Photography, Preservation

Coxhall Gardens

It wasn’t that long ago that Hamilton County, Indiana, was mostly farmland. When I moved to central Indiana in the mid 1990s, if you drove north from Indianapolis into Hamilton County, city rapidly gave way to corn and soybean fields.

Today, it’s all developed. The Hamilton County towns of Carmel, Fishers, and Noblesville have annexed a great deal of the county and, one by one, farmers have sold their land to developers. Office buildings line the major roads now. Everywhere else you’ll find homes, ranging from inexpensive vinyl-village subdivisions, to gated communities of stone and brick homes, to sprawling estates. You’ll also find the suburban shopping centers that follow residential development.

Jesse and Beulah Cox foresaw this all happening. They bought the farm of original Hamilton County settler John Williams in 1958, and by 1974 they had built their dream home on the property. In 1999, they donated their property to the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department to preserve their land, to “create an oasis in a sea of homes,” Jesse said. Their farm, now known as Coxhall Gardens, is a sprawling park. It’s also one of my frequent photographic destinations.

Williams began farming this land in 1855, and built this house on it in 1865.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

As you drive by, this house is largely hidden by a row of trees. When the Coxes bought the property, they lived in the Williams house at first.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

The Williams’ barn still stands near the house.

At Coxhall Gardens
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200
Barn
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

Looming behind the barn is the mansion the Coxes built in 1974. (But first, they built and lived in a single-story ranch in what looks like limestone. It still stands, but I’ve never photographed it.)

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

I was surprised to learn that this large, solid home was built so recently. It looks like something from a hundred years before.

Mansion at Coshall Gardens
Rollei 35B, Fujicolor 200

I especially enjoy the mansion during the warm months, because it is lushly landscaped.

Mansion at Coxhall Gardens
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

I don’t know the significance of this statue, but I like it and have photographed it a number of times.

Statue at Coxhall Gardens
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

I’m partial to this photo of my wife on the mansion’s steps.

Margaret at Coxhall Gardens
Rollei 35B, Fujicolor 200

Not far from the mansion is the ampitheater. The rotunda-like stage is large enough only for a small performance, such as a musical quartet.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

Many times I’ve found people here making wedding photographs. This would be a lovely setting for an outdoor wedding.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL
At Coxhall Gardens
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200
Up the ampitheater
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

This monument to the Coxes, featuring their quote about the “sea of homes,” stands at the back of the ampitheater.

The Coxes
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

When you walk behind the ampitheater, you find yourself on a bridge over a large pond. From there, you can easily see the park’s two large clocks.

At Coxhall Gardens
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200
Concrete donut
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

Here’s one of the clocks from a little closer. I don’t know what their significance is, but they are a defining feature in the park. Notice the bells below the clock. I’ve never heard them ring.

At Coxhall Gardens

This is the bridge behind the ampitheater.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

Finally, there’s a little “wild west” village in a back corner of Coxhall Gardens, which I imagine might be fun for children.

Wild Wild West
Rollei 35B, Fujicolor 200

You’ll find the entrance to Coxhall Gardens on Towne Road, just north of 116th Street, in Carmel, Indiana.

Reviews of the cameras used in this photo essay: Rollei 35B, Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Pentax K10D.

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Personal

My Facebook policy

I’ve declined a bunch of Facebook friend requests recently. Perhaps I should explain, in case one of those requests came from you.

I use my Facebook account primarily to promote this blog and the Historic Michigan Road. I don’t post much otherwise; it’s just not that much fun anymore. Anybody who wants to know what I’m up to just needs to read this blog!

Most of my posts are visible to anyone, and I’ve set up my Facebook account so anyone can follow my public posts. If you want to follow me, go to my profile page and click the Follow button. If you send me a friend request and I decline it, Facebook also adds you to my followers list.

Most of my public posts come over automatically from Instagram (follow me here). Sometimes I’ll post a wry status update. That’s 97% of what I post on Facebook.

For all that’s wrong with Facebook, it remains an incredibly efficient way of sharing personal and family news — which is the last 3% of what I post. But that news is often at least semi-private. I limit the visibility of those posts to friends or even sometimes even narrower groups within my friends list. That’s why I limit who I connect with on Facebook.

