Hjelmerstald, which means horse stable, is a street in the city center of Aalborg, a northern Denmark city. Dating to the mid 17th century, this old cobblestone street and its buildings have been well preserved.

On Hjelmerstald

When this street was new, it was on the southern outskirts of Aalborg. Today, it’s well within the city center, near the shopping district and any number of little cafes.

But being a Thursday doors post, let me get right to the doors. I captured an even dozen of them, all in portrait orientation, so be prepared to scroll!

On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald

This short L-shaped street is best viewed long, however. It is charming.

On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald
On Hjelmerstald

I’ve found little about Hjelmerstald’s history but I’ll recount what I’ve read. Initially, stable buildings lined this street, hence its name. By the late 1600s, homes began to appear here. By the 1800s, Hjelmerstald was home to regiments of soldiers as well as the poor of Aalborg. By the early 1900s, this was a bad neighborhood, one you didn’t want to visit unless you had to. But since then it’s been turned around and today is as lovely as you see it here.

This post is part of the Thursday Doors community.

Nikon Df, 28-200mm f/3.3-5.6 AF-G Nikkor

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Travel

Thursday doors: Hjelmerstald

The beautiful doors of a historic street in Aalborg, Denmark.

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Old Cars, Photographs

A car show at the American Legion

The day after my birthday last month Margaret and I learned of a car show at the local American Legion. We popped over. I brought two cameras, my Nikon Df with the 28-200mm f/3.5-54.6 AF-G Nikkor attached, and a film camera, images from which I’ll share in an upcoming post.

The show was a real grab bag of cars and trucks, mostly from owners who live in this county. The most unusual of the cars was this 1927 Buick.

1927 Buick

A car this old in this condition had to have been restored at some point. But the restoration is showing its age, with large cracks in the paint. No matter; it was great to see this old girl. As a rumble-seat car, two steps eased ingress for passengers.

1927 Buick

Did you know that 1975 was the first year for the Ford F150? It was a heavier-duty version of the then-standard Ford F100 half-ton truck. Shortly the F150 supplanted the F100.

1975 Ford F150

Here’s a 1982 Camaro Z-28 that looks like a survivor.

1982 Chevy Camaro Z28

The majority of the cars were modified. This 1939 Ford has a much later engine in it.

1939 Ford

I always thought the Plymouth Duster was good looking. This one is from 1971. That maroon isn’t a factory color, but it looks good on the car.

1971 Plymouth Duster

This 1957 Ford Thunderbird was restored to like-original condition.

1957 Ford Thunderbird

Its supercharged Thunderbird engine was still in the bay.

1957 Ford Thunderbird

It’s funny, at most large car shows Camaros are a dime a dozen and I don’t bother to photograph them. But at smaller shows like this one, you might find one or two, and I feel compelled to make their portraits.

1967 Chevrolet Camaro

If you go back through all of my old-car images, you’ll find that I’ve photographed this detail on a number of Camaros. It’s a reliably satisfying subject.

1967 Chevrolet Camaro

That is definitely not a factory color on that 1952 Ford F1.

1952 Ford F1

This 1969 Pontiac Bonneville convertible was my favorite car at the show. It looks terrific in that dark green.

1969 Pontiac Bonneville

I remember when cars like this were everywhere on American roads. Seeing one today, I’m struck by how long it is.

1969 Pontiac Bonneville

Here’s a 1966 GMC truck.

1966 GMC truck

The 1964 Chevy Impala was an incredibly common sight even in the early 1970s when I was a small boy. This was the standard American family car in its time.

1964 Chevy Impala

Here’s another reliable subject. I’ve photographed this view of the ’64 Impala dozens of times, I’m sure.

1964 Chevy Impala

Here’s a 1969 Dodge Super Bee. It’s based on the Coronet, a standard mid-sized Dodge, but packs a very powerful engine.

1969 Dodge Super Bee

Bringing up the rear, here’s a 1967 GMC truck.

1967 GMC truck

It felt good to make a car show this year. I try to go to at least one every year but I don’t always manage it.

