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Recommended reading

💻 Do you think the (insert one: liberals/conservatives) are idiots, out of touch with reality, wanting to destroy our nation? Then you’ve othered them, painted them black, I’m sad to say. N. S. Palmer warns us all against othering groups of people — it erodes the fabric of society. Read Don’t “Other” Other People

Church doors
Olympus OM-1, 50mm f/.8 F.Zuiko, Adox HR-50, Adox HR-DEV 1:49, 2020

💻 You probably know that Twitter banned Donald Trump recently. I was in favor of it. I rather thought they should have done it long ago. Fred Wilson sort of agrees. But he points out that platforms like Twitter have ended up having an enormous amount of power just through who they do and don’t let on. It would be better, he think, if services like Twitter were instead protocols to which many apps can connect. Fred explains better than I can from here. Interesting take. Read Twitter and Trump

💻 I’m still figuring out my place in the church as a Christian. There are all kinds of churches with all kinds of approaches. I haven’t felt like any of them have been quite right. David Schell writes about his experience with evangelicalism, and how it wasn’t quite right either. Leaving evangelicalism left him wandering in the wilderness — and thinking maybe that this is where God wants him. Maybe it’s where God wants us all, because he can truly meet us there. Read The Cucumbers, the Melons, and the Leeks

📷 Dan Cuny shows us the Petal camera — it’s thin and round, and only 1.25 inches wide! It’s also more sophisticated than you might guess at first glance. Read Petal Camera

📷 I’ve always wanted an Agfa Optima 1035 Sensor, and now that Connor Brustofski has reviewed his — I want one all the more. Read Agfa Optima 1035 Sensor Review

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Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in Rockville, Indiana

Let’s return now to my 2007 trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.

Some time ago I entered Rockville’s square from the road to Bridgeton and drove around the square twice looking for US 36 so I could head back to Indianapolis. I was surprised to find no US 36 shields anywhere. I saw a gas station west of the square on Ohio Street, so I drove that way after a soda and maybe directions. As I drew closer to the gas station, I began to make out a US 36 sign in the distance. I got the soda, turned around, and followed Ohio Street east towards home.

This time I knew my way around a little better, and besides, I entered Rockville from the east on US 36 so there was no chance I would not be able to find it in town. Like so many Midwestern small towns, Rockville has a courthouse square. This is the square from the northeast, at Ohio and Jefferson Streets. If you look close you can almost make out that Jefferson Street is paved in brick. So are the other two streets on the square.

Parke County Courthouse

Rockville appears to be making quite an effort to keep its square bright and tidy. I understand that this square is the center of the annual Covered Bridge Festival, a major tourist attraction here, so there’s ample reason for the town to invest here. I took the photo below from the southeast corner of Ohio and Market Streets, a block west of the previous photo.

US 36, Rockville, IN.

Presumably, this is where the old Rockville State Road ended. It was one of Indiana’s early state roads from the 1830s, part of a network linking important towns. Both the Pikes Peak road and US 36 were laid out onto it from Indianapolis to Rockville.

Past the square, past some tidy older homes, US 41 quickly comes to signal the end of Rockville. This photo shows US 36 as it heads west into Rockville, taken from the southeast corner of US 36 and US 41.

Eastbound US 36

And this photo is of the US 36/US 41 intersection northbound and westbound.

US 36 at US 41

My camera’s battery died about here, so I had to turn around for home. I came back a couple months later to finish this trip. Next: another gravel alignment of the road.

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Tulips at night

Tulips at night
Apple iPhone 6s
2020

I make photos with my phone that I wouldn’t bother to make otherwise. If I have to go find one of my regular cameras, I just won’t be bothered. These tulips on our kitchen windowsill is one of those photos. I was at the sink below to wash my hands when I noticed how the tulips popped against the night in the window. It took just a few seconds to get my phone out of my pocket, set it to square format, and make this image.

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Photography

single frame: Tulips at night

Flowers on our windowsill.

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Camera Reviews

Operation Thin the Herd: Kodak Monitor Six-20

Tree at the retention pond

At last, we reach the end of Operation Thin the Herd. In this project I’ve sold or given away dozens of cameras, keeping only those I’ll use regularly. Some cameras were a no-brainer to either keep or let go. Others I needed to put one or two more rolls of film through to help me decide. When I did, I shared the photos and my thoughts here. You can see all of my Operation Thin the Herd posts here.

I’ve put off evaluating my Kodak Monitor Six-20, which is why it’s last. Putting film through it might show me that I’m in love with the idea of this camera far more than with the camera itself. I haven’t wanted to find out.

Kodak Monitor Six-20

I was smitten with the Monitor from the time I first saw one on Mike Connealy’s site. Not just any Monitor, mind, but this one, with the 101mm f/4.5 Anastigmat Special lens. It’s a gorgeous camera, and Mike always coaxed such beautiful photographs from his. I wanted in on the action. No matter that I had sworn off cameras that take out-of-production 620 film, as the Monitor does. I prowled eBay until I found one in good condition at a good price.