Here are my loose rules for accepting and declining friend requests:

  • I accept friend requests from family.
  • I accept friend requests from people in real life whom I consider to be at least an acquaintance.
  • I usually accept friend requests from people I’ve interacted with online enough that I feel like I know them on some level and/or are well connected to people I already know, and I judge them to be trustworthy with personal news. I say usually, because if I feel hinky at all, I decline.
  • I do not accept friend requests from people who currently report to me at work, and I usually do not accept friend requests from current co-workers. I think it’s wise to keep a boundary with my current workplace.
  • I accept friend requests from anyone I worked with earlier in my career at other companies, if I judge them to be trustworthy with personal news.

I’m no celebrity who needs to protect himself from the masses — I’m just a dude in Indiana with odd hobbies and a blog. But I decline four out of five friend requests, and I always wish I could explain when I do it.

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Copies & Fax

Copies & Fax
Pentax IQZoom 170SL
Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
2020

When I last used my Nikon F2AS, I worried that the meter wasn’t right. To keep testing it, I put some Fujicolor 200 into it, and found that it has indeed gone wonky. Sadly, I’m going to have to send at least the head out so the meter can be recalibrated.

I’d shot only a few frames of the Fujicolor 200. Not wanting to waste the film, I removed it from the F2AS and spooled it into my delightful little Pentax IQZoom 170SL point-and-shoot.

I met my son in Indianapolis’s Fountain Square neighborhood for a cheeseburger in September. It wasn’t so chilly yet that we couldn’t sit outside. After our meal, we strolled around the neighborhood a bit. We came upon this hardware store which was ripe for a photograph.

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Film Photography

single frame: Copies & Fax

An old-style hardware store in Fountain Square, Indianapolis.

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Film Photography

Ilford FP4 Plus in LegacyPro L110

I recently got decent results developing 120 Ilford FP4 Plus in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B (1+31). The more I use this Kodak HC-110 developer clone, the more I like it. Meet my colleague Ishank.

Ishank

And this is Trent. We met for lunch Downtown on a warm autumn day. A particular cheeseburger joint has plenty of outdoor seating.

Trent

We met for lunch on Indianapolis’s popular Massachusetts Avenue (“Mass Ave,” we all call it). We met on the block in the photo below thinking we’d hit the fried chicken place, but we learned that during COVID they’re not serving lunch. So we walked up the street and found the cheeseburger place open.

Stout's on Mass

In many shots, blacks went to 100% and there was no detail available to retrieve in Photoshop. Areas of Ishank’s hair, beard, and T-shirt came out fully black. In the photo below, note especially the side of the truck in the foreground, and the slacks of the woman in the mural.

Mass Ave

I probably underexposed those photos. I should have metered for the shadows, especially in the photo above where the light is so mixed. Instead, I started the meter app on my iPhone, aimed it at the middle of the scene, and set the Yashica-D to whatever it said. I would do well to be more disciplined in my metering technique. Fortunately, my hasty technique worked fine in even lighting, as in the scene below.

1915 Room

I shot these in my Yashica-D. I use my Yashica-12 more often because of its built-in meter and easy crank winding. But the D is still a lovely camera. Its Yashikor lens, a triplet, gives a lovely swirly bokeh (see the portraits above) that the 12’s Yashinon lens, a Tessar clone, can’t match. People in the photo forums decry the Yashikor’s softness compared to the Yashinon, but I find the Yashikor to be plenty sharp.

Prayer Request

Speaking of sharpness, I continue to learn so much from your comments. On my recent post about Kodak Panatomic-X film, Ted Marcus recommended deconvolution sharpening over unsharp masking. I searched the Internet for more info and learned that you can do it natively in Photoshop’s RAW editor. This article explains. I like the effect better than unsharp masking. The real test will come when I try it on 35mm scans.

Mowed down cornfield

I took the Yashica-D on a drive one chilly lunch hour and stopped in some familiar places. If I had known that fellow was going to bike into my frame, I would have waited a second or two longer so he would have appeared in a more interesting spot!

Wrecks, Inc.

I like shooting 12-exposure rolls of film when I’m shooting aimlessly like this. One good photo walk, or two or three short photo walks, and its into the developing tank with the roll. It also reminds me of my early days making photos in my little Kodak Brownie Starmite II and later in my crappy Imperial Magimatic X50. I had no choice but 12 exposures in the Brownie on 127 film. I could buy 20- (and later 24-) exposure 126 cartridges for the Magimatic, but often bought 12-exposure cartridges because they were less expensive. I had so little money then. I hadn’t worked out yet that it was more economical per frame to buy the 20-exposure cartridges, especially when you factored in developing and printing.

