Film Photography

Downtown Indianapolis after the protests

It would have been much better to share these photos closer to the day I made them, which was the first of July. The nationwide protests were still happening then, in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the hands of Minneapolis police.

I had been avoiding Downtown. But my work laptop quit working and corporate IT needed me to bring it in for repair. That meant a visit to our Indianapolis office in the heart of the protest area. I knew I’d be seeing my city all boarded up, so I took a camera. But I shot film, and film takes time, especially since I shot color and have to send it out for processing.

This is the building in which I work. It’s on both the Michigan and National Roads, better known as Washington Street in Indianapolis. Walking up to the building, I felt like I’d stepped into an episode of The Twilight Zone. I was saddened, and I felt a little anger deep down, both over the destruction and the generational, pervasive poor treatment of Black Americans that led to it.

After the protests

After IT fixed my laptop I walked up and down Washington for a few blocks. This is what I saw there.

After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests

After seeing photos of colorful murals on boarded-up windows in other cities, the many bare boards on Washington Street surpried me. Maybe it’s the same in other cities, but nobody shows the unpainted boards.

After a few blocks, I turned around and walked to Monument Circle, the heart of Downtown.

After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests

The southeast quadrant of the Circle was closed to traffic for the weekly summer farmer’s market. It is normally held a few blocks away on Market Street, between City Market and the City County Building, but street work there has moved the market to the Circle all summer. I felt encouraged to see it there. I’d seen a number of news photos of protesters on the Circle, including heartbreaking photos of a minivan driving right into some protesters. The farmer’s market felt to me like a reclaiming of the space for good, normal life.

Farmer's Market
Farmer's Market
Farmer's Market

I’m infuriated that as a nation we still don’t treat Black people with the full honor and respect due any human being. I hope these protests, along with those across the nation, cause us to finally face and change our shameful racist behavior.

Seeing my city like this was hard. But it’s even harder for my Black neighbors that they have had to live for so long with fear and anger.

Olympus OM-2n, 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200.

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Camera Reviews

Olympus OM-2n

I enjoy using my Olympus OM-1 from time to time. My film-photography friends all have encouraged me to get an OM-2 or OM-2n, as it offers all of the OM-1 goodness with aperture-priority exposure, my favorite way to shoot. I held off because I couldn’t find one at a price I was willing to pay. They’re not expensive, not really; you can find good ones for under $100. I’m just a cheapskate. My reticence paid off — a reader recently donated this Olympus OM-2n to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras!

Olympus OM-2n

The OM-1 came first, of course, in 1972. In 1975, Olympus introduced the OM-2, which added an electronic shutter and aperture-priority exposure. Then in 1979, Olympus released the OM-1n and the OM-2n, both of which offered a few improvements over the original models.

The OM-2n is a 35mm SLR featuring an electronic focal-plane shutter operating from 1/1000 sec. to 1 sec. in manual exposure mode and a whopping 120 sec. in aperture-priority mode. It offers through-the-lens metering with a clever inner shutter curtain imprinted with black and white blocks that mimic an average photograph. The meter reads light that bounces off those blocks.

Olympus OM-2n

You set film speed, from ISO 12 to 1,600, with a dial atop the camera next to the winder. Lift the dial and twist until your film speed appears in the window, then lower the dial and twist until the line from the window points at the tick mark. That mark can be hard to see. This dial also lets you adjust exposure by up to two stops in either direction.

Olympus OM-2n

The OM-2 is a system camera with interchangeable focusing screens (see a list here) and interchangeable backs. I know of two backs: a data back (one of which I have but have never used) and a back that lets you shoot up to 250 frames of bulk film. My OM-2n came with a 1-12 cross-hairs screen inside, but also with a smattering of other screens. I found a 1-13 microprism/split-image screen among them and swapped it in.

