Stamps

The Stamp Shop
Olympus XA2
Kodak ProImage 100
2021

A quarter century ago, Massachusetts Avenue in Downtown Indianapolis was a hodgepodge of random small businesses. In the years since, this street has become hip. Rising rents forced most of the original tenants out. Somehow, The Stamp Shop hangs on.

I bought some Kodak ProImage 100 to try it. I didn’t fall in love with it on this first roll. I shot most of that roll while riding my bike through rural Boone County, and the sickly greens this film gave me didn’t remotely match reality. I had better luck when I finished the roll on a short walk along Mass Ave.

I hadn’t used my Olympus XA2 in more than a year, which is why I chose it. I like how this camera is essentially a fixed-focus point-and-shoot — its default settings when you open the camera are good for the majority of what I shoot.

I’ve owned two XA2s and both of them have vignetted slightly. I’m not crazy about that. But the camera is so pleasant to use otherwise that I overlook it.

When I shoot my next roll of this film I’ll put it through one of my known-good SLRs, which I think will give me a better idea of this film’s capabilities.

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Film Photography

single frame: The Stamp Shop

A shot up a sidewalk on Indy’s Mass Ave.

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Film Photography

Storefronts on Mass Ave

I had an errand to run Downtown along Massachusetts Avenue, or “Mass Ave,” as everybody here calls it. This diagonal Downtown street is loaded with hip restaurants, bars, and shops. I loaded some Ilford FP4 Plus into my Yashica-12 and brought it along. I walked up and down Mass Ave photographing storefronts.

I developed the roll in L110, Dilution B, and scanned the negatives on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II. These are easily the best results I’ve ever gotten from home developing and scanning. I got exposure right in the camera, developing led to negatives of good density, and repeated practice with the VueScan scanner software is starting to pay off. I’ve shot a fair amount of FP4 Plus over the years and finally it’s looking like I expect it to, compared to the results I got from the pro labs I used to send it to.

The Rathskeller is technically on Michigan Street, but its imposing entrance is fully visible to and accessible from Mass Ave. This building is also known as the Athanaeum and, as the sign over the door says, Das Deutsche Haus. Built in the late 1800s, it was originally a social club for German immigrants. Today it’s a restaurant, beer hall, and coffee shop.

The Rathskeller

The rest of these images are not as architecturally interesting. Over the last 20 years or so, entire blocks of Mass Ave have been demolished so enormous apartment and condo complexes could be built, with retail on the ground floor. Silver in the City, a kitshcy gift shop, is in one of the early-20th-century buildings that remains.

Silver in the City

Global Gifts is a few doors down, in the same building. It’s a non-profit organization that sources its items ethically from around the world.

Global Gifts

In the same building as the previous two businesses, Three Dog Bakery has been around for at least 15 years now. I remember when they opened — I thought this business surely couldn’t last. Home-baked dog treats? Really? They have several locations today.

Three Dog Bakery

I worked Downtown the first time in 1996-97, when Mass Ave was a very different place, not yet hip and cool. It was just starting to recover from a period when it was Indianapolis’s Skid Row, and many of its businesses remained from that era. I don’t know how long The Frame Shop has been here, but it strikes me as a 1990s-era Mass Ave business.

The Frame Shop

Lots and lots of bars line Mass Ave now. This one opened a couple years ago, replacing a longtime Mass Ave bar called the Old Point Tavern. It was one of the last old Mass Ave businesses to throw in the towel, and I miss the place. When I worked Downtown in the 1990s, I sat at the bar many a lunch hour in front of a bowl of chili. It was the kind of chili you might make for yourself at home. I didn’t make much money in those days, and the $3 (as I recall) bowl was a filling, delicious lunch for very little money. I miss the Old Point Tavern.

Tavern on the Point

I’ve never set foot inside the Burnside Inn, despite its inviting facade. It’s been open for only a few years, replacing a hair salon that operated here for a long time.

