Mail Station

Mail station
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Panatomic-X (expired)
LegacyPro L110 Dilution B (1+31)

When I was a kid, the mailbox was attached to the house next to the front door. On summer days, when the windows were open, we could hear the mailman open and close its lid as he delivered our letters.

As a young adult with my first house the mailbox was on a post by the curb. I didn’t much enjoy needing boots and a coat to get my mail on winter days.

Now I live in a new subdivision, and all mail is delivered to a locked box in this building. We walk or drive over to it; it’s ¾ mile away. I know this is a first-world problem, but I hate it. I want a mailbox next to my front door again.

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Film Photography

single frame: Mail station

The central mail station in my subdivision, on expired Kodak Panatomic-X.

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Personal

The cover of my next book, A Place to Start

I’m making slow but solid progress toward publishing my new book of stories and essays, A Place to Start. I’ve collected the best of my writing from this blog’s first two years, 2007 and 2008, and edited and sometimes rewrote it to make it better. I’ve also added photographs throughout, many of which I’ve never shared before!

I plan to release the book soon in print, Kindle, and PDF. I’m trying to figure out access for other e-readers, and I’m also thinking about recording it as an audiobook.

Every book needs a cover, and here’s the one I designed for A Place to Start.

I wanted the cover to stand out, so I used bold, golden letters on a textured brick-red background. I’m a bit of a typography geek, so I cycled through a whole bunch of fonts before I settled on this one: Berlin Sans. It’s a friendly font — I didn’t want something stuffy — but heavy enough to draw attention.

I’ve titled the book after this post I wrote about my first apartment. The photograph is me, aged 22, leaving that apartment one workday morning. My longtime friend Kathy had come to visit, and I would drop her at the airport on my way to the office. She made this photograph.

Side note: I’m amused to see how formally I dressed for my job in a software company. Our industry has always dressed more casually than the rest of the white-collar working world. But 30 years ago it was still common to wear slacks, a dress shirt, a tie, and a sport coat. We defied convention by skipping the tie and the coat! Today, T-shirts and jeans are normal. I am sometimes accused of being overdressed for the office because I pair a button-down sport shirt with my Levi’s.

Anyway, I’m working to release the book in November on paper, for Kindle, and in PDF. Stay tuned! I’m excited to put my stories into your hands.

If you take my monthly email newsletter, Back Roads, you’ve already seen this cover. On Back Roads I share a little more personally than I do here, and you get to see what I’m working on before everyone else. If you want in, sign up here.

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

💻 My wife and I never would have used Airbnb were it not for COVID. We liked hotels just fine. But Airbnb lets us rent apartments with full kitchens so we don’t have to eat out, and no mingling with possibly infected people in lobbies and hallways. Apparently, lots and lots of people have noticed the same thing. Scott Galloway says this is Airbnb’s moment in the sun, and the markets have taken notice. Read AirbnBaller

Barn at Windswept Farm
Canon PowerShot S95, 2020

💻 Ryan Moulton writes about the fragile nature of abundance by looking at clams and crabs on the beach. He then applies this thinking to Silicon Valley, a place that, until COVID, seemed to have endless abundance. Read Abundance

💻 Disney reorganized this week. Ben Thompson, in a dense article worth picking your way through, explains why their new organization around integrating their content offerings will drive high margins. It’s a much more attractive business than that of any aggregator (cough, Facebook, cough, Google). Read Disney and Integrators Versus Aggregators

📷 Some of the world’s best photographers used one camera and one lens for most of their work, Dave Jenkins reminds us. Not that it isn’t fun to buy new gear! Read The Underequipped Photographer

📷 Alyssa Chiarello had that Kodak Brownie Hawkeye for a long time before shooting it. She even developed the film she found inside. Read Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Camera

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Film Photography

Autumn scenes on expired Kodak Gold 400

Gourds

After testing the new light seals in my Nikon F3 recently I wanted to keep going with this satisfying camera. I loaded my last roll of Kodak Gold 400, expired since January of 2008. My previous roll of this film looked very good shot at box speed, so I shot it that way this time too. The results showed greater color shifts and noise than last time, but a little quick Photoshoppery made these images look much better.

