A reader who comments here as tbm3fan contacted me recently and asked, “What are the best medium-format cameras you own?” I replied “my Yashica TLRs.” He responded, “That’ll work. I’m going to send you a whole bunch of film. It’s good stuff you can’t get anymore. It’s always been stored frozen. Shoot it on subjects that matter in those Yashicas.”
A box soon arrived containing a whole bunch of film in both 35mm and 120, two rolls of each emulsion he included. All of it is negative film; some of it is color and some is black and white. The first roll I shot, while in Madison, Indiana, recently, was Fujifilm Reala 100 in 120 that expired in April of 2005.
I’ve loved Fujifilm’s ISO 100 color negative films when I’ve gotten to shoot them in the past. Those rolls were always 35mm, though, so I was excited to try a roll in 120. Interestingly, there was no film called Reala 100 in 35mm. There was a Superia Reala 100 in 35mm, but not plain Reala 100. The word Superia does not appear on my two boxes of Reala 100 in 120. Some light Googling did not find data sheets for either film for me to compare them.
No matter; the fun is in the shooting. I shot the whole roll on a long walk along the Ohio River. This is the Lanier Mansion, Madison’s most famous house.
I shot the roll at EI 50 to hedge against the effects of age. The whole roll delivered very good color, fine grain, and good sharpness. Straight off the scanner, you could hardly tell this film is expired. Dark areas tended to be a little too dark for my taste, so I lightened them in Photoshop.
Despite having mounted a lens hood onto the taking lens, I got a lot of haze and flare unless the sun was well behind me. It tended to wash out images on this roll. I rescued this one in Photoshop, but it rendered the earth tones extra earthy.
There’s lots of old houses around Madison, and many of them are painted in bright colors like this. I’m not a fan of painting brick — the whole point of brick is that it needs little maintenance, and once you’ve painted it, you have to keep painting it.
My experience with Fujifilm’s 35mm ISO 100 color negative films is that the colors are candylike and bright. I found that this roll also returned earthier, burnt colors that were true.
But it still faithfully renders the primaries.
In all, this film is a winner.
I’m thrilled to have all of this film to try. But I have a sinking feeling that the more I shoot it, the more I’m going to realize just how much we lost in discontinued films. So many of them did not survive the early digital era, and few if any will ever return.
My wife and I spent a long weekend in historic Madison, Indiana, in October. In Indiana’s early days, Madison became the state’s largest and most important city. It capitalized on its Ohio River location as a port of commerce. Nearby Louisville and Cincinnati soon became more prominent, stalling Madison’s growth. It had the effect of freezing the oldest part of the city in time. Lots of buildings from Madison’s earliest days are still in use. The area has been a historic district since 1973, and over the years properties have been restored one by one. It’s a lovely place to take a camera.
I brought a couple of SLRs, a TLR, my little Olympus Stylus, and a whole bunch of film. I loaded a roll of Kodak Tri-X, expired since September, 2001, into the Stylus and slipped it into my back pocket. The rest of the film I shot was color, both negative and slide, and went to a lab for processing. That takes time. But right after I got back I developed the Tri-X myself in HC-110, Dilution B, and scanned it on my Plustek 8100i. So you get to see these black-and-white images first!
The image at the beginning of this post is of the bridge that connects Madison to Milton, Kentucky. It might look old, but it went into service in 2014, replacing a similar bridge completed in 1929 that had lived out its service life.
I made several photos as Margaret and I walked along the river, above the shore on a sidewalk. We also walked down this ramp to the bar that’s on the left and had a couple of beers.
This building is a Fairfield Inn hotel today, but it was originally built as a cotton mill. It was vacant for a long time, decaying. Its transformation is remarkable. The hotel overlooks the river.
We also strolled the city looking at the houses, most of which are a century old or more, and some of which date to near Madison’s founding in 1810.
The Stylus handled easily as always. It fit comfortably into the back pocket of my jeans. When you factor in the sharp, detailed images it returns, is it any wonder why I shoot it so often?
Images near the beginning of the roll didn’t turn out well. The base fog was thickest on the first few frames. This was the first frame on the roll that turned out at all, and as you can see the grain is pronounced and the image is a little faint.
