Film Photography

Downtown Indianapolis on Ilford HP5 Plus

Nada

I work in Downtown Indianapolis. Yes, it’s capital-D Downtown here. My favorite way to take a work break is to grab whatever film camera I have with me and take a walk around capital D. For a few weeks recently, that was my little Olympus Stylus, into which I’d loaded a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus.

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The generous people at Analogue Wonderland sent me this roll of Ilford HP5 Plus so I’d write about the experience and drop their name. You can buy HP5 Plus from them here. But do explore their site — they offer over 200 other films! Click the logo to see.

Contrasting Doors

Last time I shot HP5 I used my big semi-pro Nikon N90s SLR. I wanted to see what kind of results I got from a different class of 35mm camera, hence the Stylus. Answer: every bit as impressive. I got excellent detail and balanced contrast shot after shot. As a traditionally grained film, you will absolutely see grain on HP5. But it looks natural and doesn’t detract from sharpness or detail.

Central Christian

I shot this roll little by little in December and January, two of Indiana’s gloomiest months every year. At ISO 400, HP5 Plus had the speed to cope with the poor light and give me big depth of field.

Leon's

Even on a day with some sun, the HP5 Plus delivered good balance between the bright and shadowy areas.

View from the 12th Floor Window

I walked around on idle lunch hours with the Stylus, photographing anything I thought might look good in black and white.

Cups Coffee

There are plenty of lovely older buildings Downtown with interesting details to study. HP5 Plus did a great job navigating the natural contrasts.

Inland Bldg.

Even though Indianapolis is Indiana’s largest city by far, it’s not large like Chicago or Dallas. The core of Downtown is about one mile square, beyond which the tall buildings give way fast to shorter office and apartment buildings and then neighborhoods full of older homes. Roberts Camera is just beyond that mile square. They process 35mm color film at a reasonable price. They also happen to be the US distributor of Ilford products.

Roberts

While I’ve never used them, there are a few auto mechanics just outside Downtown’s mile square. Convenient!

Firestone

HP5 Plus is a great film for everyday photography. If you’d like to try Ilford HP5 Plus for yourself, you can order it from Analogue Wonderland here. They provided me this roll of film in exchange for this mention.

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Bridge at IMA

Bowstring truss bridge at Newfields
Olympus Stylus
Kodak Gold 200 (expired)
2013

This bridge spans the Indianapolis Central Canal on the grounds of Newfields, also known as the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

It was built in 1873 to span Sugar Creek near Crawfordsville in Montgomery County. It was a two-span bridge. When the bridge was replaced, one span went elsewhere in Montgomery County and this span went unused. After many years, it was moved here and restored.

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Film Photography, Preservation

single frame: Bowstring truss bridge at Newfields

This bridge from 1873 got a new life at Newfields in Indianapolis.

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Collecting Cameras

Operation Thin the Herd: Olympus Stylus

Carrying a jug

Olympus’s Stylus line is well known to deliver the goods, with fine lenses and easy pocketability. The granddaddy of all Styluses is this, the ∞ Stylus (aka the μ[mju]: in markets outside North America).

Olympus Stylus

I’ve put a lot of film through this little camera. Here’s one of my favorite shots from it ever, on expired Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400.

Garfield Park

I hadn’t shot black and white in my Stylus in a while, so I spooled in a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 and slipped it into my winter-coat pocket. It went everywhere with me for a couple weeks.

House at Coxhall Gardens

That’s the beauty of a camera that’s about the size of a bar of soap — it’s so portable. Anywhere I happened to be, I could quickly photograph anything I thought was interesting.

Chevy Citation

All was not skittles and beer with my Stylus. Several shots were marred by a little leaked light, a problem this camera has previously not had.

Rushing water

I like to focus close sometimes, but the Stylus doesn’t. I suppose someday I should read the manual and find out its closest focus distance. This subject isn’t exactly easy for autofocus to figure out, either. What was I thinking?

Berries, out of focus

And then there’s the infernal flash. Every time you turn the Stylus on (by sliding the cover out of the way) it goes into the mode where the camera decides whether the flash should fire or not. You can override it, but it’s so easy to forget to. I get at least one shot on every roll with flash reflecting harshly in something. Here I shot the sun poking through the trees and reflecting onto the creek, first with flash, and after I dropped an s-bomb, without. The effect turned out to be negligible.

Reflected on the water 1
Reflected on the water 2

Its meter struggles with high-contrast scenes. I shouldn’t be surprised; it probably meters near the center, which isn’t going to result in nuanced work. Nothing a little Photoshop can’t rescue, though, as here.