Unlike the OM-1, the OM-2n needs batteries to work. Without a battery, when you press the shutter button, the mirror stays in the up position. I’ll bet a lot of people think this means the camera is broken! Pro tip: insert two fresh SR-44 batteries and move the switch atop the camera to Reset. The mirror will come right down and you’ll be good to go.

Speaking of batteries, the OM-2n natively takes two silver-oxide SR-44s. It was designed for them. That alone makes the OM-2n a wonderful choice for a film photographer today. So many other old cameras take now-banned mercury batteries and/or batteries of an odd size. You’re stuck ordering silver-oxide or alkaline equivalent batteries online, which carry different voltages than the mercury originals. In theory that could mess up your exposures, although I think that worry is overblown. In contrast, you can buy SR-44 (also known as 357 or 76) batteries at any drug store!

The OM-2n is so pleasant to use! Because it’s small and light, you can sling it over your shoulder and shoot fatigue-free all day. The controls all feel precise and smooth, even luxurious. The OM-2n is solidly built.

If you like small 35mm SLRs, also check out my review of the original Olympus OM-1 here, of the Nikon EM here, and of the Pentax ME here. If you’re an Olympus fan, see my reviews of the XA here, the XA2 here, the Stylus here, the Stylus Epic Zoom 80 here, and the mju Zoom 140 here. Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

For most of my camera reviews I shoot just one roll then write up the camera. But I enjoyed the OM-2n so much that I put three rolls through it. The first one was Kodak T-Max 400 which I developed in LegacyPro L110 Dilution H (1+63).

Masked

This OM-2n came with a bunch of lenses. I tried the 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S first. It’s a delightfully thin and light lens, and it focuses from 10 inches making it almost a macro lens. It handled beautifully on the OM-2n.

I was mugged!

I shot the OM-2n while Indiana was slowly reopening after coronavirus lockdown. We decided to take a walk along Main Street in Zionsville one Thursday to find the street closed to traffic. Tables and chairs were set up for people to buy dinner at local restaurants and eat outside. It felt like too many people in too little space to us, and we didn’t linger.

Dining in the street

This camera also came to me with a 21mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto-W lens — yes, that’s right, 21mm. I’ve never shot a lens so wide! I made a few photos with it but will explore it more deeply later.

Down the lane

I loaded good old Fujicolor 200 next and mounted a 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto-Macro lens. This lens lets you focus from 9 inches.

Weathered wood

I shot a lot of flowers on this roll. The OM-2n continued to handle flawlessly. It achieved that holy-grail state of seeming to disappear in my hands — I composed, focused, and shot fluidly, as if the camera were an extension of my eye.

White with a touch of pink

My, but do I love moving in close with a camera. This suncatcher hangs in our back door window. My mother-in-law made it.

Suncatcher

This lens is just a peach. Look at that up-close sharpness, and look at that bokeh. Given the hexagonal shape of the light points in the background, you should not be surprised to learn that this lens has six aperture blades.

Tiki

A 50mm macro lens is fine for non-macro photography, as well. I took it on a bike ride around the neighborhood and made a few photos.

Swimming pool

Because the OM-2n offers aperture-priority shooting, it eliminates my top complaint about OM-series cameras: the shutter-speed ring is around the lens mount. Every other major camera maker made it a dial on the top plate next to the shutter button. But shooting aperture priority means I never have to change the shutter speed.

XXX

I made all of these photos during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was fortunate to keep my job and be able to work from home. But my work computer needed service while I was using the OM-2n. I had to take it to the office Downtown for IT to look at it. I loaded another roll of Fujicolor 200 and walked around Downtown after IT fixed my computer. This was a couple weeks after the riots motivated by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In Indianapolis, some windows were broken and there was some looting. Many buildings boarded up their windows as a protective measure.

I used the 40mm lens for this walk. It was a good focal length — wide enough that I didn’t have to back out into the street to get a good look at a scene.