The deeper I went into the roll, the better this Tri-X behaved. This is the front door to our Airbnb, a renovated three-story row house. It was a lovely place to stay.
Unfortunately, my Stylus has developed a light leak. You can see it in the upper right of this image. It doesn’t always occur, and when it does I can often remove it from the image in Photoshop. Given the details the leak touches in this image, Photoshop couldn’t repair it without scrambling the lines.
I successfully Photoshopped the leak out of this image. The first thing to check is the light seals, of course, and if those are bad I’ll happily replace them. That’s a repair job I’m willing to do myself. The photo forums mention four other causes of Stylus light leaks, all of which involve some disassembly of the camera and in one case replacement of a rubber seal that is probably no longer obtainable. Many of these problems are beyond my repair skills — and willingness.
In time, I’ll investigate the root cause of my Stylus’s leak but there may be nothing I can do about it. Time was, Olympus Styluses were cheap as chips. Faced with this problem just five to seven years ago, I’d buy another used Stylus. This is already my second Stylus, as my first one died. A reader empathized with my plight and sent me this one, free. He had picked up four or five of them for next to nothing, 10 or 20 bucks each. Those were the days! Now these cameras sell for $150, even $200, which is straight-up ridiculous.
If my Stylus is not repairable, I’ll have to choose whether to live with the light leak or to sell the camera for parts. But that’s life with an intricately designed early-1990s electronic camera. They are all on borrowed time after 30 years.
In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report.
Madison is Indiana’s first city. It is said to have been founded in 1809, although the first white settler came in 1808, the city was laid out in 1810, and lots were first sold in 1811. 1809 is also the year surrounding Jefferson County was founded.
Madison rose to prominence between the 1830s and 1850s because of river, road, and rail. Advances in steamboat technology, the building of the Michigan Road, and the building of the state’s first railroad from Madison through Indianapolis to Lafayette made Madison a hub of commerce. Much of old Madison was built during these boom years. But as the railroad overtook river and road as the best way to move goods and people, other rail lines appeared in Indiana and neighboring states. Madison ceased to be a hub, and started to decline in the 1850s. With no significant new industries, and the new construction that goes with it, coming to Madison, the city maintained the buildings it had. This has left the old city nearly intact today, with most of downtown and many other homes and businesses around the city listed on the National Historic Register.
To put the Michigan Road in its proper context, I started at the Ohio River and worked my way north through Madison. At left in this photo the Madison-Milton Bridge carries US 421 over the river. A barge, curiously named Barbara, pushes its way east. I took this photo from a place where spectators gather to watch the annual Madison Regatta, a boat race that has roots back to the 1800s.
Just east of this site lies a boat ramp from the river. On one trip to Madison, I was lucky to happen upon the Delta Queen waiting at the ramp. The Delta Queen has since ceased to cruise the rivers.
Looking from the top of the ramp, West Street leads north toward downtown Madison and the Michigan Road.
Old Madison is full of old buildings. Some of them appear to need a little TLC, like this one on the northeast corner of 2nd and West Streets. The sign calls it the Cinnamon Tea Room.
On the northeast corner at this intersection is “The Feed Mill,” a consignment and auction shop.
Shepley’s Tavern, in operation since 1867, is at 322 West St. This is just around the corner from Main St., also called State Road 56.
Before we continue north on West Street, let’s explore downtown Madison. Not too long ago, Madison’s Main St. was lined with businesses that served Madison – an assortment of places to buy shoes and clothes, get your prescription filled, take in a movie, deposit your paycheck, or have a soda. Even 50 years ago, many of these buildings were serving their second, third, or maybe fourth purposes. Today, downtown Madison’s focus has changed to antique stores, galleries, bars, and cafes.
The first building I noticed when I reached Main St. was the Ohio Theatre, which anomalously dates to 1936. It replaced a theater on this site that burned. I understand that it shows the movie Some Came Running, which was shot in Madison, once a year. It stands just east of West St. on the north side of the street.
A little bit down the street stands the Madison Bank and Trust Co. building, built in 1833. In this era of bank mergers, it became a Mainsource Bank in 2005, but fortunately this building retains its old signs.
US 421 meets Main St. along Jefferson St. This photo shows the northwest corner.
Downtown appears to end at Jefferson St., so I surveyed the south side of Main St. Here’s the southwest corner of this intersection.
