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.

Cobra

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

Camaro

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.

Toronado

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.

Firebird

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.

Citroen

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.

R/T

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

Avanti

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.

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Piloting the Buick

At the wheel of the old Buick
Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar
Kodak Plus-X
2017

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

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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

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-lincoln-continental-mark-iv

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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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.

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Hood ornament

Hood ornament
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Tri-X
2016

Old cars, Photography
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Chrysler Airflow

Chrysler Airflow
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Tri-X
2016

Old cars, Photography
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