Photography

A gentle plug for my two books as Christmas nears

Books of my photography make great gifts for yourself, or for the photographer in your life!

My newest book, Textures of Ireland, collects black-and-white photographs I made on a 2016 trip to the emerald isle. If you like travel photography, or rich black-and-whites, you’ll enjoy this book.

From the book’s introduction: “We rented a car and drove to Ireland’s northern tip. Over several days we slowly made our way back to Galway, passing through Portrush, Letterkenny, Donegal, Ardara, Killybegs, Sligo, Ballinrobe, Clifden, and Oughterard. The beach town of Barna, a short distance from Galway City, was our home base for the next several days.

“I chose T-Max for its low grain and well-managed contrast, in its ISO 400 form so I could confidently make photographs in a wide range of available light. I had no idea it would yield photographs so rich in detail you want to touch them, and when you do you’re surprised that your fingers can’t feel the textures.”

Textures of Ireland, 36 pages, $14.99 plus shipping. Printed on demand at Blurb.com.

My first book, Exceptional Ordinary, is a collection of images I’ve made with my favorite film camera, the Pentax ME.

From the book’s introduction: “You can realistically expect any working 35mm SLR to perform well. With rare exception, they come with good features and optics. … Get even a basic body in working condition and even an entry-level prime lens like a 50mm f/2 and you can make wonderful photographs for years.

“I didn’t know any of that when I went looking for my first SLR. I simply wanted a Pentax K1000, as it was the SLR I knew best. I was once married to a pro photographer who did wonderful work with hers. … But even 20 years after the venerated K1000 went out of production, prices on the used market were more than I was willing to pay. But I kept coming upon another Pentax SLR, the ME, and they sold for peanuts. And it took all of the same lenses as the K1000. So I bought one. And I fell in love with it.”

Exceptional Ordinary, 44 pages, $14.99 plus shipping. Printed on demand at Blurb.com.

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Film Photography

Shooting Fujifilm Provia 400X

Fire station

Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto sent me a few rolls of film from his fridge in thanks for a favor. It was mostly slide film, something I haven’t shot very much as my skinflint tendencies reliably turn me to inexpensive stuff like Fujicolor 200. I’ve been shooting it a roll here and a roll there. After enjoying a roll of my usual inexpensive stuff in my Nikon N2000 recently, I went for broke and loaded a gifted roll of slide film: Fujifilm Provia 400X.

The Bungalow

My 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens was already on the camera, so I left it there. Say what you will about zoom lenses, and this zoom lens in particular — Ken Rockwell calls it one of Nikon’s worst lenses ever — but I like this lens. It’s sharp enough, the zoom range is super useful for the subjects I shoot on photowalks, and it offers a macro mode. The wicked barrel distortion evident at its wide end is easily corrected in Photoshop.

Monon bridge

I am pleased with the rich color this film delivered. It hits a sweet spot between realistic and deep. These are the colors I remember when I was on the scene, but they’re richer, deeper somehow, and they make me want to go back and experience them again in person.

Purple link

This place, by the way, is Broad Ripple, a hip neighborhood on Indianapolis’s Northside. I visited it because it’s so colorful. I loved being able to shoot this ISO 400 slide film on a cloudy day — most slide films I’ve shot before are much slower, ISO 50 or ISO 100, requiring slower shutter speeds and a steadier hand.

The Depot

I also shot some of this roll on a bright, sunny day in downtown Fishers. This was the last time I shot any film there before I lost the job that brought me there five days a week. I hated that long, tedious commute and don’t miss it. There’s no good way to get to Fishers from anywhere. After you’re there, though, it’s not too bad.

Fountain

The Provia 400X kept on delivering. Just look at those blues and greens.

Mean street of Fishers

Here’s a quick look down one of Fishers’ few remaining original downtown streets. I showed you some of them not long ago in this post. I’m sure that in the next few years this will all be gone in favor of urban density. I shot this in late October, just as the trees were beginning to turn. We had an unusually warm early autumn, which delayed the onset of color. But when it came, it came fast and intense. The trees were largely bare after just a couple weeks.

Red leaves

The 35-70mm lens’s macro mode let me get right up on some of the leaves.

