Carmel Artomobilia 2017

Pentax ME, 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M
Fujicolor 100

DeSoto seems like such an odd name for an automobile. But until it went defunct in the early 1960s, I’m sure it seemed as normal as Chevrolet.

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Film Photography, Old cars, Photography

single frame: DeSoto


Old cars

Carspotting 2017

I photograph old cars wherever I find them parked. 2017 turned out to be a great year for finding them — this is probably the biggest harvest since I started doing this, back in 2012. What a bumper crop!

My two rules: the car has to be parked, and it has to be at least 20 years old. And so, here now the cars.

1961 Ford Falcon

1961 Ford Falcon. Margaret and I had finished a big dinner at our favorite Broad Ripple restaurant and were walking the surrounding neighborhood when we came upon this like-new Falcon. It has to have been restored at some point, pretty faithfully (I do question those dog-dish hubcaps).

1968 Buick Skylark

1968 Buick Skylark. I had to move fast, as this car was preparing for takeoff. I spotted it in the parking lot at the Walmart Neighborhood Market near where I used to live.

1968 Chevrolet Camaro

1968 Chevrolet Camaro. The parking lot behind the Nickel Plate Bar and Grill in Fishers turned out to be fertile ground for old cars this year. It’s always nice to come upon a Camaro that hasn’t been resto-modded into a firebreathing muscle car.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro

1969 Chevrolet Camaro. Like this one has. At least it is tastefully done. By the way, I lived in my old neighborhood ten years and saw exactly one old car parked there…until this year. This was the first of several I saw, but I managed to photograph only this one and one other.

1970 Pontiac Firebird Esprit

1970 Pontiac Firebird Esprit. Where the Camaro above was obviously a restoration, this Firebird is an unrestored original. That’s how I prefer them! Just check out the nicks in the paint. This was another find in the nearby Walmart parking lot.

1973 Chrysler Newport Custom

1973 Chrysler Newport Custom. This is far and away my favorite find of the year. My cigar-chomping great uncle William drove a car much like this one. I remember riding in my dad’s car once as we followed William somewhere. His windshield washer nozzles were misaimed, and he took great delight in spraying washer fluid all the way over his car and onto the hood of Dad’s 1971 Chevy Impala while we waited at a light. This was another find in the Nickel Plate parking lot.

1975 Ford Thunderbird

1975 Ford Thunderbird. A neighbor in my old neighborhood kept this car parked behind his house for several months before it suddenly appeared curbside. Turns out he’d listed it on Craigslist. It lingered here for several weeks, but finally disappeared.

1973-74 VW Thing

1973-74 VW Thing. My Toyota needed some attention from my mechanic. As I parked it on his lot I spied this funky little Thing looking pretty used up.

1977 Chevrolet Corvette

1977 Chevrolet Corvette. While taking my sons out for dinner in Fishers, we came upon this electric blue Corvette. On the one hand I respect it for surviving, but on the other I’m not much of a fan of these boulevard cruisers.

1977 Ford F-150

1977 Ford F-150. A building is going up next door to where I work in Fishers, and all manner of the workers’ trucks park nearby. This is by far the oldest truck I’ve seen.

1977-81 Pontiac Firebird

1977-81 Pontiac Firebird. On the day I helped my youngest son start his college career at the University of Indianapolis, we came upon this yellow Firebird on campus. Another unrestored survivor!

1983 Buick Skylark

1983 Buick Skylark. I see this car on the road near my office almost every day. It passes by at about 11 am, like clockwork, beneath the window of a conference room where I have a daily meeting. One day I spotted it parked at the McDonald’s down the street. I never thought of these “J cars” as particularly well built, so it’s always a surprise to find one still rolling.

