Film Photography

Locally Grown Gardens

I’ve photographed Locally Grown Gardens more times than I’ve been inside. I hereby make a pact with myself: from now on, I will step inside and buy something every time I photograph something here.

Locally Grown Gardens

I love how this year-round farm market is housed in a repurposed gas station. I’ve become fascinated lately with the history of gas-station architecture. There might be another blog post in me just about that. This building is covered in steel tiles painted with porcelain enamel (though I think these tiles may have been painted over with conventional house paint). Oblong-box stations like this were built from the 1930s through about 1970.

Benches

I seem to have black-and-white film in my camera most often when I am here; this is my only color shot of the place. The benches’ turquoise color is just perfect.

Pumpkins for Sale

The decor changes with the seasons. Whenever it’s chilly outside, you’re likely to find a small fire going in a barrel out front.

Menu/Produce

While I’ve been in to buy produce a time or two, I’ve never stopped here for a meal. They offer a small menu that varies with the seasons.

I am often amused at myself by the places that keep attracting me when a camera hangs from my neck. I often don’t realize how I’m gravitating toward those places until I’m searching through my photos and see how many times I’ve visited a particular subject. That’s how I came to write about Locally Grown Gardens today. Perhaps I should make a few deliberate trips down there with my camera, and perhaps take a meal there, and perhaps (with permission) take a few photographs inside.

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Photography, Preservation

SoBro homes

I would love to live in the city again. Actually, I live in the city now, as my home is well within the city limits. But it’s not real city, as I live in a suburban-style subdivision. I miss living on a grid of streets with sidewalks, and being able to walk to the store.

I had some expired Tri-X in my Nikon F2AS a couple weeks ago when I had business in South Broad Ripple, a neighborhood whose homes were built mostly during the first three decades of the 20th century. It was a great day for a stroll, and stroll I did. The homes in “SoBro,” as it’s called, are a mixed bag of architectural styles and of levels of care. A real showplace home can stand right next to one that needs a complete rehab. I shot a handful of homes that were well kept and that appealed to me. Like this one.

SoBro homes

This Spanish-influenced house was built in 1925. (I looked it up.) I’m guessing it looked more conventional when it was new. It’s for sale and can be yours for $185,000. Homes in this neighborhood seem to sell as low as $50,000 and as high as $300,000. The median price seems to hover around the $150,000 mark.

SoBro homes

I’m not crazy about this style of roof. But this is still a striking home, and it’s much larger than average for this neighborhood.

SoBro homes

This home is more typically sized. I’ll bet it’s about 1,000 square feet on the first level. That peaked stone facade and arched front door shows up on a few other homes in this area.

SoBro homes

This little house is on the small side even for this neighborhood. But early in the last century we had very different ideas about how much space a family needed in their home. Most homes here probably fall between 900 and 1,400 square feet, not counting basements.

SoBro homes

I’ve lived in 900 square feet and I’m not sure I’d want to live in such tight quarters while I’m still raising teenagers. Maybe after my nest is empty! But to live in this neighborhood and stroll its streets after supper, and maybe stop in at a pub for a nip on the way home – that would be heavenly.

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Film Photography

More from the Yashica-D

Yashica-D

I love my Yashica-D. It is a genuine pleasure to shoot.

Which surprises me, because it has no built-in light meter. Using an external meter isn’t hard, but I vastly prefer having one built in so I can assess exposure right in the viewfinder. So much so, that a dozen other meterless cameras with sweet lenses lie about my house in disuse.

But not the Yashica-D. I keep returning to it. I had a weekend afternoon free right after Christmas last year, so I spooled in a roll of Kodak E100G slide film and went out for a drive, stopping to photograph whatever felt good.

My drive led me to South Broad Ripple. My brother works for a software-development consultancy there, and I know one of the partners, so I felt like I could park in their lot and walk around from there. The defunct Monon Fitness Center is next door. The building isn’t much but the faded sign is cool.

Monon Fitness Center

Around the corner, Locally Grown Gardens is year-round fruit and vegetable stand in a former gas station. They also have a small menu; you can have lunch there. The property has been in my lens a number of times, as there’s usually something interesting to capture there.

Benches

I also made yet another visit to Crown Hill Cemetery. I couldn’t get enough of the joint late last year.

Cemetery gate

Crown Hill contains a National Cemetery. I find it challenging to shoot because of the tiny gravestones, which I suppose is why I keep shooting it.

