I was in a super bad mood the other day and decided to distract myself from it by looking back through some photographs from just after I got my first digital camera, a Kodak EasyShare Z730. I found some that had potential and brought some of them into Photoshop for some tweaking. The Z730 has a very capable Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon lens but is limited by an average sensor. Details are blotchy at maximum resolution, so I was careful not to crop too deeply. While the original image is a color shot with vivid reds and blues, I liked it better when I converted it to black and white.
I don’t know if Bob’s Century is still operating. It’s way down on the southwest side of town on an old alignment of State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway, and I never get down there. It was an anachronism already when I stopped to photograph it in 2007 – a full-service gas station with a mechanic’s bay. For that reason alone, I hope it’s still going.
Check out these old gas stations
I found when exploring Indiana’s US 50.
A few years ago I wrote frequently on this blog about North Liberty Christian Church and its journey after being forced to sell its building, on land they’d occupied since 1839. At last, this congregation’s new building is complete. It was a long time coming.
The backstory: in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the church suffered two destructive splits, and members left in large numbers. By 2009, the offering no longer covered expenses, most of which involved heating and cooling an enormous building. I was an elder in this congregation by then, and I learned that we were burning through savings at an alarming rate. I wrote about our difficult decision to sell our building here. We got a great deal on a parcel of land on a main thoroughfare around the corner from us, and signed a contract with a builder to erect a small, simple building on the site. And then we ran into roadblock after roadblock, which I wrote about here, which depleted our cash to the point where we no longer had enough to complete the project.
Meanwhile, we worshiped in various hotel rooms until a church that had been our neighbor for more than 150 years, Bethel United Methodist Church, allowed us to use their old sanctuary (read about it here). We never imagined it would be three more years before we could move into our new building. I use “we” loosely, because a few months after moving to Bethel, my sons and I left North Liberty Christian Church. I wrote about why here.
I didn’t keep in touch with the people of North Liberty as well as I promised I would, but I did hear from them often enough to know that they walked a difficult road trying to find the funding needed to finish their building. The money slowly appeared and bit by bit the building was finished. This past Sunday was the first service, and they invited me to join them.
It was bittersweet to see everyone again. I loved the people of that congregation and leaving was difficult, which is part of the reason why I’d not kept in very good touch. I also felt some guilt about not walking that difficult road with them to this milestone. God had different service in mind for me, and I’m doing it now (read about it here). But I never quite shook the feeling I left business unfinished at North Liberty. Yet everybody welcomed me warmly and was glad I came.
God taught us a lot as we lost our home of 171 years and wandered unsure of whether our new building would ever be built, and indeed if we would even survive as a congregation. I’m sure God taught the people of North Liberty much more after I left, just as he has taught me much as he shared the mission he had in mind for me. What I’ve learned, and what I hope the people of North Liberty learned, is that there are milestones (such as new buildings) along the journey, but it remains a journey and frequently you can’t see what’s around the next bend. So we have to keep remembering that God is in control, and not worry.
My trips along Indiana’s old roads have taken me past many of its courthouses, and I usually stop to photograph them. It seems like Indiana experienced a courthouse-building boom in the 1800s, with many counties building, razing, building, razing, and building again in those years. But with few exceptions, that boom had ended by about 1900.
Most of these courthouses are grand structures. I shudder to think of what a modern courthouse would look like, given our bent to build as cheaply as possible now.
Fulton County, Rochester. I was passing through on the old Michigan Road one day as the sun was low in the sky. It bathed this 1895 limestone building in a delicious light.
Clay County, Brazil. Completed in 1914, this courthouse on the National Road boasts an F-86 jet on its grounds. See a closer view of the jet here.
Vigo County, Terre Haute. I’ve tried to photograph this courthouse a bunch of times and have concluded that you just can’t get a good angle on it. I did get a nice frontal image of it with my Konica C35 in 2012 (see it here) even though I couldn’t back up enough to fit the whole thing into the frame. The building was completed in 1888, faces what is now US 41, and borders what was the original alignment of the National Road.
Jefferson County, Madison. I came upon this 1855 courthouse shortly after fire severely damaged it, leveling its dome. Restoration efforts had begun, and they have since been completed. I might get my chance to see it again this year in its completed state as I’m considering revisiting the Michigan Road, which Madison anchors.
Orange County, Paoli. This 1847 building reminds me of something you’d see on a southern plantation. It’s a commanding presence on Paoli’s square along the Dixie Highway.
Lawrence County, Bedford. I can’t tell you much about this courthouse other than it appears to have been completed in 1872. It stands on an old alignment of US 50.
Jackson County, Brownstown. It was tough to photograph this 1870 courthouse because of its tree-filled lawn. It’s on an old alignment of US 50.
Monroe County, Bloomington. This is another tough courthouse to photograph head on because of trees, so I moved around to its east side for this photo. It was completed in 1908 and stands on the Dixie Highway.
Wayne County, Richmond. This imposing courthouse on the National Road was completed in 1893.
Decatur County, Greensburg. Famous for the tree in the clock tower, this courthouse on the Michigan Road was completed in 1861 and expanded in 1994.
Fountain County, Covington. A real latecomer among Indiana courthouses, it was completed in 1937 and was built by the Public Works Administration, a New Deal program.
Parke County, Rockville. I took this photo early in my road-tripping days, when I was out exploring US 36 and the Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. I was really going more for a streetscape. This courthouse was completed in 1882.
St. Joseph County, South Bend. South Bend is fortunate that both its current (1897) and former (1853) courthouses still stand. This is the current courthouse; the former stood here but was moved 30 yards to the northwest. I surely wish I had tipped my camera up just a bit to fit the entire flagpole in the frame.
