Photography

Favorite subjects: Crown Hill Cemetery

Is it weird to like photographing cemeteries? I’m drawn to them. When I’m on a road trip I stop to tour even the most ragtag patch of graves. But I prefer beautiful cemeteries, and Crown Hill is easily the most beautiful of any of the cemeteries I’ve photographed. It could be my favorite favorite subject of all.

A cemetery could be the best place for an introverted photographer to go when he needs some alone time. I seldom encounter other people in cemeteries, and when I do, they leave me alone. But my wife sometimes comes along. I know it’s love because being with her is nearly as good as pure alone time. We love to take photo walks together. She took this photo of me at Crown Hill on one of our walks.

A portrait of the photographer

Nikon N60, 28-80 mm f/3.3-5.6 AF Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2015. Margaret Grey photo.

The Civil War still raged when Crown Hill was founded in 1863. It was the city’s second major cemetery even though it was located, at the time, outside the city limits.

CrownHillMap.PNG

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google

Spanning 38th Street along the Michigan Road, Crown Hill started at 236 acres and expanded over the years to its current 555 acres. More than 200,000 people are interred here, from everyday citizens to titans of industry, celebrities of their time, one President, and three Vice Presidents.

The cemetery got its name from a notable hill on the property that came to be called the “crown” of Indianapolis. It’s the highest elevation in a notably flat city. Standing on the crown, you can see for miles.

Let’s start our photo tour at the crown and take in the view. I’ve shot it over and over. I love it.

Indianapolis from the heights

Olympus OM-1, 50mm f/1.8 F. Zuiko Auto-S, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2015

Long view

Nikon N2000, 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E, Kodak Ektar 100, 2014

Many of the most prominent names in Indianapolis have tombs on this hill. But at the very top lies a poet who, in his day, had rock-star celebrity status.

Looking uphill at Riley's rest

Pentax ME, Fujicolor 200, Sears f/4 80-200mm zoom, 2013

It’s hard to imagine now how any poet could be so adored as Riley was. At around the turn of the 20th century he was the nation’s most-read poet. His public appearances could bring out thousands of people. Indiana schools were required to teach his poems in the 1910s! His 1916 death was front-page news across the country. His body was allowed to lie in state in the Indiana Statehouse, an honor previously bestowed only on Abraham Lincoln. So it was small wonder that he was buried at such a prominent and visible place.

Riley's rest

Kodak Pony 135 Model C, Fujicolor 200, 2013

Schoolchildren traditionally leave coins on his tomb. It is all donated to the Riley Hospital for Children.

James Whitcomb Riley

Olympus Stylus, Kodak Gold 200 (expired), 2013

This little child, sitting next to Riley’s tomb, will forever read Riley’s rhymes.

Riley reader

Canon PowerShot S95, 2011

Many of Crown Hill’s most interesting grave markers are on the hill.

Home Sweet Home

Pentax ME, 80-200 mm f/4 Sears Zoom, Fujicolor 200, 2013

Head

Pentax ME, 80-200 mm f/4 Sears Zoom, Fujicolor 200, 2013

Short steps

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E, Kodak Portra 160, 2015

Crown Hill is also a showplace of cemetery architecture. As a bridgefan, I love the bridge that carries 38th Street over a road that connects the north and south portions of the cemetery. When you drive along 38th Street you might never know the bridge is here. It was built in 1925.

Crown Hill bridge

Canon PowerShot S95, 2011

On one visit, we met mama deer and her fawns at the bridge.

Under the bridge at Crown Hill

Canon PowerShot S95, 2011

One of my favorite photos from Crown Hill is this one from under the bridge.

Tunnel *EXPLORED*

Nikon F3HP, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Plus-X, 2015

Crown Hill has two entrances. This gate, built 1885, awaits at the south entrance.

Gates

Olympus Stylus, Kodak Gold 200 (expired), 2013

The actual gates are ornate iron affairs.

Cemetery gate

Yashica-D, Kodak E100G, 2014

Just beyond the gate stands the Waiting Station, built the same year.

Crown Hill gate

Kodak Pony 135 Model C, Fujicolor 200, 2013

The 1875 Gothic Chapel is just down the road from the Gate and the Waiting Station. It held James Whitcomb Riley’s body for a year while his burial site was prepared.

Chapel

Kodak Pony 135 Model C, Fujicolor 200, 2013

57 private mausoleums dot the grounds, and they can be stunning.