After the protests

I’ll share more from this walk in an upcoming post. I’ll wrap up with this photo of the outside seating at the Downtown Five Guys. A Five Guys cheeseburger is such a calorie bomb, but it is so good.

Five Guys

To see more from this camera, check out my Olympus OM-2n gallery.

The Olympus OM-2n is a fantastic 35mm SLR: compact, light, precise, smooth. The Olympus Zuiko lenses are similarly fantastic optically, and are solidly built with great feel in the hand. If you could have only one manual-focus 35mm SLR, the Olympus OM-2n would be an outstanding choice.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Camera Reviews

Canon Snappy S

In the early 1980s camera makers finally figured out how to make loading 35mm film foolproof. Meanwhile, thanks to the 35mm SLR, 35mm film had taken on the aura of quality photography. These two things finally killed the 126 and 110 film formats and opened the floodgates for 30 years of 35mm point-and-shoot cameras from bare bones basic to highly capable and fully featured. When Canon introduced the Snappy S in 1985, it was among the earliest basic 35mm point-and-shoots.

Canon Snappy S

Canon’s rationale was simple: get Canon quality at an attractive price. On the street these could be had for $50-60, which is about $120-150 today. It offered middling specs, starting with a 35mm f/4.5 lens, a classic triplet of three elements in three groups. Everything from 1.5 feet is in focus. Exposure is automatic, but I couldn’t figure out what kind of system it uses. The shutter operates from 1/40 to 1/250 sec. Flash is integrated, and the camera automatically winds and rewinds film. A red light blinks in the viewfinder when there isn’t enough light. Two AAA batteries power everything. You could get your Snappy S in black, red, green, or yellow.

Canon Snappy S

Mine came to me with the flash broken: plastic cover missing, flash unit dangling. The seller disclosed that, but I didn’t notice it in the listing. The flash even flashed, but I didn’t try it more than once because it didn’t seem quite safe. Also, as I used the camera, the auto-winder got weaker and weaker. The batteries were fresh, so I assume this old, cheap camera is just on its last leg. But it wasn’t objectionable to use that way.

Canon Snappy S

This camera sparked no joy, but there was nothing unpleasant about it. Frame, press the button, off you go. I was a teenager when this camera was new and I would have been perfectly happy with one had I been able to afford one then. It would have been a giant step up from the truly lousy 110 camera that was my main camera.

If you like point-and-shoot cameras, also see my reviews of the Kodak VR35 K40 (here), the Yashica T2 (here), the Canon AF35ML (here), the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 (here), and the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I loaded some Fujicolor 200 into it and took it out into my shrunken world. We were all still encouraged to stay home, or close to home, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. I spent most of my time in the nearby shopping centers looking for colorful subjects.

McAlister's

The Snappy S drank in the color and asked for more.

Wendy's

Everything’s good and sharp.

Denny's

The Snappy S weighs essentially nothing. I wrapped its long strap around my right hand and carried it about easily. In its time, I would have been very pleased to have a camera like this.

Don't order here

All was not perfect with the Snappy S, however. You have to look at the viewfinder perfectly straight on or you will misframe. Here, I thought I had the full Cracker Barrel in the frame.

Cracker Barrel

Here, I thought I had the entire awning over the gas pumps in the frame.

Marathon

Also, the viewfinder is massively inaccurate. I put just the tail end of my car in this frame. Look at how much more the Snappy S actually sees.

VW tail

Also, straight horizontal lines wind up slightly wavy. Notice the line that is the top of this wall.

Meijer

This photo shows it too, especially on the top sill of the garage on the right. Is this a lens aberration? Or does the camera not hold the film perfectly flat?

Utilities

To see more from this camera, check out my Canon Snappy S gallery.

The Canon Snappy S was a pretty good inexpensive point-and-shoot camera in its time. It wasn’t perfect, but I’ll bet most people who bought these neither noticed nor cared.

