Film Photography

A 1989 photo ride

My first apartment was the back half of an old house on the north side of Terre Haute, Indiana. The tree-lined street was less than a block away from Collett Park, one of the city’s loveliest spots. I felt fortunate.

I had seen some interesting spots in my neighborhood through my car’s windshield as I went about my business. I thought it might be fun to photograph some of them. So I bought some film, loaded up my best camera, and headed out on my bicycle.

That camera was the Kodak VR35 K40, a typical 1980s 35mm point and shoot. (See my review here.) The film was probably Kodacolor Gold 200, Kodak’s everyday color film that was available anywhere.

The Coca-Cola bottler was a few blocks away on Lafayette Avenue. This great sign faced the street. It was there through at least 1994, when I moved away from Terre Haute, but was removed at some point afterward.

When I moved to Terre Haute in 1985, this plant still bottled Coke into glass bottles. The common size my whole childhood had been the pint bottle, sold in an eight pack. Sometimes you’d see the eight-ounce bottle in a six pack. But I never saw 12-ounce bottles sold in grocery stores until I moved to Terre Haute. 16 ounces had always been too much for me to drink at once, where 12 ounces was just right. And I always preferred a bottle over a can! Sadly, the plant quit the 12-ounce size after a few years. Then the plant stopped bottling altogether and became a Coke warehouse. And now it stores up Coke no more; the building’s for sale. Oh, there’s the seat of my bicycle poking up from the bottom of this photo.

This little pull-behind cart in the bottling company yard was painted in throwback colors and designs that hearkened to the 1950s or maybe even earlier.

I also wanted to capture this odd tree growing in the middle of the sidewalk on 7th Street.

Also this humorous sign on 12th Street across from the Maple Avenue United Methodist Church.

The centerpiece of the neighborhood was the park, of course. Its land was donated to the city by Josephus Collett, a railroad magnate. Terre Haute was at one time a big railroad town. Many tracks still pass through town at grade; in most cases being delayed for a passing train is a valid excuse for being late.

Pity I didn’t photograph within the park that day. Manicured and proper, it always reminded me of something from a long-lost time where ladies and gentlemen, dressed properly, would stroll on a warm afternoon. I used to walk or ride up there all the time, sit on a bench, read a book, and watch people go by.

Down the block was my apartment, in the back half of the house on the left. That’s my car parked out front.

Here’s my front door. Home!

I make photo walks all the time now. I didn’t when I was in my early 20s. I wish I’d done it more often, because I love looking at these photos from way back when and wish I had more.

I did do this one other time, after an ice storm. I photographed the park in its glistening glory. See that post here.

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Snow-covered steps

Snow-covered steps
Kodak VR35 K40
Kodak Max 400 (expired)
2018

At church, we all come in the back door. Our parking lot is back there.

But it means we often forget about our front door. The door that the neighborhood sees. And so on this snowy Sunday, nobody thought to shovel it clean. Were it not for the footprints on the steps, our neighbors might think we were not even open. Indeed, when we encounter them around the neighborhood that’s sometimes what they tell us.

It’s a common trap churches fall into: we know our ways. But we want to meet people who aren’t in our church, and they find our ways strange, or even to make no sense. And we wonder why we seldom see anybody new on Sunday.

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Film Photography

single frame: Snow-covered steps

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Drink Coca-Cola

Delicious and refreshing
Kodak VR35 K40
Kodak Max 400 (expired)
2018

Hey, look! The first single frame that I shot in 2018! And it’s of this sign, obviously a recently painted reproduction of an old-style sign. It’s on 9th Street in Lafayette. Just check out all the ghost signs still peeking out from around it on that building’s flank.

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Film Photography

single frame: Delicious and refreshing

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Collecting Cameras

Operation Thin the Herd: Kodak VR35 K40

Lafayette alley

I knew as I loaded a roll of expired Kodak Max 400 into this camera that I wasn’t going to keep it. I was only shooting it one more time, for old time’s sake.