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Preservation, Travel

The hotel at West Baden Springs

West Baden Springs Hotel

Would you believe that in the 1990s, this grand structure sat abandoned and crumbling? An exterior wall had even collapsed. Yet here it is today, restored and jaw-dropping.

This is the West Baden Springs Hotel, completed in 1902. Nestled among the mineral springs in Orange County in far southern Indiana, the hotel attracted people looking to relax and let the springs heal what ailed them — and people looking to gamble in the illicit casinos here.

Billed as the Eighth Wonder of the World, its enormous domed atrium was the largest domed structure in the world at that time.

West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel

There are four exits from the atrium; one of them leads to this lobby, which is also round.

West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel

A deep porch curves around the front of the hotel. Some of it is covered and some is not; this uncovered portion was closed this day. The covered portions gave surprising relief from what was a very hot day.

West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel

You’ll find a sunken garden next to the hotel. This is where the springs used to be. They’re probably still there, but they’ve been closed up for years.

West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel

The main entry and exit road to the hotel is paved in brick. This road shows every sign of heavy use over decades. It was very rumbly as we drove in and out.

West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel

The entry arch dates to the hotel’s beginnings, when the springs were marketed as the main attraction here. “West Baden” is an Anglicization of “Wiesbaden,” a springs and spa town in Germany.

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Travel

When nature won’t, Pluto will

Southern Indiana used to be known for its mineral springs. They were incredibly popular in the early-to-mid 20th century. Rail lines brought thousands of people to the adjacent towns of French Lick and West Baden and their springs — these little towns were enormous tourist destinations in those days. They are again, thanks to the casino in French Lick.

Casinos weren’t legal in Indiana until the last 20 years or so. But illegal casinos existed in French Lick anyway in the middle years of the 20th century, and they brought plenty of people to this otherwise small town in Orange County.

But the Pluto spring also brought people to French Lick. Its waters famously contained sulfates of magnesium and sodium, both strong laxatives. Pluto water was bottled and sold nationwide.

Pluto water also contained lithium, which became a controlled substance in 1971. That ended sales of the the Pluto laxative. But by this time the Pluto corporation had learned a lot about bottling liquids, and deftly moved its business into bottling and packaging. The company still exists today, packaging cleaning solutions.

The Pluto spring still exists in French Lick. Margaret and I visited not long ago and made some photos. The place smelled strongly of sulfur.

When nature won't, Pluto will!
When nature won't, Pluto will!
When nature won't, Pluto will!
When nature won't, Pluto will!
Pluto

The Pluto spring is on the property of the French Lick Resort, which is on State Road 56 in Orange County, Indiana.

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Photographs

A Shaker Heights sunset

My wife and I visited her sister and brother-in-law recently. They live in a condo in Shaker Heights, Ohio, which is a near suburb of Cleveland. In 1911 and 1912, the area now known as Shaker Heights became a city of its own, on the eastern end of Cleveland.

Their condo is in a multi-story building in the heart of Shaker Heights. They have access to the roof, which gives a commanding view of the city, including Cleveland proper. I brought my Nikon Df along with a 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-G Nikkor lens, and made the best images I could manage. Here are a whole bunch of them.

From a Shaker Heights rooftop
From a Shaker Heights rooftop
From a Shaker Heights rooftop
Shaker Heights sunset
Shaker Heights sunset
Shaker Heights sunset
Cleveland skyline from Shaker Heights

The Cleveland Guardians, f.k.a. the Cleveland Indians, played ball that night and shot fireworks after. One little fireworks burst is visible in the image above.

This photo session made me wish for a deeper zoom. This led me to buy the 28-200mm zoom lens that I wrote about yesterday!

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Photography

A 28-200mm zoom lens for my Nikon Df

Even though my Nikon Df came with a lovely special-edition 50mm f/1.8 lens, I usually use my 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6 AF-D Nikkor lens because it’s so darned versatile. Sometimes I want a deeper zoom, so I mount my 70-300mm f/4-5.6 AF-G Nikkor. But when I’m on a road trip or traveling, I prefer to bring just one lens. Could I find a zoom lens that does it all?