Johnson County, Franklin. This 1882 courthouse stands on old US 31, which before that was the Madison State Road. Here’s another photo in which I cut off the top of the flagpole. D’oh! I love how the blue sky makes this building really pop.
I look forward to seeing more of Indiana’s courthouses as I keep exploring the state’s highways.
The St. Joseph County Courthouse (full photo here) was built in South Bend in 1896. It’s the county’s third courthouse, all three of which stood on this spot. The first was a frame building, built in 1832. The second was built in 1855. When this one was built, the 1855 courthouse was moved thirty yards to the northwest, where it still stands. I shared a photo of its cupola with you a few years ago; see it here.
The twisted effect of this photo as you scan it from top to bottom both intrigues and infuriates me. Another shot I took with this camera on this trip has the same effect (see it here). Did I just shoot at a wacky angle twice in a row? Was it something about my gear? But I really like how my Nikon F2 and its 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens rendered the textures present here on Kodak T-Max 100 film.
A version of this post appeared at Curbside Classic a couple weeks ago. I contribute there from time to time. Its primary mission is to document the old cars still rolling on the road, but we consider all things automotive. Check it out here.
Are the world’s automakers all smoking from the same pipe?
Recently Chrysler unveiled its redesigned midsized sedan, the 200, which goes on sale in the fall as a 2015 model. It’s about time; the current 200 is frumpy and dumpy. The new 200 is a sleek, beautiful design.
But wait… where have I seen that form before? Oh, yes, of course – on the midsized Ford Fusion, which went on sale in 2013.
And on the new-for-2014 full-sized Chevrolet Impala.
These cars have a lot of common design elements: high beltline, tall nose, aggressive grile, dramatic side creases, roof that flows smoothly into the trunk lid, and large, round wheel openings. But the signature design element they share is the rounded six-window greenhouse with a kick-up at the tail.
Did Chrysler steal this look from Ford and GM?
Or maybe they stole it from Toyota. Here’s the full-sized Toyota Avalon, which debuted in 2013.
Even small cars are wearing this basic design. Here’s the current Nissan Sentra, which was new in 2013.
The compact Dodge Dart, new in 2013, could be the Chrysler 200′s little brother. But given that they’re made by the same company, I’m sure that’s no coincidence.
But it must be coincidence that Buick’s smallest car, the Verano, has worn the same basic look since 2012.
Ford’s small cars wear similar six-window greenhouses, although the rear-window kick-up is far less dramatic. Here’s the current Focus, which debuted in 2012.
And here’s Ford’s Fiesta, also new in 2012.
Finally, even Honda’s compact crossover, the CR-V, got into the act in 2012.
I’m used to cars by the same maker wearing similar or even identical styling. GM was king of this for decades. They made one basic car, put different front and rear clips on for each of their brands, and sold them by the boatload. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many similarly-styled cars across so many different makers. I find this six-window styling to be plenty attractive – but I guarantee that ten or fifteen years from now when these are all cheap wheels on the used market, we’ll all look at them and say, “That styling is so mid-2010s!”
Polaroid’s SX-70 camera may have been inventor Edwin Land’s crowning instant-photography achievement, but it was mighty expensive. To bring the joy of SX-70-style instant photography to everyone, Polaroid needed to introduce a less-expensive camera. The Pronto! was that camera.
The Pronto! offered an electronic shutter and full autoexposure, plus a three-element, 116mm f/9.4 plastic lens. For indoor photos, you could clip a flashbar into a socket on the top. The Pronto! is a guess-focus camera – you turn the ring around the lens to set the distance to the subject. But otherwise everything about this camera is point-and-shoot simple. And at $66 at its 1976 introduction (about $270 in 2014 dollars), it was about one third the price of the SX-70.
$66 must not have been the magic price, however, because in 1977 Polaroid introduced the $39.95 OneStep. If you were around at all in the late 1970s and early 1980s, you saw this camera endlessly advertised on TV. It used the Pronto! body, but was white with the signature Polaroid rainbow stripe. It was decontented to reach that price, offering fixed focus and a single-element 103mm f/14.6 lens.
The Pronto! body was also adapted into the top-of-the-line rigid-bodied camera for SX-70 film, the Pronto Sonar OneStep. It sold for $99.95 upon introduction in 1978. This was the second most fully featured Polaroid camera available, after a variant of the SX-70 that shared this camera’s innovative sonar autofocus system. See that big golden panel next to the lens? When you press the shutter button halfway, the camera makes some sounds you can’t hear. They bounce off the subject and back onto the big golden panel, which lets the camera calculate distance and turn a motor to focus the lens.
Apparently you can also set focus manually if you want, but I can’t figure out how. The Pronto Sonar OneStep also features a tripod socket and a cable-release socket not present on the plainer Pronto! My Pronto Sonar OneStep comes with the Polatronic 2 electronic flash (model 2209). It clips on and off the camera and connects to the flashbar socket.
You can still get film for these cameras from The Impossible Project; buy some here. I bought some when I shot my SX-70 last year, but I wasn’t that impressed with the results. Given that the SX-70 has a better lens than either of these cameras and that film costs upwards of $25, I’m not likely ever to use these cameras.
Do you like old cameras?
Then check out my whole collection!
Nobody wanted Abigail, so my parents took her. It helped that she is a Lab mix; they had two Labs before her and they had come to love the breed. After their last Lab, Shadow, passed a few years ago I didn’t figure they’d get another dog due to advancing age. They didn’t either, they told me, but Abigail had the agreeable nature they like in dogs, and they hated to see her go homeless.
A black-and-white dog seemed like a great subject for the black-and-white film (Kodak T-Max 100) I had in my Nikon F2. I took this photo at my parents’ home against their pale gray carpet, which placed Abigail’s head in relief.