Lion graffiti

Finally, it requires films that are DX coded, and you can’t manually override the ISO. I like to shoot color-negative film a stop fast sometimes, and you can’t do it with the Stylus.

Black Dog Books

But when the Stylus hit, it hit big. Look at the great tonality and contrast it delivered.

Branches

Its 35mm lens grabs lots of the scene, which I like for general walking-around photography.

Decorated fence

To see more from this camera, check out my Olympus Stylus gallery.

I want to own a solid, extra-compact point-and-shoot 35mm camera. Ideally I’d keep film in it all the time and always carry it in my coat pocket. The Stylus’s feature list ticks every box for me, and it has loved every film I’ve ever thrown at it. It’s a brilliant little camera.

I know I sometimes ask too much of it, which leads to most of my wasted shots. But I do have a legitimate gripe with its automatic flash. I almost never use flash and want a way to leave it off by default. Every time I use this camera I waste shots thanks to that infernal flash.

Perhaps I haven’t found my perfect point and shoot yet. Or maybe I have: my zone-focus Olympus XA2 is no bigger, can be used like a point and shoot under most circumstances just by leaving it in the middle focus zone, and lacks any frustrating behaviors. Perhaps it should be my carry-everywhere camera.

This has been another tough-call camera, where I’ve waffled for weeks about whether to keep it. The sheer number of rolls of film I’ve put through it says I like it a lot. Despite its troubling light leak, I’m going to hold onto it for now. Its fate will be sealed only when I finally decide on a carry-everywhere camera. I look forward to trying more of them on the road to deciding.

Verdict: Keep

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Film Photography

Eastman Double-X 5222 in the Olympus Stylus

I have a terrible habit of buying four or five rolls of a film I’d like to try, shooting one roll, and then buying four or five rolls of another film I’d like to try. I’ve repeated this pattern enough times that I have probably 50 rolls stockpiled in the fridge. So I put a moratorium on buying more film until I shoot what I have.

The last time I shot Eastman Double-X 5222 I used my Nikon F2 and a 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens. This movie film gave me blacks so deep I could have fallen into them, and textures so rich and realistic I expected to feel them if I touched the screen. So when I decided to shoot another roll I chose an entirely different kind of camera: my point-and-shoot Olympus Stylus. I wanted to see if the film behaved differently.

I didn’t get the same rich blacks this time, but I did get the same realistic textures.

Around the Corner

I was at church for a meeting, so I made some quick photos. Once again these images invite me to touch the screen to feel the rough brick.

West Park Christian Church

I brought the Stylus inside to shoot a couple rooms, which were set up for our day care to resume the next morning.

First Steps Day Care

I love the moodiness created by the window light and the corner shadows.

First Steps Day Care

The church is in an old city neighborhood with alleys. Ours is concrete and was probably poured 100 years ago.

Concrete Alley

On the way home I passed this run-down building, which I bet began life as a grocery store. I am impressed with how well the clouds rendered, especially since I didn’t use a yellow or orange filter.

Used Tires

I took the Stylus along on a too-brief visit to South Bend, my home town. I was there on business, but I made a few minutes for a coffee at the Chocolate Cafe downtown.

South Bend Chocolate Cafe

I miss South Bend. I’d love to run a little bookstore in the State Theater building. Too bad this shop owner thought of it first.

Idle Hours

A storm rolled in quickly as I walked a couple blocks of Michigan Street. In reading the light the Stylus misguidedly decided it needed to fire the flash, serving only to create flares off every reflective surface. If I didn’t need to explicitly turn off the flash every time I power up the Stylus, I’d shoot it a lot more often.

Michigan Street

Still, I’m not getting rid of my little Stylus anytime soon. It fits into my jeans pocket and packs a great lens. And it liked the Double-X just fine.

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Along the Wall

Along the north wall
Olympus Stylus
Eastman Double-X 5222
2017

I have way too much film in the fridge. Way too much. I moved a bunch of it to long-term storage in the freezer and am systematically shooting the rest.

The first roll I shot on Operation Shoot-Em-Up was some Eastman Double-X 5222, which I liked pretty well the last time I shot it. It tended to blow out in bright sun, but under the right conditions the blacks were so deep you could fall into them.

I dropped a roll into my Olympus Stylus, a camera I don’t shoot often enough. I didn’t shoot any terribly important subjects, but I did experiment with perspective a little bit here and there, as in this photo.

Film Photography

single frame: Along the north wall

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