1983 Jeep Wagoneer

1983 Jeep Wagoneer Brougham. Indiana lets drivers of antique cars use old license plates from the car’s model year. The plate on this one was from 1983, but this grille is from 1974. Maybe the owner liked that grille better and bolted it onto his Wagoneer. Wagoneer Broughams (as this car is badged) were made only from 1981-83. It was the mid-level trim those three years, slotting below the base model and the upper-trim Limited.

1987-89 Chevy Celebrity

1987-89 Chevrolet Celebrity. I was very surprised to find this well-used old car in a very tony Zionsville neighborhood.

1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera

1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. Olds made Cutlass Cieras with composite headlamps and the original six-window greenhouse for just one year: 1988. Spotted in downtown Fishers.

1989-95 Plymouth Acclaim

1989-95 Plymouth Acclaim. These changed so little across their run that it’s very hard to know which model year this one is. I always think of these as the perfect car for people who don’t like cars. My friend Elsa owned one twenty years ago when I first met her. She doesn’t care at all about cars. She’s owned two Accords since, and still says her Acclaim was her favorite car. Spotted in downtown Fishers.

1990-2000 BMW 3 seires

199x BMW 3-series. It’s hard to believe that BMW made these for so many years. To me, this is the ultimate 3-series body. I found this on the same day and in the same place as the 1977 Corvette. You can see the Vette’s hood through the BMW’s greenhouse.

1992-95 Pontiac Bonneville

1992-95 Pontiac Bonneville SE. Hard to believe these now qualify as old. Spotted at the Fishers Super Target.

1993-94 Ford Explorer Limited

1993-94 Ford Explorer Limited. Hard to believe given how many of these Ford made, but these early Explorers are quite rare today. Perhaps the Obama-era Cash for Clunkers program did a lot of them in. I found this one at the 38th St. Meijer (big-box store similar to Walmart) in Indianapolis.

1993-95 Chrysler LeBaron GTC

1993-95 Chrysler LeBaron GTC. The LeBaron was once a high-end Chrysler. This compact convertible had nothing to do with the model’s history and should have been named something else. Another find in the Nickel Plate parking lot.

1994-99 Dodge or Plymouth Neon

1994-99 Dodge/Plymouth Neon. I suppose this Neon could be newer than 20 years old, but it’s hard to tell just by looking at it, as Chrysler didn’t change these much over their manufacturing run. Someone sure slathered on the aftermarket trim bits, though. Spotted in the parking lot of my previous employer.

1995-96 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

1995-96 Chevrolet Camaro Z28. Spotted at an Indianapolis Dairy Queen, this Camaro was in mighty fine shape considering how badly these were flogged by their teenaged second, third, and fourth owners.

1995-97 Ford Contour

1995-97 Ford Contour. Another once-common car that’s mighty thin on the ground today, this early Contour was waiting for its owner at the 38th Street Indianapolis Meijer.

There! A whopping 23 cars this year. That’s almost one every two weeks! A remarkable harvest for here in Rustopia.

Old cars, Film Photography

Kodak Plus-X and the Carmel Artomobilia

I had two SLRs slung over my shoulders at the 2017 Carmel Artomobilia last month: my Pentax ME with wonderful Fujifilm Superia 100 inside, and my Pentax Spotmatic F with my last roll of Kodak Plus-X.


On this day, with this lens (55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar), the Plus-X returned blacks you could just fall into.


And the grays and whites came out creamy.

Hurst Olds

I wished briefly that I had screwed in my 35mm f/3.5 SMC Takumar. The thick crowds made it difficult, at best, to back up far enough to get entire cars in the frame. The 35/3.5 would have made me back up a lot less.


But I’ve been exploring the 55/1.8’s considerable charms lately, and in retrospect am not disappointed I left it on the camera. It performed well, and it’s seldom a real problem to focus on an old car’s details.


Growing up in the 1970s as I did, when half or more of the cars on the road were from GM, it was easy to take their dominance for granted. Looking back, it’s clear just how good their designs were. How daring it was in 1970 that the second-generation Camaro and Firebird had no distinct rear passenger windows! The shape of this window opening is just smashing.

