Swan

Cormorant hood ornament
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Tri-X 400 (at EI 200 by mistake)
2016

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.

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Plymouth 8

Plymouth 8
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak T-Max 400
2015

As I made digital photos of the cars at the Mecum auction each year, I always photographed the card in the windshield that told the car’s make, model, and year. But I did it with my digital cameras, not my film cameras — why waste the film on those cards? But then when the negatives and scans came back from the processor, I sometimes couldn’t match the photo to the car it came from.

This is one of those times. Clearly, this is from a Plymouth, and it had a V-8 engine. That’s all I know. If you know more, do tell in the comments.

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Film Photography, Old Cars

single frame: Plymouth 8

Detail of a V-8 Plymouth.

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Film Photography
Pentax ME

I got my Pentax ME out last week to use it, to find that its meter wasn’t responding.

At the moment, I don’t have a functioning K-mount body. I still haven’t sent my Pentax KM in for repair after accidentally damaging it during Operation Thin the Herd.

Fortunately, my Pentax Spotmatic F is still going stong. So I used that. I also got out my Nikon N90s and, just today, my Nikon N2000 for some work. I really like all of those cameras. The N2000 continues to surprise me by how pleasant it is.

Still, it feels very weird not to have a functioning K-mount body. Both my ME and KM need to go to Eric Hendrickson stat.

K-mount woes

Aside
Film Photography

Goodbye Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

Fujifilm discontinued its Superia X-tra 800 film in 2016, so I’m four years late with this Goodbye post. I’m not sure what took me so long.

I’ve made a few truly lovely images with this film. But for the most part, its pronounced grain disappoints me. I kept shooting it because it was the least expensive ISO 800 color option while I lived on a tight budget.

I bought it primarily to make portraits of members of my church. We have occasional pitch-in lunches in our dim basement. I’ve tried ISO 400 films and an f/2 lens, but ISO 800 and an f/1.4 give me more margin for focusing error. My kit was always my Pentax ME with my 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens.

Dave on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800
Mother and daughter on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

I also made candids at these lunches, trying to build my skill at capturing an interesting moment.

Serving lunch on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800
Mom on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800
Sisters on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

This may be the film I’ve had printed most often, as I like to give prints to my portrait subjects. I am always surprised by how much better the prints look than the scans from which they’re made. It’s true when I have my usual pro lab make prints and it’s true when I upload jpegs to Walgreens for quick turnaround. The colors are richer, and the grain largely disappears. I would love to understand why.

I’ve also used Superia X-tra 800 whenever I knew the light would be challenging. I rather prefer it for that application. Here’s my all-time favorite photo I made on this film, from my Olympus XA. The grain is still omnipresent, especially at the bottom, but the film’s muted palette worked very well with the setting sun.

State Fair at dusk on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

Here’s another good State Fair shot on this film, from the Pentax ME and that 50/1.4. I featured it in my book of photos from the Pentax ME — you can still buy a copy here.

I'm workin' here on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

Sometimes I pushed this film too far. I know many people like a look like this, but it’s never what I envision when I compose and shoot. Pentax ME and 50/1.4 again.

Thunderbolt on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

Superia X-tra 800 was at its best in diffuse, even light, as here. This is where the film delivers its best color. Nikon F2AS and 50/2 AI Nikkor.

Farmall on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

It even works fine in full sunlight, as here. You just get tiny apertures and gobs of depth of field. Still Nikon F2AS and 50/2 AI Nikkor.

Roann Bridge on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

Looking back, I’m not sure now what made me choose this fast film on such sunny days! Olympus XA.

Bridgeton bridge on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

I did some nice close work with this Superia X-tra 800. I shot these flowers in a hothouse on a gloomy day. Pentax ME and 50/1.4.

Hothouse flowers on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

This film looks especially good in this photo of some phlox on the grounds of Newfields. It was known as the Indianapolis Museum of Art then. Pentax ME and 50/1.4.

Phlox, I think on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

I think I expected this stuff to look just like Fujicolor 200, the color film I shoot most. That’s not a great way to approach any film. If I had it to do over again, I would have spent more time figuring out what situations this film excelled in, and I would have found a film that came closer to delivering the look I wanted in my church’s basement.

We’re not at a loss for ISO 800 color films despite Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800’s exit. Kodak Portra 800 is the obvious film to try next at a pitch-in. It is famous for its fine grain, and I can afford it now. I know CineStill and Lomography offer ISO 800 color films and it would be fun to try them someday. Also, I’ve heard of people having good luck shooting Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 at EI 800 and then push-processing it by one stop.

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Bridge on State Road 225

The last one-lane bridge on an Indiana highway
Pentax ME, 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A
Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 (shot at 200)
2018

Indiana State Road 225 runs just four miles, from State Road 43 a few miles north of Lafayette, through the small town of Battle Ground, through Prophetstown State Park, to a road that used to be State Road 25.

This four-span Pratt through truss bridge was built in 1912, before there was any sort of state highway system here. A stoplight at either end controls traffic so nobody has to play chicken on the bridge. Given that only about 950 cars cross it every day, I’m sure the state has never been terribly motivated to build a two-lane bridge here.

But that day might need to come soon. At its last inspection, this bridge was judged to be in poor condition, its structure requiring corrective action.

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Film Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: The last one-lane bridge on an Indiana highway

A barrel shot of a one-lane bridge on Indiana State Road 225.

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