Liberty Bell replica

Liberty Bell replica
Olympus XA
Kodak T-Max 400

I shoot this bell a lot; it’s easy to reach from home. It’s a versatile subject. Do you have any subjects you shoot a lot?


Online privacy for children and why you’ve never seen photos of my sons here

It wasn’t some higher motive that has kept me from posting photos of my children online, at least at first. It was their mom, who was afraid of online predators. Overafraid, if you ask me. Sharing photos of my sons playing at the park or blowing out their birthday candles was never going to invite that kind of trouble. But she was pretty direct about it: don’t post anything that identifies our sons or there will be a fight.

It was not the hill I wanted to die on. In the decade since, I’ve never named my sons online, never posted a photo.

My older son is 19 now, an adult in society’s eyes. So after a portrait session with him this summer, I just asked him if I could post a couple of the shots on my blog. “Knock yourself out,” he said. So here, for the first time: my son, Damion.


Yashica-12, Kodak E100G, 2016

He was in a reflective mood on this overcast day. I thought Crown Hill Cemetery might provide some fitting backdrops.


Yashica-12, Kodak E100G, 2016

It feels great to finally show you my son! If you’re a parent, you understand: this young man is my heart.

It’s been frustrating for years to speak of Damion only indirectly and never to show his photograph. I’ve felt jealousy over the years as my friends and family shared photos of their kids on their blogs and on Facebook.

But sometimes they’d post awkward situations and unflattering poses that I thought must embarrass their kids. I wondered how those kids would feel about those photos when they were adults. It’s led me to change my views on how parents should manage their kids’ privacy online.

As an old-school parent I think children aren’t responsible enough to manage their rights on their own. It’s our job as parents to manage our kids’ rights for them, allowing them to make more and more decisions on their own as they mature.

I don’t think routine family photos that cast a kid in a reasonably positive light are any violation of the kid’s privacy. I don’t think sharing a kid’s name makes him or her any more susceptible to online predators. So if it were not for my ex’s strong words years ago, I would have been sharing my sons here and on Facebook all along.

But you can’t predict how your kid is going to feel about privacy as they grow up. By every stereotype, my millennial son should be Snapchatting and YouTubing every moment of his life. But he doesn’t. Damion grew to be a deeply private young man. You’ll be hard pressed to find him online. A year or two ago he canceled his seldom-used Facebook account because his mom and others kept tagging him in photos they shared there. (Yes, I know she was doing what she didn’t want me to do.) He wants to tightly limit how and when any information about him is shared. I was surprised that he gave me permission to share these photos.

Now I’m glad I haven’t been sharing about Damion all these years, that my externally driven moratorium ended up serving him well.

So before you write about your kids or post photos of them, consider how might they feel about it when they’re adults. You can’t predict how they’ll turn out and what they will care about. Just as I could never have guessed Damion would become so deeply private.



Broad Ripple Kroger

Broad Ripple Village Kroger
Olympus XA
Kodak T-Max 400

I love that Kroger has left this tiny store open in Broad Ripple, Indianapolis. Ten aisles, maybe – an anachronism. But it serves the surrounding neighborhood well, and helps keep it walkable.


Maam Valley

It’s good to be back on the blog! Margaret and I took our Irish honeymoon the first two weeks of September. It was the trip of a lifetime.

We flew to Dublin and immediately took a train to Galway on the opposite coast. There we rented a car and drove north to Ireland’s northern tip. We spent a day in Northern Ireland along the Atlantic coast (where we got to meet fellow photoblogger Michael McNeill) and then over the next several days slowly made our way back to Galway.

We spent several days in Galway, as this is where Margaret’s family is from. We met cousins and saw the remote western island where her grandfather was born and grew up.

From there we took the train back to Dublin, where we spent a couple days. Then we flew home.

In between all the stops we explored the countryside, seeing cliffs and ruins, mansions and everyday homes, and endless sheep. We ate in pubs and, gluten-free diets be damned, drank Guinness. (It didn’t kill us!)

And we soaked in each others’ company, enjoying how we both just liked hiking through nature and touring historic sites with our cameras in our hands. I shot 999 photos with my digital Canon S95, and five rolls of T-Max 400 with my Nikon N2000.

I’m only about halfway through processing the digital photos, and the b/w film shots should be back from the processor early this week. So as photos become ready, I’ll share the best of them here and tell the stories behind them.

This is the 1,500th post on Down the Road!

Photography, Road trips

Two weeks in Ireland

Stories told

Goodbye, Rick, sort of

Down the Road is on hiatus. New posts resume on Monday! Here’s one last rerun, one that’s special to me. I’m happy to run it again because the first time around (July of 2008) this blog was barely a year old and had few readers.

My brother and I didn’t see eye to eye on most things when we were kids. We didn’t hate each other, we just found each other to be extremely frustrating. We could make each other really mad with very little effort. The house rule was that whoever hit first was punished, so I knew I had really pushed Rick’s buttons when he pointed to his chin and said, “Hit me. Right there. Please.”


The man in earlier days

After I left our hometown for college, I didn’t see Rick except on holidays. He moved to my town eleven years ago, but I still barely saw him except on holidays. Our holiday times together were always fine, but somehow we seldom phoned and never dropped by.

But Rick was the first person I called when my now ex-wife wanted us to separate. He let me stay with him for a month, and he was a source of real strength as I started to recover from that horrible situation.

And then a couple years ago I ended up getting a job at the small software company where he worked. Understand that I’d spent my whole career, 17 years at the time, in software development. I even got my degree in mathematics and computer science, right up my career’s alley. But Rick got a degree in psychology, then worked seven years as a preperator in a museum and four in mortgage banking before making another big career change to come here. Both our careers had led to software quality assurance, his just through a very indirect route. We even reported to the same boss. And for the first time in our lives, my younger brother preceded me, and I lived in his shadow a little bit.

It has been great. Where daily childhood life emphasized our differences, adult work life has emphasized our similarities. We both like to think things through and do a thorough job. We both actively try to solve the problems we see. We both want to build team processes that make everybody more effective. We both want our teams’ efforts to bring more value to the company. So we regularly bounced ideas off each other, discussed thorny problems, and encouraged each other through challenges. I don’t think either of us knew the other had it in him.

It has long been clear, though, that Rick has grown about as much as he can at our company and was losing his enthusiasm. He needed new challenges – to learn new technologies and software development processes – to get his fire back. And so when I come back from vacation a week from Monday his cubicle will be empty. He’ll have a new job at a place that he thinks will provide the spark.

For the first time in my life, I’m going to miss my brother. Now that we have some momentum going, maybe we’ll call each other sometimes.

I’m happy to report, eight years later, that Rick and I have become very close. We still both test software for a living and swap war stories. And he’s still one of the first people I call when I need someone to talk to.

Cameras, Photography

Canon Canonet QL17 G-III

Down the Road is on hiatus, returning Monday, 26 September. I’m rerunning old posts in the meantime. One more camera review for you, of a very well known rangefinder. A buddy of mine gave me a complete set of new light seals for this camera four years ago, to solve its light leak problem. I still haven’t gotten around to installing them. It’s a shame, because this camera is a peach.

Just after I bought my Canonet 28, I scored the Canonet QL17 G-III I wanted. Yee hah! I’d been looking for one for over a year. It’s not like I had any trouble finding one – Canon made 1.2 million QL17 G-IIIs between 1972 and 1982, and I swear half of them are available on eBay at any given time. But either the price was too high or the seller couldn’t represent the camera’s condition. I hate buying a camera and finding out it’s broken! A tip for all you eBay sellers: Know something about your camera before you list it. If you want me to bid, don’t write “I don’t know anything about cameras and so I don’t know if it works” in your description!

According to the code stamped inside, my QL17 G-III was made in 1977. It’s dented in one corner and the rangefinder glass has a small crack in it, so this one’s clearly seen a bit of rough usage.