Corn

I mounted my 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens to the F3 for this outing. Despite its noticeable barrel distortion at the wide end, I really like this lens. It’s small and light, and its zoom range gives me good flexibility.

Family

We met our granddaughter and her mom in downtown Zionsville, where there were gourds and pumpkins for sale. Here are three of Margaret’s kids, our “granddog” Obie, our granddaughter, and her mom.

With Grandma

We see our granddaughter most Sundays now, and it’s been lovely. When the weather’s nice enough we meet in town or in a park.

Book blind date

The used bookstore was open this day, running a clever promotion where they wrapped books in kraft paper, wrote what the book was about on the front, and sold them as book blind dates.

Zizzy

I finished the roll around the house. As the weather has grown chillier I’ve gone out less, but I’ve still wanted to make photographs. That means looking for new subjects, or new angles on old subjects, at home.

Purple crock

The 35-70 focuses from about 13 inches. I enjoy zooming this lens to 70mm and moving in close.

Heating the coals

Our last gas grill gave up the ghost last season after just three years of service. That’s the way of $250 gas grills. I didn’t want to blow another $250 that way so I bought a little Weber charcoal grill instead. It’s more hassle to grill on charcoal but the flavor is better. Anyway, I’m pleased that I was able to capture this fire so well.

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Dashboard

Dashboard
Olympus OM-4T, 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S

Agfa APX 100 (x/7-98)
Rodinal 1+50

A law went into effect here this summer prohibiting drivers from holding their phones in their hands while driving.

The only reason I pick up my phone in the car is to skip a song or start a new playlist. I play music from my phone over the car’s Bluetooth link. But my car is just old enough not to have integrated controls. The only way to interact with my playlist is via the phone itself.

I bought a phone holder that clamps to the vent’s louvers. Because the phone is so available, it tempts me more to interact with it. Could Indiana’s new law have backfired?

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Film Photography

single frame: Dashboard

The dashboard of my car, with my phone prominently displayed.

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Film Photography

Shooting Kodak Panatomic-X

Kodak Panatomic-X film has developed almost a cult following since it was discontinued in 1987. Look around the forums and the blogs: people call this the best black-and-white film ever made. It’s a fine-grained but slow film at ISO 32.

Mike Eckman of mike eckman dot com sent me two short rolls he bulk loaded, just to try this film. “Shoot it at ISO 20 or 25,” he said, “and develop it in HC-110 Dilution B for 6½ minutes.” I asked him what temperature. He said that it didn’t matter, 6½ minutes just always works. And so it did.

Light

I knew I’d want a fast lens for this slow film, and the fastest lenses I own say SMC Pentax-M on them. So I got out my Pentax ME, set it at EI 25, mounted my 50mm f/1.7, and loaded the first roll of Panatomic-X.

Cameron Fence

I shot indiscriminately around my yard and within a few minutes’ walk of my home.

Sprinkling

For the kind of shooting I do — handheld, outdoors — slow films need great light. I went out with my ME only on full-sun days and I still got shallow depth of field. But if you know that going in, you can work with it.

On the Deck

Mike told me that this stock is at least 30 years old. Yet look how it performs!

Bat

This fits Panatomic-X’s reputation: no matter how old, almost no matter how stored, this film performs well. These photos bear it out — they look very good, with creamy middle grays and solid blacks.

XOX

My scanner is the weak link in my workflow, as it delivers soft scans in 35mm. Even after heavy unsharp masking, the images still aren’t truly sharp. These negatives scanned as sharp as my tools can manage, and required only moderate unsharp masking.

Neighbor's Dog

To wrap up, here’s a shot of my neighbor’s dog, who came out to have a bark at me. I think he wants to be my pal, but his innate skittishness makes him back away whenever I go over to say hello. So I immortalized him on expired Kodak Panatomic-X.

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