COVID-19

Winter’s a comin’

In the spring, I thought that lockdown might flatten the pandemic curve (remember that phrase?) enough that life could return to normal in the summer. I was willing, eager even, to press pause on seeing family and especially friends — to just stay home — for the greater good. But now it’s clear that we’re in this for months longer yet, easily through the winter and possibly even longer.

I’m mighty introverted and love spending time alone, but even I need some human contact. I feel it deeply — I’m not getting enough, even though I live with my wife and some of our children and thus have company whenever I want it. To be whole and healthy, I need to see family that doesn’t live here, and I need to see my friends. Videoconferencing hasn’t been a good enough substitute.

Obviously, risk of COVID increases the more you interact with people outside your household. My wife and I have read a number of articles about it, articles that were as agenda-free as we could find. The consensus is that when you spend time with people outside your household, the lowest-risk way to do it is outside, where whatever people around you breathe out dissipates into the air. Distancing of at least six feet, or masks when that’s not possible, further reduces the risk.

Indiana businesses are open again with a few restrictions (though in at least one county bars remain closed). This appears to have signaled a return to normal for many Hoosiers. I see people spending time in each others’ homes, riding in each others’ cars, and having meals inside restaurants. It saddens me to see it, as this behavior only spreads the virus.

My wife and I are still playing it conservatively — from our observation, much more conservatively than most. But we have loosened up some. Isolation has been hard on us and has contributed to our low moods. Right now, we do see our friends and extended family outside. We are beginning to travel together in limited fashion to places where we spend most of our time outside. We choose to take on what we believe is a small amount of COVID risk to get the mental health benefits of human interaction and being in the world.

We’re getting as much of it in now as we can, because this window will close when winter weather arrives. Indiana winters are cold and snowy, sharply limiting outdoor activity. I never look forward to winter, but I dread this coming winter more than any other in my life because it will mean intense isolation.

We’ve had occasional picnics in a Zionsville park and invited children, siblings, and parents who live in central Indiana. We’re having another on Sunday. We’ve taken dinner to my mom’s a couple times, and eaten it with her on her patio. A couple weeks ago my team at work had a socially distanced picnic together. And I’m starting to see friends a little, always outside, with reasonable distancing. On Tuesday I saw my brother and a mutual colleague for the first time since February. We met at a restaurant with a great whiskey selection, and sipped a couple bourbons on the patio while we caught up. It was wonderful.

Yesterday I took the afternoon off and drove to southern Indiana to meet my younger son, Garrett, at a state park. His mom moved way out into the country with her husband after he retired, and that’s where Garrett lives when he’s not away at college. The state park is about 20 minutes from his home. I don’t remember exactly the last time I saw Garrett, but it was before the pandemic and might have been a long ago as January. I’ve not gone this long without seeing him since he was born. We went for a long hike, and talked. It slaked a deep thirst.

My wife and I have also booked an Airbnb apartment in downtown Louisville for an upcoming weekend. Since we married, we’ve made a point of taking a long weekend away every three months. With all the hard stuff we’ve lived through, these trips help us remember that we love each other and enjoy each other’s company very much. Our last trip was in January. We need to get away. We chose an Airbnb apartment rather than a hotel because we think there’s some risk advantage to a single unit over a room in a large building. We were also able to learn about the owner’s cleaning practices in detail, and they satisfy us. While there, we hope to walk through downtown Louisville photographing its architecture and enjoying meals outside at restaurants. But if it rains all weekend we will buy groceries, make our own meals, and watch Netflix together. If this weekend trip is like all the others we’ve taken, we’ll return renewed in our relationship.

One of our sons moved out a few weeks ago. It brought us no joy as he’s on an unsustainable life path that will go badly for him. It’s been deeply stressful for all of us who live here. He is also estranged from the mother of his child. After he moved out we reached out to the mother, who has since been generous in bringing our granddaughter for visits. We were thrilled when the mother offered to make the visits to be regular, weekly if we can swing it, to build strong bonds.

Already bad weather has backed us into a corner, and we’ve allowed them into our home. We have reasonable assurance that the mother is managing pandemic risk as well as she can, and she has the same reasonable assurance from us. But in the end you never can really know and every person you add to your bubble only increases your risk. And again, winter is coming; the cold and snow will sharply limit our ability to see our granddaughter outside. We’ve judged that the better thing is for us to have time with our granddaughter, so we invite her and her mother in. We hope we’re right.

