Blogosphere

Social media update and a new Facebook Group for writers and readers of personal story

I quit Instagram. After they added Reels, which is their answer to TikTok, the time I spent on Instagram ballooned. Reels was remarkably compelling — and the most complete waste of my time ever. I couldn’t keep my hand out of that cookie jar, so I deleted the app and closed my account.

I enjoyed the connections I made on Instagram. A past president of Pentax Corporation used to comment on my photographs! That was fun. But I couldn’t make Instagram bring people here, the primary place I share my creative work. I’d rather invest my time in this site, and in bringing new readers here.


Facebook is a much better place to share my work, because it does bring readers here. So far this year, just shy of 6,000 people have visited this site thanks to my articles being shared on Facebook, mostly in Groups. In the last few months I’ve participated in a lot more Groups in topics I write about, and have begun to share my articles in them.

One Group was for personal essayists, which is the genre that matches my personal stories the closest. I’d gone along liking and commenting on others’ posts there for a while and recently shared my own work there for the first time.

Doing that got me banned, with no explanation and no recourse. I had shared my recent story about my family’s brush with Child Protective Services. Perhaps that was too challenging a story for that Group. I know it doesn’t cast me in a favorable light, as it involves me being quite angry with one of my children. Perhaps that ran afoul of the group’s rule against “triggering” topics? But I’ve read stories there from women processing sexual assault, so I thought my story wouldn’t be over the line. Who knows; like I said, they wouldn’t explain.

I have been surprisingly hurt by this. If my post was unwelcome, why wouldn’t they just delete it and send me a message to explain? It’s not like I’d broken any rules there before. I’d be happy to comply with what they ask.


Before I found and joined that Group, I had created my own Group for people who write stories from their lives. It’s called Personal Essay, Personal Story, and Memoir, and you can join it here. I felt kind of silly for creating it when I discovered the other, already thriving group. But if they don’t want me there, all I can do is seek to add members to the similar group I created.

The point of this group is for people who write stories from their lives to share them with people who like reading them. It’s that simple. If you publish a personal story online, just create a post in the group and paste in a link to the story. If you’ve written a book of personal stories, feel free to plug it there, as well (as long as you don’t spam the group, and participate in it otherwise).

My group may have only 25 members compared to the other group’s 30,000 members, but all good things have to start somewhere. With good participation, this group can be something fun and valuable. I hope you’ll join the group! Click here to join.


One last note: I’ve added a new social-media sharing toolbar to the site. If you’re on your phone, it’s at the bottom of the screen; if you’re on your computer, it’s at the bottom right of the browser window. If you like something I’ve written and think people you know will enjoy it, click one of the buttons to share it via email, on Facebook, on Twitter, or on Reddit. Thanks!

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Road Trips

A new historic marker for Sycamore Row, on Indiana’s Michigan Road

Word reached me late last year that this historic marker at Sycamore Row had been destroyed by a car that went off the road.

Sycamore Row

Sycamore Row is an old alignment of the Michigan Road, about an hour north of Indianapolis in Carroll County. Bypassed in the 1980s by the new alignment you see at right in the photo below, the trees that line the road here make it unusually narrow. It was a hair-raising spot to encounter oncoming traffic, especially something large like a school bus or a semi. I wrote more about it, and shared some historic photos from when this alignment was still in use, here.

Sycamore Row

The text on the sign reflects a legend that some have long questioned. It was a common practice two centuries ago to use logs to create a firm road surface where the land was usually wet, as the land here is said to have been in the mid-1800s. Also, it’s not impossible that new trees could have sprouted from sycamore logs laid here. But the truth is, nobody knows for certain how the trees came to be here.

On behalf of the Historic Michigan Road Association, I reported the destroyed sign to the Indiana Historical Bureau, which manages Indiana’s historic markers. They took the opportunity to make a new sign with more information about how the Michigan Road came to exist here, and acknowledging that the sycamores’ origin is uncertain. While the old sign had the same text on both sides, the new marker tells half the story on one side, and the other half on the other side. I was pleased that the IHB chose to tell more of the story of the road itself, including touching on how the Indian people who lived on this land were pressured to give it up for the road. I was especially pleased that the IHB let the HMRA review the proposed text and offer feedback. We suggested a couple small changes, which they accepted. Here’s the new marker.

Bonnie Maxwell photo
Bonnie Maxwell photo

What’s really cool is that the IHB lists their sources for this text on their Web page for this marker (here).

Bonnie Maxwell photo

It struck me at first that this sign was posted backward, as the back side faces you as you stand at the entrance to Sycamore Row. But I’m sure that the IHB’s standards require them to post signs so that they face traffic on the adjacent road. People traveling south on the Michigan Road will see the front of this sign as they pass.

