Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Recommended reading


Saturday morning, and time for the weekly digest of interesting blog posts I read this week.

Speaking of interesting, Seth Godin writes that all of us have interesting lives but might not know how to present ourselves as interesting. He gives two tips: truth and surprise. Read Are you interesting?

Tim Lawrence has it right: when bad things happen to good people, it’s not because “everything happens for a reason.” Read Everything Doesn’t Happen For a Reason

Remember the fellow who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation? Wil Wheaton blogs, and this week wrote a great post about why a company that wants to republish your blog post (or photo, or art, or whatever) should pay you. Read you can’t pay your rent with “the unique platform and reach our site provides”

Longtime Down the Road reader Lone Primate writes a fascinating take on Canadian identity, personal and political. Read When did we become a nation?

Neon sign, lost


Two things have changed for me in the nine years I’ve been taking road trips. First, in the old days it was mostly about exploring, and now it’s mostly about enjoying a day’s journey. Second, I’ve seen all of the interesting roads reachable within a day of my home. So a day trip is almost always going to be over a road I know well, but that’s okay because I love spending a day on any old road.

That means I’m starting to see things change on my favorite routes. When Dawn and I visited Richmond on our 2009 tour of Indiana’s National Road, we came upon this great old neon sign.

Hood Music sign

Didn’t every city once have a local music store? A place where the kids in the high-school band could buy or rent their clarinets, and where the bar bands could buy new guitar strings? Was there one in your town? My hometown had two: Witmer-McNease Music and Hedman Music. Both have been gone for years now. And sadly, it appeared that Richmond’s Hood Music had also gone the way of the dodo.

So on our recent return trip, I looked for this sign to photograph it again. I couldn’t spot it. Did I just not remember where it was? Did I pass by it but just not notice it?

I was taken aback to walk into an antique store in nearby Centerville on our recent trip and find this.

Centerville, Indiana

On the one hand, I’m glad to see that this sign didn’t end up in a landfill. On the other, I’m sad to find it in such condition.

I love the National Road! Check out everything I’ve written about it here.

Overlooking the city

Overlooking the city
Voigtländer Vito II
Kodak Plus-X (expired, cold-stored)

Voigtländer Vito II


Several of my camera-collecting and -blogging friends have Voigtländer Vito IIs and get outstanding photographs with them. So I was pretty darned happy when one was donated to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras.

Voigtländer Vito II

I have a warm spot in my heart for little 35mm folding cameras like this. Closed, they slip into a coat pocket. Open, they offer strong optics. On the Vito II, those optics are the 50mm f/3.5 Color-Skopar, of four elements in three groups, with a blue-tinted coating. That lens is backed with one of a few different shutters. Mine features the Prontor-S, with speeds of 1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, and 1/300 sec., plus bulb. I’ve seen Vito IIs with Compur-Rapid shutters with a top speed of 1/500 sec.

Voigtländer Vito II

It’s the Vito II because when it was introduced in 1949, it replaced a similar, prewar camera called Vito. Both cameras take 35mm film, but the earlier Vito apparently could use the film on simple rolls, whereas the Vito II could take only the 35mm cartridges we know today. Vito IIs were made well into the 1950s with some running changes. Later Vito IIs, for example, came with an accessory shoe on the top plate.

Voigtländer Vito IIVoigtländer Vito II

It’s not obvious how to open the Vito II, so here’s the skinny: press the button on the camera’s bottom, and the door springs open. To close the Vito II, press the two tabs inside the door and push the door until it latches.

The Vito II works much like any other 35mm folder: wind, set aperture and shutter speed (guess exposure or use a meter), cock the shutter, frame, guess at subject distance and set the focus ring accordingly, press the button. In case it’s not obvious, the button is on the door.

The Vito II locks the shutter against accidental double exposure, but you can override it by lifting the lever to the right of the viewfinder on the camera’s back. This feature also prevents the camera from firing when there’s no film inside, but you can work around it should you come upon one and wish to see if it works: open the back and turn the toothed shaft until it stops. Then you can cock the shutter and press the button.

I tested the Vito II with one of my last, precious rolls of Kodak Plus-X. I used a metering app on my iPhone to gauge light. The Vito II came along back in August when my older son and I spent an evening together before he headed off to Purdue for his freshman year. We walked through Crown Hill Cemetery, past the military graves.

Military cemetery

I loved the shadows on this family plot marker. What an unusual last name.