Holliday Road Bridge

Finally, I’m getting outside for walks and bike rides as much as I can. It’s a solitary activity and so I’m at no COVID risk. But the exercise is good for my body, mind, and spirit in these hard times. I figure I have about six more weeks on the bike before temperatures are too chilly for me to ride without special gear — it’s amazing how cold your hands, ears, and face get on the bike below about 60 degrees. I don’t enjoy wearing cold-weather gear on the bike, but this year it will be worth me investing in some so I can ride for as long as I can.

Walking will be easy enough and not unpleasant until the temps drop below zero Fahrenheit. Then I’ll break out my heaviest coat, a Korean War-era wool-lined Army trench that has blocked every cold I’ve thrown at it for the 35 years I’ve owned it. But walk I will, all winter. I’m making that commitment now. It will help me get through the long, lonely winter.

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Autumn trees at Crown Hill

Autumn trees at Crown Hill
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8-2006)

I went to Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis to photograph autumn color. But most trees were still green; peak was two weeks away. That Saturday afternoon would be the only day I could get away for this photo trip, and I knew it, so I acted.

I used to live a couple miles from Crown Hill and visited it often for photography. I’ve lived in Zionsville, 15 miles away, for two years now and miss visiting the place. But that’s no excuse. My house and Crown Hill are both right by exits of Interstate 65. Especially in the light traffic of a Saturday afternoon I can be there in 20 minutes.

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Film Photography

single frame: Autumn trees at Crown Hill

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Autumn display

Autumn display
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8-2006)

I took the Yashica-12 and a roll of the original Fujifilm Velvia to Crown Hill Cemetery to photograph some autumn color.

A friend sent me this roll of Velvia a few years ago. It’s the original Velvia, code RVP, expired since August of 2006 but always stored frozen. I’d forgotten about it until the fridge in the garage died. It was where I stored my film.

The Velvia had been on my mind ever since. I hoped to bring it out at autumn’s peak, but wow has life been busy. I had a three-hour window one Saturday what turned out to be two weeks before peak. I loaded the Velvia into the Yashica-12 and headed for Crown Hill Cemetery.

All week I’ll share single frames from that roll.

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Film Photography

single frame: Autumn display

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Photography

Autumn color in recent years past

Autumn is reaching its peak right about now in central Indiana. Is it just me, or did the leaves start to change later than normal? Isn’t peak normally past by now?

Photographing autumn color helps me appreciate a season I historically have not enjoyed because its arrival means winter is coming. I do not enjoy winter.

This year my time is short. I forced open a small window of time last Saturday to photograph some color, even though peak had not yet arrived.

The refrigerator in the garage died. I kept my film in there. Dealing with it made me realize that I’ve stockpiled a lot of film. Now I’m trying to shoot it all up, including a roll of Fuji Velvia, the original RVP emulsion, expired since 2006 but always kept frozen. I took it and my Yashica-12 out last Saturday, and I put the film in the mail for processing only on Wednesday. It could be a couple weeks before I, and therefore you, see the results.

But man have the colors gotten much nicer since Saturday. It makes me want to post autumn photos now! So I’ve spelunked my archives. These images will have to tide you, I mean me, over.

Autumn color in the neighborhood
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom, 2009.
Autumn at Turkey Run
Canon PowerShot S80, 2010.
Red leaf
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom, 2012.
Red tree
Nikon N65, 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6 AF Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2012.
Little leaves, out of focus
Olympus Stylus, Kodak Gold 200, 2013.
Red and path
Nikon F2, Fujifilm Velvia 50, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, 2014.
In transition
Nikon F2, Fujifilm Velvia 50, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, 2014.
Cemetery shade
Nikon N2000, 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E, Kodak Ektar 100, 2014.
Autumn leaves
Minolta SR-T 202, 50mm f/1.4 MD Rokkor-X, Kodak Gold 200, 2015.
Strange Evening Light
Nikkormat EL, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2016.
Autumn tree in Crown Hill
Certo Super Sport Dolly, Model A, Kodak Ektar 100, 2017.
Yellow tree on Old 334
Olympus XA2, Agfa Vista 200, 2018.
Red
Olympus XA2, Agfa Vista 200, 2018.

