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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Collecting Cameras

Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C

It’s a Kodak box camera that’s not a Brownie: the Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C.

Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C

The Hawk-Eye or Hawkeye name is strongly linked to Kodak. Indeed, Kodak first made cameras with that name in 1899. But that’s only because Kodak bought the Blair Camera Company that year, which had bought the Boston Camera Company in 1890. Boston made the first Hawk-Eyes, box cameras for glass plates.

When Kodak took over, Hawk-Eyes became box cameras in the Brownie tradition. As best as I can suss out, the line began in 1913 with three models: one without a model letter, the Model B, and the Model C. They are all typical cardboard boxes covered in leatherette, producing eight 6×9 cm negatives on 120 film. The unlettered model and, it looks like, the Model B both offered two viewfinders, one in portrait and one in landscape orientation, and two apertures selected by a pull-up tab on the camera’s top. All three cameras presumably use the same meniscus lens, which is is probably at f/11 or f/16 (though I don’t know how the aperture control constrains that). The rotary shutter probably operates at about 1/30 second.

Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C

The Model C took away the landscape viewfinder and the aperture selector, probably making it the least expensive No. 2 Hawk-Eye. The only control on the camera is the shutter lever. Whichever position you find it in, up or down, you move it to the other position to make a photograph.

Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C

I couldn’t find out when Kodak stopped the original run of this camera in the US. I do know that Kodak also made this camera in the UK from 1926 to 1934. Mine’s one of those, as evidenced by the seal on the back that reads, “Made in Great Britain / Kodak Limited.”

Kodak also made this camera with colored leatherette. I’ve seen them in brown, blue, burgundy, red, maroon, and green, and with at least three different patterns embossed into the leatherette.

In the US, Kodak reissued this camera on the company’s 50th anniversary in 1930, in brown leatherette with a silver foil badge on the side noting the anniversary. They made a whopping 550,000 of them through 1934. I have one of those, too; a review is coming soon.

If you like box cameras, I’ve reviewed a bunch: the Ansco B-2 Cadet (here), the Ansco Shur Shot (here), the Kodak No. 2 Brownie in both Model D (here) and Model F (here), and the Kodak Six-20 Brownie (here). Or see all of my camera reviews here.

I loaded Kodak T-Max 100 into this old box and took it for a spin. I developed the film in Rodinal, diluted 1+50, and scanned the negatives on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II. All of these images got a little sharpening and contrast enhancement in Photoshop. I rotated the image below to be level. The rest I left at whatever cockeyed angle I managed thanks to the small, dim viewfinder.

House in midafternoon sun

Holding the camera level was the biggest challenge of using this camera. When the subject had one large, strong element, I had an easier time of it because it was so obvious in the viewfinder. The tree was that element in this image.

Tree shadow

You’d think you could just hold the camera up and turn it on its side to get a landcape oriented image. Unfortunately, the image in the viewfinder turns upside down when you do that. It’s hard enough to frame a subject in the itty bitty viewfinder. It’s nearly impossible to do it with the image upside down.

Suburban street

All of the images were soft with low contrast. I’ve seen far better results from other Kodak boxes with meniscus lenses. Shake was also a problem on a couple frames. As slow as the No. 2 Hawk-Eye’s shutter is, I’m surprised shake didn’t affect more photos.

VW in the driveway

Conventional wisdom with simple cameras like this is to always have the sun behind you when you make a photo. The No. 2 Hawk-Eye enforces it by making the viewfinder wash out unless the sun is behind you and therefore your body is blocking it.

Statuette

See more from this camera in my Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C, gallery.

This Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C, is a gift to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras. I thank the fellow who donated it. He’s a longtime professional photographer and camera collector who retired a couple years ago and sent me a box full of goodies when he cleared out his studio.

It’s always fun to shoot an old box, and this time was no exception. I favor my two Kodak No. 2 Brownies, however. They both have portrait and landscape viewfinders, and their lenses are sharper and deliver more contrast.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Film Photography

Kodak T-Max 400 in Rodinal

Callery pear flowers

They say you should use Rodinal only with films under ISO 400 or you’ll get grain the size of bowling balls. But Kodak’s T-Max films are so smooooooooth. I hoped that would offset graininess when I developed a 35mm roll of Kodak T-Max 400 in Rodinal recently.

No Outlet

T-Max 400 is not as smooth in Rodinal as it is in D-76, which is what my favorite lab uses to develop its black-and-white films. Also, my flatbed scanner isn’t lab quality, and that probably contributes to these results. But these photos are entirely tolerable, at least to my eye.

Braches in silhouette

If I had a roll of T-Max 400 with critical images on it I’d want to develop it in D-76 to get “that T-Max look” from it. But for everyday la-de-da shooting Rodinal is more than fine.

Railroad bridge

I made these photos in my Pentax ME Super with my fabulous 50mm f/1.7 lens attached. We were all locked down at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. One stir-crazy Saturday afternoon I couldn’t take it in my home anymore and went for a long drive. I stopped for a few photos along the way, in deserted places.

Roadside cross

I also made some photos around the house, since I was in it pretty much all the time. This is why I chose the T-Max 400, actually: so I could shoot handheld indoors.