Nearly every time I drive up this way I stop to visit the sycamores. I usually have a camera with me. Here are a couple photos I made of the old marker over the years. I made this one in September, 2019, with my Yashica-12 camera on Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros film.

Sycamore Row

I made this photo in May, 2013, with a Canon A35F camera on Fujifilm Fujicolor 200 film. As part of the IHB’s program to keep markers in good condition (details here), a volunteer repainted this marker sometime between my 2013 and 2019 photos.

Sycamore Row

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

💻 Jerome Carter shares a fun story about the wonderous suburban American deck — and the bees that inevitably come and spoil the fun. Read Carpenter Bees And Wasps Are On The Deck — Must Be Spring

Vigo County Courthouse
Konica C35 Automatic, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2013.

💻 The story of the United States is a story of a relationship with fascism — mostly of holding it at bay, but it is an ever present threat. So says John Scalzi, who writes an essay to support his point. Read Reader Request Week 2021 #5: American Fascism

📷 Jack Falat was an AT&T lineman and still is a dedicated photographer. He’s sharing photos he made of the places AT&T sent him, going back to the 1970s. It’s a remarkable view of an America that hardly exists today. Poindexter shares his work on Curbside Classic. Read Vintage Snapshots: Favorites from the Jack Falat Collection

📷 Konica is an oft-overlooked former camera and film maker. Dario Veréb considers their history and legacy. Read A Better Look at Konica

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Road Trips

The Green Lantern on the National Road/US 40 in Illinois

I’ve written about the National Road in Illinois many times before. But as I work to deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois from there to here. This is one of them. This is based on recent research and a visit in 2007.

As we came near to Effingham we could see a tall neon sign in the distance. As we got closer, we could see that it was grand.

Green Lantern

Sadly, the building behind this sign had burned about a month earlier, on the night of June 5. It had stood since 1938, first as a bar, then as a fine dining establishment, and most recently as a roadhouse of sorts. For many years, it was the only place on US 40 for several states that was open Sunday nights, when it drew crowds from a hundred miles away.

Green Lantern

The owner pledged to rebuild, but it never happened. In 2014, the site was sold to someone who maintains it as an investment. I looked the site up on Google Maps (it’s here). The last time a Google Street View car drove by, which was in 2019, someone was selling yard sheds on this lot.

I hope this great sign was saved!

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Margaret and I spent last weekend in and around Lexington, Kentucky. It was our first getaway as a couple since our trip to Bardstown last October, and hoo boy, did we need this. Even though both of us have had our first COVID-19 vaccination shots, we still took steps to keep ourselves and others safe from the virus: we rented an Airbnb to avoid hotel lobbies and so we could make our own breakfast, and we took the rest of our meals at restaurants but outside. We did a few distillery tours, wearing masks. But mostly, we walked around Lexington with our cameras.

The Gratz Park neighborhood is just northeast of downtown, with Transylvania University on its northeast edge. It’s a small neighborhood of ten city blocks and a park. Established in 1781, many of the homes and other buildings here were built in the first half of the 1800s.

Here now, the doors.

Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY

Here are a couple photos that take a wider view, so you can get a feel for the neighborhood.

Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
Gratz Park, Lexington, KY

Nikon Df, 28-80mm f/3.3-4.5G AF Nikkor

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Photography

Thursday doors: Gratz Park, Lexington, Kentucky

The early-1800s doors of Gratz Park, Lexington.

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Camera Reviews

Nikon F50

In 1994, when the Nikon F50 was new, we didn’t know whether digital photography would ever be good enough to replace film. Maybe companies like Nikon could see the day coming, but they had cameras to sell in the meantime. Nikon in particular kept evolving its lines of 35mm SLRs, including those at the entry level like this F50, which was called the N50 in North America.

Nikon F50D

Nikon’s SLRs moved slowly toward what we now consider the standard idiom, with an on/off switch around the shutter button, a mode dial, and an LCD display of settings. The F50 added the LCD display, but not the rest. A series of buttons around the LCD display let you choose most of the camera’s settings — not as simple as a mode dial, but not hard to figure out. First, set the Simple/Advanced switch to Advanced. Then press the leftmost button to enter selection mode. The LCD panel lights up with P S A M; press the button above the mode you want. In P mode, press a button for the sub-mode you want; there are a bunch of them including a macro mode and a sports mode. I just used Auto, which is the first option on the left. For the S, A, and M modes, select aperture, shutter speed, or both using the buttons. If you need a little help figuring it out, here’s a manual at the wonderful Butkus site. Or set the Simple/Advanced switch to Simple and just use the F50 like a big point and shoot.

Nikon F50D

My F50 is technically an F50D because it has the date back. Not that I’m ever going to use it. The camera is a good size, noticeably smaller than the semi-pro N90s which was made around the same time. I recently got to shoot a Minolta Maxxum HTsi, which is smaller than this F50. The Minolta handled easily enough, but the F50’s slightly larger size made it even easier to handle.

