good point: what had been a wonderful free family outing is now mighty expensive, and has been priced out of reach for many.

It is clear that this change will cost the IMA its most casual patronage, those who visited once in a while because it was something to do and it didn’t cost anything. But how many people who really appreciate the art and the grounds will no longer go, either out of principle or because they just can’t afford it now?

LIttle bridge

The IMA is a great place for a stroll

Perhaps the IMA wishes to drive their non-casual patronage toward memberships, which cost $55 per year for individuals and $75 per year for families. With a membership, a family of four can visit anytime for $19 more than one visit at admission price.

I’m going to buy a membership, even though I don’t like how the IMA is handling this. I visit the IMA a dozen times a year, usually just to walk the grounds and take photographs. I would hate to not do that anymore, and I can afford a membership.

But I wonder what would happen if the IMA instead set admission at $5, which would avoid this sticker shock. I’m betting they’d lose far fewer visitors up front. I also think they might make up on volume what they lose on that $18 fee. If it didn’t, they could raise admission a buck or two every year until they find that sweet spot.

I think the IMA has hurt itself. I hope, for the IMA’s continued good fortune, that enough people like me buy memberships to make up for the loss of visitors for whom a day at the museum is now too expensive.

58th & Victoria

58th & Victoria
Nikon F3HP, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Arista Premium 400 (exp. 11/2011)

The year of the Nikon F2


I’ve learned so much from you film photographers whose blogs I follow and who follow my blog. I don’t remember which of you said it first — was it Mike Connealy? — but more than one of you suggested that you’d become a much better photographer if you’d just stick to one camera. I thought about that idea often. I love shooting different cameras, but I also want to get better at making pictures.

So I decided that in 2014 I would primarily use one film camera. I wouldn’t rule out buying a new camera here and there and putting a test roll through it, and I would still use my digital camera for all the things it’s good for. But for film shots, I’d use one camera for almost all of them, and I’d put extra time and energy into shooting with that camera.

I chose my Pentax ME to be the camera. I liked its smaller size and lighter weight. I love its aperture-priority shooting. And I have fine collection of SMC Pentax lenses for it.

But then John Smith threw a monkey wrench into the works. First, he sent me a Nikon F2A and said, “Some were born to shoot the F2; we will see if you are among them.” I had a great time with that F2. John declared me so born, and sent me another F2, this time an F2AS — and one that had been overhauled to new operating condition by Sover Wong, the world’s foremost F2 expert. And then he sent me a smattering of AI Nikkor lenses to go with it.

Nikon F2AS

I immediately abandoned my Pentaxian plans and became a Nikonian for 2014. And then I watched my work steadily improve all year. My composition and use of light both got a lot stronger, both through deliberate repetition and through trying to emulate some of the things I see in your photographs. Also, freed from the hindrance of constantly fiddling with new cameras, I found myself more and more using the F2AS well without thinking. I was able to think entirely about my photographs; my hands increasingly automatically worked the F2AS to get the look I wanted.

I am so happy I did this!

For 2015, I plan to leave black-and-white film in the F2AS, and color film in the F3HP John also sent me, and use them as my go-to cameras. I’ll resume buying cameras, too — even though my interest in collecting has waned, I can’t ignore that my camera posts are enormously popular. I’m also going to revisit some old favorite cameras — first among them being my old (and well loved) Pentax ME, just to see how it feels to me now.

Here are some photos from my F2AS that appealed to me today as I reviewed the work I’ve done this year.

Agfa Clack

Agfa Clack. 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Ilford Delta 400

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom-Nikkor, Ilford Delta 400


Expired. 55mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor, Kodak Gold 400 (very expired)

On the Monon Trail

On the Monon Trail. 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom-Nikkor, Kodak Tri-X (expired 2002)

Old cars under an awning

Old cars under an awning. 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Plus-X (expired, cold stored)

1950 Hudson Commodore

1950 Hudson Commodore. 50mm f/2 AI-Nikkor, Kodak Plus-X Pan (expired, cold stored)

Lady Ornament

Lady Ornament. 50mm f/2 AI-Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 400

Grape hyacinth

Grape hyacinth. 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200

Main Street, Casey, IL

Main St., Casey, IL. 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom-Nikkor, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200


Lavender. 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100

Evening light at Oldfields *EXPLORED*

Evening light at Oldfields. 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100


Margaret. 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200

Farmall *EXPLORED*

Farmall. 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Superia Xtra 800

In transition

In transition. 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Velvia 50

Red tree parking lot *EXPLORED*

Red tree parking lot. 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Velvia 50

Recommended reading


Here’s what I enjoyed most this week from the blogs I follow.

