If you, like me, aren’t going to any fireworks displays this year because you think it will be impossible to keep enough distance from others, then please enjoy these fireworks I photographed several years ago! Click the arrows to cycle through the show.

COVID-19

Independence Day fireworks

A 4th of July fireworks display for you!

Image
Photography

Recommended reading

Happy Independence Day everybody!

Broadmoor Fireworks
Canon PowerShot S95, 2011

💻 I miss road tripping. Life’s too busy for it right now, but even if it weren’t, I’d worry about COVID-19. brandib is venturing out anyway, working hard to stay safe. She offers some tips. Read Adventures, Covid, and Staying Safe

💻 Stephen Dowling interviewed photographer Mike Goldwater, who made some fantastic photographis in the London Underground in the 1970s. Read Mike Goldwater’s haunting images of the London Underground in the 1970s

📷 Johnny Martyr photographed some fireworks on black-and-white film with a handheld Leica made in the 1930s — and the results are terrific. Read Photographing Fireworks with a 90 Year Old Leica

📷 Sam gets out his original Contax T, which he’s had for more than 20 years, and gives a solid review of it from deep experience with the camera. Read Rewind ’99 Part II: The Contax T Review

Sign up for my monthly email to get an insider view of what I’m working on! Sign up here.

Standard
Film Photography

Why every film photographer should own a dark bag

If you collect and use old film cameras, one day it’s going to happen: film will tear during winding or rewinding, or a wind lever will become hopelessly stuck. Your film will be trapped inside the camera. If you open the camera, some of the film will be ruined.

Such are the vagaries of old cameras. It happens to me from time to time, including recently. After shooting the last frame on a roll of expired Tri-X in my Yashica-12, the winder got stuck before the last of the film wound onto the takeup spool. Another time, while rewinding a roll of Kentmere 100 in my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK, the film tore. Some of the film was on the takeup spool and the rest was inside the 35mm film cartridge.

Times like these call for a dark bag, also known as a changing bag. This bag is black and double lined so no light can get in.

You unzip it to reveal the inner bag, and then you unzip that. Then put the whole camera in the bag and zip both zippers. Then stick your arms through the armholes. Feel around for the camera until you’ve grasped it. Then you can open the camera and, entirely by feel, extract the film.

If the film tore, you’ll want to put some sort of light-tight can or box in there to spool the film into. For 35mm, some brands come in a black plastic can — save a couple of them, as they’re perfect for this. Label the can “Loose Film, Open in Darkness” and send it off to your lab. They should be able to handle that without much trouble.

Otherwise, you should be able to hand-roll 120 film onto the takeup spool, or (tediously) turn the spindle on 35mm film to draw the film back into the cartridge.

Buy a dark bag here or here or here. They’re not that expensive, really, and can sure save your bacon when something goes wrong with an old camera.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Pencil cup

Pencil cup
Pentax ME
50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M
Arista EDU 200
L110 Dilution E

My son Garrett made this when he was 4 or 5. It’s a pencil cup made out of a tin can with a piece of thick paper glued around it. He wrote his name on it and painted it. I love the way he shaped the g to start his name: a circle and a J-like curve, not connected. You can’t tell because this is a black-and-white photo, but he painted it in watercolors, peach and pink and green.

Garrett also made the fake flower, in the third grade. It’s a pen, actually; his class made them by the score and sold them to raise funds for something I can’t remember anymore.

I used to have a drawer full of keepsakes my kids made. I let a lot of them go a few years ago when I moved out of my last house. It was a little painful to see them go. It was very nice to get that drawer space back.

I will keep a few things, like this. They will stand in for everything else.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Photography

single frame: Pencil cup

A pencil cup my son made for me when he was small.

Image
Camera Reviews

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

When someone gives me a camera, I shoot it if I can. Most of the time people give me old film cameras, but once in a great while the gift is digital. When my mom’s neighbor moved away last year he gave her a bunch of stuff, including this Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55. Mom didn’t have any use for it, so she gave it to me.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

Sony introduced this camera in 2010. It’s a “good features for the money” camera, neither top nor bottom of the line. It features a 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor that delivers 14.1 megapixels. Its 25-150mm (35mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.5 Sony lens starts wide and zooms deep. It saves images as JPEG only (no RAW option), with maximum resolution of 4,320×3,240 pixels. It saves video files as MPEG-4, 1,280×720 at 29.97 frames per second. It offers both optical and digital image stabilization. Its LCD screen is 3 inches diagonal. Its proprietary battery is good for only about 310 photos.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

The DSC-H55 sold for about $250 when new. At 4.1×2.3×1.1 inches and just 7.1 ounces, it’s very small and light. I slipped it into my back jeans pocket and forgot it was there.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

This camera offers some modes, including a panorama mode where you pan the camera and it stitches the image together. I didn’t play with any of that stuff so I can’t comment on it.

If compact digital cameras appeal to you, also check out my reviews of the Canon PowerShot S80 (here), the Canon PowerShot S95 (here), and the Kodak EasyShare C613 (here). I’ve also reviewed the Sony FD Mavica MDC-FD87 (here), an early digital camera that stored images on floppy disks! My first digital camera was the Kodak EasyShare Z730 (here).

I took this DSC-H55 out on a couple spring outings. I discovered right away that mine has a common fault: the LCD blanks out sometimes, turning entirely white. Since there’s no optical viewfinder, unless the screen works you can’t frame a shot. I found that pressing the buttons on the camera’s back often brought on this condition, so I used them as little as possible.

