Our day trip up the Michigan Road ended in Logansport. The sun had not yet set when we reached town, but after we finished our dinner, it had.
It was the night of Light Up Logansport, their annual holiday parade. It had been years since I thought about this event. Eleven years, to be exact — I blogged then about being lost in a maze of closed streets, trying to pass through town to get home. A kindly cop let me cross a closed street and I was on my way.
This night, we parked our car beyond the parade route so we’d be sure not to get tied up in it. Walking back to our car took us right by the State Theater, which was all lit up for a free movie that night.
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Logansport’s City Building doesn’t look like much from the outside. I drove by it many times while exploring the Michigan Road without stopping for a photograph. You only get a clue that something interesting may lurk inside when you see the City Building letterforms over the doors.
I made these exterior shots on a Michigan Road day trip my wife and I made recently.
But in 2013 I got to go inside, for a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association, and I made a few photographs with my phone. I haven’t shared them before because my phone struggled with the low interior light and I wasn’t terribly happy with how they turned out.
But I’m unlikely to get inside again any time soon, and imperfect photographs are better than no photographs!
Logansport built its City Building in 1925, at a time when the city was flush with cash thanks to the railroads that ran through town.
My research revealed nothing more about the City Building. It’s too bad. It’s a lovely building, lovelier than you’d expect in a city the size of Logansport.
What I like best about the building is the stained-glass skylights on the top floor. You can see one through these doors.
There is more than one skylight, but this is the most prominent of them as it is in the center of the roof, visible as you enter the building and ascend the stairs.
I did my best to hold my phone level while standing directly below this skylight.
Returning now to the present day, my wife and I stayed in Logansport long enough for darkness to fall and the decorations to light up.
Canon PowerShot S95, iPhone 5
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When I surveyed the Michigan Road in 2008, I felt bad for little Kirklin, a town about 45 minutes north of Indianapolis. Except for its lovely Carnegie library, it was all but dead. Its run-down buildings, mostly vacant, said that Kirklin’s best days were long past.
A page on my old site shows Kirklin as it was in 2008, plus some postcard images of it during its early-20th-century heyday. Click here to see.
A couple antiques dealers operated out of dilapidated storefronts. As I walked up and down Kirklin’s portion of the Michigan Road, my camera in one hand and my two dogs attached via leash to the other, they came out and accosted me. “Why are you photographing our town?”
When I explained about the Michigan Road and my quest to photograph it end to end, their tones softened. “We sure wish we could get more people to make the short drive up here from Indy to visit our shops,” they lamented. “It would make all the difference to our little town.”
Kirklin was in a catch-22: there wasn’t enough to do there to make the drive worth it, but without people willing to make the drive it wasn’t worth adding anything more to do.
And so I’m puzzled, as Kirklin has renovated most of its buildings and added a number of shops. Most of those shops deal in antiques and knick-knacks, but it’s absolutely enough to make it worth the drive from Indy. My wife and I spent a couple pleasant hours browsing here. We met several of the shop owners, who engaged us in very pleasant conversation. We even bought a few things.
Here, have a look at Kirklin today.
It would be lovely if Michigantown and Burlington, two neighboring Michigan Road towns directly north, could find this same level of revitalization. It would make a lovely “antique alley,” a one-tank trip and a very pleasant day. Travelers could start in Logansport and end for dinner in northwest Indianapolis, or start in Indianapolis and take their meal in Logansport.
Margaret and I recently took a mini road trip up the Michigan Road. We made it as far as Logansport, where we had dinner and then headed back. But on the way up we stopped to see Sycamore Row.
It’s always grand to see these old trees, even if the story on the historic sign might be more legend than fact. Nobody knows for sure why these trees are here.
But we’re glad they are. We’re also glad that new sycamores are occasionally planted. Historic photos of Sycamore Row show many, many more sycamores here than there are now.
To me, late autumn is the best time to see these trees as it makes their jagged and knurled branches visible.