But because mine has two key issues that spell its imminent demise, I’m about to do something I’ve never done before after reviewing a camera. I’m going to put it into the trash.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Camera Reviews

Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

Camera makers tried for decades to create systems that made loading film foolproof. Kodak’s 126 and 110 cartridge formats won the race in the 1960s and 1970s. But 35mm SLR photography took off with pros and advanced amateurs in the 1970s, giving 35mm the cachet of quality. As the 1970s came to an end, camera makers figured there was a big market for 35mm cameras that operated as simply as an Instamatic. They were right. The 1981 Minolta Hi-Matic AF2 is one of the early point-and-shoot 35mm cameras and is a big step toward foolproof operation.

Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

The Hi-Matic AF2 lacks three key features that came to define the genre: motor wind, automatic film loading, and automatic ISO setting. Lacking these things doesn’t make the Hi-Matic AF2 a bad choice today, however. It comes with a good Minolta lens, 38mm f/2.8, of four elements in three groups. It offers a limited range of film speeds, from ISO 25 to 400. You set ISO by turning the knurled wheel around the lens.

Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

Its active infrared autofocus bounces infrared light off a subject and gauges distance by how long it takes the light to return. It appears to offer two focus zones, one for closer subjects and one for farther subjects. It focuses no closer than 3.3 feet, and the camera bee-bee-beeps when your subject is closer than that. This is a nice feature most point-and-shoots lack. The viewfinder includes close-focus marks for when your subject is between 3.3 and 4 feet. The focus point is in the center of the viewfinder, marked with an oval. To focus, place the subject in the oval and press the shutter button halfway down. Then compose and press the shutter button the rest of the way to take the photo. 2 AA batteries power the camera’s automatic functions and flash.

Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

If you have earlier Hi-Matic cameras in mind when you pick up the Hi-Matic AF2, you’re in for a disappointment. This camera is nowhere near as well built. It feels light and plasticky in the hand, and it creaks as you handle it. The controls feel flimsy. When you press the shutter button, the camera coughs a sickly wheeze as it stops the aperture blades down and then activates the shutter. The winder, though it has a delightful short throw, feels like it could break right off. When you turn on the flash, thwack! — the strobe pops up.

Film loading may not be automatic but it is foolproof: stick the leader in the slot on the takeup spool and wind. The film takes right up, no fuss. And winding and rewinding follows the 35mm SLR idiom, with all the controls where you’d expect. Press the button underneath the camera, pop the rewind lever out, and crank, crank, crank.

I haven’t figured out how its autoexposure system works. My theory is that it chooses the narrowest aperture it can for best depth of field. When light is low and it can’t do a shutter speed faster than 1/40 second, it beeps continuously to tell you to turn on the flash.

The camera is also large, at 5x3x2 inches. Within a few years, the 35mm point-and-shoot would start to shrink, eventually to pocketable sizes.

If you like point-and-shoot cameras, also see my reviews of the Kodak VR35 K40 (here), the Yashica T2 (here), the Canon AF35ML (here), the Pentax IQZoom 170SL (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus mju Zoom 140 (here), and the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

We were still locked down thanks to COVID-19 when I shot this camera. So I loaded it with Fujicolor 200 and took it on walks to places I could get to and back during my lunch hours while I worked from home.

Wendy's

The nearby shopping centers are full of in-your-face color. They make a surprisingly good place to test a camera with color film.

Old Navy

The parking lots are mostly empty thanks to COVID-19, making it easy to approach the subjects. This also makes it far less likely for me to be accosted by shopping-center security.

Big O is Open

Red, blue yellow, orange — the Hi-Matic AF2’s lens rendered them all bold and true on Fujicolor 200.

Qdoba

Look at the lovely dusky colors I got as the sun went down outside my back door!

Evening over the Toyota dealer

I shot the rest of the roll around my neighborhood, starting on my front stoop. The too-close beep really helped me make this photo: I backed up until the camera quit beeping.

