Old Louisville Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL 2020
I don’t have much to say about this photo except that I like it. Also, while Old Louisville is stunning to see, I’m not sure I’d want to live there. The architecture is severe, imposing. It would wear on me quick.
When I shot my Nikon F3 in January, I discovered that the light seals had failed. Actually, I discovered it when the scans came back from the processor and I saw the red streaks across my images. Isn’t that how it usually goes?
I immediately bought an F3 light-seal kit online, but it took me until August to get around to installing it. I put off things I don’t like to do. Fortunately, the kit I bought came with excellent instructions and everything I needed. It took me about a half hour to do the job, and then I had to wait a couple days for the adhesive to set.
Then I mounted my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens and loaded my last roll of Adox HR-50 film. I took the F3 around with me on a couple walks and bike rides, and on our trip to Louisville. Here are the shots I like best.
I shot the F3 in aperture-priority mode. About a third of the photos were a half or a full stop overexposed. I was able to fix it well enough in Photoshop most of the time. I hope the meter in my F3 isn’t going wonky.
I whiffed focus on the photo above. When you look at it at full scan size it’s entirely out of focus. At blog size, it has a dreamy, tilt-shifty look that I like.
I got stronger contrast this time than I did the last time I shot this film. I was impressed with its good middle grays last time. Perhaps this film doesn’t like overexposure.
The HR-50 just doesn’t look as good this time as it did last time I shot it. While we were in Louisville, I had no choice a couple times but to leave the F3 and the HR-50 in the trunk of my hot car. That may have affected the film as well.
Downtown Louisville was still reeling from protests after the killing of Breonna Taylor when we visited. Between that and COVID-19, the streets were pretty empty.
I also took the F3 to New Augusta, which I hadn’t visited in a long time. Somewhere I have a photo of this house looking abandoned. Someone’s moved in and given it the attention it deserves.
I developed this film in Adox HR-DEV diluted to 1+49 and scanned it on my CanoScan 9000F Mark II. I’m growing more and more convinced that my scanner is the weak link in my 35mm workflow. These just need far too much unsharp masking.
It’s been fun to try Adox HR-50. I seldom reach for films this slow because they demand such good light. But under the right circumstaces, HR-50 looks very good. It’s worth finding the light that suits it.
My wife and I spent a weekend in Louisville recently. We hadn’t gotten away since our January trip to Chicago, and we badly needed a change of scenery. So we rented an Airbnb in the heart of downtown and spent our time walking and making photographs. There wasn’t much else to do thanks to the pandemic.
The US 31 bridge from Indiana to Kentucky over the Ohio River was built in 1929. It underwent a restoration a couple years ago that finished with its new yellow paint job. It had been painted a silvery gray before.
Lots of bridges cross the Ohio at Louisville, including the two I-65 bridges and the old Big Four bridge, visible here. The Big Four bridge is open to pedestrians only. The George Rogers Clark bridge has pedestrian walkways as well — thank heavens, or making these photographs would have been a dangerous proposition.
There are also a couple railroad bridges to the west, plus the I-64 bridge. Here’s a view of some of that.
As the title promised, here’s the sun going down over the Ohio River from the bridge.
While I stood there, a few motor-powered rafts tore around on the river. This one passed by us on its way under the bridge. If you look closely, one of the people on the boat gave me the peace sign.
Old Louisville is a neighborhood in, as you might guess, Louisville. You’ll find it just south of downtown. It’s full of late-1800s homes mostly in the Late Victorian style, with a few Italianate, Federal, Second Empire, and Richardson Romanesque homes in there for good measure.
The centerpiece of Old Louisville is St. James Court, a wide boulevard with a grassy median and a copper fountain. The centerpiece of this centerpiece, however, is Belgravia Court. It’s at the south end of St. James Court. But you can’t drive this court — you’ll have to park your car and walk. It is two rows of houses that face each other, sidewalks and a grassy median separating them. Gas streetlights line the median.
Margaret and I have been to enough bourbon distilleries now to know the drill: first the vats of sour mash, then the still(s), then the rickhouses where the bourbon ages in barrels, then the tasting. Up to now, it’s always all been in a pastoral setting among Kentucky’s gently rolling hills. But the Old Forester Distillery is different: it’s in downtown Louisville.
You’ll find a few other distilleries up and down Main Street and on adjacent blocks, making downtown Louisville a burgeoning whiskey center. It was one before Prohibition, but that misstep in American history decimated Kentucky’s whiskey industry and sent many distillers into bankruptcy.
For a long time Old Forester was distilled and bottled at a facility just outside Louisville proper. But there’s gold in them thar whikey-tourism hills and Old Forester led the way in returning to Louisville’s famous Whiskey Row. Stepping onto this street feels very much like returning to 1870.
Little of the original building remains behind its facade. This is a modern facility through and through. Every bit of it is tourist-friendly.
Here we are peering into one of the vats of fermenting sour mash. It looks like a giant corn muffin.
Here’s one of the vats, empty, ready for a new batch.
Old Forester’s parent company, Brown-Forman, is the last independently-owned distiller in the nation. They own a whole bunch of liquor brands, including Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve. Brown-Forman is further unique in that they own their own cooperage — they make their own barrels. The main cooperage is elsewhere in Kentucky, but for us tourists a cooper makes a few barrels at the Old Forester site.
To be considered a bourbon, a whiskey must be made of at least 51% corn and must be aged in new barrels made of oak and charred inside. Here’s a barrel getting its char.
After the whiskey has been distilled, it’s clear, essentially moonshine. They pour it into a barrel, seal it with a bung, and let it age in a warehouse. To be a bourbon, it must age for at least two years. Here a barrel is being emptied, on its way to being bottled.
Here’s the Old Forester bottling machine, doing its stuff.
Every bourbon distillery tour ends with tasting some of the product. Old Forester uses the same sour mash mixture to make a number of bourbons, including their original 86-proof bourbon (left). They age their distillate in different ways and for different lengths of time to get their other bourbons, including Old Forester 1897 (center) and Old Forester 1920 (right).
The folks at Old Forester kept the tour fun and quick, and at $18 per adult it’s not terribly expensive. If ever you’re on Whiskey Row, do step inside.