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Music

Tom Lehrer releases his lyrics into the public domain

I first heard Tom Lehrer’s music in high school. Without my parents’ knowledge, I used to stay up past my bedtime on Sunday nights to listen to The Doctor Demento Show on the radio. It was (and is, as it continues online), a program of novelty and comedy records. The good Doctor held up Tom Lehrer as one of the true greats of musical satire, which, I can see now, he was. Or is, as he is still alive at 90-something.

This is the first Tom Lehrer song I remember Dr. Demento playing. It spoke to me as a child of the Cold War. If you weren’t alive then, let me impress upon you just how tightly woven it was into the fabric of our lives. We feared that the USSR would one day just start firing nuclear missiles at us, sparking World War III and the utter destruction of the Earth. We sometimes speculated over which cities would be first targets, and based on how close or far we lived from them what kind of hideous death we would suffer, from instant vaporization to acute radiation poisoning or anything in between. Anyway. Here’s Tom helping us all process and release our nuclear anxieties.

Dr. Demento played many of Tom’s other songs. We learned from the good Doctor that Tom recorded two or three versions of many of his songs: a studio recording of just Tom at his piano, a live recording, and a studio recording with a full orchestra. This song about, well, BDSM, benefits in particular from the orchestra.

What endeared me most to Tom Lehrer, however, was his songs about mathematics and science. Music was just one of his talents and interests. He was quite adept at mathematics — he entered Harvard to study it at age 15! He taught mathematics in universities throughout his working life. Here, he sings about a change in the way arithmetic was taught in schools starting in the 1960s.

He also sang the entire Periodic Table of the Elements to the tune of I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General. I was a deeply geeky teenager whose sense of humor connected with nobody I encountered in real life. It was a revelation and a relief to find that others thought that nerdy things could be made funny!

Tom Lehrer’s musical career, if you can call it that, intertwined with his adademic pursuits. He alternated between writing, recording, and performing songs and pursuing degrees and teaching. He released his first record in 1950, his second in 1959, and his third in 1965. He toured the world; he appeared frequently on television. And then he lost interest in it all, and retreated to academia, where he stayed.

Except that in the 1970s he contributed songs to a children’s show called The Electric Company, which aired on PBS. This show’s aim was to help early elementary students learn to read. I watched this show when it was new — I was a little older than its target audience, but in those days we had but a handful of TV stations with few children’s programming options. I remember these songs well, but didn’t learn that Tom Lehrer was behind them until I was well into adulthood. I knew Tom Lehrer before I was aware of it! Some of his songs were performed by the show’s actors, but Tom sang a few himself to an animation, like this one.

The reason I’m writing about this today is that Lehrer has released all of his lyrics into the public domain, and is said to be working to release his music into the public domain as well. He is aware of his music being uploaded to YouTube, and he is on record as not caring. So let’s listen to just one more of his songs, a perennial favorite he performs here live in 1998, which I have to assume is among his last public performances. No less than Stephen Sondheim introduces him.

If you’d like to know more about Tom Lehrer, Buzzfeed published a great retrospective and interview a few years ago. Read it here.

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

💻 Our fear of doing work that isn’t very interesting, useful, or even good frequently blocks us from trying new things. I face that as I prepare to publish my first book of my original writing. But I’m pressing on, despite that fear. Paul Graham encourages us all to, if we have something we want to make that we’ve not done before. Read Early Work

Corn ready for harvest
Canon PowerShot S95, 2020

💻 I share a post by Rush Limbaugh with some trepidation because he’s a polarizing figure and some of you surely can’t stand him. I enjoyed his radio show in the ’90s, but since then I’ve fallen out of his audience as I’ve moved to the center politically (or maybe the right has moved so, so, so far to the right), and as Rush has become more strident and less entertaining on his program. But the fellow has stage 4 lung cancer. He spoke about it on his show this week, and reading the transcript, he shows some remarkable personal insight. I found it interesting. Note: If you’re poised to leave a poison comment about Rush, don’t bother because I’ll just delete it. Read An Update on My Health: It’s a Roller Coaster

📷 Kenneth Wajda considers how we used to make photographs to preserve memories, but now we do it to show what we are doing now. It has implications on the kinds of photographs we make. Read When the Audience Changes and We Have to Show Proof

📷 Winter is coming. This can be challenging for film photographers, as our old gear doesn’t always play well with the cold, and our fair-weather films are sometimes too slow for winter’s gray days. Alex Luyckx has some solid tips on how to keep shooting film when the temperature dips. Read The Cold Weather Challenge: Photography, Winter, and You

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