Burnside Inn

Nine Irish Brothers is a chain restaurant that opened in this new building some years ago. In this case, nothing was torn down to build this building — it was a green space. I’m sure some other building once stood here, but it was torn down long before I ever set foot on Mass Ave. Margaret and I have stopped in here a number of times because the Guinness is fresh and good.

Nine Irish Brothers

Finally, here’s my favorite Mass Ave bar, Liberty Street. They have the widest whiskey selection in town, and a massive mahogany bar. I’ve met my brother here for a tipple many a time. He lives just a couple blocks away, so it’s easy enough for him to get here!

Liberty Street

I hope I’m settling into a successful groove with my home developing and scanning. It’s been frustrating to have gotten such mixed results over the year and a half I’ve been doing it.

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Film Photography

Ilford FP4 Plus in LegacyPro L110

I recently got decent results developing 120 Ilford FP4 Plus in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B (1+31). The more I use this Kodak HC-110 developer clone, the more I like it. Meet my colleague Ishank.

Ishank

And this is Trent. We met for lunch Downtown on a warm autumn day. A particular cheeseburger joint has plenty of outdoor seating.

Trent

We met for lunch on Indianapolis’s popular Massachusetts Avenue (“Mass Ave,” we all call it). We met on the block in the photo below thinking we’d hit the fried chicken place, but we learned that during COVID they’re not serving lunch. So we walked up the street and found the cheeseburger place open.

Stout's on Mass

In many shots, blacks went to 100% and there was no detail available to retrieve in Photoshop. Areas of Ishank’s hair, beard, and T-shirt came out fully black. In the photo below, note especially the side of the truck in the foreground, and the slacks of the woman in the mural.

Mass Ave

I probably underexposed those photos. I should have metered for the shadows, especially in the photo above where the light is so mixed. Instead, I started the meter app on my iPhone, aimed it at the middle of the scene, and set the Yashica-D to whatever it said. I would do well to be more disciplined in my metering technique. Fortunately, my hasty technique worked fine in even lighting, as in the scene below.

1915 Room

I shot these in my Yashica-D. I use my Yashica-12 more often because of its built-in meter and easy crank winding. But the D is still a lovely camera. Its Yashikor lens, a triplet, gives a lovely swirly bokeh (see the portraits above) that the 12’s Yashinon lens, a Tessar clone, can’t match. People in the photo forums decry the Yashikor’s softness compared to the Yashinon, but I find the Yashikor to be plenty sharp.

Prayer Request

Speaking of sharpness, I continue to learn so much from your comments. On my recent post about Kodak Panatomic-X film, Ted Marcus recommended deconvolution sharpening over unsharp masking. I searched the Internet for more info and learned that you can do it natively in Photoshop’s RAW editor. This article explains. I like the effect better than unsharp masking. The real test will come when I try it on 35mm scans.

Mowed down cornfield

I took the Yashica-D on a drive one chilly lunch hour and stopped in some familiar places. If I had known that fellow was going to bike into my frame, I would have waited a second or two longer so he would have appeared in a more interesting spot!

Wrecks, Inc.

I like shooting 12-exposure rolls of film when I’m shooting aimlessly like this. One good photo walk, or two or three short photo walks, and its into the developing tank with the roll. It also reminds me of my early days making photos in my little Kodak Brownie Starmite II and later in my crappy Imperial Magimatic X50. I had no choice but 12 exposures in the Brownie on 127 film. I could buy 20- (and later 24-) exposure 126 cartridges for the Magimatic, but often bought 12-exposure cartridges because they were less expensive. I had so little money then. I hadn’t worked out yet that it was more economical per frame to buy the 20-exposure cartridges, especially when you factored in developing and printing.

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Film Photography

More Downtown Indianapolis from the Olympus OM-1 on Kodak ColorPlus

I had so much great luck shooting around Downtown Indianapolis with Kodak ColorPlus in my Olympus OM-1 with my 50mm f/1.8 F.Zuiko lens that I get to share a whole second post of images with you.

The generous folks at Analogue Wonderland sent me this roll of film to try, in exchange for this mention. If you like what you see here, you can buy Kodak ColorPlus from them here.

