Tomorrow I’ll publish an Operation Thin the Herd report on my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK. Here’s a frame from the previous time I used that camera. I’m not a giant fan of Kentmere 100 — I’ve had terrible luck with its highlights blowing out. Yet my Contessa managed that well in any light. It seems to “get” this budget film.
And just look at the great detail that Tessar lens captured on my former Toyota’s flank. Count those water drops! If you guess focus right, the Contessa does credible close work. But don’t ask it to shoot macro: it focuses down to only one meter.
I might have a couple more rolls of the Kentmere in the freezer. I know which camera I’m putting them through.
It’s the only town square I know of in all of Indiana that doesn’t have a courthouse on it. Rather, the centerpiece of Shelbyville’s Public Square is…a parking lot.
I was in Shelbyville for a board meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association. Turnout was disappointing. Three of our four core officers made it, plus one of our board members from Shelbyville and, at her invitation, one of the Shelby County Commissioners. That was it. Our board numbers about 30.
Several of our founding board members have retired or have experienced career changes that made them step down. And, truth be told, we’re just not moving our heritage-tourism agenda forward very powerfully. We suffer from the common nonprofit board syndrome of a small handful of people doing everything, and there just aren’t enough hands. I think many of our board members are allocating their time to other initiatives.
But also, last year a lot of our limited time and attention was diverted to a matter involving a billboard. United States Code, Title 23, § 131, paragraphs (c) and (s), prohibits new outdoor advertising within 650 feet of any byway. A billboard company and an industrial park spent considerable money on lawyers trying to find a way to get a billboard erected in our corridor. These lawyers want to exploit a possible loophole in the law, and doing so apparently requires approval and action from our board. This is still not resolved, so I’ll say no more beyond that this enormously frustrating matter consumed our limited time and resources last year and is fixing to drain more of the same this year.
Knowing we’d have to discuss this matter again at our board meeting, I wanted to enter in a pleasant mood. So arrived in Shelbyville early with a couple cameras loaded with film and made some photographs. This is the Methodist Building on the west side of the Public Square.
Just north of the Methodist Building is my favorite building in the Public Square: the ornate Sheldon Building.
I shot the two photos above with my Pentax ME and a 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens on Kentmere 100. I made the rest of the photos in this post with my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 on Kodak Tri-X 400. The Stylus’s zoom let me move in on the Sheldon Building’s cornice.
It also let me move in on the square’s clock. I just noticed as I wrote this that it shows two different times.
When I made my 2008 photographic survey of the Michigan Road, this building on the square’s northeast corner housed a physical therapy business. I didn’t know then that it was once an opera house, but that most Shelbyvillians remember it as an old-fashioned hardware store. Today the first floor is a restaurant, where we held our meeting. But the upper floors remain vacant.
I walked south along the Michigan Road, which is State Road 9. At the corner where you have to turn east along State Road 44 to stay on the Michigan Road stands this building, which was originally the Alhambra Theater.
On my 2008 visit to Shelbyville I found the downtown to be in sorry condition. But in the nine years since, many facades have been restored. The town is shaping up!
And then I walked back to the Public Square for my board meeting. The discussion about that infernal billboard wasn’t too painful.
I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.
In case you can’t tell, I’ve been on a jag of shooting my prime manual-focus Pentax lenses. It’s also given me a chance to shoot up some film that’s been sitting in my fridge for far too long. So: my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens went on, and a roll of Kentmere 100 went in, my Pentax ME. And I took it along when I went to visit my son at Purdue. We drove across the river into Lafayette and strolled through downtown.
I’ve always enjoyed this f/2 prime, but after I bought my 50/1.4 it never got much play. I admit it: I liked the cachet of having that f/1.4 lens on my camera. Look at me, the photographer with the f/1.4 lens! But for everyday shooting I didn’t really need that extra stop.
I have generally not, however, enjoyed Kentmere 100. It’s soot and chalk, prone to blown highlights. But it did all right under this lens. And what a grand theater marquee that is!