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Lilly Lake, Eagle Creek Park *EXPLORED*

Autumn at Lilly Lake
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III
Agfa Vista 200
2018

This photo was featured in Flickr Explore on November 19. It’s always fun to see all the likes and comments when one of my photos makes Explore.

I wonder how many Flickr viewers had any idea that I was shooting film? To know, they’d only have to click through to my image’s page and read the description.

Can an experienced eye guess that this is a film photograph? To me, the sky is the tell. It has a nuance to it that digital cameras seem unable to capture. They tend to render skies almost too perfectly, with wispy clouds against a sea of perfect azure.

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Film Photography

single frame: Autumn at Lilly Lake

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Film Photography

Shooting Fujifilm Provia 400X

Fire station

Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto sent me a few rolls of film from his fridge in thanks for a favor. It was mostly slide film, something I haven’t shot very much as my skinflint tendencies reliably turn me to inexpensive stuff like Fujicolor 200. I’ve been shooting it a roll here and a roll there. After enjoying a roll of my usual inexpensive stuff in my Nikon N2000 recently, I went for broke and loaded a gifted roll of slide film: Fujifilm Provia 400X.

The Bungalow

My 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens was already on the camera, so I left it there. Say what you will about zoom lenses, and this zoom lens in particular — Ken Rockwell calls it one of Nikon’s worst lenses ever — but I like this lens. It’s sharp enough, the zoom range is super useful for the subjects I shoot on photowalks, and it offers a macro mode. The wicked barrel distortion evident at its wide end is easily corrected in Photoshop.

Monon bridge

I am pleased with the rich color this film delivered. It hits a sweet spot between realistic and deep. These are the colors I remember when I was on the scene, but they’re richer, deeper somehow, and they make me want to go back and experience them again in person.

Purple link

This place, by the way, is Broad Ripple, a hip neighborhood on Indianapolis’s Northside. I visited it because it’s so colorful. I loved being able to shoot this ISO 400 slide film on a cloudy day — most slide films I’ve shot before are much slower, ISO 50 or ISO 100, requiring slower shutter speeds and a steadier hand.

The Depot

I also shot some of this roll on a bright, sunny day in downtown Fishers. This was the last time I shot any film there before I lost the job that brought me there five days a week. I hated that long, tedious commute and don’t miss it. There’s no good way to get to Fishers from anywhere. After you’re there, though, it’s not too bad.

Fountain

The Provia 400X kept on delivering. Just look at those blues and greens.

Mean street of Fishers

Here’s a quick look down one of Fishers’ few remaining original downtown streets. I showed you some of them not long ago in this post. I’m sure that in the next few years this will all be gone in favor of urban density. I shot this in late October, just as the trees were beginning to turn. We had an unusually warm early autumn, which delayed the onset of color. But when it came, it came fast and intense. The trees were largely bare after just a couple weeks.

Red leaves

The 35-70mm lens’s macro mode let me get right up on some of the leaves.

Pillow on our couch

Provia 400X’s speed let me experiment with a few shots inside. The subject isn’t terribly interesting but the colors are spot on with reality — after I Photoshopped out a green caste that the ambient incandescent lighting imparted.

Bathroom selfie

I tried a bathroom selfie. My black hoodie was a bit of a stretch for the Provia, even with 240 watts of light burning right over my head.

The Ruins

I also made a quick trip to The Ruins at Holliday Park in Indianapolis. I just love that place. I need to go photograph it proper one day and show it to you. This one photo will have to do for now.

My other slide-film experience has been a single roll of Velvia 50 and a whole bunch of Ektachrome E100G. The Velvia is super ultra saturated, which would be fun sometimes but isn’t my style most of the time. The E100G is nice stuff but a little too blue. This Provia really hits a sweet spot for me: realistic but rich color rendition.

Fujifilm doesn’t make Provia 400X anymore, and remaining stocks are all past their use-by dates. This roll was expired, but Stephen obviously stored it properly and it performed as new. This is very nice stuff and it’s a shame it’s discontinued.

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