Photography

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day to all of my US readers! Here are all the US flags I’ve photographed in the last year.

Grand old flags
Around Zionsville
Lake County Courthouse
It's a high-flying flag
House in Rochester
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Photography

When the camera is just a tool

I got out my Pentax K10D because I was running behind on the blog and wanted some fresh photos to share. I had two film SLRs loaded, but I wouldn’t get the film processed and scanned fast enough. Shooting digital, I can use the photos almost immediately.

Indiana War Memorial

The K10D remains a competent enough camera despite being ancient of days: it was introduced in 2006. Thanks to poor performance at ISOs 800 and above, it’s best used outdoors in good light. Many of my old film cameras require the same conditions, so at least I’m used to it.

Iron

Margaret suggested a date night, and not a moment too soon. We took our cameras Downtown (we spell it with a capital D in Indianapolis for some reason) and went for a stroll.

Balconies

I showed her where I work now, a couple blocks from the heart of Downtown. These balconies are the view from one of our conference rooms.

On the circle

The heart of Downtown is Monument Circle. The Columbia Club is on it. The K10D is heavy, at least compared to Margaret’s featherweight Nikon D3200. Seriously, what did they make the K10D out of that it’s so heavy — and the D3200 that it’s so light? But the K10D wasn’t fatiguing on this walk.

On the circle

The monument itself is hard to photograph, as tall as it is. So I tend to go for its details. The 18-55mm lens (that came in a kit with the camera) does a credible enough job. Distortion is fairly well managed, but is of course most noticeable at the wide end.

Wheeler Mission

There’s plenty to photograph around Downtown and the K10D was up to the task, handling the shift from mostly cloudy to mostly sunny with no trouble. I shot JPEG+RAW and with only a couple exceptions where the JPEG was great as is, edited the RAW a little bit to get the look I want. It was easy enough to do. That’s big: if I have to spend more than a few minutes editing a digital photo to get the look I want, I start to think the camera isn’t for me.

Firestone

The Wheeler Mission sign and this Firestone sign are the two neon signs I know about Downtown. Maybe I’ll find others now that I work Downtown and have more time to explore.

Rain

I don’t love using the K10D. I don’t know why exactly. There’s a je ne sais quoi about any camera that puts into the love or don’t-love category for me, and the K10D lacks it. However, it works well enough and returns fine results, thus keeping its place among my cameras. If it didn’t, it’d be gone.

On the circle

At some point during our stroll we realized we were hungry, so we stopped at the Rathskeller, a German restaurant, for some wurst. It was a lovely evening and a tonic for our spirits. It’s nice to have these photos to remember it by.

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Photography

Still more 35mm color scans from ScanGear on the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II

Lab scans of 35mm color negatives are miracles. Any lab I routinely use reliably sends me crackerjack digital images.

Getting usable scans from my CanoScan 9000F Mark II via its ScanGear software, on the other hand, is a lot of work involving a number of subjective choices in scanning and post-processing.

I used to think that the colors I got back from the lab were the film’s true colors. I see now how much of that is in the scanner settings, and that I don’t actually know how any film I typically use renders color.

The improvements I made this time were to scan to lossless TIFF files, and to turn off ScanGear’s Image Adjustment setting (which I had overlooked when turning off all the other image-enhancement settings). It helped? I think?

Here’s my scan of a photo I made on Kodak Gold 200 with my Olympus OM-1 and a 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro lens. There’s a little of that mottling in the blue sky that I keep trying to prevent. But it’s not as bad as in previous scans.

Roberts Camera scanned this film when I had them process it. It’s a touch brighter than my scan. The sky has a slight turquoise tint and lacks any mottling. Otherwise, either scan is fine.

North and Maple

Here’s my scan of a butterfly pausing over this flower. Notice how purple the flowers in the background are.

Roberts made those same flowers quite pink, but brought out the detail lurking in the butterfly’s wings.

Butterfly

I also tried scanning some Kodak Ektar 100 I shot in my Pentax Spotmatic F with a 35mm f/3.5 SMC Takumar lens.

Here’s Robert’s Camera’s scan. They got richer colors than I did, although I’d say the sky in mine looks more realistic. The green tint on the right edge of my scan is clearly an artifact of the negative that Robert’s somehow edited out.

Around Zionsville

I walked over to the building to make this close shot. My scan:

Roberts Camera’s scan got a richer red, but my scan offers better highlight detail.

Around Zionsville

It was so much easier when I accepted whatever color I got from my lab scans, as if they were the final word on film and lens. Now I’m suspicious of every scan, because of all the choices it represents. Is it possible that the only way to truly know what colors are in a negative is to make a darkroom print?

This, by the way, is the last in this series of experiments. I’ve learned what I need to. I get good enough black-and-white scans now to start processing and scanning black-and-white film, which was my goal. Now that I work Downtown in Indianapolis, eight blocks from Roberts Camera and their C41 lab, I’m likely to have them process and scan my 35mm color negative film. They charge just $10.

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Personal, Photography

The well is never truly dry

This isn’t a post about being a Christian, but I’m going to start with a story related to my Christian faith. Bear with me, it sets up my point.

Early after I started following Jesus a preacher talked to me about prayer, which is a foundation of the relationship we Christians build with Christ. He said, “People come to me all the time and say, ‘I’ve been praying, but I’ve lost the feeling. I feel like I’m just going through the motions. What do I do?’ I tell them to just keep on praying. If you keep praying, sooner or later you’ll find that connection with God again.”

It’s been good advice. But the underlying principle has also been good advice in my two main hobbies, writing and photography.

Sometimes the words don’t flow easily. Sometimes I just don’t feel like making photographs. The best thing to do at those times is, paradoxically, to write or to make photographs.

Doing these things primes the well’s pump. The well of creativity is never truly dry. When you keep trying, the good words and photographs eventually come back.

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, my family is living through some difficult challenges. I haven’t usually felt like writing or making photographs.

Allied Appliances
From the last time I shot my Nikomat FTn. 50/2 Nikkor H-C on Arista Premium 400.

But I’ve been making myself do it. I just finished a roll in my Nikomat FTn and I have film in my Olympus XA now. I have pushed myself through a few photo walks of my usual subjects, things and places easily reached. I feel sure that there will be no portfolio-worthy shots on those rolls, one of Kodak Portra 400 and one of Ilford FP4 Plus. What matters is that I’m shooting.

And I’ve been making myself write. That’s where the recent post about my grandmother (read it here) came from. It was hard to write, not because of any emotional impact of the content, but because I strain to find the words.

Have you ever been “in the zone” with anything you do? Where you act with easy fluidity? Where good results materialize easily from your efforts?

I know that if I keep at it, soon enough I’ll be in the zone again.

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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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