Phlox

Phlox in bloom
Kodak Retina IIc
Kodak Gold 200
2017

I love phlox! I first noticed phlox on my many road trips, as I encountered it over and over again growing roadside. And then when my parents sold our childhood home and moved to Indianapolis in retirement, mom dug up the phlox from her yard and planted it in mine. It’s so fragrant!

As you can see, I put more film into my Kodak Retina IIc. It worked fine. I don’t know why it failed on the first roll I put through it.

Fortunately, I wrote most of a review of this camera a couple months ago and was just waiting for my test roll to come back from the processor to finish it off. So despite my time being severely limited by home projects, I was able to quickly finish the Retina IIc review. It’ll run here tomorrow.

Film Photography

single frame: Phlox in bloom

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Bug on a leaf

Bug on a leaf
Nikon F3, 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor
Fujifilm Superia 100
2017

My yard provides endless photographic opportunity. The property is about a third of an acre, and all sorts of plant life covers it. I forget what plant this leaf is from, but I was fast enough to catch this little bug as it scurried across.

Film Photography

single frame: Bug on a leaf

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Film Photography

Spring flowers, courtesy my Yashica-D and a Spiratone close-up lens

After I figured out I had the close-up lenses on wrong on my Yashica-D, I knew I’d want to shoot with them right to see how the photos turned out. So I attached them correctly and loaded some Kodak Ektar, and waited for the flowers in my gardens to start blooming this spring. One by one, I photographed them as they emerged.

I shared the first of them with you yesterday — the best photo of them all, if you ask me. But here are some more, starting with my grape hyacinths.

Spring flowers from my garden

I forget what these are. I bought them at Walmart, of all places! I planted them in the middle of my big bed and they didn’t flourish. So a couple years ago I moved them to a largely shaded spot just outside my front door and they’ve been very happy ever since.

Spring flowers from my garden

And of course, there are daffodils. Verna, who built my house and lived in it first, planted these. My neighbor says she created the big front bed a few years before she passed. I’m happy to be the current steward of her garden, and to have added my own flowers to it.

Spring flowers from my garden

These are Grecian windflowers. A smattering of them come up every year, bloom for a few days, and then retreat.

Spring flowers from my garden

I forget where my Lily of the Valley come from. I remember planting them, I think. Did Mom give them to me after she and Dad moved out of my childhood home? Did I buy them at Lowe’s? It’s funny how such memories blur after a while.

Spring flowers from my garden

Purple is my favorite color, and I’ve favored purple flowers (like these irises) when I’ve chosen them.

Spring flowers from my garden

These purple and white irises were already here when I moved in. Since my parents retired and moved here, my mom, who misses her gardens, has worked hard in mine. A pine tree Verna planted had grown so large it shaded these irises from full sun. So Mom moved them, and they’re so happy in their new location that they now bloom in the spring and in the autumn.

Spring flowers from my garden

As you can see, I didn’t get the whole flower in focus. I wanted blurred backgrounds, so I chose widest apertures possible in the available light. I wish I had narrowed the aperture a stop or maybe two, which would have brought the whole flower into focus. I’ll bet I would still have gotten blurred backgrounds.

The Yashica-D remains a total joy to shoot. Despite being shaped like a brick, it’s comfortable to hold. Its controls move with silky heft. But it’s the big, bright viewfinder that charms the most, elevating even the most mundane scene with jewel-like color. And now that I know how to properly attach the Spiratone close-up lenses to it, I’m getting good results. Look at this color, this sharpness, this bokeh! The Yahinon lenses are not diminished at all by these inexpensive aftermarket accessories. They let me move to within inches of my subjects while carrying through all of the Yashinon lenses’ great characteristics. Win!

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Photography, Travel

Strolling through St. Stephen’s Green

We had not been having a great experience in Dublin so far. And then we came upon St. Stephen’s Green. It changed everything.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

Expensive tourist-trappy attractions, criminally slow restaurant service, large crowds and lots of noise everywhere — Dublin had been everything the rest of Ireland had not been. After a disappointing experience trying to see the Book of Kells, we knew we needed a break, a quiet place to walk and talk and hold hands. We were still on our honeymoon, after all! Google Maps told us this park was just a few blocks away, so we walked over.

Contemplating a pigeon

What a quiet respite it was! Like everyplace else in Dublin, it was loaded with people. But unlike everyplace else in Dublin, it was clear we were all there for a little peace. We found quiet, even a little solitude, in St Stephen’s Green.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

This 22-acre park has existed in some form since around 1664, but was private until the Guinness family led an initiative to convert it for public use. Sir Arthur Guinness paid to have the park redesigned to its current layout, which opened in 1880.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

As Margaret and I strolled through, the tree-rimmed area around the pond seemed the most remote. We forgot for a moment that this was in the heart of Dublin. All we could hear was the rustling breeze and the chirping of birds.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

I think this part of the park did more to restore our spirits than any other.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

Upon reading the little plaque describing this statue of the Three Fates, I was deeply moved. In German, Gaelic, and English, it expresses gratitude to the Irish people for help they gave to German children after World War II. The Irish provided foster homes for hundreds of German children whose families had died and whose homes had been destroyed during the war. While most of the children later returned to Germany, some remained, and were even adopted by their Irish families.

