I live in a modern vinyl village. It’s not my cup of tea, but it made practical sense when Margaret and I got married and so here we are. We both hope to move on from here when the nest empties.
While we’re all on stay-at-home orders during the global pandemic, my photography is limited to my house and, when I take a walk, my neighborhood.
The houses all present well from the front, but they paid zero attention to what the sides and back look like. Windows, when they exist, are stuck wherever it made sense from the inside, without regard to how that would look on the outside. Our house has windows on the front and back, but the sides are huge, unbroken slabs of vinyl. Some houses have windows inserted in random places. The pictured house has this one window on this side, in the extreme lower left corner. It just looks weird.
I’m shooting through all the film I’ve stockpiled, and a roll of Kosmo Foto Mono was next in the queue. I spooled it into my Nikon N2000 as I hadn’t shot it in a long while. My 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens is still new to me, so I mounted it to give it another spin. I developed this Kosmo Foto Mono in Rodinal 1+50 and I was overall happy with the results.
But first, let’s look at some photos I wasn’t too happy with. Several shots were lighter on the edges than in the middle like the one below.
Shadow detail wasn’t great in a few photos as well, as in the photo below. Can you see the runner on the path? He was much more obvious in real life as I made the photograph.
There’s so much that goes into what a photograph looks like when you see it here. I almost always let the camera meter the scene; did my N2000 favor the highlights here? Is its meter still accurate? It was great the last time I used it. But that was more than a year ago and old cameras — this one is from about 1985 — do fail sometimes.
I used my CanoScan 9000F Mark II and its bundled ScanGear software to scan these negatives. Better scanner software or a better scanner might have resolved these images better.
I’m still new to developing my own film, but I’ve built enough skill at it to get consistent results. That doesn’t mean consistently perfect results; perhaps something about this developing session wasn’t ideal. The temperature of my developer was higher than ideal: 22.8° C rather than 20° C, thanks to ambient temperature. That led me to reduce development time from 9 minutes to 7 minutes 10 seconds, as calculated using the converter at the Massive Dev Chart Web site. Maybe that played a role.
Who knows. The rest of the roll looked really good to me.
At the time I made these photos Indiana was on stay-at-home orders thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. So I shot the whole roll around the house and on walks I made around my neighborhood. This is what I like to call la-de-da photography — images of anything that strikes my fancy. None of this will ever hang in a museum. But I had fun shooting the roll, and that’s what matters.
I like Kosmo Foto Mono. But when I’ve sent this film out to my usual labs for developing and scanning I sometimes thought the results were a touch too contrasty. My usual labs use D76 or one of its clones. Rodinal managed the contrast better. There’s a slight muddiness in some images, but a good range of tones overall.
It was strange to walk around the deserted streets of my subdivision, so I walked over to the nearby strip mall and it was similarly deserted. We walk over to this Mexican restaurant a lot, or at least we did before they closed thanks to the pandemic.
Ah, vinyl village life. Our neighbor owns this funky Jeep with its white fenders. This shows Kosmo Foto Mono’s signature deep blacks.
That 35-105mm zoom lens has a macro mode. I love macro work! On a rainy day I put some small things on the kitchen windowsill and photographed them with the lens wide open (f/3.5).
I was with Margaret when we bought this little bird sculpture, but I can’t remember where that was. The focus is a little soft.
There you have it: Kosmo Foto Mono in Rodinal 1+50. It’s a fine combination.
I’m back with two more refreshed reviews of cameras from my collection.
Up first is the Nikon N2000, from early in the plastic-body era. The N2000 is a fabulous bargain among Nikon bodies. It doesn’t have the solid all-metal construction of earlier Nikon SLRs but it is still a robust and capable camera. I’ve shot mine a great deal and it just works. See my updated review here.
This camera might say Sears on it, but it’s really built by Ricoh — and it’s a solid performer. I got some lovely photographs through those Sears/Ricoh lenses. These are serious bargains on the used market — if you want an inexpensive SLR to knock around with do look at these Ricohs in Sears clothing. See my review here.
Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto sent me a few rolls of film from his fridge in thanks for a favor. It was mostly slide film, something I haven’t shot very much as my skinflint tendencies reliably turn me to inexpensive stuff like Fujicolor 200. I’ve been shooting it a roll here and a roll there. After enjoying a roll of my usual inexpensive stuff in my Nikon N2000 recently, I went for broke and loaded a gifted roll of slide film: Fujifilm Provia 400X.
My 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens was already on the camera, so I left it there. Say what you will about zoom lenses, and this zoom lens in particular — Ken Rockwell calls it one of Nikon’s worst lenses ever — but I like this lens. It’s sharp enough, the zoom range is super useful for the subjects I shoot on photowalks, and it offers a macro mode. The wicked barrel distortion evident at its wide end is easily corrected in Photoshop.
I am pleased with the rich color this film delivered. It hits a sweet spot between realistic and deep. These are the colors I remember when I was on the scene, but they’re richer, deeper somehow, and they make me want to go back and experience them again in person.
This place, by the way, is Broad Ripple, a hip neighborhood on Indianapolis’s Northside. I visited it because it’s so colorful. I loved being able to shoot this ISO 400 slide film on a cloudy day — most slide films I’ve shot before are much slower, ISO 50 or ISO 100, requiring slower shutter speeds and a steadier hand.