Nikon F50D

The F50 is surprisingly heavy, though! Nikon’s next two entry-level 35mm SLRs, the N60 and N65, weigh next to nothing in comparison. The F50 isn’t as heavy as my all-metal Nikon F2, but it’s got noticeable heft.

The F50 offers a self timer, but it doesn’t offer mirror lockup, depth-of-field preview, or cable release. It reads the DX coding on your film to set ISO from 25 to 5000, but you can override ISO manually down to 6 and up to 6400. It uses Nikon’s famous matrix metering except in manual exposure mode, when it switches to center-weighted metering. Its shutter operates from 1/2000 to 30 sec. You can use most AF Nikkor lenses with it, and many AI Nikkor lenses in manual exposure mode. The F50 automatically loads, winds, and rewinds your film. A typical Nikon-style LCD inside the viewfinder shows exposure settings. A 2CR5 battery powers everything.

Speaking of winding, mine is a little on the loud side, and sounds weak and wobbly. There’s an odd, slight disconnect between pressing the shutter button and the shutter firing. It doesn’t inspire confidence, but you do get used to it. In contrast, when you press the button on the N60 or N65, it fires immediately and the winder is crisp and quiet.

If you like auto-everything SLRs, especially check out my reviews of these Nikons: the N90s, the N60, the N65, and the N8008. I’ve also reviewed the Canon EOS 650, EOS 630, EOS Rebel, EOS Rebel S, and EOS A2E. If you fancy Minolta, see my reviews of the Maxxum 7000, Maxxum 7000i, Maxxum 9xi, and Maxxum HTsi.

I mounted my 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor lens and loaded a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus, which I developed it in Adox HR-DEV 1+30. This was my first go with this film/developer combination. I wasn’t wowed. The scans needed heavy post-processing and some of them could not be made to look good. I later learned that this developer, once opened, should be used within six months — and this bottle had been open at least that long. Perhaps that contributed to the meh results. I let the rest of the bottle go.

1 Thess 5:16-17

It was far below freezing outside, so I shot this roll around the house. This Sears box camera is missing the red plastic bit over the exposure-counter window around back. I need to repair that before I can shoot and review it. But it made a fine subject for my F50. I shot a handful of other cameras with it, but they all suffered from shake as I shot them handheld. In Program mode, the F50 chose apertures of f/3.3 and f/4.5 with shutter speeds of 1/15, 1/20, and 1/30 sec. I normally have a very steady hand and can get away with shutter speeds down to 1/15, but not on this roll.

Tower 120

I was at a bit of a loss for subjects, so I reached for anything that I thought would work, like this orange. The tablecloth on the dining table had an interesting texture so that’s where I placed the orange.

Orange

This is where I write this blog and process my photographs. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s also where I work. I spend a lot of time in that chair staring at that screen. As you can see, I have a lot of wires running about, which I don’t enjoy. Someday I’ll figure out a good wire management solution.

At my desk

I did make a few photos outside, but only by sticking my head and the camera out the door. One day during the cold snap we got about a foot of snow. My wife grabbed our youngest son (who’s 20 and hardly a child!) and a couple plastic snowboards and sledded down the back-yard hill. A zoom lens would have let me move in closer without having to step outside! The F50 did a reasonable job of setting exposure in the snow.

Sledding

I wanted to see how this Nikon F50 handled with the kinds of subjects I normally shoot. So I loaded some Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 and mounted my 28-80mm f/3.3-4.5G AF Nikkor lens. I first used it to chase our granddaughter around to make a couple candid photos of her. She’s hard to capture perfectly still!

Playing with blocks

I love this 28-80mm zoom and turn to it often. It handles easily, has good sharpness, and resolves subjects well with little distortion, except at 28mm. I generally zoom it out no more than 35mm.

Little bus

I finished the roll on a couple walks outside in near-freezing weather. I carried the F50 in my hand unprotected in the cold, and it just kept on working.

Sidewalk closed

The snow from the day I photographed my wife on her sled was beginning to melt. It made for a soggy walk through downtown Zionsville.

the flower shop

I was very happy with these images. They required next to no tweaking in Photoshop — little more than applying the “Auto Tone” command to brighten everything up.

Black Dog Books

I really enjoyed using the Nikon F50. It’s a terrific auto-everything 35mm SLR. This one was a gift from a reader to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras, but a quick look at eBay shows these selling for between $10 and $30, often with a zoom lens attached. The main concern with electronic auto-everything cameras is how robust they are, and whether they can be repaired when they fail. I’ve personally had much better experience with Nikon autoexposure and autofocus cameras working for the long haul than the other brands I’ve tried, namely Canon and Minolta. It’s why I recommend cameras like this F50 to people curious about film photography.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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