Film Photography, Travel

Dublin on Kodak T-Max 400

We wrapped our time in Ireland in Dublin. I shot every step on Kodak T-Max 400 film.

A river runs through Dublin on Kodak T-Max 400 film

You might think we’d start in Dublin. After all, our flight in did land at the Dublin airport. Yet we immediately boarded a train and hightailed it to Galway. It’s how Margaret wanted it, as after all that’s where her family is from! And as we looked over all the places we could visit across Ireland, places within driving distance of Galway kept edging out places in Dublin.

But we knew that at the end of our trip we knew we wouldn’t want to rush back to Dublin just to board a plane. We would want to regroup for a day or two first. So we booked a hotel in Dublin.

We had been having a truly amazing trip, with outstanding experience after outstanding experience. Our astounding luck had to run out sometime, and it did in Dublin. Nothing truly bad happened. It was merely an average time. After the fabulous experiences we’d been having, average was quite a comedown.

What’s a trip to Dublin without visiting the Guinness mother ship at St James’s Gate? It was the first thing we did. For 20 euros you can take a tour. But they don’t actually brew Guinness here anymore; the place is more like a museum now. A very noisy and crowded museum, from which you can exit only through an enormous gift shop. At least we got to pour our own Guinness as part of the tour, though it was nearly impossible to find a quiet corner to sit down and drink it. If you’re going to Dublin, pass on this.

Guinness on Kodak T-Max 400 film

On our way back to the hotel we had dinner at the oldest pub in all of Ireland (or so it promoted itself). The food was great but the service was criminally slow. After 45 minutes of waiting to pay our bill, both of us seriously considering simply stiffing the joint, our waiter finally passed by. He obviously and deliberately ignored me. I had to block his way and almost force him to take my credit card.

Inside the oldest pub in Ireland on Kodak T-Max 400 film

The next morning we thought we’d go see the Book of Kells at nearby Trinity College. It cost 20 euros to get in — and the mile-long line moved glacially. Worse, photography was prohibited inside. Unwilling to spend our whole morning in a queue to see something we couldn’t photograph, we walked around campus for a minute to process our disappointment and then moved on.

Trinity University on Kodak T-Max 400 film
Trinity University on Kodak T-Max 400 film

Unsure what to do with our day, we looked at Google Maps on our phones and saw that a large park wasn’t too far away. We decided to walk over and rest for a while. We passed through a shopping district on our way.

Dublin on Kodak T-Max 400 film
Dublin street scene on Kodak T-Max 400 film
Dublin street scene on Kodak T-Max 400 film

The park is called St. Stephen’s Green, and it is lovely and quiet, a sharp contrast to how we’d experienced Dublin so far. We spent hours here, walking and holding hands, talking and taking photographs. We left feeling refreshed. I’ll share some color photos I took here in an upcoming post.

St Stephen's Green in Dublin on Kodak T-Max 400 film
St. Stephen's Green in Dublin on Kodak T-Max 400 film
St. Stephen's Green in Dublin on Kodak T-Max 400 film
St. Stephen's Green in Dublin on Kodak T-Max 400 film
St. Stephen's Green in Dublin on Kodak T-Max 400 film
St. Stephen's Green in Dublin on Kodak T-Max 400 film

It was midafternoon and our stomachs were insistently reminding us it had been too long since our last meal. We reluctantly left the park and found a pub. It had a long row of Guinness taps, and Margaret asked the bartender if she could photograph them. “Sure,” he said, “but would you rather I photographed you pouring a pint at one?” Whaaaat? Absolutely! Unfortunately, those photos are in Margaret’s camera. But it was another highlight of our Dublin stay.

The Spire in Dublin on Kodak T-Max 400 film

So Dublin wasn’t a washout. We have some good memories, all recorded on Kodak T-Max 400 film. I’ll share a couple more in upcoming posts.

Nikon N2000 and 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor on Kodak T-Max 400.

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History, Photography, Preservation

Touring Heslar Naval Armory, Indianapolis

It stands like a monument, this Art Moderne building on Indianapolis’s Northwestside.

Heslar Naval Armory

The first time I saw the Heslar Naval Armory was 20 years ago. I had a job Downtown and I drove I-65 every day to my suburban home. But a major project closed the highway for a couple months, and the detour led drivers west along 30th Street. At the White River, 29th and 30th Streets share a bridge. The Armory is nestled where the street curves to meet the bridge.

heslarmap
Imagery and map data © 2017 Google.

From a distance, it appears to stand right in the middle of 30th Street. As I approached it for the first time I couldn’t believe not only that it existed, but also that it was in this rough neighborhood of factories and low houses in ill repair. (It wasn’t always this way. The neighborhood used to be solidly middle class. And at one time, the region east of the armory and north of 30th St. was a popular amusement park!)

