Photography

Some recent iPhone photography

If I were to mark on a calendar the cameras I used each day, my iPhone 6s would show up most often, no fewer than 4 days a week. Most of the photos I make are throwaways, something I wanted to document so I wouldn’t forget it, or something I wanted to show my wife.

But every now and then I use my iPhone to make a photograph I wanted to keep, one I would have rather made with a “real” camera had I only had one on me. They’re all still snapshots but I thought you might like to see some of them.

Swagged out

Here’s a selfie of me all swagged out at my previous job (you know, the one where I was fired with no explanation). We were having our second annual Field Day, which was a bunch of silly quasi-athletic outdoor games. After my unwelcome exit from the company I promptly waste-canned all of my company swag. Also: this might be the only photo ever of me wearing a hat. I’m not a hat person. I’m too vain about my hair.

First Baptist

This cornerstone anchors the First Baptist Church in Lebanon, IN. I photograph church cornerstones whenever I find them; here’s my Flickr album of them.

Bug

I spied this guy while taking a walk through the neighborhood. Isn’t he just gorgeous?

Currently caffeinating

These were the disposable coffee cups we used at church for a while. I drink so much coffee that this slogan describes my whole life.

Rainbow

On another walk through the neighborhood, this rainbow appeared.

Rainbow

I used the iPhone’s panorama mode to capture the whole rainbow later in the walk.

Ruth's Cafe

Ruth’s Cafe is a quirky breakfast-and-lunch place near where I work. It’s very popular — get there by 11:30 for lunch because it’s socked in by 11:45. This old TV, its works removed, is their check-in stand and they always have some breakfast-related quote scrawled onto its screen. I’ll bet this was a top-of-the-line set when it was new.

Tulip
Tulip

Here are some tulips from the little bed under our front window. I made these photos in the last few weeks as these buds began to open. The iPhone is brilliant at making flower photos.

Sunset over the Toyota dealer

There aren’t many advantages to living right next to I-65. One of the few is that there are no houses behind us to block the sublime sunsets we get. And then last year a Toyota dealership was built on the other side of the retention pond from us, and they erected their sign right in our line of sight. Sunset, brought to you by Toyota. Oh, what a feeling.

Gluten. Free. Waffles!!!!!!

It’s a tired cliche, I know, to photograph your lunch. But these gluten-free waffles are so tender and delicious that I had to memorialize them just once. If you’re ever in the area and follow a gluten-free diet you can get these at Cafe Patachou, which has locations all around Indianapolis.

Metallica from the back row

Finally, the crowd gathers to see Metallica play at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Maybe it was because we were in the very last row, but the sound was so muddy we sometimes couldn’t tell what song they were playing. I’ve seen Metallica five times now, but the last time was 22 years ago. I can’t believe the metal bands of my youth are still at it. Anyway, thrice Metallica were brilliant and twice they sucked. One of the times they sucked, I stood in a downpour that lasted the show. Good times, good times.

My metalhead son and I are on a quest to see the Big Four thrash metal bands — Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, and Megadeth. We saw Anthrax last year on a tour it headlined (read my report about being in the mosh pit here), and again last year on a tour Slayer headlined. We have tickets to see Megadeth in August. Parenting level: expert.

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Photography

Doubling down on Flickr

I’ve made public declarations on Facebook and Instagram that I will not publish on those platforms frequently anymore. I’d like to say that Facebook’s drunken-pirate behavior with our data finally pushed me over the edge, but I can’t. On Facebook I finally had enough of the political tribalism. On Instagram, about every fourth post is an ad. I’m not anti-advertising but that’s too much.

I’m not deactivating my accounts. I’ll still check in from time to time, if for no other reason that I still promote this blog through a Facebook page (here if you’re curious) and share from that page to various Facebook groups. Like I’ve said before (here), Facebook remains the most effective way I’ve found to promote my blog. I still promote the Historic Michigan Road through Instagram (here).

But I want to look at photographs, especially film photographs. When I make time to really study a good photograph, not only does it deepen my enjoyment, but it can teach me something about photography that I can try on my next roll of film.

If I follow you on Flickr, you might have noticed that I’ve starred more of your photographs lately. I’m shifting to Flickr as the primary place I go to view photos and (outside of this blog’s comments) interact with photographers.

Flickr isn’t as fun as it was when I joined in 2006. But I want to believe that new owner SmugMug means what it says and will revitalize the community. I see no ads there, and I’m not aware they use my data beyond what is necessary to operate the service.