Columns

Voigtländer Vito II, Kodak Plus-X (expired, cold stored), 2015

This mausoleum holds the body of Carl Fisher, who founded the Indianapolis 500 and the Lincoln and Dixie Highways.

Fisher

Sears KS-2, 135mm f/2.8 Auto Sears MC, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2015

Many of the less prominent gravesites have interesting markers, too.

Grave marker

Canon PowerShot S95, 2011

Test

Certo Super Sport Dolly, Model A, Kodak Ektar 100, 2017

Even graves that have plainer markers seem more interesting because of the lovely setting.

Barney

Nikon N2000, 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E, Kodak Ektar 100, 2014

Autumn is stunning at Crown Hill. It’s my favorite time to go.

Autumn at Crown Hill

Nikon F2AS, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100, 2015

Autumn at Crown Hill

Nikon F2AS, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100, 2015

Autumn at Crown Hill

Nikon F2AS, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100, 2015

My favorite subject within this favorite subject is the National Cemetery. Established in 1866 and administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, this 1.4-acre site inters primarily Union Army soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

Crown Hill National Cemetery

Yashica-D, Kodak E100G, 2014

795 soldiers are buried here.

At Crown Hill

Nikon F2, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2016

The plain markers’ sober, dignified typography makes them compelling.

James Richard Bradford

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2016

Charles H. Ackerman

Yashica-D, Kodak Ektar 100, 2017

I have regularly taken my sons to Crown Hill for the portraits I make of them. There are plenty of places to make portraits that are not obviously in a cemetery. But this spot before military graves was interesting enough to me that I photographed it anyway.

Damion

Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2016

Let’s take one last trip up the big hill for a parting view of the city.

Overlooking the city

Voigtländer Vito II, Kodak Plus-X (expired, cold stored), 2015

I believe I will miss Crown Hill the most of my favorite photographic subjects. Maybe I can get Margaret to drive down with me sometimes. This is one worth hanging onto even if it does take me a lot longer to drive to it now.

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Along the Wall

Along the north wall
Olympus Stylus
Eastman Double-X 5222
2017

I have way too much film in the fridge. Way too much. I moved a bunch of it to long-term storage in the freezer and am systematically shooting the rest.

The first roll I shot on Operation Shoot-Em-Up was some Eastman Double-X 5222, which I liked pretty well the last time I shot it. It tended to blow out in bright sun, but under the right conditions the blacks were so deep you could fall into them.

I dropped a roll into my Olympus Stylus, a camera I don’t shoot often enough. I didn’t shoot any terribly important subjects, but I did experiment with perspective a little bit here and there, as in this photo.

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Photography

single frame: Along the north wall

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Image
Photography

On having your work featured on Flickr Explore

Each day, Flickr showcases 500 photographs from among that day’s tens of thousands uploaded. A super-secret algorithm selects them based on their “interestingness” for other Flickr users to explore. Today’s Explored photos are always on this page for your browsing pleasure.

Many people do browse Explore every day and click Like on the photos that grab them. That’s where being Explored gets fun: your email blows up with notifications of all those Likes. Flickr otherwise gives you no heads up that your photo was selected. If you think one of your photos was Explored, the Scout page at the Big Huge Labs site (here) will tell you.

My first Explored photo was a quick image I made to illustrate a blog post. I didn’t arrange the subject especially carefully. I didn’t even bother to remove clutter from the background (such as the bottle of aspirin). But Flickr called it interesting just the same.

Kodak Brownie Hawkeye and expired film *EXPLORED*

Canon PowerShot S95, 2013

I’d been a Flickr user for six years before that image was Explored. But that seemed to open the spigot, so to speak. Seventeen more of my images have been Explored since then. I’m sharing them all here, in chronological order.

I’m happy this one was chosen — I think it’s a wonderful image. This is part of Oldfields, the Lilly family house on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Evening light at Oldfields *EXPLORED*

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100, 2014

After a while I stopped trying to guess how Flickr chooses images for Explore. I just enjoy it when one of my images is chosen. Experience has showed me that only the first, or maybe, maybe, the second, image in your photostream is eligible. This has led me to upload photos in smaller batches, always placing the photo I’m happiest with at the front of the batch. It has somewhat increased my success rate.