This will be a random tour of places within walking distance of my Downtown office. I’ve been keeping a loaded camera in my desk for times when I can break away for 30 minutes to get some air and make some photos.

I met my brother for drinks and dinner one day after work along Massachusetts Avenue, or Mass Ave as we like to call it. This street runs at a 45-degree angle from the city grid, heading northeast. Over the last 20 years it’s transformed from being mostly run down into a hot destination lined with bars, restaurants, and shops.

Mass Ave

Stout’s Shoes has watched Mass Ave change considerably since it was founded here in 1886. Here’s the company’s story.

Stout's

The Sears building on Mass Ave hasn’t been Sears in decades. The first floor has been one grocery store or another for as long as I can remember. The upper floors are offices.

Sears, Roebuck & Co.

The space in front of the City-County Building, the seat of Indianapolis and Marion County government, used to be a boring plaza. That was torn out recently and a public park of sorts has gone in. These covered swings just opened a few weeks ago.

Swings at Lugar Plaza

Over on Monument Circle, I walked up the long stairs to the monument itself and shot the Columbia Club building, which this statue overlooks. The ColorPlus really saturates the earth tones.

Copper roof

These funky flowers are growing in pots all around the Circle.

Red flower

Here’s a street scene in front of Circle Tower on the Circle’s west side. Circle Tower is architecturally my favorite building on the Circle. It has lots of Art Deco touches.

Ambrose

On a cloudy day I walked down Washington Street to get the big, blue JW Marriott hotel. It’s an unusually bold architectural statement for an otherwise staid town.

Looking at the JW

This Five Guys is a half block from my office. It’s in what was once a Roselyn Bakery. Since Roselyn’s went out of business, it’s been a Dunkin’ Donuts and a Pie Five Pizza Co. Here’s hoping Five Guys works out here.

Five Guys

I photograph chalkboard easel signs wherever I see them, especially when they have a humorous message. This one’s a straight-up ad for the coffee inside.

Chalkboard sign

Finally, an old Publix movie house on Washington Street has been used as a community theater for as long as I’ve lived here. It’s a lovely old theater. Here’s its box office.

Box office

I really enjoy my photowalks around Downtown. I’m sure at some point I’ll feel like I’ve exhausted all the possibilities, but that day has not yet come.

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Camera Reviews

Kodak Pony 135 Model B

I’ve achieved the Kodak Pony 135 trifecta, having now owned and shot now all three models: first the original, then the Model C, and now this Model B. I wasn’t exactly striving for this goal, mind you. But an old friend’s father sent me his entire camera collection a couple years ago and this Model B was in it. It was only a matter of time before I put film through it and secured this particular hat trick.

Kodak Pony 135 Model B

The 1953-55 Kodak Pony 135 Model B, like the original Pony 135, steps the photographer up from the basic Brownies Kodak sold. Its 51mm f/4.5 Anaston lens, probably a Cooke triplet in design, was a serious improvement on the meniscus lenses in most Brownies. Its Kodak Flash 200 shutter operates at 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, and 1/200 seconds.

Kodak Pony 135 Model B

Like the original Kodak Pony 135, you have to extend the lens barrel before you can shoot photos. Twist counterclockwise, pull, twist clockwise until it locks. To collapse it, twist, push, twist.

Kodak Pony 135 Model B
Kodak Pony 135 Model B

If you like simple cameras from the 1950s, by the way, you might also check out my review of the Argus A-Four (here), the aforementioned Kodak Pony 135 (here) and Pony 135 Model C (here), as well as the Kodak Signet 40 (here) and the Agfa Optima (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

Kodak sold this camera to amateurs who wanted to shoot color slides, Kodachrome and Ektachrome. Kodacolor negative film existed, but not in 35mm format until 1958. These were all seriously slow films — Kodachrome of that day was rated at 12 or 16 ASA, yes twelve or sixteen. Kodak Plus-X was rated at a comparatively blazing 80 ASA then. When using fast modern films, this camera’s camera’s maximum aperture and range of shutter speeds seem limiting. But in context of the time, they were fine.