I’ve always been able to look at photographs there as easily on my desktop as I can my phone. And now that SmugMug has increased the maximum upload resolution, I can study photographs there in ways not available on any other platform I’ve used. Facebook and Instagram can’t touch Flickr here.

If you’re active on Flickr I’d like it very much if you’d leave your Flickr URL in the comments, unless you’re sure that I already follow you there. Here’s my Flickr stream if you’d like to follow me. Thank you!

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Photography, Road Trips

The giants at Bernheim Forest

Our last stop on our Kentucky weekend was to Bernheim Forest. We wouldn’t have known about it had several locals not told us about it. One of them all but implored us to go, just to see the giants.

The giants at Bernheim Forest

Danish artist Thomas Dambo likes to make big things out of wood. His signature work has become giants like these, which he’s built in forests around the world.

This is Little Nis, who is considering his reflection.

The Giants at Bernheim Forest
The Giants at Bernheim Forest

Danmbo built three giants at Bernheim, but spread them out in the forest so you’d have to hike a while to see them. This is Little Nis’s mother Mama Loumari, who’s expecting another baby giant.

The giants at Bernheim Forest
The Giants at Bernheim Forest
The Giants at Bernheim Forest

Deep in the forest you finally find Little Elina, who’s playing marbles with boulders she found lying around. Dambo builds his giants out of local wood. Unsurprisingly, given that this is bourbon country, the Bernheim giants are made in part from barrel staves.

The giants at Bernheim Forest
The Giants at Bernheim Forest
The giants at Bernheim Forest

I photographed these giants with both my Canon PowerShot S80 and my Nikon FA and 35-70mm Zoom Nikkor on Agfa Vista 200. I found the giants challenging to photograph. I couldn’t find good compositions that fully communicated their size and charm, and the reflecting sun played havoc with even exposures. If I spent more time with the giants, however, I’m sure I’d start to feel at one with them and better photographic compositions would follow.

Bernheim Forest is a gem, and it’s a little south of Louisville just off I-65. We went straight home to Zionsville from here, and the trip took us just 2½ hours. You can visit for free on weekdays, and there’s an affordable charge to visit on the weekends.

Us at Bernheim Forest

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Personal, Photography

A visit to Willett Distillery

Willett Distillery

It’s hard to know exactly where your bourbon comes from. Sure, the label gives you a brand name and maybe even a distilling company. But only bonded bourbons are required by law to tell the truth about origin on the label. Otherwise, a bourbon’s label can craft any origin story it wants.

Willett's Pot Still
Nikon F3HP, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Plus-X, 2015

For several years my favorite bourbon by far has been Willett’s Pot Still Reserve. Its distinctive bottle is fashioned to look like a pot still.

I leave it to the pros and serious enthusiasts to describe bourbon flavors. One I found on the Web used words like citrus, caramel, pepper, and dry oak to describe this bourbon. All I know is that its deliciously interesting complexity keeps me sipping.

That’s probably why the one photo I have is of an empty bottle. It doesn’t help that this bourbon isn’t always available. When I find some, I buy it — and drink it.

Willett also issues special single-barrel and small-batch bourbons and ryes under their Willett Family Estate label. They’re hard to find and they’re expensive, but they are the most delicious bourbons and ryes I’ve ever enjoyed. I usually find rye to be too spicy and to burn too much. But the most delicious, most interesting whiskey I’ve ever sipped was Willett Family Estate Rye. It was the closest I’ve come to a religious whiskey experience. I will buy any bottle that says Willett on the label.

What I learned only after touring the Willett distillery in March is that until about 2016, all of the amazing Willett whiskeys I’d ever sipped were distilled by rival Heaven Hill Distilleries using Heaven Hill mash bills. From the early 1980s until 2012, Willett distilled no spirits. They merely aged the Heaven Hill-sourced whiskeys in their warehouses.

Nothing against Heaven Hill, which produces some delicious whiskeys. I just didn’t enjoy feeling duped. Maybe it’s unrealistic, but I assume the company on the label distilled, aged, and bottled the brown liquid inside. Not that this sly deception will keep me from enjoying their whiskeys, all now distilled on the Willett premises from Willett mash bills.

Willett Distillery

Here it is, Willett’s pot still. Notice to the similarity to my photographed bottle.

Willett Distillery

And their fermenting tanks.

Willett Distillery

And a couple of their rickhouses, where barrels of whiskey are left to age.