Still life with fan *EXPLORED*

Canon PowerShot S95, 2014

Sometimes an image can become un-Explored. It’s because Flickr’s algorithms keep calculating on each image forever, and each day’s Explored images are ranked. If another photo becomes more interesting than yours, it moves your photo down the ranking. If your photo’s rank falls below 500, it falls off that day’s Explore. That’s what happened to both the image above and below. They entered Explore at numbers 498 and 496, respectively. After a few days, other photos somehow became more interesting and replaced them in the rankings. The Big Huge Labs Scout page tells you the rank at which each of your Explored images started, by the way. To see images that fell off Explore, click the Include Dropped link.

Farmall *EXPLORED*

Nikon F2AS, AI Nikkor 50mm f/2, Fujifilm Superia Xtra 800, 2014

I especially like it when my film photographs are Explored. A lot of what makes Explore is heavily Photoshopped native digital imagery. My work is so elemental and minimalist in comparison.

851 *EXPLORED*

Yashica Lynx 14e, Arista Premium 400, 2014

I’m especially amused when a photo of one of my old film cameras gets Explored. I shoot these images for the reviews I write on this blog and don’t mean for them to be especially interesting.

Nikon F3HP *EXPLORED*

Canon PowerShot S95, 2014

But when I shot that roll of Fuji Velvia 50 slide film, I certainly aimed at interesting! At least interesting to me. I was happy Flickr agreed on this photo.

Red tree parking lot *EXPLORED*

Nikon F2, Fujifilm Velvia 50, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, 2014

One of my Explored photos resonated so well with viewers that it racked up a whopping 36,000 views over a few days. I shot this in Garfield Park in Indianapolis. Someone had written these words on these steps and I had the good sense to compose a photo around them.

Every step of the way *EXPLORED*

Nikon N2000, 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2014

Once in a while one of my old-camera photos turns out just great. As I’ve written before, I’m not always thrilled with how they turn out, but I use them in my reviews anyway. This was one of those photos, and I was pleased that it was Explored.

Kodak 35 *EXPLORED*

Canon PowerShot S95, 2015

I use my point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot S95 primarily for family snapshots, road-trip documentary photos, and other non-artistic work. But it’s a worthwhile camera when I want to do serious work. I’ve made many pleasing images with it. This was one of them, and I’m happy it was Explored.

Publix Theatre *EXPLORED*

Canon PowerShot S95, 2015

The afternoon of a challenging day I spooled some Kodak E100G into my Yashica-D and shot the whole roll in my front garden. It was photo therapy. I didn’t take great care in composition but this photo was Explored anyway.

Yellow and purple lilies *EXPLORED*

Yashica-D, Kodak E100G, 2015

I don’t think this photo from the cattle barn at the Indiana State Fair is all that interesting, but Flickr’s inscrutable algorithms disagreed sharply. I can’t tell whether this photo was Explored despite the light flare, or because of it.

Moo *EXPLORED*

Nikon Nikomat FTn, 50mm f/2 Nikkor H-C, Arista Premium 400, 2015

Two images from the same roll of film were Explored. It’s my personal best. The first is above and here is the second.

Fencepost *EXPLORED*

Nikon Nikomat FTn, 50mm f/2 Nikkor H-C, Arista Premium 400, 2015

The more experience I gain as a photographer, the more control I have — I increasingly know what a photo will look like, in my head, from the available light and the settings I chose. But this photo from under the 38th St. bridge at Crown Hill Cemetery turned out far better than I envisioned. I was very happy with Flickr’s Explore algorithms agreed.

Tunnel *EXPLORED*

Nikon F3HP, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Plus-X, 2015

This photo from inside the Methodist church in Woodstock, Illinois, was another that fell off Explore after it was added. Too bad.

Inside Woodstock First UMC *EXPLORED*

Nikon N90s, 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor, Arista Premium 400, 2015

I didn’t think this photo was anything special at all, but Explore featured it anyway. If you’re ever in Indianapolis, you’ll find this house on Cold Spring Road just west of Michigan Road.

House on Cold Spring Road *EXPLORED*

Minolta Maxxum 9xi, 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Minolta AF Zoom, Kodak Max 400, 2016

In contrast, I really hoped this photo would be Explored, so much did I like it. But I was in an Explore dry spell. Seven of my 2015 photos were featured, but only two in 2016.

Leaves on the iron bench *EXPLORED*

Canon A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Fujicolor 200, 2016

My dry spell correlates to a several-month period when I used Lightroom to upload photos. I recently got frustrated with Lightroom’s maddening interface and quit using it. I returned to uploading photos with Flickr’s Uploadr, and almost immediately one of my photos was Explored. It was this one, from the Olympus µ[mju:] Zoom 140 I reviewed recently.