Pillow on our couch

Provia 400X’s speed let me experiment with a few shots inside. The subject isn’t terribly interesting but the colors are spot on with reality — after I Photoshopped out a green caste that the ambient incandescent lighting imparted.

Bathroom selfie

I tried a bathroom selfie. My black hoodie was a bit of a stretch for the Provia, even with 240 watts of light burning right over my head.

The Ruins

I also made a quick trip to The Ruins at Holliday Park in Indianapolis. I just love that place. I need to go photograph it proper one day and show it to you. This one photo will have to do for now.

My other slide-film experience has been a single roll of Velvia 50 and a whole bunch of Ektachrome E100G. The Velvia is super ultra saturated, which would be fun sometimes but isn’t my style most of the time. The E100G is nice stuff but a little too blue. This Provia really hits a sweet spot for me: realistic but rich color rendition.

Fujifilm doesn’t make Provia 400X anymore, and remaining stocks are all past their use-by dates. This roll was expired, but Stephen obviously stored it properly and it performed as new. This is very nice stuff and it’s a shame it’s discontinued.

If you’d like to see my photography in your inbox almost every day, click here to subscribe!

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Personal

Job search update

I accepted a job. I’m going back to work January 7 as an Engineering Manager for a national software company with a large office in Indianapolis. If you live in the US and have children in school, you probably have used, or at least have heard of, the product I’m going to help build.

I had hoped to find another small company ready to scale. The company I’ll be working for is well established, with a mature product and thousands of employees. Smaller companies have been my “sweet spot” where I’ve found great satisfaction and delivered solid results. But I didn’t find such a company ready for a person like me on this job search. 

Yet I am relieved. And this company should provide a solid platform for growth.

When I found myself unemployed in 2015, I was in high demand. Several companies expressed strong interest in me, I picked up some side consulting, and I got to weigh two competing job offers.

But in 2015 I was selling myself as a Quality Assurance leader. (QA people test software to make sure it works as intended.) I have a great story to tell there, backed up with deep experience.

Since then I made the transition to Engineering leadership. It came not a moment too soon, for as I discussed in this post on my software blog QA leadership roles are drying up, and for good reason. 

But in Engineering I find myself in a much larger pool of competition. Frankly, it hurt me as a candidate that I haven’t coded in ten years and am only lightly familiar with modern development and infrastructure tools and frameworks.

I claim that this doesn’t matter. What I might lack in technical chops I more than make up in skilled leadership. I made a deliberate choice some years ago to double down on being an outstanding leader, and it had the natural consequence of letting my technical skills wither and age. But I get outstanding results anyway, because I know how to harness my teams for best engagement and best results.

This turned out not to be as compelling a pitch as I imagined. In two opportunities I was passed over for candidates with more recent technology experience. Maybe this is ego talking, but I would be surprised if they had anywhere near the leadership skill and experience I do.

But I have to take this as an important signal. In my new role, I need to learn the technologies we use. I must go deep enough that one day when I’m on the market again, I have a technology story to tell that removes any doubt about me.

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Photography

For sale: The New Augusta train station

Augusta Station

The little 1850s railroad town of New Augusta is nestled among suburban streets of Pike Township in northwest Indianapolis. If you don’t know it’s there, you might drive right by it with no idea. A rail line went in through here in about 1852, and a town formed around the stop that was built here. This station dates to about 1895.

New Augusta’s rail days are long since past, but the station remains — and is now for sale, along with a three-bedroom house next door. My wife and I are sorely, sorely, sorely tempted — we’d love to live in this charming enclave. Alas, we’re at least a year away from being ready to move. But if this property interests you, read more about it here.

New Augusta Train Station

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Collecting Cameras, Film Photography

Operation Thin the Herd: Nikon N2000

In Starkey Park

Nikon fans had to be disappointed in their favorite camera manufacturer in 1985 upon the introduction of the N2000. It was the first Nikon SLR ever to have a plastic body. Polycarbonate, to be precise. It was also first to lack a winding lever — automatic winding was built into the body. Perhaps that luxury feature softened the blow for dedicated Nikon shooters.