Willett Distillery

On this March morning this rickhouse was cool and dark.

Willett Distillery

A fun quirk of the Willett distillery is that three cats roam the grounds to keep mice away. This one is named Noah, I think.

Willett Distillery

The distillery is in the midst of transforming its campus to offer more amenities to bourbon tourists. They’ll soon have a B&B and a restaurant to offer.

Willett Distillery

But the rickhouses…they’ll always look like prison barracks. Hardly tourist-tempting.

Willett Distillery
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Photography, Vintage Television

Ozzie and Harriet for Kodak

The post about Ansco film and gear got such a good response that I dusted off this old post about Kodak, as advertised by Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, for you today. Enjoy!

If you’re of a certain age, you remember when a television show had one sponsor, or maybe two; all of an episode’s commercials were for those companies. The show’s open usually incorporated the sponsor, too. When these shows were later syndicated, new “generic” opens had to be prepared that referenced no sponsor, as local stations sold all the commercial time.

One such show I watched in syndication as a boy was The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, a 1950s and 1960s family sitcom starring the family of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. A few years ago, someone gave me a big DVD set of episodes as a gift. All of those episodes used the original opens, with the sponsor mentions intact. I learned that for a few years, Kodak was a frequent sponsor.

OzzieEKC
OzzieTitle

Some of those episodes included commercials, and it was very cool to see advertisements for some of the Kodaks I have in my camera collection. Here’s Ozzie pitching the Kodak Brownie Starmatic. You can read about my Starmatic here.

The Nelsons appeared in many of the commercials. Kodak was pushing 35mm color slides hard via the Nelson family. The Signet 50 was a reasonably capable, if awkwardly styled, camera with a built-in light meter. I once owned the Signet 50’s little brother, the Signet 40, and it was a fine performer. Read my review here.

Ozzie and his family didn’t always appear in the Kodak commercials on their show. Here’s a commercial for two more cameras capable of handling slide film, the Retina Reflex and the Pony II. The Retina was at the top of Kodak’s line, and the Pony slotted between the lowly Brownie and the Signet series mentioned above. I’ve owned a Retina Reflex IV (review here) and several Ponies (reviews here, here, and here).

Ozzie and Harriet shilled lesser Kodaks, of course; all the way down to the least-expensive Brownies. They also held forth on the wonders of Kodak films and processing and printing services! But commercials for those things aren’t available on YouTube, so this is all you get.

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Photography

Revisiting the Canon PowerShot S80

Mary Love.

Encouraged by fellow photo-blogger Dan James, I carried my Canon PowerShot S80 around with me everywhere for a few weeks. It was my primary camera for a couple years ending in 2010 when I got my PowerShot S95, the camera I’ve used more than any other ever.

The S80 is chunkier than the S95. It seemed giant in my pocket compared to the S95. Funny, because I’d call a film camera this small a marvel of miniaturization and brilliantly pocketable.

The S80 also lacks the S95’s ability to directly dial in common focal lengths like 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and so on. I didn’t realize how much I love that feature of my S95 until I didn’t have it on the S80. It led me to just shoot at the default 28mm most of the time. That leads to stretched proportions on deep subjects like my car.

VW

The S80’s color that impressed me. Even on this dreary day it managed to make what color was present look good.

Lamps

My poor S80 isn’t without troubles. Just look at all the fringing among the branches at the top of this photograph of the Maker’s Mark distillery. Beneath that sci-fi sky, the S80 captured great color and clarity.

At the Maker's Mark Distillery

Check the upper right of this image — it’s out of focus. I found this on many shots, and I suspect that the lens has become misaligned.

Cluster III

It also happened in this portrait shot of a Bardstown, KY, door. The entire top of the image is soft.

Bardstown, KY

I tried the camera’s built-in black-and-white mode for this photo of construction near where I work. It’s okay.

Duke HQ

Shooting some early spring blooms, I was reminded that the S80’s macro mode struggles to lock focus unless it is at minimum zoom, 28mm.

Bardstown, KY

As with every camera, you just learn to live with its limitations. So when I want macro, I zoom all the way out.

The Mosler Safe Co.

The S80 shone brightest outdoors at middle distances. Its lens is plenty sharp and contrasty.

Bardstown, KY

The S95 is a better camera and the one I’m going to keep reaching for. But even if I didn’t own the S95, my S80’s probable lens misalignment consigns this otherwise decent camera to the bin.

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