Praying angel *EXPLORED*

Olympus µ[mju:] Zoom 140, Fomapan 200, 2017

Did using Lightroom really have anything to do with my Explore dry spell? Who knows. Maybe if my acceptance rate goes up now, I’ll have some evidence. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a fun surprise when one of my photos is featured.

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Dilapidated

Dilapidated
Olympus µ[mju:] Zoom 140
Fomapan 200
2017

This is the cutest house in my old neighborhood. It’s so cute compared to the other basic brick and frame ranch houses on every street that you wonder how it got built there.

Yet for as long as I lived there, it received care that was indifferent at best. At present it appears to be abandoned, with gutters full of crud, that decorative front-door shutter hanging loose, and a lawn that has turned to weeds and hasn’t been cut in weeks.

As you may infer from the tenses I’m using in this post, I’ve completed my move and now live in Zionsville. I’m happy the move is complete, and I’m thrilled to get to see my wife every single day.

Photography

single frame: Dilapidated

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Road Trips

I love the Michigan Road, but I don’t always like living near it

The Michigan Road sucks. At least it does where it passes near my northwest Indianapolis home.

It’s still the Michigan Road, built in the 1830s to connect the Ohio River to Indianapolis to Lake Michigan, opening the entire northern part of Indiana to settlement. I will always love it.

But a long section of the road has been a part of my daily life for more than 20 years, and frankly, I try to avoid driving on it.

As a major artery, Michigan Road’s speed limit is 45 MPH. Especially since the late 1990s when the last portion of the road was widened to four lanes, traffic really flows fast. The road is designed to swiftly move lots of cars. Yet lots of businesses and even entrances to residential neighborhoods line the road. People turn left all the time, and there is no central left-turn lane. Rear-end accidents are common. It has happened to me twice.

MRBumperBash1

These photos are from the first accident, which happened a half block south of the 1852 Aston Inn house. Can I admit to still feeling satisfied, even five years later, that the other guy’s car sustained so much more damage than mine and was probably totaled? I was stopped behind a car turning left when I noticed this guy coming up fast. The crash was unavoidable, so I pressed hard on my brake to avoid hitting the waiting car before me. It’s amazing the crash didn’t do more damage to my car. And yes, someone’s head smacked the other car’s windshield in the accident. That fellow disappeared the minute I called the cops. Arrest warrant? Here illegally? Hope the concussion was worth it.

MRBumperBash2

Lesson learned: drive in the right lane, even if left-lane traffic is moving faster. The frequent left turns just create too much risk.

MR_NW_Ind

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google.

Meanwhile, this 2½-mile section of Michigan Road, from Kessler Boulevard north just beyond 71st Street to the former town of Augusta, has seen happier days. It’s a sad sight to drive through.

This strip’s heyday was probably the 1960s and 1970s when this road was still US 421. A building boom brought strip malls, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and motels.

Today, those strip malls are aging. You won’t find a Kroger or a Target here — it’s all second- and third-tier retailers and service providers. The motels, gas stations, and restaurants that remain have been repurposed for other uses. Many of these buildings have received minimal maintenance and show their age.

This mishmash of shabby businesses provides a poor introduction to the area, which is filled with middle-class neighborhoods.

This used to be a shoe-repair shop, but has been vacant for a while.

Pink building

I applaud the creative reuse of this former motel as a day care, but I wish it could be made more attractive.

Kiddie Factory

This aging strip of shops is at least kept tidy. The barber shop owner gave his overhead sign a fresh coat of paint in the last couple years; it had faded to near illegibility.

Barber

The pedestrian trail built a few years ago robbed this little strip of some of its parking. I can’t imagine that these tenants were happy about it. Here’s a 2008 photo that shows cars parked at these doors.

Getting your hair done on the Michigan Road

Mr. Dan’s is a small local burger chain. I photographed it in 2015:

Mr. Dan's

I don’t know what happened that the joint is called Mr. Dee’s now, but their reuse of the existing signs has all the grace and style of a knuckle sandwich.

Mr. Dee's

Ace Lock and Key has been on this corner for longer than I’ve lived in Indianapolis. This building looks like its first use was as a gas station. It’s an attractive little building.

