Film Photography, Travel

Shooting Fujifilm Superia Venus 800

Palmer House lobby

The whole point of fast films is to let you get shots in challenging light. Not just indoors, as in the photo of the stunning lobby of Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel above, but outdoors on overcast days too. Fujifilm Superia Venus 800 did a fine job on a Chicago weekend getaway my wife and I made early in January — prime time for dim, gloomy days in the Windy City.


The generous folks at Analogue Wonderland gave me this roll of film to try in exchange for this mention. I wish I had shot it earlier, as Fujifilm discontinued this film late last year. It’s out of stock at Analogue Wonderland (check on it here). But fear not, they have more than 200 other film stocks to choose from. If you can’t find the film you need at Analogue Wonderland, you should question whether you need it at all.

Red Line

Oh my gosh is it ever great to go into the Chicago subway and make a perfectly exposed photo with all the depth of field you can ask for. Also, the Venus 800 seems to be less grainy, and tolerate greater exposure sins, than Fujifilm’s Superia X-tra 800. That was my go-to ISO 800 color film until it was discontinued in 2016. I shot my last roll of X-tra 800 on this trip, too; I’ll compare the two in an upcoming post.

Central Camera

I shot my Nikon F3 with a 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens on this trip. I hadn’t shot the F3 in a year, and in that time its light seals finally degraded enough to leak a little light. You can see a faint red band on this photo of the iconic Central Camera sign. The longer I went between shots, the more pronounced the red band. Time for new light seals. I didn’t know this as I shot the roll, of course. When the leak intruded too much, I cropped the photos to remove it, as below.

River view

It was great to to shoot at f/8 for good depth of field, at shutter speeds fast enough for me to hold the camera in my hands. It may have been unusually warm for the first of January in Chicago — temperatures above freezing — but the days were plenty gray.

River view

One day we did get a few hours of partly cloudy skies. The Venus 800 let me choose even faster shutter speeds. It rendered Chicago’s colors beautifully — not too saturated, not too muted. The photo below lines up with my memory of that moment. That’s my favorite outcome for any film.

State Street

Even on a heavily overcast day, the Venus 800 got accurate color while delivering managed grain. My big beef with Superia X-tra 800 is pronounced grain. The Venus is a welcome improvement.

State Street

I’m super happy with the excellent color I got from Venus 800. I shot a roll of X-tra 800 right after I finished this roll and the colors were just meh.

Miller's Pub

Let’s take one more look at the spectacular Palmer House lobby, and pretend the light leak didn’t leave a red streak on the image. I’m used to my digital cameras being able to handle this shot, which I’ve made many times as the Palmer House is my favorite place to stay in Chicago. Only at ISO 800 have I been able to get a credible film photo here.

Palmer House lobby

Finally, I made this mirror selfie in our room on the 20th floor of the Palmer House. Those are my skin tones, all right. Not bad.


Fuifilm Superia Venus 800 is a lovely fast film. It’s a shame it’s discontinued.

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Bridge on State Road 225

The last one-lane bridge on an Indiana highway
Pentax ME, 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A
Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 (shot at 200)

Indiana State Road 225 runs just four miles, from State Road 43 a few miles north of Lafayette, through the small town of Battle Ground, through Prophetstown State Park, to a road that used to be State Road 25.

This four-span Pratt through truss bridge was built in 1912, before there was any sort of state highway system here. A stoplight at either end controls traffic so nobody has to play chicken on the bridge. Given that only about 950 cars cross it every day, I’m sure the state has never been terribly motivated to build a two-lane bridge here.

But that day might need to come soon. At its last inspection, this bridge was judged to be in poor condition, its structure requiring corrective action.

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Film Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: The last one-lane bridge on an Indiana highway

A barrel shot of a one-lane bridge on Indiana State Road 225.

Garrett at the bridge

My son at the old railroad bridge
Minolta XG 1, 50mm f/1.7 Minolta MD
Agfa Vista 200 at EI 100

A lot of abandoned railroad infrastructure remains across our nation. As railroads consolidated and shed lines through the 20th century, they left a lot behind.

Some of those lines have been converted to rail-trails. The best-known one in central Indiana is the Monon, named for its former rail line. But there are others.

A short rail-trail in Zionsville ends/begins at this bridge over Eagle Creek. A ramp leads down into Starkey Nature Park below, where there are great hiking trails. I like to go over there with my sons when they visit. Hence this photo.

