COVID-19, Film Photography

An abandoned bridge and a forgotten cemetery

We were just two weeks into stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. I thought I was adapting okay, but as that second week drew to a close I felt myself going a little stir crazy. I felt a strong need to get away for a while. But where could I go?

My wife suggested I just take a long drive. “If you’re in your car, there’s nobody to infect you and you can’t infect anybody.” Brilliant. So that Saturday afternoon that’s just what I did.

I don’t like to drive aimlessly. I need to have a destination. So I chose one: the abandoned US 40 bridge west of Plainfield, Indiana, and the Civil War-era cemetery hidden near it. It’s about 40 minutes from home, giving me a good long drive there and back. I’ve never encountered another soul there anytime I’ve visited, so it would be a safe place to go. My Pentax ME Super was loaded with Kodak T-Max 400 at the time so I brought it along. The wonderful 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens was attached.

Abadoned US 40 bridge

The bare-tree months are my favorite time to visit this bridge because it’s so visible. In the middle of summer this is mighty overgrown. You can’t even see the bridge from modern US 40 then. But at this time of year it’s easy to see.

Abadoned US 40 bridge

This bridge was built in 1923. It doesn’t look too bad for having gotten zero maintenance since it was abandoned, which was sometime between 1939 and 1941.

Abadoned US 40 bridge

Iron’s Cemetery is just northeast of the bridge. Little spring flowers grew all along the path leading to it.

At Iron's Cemetery

Inside the cemetery, you can see the other side of the bridge. At least you can during the bare-tree months.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

Except for the sound of an occasional passing car, the only sound here is the wind. It was lovely to be out in the world in a peaceful place.

At Iron's Cemetery

There are always lots of interesting details to photograph in an old cemetery. Gravestone letterforms of the 1800s fascinate me. They have such style!

At Iron's Cemetery

Unfortunately, many of the markers here are in poor condition. Some of them are broken and lying on the ground.

At Iron's Cemetery

I hate to see any old cemetery in this condition. It’s funny — I won’t be buried in one when I’m gone, it seems like a waste of good ground. Cremate me and scatter my remains to the wind. But for those who did choose burial, good heavens, provide for the maintenance of those graves!

At Iron's Cemetery

But enough of that maudlin stuff. It helped me regain my internal footing to make this trip. I lingered here well past I stopped finding photographic inspiration, just to enjoy the quiet and the outdoors. Then I got into my car and drove back home.

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Photography

Learning photography lessons with Fuifilm Velvia

Of the twelve images I made on that roll of original Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8/2006 but always stored frozen) at Crown Hill Cemetery, eight were stunning and four had exposure issues. I did what I could in Photoshop to rescue them.

I overexposed this one. Photoshop rescued the trees and sky, but the grave markers were simply too blown out thanks to reflecting sun. I did the best I could with them but I think they just look unnatural. Lesson learned: notice reflected light and consider its effect on the photo.

Herrington

I wanted to see how Velvia handled this tree’s deep, vibrant red. But the sun was off to my left rather than directly behind me, which created some haze in the image I couldn’t Photoshop away. Lesson learned: invest in a lens hood for my 12.

Red tree

Heavy contrast between light and shadow tripped up the Yashica-12 and the Velvia. As I stood at the top of Indianapolis’s highest hill and looked south toward the Indianapolis skyline, such as it is, a cloud partially obscured the sun. The rest of the sky was bright, but the shadowy ground took on a sickly pall. Lesson learned: when using slide film, wait for the sun to come out for even lighting.

Down the lane from Riley's rest

Finally, as I crested this hill on this side lane, Crown Hill opened up before me. I thought it would make a lovely image but I didn’t realize, I guess, how poor the light was right where I was standing. I don’t know much about the Yashica-12’s meter and the Internet isn’t much help. If I had to guess, I’d say it measures the center of the frame. The center of this frame was in the brightly lit distance, so the 12 underexposed the foreground. Lesson learned: meter for the shadows, because with Velvia you can often correct overexposure, but never underexposure, in Photoshop.

Out toward the land

There’s always one more thing to learn in film photography. Especially when shooting Fujifilm Velvia.

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A lane in the cemetery

A lane in the cemetery
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8-2006)

If you think I’m milking this roll of Velvia I shot at Crown Hill Cemetery, you’re right.

Since our pastor quit at church, I’ve been attending a lot more meetings, and I had to prepare for my sermon last Sunday. It went fine, by the way. But it takes time and energy away from the blog.

Just you wait: on Monday I’m going to share the images from this roll that didn’t work out. They’re interesting in their own right.

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Film Photography

single frame: A lane in the cemetery

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Riley's rest

Riley’s rest
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8-2006)

Many people who visit Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis stop here, at the top of the highest hill in the city. This is where Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley is buried.

It’s hard to contemplate now, but Riley was as popular as any rock star in his day. Throngs would come to listen to him speak. His death in 1916 saddened the nation.

Riley had an unusually large presence in my life as I attended a high school in South Bend that was named for him. It was built just eight years after he died.

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Film Photography

single frame: Riley’s rest

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Unknown U.S. Soldier

Unknown U.S. Soldier
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8-2006)

The military cemetery within Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis is one of the largest in the nation. Countless rows of little markers just like this line a large section of the grounds.

In past visits I’ve looked and looked for an Unknown marker to photograph, always to no success. This time I was just walking by and caught this one out of the corner of my eye.

I cut the in-focus patch just a shade too thin on this photo. The marker is in focus but the fake flowers right in front of it are not.

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Film Photography

single frame: Unknown U.S. Soldier

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Contemplating boy

Contemplating boy
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8-2006)

Inside Crown Hill Cemetery, as you go up what turns out to be the highest hill in Indianapolis, you find the graves of some of our city’s most prominent and wealthy citizens. The markers can be elaborate, sometimes even gaudy.

This statue of a kneeling boy sits on a concrete bench marked “Home Sweet Home.” No name is given. It’s unusual for this part of the cemetery. I’ve always wondered this statue’s story.

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Film Photography

single frame: Contemplating boy

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