It’s been gone since about 1963, but there used to be a grand Marion County Courthouse in Downtown Indianapolis. It was razed after the current City-County Building was built right behind it. This 1963 photo shows the courthouse, its cupola already removed, in front of the skyscraper that replaced it.
A group of eight statues used to stand high on the building, overlooking the city. They represented commerce, law, justice, agriculture, the north, the south, the east, and the west. Someone photographed six of them after they had been removed.
Remarkably, several of them still exist. Two are at Holliday Park in Indianapolis, flanking The Ruins near the front center of the park. The first I’ve photographed over and over; it’s one of my favorite subjects. She lost her head somewhere along the way. She’s second from the left in the photo above.
Here’s the other one, which I seem to have only ever photographed in black and white. She’s the fifth statue from the left in the photo above.
I found two more at Crown Hill Cemetery, although I’ve heard there are three there. This one is third from the left in the photo above. You’ll find her near the bridge that carries 38th Street over a lane in the cemetery.
I found the fourth on the way up the hill to the James Whitcomb Riley gravesite. Riley is buried at the highest elevation in the city, and signs point the way. She’s the leftmost statue in the photo above.
If you’d like to know more about the Marion County Courthouse and the City-County Building, check out Ted Shideler’s fantastic articles about them on his Courthousery site here and here.
Curious lizard Olympus OM-2n 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro Ilford Delta 400 LegacyPro L110, Dilution B 2021
Here’s another photo from the Ruins at Holliday Park in Indianapolis. They renovated it a few years ago — it had been in serious disrepair — and in so doing added a water feature with a bunch of little amphibious statuettes. Like this one.
I like this little guy. He looks so curious. At the right angle he almost looks like he’s smiling.
I don’t have too much trouble with dust and debris settling on my film while it dries after development. I’m fortunate. But Ilford Delta 400 attracts more dust and debris than most other films I use. I don’t know why! It took me a while to remove all the spots from the images on this roll. But this combo of film, developer, and scanner is a winner in my book, so the spotting is worth it.
What’s left of the St. Paul Building Aires Viscount Ilford HP5 Plus LegacyPro L110, Dilution B 2021
Some years ago Margaret and I visited Manhattan. We walked from our hotel on 56th St. near Central Park, out to the Hudson River and then south along the walking paths all the way to the World Trade Center and the Financial District. We lingered at St. Paul’s Chapel and its memorial to 9/11. Read about it here.
From 1898 to 1958, an early skyscraper named after the chapel stood across the street. The St. Paul Building had 26 stories and was 315 feet tall — and was regarded by many as ungainly, even ugly. Few tears were shed upon its demolition.
This is its facade. Look closely, and you can just make out ghost letters spelling ST. PAUL BUILDING over its columns. It stands in Holliday Park, a large, lovely park on the Northside of Indianapolis. It’s part of an installation called The Ruins, which recently completed a renovation.
When you think of Japanese 35mm rangefinder cameras from the 1950s and 1960s, names like Canon, Yashica, Konica, and Minolta come to mind. But the Aires Camera Industries Company made a series of well-regarded rangefinder cameras in the 1950s, as well. The 1959 Aires Viscount was one of the last the company made before it went out of business.
Looking at this camera’s specs, two things stand out: its fast 45mm f/1.9 lens, and its fairly fast 1/500 top shutter speed. Not bad for a leaf shutter (a Seikosha-SLV, to be precise). Other than that, the Viscount is fairly simple. It focuses from 2.67 feet (.8 meters) to infinity. There’s a frame counter above the winding lever on the top plate. There’s an accessory shoe. This camera is all mechanical and has no onboard light meter, so you don’t need a battery to operate it.
An 85mm accessory lens was available; it screwed into the filter threads. If you look into the viewfinder, you’ll see two full frames, an outer one for the attached 45mm lens and an inner one in red for the 85mm accessory lens. (Amusingly, they used a red filter to color the inner frame, and the one in my Viscount has slipped out of position.) There are also marks on the outer frame to correct for parallax when you focus within 3½ feet. A rectangular rangefinder patch is in the middle of the viewfinder.
Setting aperture and shutter speed takes a little getting used to, and it’s the one thing that keeps the Viscount from being a thorough pleasure to use. The aperture ring is at the end of the lens barrel. An exposure value (EV) ring is behind it, and the shutter-speed ring is behind that. The aperture ring turns independently. The EV and shutter-speed rings turn together, however, and when you turn them it’s difficult to not also turn the aperture ring at the same time. The Viscount biases toward using EV for exposure. I don’t naturally think in EVs, so I set the shutter speed first, and then aperture. Sometimes I reached the end of the EV scale before I reached the shutter speed I wanted. When this happens, I turned the aperture ring the opposite direction enough stops to let me reach my shutter speed.
The Viscount is heavy and solidly built. It’s a hair taller but noticeably narrower than a standard Japanese rangefinder from the 60s, such as my Konica Auto S2. The Viscount’s body design is less modern, but the S2 is six years newer. I hear that the Viscount has pot metal parts inside, but the camera has a reputation for sturdiness and reliability.
All of Aires’ cameras did. It’s a shame the company’s life was so short: it was founded in the late 1940s and was gone by 1960. It made TLRs at first, but shifted to 35mm rangefinders and stayed there through the rest of its short life.
