Scenes from the American Sign Museum

Neonpallooza
Pentax ME
50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400

The neon was out in force at the American Sign Museum!

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Photography, Road trips

single frame: Neonpallooza

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Photography

Shooting the 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M Zoom lens

Owning Pentax film gear appeals deeply to my inner tightwad. Bodies and lenses usually go for less, and often for far less, than their Canon and Nikon equivalents. And the lenses are (usually) so good. As a result, I own more Pentax gear than any other kind.

So I reach for my Pentax gear most often when I have a specific shooting need, such as low light or distance or macro. So it was in Cincinnati recently. I took my 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens for the available light of the American Sign Museum, and my 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M Zoom lens for the Cincinnati Zoo.

80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M Zoom

The tl;dr, especially for those of you poised to pooh-pooh this lens for not being a prime, is that it’s a pretty good performer. Would primes along this zoom’s range perform better? I’m sure they would. But in each shot it took me only a second to push or pull the zoom ring to the right focal length. Try that with a bag full of primes.

Cincinnati Zoo

At 5 3/4 inches from mount to tip, and a half-inch or so longer when focused to infinity, this is a lot of lens to mount to a body as compact as my Pentax ME. It’s not terribly heavy at about 20 ounces, but it made the camera front-heavy just the same. It’s solidly built of all metal (with a rubber zoom grip). The zoom ring has great heft as you push and pull it. It feels like quality. My only beef with the lens’s build quality is that the aperture ring feels thin and tinny inside as you twist it through the crisp detents.

This lens is adequately sharp. The forums say it’s a little soft wide open, but I never saw any of that. What I do know is that all the images on this roll of Fujicolor 200 ran uncharacteristically cold, and I had to warm them up in Photoshop. And a couple of my images show a wisp of purple fringing.

Cincinnati Zoo

It was a chilly but bright early-spring afternoon and many of the animals were not out. Those that were just wanted to lounge quietly in the sun.

Cincinnati Zoo

It made for easy, if not terribly interesting, photography: zoom in, frame, and click. Little animal motion to contend with.

Cincinnati Zoo

You might remember this photo from a few weeks ago, and that I couldn’t remember which camera and lens I used to shoot it. I’ve figured it out: the Pentax ME and this zoom.

Kitchen window

Yep, this zoom delivered this lovely swirly bokeh. (On expired Kodak Gold 400, no less.)

Victoria at Northgate

So this lens is a keeper. I’ll probably use it once every blue moon, but when I need it I’ll be very glad I still have it.

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Scenes from the American Sign Museum

Glass-letter signs
Pentax ME
50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400

I took the Pentax ME along on my Cincinnati spring break trip with Garrett. I have always wanted to shoot serious neon on film, and the American Sign Museum surely gave me a great opportunity.

But of course these signs aren’t neon. The letters are all backlit glass. Such signs preceded the neon era.

Photography, Road trips

single frame: Glass-letter signs

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Blogosphere, Photography

Hard lessons learned writing for PetaPixel

Last week I posted my updated list of film-photography blogs I follow. Stephen Dowling, the force behind Zorki Photoshared a link to it on Reddit. Thanks Stephen! From there, DPReview.com linked to my post, too. Boom! My stats spiked instantly.

StatSpike

Guess which day my post appeared on Reddit

PetaPixel noticed it too, and asked if they could republish it. An honor, right? Lots of people would see my work on that well-visited site, right?

I didn’t say yes right away. On the one hand, I wanted my list of blogs to be seen far and wide, and I knew PetaPixel had giant reach. On the other, I wanted my blog to get all the visits, not somebody else’s site. Also, if PetaPixel ran my post just as I wrote it here, Google’s search algorithms would take a dim view and downrank my post in searches.

But I hoped perhaps for some new readers who clicked through from PetaPixel, so I said yes. But I rewrote the post first.

PPByline

Get out your magnifying glass to find my name

When it went live, my poor little byline was in such tiny type I doubt anybody noticed it. There were two links back to my blog, but my stats say that only four people clicked them. And while the post got a lot of shares, the ones I saw invariably went something like this: “Hey, check out PetaPixel’s list of film photography blogs!” Or: “My blog made PetaPixel’s list!” Argh! It never occurred to me that people would attribute the list to PetaPixel and not to me.

Here’s something else I didn’t see coming. My original 2014 post of film-photography blogs had long been at or near the top of Google’s results for searches like “film photography blog.” That drives a steady stream of traffic to this blog. But within two days, the PetaPixel post outranked it. Arrrrrrrgh!

Downranked

Cue the sad-trombone sound effect

I love experimenting. I’m always excited to see what happens when I try something. Well, I certainly got a faceful of “what happens” from trying this.