Flower pots on the stoop

One pet peeve I have with point-and-shoot cameras is inaccurate viewfinders. I centered this car in the viewfinder, but it is shifted left in the image

Red Matrix

To make this photo, I placed the backboard in the viewfinder’s center oval and pressed the shutter down halfway so the camera would focus on it. Turns out it was unnecessary, as with this much light it chose a narrow enough aperture that everything was going to be in focus.

Goal shadow

The Hi-Matic AF2 was a pleasant enough camera to carry despite its size. It was light enough to be unobtrusive. And these results are fine: sharp and colorful, with no distortion.

Clubhouse

To see more from this camera, check out my Minolta Hi-Matic AF2 gallery.

This Minolta Hi-Matic AF2 once belonged to my father-in-law. I found it in the garage while looking for something else. I shot it with Margaret’s permission. My father-in-law chose a simple camera that delivered reliably good results. But for the collector and user today, many point-and-shoot choices offer equally good lenses in smaller packages with more amenities.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Camera Reviews

Pentax IQZoom 170SL

From the 1980s to the early 2000s, camera manufacturers manufactured as many compact point-and-shoot cameras as stars in the sky. Or so it seems. eBay lists billions and billions of them at any moment, at any rate. So many of them are crap, making it a crapshoot to find the good ones. So many are wildly overpriced. A tip: Pentax’s compacts in the IQZoom and Espio series are usually good, sometimes great — and are bargain priced. Like this one, the Pentax IQZoom 170SL.

Pentax IQZoom 170SL

The IQZoom 170SL is small: just 4.5×2.25×2 inches. But it packs a long lens, a 38-170mm f/5.6-12.8 SMC Pentax Zoom, of 8 elements in 6 groups. Did you catch that? SMC! Super Multi Coated! Just like all the great Pentax SLR lenses. Not all IQZoom/Espio cameras come so equipped. If you don’t see SMC on an IQZoom’s lens bezel, it doesn’t have an SMC lens.

Pentax IQZoom 170SL

The 170SL’s electronic shutter operates from 1/360 to 2 sec. It reads the film canister’s DX code to set ISO from 25 to 3200. Avoid non-DX coded films, as the camera defaults to a not-useful ISO 25. It focuses automatically, using a phase-matching five-point system. At the lens’s wide end it focuses from 2.45 feet; at maximum zoom from 3.9 feet. It sets exposure automatically.

Pentax IQZoom 170SL

The buttons atop the camera control its functions. One is for flash and shutter modes. When you turn the camera on, it uses flash when low light demands it, unless you turn flash off with this button. It also lets you force flash on and choose long shutter speeds, including bulb mode.

The middle button controls the autofocus, including infinity focus lock and spot focus. The next button turns on the self-timer and a wireless remote shutter control. My 170SL didn’t come with the remote, so I couldn’t try it. The right button sets the camera’s date and time. Some 170SLs don’t have this button, apparently. If you set a date and time, it imprints onto the negative.

The viewfinder offers diopter adjustment, a very nice touch. Move the slider on top of the viewfinder pod until the view is crisp.

The camera loads your film, winds, and rewinds automatically. You load the film upside down from the right side, which is a little odd. A single CR2 battery powers all.

This was an expensive camera: $433 when new. You could get a Pentax 35mm SLR kit for about that then!

If you like point-and-shoot 35mm cameras, check out my reviews of the Yashica T2 (here), the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 (here), the Olympus mju Zoom 140 (here), and the Kodak VR35 K40 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I put a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 into the 170SL and took it to downtown Zionsville one evening. Most places were closed thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown, so we had Main Street largely to ourselves. Here’s my favorite photo from the roll.

T-shirt in the shop window

The IQZoom 170SL was an easy companion on this walk. It is very light but feels solid. Every control fell right to hand. It took me no time at all to blow through all 24 exposures on the roll.

Window

The zoom worked smoothly but a little slowly, with a soft whirr. Winding was similarly quiet. I’m impressed with how the autoexposure system navigated mixed lighting.