From a different angle, here are the two buildings on the southeast corner today. Inglis Drugs, the brown brick building, is a nightclub now. The building east of it hasn’t seen maintenance in a while, but the building east of that got a new facade along the way.
Here’s what it looks like to stroll along Main St.
I hear that Hinkle Hamburgers is more than just a great neon sign – it’s also great burgers made from beef ground fresh on the premises. Unfortunately, I had my dogs on a leash with me this day and couldn’t go in.
By this time I had reached the western edge of downtown. Here’s the view eastward from here. Except for the modern cars, Main St. looks like a photo plate from an old book.
Still looking eastbound, here’s the intersection with West Street. Turn left and you head toward the Michigan Road.
In the first block of West Street north of Main, the old City Hall stands. It was damaged after a 2006 fire next door. It was built in 1879 and received a new facade in 1925.
Next door to the old City Hall stands the Elks building, a burned-out shell since August, 2006. (More on this building here and here.)
Just north, on the northeast corner at Third St., stands this building, which houses Historic Madison, Inc. It previously housed churches of two denominations and a mortuary.
A home and the oldest operating fire station in Indiana, built in 1848, sit on the northwest corner at Third St.
Moving north to the southeast corner at Fifth St., painted advertisements continue to fade on the Madison Creamery building.
The Michigan Road is in sight. A sign warns heavy trucks to stay off the Michigan Road and follow US 421 instead. A bridge carries the road over a canal.
As I researched the Michigan Road back in about 2008, I bought a number of vintage postcards of scenes from the road. They gave some good 20th-century views of the road and the places on it.
I sent those postcards to a road-loving collector not long ago; a man can keep only so much. But I scanned them all first.
The Michigan Road begins in Madison, on the Ohio River. This 1960s postcard shows Madison’s Main Street at West Street. While the Michigan Road actually begins six blocks north of this intersection, Main and West is the spiritual beginning, if you will, of the Michigan Road.
Madison is in the Ohio River valley. As you begin your Michigan Road journey north from Madison, you climb out of that valley on a winding section of the road. This is what part of it looked like in the 1940s.
North of Madison the Michigan Road splits in two. The original 1830s alignment is a narrow country road that leads directly to the small town of Napoleon. But in the early 20th century, the road was rerouted to the east through Versailles and Osgood and then back to Napoleon. This 1970s postcard shows a motel in Versailles that still operates.
The road soon reaches Greensburg. It’s clear how the road originally entered and exited this small city, but it’s anybody’s guess how it passed through its downtown. This impressive YMCA building is near where the road picks up again on the northwest edge of downtown. It still stands and is senior apartments today.
This Methodist church still stands, as well, and is around the corner from the YMCA. Its bell tower was removed somewhere along the way.
Greensburg’s Carnegie Library stands where the Michigan Road leads out of town. It was used as city hall for some years, and I gather now it is a private residence. It was a popular postcard subject.
In Shelbyville, the Michigan Road makes a right turn at Harrison Street downtown. This theater still stands on that corner, although it hasn’t been used as a theater in a long time.
The back of this postcard is a hand-typed advertisement for a film the theater was showing. Notice the 1912 postmark!
A couple blocks later the Michigan Road reaches Shelbyville’s Public Square. In those days, streetcar tracks crisscrossed the square.
Today, the a parking lot sits at the center of the Public Square.
Finally, this image in Downtown Indianapolis shows Washington Street, which carried both the Michigan Road and the National Road. The photo looks to the east, which is southbound on the Michigan Road. I’m pretty sure that the Michigan Road turned north one block east of here at Meridian Street, but when we routed the Michigan Road Historic Byway it was much more practical to let it continue west on Washington a few blocks to West Street, where the byway turns north and soon rejoins the original Michigan Road path.
There’s a lot to like about Madison, a small Indiana city on the Ohio River and at the beginning of the historic Michigan Road. One of those things is Hinkle’s. They make a mean hamburger — grilled crispy on the edges, with pickle and grilled onions on a soft bun.
As you can see, this sign is a little weatherworn. Fortunately, it’s been restored since I made this photograph. But in the process it changed color. When you visit Madison, look for the dark green Hinkle’s sign! It’s right on Main Street.