This line was originally part of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway, also known as the Big Four Railroad. The New York Central took it over in 1906; they built this bridge. In 1968 New York Central merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad to form Penn Central, which went bankrupt in 1970. When Conrail was formed in 1976 it took over this line. I don’t know when it was abandoned.

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Film Photography

single frame: My son at the old railroad bridge

My son near an old railroad bridge in Zionsville, Indiana.

Film Photography

When you shoot old gear, you have to expect it will develop faults sooner or later

Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Superia Venus 800

I took my Nikon F3 along on a trip to Chicago with Margaret early this month. I shot two rolls of color and one of black and white in it. The color rolls are back from the processor and immediately upon opening the files my heart sank.

Dollars to doughnuts my F3’s light seals have failed. This red streak appears in direct proportion to how long it was since I made the previous photo. A photo made quickly after a previous photo didn’t leave enough time for light to sneak past the failed seal.

I’m going to try to replace the seals myself. I’ve never done it before, but I’ve read instructions and it looks tedious but totally within my skills. A set of seals with instructions were just $12 on eBay (here). Many thanks to everyone who has “bought me a coffee” with the button at the bottom of each post for your part in buying those seals!

This makes me realize, however, that I should send my F3 out for CLA (clean, lube, and adjustment). This is one of my go-to cameras — indeed, it’s the only camera I’d keep if I could keep only one. I want it to work reliably for the long haul. The friend who donated the F3 to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras suggested Blue Moon Camera and Machine for the CLA, and so that is where it will go.

Several cameras are in my CLA/repair queue. First up: my Nikon F2A, which has had a fussy meter for as long as I’ve owned it. It’ll go to Sover Wong in the UK. Eric Hendrickson will eventually get both my Pentax KM, which I dropped and damaged the last time I used it, and and my Pentax ME-F, which has an inaccurate meter. I also want to send my Yashica Lynx 14e to Mark Hama to give it an overhaul and correct its meter, which is a stop off.

I have also received a Pentax ME Super and a Kodak Retina IIa from a reader, both of which minor issues. I’ll put test rolls through both as soon as I can, but I’ll be shocked if I don’t enjoy them and want to keep them. They’ll end up in the CLA queue too. The Pentax will go to Eric Hendrickson but the Retina will go to Chris Sherlock in New Zealand.

Finally, my sister-in-law gave me the Kodak Retina Reflex III that had been her father’s. My initial inspection shows that it basically works, though the meter is hit or miss. I’ll eventually put a test roll through it. If it functions well enough mechanically, I’ll send it to Chris Sherlock for overhaul in honor of the family connection.

Readers left lots of great suggestions about where to send cameras for CLAs and repairs in this post.

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Rainbow Bridge

The Rainbow Bridge in Broad Ripple
Pentax K1000, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax
Kodak Gold 400

This bridge was built in 1906 to carry Guilford Avenue over the Central Canal in Indianapolis’s Broad Ripple neighborhood.

Underneath the deck, it’s a typical single-span concrete arch. What sets this bridge apart is its railings. The oval “links” are unique.

I have a dim memory from 25 or more years ago of the railings being painted in a more random color pattern. I have a clear memory of this railing being much shorter — in about 2013 a row of block was added underneath the links. See a photo of the shorter railing here. This was probably done to make it harder to fall off the bridge into the canal.

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Film Photography

single frame: The Rainbow Bridge in Broad Ripple

The Rainbow Bridge in Broad Ripple, an Indianapolis neighborhood.

The Astronaut David Wolf Bridge

The Astronaut David Wolf Bridge
Kodak Signet 40
Kodak Gold 200

This is the last truss bridge still standing in Indianapolis. It was built in 1941 to carry State Road 100 across the White River. Its two Parker through trusses are bookended by Warren pony trusses.

In 1941, this was way out in the country. The Indianapolis city limits were several miles to the south. But as the city expanded outward, as cities do, eventually this region became suburban, and this road became a major shopping destination. This road, and therefore this bridge, were no longer sufficient for the traffic volume.

Fortunately, sane heads prevailed. When the road was widened to four lanes in the late 1980s, a new two-lane bridge was built alongside this one to carry westbound traffic. This bridge was left in place to carry eastbound traffic. In 2008 it received a thorough restoration. Somewhere along the way, the city of Indianapolis named it after astronaut David Wolf, who was born and raised here.

This is a challenging bridge to photograph given its length and how many strip malls crowd the area. Once I made a through-the-windshield video when I crossed this bridge; you can see it here.

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Film Photography, Road Trips

single frame: The Astronaut David Wolf Bridge

The story of the last truss bridge still standing in Indianapolis.