It’s a good thing my home office chair is comfortable because I’m sure in it a lot now

Ever since I got my desk, which is just from Target but I love it, I wanted a banker’s chair to go with it. I finally found one at an antique store a couple years ago. This one was used by real bankers — it has an asset tag on it from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

I’m now in my third week of working from home and this chair has been unfailingly comforable. (The seat pad I added certainly helps.) This is a good thing, because if President Trump’s recommendations for isolation come true, I’ll be working in it for another month at least.

I’ve also ordered a new headset. I’m noticing that my family is tiptoeing around the kitchen, which is ten feet from my desk, so they don’t disturb my meetings on Zoom. I need to let them live their lives a little more freely while we’re all stuck here! I dug out my janky old headset, its earpads mostly disintegrated, to use for now. Turns out there’s a run on headsets right now — lots of people must be in my position! All the lower-priced ones are gone. The few available headsets were all north of $100. That’s not a huge amount of money but I’m frugal and have never paid more than $20 for a headset. I ended up with this Sennheiser headset, which are now the most expensive set of cans I’ve ever bought. I loved Sennheiser headphones back in my radio days; they were the only ones I’d use. Dig the photo below of me on the air in the early 90s sporting my Sennheiser HD 40s. (I had a tie on because my airshift was always right after church!)

Did you know you can hardly buy a new webcam anywhere? We did a family call over Zoom on Sunday, when we learned that my older son’s computer doesn’t have a webcam. I told him I’d order him one and have it sent to him. Nope. The only ones I could find were sketchy-looking things drop-shipped from China. Poor guy will have to stay faceless on our family calls during our isolation.

More isolation reports from -N-fishyfisharcadeOm Malik.


Canon PowerShot S95

I couldn’t find my Canon PowerShot S95 after Christmas. I took it to my mom’s for the Grey family Christmas celebration but couldn’t find it after that.

It bothered me a lot that I couldn’t find this camera! I thought perhaps I’d left it among Christmas detritus and it had gone into the bin and thus to the landfill. I was forced to think about what camera would replace it. My wife has a Sony RX100 Mark I and it’s brilliant. I supposed I’d just get one of those. But daggone it, I didn’t want to buy a new camera! I like my S95 very much. I know I make a big fuss here about film cameras and film photography. But the truth is, my favorite camera is this ten-year-old compact. It’s very good but not perfect, and many newer cameras outclass it. But I know how to get good results from it. I know this camera.

It rained all through Christmas. When I needed my dress raincoat again in late January, the S95 was in a pocket.

Delighted to have found it, I’ve been shooting it more lately. Margaret had just come from the market with these vegetables, which were on the counter. I put the camera in black-and-white mode just to see how it would render them. (If you’d like to see them in color, click here.)

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single frame: Vegetables

Vegetables, from my Canon S95.

Film Photography

Eastman Double-X 5222 in Rodinal

The conventional wisdom on the Internet is that Rodinal isn’t the best developer for Eastman Double-X 5222. But I’ve now used this combination and it’s fine.

Vee dub grille

When I loaded this roll into my Nikon N90s, Indiana’s governor had not yet shut everything down to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We were just starting to talk about isolation and social distancing. Many companies, including mine, were asking people who could work from home to do so. I can, so I did. I decided to take a midafternoon walk around the area just to stretch my legs. I live right by a strip mall so I walked over there. The Lowe’s parking lot was packed.

Old Chevy truck in front of Lowe's

I didn’t encounter a soul outside while I walked, however. A few storage barns were on display at Lowe’s; here’s the window of one of them. My past experience with Double-X 5222 has been of high contrast images. But those were in full sun. I’m sure the overcast day helped manage the contrast. But could the Rodinal also have helped show more grays in the film? I really like the tones in the shutters and flower box.


The Thai restaurant was still open. The Mexican restaurant next door had a sign in the window saying they’d be doing carryout orders only, and asking everyone to stay safe and healthy. They were ahead of the curve.

Sidewalk chalkboard

This being a modern subdivision, retention ponds are everywhere. They provide opportunities to photograph reflections.