Here’s a photo from one of the first rolls I shot. It’s not smart to test an old camera with expensive slide film, but I did it anyway. This is Kodak Ektachrome E100G.

Karmann-Ghia

I used the Monitor again about a year later on a trip to Bridgeton. I shot expired Kodak Gold 200 in 620 from the mid 1990s, at the end of 620 production. The lab I sent the film to accidentally developed it in black and white.

Bridgeton covered bridge

I used the Monitor only a few times in the first two years I owned it, and then not again until last November, seven long years later. One reason is that 620 film is expensive to buy expired or hand-spooled fresh, and I wasn’t interested in learning to hand spool my own. But the main reason is that the shutter button doesn’t trip the shutter. The button connects to a series of levers and rods that reach around behind the lens, where the actual shutter release is. They don’t connect properly, and I can’t figure out how to fix it. The only way to fire the shutter is to stick a finger in there. What a pain.

But oh, what a beautiful camera this is! I mounted it on an vintage Kodak metal tripod and displayed it in my living room so I could look at it every day. I kept it there until I moved a few years ago.

I couldn’t put off evaluating my Monitor any longer, so I got it out — and found that its shutter wasn’t working right. No matter the speed I set, the shutter operated at what sounded like the same speed. Mike Connealy advised me to carefully drip a little lighter fluid into the shutter-cable socket and into the cock-lever crevice and fire the shutter at several speeds. Worked like a charm.

Now that I develop my own film and am comfortable working in a dark bag, I tried respooling 120 film onto a 620 spool. It was easy! I had Ilford FP4 Plus on hand, so that’s what I used. I developed it for eight minutes at 20° C in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B (1+31).

Wrecks, Inc.

It’s hard to level the scene in the Monitor’s tiny brilliant viewfinder. It’s easier in the pop-up “sports” finder, but that finder works best for landscape-oriented photos. But just look at the sharp detail the Anastigmat Special lens captured in this cockeyed photo. The white area on the left is light that leaked onto the end of the roll as it sat on my desk, undeveloped, for far too long.

Abandoned Co-Op

Given how I have to fire the shutter, I’m surprised I didn’t get my finger in the lens more often than just this one time. I was trying to be creative here by standing the Monitor on its side on the pavement. I forget what aperture and shutter speed I used, probably f/8 and 1/100, but it wasn’t enough to get the depth of field this photograph needed.

Tennis anyone?

I managed to get a few error-free photos on this roll, like the one below and the one at the top of this post. Handled with care, the Monitor delivers!

NO

I decided the Monitor deserved more time in evaluation. By this time the weather had turned chilly and gray, making faster film necessary. I respooled a roll of ISO 400 Ilford HP5 Plus onto a spare 620 spool and loaded it into the Monitor. I developed it for five minutes at 20° C in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B (1+31).

One of the things I like about the Monitor is its 1/400 top shutter speed. So many of the folders I’ve owned top out at 1/100 or thereabouts. 1/400 lets me shoot faster films even on sunny days.

Z West

COVID-19 kept me close to home, so I returned to familiar subjects. I have shot the back of this Lowe’s reflecting into that retention pond probably 20 times this year. I think there’s an interesting composition in this scene but I haven’t nailed it yet.

Lowe's Reflected

On this roll, a few shots suffered from a light spot in the upper center. Is it a light leak? Is it a shutter fault?

GetGo

Now I come to the moment of truth: does my Kodak Monitor stay, or does it go?

By the end of my second roll, I’d become fully annoyed with how I have to fire the shutter. It made the rest of the cameras’ limitations more annoying, especially that tiny brilliant viewfinder. The pop-up sports viewfinder eases framing on landscape-oriented photos, at least.

Yet I’m still smitten with this camera. As you can see in these photographs, its lens renders good sharpness and contrast. While I wouldn’t choose any old folder as a primary camera, sometimes it’s nice to let one slow you down as much as they do. This one offers great flexibility given its fast shutter and sort-of fast (f/4.5) lens. And this Monitor remains a beautiful camera.

My Monitor needs a CLA. I can’t evaluate it fairly until it functions properly. Unfortunately, many of my other cameras are ahead of it in the repair/CLA queue: my Nikon F2AS, my Pentax KM, my Pentax ME-F, and my Yashica Lynx 14e. I know exactly who I’ll send these four cameras to (Sover Wong for the F2, Eric Hendrickson for the Pentaxes, Mark Hama for the Yashica). But who restores old Kodak folders? Maybe Jurgen, better known as Certo6, would take it on? If you have any ideas, let me know in the comments.