This old alignment ends at Deer Creek. A steel truss bridge carried this alignment over the creek here until 1987, when a new alignment was built several feet to the east. Locals above a certain age remember how harrowing it was to encounter an oncoming semi in here.
Turning around for a look back, you can see how the Michigan Road used to flow directly from this road segment.
Canon PowerShot S95
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I’ve never read a negative review of Olympus’s XA2, a remarkably compact 35mm camera. Everybody seems to like it. eBay bears it out: prices hover around $100 for working and complete examples. I am fortunate, as this one came to me for free from the collection of an old friend’s father.
The tiny XA2, introduced in 1980, was based on the 1979 XA but replaced its rangefinder with zone focusing and its f/2.8 lens with an f/3.5 lens. And when I say this camera is tiny, I mean tiny — it’s only fractionally larger than my Canon S95 or my wife’s Sony RX100, both compact digital point-and-shoot cameras that don’t have to hold a 35mm film cartridge.
I loaded a roll of Ultrafine Xtreme 100 black-and-white film, pulled a battery out of another camera I’d just finished using, slipped this XA2 into my coat pocket, and took it everywhere for a couple weeks. And then, as I explained in this post, I got black shadows, blown-out highlights, poor sharpness, and lack of detail. Here’s a shot from inside a nature park near my home, heavily Photoshopped to make it usable.
I know better than to test a new-to-me old camera with an old battery and film I don’t know well yet, and then to send the film to a lab I’m still getting to know. So I declared the first test roll null and void, and loaded a fresh battery and tried-and-true Agfa Vista 200 into the camera. I had the camera shop downtown process and scan the film. Glory be, I got good stuff back from the XA2 this time.
The little green light inside the viewfinder came on a lot, meaning that the XA2 needed a slow shutter speed to get a good exposure and that you should consider using flash or a tripod. Bollocks, I said each time. Every day but one I shot this camera I enjoyed full sun. I should have been getting plenty fast shutter speeds.
I can’t tell what is making that green light come on so often. The XA2 doesn’t tell you what aperture and shutter speed it’s choosing based on the meter’s reading, so I don’t know how I would check this meter’s functioning against a known-good meter. But these results speak for themselves: it didn’t matter.
Autumn came late in central Indiana this year. It served to deepen the eventual colors, but to shorten their life span. It seemed like all the trees changed color and dumped all their leaves inside two weeks. I was fortunate to be able to take several good walks with the XA2 in my coat pocket during those days. That’s the XA2’s killer feature, by the way: you can carry it everywhere so easily.
These full-sun photos were all noticeably vignetted, so much so that in the centers, light colors tended toward white. I was able to fix that pretty well in Photoshop. I had the same effect with an XA2 I used to own, so I assume this is endemic to the camera.
I experienced the common (and minor) challenges with the XA2 as I used it: the clamshell cover hangs up unless you slide it open in exactly the right direction, and the shutter button is super sensitive and likely to fire when you don’t mean it. If this were my only camera I’d get past those quirks after three or four more rolls.
I finished the roll before meeting a friend for lunch Downtown on a gray, chilly day. That green slow-shutter light was on for every shot, but as you can see the camera did fine.
When you close the XA2 it moves the focus to the middle zone, which brings into focus everything 4 feet or more away. Because the camera biases toward big depth of field, for most subjects you can just open the camera, frame, and press the button. For truly far-away subjects you can use the landscape setting, and for close subjects (no closer than three feet, though) you can use the portrait setting. I did that here, and in this light got a narrow-enough in-focus patch that the background blurred a little.
Many film photographers say they prefer the XA2 to the XA. I’m not in that camp. I like the XA’s rangefinder and I prefer the characteristics of its lens. That said, the XA2 is almost point-and-shoot simple with plenty great optics. If I shot people on the street, this would be a great camera for it: open it, frame, snap, done.
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