We had dinner and a walk on Monument Circle. Christ Church Cathedral is the only building on the Circle that does not have a curved front.

Christ Church Cathedral

I moved in close enough to the Lacy Building that it’s hard to see its facade’s curvature.

Lacy Building entrance

I’m not wild about the composition of this photo but I do love all the details.

Columbia Club

All of the test roll’s photos came out slightly overexposed. A quick hit of the Auto Levels command in Photoshop Elements fixed that, sometimes at the cost of making grain more pronounced. It is clear that my Vito II could use a good CLA to get its shutter right. One great thing about such a simple camera: there’s little mystery about what’s wrong.

The Vito II’s tiny viewfinder made it hard for me to line up shots well, so many of my photos came out at wacky angles. Fortunately, Photoshop Elements offers tools that let me correct that, too.

Finally, several shots on the roll came out fuzzy, a couple times because of camera shake but more often thanks to misguessed focus. Needing to guess focus and exposure keeps me from shooting cameras like this more often. I prefer the precision of my 35mm SLRs. But I want to use my 35mm folders more. They’re wonderful little cameras.

So I decided to try again, right away, but this time shoot Sunny 16 and set focus for wide depth of field. The Vito II’s focusing ring includes ∇ and O symbols to help with this. ∇ is for nearer shots, about 8 to 16 feet away, and O is for shots beyond 16 feet — when using slower films and apertures of f/5.6 or narrower.

So I loaded some Kodak Gold 200. I immediately regretted choosing ISO 200 film on a camera with no 1/200 sec. shutter speed as it complicated my Sunny 16 calculations. But I guessed okay enough through the whole roll. This is North United Methodist Church on North Meridian Street.

North United Methodist

I went out to visit my older son after he was all settled in at Purdue, and we went to Scotty’s Brewhouse for dinner. I’m especially happy with this shot, as I guessed everything about it and it turned out all right.

Scotty's Brewhouse in West Lafayette

How many times have I shot these three trees on the golf course behind my home? They are always an interesting subject. But like many photos on this roll, it required considerable Photoshop tweaking of levels and contrast and brightness to bring out the details.

Golf course trees

I carried the Vito II everywhere for a few weeks. I needed some new jeans, so I stopped at Penney’s one morning. (Does calling it Penney’s show my age?) I ended up buying a pair of Levi’s 501s. I haven’t had a pair of those since I was in my 20s.

You're looking smarter than ever

I think I did all right — not great, but all right — with Sunny 16 and the camera’s easy focusing marks. Photoshop corrected my exposure sins, which fortunately were minor. I’ll have to play more with this technique. I’d also like to get this Vito II CLA’d for better performance. It was an enjoyable little shooter, and I know it’s capable of great things. I’d like to shoot it again.

Do you like vintage cameras? Then check out all my old camera reviews!

Costumes by Margie

Costumes by Margie
Voigtländer Vito II
Kodak Gold 200

Vintage TV: Freakies


It was a sugar-sweetened cereal for kids. But the cartoony characters that advertised them connected with young viewers in new way, at least for the early 1970s. My mom was not usually a sucker for TV commercials aimed at kids, but she fell hook, line, and sinker for the Freakies. And so we ate Freakies until they were coming out of our ears. I remember them being “good,” in the way any young child finds pretty much any sugar-sweetened cereal to be good. But more than that, the Freakies had a backstory, narrated by no less than Burgess Meredith.

These were the days of toys being packed inside the boxes of cereals aimed at kids. All kinds of crazy stuff came packed in cereal boxes. I remember one cereal — was it Cap’n Crunch? — giving away reflectors to attach to bicycle spokes. Frosted Mini Wheats gave away trading cards of the Presidents of the United States. I had a complete set of them for years. I didn’t eat all those Mini Wheats; Mom sent a dollar to Kellogg’s and they sent a whole deck. But once again the Freakies were different: they gave away only toys related to the Freakies characters.

I had the plastic Freakie figurines and the Freakie refrigerator magnets, complete sets. The figurines didn’t survive childhood, but the magnets lasted into adulthood. When my wife divorced me, they were on our refrigerator. She kept them.

Snorkeldorf was my favorite Freakie. He’s the one with the long, elephant-like snout. The rest of them were Hamhose, Gargle, Cowmumble, Grumble, and Goody-Goody, led of course by BossMoss.

I wish I still had my Freakies magnets.

Vintage TV is an occasional series. See all of them here.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,112 other followers

%d bloggers like this: