Film Photography, Travel

Chicago’s Union Station on Kodak T-Max 400

Chicago Union Station

I’m a fan of Chicago’s gorgeous Union Station. I wish they still built buildings like this! On our recent trip, our plans took us by, so we went in.

Chicago Union Station

I had loaded my last roll of film, Kodak T-Max 400, into my Olympus XA. I think T-Max 400 is my favorite black-and-white film. I love its smooth look, and I enjoy the rich range of tones it delivers. I also enjoy being able to shoot inside handheld, as I did here, as it’s a fairly fast film. T-Max 400 never disappoints me.

Chicago Union Station

We didn’t stay long, as we had places to be. But in the fifteen minutes or so we were inside, I made all of these images. On the one below, I was trying to bring in as many details in as I could. I can see now that its not the most coherent composition.

Chicago Union Station

But I made up for it, I think, on all of the other images. There’s a great deal of symmetry to play with inside Union Station, and I deeply enjoy symmetry. The XA’s viewfinder is accurate enough to frame that symmetry and mostly get it on the finished scan.

Chicago Union Station

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Film Photography, Travel

The Chicago River at night, on Kodak T-Max P3200

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

It is such fun to make photographs well after nightfall, holding my film SLR in my hands, with only building and street lights shining on the scene. As I walked along the river in Chicago, Kodak T-Max P3200 let me make photographs as if it were 9 a.m., not 9 p.m.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

It was cold that night, being the first weekend in January. My Nikon F3 can handle that kind of treatment, which is why I chose it. I mounted my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens so I could fit more of the city in each frame.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

My wife and I had just come from Navy Pier, where we photographed the Chicago skyline from the Ferris wheel. We had plenty of time for a leisurely walk along the Chicago River before our dinner reservations within the Loop. We walked on both sides of the river, crossing the bridges wherever we felt like it.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

Chicago at night is a perfect subject for Kodak T-Max P3200. The built environment generates plenty of light to render subjects beautifully.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

I forget exactly what apertures and shutter speeds I used to make these photos, but they let me shoot easily and comfortably. My lens wasn’t wide open, and I didn’t have to worry about camera shake.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

As you can see, the P3200 does return noticeable grain. A couple of these photos do show slight underexposure. My F3’s meter did the best it could to read this light but didn’t always nail it. A few of these images looked a little foggy, but a little tweaking in Photoshop cleared that right up.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

I remain amazed by how well this film works. I know some people push other films, such as Tri-X, to 3200 and get good results. But you have to push your processing accordingly. That’s not a huge deal when you process your own. But I send my 35mm black-and-white film to a pro lab. It’s nice not to have to pay extra for the push processing on P3200.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

My wife and I had a lovely walk along the Chicago River as I shot this roll of Kodak T-Max P3200. I look forward to doing it again someday — and to finding other subjects that this film can make sing.

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Film Photography, Travel

Shooting Film Washi D

Wabash St.

When it comes to black-and-white photography, I hew to the classics. Lately I’ve enjoyed Ilford’s FP4 Plus for its rich tones. When I want something faster, it’s a tossup between Kodak T-Max 400 and Ilford HP5 Plus. But I am also a deeply curious man. When I heard about Film Washi, a one-man film company from France, I wanted to try its films.

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I’ve already shot a roll of Film Washi S, and here I’ve shot a roll of Film Washi D. Analogue Wonderland sent me both rolls in exchange for these mentions. Their Film Washi stocks vary with time; check here to see what they have available now. Or choose from any of the over 200 other films they keep in stock.

I loaded the Film Washi D into my Olympus XA and brought it on a weekend trip to Chicago with my wife. It was early January, cold and gloomy. Who knows whether this was the best light to test this ISO 500 film, but that’s what I threw at it.

Cafe view

Like so many boutique films, Film Washi D loves contrasty scenes. I knew this going in, because I read up about it on Film Washi’s site first. I learned my lesson after not doing that with the roll of Film Washi S I shot last year. Turns out this film was originally used for aerial surveillance and cartography. Strong contrast is likely useful in that application.

Vans

I had a devil-may-care attitude as I shot this roll. “I wonder if this film can handle this light,” I kept wondering. It kept saying yes. I’m especially pleased with how it captured the iconic sign of the Berghoff Restaurant.

The Berghoff, Chicago

We had tickets to see the new production of The Phantom of the Opera; this was the marquee. (I’d never seen the show in any form before. The production was first rate, but I was surprised to find I don’t like the story.)

Phantom of the Opera at the Cadillac Palace Theatre

There was a dull muddiness to all of these photos as scanned. I shouldn’t be surprised — the negatives were incredibly thin. I shot at the box speed of 500, but I wonder now if I should have shot at half that. Or perhaps my lab didn’t know what to do with this film and underdeveloped it. I opened these images in Photoshop’s RAW editor and used the Black and Dehaze sliders to tame the muddiness. Sometimes it wouldn’t be fully tamed without losing all the shadow detail. I had to stop short of that in the photo below.

The Loop, Chicago

Skies were overcast all weekend, creating diffuse, even light. But there wasn’t always enough light for Film Washi D to pull detail out of the shadows.

Umbrella Men

Not knowing this about the film yet, I lucked into using it to good effect here.

Shadowy Tower

But give Film Washi D some blacks and some whites to play with, and it brings them home with aplomb.

