Cormorant hood ornament
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Tri-X 400 (at EI 200 by mistake)

Early Packard automobiles had an array of stunning hood ornaments. You might think this bird is a swan, but you’d be wrong; it’s a cormorant. You’d find cormorant hood ornaments on the finest Packards.

If I had not shot this at EI 200 by mistake, I might not have gotten just this perfect look.

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Film Photography, Old Cars

single frame: Cormorant hood ornament

A Packard hood ornament on Tri-X.


I didn’t realize until after I’d shot this whole roll that my Pentax ME was set to ISO 200. Kodak Tri-X is an ISO 400 film. Fortunately, Tri-X is well known for shrugging its shoulders at most misexposures and returning usable photos anyway. Minimal Photoshoppery took away the haze of overexposure and enhanced the contrast, at the cost of a little shadow detail.

I respect old Packards for what they are, but their styling doesn’t really do anything for me. Their hood ornaments were beautiful, though. Packard had a number of hood ornament designs, like the flying lady from yesterday’s photo, and a whole series of swans. They used this swan in 1936.

Old Cars, Photography

Captured: Swan

In motion

I went to the Mecum old-car auction again this year. It was my seventh straight year — and also my last. The number of cars available to photograph has dropped sharply over the past few years, and the once open atmosphere is now tightly controlled. And it now costs $30 to get in. It was $20 the last couple years, and just $10 before that. The price went up in inverse proportion to the fun. So I’m done.

I did get some satisfying photographs with my Pentax ME and my 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens. I shot Kodak Tri-X. This shot is my favorite from the day, of a 1937 Packard hood ornament. I never know just what I’m going to get when I shoot inside under the wonky light of an agricultural building on the Indiana State Fairgrounds. I compose and expose as best I can, and release the outcome to the fates. The fates smiled on me for this photograph.

Old Cars, Photography

Captured: In motion