Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Favorite Photos Week: Lady ornament

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Lady Ornament

Sexual objectification as automotive ornamentation — this flying lady, low breasts proudly protruding, meant to convey fluid motion on this 1930s Buick.

Can you imagine anything like this on a modern automobile? Imagine the uproar! While I wish we Americans would get over being so easily offended, I think it’s for the best that a nubile hood ornament would be socially unacceptable now.

Our aversion is odd when you consider how easy it is to find porn today. And it’s not like cars have hood ornaments anymore. We Americans are a mass of self-contradiction.

Lady ornament • Nikon F2AS • 50mm f/2 AI-Nikkor • Kodak T-Max 400 • May, 2014

Favorite Photos Week: Early autumn sunrise, almost Indianapolis

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Early autumn sunrise, almost Indianapolis

I don’t have a habit of entering photo contests, but when one finds me I’m not averse. Several years ago, my workplace asked its photographers to submit their best work. I entered this photo and took first prize: a $50 gift card. Nice!

I shared this photo in October, 2011, shortly after I took it. Here’s what I wrote about it then:

During the school year my sons stay overnight at my home on Wednesdays. We like our relaxed evening family time. But school starts early, and none of us enjoys getting up long before sunrise the next morning for the 45-minute drive to their mother’s suburb. We stumble around the house getting dressed and eating breakfast, and then we climb into the car for the trip. We listen to music or NPR; sometimes we talk, sometimes they play video games on their hand-held devices.

When my sons are adults, we will surely talk about these times and reflect on the good and the bad. But even in the circumstances we wish were different, we sometimes encounter unexpected moments of joy or of beauty. We’ve seen plenty of beautiful sunrises as we travel eastward on Thursday mornings, sunrises we surely would have missed otherwise. I was fortunate to have my good camera along one recent Thursday morning when the sky’s colors were especially vivid. These sunrises have taught me, and I hope my sons as well, to look for the good in unwanted circumstances.

Mercifully, the Thursday-morning drives across town have ended. My younger son has wanted to just go home on Wednesday nights for years, but my older son was clear that he didn’t want to let go of any family time. But then, he’s a natural early riser. My younger boy struggles to rise at any time before 9. So as his older brother was about to finish high school this spring, he asked if he could just go home Wednesday evenings from now on. His mom and I worked it out.

I won’t miss groggy drives in the dark. I will miss peaceful moments like this one.

Early autumn sunrise, almost Indianapolis • Canon PowerShot S95 • October, 2011

Favorite Photos Week: Toy truck

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Toy truck

I enter almost every antique store I come across. I buy very little — an old camera here and there, occasionally a piece of furniture. Mostly, and I’m sure to the owner’s chagrin, I go to look.

On this day, I was in tiny Roann, Indiana, shooting my Yashica Lynx 14e, which reader Dehk had recently refurbished for me. It’s a big, clumsy camera, but my oh my does its giant f/1.4 lens deliver. The dim light inside was enough, especially with fast-ish film, to record whatever I wanted.

The fun of shooting new-to-me old cameras is not knowing how they’ll perform. It was joy to discover the pixie-like background lights against this photo’s overall dark mood and fun subject. Discovery is a lot of why I love this hobby.

Toy truck • Yashica Lynx 14e • Kodak T-Max 400 • September, 2014

Favorite Photos Week: Boys in church

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Boys

I am the unofficial photographer at church. Our pitch-in lunches are a great time for me to make portraits. Everybody seems to really love it that I bring my camera. Especially the children, who clamor to be in a photograph.

Would you guess that we are an inner-city mission where almost everyone who attends on Sunday has a difficult life story? Hunger, addictions, abuse, homelessness, undertreated and untreated health issues — among our members, we see all of the problems of poverty.

We really pack ’em in for lunch because it’s a sure meal. We call it a pitch-in lunch, but we tell everyone to join us whether or not they brought a dish to share. Many of our members probably don’t have enough food in their homes to get them through the next few days.

Living situations for our families can change suddenly. I haven’t seen the boy on the left in more than a year. His mother and his several brothers and sisters attended for months, until one Sunday they weren’t there. They were living across the street; when we went to check on them, we found they had moved without a word.

I see the boy on the right from time to time. His grandmother, despite having her own considerable troubles, was a major source of stability in his life. She passed away unexpectedly last month; she was only about five years older than me. He and his sisters now face considerable uncertainty.

All we can do is offer love, support, and encouragement, and try to connect them with available community resources. And sometimes, we offer them lunch.

I always make prints of the photos I take, and give them to the subjects. For some of them, these are the only portraits of their families that they have.

Boys in church • Pentax ME • 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M • Kodak Tri-X 400 • February, 2013

Favorite Photos Week: Old US 36

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Old US 36

I never expected to find that this old alignment of US 36 was a dirt road. But I go to find the unexpected.

Current US 36 lay 500 feet away, but here it was middle-of-nowhere quiet. I felt not just secluded, but exposed. I wondered how friendly the landowner was. I thought it might be entirely too easy to make a trespasser disappear.

But I lingered anyway, enjoying the tension. I took my time framing this photograph, which I’ve always loved. A copy hangs framed on the wall of my home office.

Old US 36 • Kodak EasyShare Z730 • May, 2007

Favorite Photos Week: 1967 Ford LTD headlight

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67 Ford LTD

I expected little from my Argus A-Four. My bias was clear: I think real cameras are made of steel. The Bakelite and aluminum A-Four falls short.

No matter that I had shot an A-Four as a teen and got usable images. I thought I had stumbled upon blind, dumb luck as a rank amateur. But when I shot this A-Four, I had developed some photographic skill — and every shot looked great: sharp and contrasty, with great detail and rich blacks.

This even though I set exposure using the imprecise Sunny 16 rule: in bright sun, set f/16 and 1/100 second. This ISO 100 film forgives imperfect light.

If I told you I shot this with my Nikon F2, I’ll bet you’d believe me.

1967 Ford LTD headlight • Argus A-Four • Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros • May, 2010

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