Heslar Naval Armory, Indianapolis

The armory was built in 1936 as a project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which was one of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. It was designed by architects Ben Bacon and John Parrish to serve as a naval training facility, offering everything a sailor would find on a ship. Walking through, every detail affirms the building’s naval purposes.

Heslar Naval Armory, Indianapolis

Perhaps the armory’s most important days came during World War II, when its inland location away from high surveillance on the coasts made it an attractive place for generals and admirals to plan their campaigns. Key portions of the Battle of Normandy were planned here.

We toured the armory late last year thanks to Indiana Landmarks, which became involved with the building after the Navy (and the Marines, who in later years shared the space) decommissioned the building and moved out. Our tour took us through the mess hall. Tables and chairs had been removed, but the nautical decorative details were still in place.

Heslar Naval Armory, Indianapolis

Even the mess hall’s light fixtures were cool: little globes.

Globe Light

One more shot of the lights, because they’re so interesting.

Heslar Naval Armory, Indianapolis

The third floor includes this little bar, a space for officers only back in the day. Notice the porthole windows in the doors. This was a feature throughout the building.

Heslar Naval Armory

Even the bar carried strong naval themes.

Heslar Naval Armory, Indianapolis

Much of the armory is given over to offices, but it does also include a gymnasium. The deck on which I stood to take this photograph is an open bridge that was used in training exercises. I wish I thought to photograph it from below!

Heslar Naval Armory, Indianapolis

The armory’s most remarkable feature was its submarine simulation area. It can be flooded! A training exercise apparently involved sailors trying to figure out how to stop water from coming in.

Heslar Naval Armory, Indianapolis

It was a pretty cramped space, but our tour guide assured us that a submarine is even more cramped.

Heslar Naval Armory, Indianapolis

This first-floor space even had steps and a hatch up to the second floor. It was cordoned off for us tourists, but I’m sure that sailors who didn’t figure out how to stop the water from coming in were grateful to have it.

Heslar Naval Armory, Indianapolis

The armory is named for Ola Fred Heslar, born in Brazil, Indiana in 1891. His tour of duty with the Navy began in 1907 and continued into the Naval Reserves in 1922, where he was named Chief of Naval Affairs for Indiana. He oversaw the construction of this armory. Heslar returned to active duty during World War II and took command of the armory. He was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1944. He died in 1970.

Indiana Landmarks brokered a deal for Herron High School, a classical liberal-arts college-preparatory charter school on Indianapolis’s Old Northside, to buy the building. Herron’s building has long been at capacity, and they wanted a second campus to carry on their mission. They’re renovating it now, including tearing out some interior walls, to open it as Riverside High School. Because Indiana Landmarks is involved, all construction will keep the building’s outstanding architectural features. Riverside High School hopes to take in its first students in the fall of 2017.

iPhone 6s and Canon A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Kodak Tri-X.

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Film Photography, Travel

Rosses Point Beach in black and white

Why is it that beaches look so good in black and white?

Rosses Point Beach

I never would have guessed until I saw J. R. Smith’s photostream on Flickr. He lives on the northern California coast and photographs the beach in black and white all the time.

Rosses Point Beach

This beach isn’t in California — it’s in northwest Ireland. on a peninsula in County Sligo called Rosses Point.

Rosses Point Beach

Rosses Point is a peninsula with this beach, a harbor, and a small town. Famed poet William Butler Yeats spent his summers here when he was a boy.

Rosses Point Beach

We spent about an hour exploring this beach, and in that time dark clouds parted for full sun, only to yield to gray overcast. The changing sky is a lot of why we stayed so long: new light brought out new and interesting things to photograph.

Rosses Point Beach

My color photos of this beach do not at all show the scalloping in the sand.

Rosses Point Beach

We had other places we wanted to see this day so we reluctantly moved on.

Rosses Point Beach

Nikon N2000, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 400

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Donegal Abbey

River scene in Donegal Town
Nikon N2000, 35mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor
Kodak T-Max 400
2016

We visited Donegal Abbey, a ruin and cemetery. This shot from the riverbank there was my favorite from our visit.

Film Photography, Travel
Image
Photography

Experimenting with desaturating color digital photos

I photographed a whole bunch of pub and shop exteriors while I was in Ireland. I liked how simple and clean yet appealing the buildings were. I liked the shallow setbacks from the streets for the cozy feel they created. I shot them straight on, face forward.

Pub in Ardara, Ireland
Ardara, Ireland. Canon PowerShot S95

Despite all the great color I found in these buildings, I shot them with black and white in mind. Perhaps I’m inspired by the recent work of photo blogger Dan James, who’s been desaturating Fujicolor 200 as an inexpensive way to get black and white photos.

And so I desaturated several of these photos to see how they turned out. There were some things to like, such as how the yellow turned into a creamy gray.