Curbside carryout

I’m impressed with the sharpness and bold color I got. This camera made Fuji 400 look better than I’ve ever seen it.

Bus by the salon

Next to the viewfinder are green and red lights. The green light glows when autofocus has a lock. The red light blinks when flash is charging and glows steady when flash is ready. In this fading light the flash fired a lot. I knew when I photographed this sign the flash would reflect. So I turned flash off and the long-exposure mode on and shot it again. That shot turned out soft.

Harold's, flash
Harold's, no flash

In dim corners the 170SL gave surprisingly shallow depth of field.

Pink posies

That roll flew by so fast I barely got a feel for the camera. So I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and took the camera on a lunchtime walk through the shopping centers near my home. I was glad for a bright day, as full sun is so often a challenge for point-and-shoot cameras. Not so the 170SL. Just look at that color!

America's diner

I detect a whiff of pincushion distortion here, but overall I find this lens to suffer little from distortion. Again: just look at that color!

Old Navy

I find yellows commonly wash out on consumer color films, but the 170SL brought it in, big and bold, every time. This photo shows a little vignetting which I suppose is to be expected from a compact zoom camera.

We're open

The 170SL even rendered black impressively deep and true.

One way

I forgot to mention earlier that the 170SL has a panorama mode. A switch on the bottom moves masks in place over the film and in the viewfinder.

Panorama

That scene was too far away, so I zoomed in to the max and shot again. At 170mm it’s hard to hold the lens steady.

Close-up panorama

I did manage one decent 170mm shot. For this one, I stood square, breathed steadily, and squeezed the shutter button slowly. It’s still soft, but not due to shake this time. That’s just how maximum zoom goes on these point-and-shoot cameras, in my experience.

Bell de tacos

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Pentax IQZoom 170SL gallery.

I’m impressed with the Pentax IQZoom 170SL. Actually I’m blown away by the bold, rich color I got on everyday color film. I plan to put a couple rolls of black-and-white film through this camera to see how they perform. If they wow me as much as these color rolls did, I might just have a keeper!

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Road Trips

A survey of US 36 in western Indiana

Let’s wrap up my October, 2006, road trip in west-central Indiana.

I headed north out of Bridgeton on Bridgeton Road, which led straight to Rockville and US 36, the road I would take back to Indianapolis. Even with the scant research I did before the trip, I knew there were several old alignments of this road.

Parke County did a very nice job of signing old alignments of US 36. The first one I encountered was just outside Rockville by Billie Creek Village, a history museum. It ran south of current US 36, as the map shows.

Imagery ©2020 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2020 Google.

Old 36 Road, as this alignment is signed, is very narrow. I imagine the alignment is very old and has not been used as US 36 in many decades. I encountered a car and a truck within the first quarter mile, and it was a tight squeeze. When I passed the truck, I wasn’t sure we’d both fit, so I edged my passenger-side tires onto the grass.

US 36 at Billie Creek

I didn’t know that an 1895 covered bridge was still in use along the route! I had never driven on a covered bridge before. Every other one I’d ever seen had been limited to foot traffic. It gave me spooky chills to drive on it since I was trusting 111-year-old wood, rather than good old steel and concrete, to hold my 2,700-pound car. With quiet strength, the old bridge stoically did its job.

US 36 at Billie Creek

I find this alignment curious because I saw no evidence that it ever flowed into the current roadbed. Here’s where it ends at US 36 about a mile down the road.

US 36 at Billie Creek

The next old alignment I looked for runs through Raccoon Lake. Here’s the map. Notice how the old road, from west to east, runs slightly north of current US 36, then crosses it, and then ends at the lake and picks up on the other side before flowing back into current US 36. The US Army Corps of Engineers built Raccoon Lake between 1956 and 1960 as a flood-control project. They built a new segment of US 36 straight-as-a-stick across the new lake, and just buried the old road underwater.

