Photography, Preservation

Coxhall Gardens

It wasn’t that long ago that Hamilton County, Indiana, was mostly farmland. When I moved to central Indiana in the mid 1990s, if you drove north from Indianapolis into Hamilton County, city rapidly gave way to corn and soybean fields.

Today, it’s all developed. The Hamilton County towns of Carmel, Fishers, and Noblesville have annexed a great deal of the county and, one by one, farmers have sold their land to developers. Office buildings line the major roads now. Everywhere else you’ll find homes, ranging from inexpensive vinyl-village subdivisions, to gated communities of stone and brick homes, to sprawling estates. You’ll also find the suburban shopping centers that follow residential development.

Jesse and Beulah Cox foresaw this all happening. They bought the farm of original Hamilton County settler John Williams in 1958, and by 1974 they had built their dream home on the property. In 1999, they donated their property to the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department to preserve their land, to “create an oasis in a sea of homes,” Jesse said. Their farm, now known as Coxhall Gardens, is a sprawling park. It’s also one of my frequent photographic destinations.

Williams began farming this land in 1855, and built this house on it in 1865.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

As you drive by, this house is largely hidden by a row of trees. When the Coxes bought the property, they lived in the Williams house at first.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

The Williams’ barn still stands near the house.

At Coxhall Gardens
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200
Barn
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

Looming behind the barn is the mansion the Coxes built in 1974. (But first, they built and lived in a single-story ranch in what looks like limestone. It still stands, but I’ve never photographed it.)

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

I was surprised to learn that this large, solid home was built so recently. It looks like something from a hundred years before.

Mansion at Coshall Gardens
Rollei 35B, Fujicolor 200

I especially enjoy the mansion during the warm months, because it is lushly landscaped.

Mansion at Coxhall Gardens
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

I don’t know the significance of this statue, but I like it and have photographed it a number of times.

Statue at Coxhall Gardens
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

I’m partial to this photo of my wife on the mansion’s steps.

Margaret at Coxhall Gardens
Rollei 35B, Fujicolor 200

Not far from the mansion is the ampitheater. The rotunda-like stage is large enough only for a small performance, such as a musical quartet.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

Many times I’ve found people here making wedding photographs. This would be a lovely setting for an outdoor wedding.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL
At Coxhall Gardens
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200
Up the ampitheater
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

This monument to the Coxes, featuring their quote about the “sea of homes,” stands at the back of the ampitheater.

The Coxes
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

When you walk behind the ampitheater, you find yourself on a bridge over a large pond. From there, you can easily see the park’s two large clocks.

At Coxhall Gardens
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200
Concrete donut
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

Here’s one of the clocks from a little closer. I don’t know what their significance is, but they are a defining feature in the park. Notice the bells below the clock. I’ve never heard them ring.

At Coxhall Gardens

This is the bridge behind the ampitheater.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

Finally, there’s a little “wild west” village in a back corner of Coxhall Gardens, which I imagine might be fun for children.

Wild Wild West
Rollei 35B, Fujicolor 200

You’ll find the entrance to Coxhall Gardens on Towne Road, just north of 116th Street, in Carmel, Indiana.

Reviews of the cameras used in this photo essay: Rollei 35B, Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Pentax K10D.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard
Your table awaits

Your table awaits
Pentax Spotmatic F
55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar
Ferrania P30 Alpha
Rodinal 1+50

2020

The last two years for my birthday I had everyone in the family who could make it meet at Muldoon’s, an Irish pub in Carmel. The first year it was nice enough outside to sit here, on the patio. They make outstanding nachos. I know, nachos at an Irish pub. They call it Irish pizza. It’s loaded with crumbled sausage — unique and delicious. The cheese is top quality. It’s a giant calorie bomb but it’s soooo goooood.

Who knows where we’ll be in the coronapocalypse on my birthday this year, but I’m not feeling great about returning to Muldoon’s for a third year. I haven’t figured out yet what my birthday celebration will look like, or whether I’ll be able to see any of our children that don’t live with us.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Your table awaits

Patio seating at a restaurant in Carmel, Indiana.

