Yashica Lynx 14e

I wished I had an f/1.4 lens for my Nikon F2 last month when I visited the classic car museums in Auburn, Indiana. My f/2 prime would have left me with a mighty narrow in-focus patch; I wanted that extra stop of exposure. I had just had good luck with my Yashica Lynx 14e indoors in available light, though, so I decided to give it another try.

I also wanted to shoot black and white, given that I’d shoot endless color with my Canon PowerShot S95 on the trip. I had just bought a ton of Arista Premium 400 so I loaded up a roll. This film is heavily rumored to be rebranded Kodak Tri-X. It behaves much the same to my eye.

And then the light in these museums moved frequently and quickly between bright areas and deep shadows. I knew getting good exposure would be tricky, and that the Lynx’s viewfinder would not help me figure it out. I really wished I had an SLR for its through-the-lens viewing.

All day, I framed shots and hoped for the best. After the photos came back from the processor, several were beyond saving. These turned out all right, though. This photo of an Auburn’s fender and wheel required no Photoshopping.

Turned wheel

That luck didn’t last with photos of a pair of step-down Hudsons in the National Auto & Truck Museum. Light blasting in from intermittent skylights left deep dark areas in what had once been the Auburn factory. My Lynx did the best it could.

Hudson in the shadows 2

Despite the difficult light hiding many of this Hudson’s details, I like the mood that lighting creates here.

Hudson in the shadows 1

Dim, even lights in the National Auto & Truck Museum basement meant wide-open exposures and the narrowest in-focus patches, but with care I made some of them work. Here’s a 1952 Chevrolet.

52 Chevy

I lingered over this wine-colored Nash Healey, the first one built.

Nash Healey

Inside the neighboring Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg museum, shooting away from the enormous plate-glass windows gave the best chance for good exposure. Always a contrarian, I tried a few shots facing them. This was the best of them; the rest could not be salvaged.

Parked by the big windows

Getting down and close worked, too.


Here, I made one of the great windows work to my advantage.

Duesenberg reflecting in the Auburn

Upstairs, faced with illumination entirely by spotlight, I all but gave up on the Lynx. I did manage this one photo.


I wish I could say that I enjoyed the challenge in this difficult light. But I’d face this frustration again, because I want to prove I’m photographer enough to handle it.


16 responses to “Bespoke in black and white”

  1. traveller858 Avatar

    It certainly seemed to work out in the photos seen here. I especially like the first and last but one. (could be simply single fenders and wheels!)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I like those shots best, too, especially the first one.

  2. Carole Grey Avatar
    Carole Grey

    Ah, wonderful black & white. The factory photos are reminiscent of old movies with it’s dark areas and light bouncing off the autos. Intended or not – well done!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! The factory was quite challenging because of the uneven light but I did get a few good ones there.

  3. Mike Avatar

    Lots of good material to mull over in this post: rangefinder vs slr, museum design and lighting, film choices, focal length and perspective. I think you should add definition-of-success to your list. You came away with quite a few nice shots on a single roll of film. Also, you obviously learned some useful lessons from the shots that didn’t live up to your hopes.

    From another point of view, examining each shot individually in terms of technical virtuosity is useful, but ignores the cumulative effect of grouping pictures to establish a narrative. I know a lot of photographers want each picture to stand alone on its merits apart from a verbalized context, but that has always seemed an arbitrary and not very productive choice to me.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My bottom line definition of success is always this: was I able to make a usable image. That making sometimes happens more in Photoshop than in the camera. Such was the case in several cases here, esp. with the Hudsons. Those two in particular are not as technically good as I’d like but they do carry an interesting mood, which is why I shared them. That, and I love step-down Hudsons.

      I suppose that as I grow as a photographer, my definition of usable will change.

  4. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

    Hmmm, maybe a bit tricky lighting true, but I would have thought that the added light from outside would have helped more than hindered, but of course I use mainly color film myself and I’ve never tried black & white on lighting conditions such as these. How slow did you set your shutter? It’s my understanding that you can get sharp images down to 1/15, maybe 1/8 sec with a leaf shutter. True, you only had 24 shots, but this would have been a prime opportunity to experiment…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The outside light on the first floor of the ACD museum did help *if* you kept it at your back. I wasn’t always so smart.

      I went only as slow as 1/30 because I was shooting handheld. I’m pretty steady, but not steady enough for 1/15 or 1/8. I probably could have experimented more than I did!

  5. pesoto74 Avatar

    I do tend to think that low light is one area where digital has an advantage. With image stabilization and crazy high usable ISOs I find that I almost always use digital in low light.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yup. It’s digital’s shining moment, to be sure. Especially with a better digital camera, such as a DSLR or a higher-end P&S.

  6. Cristian Regnier Avatar

    Nice capture on Duesenberg refelction.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you! I got a couple similar captures with my digicam, too.

  7. dehk Avatar

    Lots of those up there you needed to +2 what the meter said from the bright reflection on car or behind. Even SLR it will fool it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve never played with exposure adjustment. Maybe it’s time to start.

  8. Christopher Smith Avatar
    Christopher Smith

    What about using a tripod or flash or was that not an option. These are good photos anyway.
    I like old a American cars.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I thought about bringing my monopod, but forgot it. I’m trying to learn about available-light photography and so am not using flash. I don’t even know if flash sync works on my Lynx!

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