Flying lady

Packard’s Flying Lady hood ornaments are a favorite subject. I shoot them whenever I come across them at a car show.

Ol' propeller nose

This is the famous front end of the Studebaker I photographed from the rear here. The girl walking away was a happy coincidence as I framed this shot, so I made sure to include her.


The Citroën DS is funky from every angle and in every detail. Just check out how these headlights don’t both point forward. This is a later DS; earlier ones had uncovered headlights.


Plenty of American muscle was on display at the Artomobilia. I’m partial to the Mopars of the era for their no-nonsense styling.


Avantis were made in my hometown, South Bend. They were Studebakers at first, but after Studebaker shuttered a new company formed to keep Avanti production going. They used leftover Studebaker engines at first but eventually had to turn to Chevy to provide powerplants. Post-Studebaker Avantis were given the “Avanti II” name, probably for rights reasons.

Avanti II

As the show began to wrap up and the crowds thinned, I was able to get a few wider shots of the event and its cars.

Vette 2

It wasn’t all classics at the Artomobilia. Several owners of newer hi-po Ford Mustangs lined up their cars for inspection.

Hoods up

Here’s hoping I can find time for more car shows. I do love to photograph cars and I think I’ve become pretty good at it. They’re certainly the subject with which I am most confident.


Piloting the Buick

At the wheel of the old Buick
Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar
Kodak Plus-X

I’ve never been very good at moving fast. I’m more the slow, thoughtful type. But there are moments in my photography when a wonderful scene emerges before my eyes and I have to move fast before it disappears. Such was this moment.

I forget what my camera’s settings were. I probably didn’t even know as I framed and focused. I probably just twisted the aperture ring until the viewfinder’s exposure needle registered good exposure, pressed the shutter button, and trusted that on such a bright day I’d have settings that would give me enough depth of field.

I was right. And I moved fast enough to catch the girl’s delighted smile.

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Film Photography, Old cars

single frame: At the wheel of the old Buick


Old cars

Carspotting 2016

I take photographs of old parked cars when I come upon them. Normally, I write about them over at Curbside Classic, the old-parked-car blog. But this year I’ve not made time to write over there as much as usual. So for those of you who read both there and here: you’ll see some cars today that I’ll write about over there eventually!

However, the harvest was not ripe this year. Here are the handful of cars at least 20 years old that I found.


1973 Pontiac Grand Ville convertible. Margaret and I capped our wedding weekend with dinner on Main Street in Zionsville. Walking back to our car, we came upon this long, low convertible. It appears to be a survivor — that is, original and unrestored. Just how I like ’em! More on Curbside Classic here.


1975 Continental Mark IV. This was parked at church one Sunday morning. It belongs to one of our neighbors, who we let park in our lot since on-street parking is hard to come by in this neighborhood.


1979 Chevrolet Corvette. Margaret and I found this on 56th St. just off Broadway in New York City. This is the reddest Corvette I’ve ever seen! More on Curbside Classic here.


1984-88 Nissan Maxima. I don’t know a whole lot about these, except that a college buddy’s dad had one. At the time, I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t have spent the same bigger bucks on a Buick. Oh, how naive I was.


1986-90 Dodge Ramcharger. I’ve always thought these looked great. When I wrote about it for Curbside Classic, some commenters decried the skinty tires. As if all trucks need to be jacked up and on giant knobby tires. I think this thing looks just right.


1990 Honda Civic CRX Si. Somebody I work with owns this. I don’t know who, mind you, but it showed up in the lot at work a couple months ago and is there every day. It’s a survivor, and it’s refreshing to see one of these in original condition. I hope this guy keeps it this way forever.


1993-96 Lincoln Mark VIII. I always thought these were good looking. But this one had peeling paint everywhere. A shame. More on Curbside Classic here.