Image
Camera Reviews

Another Kodak Retina IIa

I gave my first Kodak Retina IIa away as I tried to thin my herd of cameras to just those I’d use a lot. I liked my IIa fine. But at the time I thought I liked my Retina IIc a little better, and that’s the Retina I kept.

Later, some remorse crept in. Then a reader offered to send me a Retina IIa he’d come upon but did not need. Oooh yeah baby. Here it is.

Kodak Retina IIa

My first Retina IIa was an early one, because it had a Compur Rapid shutter. Those were made only in the first three months of this camera’s run, starting in 1951. This one has the more common Synchro Compur shutter of later IIas. Kodak stopped making the Retina IIa in 1954. The serial number on this one identifies it as from late in the run, April, 1954. Even though its focusing scale is in feet, the serial number doesn’t identify it as a US export camera. It was probably sold in a military PX overseas.

Kodak Retina IIa

This one got some heavy use. Some of the exposed metal on the body is a little chewed up. The winder feels like grinding sand, and at the end of the throw you have to push it a little extra to fully wind and cock the shutter. The focusing ring is stiff, and there’s a spot where it catches and you have to push a little harder to get it through. The rangefinder patch is dim. A good CLA should restore it to full functioning, but some of the cosmetic damage is probably permanent.

Kodak Retina IIa

This IIa comes with the 50mm f/2 Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon lens. I hear you could get a IIa with a 50mm f/2 Rodenstock Retina-Heligon lens, but I’ve never seen one. The lens stops down to f/16. The Synchro-Compur shutter operates from 1 to 1/500 second. I do like shutters with 1/500 because then I can shoot ISO 400 films in them more easily.

The raised button on the bottom plate opens the camera. To close it, first focus the lens to infinity — the camera won’t close unless you do this. Then press in the chrome and black buttons on the top and bottom of the lens board, and push the cover closed.

When you load film, twist the knurled ring atop the winding lever to set the film counter to the number of exposures on your roll. If you forget, and the counter reaches zero before you’ve finished the roll, the shutter won’t fire. If that happens to you, just twist the ring to a nonzero number and keep going.

If you like Kodak Retinas, by the way, I’ve reviewed a bunch of ’em: the Retina Ia (here), the Retinette IA (here), the Retina IIc (here), the Retinette II (here), the Retina Automatic III (here), and the Retina Reflex IV (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I was delighted to get this camera. But when I pushed a roll of Fujicolor 200 through it, I didn’t fall in love. I know what a joy a well-functioning Retina is to use, and this IIa’s balky winder and sticky focusing ring held the joy at bay.

I took this Retina IIa to Carmel, a northern suburb of Indianapolis, on a day off from work two weeks before the coronavirus confined us all to our homes. Statues like these are all over Carmel’s downtown — and they’re just weird. This is the least weird one. It made my favorite photo on the roll.

Sculpture

Later, the images came back from the processor — and each one was thick with fog and haze. I hung my head. I know that when I get an old fixed-lens camera of unknown provenance, I need to inspect the lens before putting film into it. Half the time the lens is dirty. A quick swab with isopropyl alcohol clears everything up and I avoid hazy photos. I know this. I KNOW THIS. Yet I fail to do it nearly every time, and half the time I get haze.

Bub's

Thankfully, Photoshop made most of the images useful. It cleaned up this photo of Bub’s perfectly. If you’re ever in Carmel, do get a cheeseburger at Bub’s. They’re mighty good. There’s a Bub’s in Zionsville, where I live, too.

Downtown Carmel

Many of the photos still show some residual haze. Oh well. I’ve done the best I can with them.

Greenway

I remember shooting my first Retina, a Ia, in 2008. I really stumbled and bumbled my way through those first couple of rolls. I’ve gained a lot of experience with old gear since then. It’s nice to be able to pick up a camera like this now and be able to just get to work with it. I metered with an app on my iPhone. I shot the whole roll at 1/250 or 1/500 sec. because you never know about an old shutter’s slower speeds.