From the Germans

When we came upon this cute little house in the park’s southwest corner, Margaret declared, “There it is, our dream house!” Except that our morning commute to our jobs in Indiana would be challenging. Apparently at one time the park’s caretaker lived here.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

We lingered for a couple hours, walking and talking and taking photographs. Soon our stomachs grew insistent that we seek sustenance, and so reluctantly we left.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

But St. Stephen’s Green was a turning point of our time in Dublin. Reset and refreshed, we enjoyed our experience from here on out.

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As we drove back to our B&B from Kylemore Abbey, we found ourselves on a minor highway in remote Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. Highway R344, to be exact. And the scenery was lovely. We pulled over to take it in.

Irish road
Along an Irish highway
Along an Irish highway
Along an Irish highway
Along an Irish highway
Along an Irish highway

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Photography, Travel

Stopping along a Connemara highway

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Photography

Twelve exposures: Starkey Nature Park, Zionsville

Margaret had a great idea, which is to go out on a photo walk but limit ourselves to just twelve exposures. Not twelve resulting photos, but twelve presses of the shutter button. She thought it might make us think more carefully about what is a worthy subject and help us pause to carefully make an interesting composition — but also result in an instant photo series about the place we walked.

We made our first Twelve Exposures walk at Starkey Nature Park in Zionsville. This heavily wooded park has a small system of trails for hiking and running. Eagle Creek borders it, and an old railroad bridge lurks along Trail 1.

Kodak EasyShare Z730

I decided to get out my old Kodak EasyShare Z730 for this maiden Twelve Exposures walk. It was a very good consumer point-and-shoot digital camera when it was new more than ten years ago, and I’ve always liked the cheerful color it returns.

And then we got to the park, and I saw that we’d passed peak autumn color. Most things in view were some shade of brown or gray. The Z730 doesn’t get on well with such dull colors. It tends to tinge them with green. I wished I’d chosen a different camera. But then I thought perhaps I could turn this into a positive, and seek out scenes that played to this camera’s strengths, or at least didn’t play to its weaknesses. We headed in.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I’ve grown used to “working a scene” with my digital camera, just taking a bunch of throwaway photos of it to get a feel. But limiting myself to twelve exposures took that right out. I felt like a kid again, having just put a costly 12-exposure roll of Kodacolor II into my Brownie Starmite II. Every shot had to count.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

Film and processing were expensive, which kept me from experimenting freely. Chalk one up to the digital era: you can waste all the pixels you want. A photographer learning to make good photographs can readily take all the bad ones he or she needs to, because they don’t cost extra.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I knew that my first two shots involved  too much dull brown and gray, but I shot them anyway. I guess I was afraid I wouldn’t find scenes this camera would like, and decided to just shoot anyway. I wasn’t looking hard enough. When I saw this bright yellow sign, I started to get my head wrapped around this assignment.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

One section of a trail was littered with bright green leaves. I wonder why they fell before turning color. But they made a decent subject, providing good color and contrast against a background of crushed, dead leaves.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

Before long we came upon the old bridge, a 1919 concrete arch affair that once carried the New York Central Railroad’s James Whitcomb Riley line between Chicago and Cincinnati. Today this bridge and much of the railbed in this county are part of the Zionsville Rail Trail.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

Eagle Creek was still enough this day to provide a good reflection. This is my favorite shot from the day. I love the shade of blue in the sky as it reflects in the water. I could have photographed this bridge all day, but I didn’t want this photo essay (of sorts) to be bridge-heavy.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I did get one more bridge shot, of some of the graffiti painted onto it. Zionsville has some talented graffiti artists. Someone took considerable time to paint this scene from Adventure Time, a show on Cartoon Network. Someone else spent considerably less time adding his spray-painted condemnation of the show.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I knew the Z730 wouldn’t capture the light on this tree as well as I wanted. It tends to wash out anything sunlight directly touches. I hoped in vain that it would behave differently just this once. I kind of wished I was shooting Tri-X, perhaps in one of my fine compact 35mm rangefinders. That combo would have crushed this scene.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I saw all sorts of good black and white opportunities, actually. I shot them anyway. So much for seeking only scenes that showed the Z730’s strengths.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

Like so many older digital cameras, the Z730’s screen suffers from total washout in bright light. Fortunately, the Z730 has an optical viewfinder. And, shockingly, it has a diopter dial. I gather it adjusts only from -2 to 0, but that it does it at all is pretty remarkable.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I shot this one with the sun directly behind me. It created strong contrast, but it works for this shot. The Z730 really does its best outdoors work when the sun is directly overhead.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I made some quick corrections in Photoshop on all twelve of these — which cut haze in this photo and brought out definition. Unfortunately, it’s not all that interesting of a scene. It looked better in real life.

This was a useful exercise in being more thoughtful about choosing my subjects and in learning to work within my camera’s limitations. We’ll do more Twelve Exposures walks.

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