Film Photography

The Indianapolis Zoo on Kodak Tri-X 400

Our granddaughter’s mom asked us if we’d like to go to the zoo. Heck yeah!

Our granddaughter is fascinated by elephants. Here she is, with her mom, looking at real elephants for the first time.

Looking at the elephants

Here’s a direct look at those elephants.


I had Kodak Tri-X 400 in my Yashica-12. I’d never shot this camera in a setting like this. I brought it along to see how it handled, and to finish this roll.


I normally shoot a long lens, or at least a deep zoom lens, at the zoo so I can focus on the animals themselves. The Yashica-12’s lens seems wide at 80mm, which made me figure out compositions that took a broader scene into account.


Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I didn’t. I came away with a strong feeling that if I shot nothing but this TLR for a year I’d grow tremendously as a photographer. I’ve used this camera a lot in the last year and have come to know it well. I enjoy using it a great deal.


The Yashica-12’s square format was challenging in this environment. A 3×2 format would have worked so much better, effectively cropping useless sky and ground out of these compositions. I want to shoot more scenes like these with this camera so I can figure out how to use the 1×1 form factor to best advantage.


Because the animals in these images are so distant, the images work better at larger sizes. If you click any of these images to see them on Flickr, and then maximize your browser window, you’ll see what I mean.

I developed this film in LegacyPro L110 (Kodak HC-110 clone), Dilution E (1+47). I always lean on the Massive Dev Chart to guide me in development times. It let me down with Tri-X — it gave me a range of times for all dilutions I normally use. I’d have to experiment to find the time that works for me. This is my last roll of Tri-X and I don’t plan to buy more, as the film base’s curl makes scanning a pain. Persistent Googling revealed a blogger who got pleasing results with Dilution E at 6:50 at 20° C. so I did that.

I got slightly thin negatives. The scans are okay, but I wasn’t wowed, as shadows were blocked up. It could be insufficient development. It could also be a result of the Yashica-12’s metering, which is probably center weighted. I should meter by aiming the camera at the darkest area of my intended composition, and then compose and shoot.

Recently photo blogger Alyssa Chiarello got very nice results from Tri-X in HC-110 Dilution B for 6:50 at 20° C. I wish I’d seen her post before I developed this roll, as I think Dilution B would have given me better results.

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Film Photography

Walking through Zionsville in the rain with an old camera and expired Kodak Tri-X

Wet brick street

I didn’t mean to walk in the rain. It’s supposed to be romantic and all, but I was alone, and I didn’t really want to be wet. But this shower popped up out of nowhere. It caught my Dark Sky app by surprise — it is very good about warning me before it rains.

Argus Argoflex Forty

I figured the rain wasn’t going to hurt my camera, a circa-1950 Argus Argoflex Forty. It’s a hardy little box. So I pressed on.

It’s also a reasonably capable little box. Its lens is sharp except in the very corners, and it offers a range of apertures and shutter speeds.

I was burning off my last roll of Kodak Tri-X, expired since June of 1981. After shooting my last roll at box speed and getting dense and foggy negatives, I set exposure on this manual camera as if this were an ISO 100 film, hoping for improvement. I developed in LegacyPro L110 Dilution B (1+31).

This roll looked far better than my last one — less grainy, better resolution. Fresh Tri-X would have looked even better, of course; these still look like they were shot on expired film. But I’m pleased with these results.

The Flower Shop
Black Dog Books
Five Thirty Home
One Nine Five
VW Bus
Downtown Zionsville

I shot this back in early July during a week when we had several pop-up showers in full sunshine. That’s a real rarity! I haven’t seen anything like it since I was a child.

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Film Photography

40-year-old Tri-X in the Yashica-12

I buy film impulsively with some project in mind. Then I never get to the project and eventually forget why I bought the film. I’ve done it enough that I now have about 15 rolls of film I need to shoot up. I’m working my way through this stock while I refine my home developing technique.