Kodak VR35 K40

My mom bought me my first Kodak VR35 K40 as a Christmas gift in about 1986. I used it heavily through college and in the first few years after. Even though it’s a simple fixed-focus point-and-shoot camera, it was the most capable camera I’d ever owned, returning consistently good results. Here’s a photo I made in 1989 of my brand new car parked in front of the Terre Haute, Indiana, house where I rented an apartment. It was a wonderful place; read about it and see photos here.

My first car

I used that K40 to record the glistening aftermath of a 1990 ice storm that shut down our city. That was such a great day! It was the first time I ever went on a photo walk, just me and my camera, alone, exploring. I wrote about that day here; it’s one of my favorite posts ever.

After the ice storm

I set the K40 aside after I married my first wife, who was a skilled photographer and took most of our family photos. It wasn’t until after we divorced that I started making photographs again. My K40 was nowhere to be found, so I bought a used Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 on eBay and moved on.

Years later I came upon this K40 at Goodwill for a few dollars. I love cheap nostalgia. But it turns out this simple point-and-shoot camera is pretty good, returning bold color on consumer-grade film. Its lens is sharp enough for credible enlargements to 8×10. Here are some wintertime photos I made with it recently.

Whitestown Meijer

I’ve been up to Purdue a lot lately to see my son. This is a great little candy store in downtown Lafayette.

McCord's

This scooter seems always to be parked by my son’s dorm. I love how the K40’s 35mm lens captures so much context. It would be a fine film camera to take on vacation even now.

Scooter at Tarkington Hall

I suppose this camera qualifies as compact. After shooting a couple rolls through my tiny Olympus XA recently the K40 felt pretty large. There’s no way the K40 fits into any pants pocket, but it fits fine in my winter-coat pocket. It weighs next to nothing, but then it’s made almost entirely of plastic. This pocket park is on the block behind my church on Indianapolis’s Near Westside.

Pocket park, Hawthorne, Indianapolis

The K40’s automatic winder is pretty loud. That’s typical of point-and-shoot cameras of the day, but it really attracts attention now. Fortunately, when I made this shot in the foyer of my church, worship had not yet begun.

Stairs and window

I stepped outside on this frigid day for this quick exterior photo. I cropped to 4×5 to get rid of my finger, which got into the frame. A few of my quick outside photos were so marred. It’s not surprising: because the temperature was in the single digits, I was moving fast and not taking my usual care.

West Park Christian Church

You can see more photos from this camera in my Kodak VR35 K40 gallery.

I suppose I’m fortunate to have so many lovely cameras that one that performs this well doesn’t survive Operation Thin the Herd. But nostalgia isn’t enough to keep any of my cameras in the collection.

Verdict: Goodbye

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The Bungalow Inc

The Bungalow, Inc.
Kodak VR35 K40
Fujicolor 200 (I think)
2011

Of late I’ve been either busy, or ill, or busy and ill. It’s left little energy for photography. So to feed the blog I’ve been trawling through my photo archive for ones that please me. My mom bought me my first Kodak VR35 K40 new in the late 80s. Though it was just a point and shoot, it was the nicest camera I ever owned and it always did reasonable work. I don’t know what became of it. I paid a couple bucks for this one at Goodwill.

Film Photography
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After the ice storm

I’m consistently surprised by what does and doesn’t work on this blog. I’ll pour my heart into a post and when it goes live, crickets: few views, few comments. Other times I’ll dash off something quickly, something I don’t really care about, just to feed this beast — and it will take off. My three most-viewed posts are like that: two about getting film developed (here and here) and one about grammar (here).

I was thrilled when last week’s post about photographing an ice storm’s aftermath was so well received. A few readers shared it around, and so it got five times the views a new post normally gets around here. I even got an email from a famous blogger, who I didn’t know read my blog, telling me that my story lingered in her mind for two days. So let me share one more photo from that day in 1990, at a moment when the clouds parted.

Film Photography

Captured: 8th and Maple

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