Crown Hill National Cemetery

It’s too bad that Kodak has discontinued E100G. (Fortunately, I have four more rolls in the fridge.) To my eye, it captures reality. These colors are very much as the day was: nature was muted and undersaturated, which made the man-made colors stand out.

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Camera Reviews

Agfa Clack

I keep searching for a fun, easy medium-format camera that delivers good results, and the Agfa Clack just might be the one.

Agfa Clack

Many cameras in this category take 620 film, which has been out of production since 1996. It’s the same film as 120, just on a different spool. You can still buy 120 film, so you can respool 120 film onto a 620 spool in a dark bag (instructions here) or buy pre-respooled 620 (one source here). But for me the hassle of the former and the expense of the latter have lost their charm. Unfortunately, most of the simple medium-format cameras take 620.

Because it takes 120 film, the Agfa Clack has long been on my radar. It was a hugely popular family snapshot camera in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. Because the Clack didn’t catch on in the US, they can be hard to come by – and they command tall prices. I routinely see them go for $60 and $70 on eBay. For a box camera! I decided I would pay no more than $30, and I waited a year before I found one at that price.

Agfa Clack

This camera is a paragon of simplicity and functional design. It’s so German! And since it’s German, you pronounce the As in this camera’s name as ah. Ahgfa Clahck. This camera just has to be named after the sound its shutter makes as it opens and closes.

In many ways, the Clack is as simple as it gets – light-tight box, single-element lens, single-speed leaf shutter. But it offers some surprising features and clever engineering. On the lens barrel is a lever that slides three aperture masks into place – the first for closeups, the second for overcast days, and the third for bright sunlight. The closeup aperture includes a magnifying lens that’s supposed to focus from 3 feet. Without it, the lens focuses from 10 feet. The sunlight aperture includes a yellow filter, which adds contrast to skies when using black-and-white film.

The first and third apertures are slightly smaller than the second, though there’s wide disagreement about what f stops these apertures actually are. f/8 and f/10? f/10 and f/11? f/11 and f/13? Nobody seems to agree on the shutter’s speed, either, with guesses ranging from 1/35 to 1/60 sec. But specs in this range are in line with the slow-speed, wide-latitude black-and-white films consumers bought in those days.

The camera’s ovoid shape (when viewed from the top or the bottom) was not just styling. There’s no pressure plate in the Clack to hold the film flat. Instead, the film flows along the curved back, which matches the curve in the single element lens to yield an undistorted image.

Agfa Clack

The Clack is two pieces that come apart for film loading. You twist the mechanism on the bottom toward AUF to open it; the top pops up and you pull it out. All of the camera’s works are in the top piece, and you spool the film around the back of it. When you drop the top back into the bottom, twisting the mechanism to ZU draws the top down and locks it tight.

In the middle of the open-close mechanism is a tripod socket, an unusual feature on such a simple camera. The Clack pairs it with a cable release socket, which is on the lens barrel below the shutter lever. These two features make it possible to eliminate camera shake for the sharpest photos the lens can deliver.

By the way, if you like box cameras also see my reviews of the Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model D (here), the Kodak Duaflex II (here), the Ansco Shur Shot (here), the Ansco B-2 Cadet (here), and the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

The Clack’s lens can deliver remarkable sharpness for its simplicity. I loaded a roll of Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros and spent a very sunny afternoon in South Broad Ripple. This little retaining wall had taken a tumble.

Crumbles

A sticker inside the Clack recommends DIN 17 film, which is equivalent to ISO 40. I shot ISO 100 Acros confidently, however, because of its exposure latitude. It was a mistake; the Clack overexposed the film. Fortunately, Photoshop Elements let me correct exposure on each shot.

Monon Fitness Center

No matter, I had a great time shooting the Clack. Given that a roll of 120 produces just eight exposures in the Clack, it didn’t take me long. Shake was a bit of a problem though.

Signage

I got spot-on exposures when I put a roll of ISO 50 Ilford Pan F Plus into the Clack. I took it out on a day of errands and photographed the places where I stopped.

Crew Carwash

The Pan F really brought out the Clack’s best, with good sharpness and rich tones.

Lowe's

Another time I spooled some Kodak Ektar 100 into the Clack and shot it around the yard. I’ve had good luck with Ektar in box cameras.

Suburban banalia

I thought the colors and the sharpness were a little off this time. But I had my usual good time with the Clack, so who cares?

Suburban banalia

Finally, as I was teaching myself to develop black-and-white film I put a roll of ISO 100 Kosmo Foto Mono through the Clack. I overdeveloped the roll, but that’s not the Clack’s fault.