I shot this film at EI 250 and diluted my Rodinal to my usual 1+50. I normally shoot this film at EI 200, but the Massive Dev Chart had a 1+50 recipe for EI 250 and not EI 200. The Rodinal resulted in reasonable grain and okay smoothness in the details in most shots. The photo below is an exception — when you look at it at full scan resolution, the vinyl siding looks all mottled. But at blog size it’s fine.

Vinyl village reflection

Walking back toward home, I saw that one of my neighbors had his beater Jeep parked out front. It’s black with white fenders, and sports aluminum wheels. I wondered how the Double-X would render that, so I shot it. The wheels turned out to be more of a dull gray than their real-life low-sheen silver.

Jeep wheel

This whole subdivision used to be someone’s farm. I remember driving out this way 20 or more years ago and finding acre after acre of cornfields. The farmhouse survives, a lonely little petunia in this onion patch. (Can you tell I’m not much of a fan of these vinyl-village subdivisions? We will move from here one day and I hope never to live in one again.)

Steps to the old house

I came inside for the last few shots on the roll. Again I photographed the Belleek ring holder that’s on our kitchen windowsill. That’s my wedding ring.

Belleek ring holder

Finally, here’s the window in our back door with a stained-glass ornament my wife’s mother made. The outer petals of this flower are bright orange. I always think it’s interesting to know when a black-and-white photo is of a colorful subject, and what colors are in the subject.

The stained glass thing is orange and white in real life

It’s interesting to see how Rodinal handled the Eastman Double-X 5222. It worked, and for my normal blog purposes it was fine. But it wasn’t spectacular. I’ve used Old School Photo Lab to develop most of my black-and-white film and they use Clayton F76 developer, which is an analog to Kodak D76. These developers are known for finer grain and better shadow detail. The scans I got back from Old School please me somewhat more than these in terms of sharpness, detail, and tonality.

I shot this film because I’m shooting up my old film, and I had a roll of it left from a purchase several years ago. If I come upon some again and I wasn’t shooting something that mattered, I’d use Rodinal again to develop it. But ultimately, I want to find some films that pair excellently with Rodinal and make those my go-to black-and-white films.

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Recommended reading

📷 Alyssa Chiarello makes an interesting point: during this time of isolation and quarantine, we photographers have an obligation to document what’s happening around us. Read 5 Photobooks for the Quarantine Life

Snow parking
Nikon N90s, 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6 AF Nikkor, Eastman Double-X 5222, Rodinal 1+50, 2020

💻 Casey, Illinois, is a National Road town I’ve written about here. Jason Shafer shares what’s become its claim to fame: it has several things that are the world’s largest. Read Roadside Attractions: Casey, Illinois – The Land Where Everything is BIGGER

💻 Matthew Inman‘s The Oatmeal had its 10th anniversary recently. Along the way he’s learned a lot about what it is to be creative. A fascinating and humorous read. Read Eight marvelous and melancholy things I’ve learned about creativity

💻 Coronavirus can make us stronger as a society if we let it, says Scott Galloway. Read Corona as Vaccine

💻 Struggling to pay the rent thanks to the pandemic? Jeff Minch gives practical advice for working with your landlord. Read WutangCurse Real Estate Implications


Looking for moments of normal

When you live through difficult times, some days are easier than others. I’m trying to not think much of things I can’t predict or control, but the thoughts do creep in.

It hit me last night that I’ve been looking forward to things getting back to normal. But when the virus threat has died down enough and we are all allowed to go out again, we might find a lot of businesses didn’t survive. We might even find ourselves in a deep recession, even a depression.

I can’t trade in mights right now, I have to trade in knowns. What I know is that we still have all of our income, that except for a few lingering needed repairs our home is sound, we have plenty of food, and we have each others’ company so we aren’t lonely.

Yesterday late morning our daughter came downstairs not feeling well. My wife was deep into work at her desk upstairs. I have been on Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting at work, back to back to back — but I’ve started blocking 11:30-1 on my calendar so I am sure to get a break. So I drove over to Chick-Fil-A and brought home lunch for everyone. Chicken nuggets, waffle fries, and lemonade. They were a balm for all of us.

Other recent isolation reports from Khürt Williams, fishyfisharcade (two, actually), dionyb, and Steve Mitchell.