I found two ways to temporarily relieve this condition: press into the bottom right corner of the LCD, or repeatedly tap hard on the camera front between the Sony and Cyber-shot logos, until the display resets. Neither solution is great for the camera’s long-term health. But since it makes no sense to pay to repair a 2010 digital camera I did it anyway.

Sunset

Having to keep reactivating the screen was frustrating, but otherwise this camera performed well. Margaret and I made a sunset walk on a trail in a large Indianapolis park near us and the DSC-H55 delivered pleasing photos.

Margaret

Margaret was looking to practice her skill at shooting directly into the setting sun, so I did too. The lens flared, but I find the effect to be pleasing.

Margaret

The camera overexposes light colors that reflect light. I was able to tone it down in Photoshop on my wife’s jacket, above, but not on the frame of the soccer goal below.

Soccer goal

I did only a little low-light work with the DSC-H55, but I found that it tended to flatten colors that my Pentax K10D or my Canon PowerShot S95 would have captured well.

Sunset over the Toyota dealer

On gray days and when the sun is blocked, colors lose their punch in the DSC-H55. This is a sunny-day camera.

Pathside flowers

But in good light, the DSC-H55 returns accurate color. I like that. I haven’t used a ton of digital cameras in my day but among those I’ve tried I find accurate color hard to come by.

Cruze

This flower is a perfect example of the DSC-H55’s color accuracy. It perfectly captured the nuanced orange-purple gradient in this flower’s petals.

Orange flower

I also liked how the DSC-H55 could focus very close without me having to put the camera into macro mode. It’s common for digital cameras to switch to macro automatically now, but it wasn’t in 2010.

Droplets

The DSC-H55’s lens and sensor do a great job of capturing detail. Upper-tier Sony point-and-shoots boast Carl Zeiss lenses; my wife’s Sony RX100 has one and it’s wonderful. But this Sony lens holds its own.

Ash trunk

I am impressed with the camera’s depth of zoom, and its ability to get a sharp, shake-free image when zoomed to the max. I shot this early bird with its worm at maximum zoom from my front porch about 50 feet away.

The bird got the worm

I wished I could click in exact focal lengths as I zoomed, as I can on my Canon PowerShot S95. But I realize that most people use zoom to replace moving closer to the subject. I gave myself over to shooting the camera that way.

Reflecting in the pond

My one serious gripe with this camera is that the LCD reflects badly, washing out the display. In bright light, the LCD showed only my reflection, rendering me unable to compose. This is a dealbreaker.

At the pool

See more from this camera in my Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 gallery.

I’m sorry to say that I’m dropping this camera into the trash. Its white-screen problem made it more frustrating than rewarding to use. Also, its battery is nearing the end of its life as I got maybe 50 shots on a full charge. That one-two punch spells this camera’s doom.

But this is a pleasant little shooter, an easy companion for everyday photography. Except for its overly reflective LCD, it would have been a great choice in its day — capable for a good price.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard
COVID-19

Cheeseburgers and beer, al fresco

That I haven’t written one of my coronavirus missives in more than two weeks says two things: first, that I’ve been consumed with other things; and second, my family has largely adapted.

That doesn’t mean things are necessarily easy. Margaret and I needed to run a bunch of errands on Sunday. At the end of them we realized we were hungry and, more urgently, needed to pee.

We were a half hour from home. The nearby Starbucks wasn’t allowing the public to use their restrooms, as a protection against COVID-19. The surrounding gas stations looked sketchy and dirty.

I knew of a restaurant Downtown that had plenty of outdoor seating, and since we would be customers they’d let us use their restroom. It was ten minutes away, so that’s where we went. We had terrific cheeseburgers and glasses of beer and it felt so good and normal.

Lit Fresh Local Restaurant

But using the restroom provoked some anxiety. It was big enough for just one person, a tight fit. Was someone just in here? Were they sick? Was whatever they breathed out still hanging in the air? Would my mask protect me at all? I wasn’t going to be able to hold my breath through the entire visit. I didn’t even try. I just hoped for the best.

Our table was a good ten feet away from the nearest tables, which we liked. We had our masks, but it just wasn’t practical to swallow fast and put them on every time our server walked up to check on us. She was masked, so she was reasonably protecting us. But we weren’t protecting her, and she had no way of knowing whether we were carrying the virus. Heck, neither did we. Everyone in our house but me has to report to their workplace. Who knows whether the people they work with are carrying the virus? Were we putting our server at risk? Was everybody around us putting their servers at risk?

Our lives can’t stop entirely because of the virus. We need to bring in our paychecks so that we can afford to live. When we support businesses that were hit hard when everything shut down in March, we help others pay their bills, too.

But all of us have a responsibility to protect each other. At the moment, the best way anybody knows to do that is to wear a mask when you’re around people you don’t live with. Sometimes, that’s just impractical. Most of the time it’s not.

I encounter entirely too many people who aren’t wearing masks when I do the things I have to do outside my home. I haven’t counted, but I’d say it’s one third to one half of everyone I see. I’m losing my patience with it.

I get it, this is America, rugged individualism, Don’t Tread On Me, and all that. But this is also a nation that bands together in times of trouble. I’ve seen it. Why are we not doing it this time?

Standard