Pub in Ardara, Ireland
Ardara, Ireland. Canon PowerShot S95, desaturated

I also shot this pub with my Nikon N2000 on Kodak T-Max 400. Notice the greater contrast, and also how the Anthony Molloy building shows up as nearly white on film, as opposed to gray in the desaturated digital image.

Ardara, Ireland
Ardara, Ireland. Nikon N2000, 35mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 400

I’m not sure what, if anything, this comparison says. So many variables are at play here, not the least of which is that the N2000 appears to have metered for a more generous exposure than the S95 did. And heaven knows I can adjust contrast and exposure all day long in Photoshop to bring the digital desaturation more into line with the film photo.

But I wish I had shot a few more storefronts on both film and digital to compare them, as I’m fascinated to study the differences.

I desaturated a few other straight-on building shots, too. Here’s one from Ballinrobe, a rural community in County Mayo.

Ballinrobe, Ireland
Ballinrobe, Ireland. Canon PowerShot S95
Ballinrobe, Ireland
Ballinrobe, Ireland. Canon PowerShot S95, desaturated

This rich red storefront in Galway really stood out, and was an obvious candidate for this series. The desaturation ended up looking pretty flat, however. I bet it would benefit from further adjustments, especially to increase contrast.

The Pie Maker
Galway, Ireland. Canon PowerShot S95
The Pie Maker
Galway, Ireland. Canon PowerShot S95, desaturated

I shot a couple other storefronts with the N2000. I just like the higher-contrast I got with that 35mm lens and the T-Max 400 better than the color digital shots I desaturated.

In Letterkenny, Ireland
Ardara, Ireland. Nikon N2000, 35mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 400
Ardara, Ireland
Letterkenny, Ireland. Nikon N2000, 35mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 400.

It’s all subjective. Maybe you like the lower-contrast look of the desaturated photos. There are black-and-white films out there that give a flatter look. I’ve used some of them but I keep returning to Tri-X and T-Max. I guess I just like contrast in black-and-white photos.

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Film Photography

Vacation camera audition: Olympus XA

I’ve decided to take the Nikon N2000 to Ireland. The results were just too, too good. You all swayed me heavily in your comments on that audition post, by the way. But when I made that decision I hadn’t finished the audition roll in my Olympus XA yet, so I kept shooting. Not that this was a hardship; the XA is delightful.

Olympus XA

This little camera seemed like it would be the perfect vacation companion. Indeed, Moni Smith got great shots from hers in Italy and Ireland this year.

And did it ever handle beautifully for me! It really was everything I thought I wanted in a camera for this trip: small, light, capable.

But shooting an SLR just feels right to me, righter than even the most delightful tiny rangefinder camera. And when the images from the XA came back from the processor, it sealed the deal. I wasn’t quite as happy with them as I was with those from my N2000. I’ll point out why as I share photos from this roll of Kodak T-Max 400.

Margaret and I walked the Old Northside and adjacent Herron-Morton here in Indianapolis one hot August evening while I had the XA along.

1219

It resolved detail well, and returned the fine tones I’ve come to expect from T-Max. I bought five rolls of the stuff for my trip, by the way.

Old Northside

But some of the shots on the roll suffered from a serious lack of shadow detail. I don’t get why; the light wasn’t especially challenging. Could it have been the processing? Different soup, different results? I sent the T-Max I shot in the N2000 to Old School Photo Lab; I sent this roll of T-Max to Dwayne’s.

Old church, Old Northside

Fiddling with these photos in Photoshop I kept seeing blobs of blue in the dark areas. That means those areas resolve to full black. No amount of sliding sliders or curving curves could fix it, meaning the detail just wasn’t there. That was never a problem on the roll of T-Max I shot in the N2000.

Apartment House Entrance

There were also the usual challenges with the viewfinder not exactly lining up with what the lens sees, which is a pet peeve. When I framed this shot, the “Foundry” logo on the right was completely in frame.

The Foundry

The XA and Margaret and I went on a walk through the cemetery near my house. This Liberty Bell replica is a favorite subject.

Liberty Bell replica

I stepped way back for this landscape shot of the bell within its housing.

Washington Park North Cemetery

I finished the roll with a few la de da shots at home. Am I one of the last men alive who irons his own shirts? Who wears ironed shirts at all? I wait for the unironed shirts to pile up and then polish them all off in marathon sessions in my bedroom while I watch shows on Netflix. You can sort of make out, there near the top of the photo up and left of the iron, some plastic boxes under the dark area that is my dresser. Those boxes contain the old cameras I haven’t shot yet.

Ironing

Really, I could do just fine with the XA in Ireland. If some of you hadn’t so strongly suggested taking an SLR, which led me to try the N2000, I would be taking the XA to Ireland!

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