If you like rangefinder cameras, then check out my reviews of the aforementioned Konica Auto S2 (here), as well as the Yashica MG-1 (here), Electro 35 GSN (here), and Lynx 14e (here); the Minolta Hi-Matic 7 (here), the Argus C3 (here), the Kodak Retina IIa (here) and IIc (here), the Canon Canonet 28 (here) and QL17 G-III (here), and the tiny Olympus XA (here).
My Viscount was donated to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras, and it was filthy. I assumed it would be broken. But it cleaned up nicely (except for a couple odd spots of corrosion on the front of the lens barrel) and it functioned. The slowest shutter speeds were clearly running long, but the speeds above about 1/8 second sounded right, to the extent my ears are any judge of a shutter.
That shutter is nearly silent! It makes only a tiny snick sound as it fires. The shutter button has a satisfying, almost luxurious feel. The shutter fires at almost the top of the travel, but if you stop there you won’t be able to wind. Press the button all the way down to release the wind lever.
The rangefinder on mine isn’t reliable. The patch is dim, and sometimes the rangefinder image doesn’t appear. I found that pressing my finger into the golden glass area on the front of the camera, and moving that glass around a little, eventually fixes the problem — for a while.
The focus ring has a big pip on it that’s supposed to aid focusing, but I always struggled to find it while my eye was at the viewfinder.
I tested this Aires Viscount with a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus, using a meter app on my iPhone to read the light. I developed the roll in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B, and scanned the negatives on my Minolta ScanDual II.
The Viscount came with me to Holliday Park in Indianapolis, a place I’ve tested many cameras. I go there less now than I used to since I moved to the suburbs. But on this day I had an appointment nearby, and brought the Viscount along.
Temperatures were in the 40s, too chilly for many of my old cameras, but not the Viscount. I wonder if it would work as well as temperatures approach freezing. It’s good to have a few old cameras I can use even in cold weather.
The negatives looked a little dense, which led to low-contrast scans. I had to heavily boost contrast in Photoshop to avoid these images looking flat and lifeless. But the lens delivered good sharpness and detail.
Framing was easy enough with the Viscount, even up close with the parallax-correction marks. Every frame contained what I framed in the viewfinder, and nothing more.
I also made a few photos along Lafayette Road on the way home from an errand. The great Wrecks, Inc., sign is a frequent subject. Notice that the left third or so of the frame is lighter than the rest of the image. This happened on two other images. I wonder if there’s some sort of light leak. The Viscount doesn’t have foam seals, but rather relies on deep channels around the door to block light. So I’m not sure where light would get in.
But this camera has been on a collector’s shelf, unused, for many years. It’s a testament to how hardy Aires made its cameras that this Viscount works this well after more than 60 years.
The Aires Viscount was a pleasant surprise. It’s pleasant to use and packs a good lens. If you require an onboard light meter, it’s not for you. Otherwise, it contends very well with any 35mm rangefinder camera from the 1950s and 1960s and is worth your consideration.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here! To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.
Show me some leg Olympus OM-2n 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro Ilford Delta 400 LegacyPro L110 B 2021
Before the Marion County Courthouse was torn down in downtown Indianapolis, statues of six Greek goddesses stood in that building’s tower. Someone decided the statues were worth saving. I know where three of them ended up: one in Crown Hill Cemetery and two in Holliday Park, flanking The Ruins. This is a detail of one of the statues at The Ruins.
This statue lost its head at some point; see the whole thing here.
I’ve had my most successful go yet at developing black-and-white film at home.
I had trouble getting the Kodak T-Max 100 onto the reel, though. I tried six times before it took. The first five times it took up okay but at about two-thirds spooled it crumpled and jumped off the track. The stuff feels thicker than the Acros and Kosmo Foto films I’ve developed previously, films that went onto the reel like they were born to be there. The T-Max felt almost as thick as the expired Verichrome Pan I could never manage to get on the reel. It, too, kept crumpling and jumping the track.
I vocally compared the film to the male offspring of a female dog and tried again. It crumpled and jumped the track again, but in frustration I forced the film flat and back onto the track, which crumpled it further but let me keep on. From there I ratcheted the reel very slowly, and finally all of the film was wound on.
Naturally, those crumples showed up as dark curved lines on the developed negatives, which translated to light curved lines on the scans. With Photoshop’s healing tool I was able to fix them well enough.
I used Rodinal at its 1+50 dilution and used the spinner to agitate the film. Because the weather is cooler now my bathroom, and therefore all of my solutions, were a perfect 20° C so I didn’t have to adjust developing time for temperature. I also made sure the reel was pushed to the bottom of the core, and therefore the tank.
To my eye the negatives are a little thin. I fiddled with exposure and contrast in Photoshop to counteract it. I also misfocused a couple shots. I’m usually spot on with my Yashica-12, but not this time. Finally, and I’m not sure why, my scanner simply would not bring in the entire frame of the frog statuettes. The ScanGear software detects the frame’s edges for you, and when it gets it wrong you have no recourse. I muttered under my breath, cropped the scan square, and moved on.
Here are ten of the 12 photos in order from first to last. The other two turned out so well that I’ll share them as Single Frame posts next week.