The other day I looked back through my many photos from the Mecum classic car auctions I used to go to. What fun those auctions were for me.
I used to take all of my digital cameras, plus all of my extra battery packs. That was one camera at first, then two, then three, all point-and-shoots. I also always brought one film camera. I was loaded down with gear!
This 1961 Chevrolet Parkwood station wagon was such a lovely color. I tended to shoot my Canon PowerShot S80 at 28mm, its default setting, which let me bring in lots of this wagon’s flank.
Shadow play on the old truss bridge Canon PowerShot S80 2010
I love driving under a truss bridge on a sunny day. You can almost feel the truss shadows as you move through them.
Indiana has done a very nice job of reusing many of its obsolete highway truss bridges. This is one of them. You’ll find it on a country road in Carroll County, Indiana. At the time I came upon it, it had clearly recently been restored.
Our last stop on our Kentucky weekend was to Bernheim Forest. We wouldn’t have known about it had several locals not told us about it. One of them all but implored us to go, just to see the giants.
Danish artist Thomas Dambo likes to make big things out of wood. His signature work has become giants like these, which he’s built in forests around the world.
This is Little Nis, who is considering his reflection.
Danmbo built three giants at Bernheim, but spread them out in the forest so you’d have to hike a while to see them. This is Little Nis’s mother Mama Loumari, who’s expecting another baby giant.
Deep in the forest you finally find Little Elina, who’s playing marbles with boulders she found lying around. Dambo builds his giants out of local wood. Unsurprisingly, given that this is bourbon country, the Bernheim giants are made in part from barrel staves.
I photographed these giants with both my Canon PowerShot S80 and my Nikon FA and 35-70mm Zoom Nikkor on Agfa Vista 200. I found the giants challenging to photograph. I couldn’t find good compositions that fully communicated their size and charm, and the reflecting sun played havoc with even exposures. If I spent more time with the giants, however, I’m sure I’d start to feel at one with them and better photographic compositions would follow.
Bernheim Forest is a gem, and it’s a little south of Louisville just off I-65. We went straight home to Zionsville from here, and the trip took us just 2½ hours. You can visit for free on weekdays, and there’s an affordable charge to visit on the weekends.
We went to Heaven Hill Distilleries and found no distillery there.
There used to be one there, until Nov. 7, 1996, when one of Heaven Hill’s warehouses caught fire. It is thought that lightning struck it. The resulting inferno destroyed it and several other warehouses, consuming 90,000 barrels of bourbon. The fire also destroyed the distillery.
Heaven Hill bought the Bernheim distillery in Louisville and now distills all of their whiskeys there. They then truck the distillate to this facility, just outside Bardstown, where it is barreled and aged.
On our visit we got to walk through their visitor center and their bonded warehouse. If you’ve ever seen a bourbon labeled “Bottled in Bond,” it was made at a single distillery by one distiller in one distillation season, it was aged for at least four years in a bonded (government supervised) warehouse, was bottled at 100 proof, and its label tells where it was distilled and where it was aged. This 1897 law was meant to protect consumers from adulterated whiskeys, cut with iodine or rust — which was a problem at that time.
Heaven Hill makes a couple dozen different whiskeys spanning price ranges from the bottomest of the bottom shelf to some mighty tasty and expensive stuff. We sampled five of them before we left, all delicious in their own ways.
Heaven Hill, by the way, is the largest independent, family-owned distiller of spirits in the United States. The other large distilleries are owned by national and global corporations. Heaven Hill remains headquartered in Kentucky.
It’s hard to know exactly where your bourbon comes from. Sure, the label gives you a brand name and maybe even a distilling company. But only bonded bourbons are required by law to tell the truth about origin on the label. Otherwise, a bourbon’s label can craft any origin story it wants.
For several years my favorite bourbon by far has been Willett’s Pot Still Reserve. Its distinctive bottle is fashioned to look like a pot still.
I leave it to the pros and serious enthusiasts to describe bourbon flavors. One I found on the Web used words like citrus, caramel, pepper, and dry oak to describe this bourbon. All I know is that its deliciously interesting complexity keeps me sipping.
That’s probably why the one photo I have is of an empty bottle. It doesn’t help that this bourbon isn’t always available. When I find some, I buy it — and drink it.
Willett also issues special single-barrel and small-batch bourbons and ryes under their Willett Family Estate label. They’re hard to find and they’re expensive, but they are the most delicious bourbons and ryes I’ve ever enjoyed. I usually find rye to be too spicy and to burn too much. But the most delicious, most interesting whiskey I’ve ever sipped was Willett Family Estate Rye. It was the closest I’ve come to a religious whiskey experience. I will buy any bottle that says Willett on the label.
What I learned only after touring the Willett distillery in March is that until about 2016, all of the amazing Willett whiskeys I’d ever sipped were distilled by rival Heaven Hill Distilleries using Heaven Hill mash bills. From the early 1980s until 2012, Willett distilled no spirits. They merely aged the Heaven Hill-sourced whiskeys in their warehouses.
Nothing against Heaven Hill, which produces some delicious whiskeys. I just didn’t enjoy feeling duped. Maybe it’s unrealistic, but I assume the company on the label distilled, aged, and bottled the brown liquid inside. Not that this sly deception will keep me from enjoying their whiskeys, all now distilled on the Willett premises from Willett mash bills.
Here it is, Willett’s pot still. Notice to the similarity to my photographed bottle.
And their fermenting tanks.
And a couple of their rickhouses, where barrels of whiskey are left to age.
On this March morning this rickhouse was cool and dark.
A fun quirk of the Willett distillery is that three cats roam the grounds to keep mice away. This one is named Noah, I think.
The distillery is in the midst of transforming its campus to offer more amenities to bourbon tourists. They’ll soon have a B&B and a restaurant to offer.
But the rickhouses…they’ll always look like prison barracks. Hardly tourist-tempting.
Encouraged by fellow photo-blogger Dan James, I carried my Canon PowerShot S80 around with me everywhere for a few weeks. It was my primary camera for a couple years ending in 2010 when I got my PowerShot S95, the camera I’ve used more than any other ever.
The S80 is chunkier than the S95. It seemed giant in my pocket compared to the S95. Funny, because I’d call a film camera this small a marvel of miniaturization and brilliantly pocketable.
The S80 also lacks the S95’s ability to directly dial in common focal lengths like 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and so on. I didn’t realize how much I love that feature of my S95 until I didn’t have it on the S80. It led me to just shoot at the default 28mm most of the time. That leads to stretched proportions on deep subjects like my car.
The S80’s color that impressed me. Even on this dreary day it managed to make what color was present look good.
My poor S80 isn’t without troubles. Just look at all the fringing among the branches at the top of this photograph of the Maker’s Mark distillery. Beneath that sci-fi sky, the S80 captured great color and clarity.
Check the upper right of this image — it’s out of focus. I found this on many shots, and I suspect that the lens has become misaligned.
It also happened in this portrait shot of a Bardstown, KY, door. The entire top of the image is soft.
I tried the camera’s built-in black-and-white mode for this photo of construction near where I work. It’s okay.
Shooting some early spring blooms, I was reminded that the S80’s macro mode struggles to lock focus unless it is at minimum zoom, 28mm.
As with every camera, you just learn to live with its limitations. So when I want macro, I zoom all the way out.
The S80 shone brightest outdoors at middle distances. Its lens is plenty sharp and contrasty.
The S95 is a better camera and the one I’m going to keep reaching for. But even if I didn’t own the S95, my S80’s probable lens misalignment consigns this otherwise decent camera to the bin.