Canonet QL 17 GIII

Every part of this camera’s long name means something:

  • QuickLoadingQL stands for Quick Loading, a clever system that made loading film fast and foolproof (though I must be a sufficiently talented fool, because I managed to goober it up; more on that later)
  • 17 refers to the six-element 4omm f/1.7 lens, highly praised for its “Leica-like” sharpness and ability to focus as close as 2.6 feet
  • G means “grade up” and recognizes quality improvements over an earlier Canonet QL17
  • III represents the third (and final) generation of Canonets; see them all at Canon’s online museum

The QL17 G-III overflows with goodies. Its very quiet leaf shutter fires from 1/4 to 1/500 second (though mine seems to stick at the slowest speeds). If you plug Canon’s Canolite D flash into its hot shoe, it syncs at all shutter speeds. Its viewfinder compensates for parallax. It has a self timer. And, most enjoyably, when you set the aperture dial to A and choose a shutter speed, it selects the aperture for you – shutter-priority autoexposure. Its CdS light meter is designed to use the banned PX625 mercury battery, but a size 625 Wein cell zinc-air battery will do, despite the slight voltage difference. To see if the battery has any juice left, press the red button next to the viewfinder. If the blue dot lights, the battery’s good to go.

Canonet QL 17 GIII

I itched mightily to shoot a roll of film with my Canonet and see what kind of results I could get from the highly regarded lens. So I stopped at a nearby camera store for a size 625 Wein cell (for $8, gack), dropped in a roll of Fujicolor 200, and went shooting.

But for one flaw, this Canonet was a pleasure to use. It was fairly lightweight and fit into my jacket pocket. The winding lever worked easily and quickly. Inside the viewfinder, the yellow rangefinder spot was bright and easy to see. To focus, you move the focus ring until the yellow rangefinder image lines up with the viewfinder image. I especially liked how the focus ring has a little tab that falls right between your left index and middle finger as you shoot; it made focusing almost effortless. I found myself focusing without even realizing I was doing it, as if the camera was part of me. But I was jarred back to reality every time I pressed the shutter button. It had more travel than I expected, and I was constantly pressing down to no result. I kept having to reposition my finger at a steeper angle and press again. I expect that if I run another couple rolls through, I’ll get the hang of it.

I also managed to screw up loading the film. I was shooting happily away when I noticed that the counter said 29 – on a 24-exposure roll. I hadn’t stuck the film’s leader into the quick-loading mechanism far enough, the film failed to wind, and I had exposed the leader 29 times. After I reloaded, I snapped this shot. I turned on autoexposure and then fiddled with the shutter speed until I got a wide aperture. An f stop guide is inside the viewfinder; a needle points to the f stop the autoexposure system has chosen. I was deliberately trying to get some depth of field. I got it, but the subject could be more interesting.

Hoch lebe Deutschland!

I brought my dog outside (she’s a favorite subject) and kept experimenting with depth of field. Of all the shots of Gracie I made that afternoon, I like this one’s composition best, but it reveals that the camera has a light leak. A few other shots show it too. I knew this was a risk, as one of the camera’s light seals has disintegrated and the other is gooey. I wonder why light leaked on some shots but not on others.


When the camera didn’t leak light, however, I was very pleased with the colors, detail, and clarity. I took some fall shots in my neighborhood a week before with my Kodak EasyShare Z730 and I liked how they turned out, but I had to punch the shots up in Paint Shop Pro to get the depth of color I got straight out of the QL17 G-III. Also, it seems to me that the individual leaves in this photo have more definition than those on a similar shot from my Z730, and that it captured greater texture in the tree, created by the shadows the leaves cast on each other.

Fall color in my neighborhood

I visited South Bend while I still had a few shots left on the roll. I strolled through downtown in the late afternoon and shot these flags.


I just love the St. Joseph River bridge on old US 31 at Leeper Park. South Bend is fortunate to have several lovely bridges in the City Beautiful style in its downtown. By this time, I had gone beyond just trying out an old camera and had moved to just enjoying shooting with a nice piece of equipment.

St. Joseph River bridge, South Bend

I’ll load up the Canonet QL17 G-III again and again, there’s no doubt. After I replace the light seals, that is.

If you like classic cameras, check out my entire collection.