Imagery ©2020 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2020 Google.

Somehow, I missed the western end of this alignment. I realized it when I saw a sign for Hollandsburg. I took the next left, CR 870 E, and drove north on it to the alignment, which was signed as Old 36. I drove west, hoping to find the beginning of the alignment. But without warning, the road dead-ended. The map above doesn’t show it, but something, maybe a creek, bisects the road.

US 36 at Raccoon Lake

This photo shows the barricade at the end of the road, and the mound on which the road is built on the other side. I didn’t bother driving around to find the other side; maybe next time.

US 36 at Raccoon Lake

I stepped back to take a picture of current US 36 to the south — straight into the sun, unfortunately. It’s hard to see, but the asphalt road was coated in a fine gravel here.

US 36 at Raccoon Lake

I turned around and drove west. After a couple hundred yards, the gravel ended. As this photo shows, old US 36 here was cut into the scenery. Driving this narrow road made me feel like I was a part of the land. In contrast, driving the elevated US 36 gave me a broad and stirring view of the scenery.

US 36 at Raccoon Lake

Old US 36 forms an S of sorts as it crosses current US 36. A friend who works in civil engineering tells me that when an old road is rerouted, the old road is usually curved to cross the new road at 90-degree angles for safety. This photo shows this crossing pointing westbound.

US 36 at Raccoon Lake

It was exciting to follow this segment of road eastward to its end at the lake. The road is used as a boat ramp today. The road actually curves to the left just before it reaches the water; the boat ramps were built on the right. A co-worker who grew up in this area told me that in the winter, the Army Corps of Engineers lowers the lake by about 20 feet, and you can see a bit of the road that is normally underwater.

US 36 at Raccoon Lake

Looking back westbound from the end of the road, old US 36 is pretty.

US 36 at Raccoon Lake

I drove back to US 36, found the eastern end of this old alignment, and spent quite some time driving around trying to find where the alignment ended at the lake on the other side. It would have helped if I had remembered to bring the map I had printed; without it, I was chasing wild geese. This failed search used up a lot of my time, and I started wanting to get home. I was so irritated with myself that I forgot to take a photo of the eastern end of this alignment.

I drove past a couple old alignments in Putnam County — one little one around the town of Bainbridge, and a larger, more interesting one that I knew I couldn’t find without my forgotten map. But I had spent more time on the trip than I planned and was growing tired, so it was just as well. I knew I’d revisit US 36 another day and explore it thoroughly.

When US 36 enters Danville in Hendricks County, it becomes a major artery and loses all of its charm. When I visit friends in this area, I usually ask about back roads to their houses so I can avoid US 36, which gets mighty congested. US 36 was rerouted and widened to four lanes on the east side of Danville. This map shows both alignments where they split as you head east out of Danville, and where they rejoin again west of the town of Avon.

Imagery ©2020 IndianaMap Framework Data, Landsat/Copernicus, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2020 Google.

I was pooped, so I made just a couple quick photos at either end. Here’s the west end, where old US 36 (Main St.) splits from current US 36.

Old US 36 at US 36

Here’s what east emd looks like. Now that I think of it, I should have driven back up to where old 36 curves south and taken a photo showing how old 36 and current 36 line up.

This photo, taken in Avon, is typical of any drive I’ve made, day or night, along US 36 in Avon. I am always looking at someone else’s exhaust pipe. It seems like I never quite make it to the speed limit, either. It seems like most things in Avon dump out onto US 36. What’s the charm of living in Avon if every trip involves slow-moving traffic on the town’s only artery?

US 36 in Avon

After I made this trip, I learned that US 36’s original 1927 route began in Downtown Indianapolis and headed west from there. Another day I’ll make a proper US 36 trip, starting at Downtown, driving all the old alignments I can find, and ending no sooner than the Illinois border.

I headed home from here, tired but satisfied from a day’s exploration.

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