Nikon N2000

Does Nikon even make a metal-bodied camera anymore? The N2000 pointed toward the future. And when I came upon mine, I found it to be a robust and highly capable tool. Here’s a shot from my very first roll of film in it, Fujicolor 200, through a 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E lens. This is my most-viewed photo on Flickr, by the way, with 36,838 views as of the day I am writing this.

Every step of the way *EXPLORED*

I liked this camera so much that I shot it all over Ireland a couple years ago. I was gifted a 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens that was just right to take in Ireland’s sweeping vistas. I shot Kodak T-Max 400 all over that country.

At Kylemore Abbey

This gives me a great chance to plug my book, Textures of Ireland, which collects the best of my black-and-white Ireland photos. They’re all as beautiful and as deep as the one above, of Kylemore Abbey in County Galway! I’d be thrilled if you bought a copy today: $14.99 plus shipping for paperback and $4.99 for a PDF. Click here to order one!

The N2000 handled beautifully all over Ireland. It proved fully Nikon tough when I fell hard on some slippery rocks — the camera banged right into them, leaving a dent in the bottom plate. It kept working as if nothing had happened.

It was with this memory in mind that I loaded some Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 into it for a hike through Zionsville’s Starkey Park. It had rained the day before and the trails were wet.

Backlit leaf

I had mounted a 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens that I picked up somewhere along the way. I like this lens a lot, except that at its widest end it has wicked barrel distortion. It shows right up in any shot with straight lines. I corrected this photo’s distortion in Photoshop with a few clicks.

Bridge

I did have some trouble getting good exposures this late afternoon. The sun was low in the sky, casting deep shadows. But by the end of the roll the winder was sounding sickly, meaning that the batteries were weak. Drat! That had to affect the meter’s accuracy.

Stalk

This little zoom lens offers a macro mode, too. I love macro lenses!

Berries

There was plenty of autumn foliage to get close to.

Flowers

I shot this whole roll in Program mode, letting the camera choose all the settings for me. With its automatic winder, all I had to do was focus and press the shutter button. At the end of the roll I did have to manually rewind the film — automatic rewind was one nicety that Nikon wasn’t ready to offer the world yet in 1985.

Rocks

The N2000 was an eager and versatile companion on this hike. If only I had thought to put fresh batteries in before I left the house!

Pond

To see everything I’ve ever shot with this camera, check out my Nikon N2000 gallery.

I just love this plastic Nikon SLR. I love most of my other Nikon SLRs, too, especially my two F2s and my F3. I sure as hell don’t need them all. But it’s good to have a reliable F-mount body that, if damaged or lost, would not reduce me to tears. I can buy another N2000 for under $30. Try that with an F2 or F3.

Verdict: Keep

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

Welcome to the first Saturday in December, Roadies!

💻 Old TV shows sometimes depict mores and morals that seem strange and even repugnant to us now. TV writer Ken Levine considers “The Honeymooners” and why he doesn’t have a problem with Ralph Kramden’s suggestions of domestic violence against his wife. Read Weekend Post

Antiques
Canon PowerShot S95, 2018.

💻 The Century of Progress International Exposition happened in Chicago in 1933, and it featured five futuristic houses. After the expo they were moved to Indiana, where they still stand on the shore of Lake Michigan. Susie Trexler shows them to us. Read The House of Tomorrow Today

💻 I haven’t been to Louisville in a long time — not since before they tolled the I-65 bridge over the Ohio River. That was part of a massive, 1.3-billion-with-a-B dollar project to build new bridges over that river to link Indiana and Kentucky. Aaron Renn was against the project from the start, and now that it’s done it appears to have actually caused harm rather than done any good — and Renn is saying “I told you so.” Read Louisville Bridges Project Is the Biggest Transportation Boondoggle of the 21st Century

💻 At my age (51), retirement is starting to feel far less abstract. I’m not financially on track to be able to retire. So Mr. Money Mustache was timely with this post about how it’s possible to live off a reasonable investment if you manage your lifestyle expectations carefully. Read How to Retire Forever on a Fixed Chunk of Money

📷 Josh Solomon reviews Fujifilm Professional 400H film for Casual Photophile. I’d never given the stuff a look before — good heavens, what stunning color! Read Fujifilm Fujicolor Professional 400H Film Profile

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