I found a few options, a few from Nikon and a few from Tamron and other manufacturers. The lens that appealed to me most was the 28-200mm f/3.5-54.6 AF-G Nikkor. It is relatively inexpensive used but offers a pretty good zoom range and promises good image quality.

I bought mine used from UsedPhotoPro. It’s sort of a funny story — I was searching eBay for one, and saw one at a price I was willing to pay. The listing showed a good-condition lens, but noted that there was a ding in the front element.

Then I noticed that the eBay seller was Roberts Camera, which is UsedPhotoPro’s alter ego. I happened to be in my Downtown office just a mile or so away from Roberts, so I walked over there and asked to see it. The mark on the front element is barely perceptible, so I bought it. Because I saved them eBay fees and shipping costs, they gave me a discount! Woot!

This lens is surprisingly compact. I own manual-focus 35-70mm zooms that are longer than this. It’s also light, but that’s because it’s made with a lot of plastic. Even the mount is plastic, a sure sign that Nikon built this lens for consumer use.

Any zoom lens is a bundle of compromises that lead to limitations. If you want the sharpest images with the least distortion and the fewest aberrations, bring a bag full of primes. The limitations in my 28-80 zoom are fairly minor and easy to live with. Would that be true with this 28-200?

One critical compromise with zoom lenses is distortion. Reviews say that this lens suffers from it horribly. Fortunately, my Df corrects it well enough in camera. I can use this lens on my Nikon N90s 35mm SLR, but it can’t correct for distortion at all and would leave me with a lot of post-processing to get usable images.

There’s only one way to find out if I can live with this lens’s limitations: take it on an outing. We had plans with friends to spend a weekend in southern Indiana, which was a perfect proving ground. We stayed in French Lick, a resort town. Here are a smattering of images I made with this lens. First, a few images where I zoomed to the max.

West Baden Springs Hotel

These images are fine at snapshot sizes. But when you look at max-zoom images at full resolution, you see softness and shake. This lens doesn’t have image stabilization, so you’ll get best results when you brace yourself or use a tripod.

St. Meinrad Archabbey

Also, the Df defaults to choosing apertures and shutter speeds that lead to shallower depth of field for good separation of subject from background. Frequently when I’m shooting a landscape or other scene where I want everything to be in focus, the Df focuses on something in the foreground, as in the image above. At full size, you can see that the background details are slightly out of focus. Either I need to find a setting that gives me narrower apertures in program mode, or shoot in aperture-priority mode so I can select the aperture.

Untitled

You can see this best in this image of my wife. She was a good distance away from me, so I zoomed to 200mm. The Df focused on her and set aperture and shutter speed so that everything behind her was out of focus, which was appropriate in this case. But even at snapshot size you can see that she’s not perfectly crisp in the image.

When nature won't, Pluto will!

Sharpness improves and shake reduces as you zoom out. In the image above, the lens was at 45mm. It’s still not perfectly sharp at full size, but it’s not that different from the results I get from my 28-80mm zoom, a lens I know well.

West Baden Springs Hotel

The wider the angle, the better the sharpness. I made the image above at minimum zoom, 28mm.

West Baden Springs Hotel

I made the image above at 85mm and it turned out okay. The first rocking chair, especially the rocker at the bottom, is a little out of focus. But otherwise there’s pretty good sharpness here.

St. Meinrad Archabbey

Finally, even at full zoom as above, this lens yields lovely bokeh.

I’ve focused on sharpness and shake here because I’m not fully satisfied with what I see. However, the lens is light and easy to handle and renders the light beautifully. It focuses fast enough for me, but some reviews pan it for focusing too slowly. If you’re shooting auto racing I can see how that would be a problem.

I need to keep using the Df with this lens to refine my technique with it, to remove my own foibles as much as possible from the results I get. As I said earlier, I also need to set the Df for greater depth of field in the documentary work I like to do. But my suspicion is that after I do all of that, I’m still going to get softness from this lens, especially at deep zoom levels. Given that the vast majority of ways I display my work yields sizes where this softness doesn’t matter, I may choose to live with it. But when I know I need deep crops or large display sizes, I’ll probably be better off with one of my primes.

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