Ace Lock and Key

When I mentioned the kinds of retailers you won’t find along this stretch of Michigan Road, I mentioned Kroger and Target specifically because this strip once contained both. Kroger was on the left, and Target was on the right. They moved out just before I moved to the area, and the buildings were vacant for years. Now it’s a grading facility for school standardized tests.

Fomer Target/Kroger strip

The strip mall on the southwest corner with 71st Street/Westlane Road has changed a lot since I moved here. This was once a full-line Marsh grocery store, but for most of the time I lived here it was a dim, dirty store with only basic grocery items. They chained up the carts. Someone at the service desk had to come unlock one so you could use it. Such class. Then Marsh closed it and discount chain Save-A-Lot moved in. Unfortunately, they also tore out Marsh’s attractive facade and rebuilt it with this windowless wonder. At least it didn’t go vacant.

Save-a-Lot

Across the street is the dry cleaner I’ve used all the years I’ve lived here. It was once a drive-in restaurant.

Griffith Cleaners

By all accounts, the food at this Vietnamese restaurant is delicious. The former fast-food building could use some love, however.

Pho 54

Here’s another tidy, aging strip. The clock-repair shop has been there longer than I’ve lived here. I had them repair a watch once, and they did a nice job.

Strip mall

It sure seems to me that this solidly middle class part of town would be able to attract higher-line businesses and improved facades.

Houses are sometimes sandwiched between the various commercial buildings along this section of Michigan Road. Many of them have seen happier days.

House on Michigan Road

A few houses have been well cared for, but it’s far easier to find ones that could use some TLC.

MCM

Over the years some buildings have seen great improvement. This building was vacant for years, and was clearly in sorry condition a couple years ago when this funeral center bought it and renovated it.

Serenity Funeral Services

St. Monica’s Catholic church and school has always been well cared for. A couple years ago, fire destroyed the section of the building at about the center of the photo. The church immediately rebuilt it.

St. Monica's

When I moved here, this U-Haul location was dingy and depressing. Some years ago it was renovated inside and out, and looks great.

U-Haul

This lot was vacant for a long time until this church was built.

Praise Fellowship Family Center

A bowling alley once stood on this lot, but it went out of business five years ago or so. This storage place opened only in the last year or so, and its graceless design says “industrial park” more than “shopping district.” Its setback from the road is also considerably shallower than anything else nearby, which makes it an imposing presence. It’s wrong for this section of the road.

Storage

A few auto-parts places were built along this corridor in the last 10 years or so, and they’re well kept. This is the one I visit most often.

Advance Auto Parts

I do understand this much about retail: the shiny, new shops always go where the money has moved to. If you drive just four miles north of here on Michigan Road, into Carmel, you’ll find solid retailers like Target, Best Buy, Kohl’s, and The Home Depot, plus shiny chain restaurants and coffee shops. Perhaps that’s why this section of Michigan Road is left to molder. It only takes ten extra minutes to get to the nice shops from here.

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

I am shockingly busy. Moving into my new home in Zionsville is only one thing in my life consuming considerable time and energy. I’m sure I’ll write about it all someday.

But thank heavens that a giant burst of post inspiration in about mid-August led to my post queue being full through about the first of October. I love it when the words flow freely and the posts nearly write themselves. Otherwise, this blog would have had to go silent through most of September.

The only thing I’m doing for the blog right now is answering comments — and aggregating each week’s favorite blog posts.

Have you noticed how film cameras seem to pop up in advertising for things not related to photography? Stephen Dowling has, and he has a hypothesis as to why. Read Why Are There So Many Film Cameras in Adverts?

Jennifer Bowman writes of the feeling of wonder, and how its experience is a luxury and a privilege. Read An ethic of wonder

Some are pointing to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma as evidence of climate change. Scott Adams says not so fast: you can’t determine a long-term trend by looking out the window. And in many fields, experts get it wrong all the time. He’s not saying that climate change isn’t real, and he’s not saying that these hurricanes aren’t evidence of climate change — he’s just asking us to be rigorous in our analysis. Read When to Trust the Experts (Climate and Otherwise)

Gas station architecture has evolved greatly over the last 100 years. Paul Niedermeyer, writing for Curbside Classic, shares from a cache he found of 1950s-60s Kodachromes of gas stations. I remember seeing some stations like these during my 1970s kidhood! Read Vintage Kodachrome Snapshots: Gas Stations of the 50s and 60s

Here are the camera reviews and experience reports I found this week:

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