104

This is the photo that turned out best from that outing. This is about as close to anything as you can focus the Clack, unless you use the Portrait setting in very good light.

Passsssssat

You’ll find more photos of and from this camera in my Agfa Clack gallery.

In this camera’s heyday, images were usually contact printed from the negatives, resulting in 6 by 9 centimeter photographs. Contact printing gives crisp results when there was a little camera shake or when the lens itself was poor. But the Clack’s lens is surprisingly good for as simple as it is. The corners are slightly soft, but everywhere else detail and sharpness remain good.

The Clack is a winner.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Indiana Fried Chicken Tour

The Indiana Fried Chicken Tour: Mississippi Belle

Sherrel is a buddy of mine at work. He’s also a foodie. It seems like every time he comes by for a chat we end up talking about cooking and food. He drags me out for lunch every other week or so, and he always either wants to try a restaurant he’s heard about or go to a favorite joint for something really good. I’ve had some fabulous lunches thanks to Sherrel!

I had always wanted to try Hollyhock Hill, a restaurant around the corner from work that is famous for its fried chicken dinners. So Sherrel made reservations for us and we had a delicious, though high-calorie, lunch. It put us both in the mood for more fried chicken. We both made some in our homes for our families. We shared the secrets of our recipies. Then Sherrel visited a restaurant in southeastern Indiana that specialized in fried chicken and visited my office the next day extolling the virtues of this restaurant’s peppery chicken coating. He said, “We ought to go down there one day, you and me.” I said, “I hear there’s a tour you can make through southeastern Indiana, eating fried chicken at a bunch of different restaurants.” He said, “We ought to go all over the state eating fried chicken!” I said, “Yeah!” We began to scheme, and the Indiana Fried Chicken Tour was born.

If Indiana isn’t known for fried chicken, it is a gross oversight. “After all,” Sherrel pointed out, “Col. Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame is actually from Indiana. His formative chicken years were spent right here!”

Now, Sherrel and I are busy men with families. Our Indiana Fried Chicken Tour will take considerable time as we work around our commitments. Who knows how often we’ll be able to hit the road together. But we were able to begin our tour not long ago over a workday lunch right here in Indianapolis. And so our Indiana Fried Chicken Tour began, paradoxically at a restaurant that tips its hat to another state: Mississippi Belle.

As you can see, the restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside, though its You Must Eat Here slogan is plenty bold. Mississippi Belle is known as a soul-food restaurant, serving simple but delicious foods such as fried catfish, greens, liver and onions, marinated ribs, macaroni and cheese – and, of course, fried chicken.

Our visit to Mississippi Belle was on impulse, so I didn’t have my good camera along. This slightly blurry mobile-phone shot was the best I could do! The food came to us in no time. The lunch fried-chicken portion is a very healthy-sized breast and a drumstick. To me, green beans and mashed potatoes and gravy are right with fried chicken, so that’s what I ordered.

The chicken was very crispy on the outside and juicy to the bone on the inside. I was especially impressed given that they had to prepare the chicken in advance to be able to bring it to us so fast. The coating was light (“more chicken than coating,” the menu said) and lightly seasoned. The mashed potatoes were creamy with little bits of solid potato inside – in other words, truly mashed, not made from dried flakes. The gravy was as lightly seasoned as the chicken coating and was just the right thickness. The green beans were the only disappointment. The flavor was good, but the beans themselves were overcooked and had little body.

Sherrel ordered greens and macaroni and cheese with his chicken. He reported that the greens had good flavor and texture, and that the macaroni and cheese was above average but not the height of greatness.

Our lunches came with a plate of hot-water cornbread atop sliced onions. The cornbread had a wonderful slightly-sweet roasted-corn flavor and excellent density. There was even a little snap in the deep-fried exterior when I bit into it.

What you can’t see on the check in the photo above is that our lunches cost $6.48 each, plus drink. What a bargain! If you go in the evening, dinners are served family style. Each diner chooses a meat and the table chooses four sides to share. Most dinners are $13, give or take, and they’ll keep bringing food until you’re stuffed. My brother wants to take me out for a belated birthday, and I’ve already told him this is where we’re going. If you want to go sometime, too, you’ll find Mississippi Belle in the South Broad Ripple neighborhood in Indianapolis, at 2170 E. 54th St., just west of Keystone Avenue. Just be sure to bring cash, as it’s the only payment they accept.

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