I’m not sure I’d start this blog today if I had it to do over. Rather, I’d seek to contribute to an established site that already has good traffic, and build my name that way. As an individual blogger who works at something else for a living, I can’t devote the time and effort it takes to build an audience as large as PetaPixel’s.

But here I am, ten years into this blog, having built a respectable audience as an individual blogger. I’m not going back now.

And so, here are my lessons learned.

  • If you want to republish my content, the answer is no.
  • However, let’s talk about something different and original I could write for you.
  • If your site is owned by a profit-making company, I expect to be paid for my work.

There is an upside to this experience: several of the blog owners from my list told me that PetaPixel sent them a ton of traffic. That’s why I wrote the list in the first place: so more people could find those blogs!

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

Happy Saturday, Roadies, and welcome to the weekly blog roundup. A new feature awaits at the end, so do read through!

I’ve gotten good at processing my own emotions — except for anger. I think I’d rather be devoured by bears. But Jess Cotton, writing for The Book of Life, says we all have emotions we struggle to process. Read Unprocessed Emotion

Mike Connealy has been busy making photographs with an old plate camera on 120 rollfilm. The tones he’s getting are just stunning. Have a look. Read More Plate Camera Work

It was in a Moroccan bath house that Abbie came to accept and enjoy her own skin and realize she’s perfect just as she’s made. She also tells you everything you need to bring to enjoy one of these bath houses yourself, should you ever find yourself in Morocco. Read On Moroccan Bathhouses and Loving Myself

Aaron Renn reflects on the experience of growing up in a small town today, and how the tight social order so often found in them stifles people who want something more than their little town offers them. Read “What Makes You Think You’re Better Than Anyone Else?”

I don’t think I believe in destiny. I think most of us who are fortunate are on a journey of discovery, and we discover that some things we find to do fit us very well. I think Johanna Rothman thinks so too, but she calls those good-fit things destiny. Read What’s Your Destiny?

Something new I’m starting this week: links to all the camera reviews I found published in the last week. Because I love camera reviews.

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Photography

The evolution of the Eastern Star Church

It had been a cornfield, this plot across from my neighborhood. Once in a while I’d get stuck on the main road behind a tractor or a harvester that had just completed some work here. Right in the middle of Indianapolis. And then one day about seven years ago heavy equipment cleared a dense line of trees by the road, revealing the fallow field beyond. This sign went up, followed by the framework behind it.

Church Coming Soon

As the trees came down I figured a neighborhood would be built here. I wasn’t excited. The road is narrow and busy enough without a hundred more cars trying to get in and out every day.

Church construction

And so I was happy that our new neighbor would be a church. And not just any church: the giant and well-known Eastern Star Church.

Sunrise over the unfinished church

This nearly 100-year-old congregation began to experience explosive growth about 30 years ago. Since then it has planted three new churches and expanded from one to three locations around central Indiana. This is the third and newest location.

Eastern Star Church

The church has been a respectful neighbor. They designed their parking lot so that it empties not only onto the main road, but also through a neighborhood to the north and the cemetery through the south, to disperse exiting cars evenly.

Eastern Star

Traffic moves pretty smoothly on the main road every Sunday morning, especially since police are always on hand to direct traffic. Sometimes I happen to return home from my church as Eastern Star lets out, and I seldom have to wait more than a minute to turn into my subdivision.

Eastern Star Church

The church brought an unexpected benefit: it extended my ability to take an evening stroll. My little subdivision has but five streets. Walking the same loop gets old fast. But now I can cut quickly through the church’s parking lot to reach the large cemetery beyond. It’s a nice, long, varied walking loop. I could walk there before, but I had to either walk a mile on the shoulders of busy roads, or drive. So I never did it.

Eastern Star Church

So why do I have so many photographs of the church? Because I’m forever testing a new-to-me old film camera, and the church is an easy subject. I can walk to it in five minutes.

Eastern Star Church

And so I’ve captured it in all seasons and at nearly all times of day. These photos are in chronological order, by the way.

Eastern Star

Really, little has changed since construction ended. A little more landscaping. The signs out front are a little different now. The trees, so spindly when planted, are filling out.

Eastern Star Church

It’s interesting to me to review these photographs and see how the church and its grounds appear on various films, through various lenses, at various times of day.

Eastern Star Church

We think we know a thing or a place because we pass by it all the time. But I think we easily come to fail to actually see it — our minds have put it into a box, have made it a known quantity.

Eastern Star Church

These photos show some of the variables that go into what a place looks like. This church’s structure is certainly fixed. But how we see it is not.

Eastern Star

Moreover, you would see it differently from me.  I would enjoy seeing how you would photograph this same place.

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