Verdict: Keep

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COVID-19, Personal

Walking in the cold

I’ve regained all the weight I lost over the summer and am again 15 pounds over my ideal weight. I say that hesitantly, because it’s not like I have a weight problem. I’m only four pounds into the overweight category, according to this BMI calculator. Until I turned 40 I had a blast-furnace metabolism and could eat anything I wanted. Now, in my 50s, to keep my weight where I want it I need to limit calories and exercise a little. A thirty minute walk four or five times a week is all it takes.

Before COVID-19 sent knowledge workers everywhere to their home offices, I used to walk a fair amount just going about my day — between 2,000 and 4,000 steps, according to my iPhone’s step tracker. But now that I’m home all the time I am lucky to walk 500 steps in a day — unless I deliberately leave the house to take a walk.

Side street
I walk this road a lot. Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Agfa APX100 (x/7-98)

Trouble is, it’s cold. I hate the cold!

Over the summer, I couldn’t wait to get on my bike every day. I preferred the bike to walking, but that’s not to say a good walk didn’t have its own pleasures. But now? I have no desire whatsoever to be outside.

I’m starting to force myself. I put on a long overcoat and my earmuffs, and pull one of my COVID masks across my face. In middle age my teeth have become sensitive — they’ll ache for a couple hours if I walk thirty minutes in freezing temperatures. I know I can wrap a scarf around my face, but a COVID mask works just as well for this purpose and is a lot easier to manage.

We haven’t even hit the coldest part of the year yet. It’ll come, later this month or early next. We’ll see some days well below freezing, even below zero Fahrenheit. I’m ready. Since I was in high school I’ve owned a Korean War era Army topcoat. It hangs well below my knees, and it has a stout wool liner inside. It has repelled every cold nature has ever tried to throw at it. It’s Army green, so it’s hardly a fashion statement. But when it’s that cold, who cares?

I don’t mention it here much but I have a bum left foot. Bunion surgery in 2014 was supposed to alleviate the pain. It did, but it left me with a new and different pain. The ball of my foot and my big toe would both ache and go numb. My original podiatrist kept telling me it would heal in time, but it didn’t.

Healing up after the surgery

I found that I could walk nearly pain-free in Birkenstock sandals, which I wear whenever it’s warm enough. But that doesn’t work in the winter. After considerable trial and error I found an over-the-counter insert and a wool metatarsal pad that, together, made walking less uncomfortable. But long walks still irritated my foot.

I finally went to a different podiatrist this fall. He was awesome. He told me that either I had some scar tissue in there that was irritating a long nerve that runs along the big toe, or the original podiatrist nicked that nerve during the surgery. If it was scar tissue, he said, he could probably restore my foot to normal with a short course of steroid shots. But the only thing he could do for a damaged nerve would be surgery to cut it off entirely. He said he really didn’t want to do that as the end of my foot would permanently go fully numb.

He did some clever diagnostic work that, unfortunately, ruled out the scar tissue. It had to be a damaged nerve. “But all is not lost,” he said. He fashioned an insert for my left shoe that takes most of the pressure off the ball of my foot as I walk. It is almost as good as my Birkenstock sandals! At least foot pain isn’t a barrier to me walking anymore.

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Personal

I’m not a lush, I swear

For years now, I’ve met every month with my brother and a mutual friend to drink a little whiskey and enjoy each others’ company. The pandemic has curtailed our in-person activity, so we’ve switched to meeting over Zoom. It’s better than nothing.

We routinely text each other photos of what we’re drinking when we’re not together. Here are the best of those photos I found on my iPhone after I upgraded to a new phone recently.

Breckenridge

Breckenridge. This bourbon is distilled at a giant distillery in Indiana and then shipped at barrel strength to Colorado, where they cut it with snow melt (allegedly). It’s a nice bourbon, but it’s gone up in price beyond its deliciousness and so I haven’t had it in some time.

The Glenlivet

The Glenlivet 12 year. I love this scotch, even though most scotch drinkers consider it an entry-level single malt. Thanks to stock shortages it became hard to find for a couple years. It’s back now, but in a clear bottle with a different label. I wasn’t sure it was the same whiskey for a while! But the Glenlivet folks swear it is. I’d drink more scotch, but it’s so expensive here in the United States. Bourbon is a much better value here.

I drink alone

Old Grand-Dad Bonded. You’ll find this 100-proof bourbon on a low shelf. But don’t fear it — it is far more delicious than its price suggests. I buy it mostly to make old fashioneds, but it’s decent straight.

Dickel Barrel Select

George Dickel Barrel Select. This is a Tennessee whiskey, not a bourbon. I generally enjoy the George Dickel whiskeys but I don’t remember anything about this one!

Blood Oath

Blood Oath Part No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3. I made this photo on one of the nights my brother and our friend met. We all tried one pour from each of these bottles. That was enough whiskey for one night!

At Willett Distillery

Flight at the Willett Distillery. Margaret and I made a cautious trip last October to Kentucky bourbon country, where we visited the Willett distillery. They have a lovely little restaurant and bar, so we had dinner and I enjoyed this flight.

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