Film Photography

You can’t go wrong with Pentax glass

Pentax KM

I took my Pentax KM with me to West Virginia, with the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax lens attached. I had been itching to shoot with that combo again. The KM with that lens had given me such great results with color film when I tried it last year that I wanted to see how it handled black-and-white film. I chose Kodak T-Max 400 for its fine grain, after grainier Tri-X 400 disappointed me in WV last year.

I took a number of photos at the Savage House in Charleston, where we stayed. I was really looking forward to each one of them, too, but every last photo on the roll was underexposed. I think I forgot to set the KM’s film-speed dial to 400. D’oh! Photoshop Elements revived some of the photos but couldn’t save them all. This little lion stands watch over the street.


This girl carrying a jug is in the middle of a birdbath just under the front window.

Carrying a jug

Many of the photos that wouldn’t be saved came from inside the house. The setting sun bathed my bedroom in delicious light and I shot a whole bunch of frames there trying to take advantage of it. This selfie turned out passably after I Photoshopped the bejebus out of it. It looks fine at this size, but if you blow it up to full size you can see some blotchiness and pixelation.


This is my favorite photo on the whole roll. On the way back from the family reunion in Montgomery, we passed through tiny Handley, which is the world’s Grey-family headquarters. It’s a railroad town of about 400 whose glory days, to the extent it ever had them, are 50 years past. The four-room schoolhouse my father attended there has been abandoned for decades now. Here’s dad descending the steps from the schoolhouse.

Abandoned school

This is the schoolhouse view down into the valley. The “hard road” lies between the houses and the rails; the Kanawha River between the rails and the hill that ascends beyond. Dad’s car waits there to take us away.

Handley, WV

A few shots were left on the roll when I returned home. These purple carnations were in a purple vase on my dining-room table, and when I moved them into the sunlight they made a fine subject.


This 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax lens is pushing 40 years old, but it still delights.

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A weekend on Capitol Hill

We returned to the hills of West Virginia a couple weekends ago for a family reunion. The world headquarters of the Grey family is the tiny town of Handley, population about 400. It lies on the Kanawha River about 25 miles southeast of Charleston.

But Charleston is where we laid our heads each night. My uncle John lives there, on Capitol Hill overlooking the city. He and his wife Robin recently bought a second house on the hill: the Savage House. Built in 1894, it was the first house on the hill. “We’re converting it into a bed and breakfast,” John said. “You’d be the first guests. You can have the run of it all weekend.” It would be quite a step up from the Motel 6, where we usually stay, so you’d better believe we accepted.

The Savage House

Charleston is West Virginia’s capital city. You can see the capitol dome from the house’s east windows. But when the house was built, the capitol lay at the foot of the hill directly below; it’s how the hill got its name. Jesse Savage, a prominent Charelestonian who owned the Charleston Lumber Company and the Savage Quarry, built this house for his family. Here’s a photo of the house from shortly after it was built, showing the Savage family.


The Savages had quite a view from up there. In the intervening 117 years, the city has been built up considerably. Of course, the Savages’ view was not hindered by utility poles and lines.

View from Capitol Hill

Uncle John and Aunt Robin are the fourth to own the Savage House. It stayed in the Savage family until about 1980. The next owner apparently modernized the house; the owner after that restored it to its Victorian glory. John and Robin have owned the house only briefly, and so far they’ve just managed to furnish it sparsely. This is the sitting room just off the front entrance.

Savage House sitting room

This is the bedroom where I slept. The big house was peaceful and quiet, a perfect place for this introvert to recharge after a day of driving or a day surrounded by the extended family.

Savage House bedroom

The room is upstairs and faces the city. As the sun sets, the light inside is fantastic.

Savage House bedroom

All night, the city lights bathe the room in a soft glow.

Nighttime view from Capitol Hill

On our first evening in town we walked down to John and Robin’s to visit. A gentle rain shower had just let up and the sun was setting.

Sunset over Capitol Hill

I took all of these photos with my iPhone, but took a bunch more photos on film. I’m sure I’ll share some of those photos here and there after they come back from the processor.

I’ve also been inside the Glossbrenner Mansion in Indianapolis; see it here.