Margaret and I met Damion at McCormick’s Creek State Park for a little hiking.
Damion now lives minutes from this park, which is near the small town of Spencer, about a half hour northwest of Bloomington. It offers camping and swimming, but we’re hikers and so we care mostly about the trails.
None of us was prepared to cross this creek on our hike. We did our best to pick our way across the rocks, but all of us slipped off and hiked the rest of the way in sopping wet shoes.
Margaret and Damion explored this little cave. I wasn’t down with being on my hands and knees in shorts. Later on the trail we saw another opening to this cave, so on a return trip I’ll wear long pants and we’ll crawl through.
The most impressive sight on our hike was this waterfall. We passed by it at its level and later on a ridge, from which I made this photograph.
I didn’t intend to document this day in photographs, save perhaps the obligatory group selfie. But I’d forgotten how lovely this park is, so thank heavens for the iPhone in my pocket.
I hadn’t been here in 20 years. On my last visit, I pitched a tent for a weekend with Damion’s oldest brother, who was a teen then. That brother is now in his mid 30s and lives in Bloomington with his wife.
Damion is likely to soon move to Bloomington, as well, as he started his first career job recently and it’s located there. While I secretly wish he’d found a job closer to where I live, I’m openly glad he’ll be in the same town as his brother.
It was totally an impulse purchase, the 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL lens I bought. I’d been toying with buying a fast prime for my Pentax K10D. Then a Black Friday email from Used Photo Pro pushed all of my buttons: the lens was already marked down and then they offered an an additional 15% off.
It is also the single most expensive bit of photo gear this cheapskate has ever purchased. Because of that, the bar is super high — I’d better absolutely love this lens.
I took this kit to Coxhall Gardens, a park in Carmel, an Indianapolis suburb. I harbored a fantasy of man rapturously bonding with machine to produce fine-art images for the ages.
Instead, I experienced a camera whose autoexposure frequently couldn’t find enough light to fire the shutter and a lens and autofocus system that often struggled to guess what I meant the subject to be. Even when it got the subject right, it sure hunted a lot trying to focus on it. Here, I wanted the pump to be in focus.
Here the K10D focused on the pine tree out in the mid-distance rather than the large tree trunk right in front of it. What the? I checked: I had multi-point autofocus on.
I drove home disappointed: I just didn’t bond with this kit on this outing. But I think I need to give it another chance. I’ve only had the K10D a few months and have yet to learn its ways. I remember that it took a few months to really become one with my beloved Canon S95. I need to give the K10D time, too.
If after a couple more major outings with this lens I don’t start to make it sing, I’ll probably just sell it. The great thing about lenses like this is that they tend not to depreciate. This lens in particular is highly regarded and should sell with no trouble for at least what I paid for it.
For fun I did a bokeh test. Here’s the lens at f/2, 1/500 sec.
f/4, 1/160 sec.
f/8, 1/50 sec.
f/16, 1/30 sec.
When the lens manages to focus properly, it is plenty sharp and offers reasonable bokeh.
I think my next trial of this lens will be on one of my Pentax film bodies — this lens has a manual-focus ring and should work great. If it passes muster, I’ll know that my meh experience here was not the lens’s fault, but the photographer’s.
When I first started shooting old film cameras again about ten years ago, my sons were still young enough that a trip to the park was great fun. And boy, was I ever broke. Trips to the park fit my entertainment budget.
I had learned the hard way in the years prior that a man absolutely, positively must have a good hobby or he will lose his mind. So my budget included a little money for old gear, film, and processing. It was a guess, really. I had lost touch with myself so badly in the years before my first marriage ended that I had no idea what I would like. But I remembered enjoying old cameras and photography as a kid and even as a young adult. And eBay showed me I could get back into the hobby inexpensively enough. So I went with it. It’s worked out, as you can see.
And so a lot of my early photographic excursions were to Holliday Park on Indianapolis’s Northside, because I could do double duty and let my kids blow off some steam on the playground. We’d also sometimes hike the wooded trails along the White River. They were good, simple times for us to be a family.
I have a man named John Holliday to thank. Born in 1846, he lived all his life in Indianapolis. At just 23 years of age he founded The Indianapolis News, an independent newspaper that advocated for government that served the people well. His wealth from running his newspaper enabled him to become a prominent philanthropist; he advocated chiefly for the poor and their children.
While running the News he met Evaline Rieman, whom he married in 1875. They had seven children together.
John fell ill in 1892, ill enough that he sold his newspaper to focus on his recovery. During this time he bought an 80-acre farm north of the city and built a 23-room main house overlooking the adjoining White River. The family lived there five months each spring and summer, returning to a home on North Meridian Street in the city the rest of the year.
In 1916, on Indiana’s statehood centennial, the Hollidays donated their country estate to the city. Holliday stipulated that “the land is singularly suited to be a place for recreation and the study of nature and the grounds should be used as a public park and a playground.” It became a park first, and a playground much later.
John Holliday suffered a stroke in 1921 while walking the grounds of his estate. He died in his country house there a few days later.
The city took over the grounds over the next few years, just in time for the Great Depression. One of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs was the Works Progress Administration, which put the unemployed to work on construction and beautification projects across the nation. Holliday Park benefited, as the WPA built what became the Rock Garden and created the hiking paths in the wooded area along the river.