A mural down one alley featured all these faceless people. I can’t decide whether it’s cool or creepy, but either way it’s compelling.
Lafayette’s downtown is lovely, chock full of old buildings that appear to have been maintained or restored. So many Indiana downtowns have not been so fortunate. My hometown of South Bend lost half its downtown buildings to urban renewal. My college town of Terre Haute saw many of its old downtown buildings torn down from neglect.
My son and I also walked through a park on Lafayette’s east side. This shot of a tree in the park shows a little of Kentmere’s highlight-blowing tendencies.
On a different day I shot this flag. I’m a little bummed out to see that light leak in the bottom corner. A couple other shots were so afflicted. Could my ME need new seals? Is it finally time to send it out for a good CLA? The answer appears to be yes on both counts.
Finally, here’s a new McDonald’s. Actually, this is an old McDonald’s. Believe it or not, this was until recently an iconic red Mansard-roofed McDs. They tore the old skin off and put on a new one. I don’t know what is making the company remake its buildings in such generic style. Take off the golden arches and this could be any office building anywhere.
This lens handled flawlessly and returned sharp results, as it always does. The Kentmere mostly kept its highlight-blowing tendencies at bay. The only clinker was the light leak this roll revealed.
I came upon my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK recently and decided to shoot it again. I enjoyed the results I got last time on color film and wanted to try black and white in it. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to use the roll of Kentmere 100 that’s languished in my fridge for more than a year now.
I liked shooting the Contessa LK as much this time as I did last — it’s a pleasure to use. But while rewinding, I felt the film break. I figured I rewound too vigorously and pulled the film’s end out of the canister. So I stepped into a dark closet and spooled the film into a black film can. I sent it off to Dwayne’s with instructions to open it in the darkroom.
I got just 19 shots, with negatives, back from a roll of 36. The other 17 shots must still be in the film canister!
But wait, didn’t I have trouble rewinding film in this camera before? I looked up my review and found that a 24-exposure roll of color film had rewound fine, but a 36-exposure roll of black-and-white film rewound with great difficulty and soon tore. This Contessa LK must not like 36-exposure rolls.
I misfocused about a third of the shots so badly that they were unusable. I’ve become a pretty good judge of distance, so I don’t know how I screwed up so many photographs! But this shot of the corner of my car after some rain was in perfect focus, with strong detail and good tonality.
I like the composition of this shot, which I took Downtown, but it was a little underexposed. I improved the situation in Photoshop but at larger resolution you can see pretty serious grain.
I love the sense of depth this photo creates. I shoot these trees a lot as they’re on the golf course directly behind my house. The tree in front is an ash, and it’s been killed by the emerald ash borer. I’m sure the golf course will have it removed sooner or later.
Of the shots I focused correctly, many of them had blown-out highlights, like this one. Some of the highlights were so blown that the shots were unusable. That was the big problem I experienced with this film the last time I shot it. Maybe Kentmere 100 just isn’t the film for me. It’s too bad, because it’s the least expensive black-and-white film I can find.
Side note: this is the new location for Roberts Camera, and it’s a lot more convenient than their old location. They’ve been getting my color-film processing business all summer. Unfortunately, they don’t process black and white anymore.
I sent the rest of this roll to a different processor, Old School Photo Lab, to see if I got different results. I expected I’d get several photos, but I got just this one. Several shots of my older son must have been right where the film tore. At any rate, I’m impressed with the lab for processing just one frame.
This is a much better result: less intrusive grain, no blowouts, good tone and contrast and detail. This frame required no processing in Photoshop to look this good, although I did crop it a little. Processing and scanning aren’t the whole story, of course. This was a mostly cloudy day, so the sun wasn’t so intense.
I’m thinking I need to buy a little more Kentmere 100 and let Old School Photo Lab process it all. Maybe the Kentmere likes whatever soup they’re using better than the soup at Dwayne’s.