Shooting the 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens

In case you can’t tell, I’ve been on a jag of shooting my prime manual-focus Pentax lenses. It’s also given me a chance to shoot up some film that’s been sitting in my fridge for far too long. So: my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens went on, and a roll of Kentmere 100 went in, my Pentax ME. And I took it along when I went to visit my son at Purdue. We drove across the river into Lafayette and strolled through downtown.


I’ve always enjoyed this f/2 prime, but after I bought my 50/1.4 it never got much play. I admit it: I liked the cachet of having that f/1.4 lens on my camera. Look at me, the photographer with the f/1.4 lens! But for everyday shooting I didn’t really need that extra stop.

I have generally not, however, enjoyed Kentmere 100. It’s soot and chalk, prone to blown highlights. But it did all right under this lens. And what a grand theater marquee that is!

Lafayette Theater

A mural down one alley featured all these faceless people. I can’t decide whether it’s cool or creepy, but either way it’s compelling.

Your face here 1

Lafayette’s downtown is lovely, chock full of old buildings that appear to have been maintained or restored. So many Indiana downtowns have not been so fortunate. My hometown of South Bend lost half its downtown buildings to urban renewal. My college town of Terre Haute saw many of its old downtown buildings torn down from neglect.

Looking up

My son and I also walked through a park on Lafayette’s east side. This shot of a tree in the park shows a little of Kentmere’s highlight-blowing tendencies.


On a different day I shot this flag. I’m a little bummed out to see that light leak in the bottom corner. A couple other shots were so afflicted. Could my ME need new seals? Is it finally time to send it out for a good CLA? The answer appears to be yes on both counts.


Finally, here’s a new McDonald’s. Actually, this is an old McDonald’s. Believe it or not, this was until recently an iconic red Mansard-roofed McDs. They tore the old skin off and put on a new one. I don’t know what is making the company remake its buildings in such generic style. Take off the golden arches and this could be any office building anywhere.


This lens handled flawlessly and returned sharp results, as it always does. The Kentmere mostly kept its highlight-blowing tendencies at bay. The only clinker was the light leak this roll revealed.


At West Park Christian Church

Curved pews
Pentax KM, 28mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Tri-X

I know of only one other church in town with curved pews: the former Central Methodist Church, now Indiana Landmarks Center. Their pews, like their whole facility, are lovingly restored. Our pews, like our whole building, could use a lot of love. An exuberant teenager sat too hard on one of our pews a couple years ago and broke it. My father, a cabinetmaker, and I glued it back together as best we could. It was clear it had been repaired many times.


Photo: Curved pews at West Park Christian Church


At West Park Christian Church

In Remembrance of Me
Pentax KM, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Tri-X

This is the communion table at my church, West Park Christian Church, on Indianapolis’s Near Westside. The pulpit is behind it — a short pulpit for our vertically challenged pastor. The ladder is a prop he used in a sermon series about The Beatitudes.


Photo: Communion table at my church.


Shooting the 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M lens

I found a deep appreciation of a 35mm lens on a 35mm film camera after shooting one all over Ireland last fall. The wider field of view over my usual 50mm lenses was just so darned useful. Yet I could still move in close without wildly distorting my subjects.

So I wondered if 28mm would be even better. Spoiler alert: worse.

Because at 28mm, it’s super hard to avoid what I like to call “The Twist,” a kind of distortion you get when you shoot something long, straight, and flat. Like this:


Photoshop can correct all sorts of problems but I haven’t been able to get it to correct that one. If you know how, do let me know in the comments. Of course, there’s always the good advice: don’t shoot scenes like that.Which I heeded through the rest of this roll of Kodak Tri-X, scanned myself on my Epson V300. I shot these with my Pentax KM, which I totally need to shoot more often because it is a jewel.

I drove over to Second Presbyterian and stood in my usual spot to shoot this stately church. At 50mm, I can’t get it all in. At 28mm it looks a little lost in the frame. 35mm might have let it fill the frame better. Or maybe I should have just walked closer.

Second Presbyterian

Which I did for this dramatic shot. Finally I started to find this lens’s mojo.

Second Presbyterian

I drove a mile or so south to the Meridian Street bridge over the White River and found this graffiti under one of the arches. I’ll share more shots from that bridge visit in an upcoming post. If you think the highlights are blown out here, you should have seen them before I gave them a good Photoshopping.

Meridian St. Bridge

I visited common photographic haunts with this lens, including nearby Juan Solomon Park. I couldn’t have gotten this shot at 50mm, and maybe not even at 35mm.

At Juan Solomon Park

I also drove over to 56th and Illinois to get this shot I’ve shot before. Sometimes it’s just comforting to revisit covered photographic ground. Every lens, camera, and film can see a scene in a new way.

56th and Illinois

I’ve also started taking morning walks through my neighborhood. My stupid left foot is still not fully healed going on three years after surgery and I’m gaining weight from inactivity (and probably age). I’m tired of favoring that foor and I just need to get mobile again, so I’m walking through the pain. Anyway, we finally had a skiff of snow in this unusually warm winter, and I photographed some tire tracks in the street.

Light snowfall

I’ve shot this lens before and didn’t love it, and this roll of film didn’t help. I think it’s because its inherent distortion limits what I can do with it. It’s acceptably sharp, and (on color film) it renders color well enough. Faint praise, I know, but I managed to squeeze out a few good shots with it on this roll of film. There are some scenes for which this lens is a smashing fit, it turns out. And for that reason alone I’ll hang onto it.

Photography, Road trips

Dublin in black and white

We wrapped our time in Ireland in Dublin.

A river runs through Dublin

You might think we’d start there. 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.


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

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

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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.

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Dublin street scene

Dublin street scene

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.

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St. Stephen's Green

St. Stephen's Green

St. Stephen's Green

St. Stephen's Green

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

So Dublin wasn’t a washout. We have some good memories. I’ll share a couple more in upcoming posts.

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.


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.