Over the years other projects have transformed Holliday Park into a botanical garden and an arboretum. Various, and often contradicting, visions guided those projects, and in time those uses were deemphasized. But today many exotic trees and plants remain.
But perhaps the best-known project at Holliday Park is The Ruins. In 1958, in New York City, the St. Paul building was demolished. But several architectural features were saved, particularly three statues of Indiana limestone known as “the Races of Mankind.” Indianapolis artist Elmer Taflinger conceived an art installation of giant scale featuring these statues and several other sculptures rescued from destruction around Indianapolis.
That headless statue fascinates me and I’ve photographed it many times.
The Ruins were originally open; you could walk through them. But they deteriorated to the point where safety became a concern, and the site was fenced off. A complete renovation was completed in 2016. Sadly, I’ve not been back to Holliday Park to see the Ruins renovated. But I did get a couple photographs of part of the work underway.
Much effort has been expended over the years to make Holliday Park the jewel it is in Indianapolis’s park system. A group called Friends of Holliday Park formed in 1990 and saw to it that the park had a master plan. They were instrumental in the playground being built; it was completed in 1992. The city followed that in 1993 by spending $800,000 to restore the trail system. And a rock garden placed at some point in the distant past was discovered, badly overrun with brush. It, too, was restored.
Holliday Park is a short drive from my home. I’ve even reached it by bicycle; it makes for a nice ride on a cool evening. I’ll miss it when I move in a few weeks.
The city park nearest my home is a few minutes’ drive away, where Grandview Drive and Fox Hill Road intersect on Indianapolis’s Northwestside. Driving by, it seems small — a tennis court, a playground, a community building. But behind it are 41 acres of trails and soccer fields.
Juan Solomon Park was built in 1971 but didn’t get its name until 1973. Mr. Solomon was not only a community leader, but a neighbor — he lived across the street from the park when he passed away.
My young sons and I spent many happy hours here, me on a bench watching while they ran and played. This park was usually packed with children. My older boy made friends with everyone. My younger boy seemed content to play alone, but was always clearly delighted when his older brother called him into the playgroup.
And then in about 2010 the city tore down the playground. My sons were older by then and we didn’t visit anymore, but it made us sad just the same. And it didn’t make sense to us, given how popular the park remained.
What we didn’t know was that the city had innovative plans for the site. Much of the Northwestside was built before the city annexed it in 1970. Thousands of homes were built without city services, and their aging septic systems were leaching waste into the waterways. The city was aggressively building its sanitary sewer system out to this part of town and compelling homeowners to connect to it. I was one of those homeowners; read about my experience here, here, and here.
Pumping stations would be needed to manage this much waste, and one would be built at Juan Solomon Park. But the building would also become a community center, and a brand new playground would be built. And when it was done, it was beautiful.
Here’s the pumping station and community center just after it was completed in 2012. I love how the building features a sod roof.
This building is a wonderful subject for black-and-white film. The dark glass and white framing create lovely contrast.
Most of the time I visited Juan Solomon Park with a camera, it was to take advantage of the abundant color and detail on the playground. The playground’s surface is made of innovative, cushiony squares that can be replaced when damaged. When they were new, their colors were vibrant.
The grounds are full of interesting shapes, forms, and lines.
My favorite thing to photograph at Juan Solomon Park is shadow. The sun has free reign over the playground and casts shadows at nearly all times of day.
Now that the rebuilt park has been open five years, color is fading from the play surface. But the rest of the facility is remarkably free of vandalism and graffiti. It remains a shining destination for this solidly middle-class neighborhood.
And I’m going to miss it when I move later this year. But there will, I’m sure, be new favorite subjects to find where I’m going.
I am wasting my time shooting any normal prime lens on my Pentax cameras other than this 55mm f/1.8. Just look at this! Such color, such sharpness, such sensitive detail! On workaday Kodak Gold 400 no less!
On the same day I photographed Second Presbyterian Church with a 28mm lens, I brought my Pentax K1000 with this 55mm f/1.8 lens too. While that 28mm lens really brought this giant church into the frame, this 55mm lens did a much better job of capturing the church’s detailed beauty.
That Kodak Gold 400 surely likes red. And this lens handles beautifully.
I took the K1000 and this lens to several favorite photographic haunts, including Juan Solomon Park. I’ve shot its colorful playground many times since it opened several years ago.
There’s actually been a playground here since before I moved to Indy in the 1990s. The city just redid it from the ground up when they used this park site for a building that is part of an expansion of sewage services to this part of the city. The old playground was fine, but the new one is top flight. I especially love the colorful play surface of soft replaceable tiles.
I also took the K1000 over to Broad Ripple one chilly day for a walk. I’ve photographed this unusual bridge railing many times. The bridge was built in 1906, but a couple years ago the railing was altered. The row of blocks below the links was added, I assume to increase the railing’s height for safety. The purist in me thinks this was a shame.
I just thought the painting on this dumpster enclosure was interesting.
I usually shoot my 50/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens on my K-mount cameras, but it doesn’t deliver the color or detail that 55/1.8 does. I’ll just admit it: I use that 50/1.4 partially because of that vaunted 1.4 number, as if it says something about me as a photographer. Nuts to it. I’ll let my work do the talking. And with this 55/1.8, I’ll definitely have something to say.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I think this part of the park did more to restore our spirits than any other.
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.
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.
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.
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.