Downtown Carmel

I made a day out of shooting this Retina IIa (and a Pentax Spotmatic F I also had along). I had lunch at an Irish pub on Main Street and then drove over to Broad Ripple in Indianapolis for more shooting.

Broad Ripple

By this time I was used to this particular Retina’s quirks and shot it fluidly. Even a battle-weary Retina can be a pleasant enough companion.

Monon bridge

I revisited subjects I’ve shot many times, including the Monon bridge and this periwinkle storefront. There’s something comforting about returning to familiar subjects.

Periwinkle

I finished the roll in my neighborhood.

Free throw

This was the only (partly) sunny moment any of the times I had the Retina on my hands. I love how the fence fades off into the distance.

Foreshortened fence

See more from this roll — heck, see everything I’ve ever shot with any Kodak Retina IIa — in my Kodak Retina IIa gallery.

It’s been a long time since I used a Retina IIa, and I forgot the one thing about the camera I dislike: rewinding. The knob is short and hard to grasp, and the accessory shoe gets in the way as you twist it. Rewinding is a long session of short twists. You also have to press and hold the recessed button on the bottom plate the whole time. Yecch.

I’m likely to pass this Retina IIa along to a collector who will give it the tender loving care it deserves. I don’t know that I’m the man for the job.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard
Film Photography

Ferrania P30 Alpha in Rodinal

I’m starting to develop 35mm black-and-white film now. It was my goal all along — I started with 120 because it let me shoot a roll fast so I could get to the developing. I shoot way more 35mm than 120 normally.

Last week I shared a roll of Arista EDU 200 I shot, developed, and scanned. I thought surely it and my whole box of to-shoot film was damaged by a space heater I kept too close by. But a commenter said “hey, maybe your Rodinal has gone weak.” I did open a new bottle of Rodinal to process some Eastman Double-X 5222 and, spoiler alert, it turned out perfect. So it was the Rodinal. Maybe I didn’t get the cap on right last time, and for the little bit left in the bottle the air scotched it.

I didn’t get that comment before I used that potentially compromised bottle of Rodinal to process this P30. Several photos turned out reasonably well. They might have looked better in fresh Rodinal. But they show P30’s signature characteristics: nearly undetectable grain, rich blacks, strong contrast, and a reasonable tonal range.

Barber Shop
Garage
All locked up
Monon Coffee Co.
The Bungalow
Mpozi mural

I shot this roll in my Pentax Spotmatic F with the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens attached. I developed it in Rodinal 1+50 at 21° C for 12 minutes, 40 seconds. Ferrania advises 20° C for 14 minutes, but the ambient temperature led to 21° developer and I had to adjust development time. I used the Massive Dev Chart’s converter. The first two shots are from downtown Carmel, and the next four are from Broad Ripple.

Some photos didn’t fare as well. Anything with significant amounts of sky in it suffered. I shot all of these around Broad Ripple.

Monon bridge
The Bungalow
Bridge to Fresh Thyme

Interestingly, the film closest to the outside of the roll fared the worst. This is one of the first photos I made on this roll. It still shows P30’s signature rich blacks, despite being so mottled overall.

Meijer

One last photo, just because I like it. That’s my wedding ring on the ring holder thing we keep near the kitchen sink. It’s Belleek pottery; we bought it at the Belleek factory in Northern Ireland when we visited a few years ago.

Ring holder

I have one last roll of P30 Alpha, which I just retrieved from my freezer. I’ll shoot it soon and I expect far better results from it, developed with fresh Rodinal 1+50.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard
Carmel Arts and Design District

Carmel Arts and Design District
Nikon F2, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor
Agfa APX 100 (expired 7/1998)
2018

I don’t remember downtown Carmel, Indiana, before it was built up. I guess it wasn’t much, just a handful of old buildings. I don’t know; I never spent any time here.