Ice cube croutons

Kodak discontinued Kodachrome and Plus-X some time ago. So I loaded Agfa Vista 200 color negative film into this Pony and took it out onto Indianapolis’s Massachusetts Avenue. My wife and I made it an evening out.

Liberty Street

But first I had to cure a sticky shutter. I’d just learned that on cameras like this carefully flowing a couple drops of lighter fluid into the slot for the shutter cocking lever usually does the trick. It freed the shutter immediately!

Mural

And yes, you have to cock the shutter on this Pony. You also have to guess exposure and set aperture and shutter speed, as well as guess distance and focus manually. The budding early-1950s photographer got no help from the Pony 135 Model B.

Mass Ave

But as that photographer’s skill grew, he or she could get good performance from the Pony. Mine suffers the vagaries of age. I got a lot of haze in most shots, especially when the sun wasn’t perfectly behind me. The lens wasn’t dirty, and I can’t see any haze or fungus among the elements, so I just don’t know what was wrong. Photoshop corrected the problem well enough on many frames but couldn’t cure it on many others, including the one below.

Bench

I also took the roll on a lunchtime walk in Fishers, the town in which I work. With the sun directly overhead my shots suffered from far less haze.

Tree on the path

Because I’m a terrible guesser of distance, I generally shoot cameras like this at f/8 or smaller apertures and shoot distant subjects so good depth of field makes up for my bad guesses. But I did try moving in fairly close to these plants near my home. It went all right.

Foliage

See more from this camera in my Kodak Pony 135 Model B gallery.

These Kodak Pony 135s are all pleasant to shoot. They’re light and easy to use once you get the hang of setting aperture, shutter speed, and focus. My only complaint is that the 51mm lens felt too narrow. I prefer my Model C’s slightly wider 44mm lens. But really, you can make lovely photographs with any Kodak Pony. I hope you won’t dismiss them as junk just because of the Kodak name.

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

Shooting Agfa CT Precisa 100, original emulsion, cross-processed

While I had my Nikon N90s out I decided to shoot one of the rolls of expired slide film that Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto gifted me some time ago. This time I chose Agfa CT Precisa 100, expired since January of 2006. This is another of the Agfa films that survives, zombie-like, after Agfa stopped making its own films. The film sold as CT Precisa today is made in Japan, and by all accounts it’s not the same.

Word on the street is that this stuff loves to be cross-processed — that is, developed in the C-41 chemistry used for color print film. So that’s what I did. Roberts, the photo store Downtown, still has a minilab and they cheerfully processed and scanned my roll.

Stout's

I shot part of the roll Downtown after I got a good barber-shop haircut. I’ve bought shoes at Stout’s — it’s like stepping into 1942 in there, with the same technology and the same service.

Downtown Indy

I aimed my camera (with the 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G AF Nikkor lens) at anything colorful as I walked along Delaware Street and on the first block of Massachusetts Avenue. The entrance below was to a Burger King when I worked in a building across the street more than 20 years ago. Today it’s a tapas joint.

Barcelona Tapas

I made the photo below to finish the roll before dropping it off for processing at Roberts. I’m a little disappointed that the sun washed out the hood and snout of the Camaro so strongly but I’m showing the photo anyway because of all the colors I got otherwise.

Corvette snout

I also brought the camera to Zionsville Village and made some of my usual shots.

In Zionsville

I really liked how cross-processed CT Precisa rendered the greens of grass — so supernaturally vibrant.

Black Dog Books

Look around online for people who’ve cross-processed this film and they’ll all tell you it really brings out the blues. Sure enough, that’s what happened here.

In Zionsville

After my last roll of expired slide film was so washed out, I researched online whether exposure compensation could help. The wisdom I came upon over and over was that if you weren’t sure how the film was stored, overexpose — but only by about 1/3 stop given slide film’s narrow latitude. So I did. And I didn’t need to; everything was slightly overexposed. Photoshop rescued every shot. This stuff must have been stored frozen until I got it.

Checkers

Shooting this roll of CT Precisa was great fun. Maybe I’ll come upon another someday.

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