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.

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Film Photography

single frame: Carmel Arts and Design District

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Camera Reviews

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

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I took my Pentax K10D on a photowalk through the old neighborhoods in downtown Carmel, Indiana, recently. I was getting to know the 18-55mm lens I bought for it before I took the kit on a road trip. Carmel is no Madison, the location of my last Thursday Doors post. But it still has its considerable charms.

The kit worked all right in my hands, but when I got home I had to warm up and increase exposure on every last photograph in Photoshop. It didn’t take very long but they’re steps I still wasn’t looking to have to take. I may explicitly set white balance for the conditions next time rather than letting the camera guess for me. Also, this part of the day was overcast; some photos I took later in the sun didn’t need any exposure help. So maybe on a gray day I need to overexpose in camera by 1/3 or 1/2 stop.

Old Town, as they call it, is a mix of architectural styles from the late 1800s to the present. That’s reflected in my photographs. Herewith Carmel’s doors.

Old Town Carmel

Old Town Carmel

Old Town Carmel

Old Town Carmel

Old Town Carmel

Old Town Carmel

Old Town Carmel

Old Town Carmel

Old Town Carmel

Old Town Carmel

Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL

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Photography, Preservation

Thursday doors: Old town Carmel, Indiana

Thursday doors from Carmel, Indiana.

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Photography

The pleasure of the aimless photowalk

It’s easy as a hobbyist photographer to get caught up in feeling like we need to make art, or at least to be constantly improving our work.

Old Town Carmel

If you have those feelings, as I do, it’s easy to forget why we got into this in the first place. We liked the gear and wanted to see how it worked. Or we enjoyed the experience of going out and simply photographing whatever caught our fancy.

Old Town Carmel

There is real pleasure in shooting: the noticing, the composing, the capturing. Not only is there nothing wrong with pursuing that pleasure — there’s everything right about it. The aimless photowalk is a fine way to spend some time.

Old Town Carmel

An aimless photowalk frees you to experiment and try things in your photography. Or shoot the same kinds of photos you always shoot, because they make you happy or bring you comfort. Or visit a place that otherwise you’d have little purpose to see, as I did this morning through downtown Carmel, Indiana.

Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL

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Film Photography

Shooting the 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL lens on my Pentax K10D

It was totally an impulse purchase, the 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL lens I bought. I’d been toying with buying a fast prime for my Pentax K10D. Then a Black Friday email from Used Photo Pro pushed all of my buttons: the lens was already marked down and then they offered an an additional 15% off.

It is also the single most expensive bit of photo gear this cheapskate has ever purchased. Because of that, the bar is super high — I’d better absolutely love this lens.

I took this kit to Coxhall Gardens, a park in Carmel, an Indianapolis suburb. I harbored a fantasy of man rapturously bonding with machine to produce fine-art images for the ages.

Pond at Coxhall Gardens

Instead, I experienced a camera whose autoexposure frequently couldn’t find enough light to fire the shutter and a lens and autofocus system that often struggled to guess what I meant the subject to be. Even when it got the subject right, it sure hunted a lot trying to focus on it. Here, I wanted the pump to be in focus.

Coxhall Gardens

Here the K10D focused on the pine tree out in the mid-distance rather than the large tree trunk right in front of it. What the? I checked: I had multi-point autofocus on.

Wood by the street

I drove home disappointed: I just didn’t bond with this kit on this outing. But I think I need to give it another chance. I’ve only had the K10D a few months and have yet to learn its ways. I remember that it took a few months to really become one with my beloved Canon S95. I need to give the K10D time, too.

Coxhall Gardens

It is, however, telling that the camera behaved better for me on my previous two outings: the first in Chicago with a 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M manual-focus lens, and the second on my October road trip with a 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA lens.

Coxhall Gardens

If after a couple more major outings with this lens I don’t start to make it sing, I’ll probably just sell it. The great thing about lenses like this is that they tend not to depreciate. This lens in particular is highly regarded and should sell with no trouble for at least what I paid for it.

Coxhall Gardens

For fun I did a bokeh test. Here’s the lens at f/2, 1/500 sec.

Coxhall Gardens

f/4, 1/160 sec.

Coxhall Gardens

f/8, 1/50 sec.

Coxhall Gardens

f/16, 1/30 sec.

Coxhall Gardens

When the lens manages to focus properly, it is plenty sharp and offers reasonable bokeh.

I think my next trial of this lens will be on one of my Pentax film bodies — this lens has a manual-focus ring and should work great. If it passes muster, I’ll know that my meh experience here was not the lens’s fault, but the photographer’s.

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Film Photography, Old Cars

Kodak Plus-X and the Carmel Artomobilia

I had two SLRs slung over my shoulders at the 2017 Carmel Artomobilia last month: my Pentax ME with wonderful Fujifilm Superia 100 inside, and my Pentax Spotmatic F with my last roll of Kodak Plus-X.

Cobra

On this day, with this lens (55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar), the Plus-X returned blacks you could just fall into.

Camaro

And the grays and whites came out creamy.

Hurst Olds

I wished briefly that I had screwed in my 35mm f/3.5 SMC Takumar. The thick crowds made it difficult, at best, to back up far enough to get entire cars in the frame. The 35/3.5 would have made me back up a lot less.

Toronado

But I’ve been exploring the 55/1.8’s considerable charms lately, and in retrospect am not disappointed I left it on the camera. It performed well, and it’s seldom a real problem to focus on an old car’s details.

Firebird

Growing up in the 1970s as I did, when half or more of the cars on the road were from GM, it was easy to take their dominance for granted. Looking back, it’s clear just how good their designs were. How daring it was in 1970 that the second-generation Camaro and Firebird had no distinct rear passenger windows! The shape of this window opening is just smashing.

Flying lady

Packard’s Flying Lady hood ornaments are a favorite subject. I shoot them whenever I come across them at a car show.

Ol' propeller nose

This is the famous front end of the Studebaker I photographed from the rear here. The girl walking away was a happy coincidence as I framed this shot, so I made sure to include her.

Citroen

The Citroën DS is funky from every angle and in every detail. Just check out how these headlights don’t both point forward. This is a later DS; earlier ones had uncovered headlights.

R/T

Plenty of American muscle was on display at the Artomobilia. I’m partial to the Mopars of the era for their no-nonsense styling.

Avanti

Avantis were made in my hometown, South Bend. They were Studebakers at first, but after Studebaker shuttered a new company formed to keep Avanti production going. They used leftover Studebaker engines at first but eventually had to turn to Chevy to provide powerplants. Post-Studebaker Avantis were given the “Avanti II” name, probably for rights reasons.

Avanti II

As the show began to wrap up and the crowds thinned, I was able to get a few wider shots of the event and its cars.

Vette 2

It wasn’t all classics at the Artomobilia. Several owners of newer hi-po Ford Mustangs lined up their cars for inspection.

Hoods up

Here’s hoping I can find time for more car shows. I do love to photograph cars and I think I’ve become pretty good at it. They’re certainly the subject with which I am most confident.

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