I also shot some of this roll on a bright, sunny day in downtown Fishers. This was the last time I shot any film there before I lost the job that brought me there five days a week. I hated that long, tedious commute and don’t miss it. There’s no good way to get to Fishers from anywhere. After you’re there, though, it’s not too bad.
The Provia 400X kept on delivering. Just look at those blues and greens.
Here’s a quick look down one of Fishers’ few remaining original downtown streets. I showed you some of them not long ago in this post. I’m sure that in the next few years this will all be gone in favor of urban density. I shot this in late October, just as the trees were beginning to turn. We had an unusually warm early autumn, which delayed the onset of color. But when it came, it came fast and intense. The trees were largely bare after just a couple weeks.
The 35-70mm lens’s macro mode let me get right up on some of the leaves.
Provia 400X’s speed let me experiment with a few shots inside. The subject isn’t terribly interesting but the colors are spot on with reality — after I Photoshopped out a green caste that the ambient incandescent lighting imparted.
I tried a bathroom selfie. My black hoodie was a bit of a stretch for the Provia, even with 240 watts of light burning right over my head.
I also made a quick trip to The Ruins at Holliday Park in Indianapolis. I just love that place. I need to go photograph it proper one day and show it to you. This one photo will have to do for now.
My other slide-film experience has been a single roll of Velvia 50 and a whole bunch of Ektachrome E100G. The Velvia is super ultra saturated, which would be fun sometimes but isn’t my style most of the time. The E100G is nice stuff but a little too blue. This Provia really hits a sweet spot for me: realistic but rich color rendition.
Fujifilm doesn’t make Provia 400X anymore, and remaining stocks are all past their use-by dates. This roll was expired, but Stephen obviously stored it properly and it performed as new. This is very nice stuff and it’s a shame it’s discontinued.
Nikon fans had to be disappointed in their favorite camera manufacturer in 1985 upon the introduction of the N2000. It was the first Nikon SLR ever to have a plastic body. Polycarbonate, to be precise. It was also first to lack a winding lever — automatic winding was built into the body. Perhaps that luxury feature softened the blow for dedicated Nikon shooters.
Does Nikon even make a metal-bodied camera anymore? The N2000 pointed toward the future. And when I came upon mine, I found it to be a robust and highly capable tool. Here’s a shot from my very first roll of film in it, Fujicolor 200, through a 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E lens. This is my most-viewed photo on Flickr, by the way, with 36,838 views as of the day I am writing this.
I liked this camera so much that I shot it all over Ireland a couple years ago. I was gifted a 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens that was just right to take in Ireland’s sweeping vistas. I shot Kodak T-Max 400 all over that country.
This gives me a great chance to plug my book, Textures of Ireland, which collects the best of my black-and-white Ireland photos. They’re all as beautiful and as deep as the one above, of Kylemore Abbey in County Galway! I’d be thrilled if you bought a copy today: $14.99 plus shipping for paperback and $4.99 for a PDF. Click here to order one!
The N2000 handled beautifully all over Ireland. It proved fully Nikon tough when I fell hard on some slippery rocks — the camera banged right into them, leaving a dent in the bottom plate. It kept working as if nothing had happened.
It was with this memory in mind that I loaded some Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 into it for a hike through Zionsville’s Starkey Park. It had rained the day before and the trails were wet.
I had mounted a 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens that I picked up somewhere along the way. I like this lens a lot, except that at its widest end it has wicked barrel distortion. It shows right up in any shot with straight lines. I corrected this photo’s distortion in Photoshop with a few clicks.
I did have some trouble getting good exposures this late afternoon. The sun was low in the sky, casting deep shadows. But by the end of the roll the winder was sounding sickly, meaning that the batteries were weak. Drat! That had to affect the meter’s accuracy.
This little zoom lens offers a macro mode, too. I love macro lenses!
There was plenty of autumn foliage to get close to.
I shot this whole roll in Program mode, letting the camera choose all the settings for me. With its automatic winder, all I had to do was focus and press the shutter button. At the end of the roll I did have to manually rewind the film — automatic rewind was one nicety that Nikon wasn’t ready to offer the world yet in 1985.
The N2000 was an eager and versatile companion on this hike. If only I had thought to put fresh batteries in before I left the house!
I just love this plastic Nikon SLR. I love most of my other Nikon SLRs, too, especially my two F2s and my F3. I sure as hell don’t need them all. But it’s good to have a reliable F-mount body that, if damaged or lost, would not reduce me to tears. I can buy another N2000 for under $30. Try that with an F2 or F3.
Here are a few photos from my new book, Textures of Ireland, to show you the incredible scenes I captured on black-and-white film. Don’t these images look almost three dimensional? I shot Kodak T-Max 400 film, by the way, in my Nikon N2000 through my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens for all of these photos.
If you’d like to buy a copy of my book, scroll to the bottom for links.
Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Sligo Abbey, Sligo Town.
Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, County Galway.
Caretaker’s house at St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin.
Textures of Ireland Book
A copy of my book, Textures of Ireland, printed on demand and mailed to you from Blurb.com.
$14.99 plus shipping
Textures of Ireland PDF
A copy of my book, Textures of Ireland, as a PDF — which I will email within 24 hours to the address you provide.