I own two rolls of 120 Kodak Tri-X that expired in June of 1981. I had a day off a couple weeks ago, and it was a warm spring day. So I spooled one roll of the Tri-X into my Yashica-12 and took it for a drive in the country. It was lovely to smell all the rural-Indiana spring smells. Along one country road the fields were awash in fragrant golden flowers. Another road smelled strongly of swine. That’s Indiana!

I stopped when I came upon the small town of Sheridan, and blew through the whole roll there.

In small town Indiana, everybody knows everybody and everybody’s lived there for ages. Even though the streets were largely deserted, a stranger like me stands out. These little towns are seldom popular destinations. The locals are sure to wonder why I’m making photographs there.

As I wrapped up the roll, I noticed one fellow stick his head out his door and give me a sidelong look. Several minutes later a woman pulled up to me in her car to ask what I was doing. Two minutes later, another car bearing two women pulled up to ask the same thing. They put on friendly faces, but that they asked at all told me I had worn out my welcome.

I’ve experienced this many times as I’ve photographed small Midwestern towns. I have a window of time before people let me know, at first subtly and then directly, that I’m noticed.

I’m a middle-aged, well-groomed white man. While I stand out because I am not known there, at least I look more or less like everyone else.

When I was in my 20s, with hair halfway down my back and wearing rock-concert T-shirts, I feel sure I would have received a distinctly unfriendly reception.

If my skin were brown but all else about me were the same as it is now, I’ll bet someone in Sheridan (or in any small, rural Midwestern town I’ve ever visited) would have called the sheriff.

It’s safe to be a middle-aged white man.

I developed the film that afternoon in L110, Dilution B, and scanned it the next day. This film was so fogged that the images were barely visible on the negatives. Yet my scanner cut through it and brought out usable, though very grainy, images. Here are the best of them.

Barber shop
Farmer's Bank
Christian Church
Central Indiana Telephone Co.
Reserved parking
Step up
Sheridan Post Office

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Film Photography

Kodak Tri-X info sheet from 1981

This week I shot a roll of Kodak Tri-X in 120 that expired in 1981.

Back then, Kodak packed a useful sheet of information in the box. It was loaded with helpful tips for shooting and developing this film to get good results. I scanned it in so I could share it with you. Click either image to see it larger.

In 1981, when you bought a roll of Tri-X you could spool it into any camera, even one you didn’t know well, and use these instructions to get usable results. It’s too bad Kodak doesn’t pack these info sheets today.

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Cormorant hood ornament
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Tri-X 400 (at EI 200 by mistake)

Early Packard automobiles had an array of stunning hood ornaments. You might think this bird is a swan, but you’d be wrong; it’s a cormorant. You’d find cormorant hood ornaments on the finest Packards.

If I had not shot this at EI 200 by mistake, I might not have gotten just this perfect look.

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Film Photography, Old Cars

single frame: Cormorant hood ornament

A Packard hood ornament on Tri-X.

Abandoned US 40 bridge near Plainfield, IN

Abandoned US 40 bridge
Nikon N8008, 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6 AF Nikkor
Kodak Tri-X 400

I’ve often wondered what leads to a bridge being abandoned. Was it too expensive to tear it out? Won’t it become a safety hazard for curious explorers?

I don’t know for sure when this bridge was built, but my past research points to 1920-25. It carried US 40 over the west fork of White Lick Creek, just west of Plainfield, Indiana. It served until only about 1940, when US 40 was upgraded to four lanes here. Two new bridges were built, one for each direction of traffic. This bridge was left behind.

The current westbound bridge is only a few feet away. It’s only in the winter months, when the trees are bare and the vegetation has died back, that you can see this old bridge from the road as you drive by.

I love it when serendipity happens. I scheduled this post to go live today weeks ago. Later, I started moving my 2006 road trip along this section of the National Road and US 40 to the blog, which I started sharing this week. My post about the day I first encountered this bridge posts next week.

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Film Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Abandoned US 40 bridge

An abandoned bridge near Plainfield, IN, that used to carry US 40.