1996 Ford Escort LX Sport. I’m pretty sure Ford offered the trunkback version of this car only this year. My dad had the hatchback version, in this color I’m pretty sure, and it’s the car he owned the longest. That thing was hard to kill.


1997 BMW M3. This car belongs to one of the partners at the company where I work. We went to lunch one day and he let me drive it. I’ve always wanted to drive one of these! We didn’t go far, and I was not about to sink my foot into the floorboards in my big boss’s car, so I didn’t find out what this M3 was made of. But just rowing it through its gears put a smile on my face. And ok, it’s only 19 years old. But it’s my blog and I want to include it!

Old cars, Photography

The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems

When we look back at the past, all too often it’s through rose-colored glasses.

But who doesn’t like to indulge in nostalgia? I sure do. I especially enjoy photographing classic cars and reminiscing about times when they still roamed America’s roads. One of my favorites is the 1966 Ford, like this convertible I found at the Mecum auction in May. My dad owned one when I was small, a two-door hardtop. I spent many happy hours in its spacious back seat.

1966 Ford Galaxie 500XL

Check out that styling! This long, low car looks so purposeful, so strong. Aren’t those tail lights just the bomb? It’s so much better looking than the tall, blobby cars they make today. And they made these cars out of heavy steel. You could sit five people on the hood of this car! Man, didn’t things just make sense back then? Today’s cars are bodied in steel so thin that if you sink your bottom onto a hood, you will dent it.

1966 Ford Galaxie 500XL

But those wistful memories can’t mask the truth: you’re safer in any modern car than in this one. And it’s not just that this old Ford lacks airbags and has only lap belts. Fords of this vintage were famous for sloppy handling, making it hard to quickly steer to avoid a crash. And the brakes are drums all around, subject to fast fading during a hard stop. Oh, and see that steering wheel? It’s mounted to a rigid steering column. In a head-on crash, it becomes a missile that smashes into your face. In modern cars, that column collapses on impact. Also, in modern cars a safety cage frames the entire interior to resist crushing in a crash. That thin exterior sheet metal, along with everything else outside that safety cage, is designed to absorb impact and keep you alive and intact. If you had a serious accident in a ’66 Ford, the car would crush in, and you would absorb the impact. The safety advantages of modern cars are well documented; check out this head-on crash between a 1959 and a 2009 car to see it in action.

1966 Ford Galaxie 500XL

When we look back on the past, we often fall prey to nostalgic preferences and the fading affect bias. In other words, we tend to remember the past’s good parts and forget the bad. It’s human nature to forget that in a crash, an old car like a 1966 Ford would cheerfully maim or kill you, and that far fewer people die in crashes per mile traveled today than 50 years ago.

But this forgetting tends to make us think whatever bad things are happening now have sunk society to new lows. We live in a time of great national economic uncertainty, racial unrest, and global terrorism. The specter of authoritarianism and fascism has risen in this year’s Presidential election. We have a right to be worried, angry, and even afraid. But think back to any time in the past and consider national and world events then. Racial tension has always been with us and has led to violence at various times in our history. Terrorism has been going on for years, but until the last 15 years or so it was largely a problem only in the rest of the world. Our government, a magnet for narcissists, has always contained people who have committed crimes and immoral acts. And at various times in our collective memory, we’ve been at war, or in economic recession or depression.

Life is like riding a roller coaster. While you’re on it, it’s scary. You don’t know what is coming: tall loops, long drops, hard turns. Yet when it’s over, we look in a new light at the parts that scared us. Retroactively, we find them to be exhilarating — or, at least for those of us who don’t enjoy roller coasters, safely completed. What was unknown is now known and our minds reframe the experience accordingly.

We look upon past times like roller coasters we’ve ridden: reframed based on what we know now, viewed through nostalgic preferences and fading effect bias.

We face very real perils and need to address them squarely. But perils have always existed. Now is not necessarily worse than any time in history.