Painted rhino

If I had this roll to shoot over again, I would have shot nothing but street with it. I made exactly one street image, this one, shot from my hip. I thought there was something interesting in this lone woman at the end of this line of chairs, and I was right. The Film Washi D captured a reasonable range of tones.

Seated

The woman spied me with my camera, even though it was at my hip, and shouted obscenities at me. She was most unhappy about being my subject. So here you go, lady: you’re immortalized on the Internet.

Many thanks to Analogue Wonderland for the chance to try Film Washi D and give it this one-roll review.

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Photography

Views from the tallest building in Indianapolis

My friend and colleague Charlie has worked with me at two different software companies. He’s a skilled engineer who specializes in site performance and test automation. He currently works for Salesforce, the giant software-as-a-service company. They have a large office in Indianapolis in the city’s tallest building, renamed Salesforce Tower when they moved in.

Charlie and I met for lunch not long ago, and he took me to the top floor of Salesforce Tower so I could see the views. Here’s the entire north side of Indianapolis. In the center near the bottom you can see the Indiana World War Memorial, and north across the long plaza from it is Central Library. Behind it, I-65 cuts across the landscape. I can even see the Michigan Road running off at a diagonal at left, a little north of center; can you detect it?

Northside of Indianapolis

On the south side of the building, this is the view of Monument Circle below. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, at 284 feet, 6 inches, was the tallest structure in town until the 372-feet-tall City-County Building was completed in 1962, a couple blocks away. When you see photos of Indianapolis from many years gone by, the Monument towers over everything. Today, not so much.

Looking down on Monument Circle

Other skyscrapers went up in the decades that followed, crowned by Salesforce Tower at 811 feet tall. It’s not just the tallest building in Indianapolis, but also the tallest building in all the Midwest outside Chicago and Cleveland and the 58th tallest building in the US.

Salesforce Tower was completed in 1990. It was originally to be the headquarters for American Fletcher National Bank, but before construction even began, Bank One bought American Fletcher. Later, Chase bought Bank One. Salesforce became the building’s biggest tenant in 2017, which gave them rights to put their name on the building.

View from the Riley gravesite

Here’s a view of the Indianapolis skyline from the highest elevation in Indianapolis, where James Whitcomb Riley is buried inside Crown Hill Cemetery. It’s about five miles away as the crow flies. Salesforce Tower rises above the rest.

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Film Photography, Travel

The Wrigley Building in Chicago on Kodak T-Max P3200

Chicago’s Wrigley Building was built from 1920 to 1924 as the first skyscraper north of the Chicago River. It’s a stunner at any time of the day, but I especially like it at night. Its white facade, beautifully lit, stands in contrast to the dark buildings all around it.

Wrigley Building

The building’s south tower is the taller of the two, 30 stories vs. 21.

Skyscrapers

The building is covered head to toe in terra cotta, providing no end of interesting detail to study.

Wrigley Building

I focused my lens on the south tower far more than the north, but here’s one good shot of the north tower, its entrance.

Wrigley Building

The north tower is 410 N. Michigan Ave., the south is 400.

Wrigley Building

The two towers are separated by a little alley, with a third-floor bridge connecting the two buildings and framing the scene.

Wrigley Building

There are no shortage of wonderful angles from which to compose interesting photographs.

Wrigley Building

Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max P3200.

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Film Photography

Downtown Indianapolis on Ilford HP5 Plus

Nada

I work in Downtown Indianapolis. Yes, it’s capital-D Downtown here. My favorite way to take a work break is to grab whatever film camera I have with me and take a walk around capital D. For a few weeks recently, that was my little Olympus Stylus, into which I’d loaded a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus.

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The generous people at Analogue Wonderland sent me this roll of Ilford HP5 Plus so I’d write about the experience and drop their name. You can buy HP5 Plus from them here. But do explore their site — they offer over 200 other films! Click the logo to see.

Contrasting Doors

Last time I shot HP5 I used my big semi-pro Nikon N90s SLR. I wanted to see what kind of results I got from a different class of 35mm camera, hence the Stylus. Answer: every bit as impressive. I got excellent detail and balanced contrast shot after shot. As a traditionally grained film, you will absolutely see grain on HP5. But it looks natural and doesn’t detract from sharpness or detail.

Central Christian

I shot this roll little by little in December and January, two of Indiana’s gloomiest months every year. At ISO 400, HP5 Plus had the speed to cope with the poor light and give me big depth of field.

Leon's

Even on a day with some sun, the HP5 Plus delivered good balance between the bright and shadowy areas.

View from the 12th Floor Window

I walked around on idle lunch hours with the Stylus, photographing anything I thought might look good in black and white.

Cups Coffee

There are plenty of lovely older buildings Downtown with interesting details to study. HP5 Plus did a great job navigating the natural contrasts.

Inland Bldg.

Even though Indianapolis is Indiana’s largest city by far, it’s not large like Chicago or Dallas. The core of Downtown is about one mile square, beyond which the tall buildings give way fast to shorter office and apartment buildings and then neighborhoods full of older homes. Roberts Camera is just beyond that mile square. They process 35mm color film at a reasonable price. They also happen to be the US distributor of Ilford products.

Roberts

While I’ve never used them, there are a few auto mechanics just outside Downtown’s mile square. Convenient!

Firestone

HP5 Plus is a great film for everyday photography. If you’d like to try Ilford HP5 Plus for yourself, you can order it from Analogue Wonderland here. They provided me this roll of film in exchange for this mention.

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