Musical cup

I diluted Rodinal to 1+50 to develop this roll. The solution clocked in at 19.3° C, so I adjusted my development time accordingly, from 12:00 to 12:42. I used the Massive Dev Chart’s converter to calculate this time. As usual, I agitated in my Paterson tank using the swizzle stick to rotate the film on its reel. I agitated continuously for the first minute, then for ten seconds every minute thereafter.

Kodak T-Max 400 is perfectly acceptable in Rodinal. I’ll use this combination again, I’m sure.

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Camera Reviews

Pentax ME Super

I reach for my Pentax ME all the time because it’s small (for a 35mm SLR), light, and easy to use. It is an aperture-priority camera, meaning that after you set the aperture, the camera reads the light and sets the shutter speed. I recommend the ME because they are inexpensive and fun to use. If you want that but you simply must have full control over exposure, then the 1979-84 Pentax ME Super is for you.

Pentax ME Super

Its electronically controlled shutter operates from 4 to 1/2000 sec. — different from the ME’s 8 to 1/1000 sec. shutter. Also, if you use flash it syncs at 1/125 sec., rather than the ME’s 1/100 sec. But under use, these cameras feel and work much the same. In Auto mode, look through the viewfinder and twist the aperture ring. A dot glows next to the shutter speed the camera chooses. The dot is green-yellow at 1/60 sec. and above. It’s orange-yellow below 1/60 to caution you of shake if you’re holding the camera in your hands.

Pentax ME Super

There’s just one quirk to setting shutter speed, though. There’s no dial or ring. Instead, put it in manual mode by twisting the dial atop the camera to M. Then press the two black buttons to change the shutter speed. The viewfinder helps you get a good exposure. A red light blinks rapidly next to OVER or UNDER until you choose an aperture and shutter speed that gives good exposure. It works more intuitively in practice than that sounds like.

Pentax ME Super

That’s a good thing, because this Pentax ME Super has a fault in Auto mode: the mirror doesn’t return. The mirror returns properly in manual mode, so that’s how I shot it.

If you like compact SLRs, also see my review of the original Pentax ME (here), the Olympus OM-1 (here) and the Nikon FA (here). If you like Pentax SLRs, see my review of the K1000 (here), the KM (here), the Spotmatic SP (here), the Spotmatic F (here), the ES II (here), and the H3 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I shot my test roll while we were all hunkered down at home thanks to COVID-19. Knowing I’d want to shoot some things indoors handheld, I loaded speedy Kodak T-Max 400 into the ME Super. I developed it in Rodinal 1+50. This is a mug our son often uses for his tea.

Red cup

Our dishwasher is on the fritz, so we handwash our dishes and leave them to dry. The kitchen window is nearby, providing plenty of light.

Drying

I took the ME Super on photo walks around the neighborhood, as well. This SLR is so light that I hardly noticed it hanging over my shoulder.

Curves and lines

The mirror slap jars the camera a tiny bit. The ME Super supposedly has a mirror dampening mechanism that the ME lacked. But I was surprised to feel the camera move in my hands each time I fired the shutter. My ME doesn’t do that.

Callery pear by the fence

I adapted quickly to the ME Super’s manual mode. By the end of the roll, my fingers were finding the two buttons with my camera still at my eye.

Tulips

The ME Super offers everything I love about the original ME plus that manual mode. But I’d hardly use manual mode (if this ME Super’s Auto mode were working). I prefer aperture-priority shooting and use it nearly exclusively on every SLR I own that is so equipped.

Zionsville

If my ME disappeared, however, I could just pick up this ME Super and keep right on trucking. After a CLA and a repair of Auto mode, that is. I might even use the manual mode once in a blue moon.

At Iron's Cemetery

To see more from this camera, check out my Pentax ME Super gallery.

It’s hard for me to be objective about the Pentax ME Super because I’ve used and loved its predecessor, the Pentax ME, for years. If you like the ME, you’ll like the ME Super, and vice versa. If you’ve never used either and you are at all curious, hie thee to eBay where bodies can regularly be had for chicken feed.

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Plymouth 8

Plymouth 8
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak T-Max 400
2015

As I made digital photos of the cars at the Mecum auction each year, I always photographed the card in the windshield that told the car’s make, model, and year. But I did it with my digital cameras, not my film cameras — why waste the film on those cards? But then when the negatives and scans came back from the processor, I sometimes couldn’t match the photo to the car it came from.

This is one of those times. Clearly, this is from a Plymouth, and it had a V-8 engine. That’s all I know. If you know more, do tell in the comments.

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Film Photography, Old Cars

single frame: Plymouth 8

Detail of a V-8 Plymouth.

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Film Photography, Travel

Crossing the Chicago River on Kodak T-Max 400

I had a lot of good photographic luck on our early-January trip to Chicago. So much so that I’m still sharing photographs from the trip in late March! I made these crossing the Chicago River at both Jackson Street and Adams Street. On Adams Street, we were walking to our breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s; on Jackson Street, we were on our way back. It was the end of our trip; driving home followed breakfast. I had Kodak T-Max 400 in my Olympus XA, and I hoped to finish it before we got back to our parking garage. I failed, but it was fun trying. I’m usually careful not to waste shots when shooting film, but on this walk I photographed freely. It was a lot more fun that way!

On the Chicago River
On the Chicago River
On the Chicago River
On the Chicago River
On the Chicago River

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