Which, I suppose, is why the city built up its downtown. It’s now full of restaurants, shops, and galleries. My wife and I come here from our Zionsville home several times a year, sometimes just to have a pint of Guinness at Muldoon’s, but just as often to attend one of the many events here. They have an annual car show I really like.

Calling it the “Arts and Design District” feels like a ridiculous affectation, a name affixed in hopes it would one day come true. But as small-city downtowns go, it’s pretty nice.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Carmel Arts and Design District

.

Image
Collecting Cameras

Operation Thin the Herd: Olympus Stylus

Carrying a jug

Olympus’s Stylus line is well known to deliver the goods, with fine lenses and easy pocketability. The granddaddy of all Styluses is this, the ∞ Stylus (aka the μ[mju]: in markets outside North America).

Olympus Stylus

I’ve put a lot of film through this little camera. Here’s one of my favorite shots from it ever, on expired Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400.

Garfield Park

I hadn’t shot black and white in my Stylus in a while, so I spooled in a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 and slipped it into my winter-coat pocket. It went everywhere with me for a couple weeks.

House at Coxhall Gardens

That’s the beauty of a camera that’s about the size of a bar of soap — it’s so portable. Anywhere I happened to be, I could quickly photograph anything I thought was interesting.

Chevy Citation

All was not skittles and beer with my Stylus. Several shots were marred by a little leaked light, a problem this camera has previously not had.

Rushing water

I like to focus close sometimes, but the Stylus doesn’t. I suppose someday I should read the manual and find out its closest focus distance. This subject isn’t exactly easy for autofocus to figure out, either. What was I thinking?

Berries, out of focus

And then there’s the infernal flash. Every time you turn the Stylus on (by sliding the cover out of the way) it goes into the mode where the camera decides whether the flash should fire or not. You can override it, but it’s so easy to forget to. I get at least one shot on every roll with flash reflecting harshly in something. Here I shot the sun poking through the trees and reflecting onto the creek, first with flash, and after I dropped an s-bomb, without. The effect turned out to be negligible.

Reflected on the water 1
Reflected on the water 2

Its meter struggles with high-contrast scenes. I shouldn’t be surprised; it probably meters near the center, which isn’t going to result in nuanced work. Nothing a little Photoshop can’t rescue, though, as here.

Lion graffiti

Finally, it requires films that are DX coded, and you can’t manually override the ISO. I like to shoot color-negative film a stop fast sometimes, and you can’t do it with the Stylus.

Black Dog Books

But when the Stylus hit, it hit big. Look at the great tonality and contrast it delivered.

Branches

Its 35mm lens grabs lots of the scene, which I like for general walking-around photography.

Decorated fence

To see more from this camera, check out my Olympus Stylus gallery.

I want to own a solid, extra-compact point-and-shoot 35mm camera. Ideally I’d keep film in it all the time and always carry it in my coat pocket. The Stylus’s feature list ticks every box for me, and it has loved every film I’ve ever thrown at it. It’s a brilliant little camera.

I know I sometimes ask too much of it, which leads to most of my wasted shots. But I do have a legitimate gripe with its automatic flash. I almost never use flash and want a way to leave it off by default. Every time I use this camera I waste shots thanks to that infernal flash.

Perhaps I haven’t found my perfect point and shoot yet. Or maybe I have: my zone-focus Olympus XA2 is no bigger, can be used like a point and shoot under most circumstances just by leaving it in the middle focus zone, and lacks any frustrating behaviors. Perhaps it should be my carry-everywhere camera.

This has been another tough-call camera, where I’ve waffled for weeks about whether to keep it. The sheer number of rolls of film I’ve put through it says I like it a lot. Despite its troubling light leak, I’m going to hold onto it for now. Its fate will be sealed only when I finally decide on a carry-everywhere camera. I look forward to trying more of them on the road to deciding.

Verdict: Keep

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!

Standard