I met some fellow roadfans for dinner last Saturday at The Oasis Diner, a freshly reopened stainless-steel diner in Plainfield. I photographed it at its former location, closed, deep in this post. Denny Gibson reviewed the diner and our dinner on his blog. Read Slipped on Down to the Oasis

My partner-in-crime on the Michigan Road Historic Byway, Kurt Garner, writes about the city at the north end of our byway: Michigan City. Leaders there have turned historic preservation into economic growth, and it’s a model for other cities to follow. Read Michigan City: Vision to Capitalize on its History

Stephen Ingram writes insightfully about why Christians should stop demanding that we “keep Christ in Christmas.” Read The Heresy of “Keeping Christ in Christmas”

Nikon N2000


I’ve been casually looking at prime Nikkor lenses for my Nikon SLRs, hoping to find a bargain on a 50mm f/1.4. Along the way I found a 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E lens. It probably doesn’t let in enough extra light over my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor to matter, but it was only $30 — and it came attached to this Nikon N2002 body. So I bought it.

Nikon N2000

I favor all-metal, all-mechanical SLRs from the 1960s and 1970s, but this 1985 N2000 appealed to me anyway. The 80s were years of transition among SLRs — to plastic parts, to auto-everything, to electronic control. The N2000 shows that transition, with its plastic body, automatic winder, and program modes — but old-school dials (rather than menus), manual focus, and no built-in flash.

Nikon N2000

This camera ushered in a number of Nikon firsts: first plastic body, first automatic winder, first DX film decoding. It features a metal focal-plane shutter that operates from 1/2000 to 1 sec., single-shot or continuous (at about 3 frames per second) shooting modes, aperture-priority autoexposure and two program modes (regular and “high” for moving subjects), and a hot shoe. Its DX decoder recognizes films from ISO 25 to 4000, or you can manually dial in ISO from 12 to 3200. (I wonder why the ranges are different.) The N2000 runs on four AAA batteries, and is useless without them.

When new, the N2000 came with the 50mm f/1.8 Series E lens. These lenses were apparently looked down upon for being made with plastic components. Indeed, this lens doesn’t feel as high quality under use as my all-metal f/2 AI Nikkor. But it’s thin and light, making it a great companion for this light body. And optically, it’s outstanding.

I started with a roll of Fujicolor 200 and took some of my typical test shots. I liked how the N2000 handled — light and easy, yet entirely familiar to me after shooting an F2 all year. Controls all fell right to hand. I tried program mode for a couple shots, but didn’t usually like its exposure choices. I switched to aperture-priority mode and never went back.

Just look at that Series E lens’s ability to resolve detail.


I thought the N2000’s autoexposure system handled challenging situations pretty well, such as resolving the light vs. the shadows on this scene of the 14th fairway behind my house.

Golf course trees

Even when the light wasn’t very dynamic, that Series E lens returned good contrast. I daresay I like it better than my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor. The N2000 can take that lens or any other AI or AI-S Nikkor.


I took the N2000 along when Margaret and I walked through Garfield Park a few days before Halloween. Autumn colors were near their peak.

Autumn color

Garfield Park features a 10,000-square-foot conservatory and a sunken garden, which we toured.

Haunted Conservatory

Our day continued in Crown Hill Cemetery. By this time, I’d finished the roll of Fujicolor and had loaded some Ektar 100. You know I’m really enjoying a new-to-me camera when I load more film immediately after finishing the test roll. This view is from the tallest hill in the city.

Top of the city

The sun finally came out that afternoon, warming the colors up considerably. Even on a cloudy day, though, the Ektar outclasses the Fujicolor.

Cemetery shade

The letters on that marker are so sharp, they could cut. I’m just sold on that Series E lens.


See more photos in my Nikon N2000 gallery.

The N2000 is a good camera, especially coupled with that Series E lens. It handled easily, read exposure sensitively, and returned one great shot after another.

Do you like old cameras? Then check out my entire collection.

Black Dog Books

Black Dog Books
Konica Autoreflex T3, 50mm f/1.7 Hexanon AR, Fujicolor 200


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