I decided that I’d own but one Pentax SLR body for the M42 screw lens mount. It was easy enough to discard a Spotmatic SP with a dead meter and a rough winder. But I still had to decide between my ES II and this, my Spotmatic F, both of which offered open-aperture metering with Super-Multi-Coated and SMC Takumar lenses.
It was a tough choice. My ES II is an aperture-priority camera and that’s my favorite way to shoot. It was in very good cosmetic and functional condition. The Spotmatic F has a match-needle exposure system, which is a half-beat slower for me than aperture priority. But it had been a seldom-used sales demonstrator and had been CLA’d when I got it. It was, essentially, new. And what a performer it is! Here’s a favorite shot I made with a 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens on Kodak Plus-X.
I loaded some Ektar 100 into the Spotmatic for this outing, and screwed on my 35mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lens. I love the 35mm focal length for everyday walking-around photography, which is the kind of photography I do most often.
The SPF felt wonderful and performed flawlessly in my hands, just as it always had. The Ektar beautifully captured the September colors.
Every photo on the roll came out a little overexposed, though. I’ve noticed that on the Pentax bodies I own that were CLA’d by Erik Hendrickson (as this one) I always need to reduce exposure in Photoshop by a half stop or so. Perhaps I should set the cameras that way. Perhaps I should test this SPF’s exposure readings against a known-good light meter.
I felt mighty lazy the day I took this photo walk — I couldn’t be bothered to move in closer to a number of subjects. This one would be helped by a closer crop. When was the last time you saw a Chevy Citation parked curbside, though?
I took two walks through Zionsville to complete this roll. Zionsville is simply charming.
Using the SPF cemented my decision. Before I even sent this roll of Ektar off for processing, I gave the ES II to a fellow film photographer. The ES II remains a lovely and capable camera, and there will be times I wished my SPF would let me shoot aperture priority. But this SPF is just too compelling on its own to let go of.
Here’s when film photography isn’t very much fun: when your gear malfunctions, or doesn’t behave as you expect.
I loaded my Spotmatic F with some Ektar 100 for a few days on the National Road, a trip from which I’m just back. After I shot the 36th frame, I was able to wind to 37. That happens sometimes. But when I was able to wind to 38, I uttered a quick epithet, for I knew that the film never properly wound onto the spool in the first place. I’d shot 38 frames onto the film tail.
Thankfully, I also shot digital on the trip and so all is not lost.
What was I thinking, photographing this Art Deco church building on expired slide film? I wanted beautiful photographs of my visit.
Beauty is, of course, subjective. If you enjoy the color shifts of expired film, you probably find these photographs to be lovely. I guess they are, in their own way. I just hoped for realistic color and clarity, as I wanted to share this church as you’d see it if you walked up to it.
It’s not that I couldn’t go back and photograph it again; Versailles (pronounced ver-SALES) is only about 80 miles southeast of Indianapolis. I’m sure I’ll do just that one day and get exactly the photographs I want.
This church is named for its builder, James Tyson, who made his fortune as the first investor in Walgreen’s drug stores. Completed in 1937, Tyson built the church as a tribute to his deceased mother, a charter member of this congregation upon its 1834 founding.
This carefully maintained building of brick, terra cotta, copper, aluminum, and glass famously contains not a single nail in its construction. Many of its materials were imported from around Europe, but the oak pews are of local timber.
I was inside for a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association; Versailles is a Michigan Road town. Two alignments of the Michigan Road pass through Ripley County, of which Versailles is the seat. The original 1830s alignment lies a few miles to the west, but the road was rerouted through Versailles at the dawn of the automobile era.
Such an architectural gem is unusual for a small Indiana town like Versailles. Tyson built two other Art Deco buildings here: a library and a school. The church is arguably the loveliest of the three.
When Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto launched his new site World on Film last summer, he asked me to contribute an article for its debut. That sounded like fun, so I wrote about my Route 66 trip, which I shot on a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye; read it here. To say thanks, he sent me a few rolls of expired slide film. The first one into my Pentax Spotmatic F was 2003-vintage Konica Chrome Centuria 200.
You never know what you’re going to get with expired film. That goes triple for slide film, given its narrow exposure latitude. Conventional wisdom says expose one stop less for every decade a film has been expired. But I’m not conventionally wise: I shot at box speed.
Each frame was badly washed out. Fortunately, Photoshop was able to make usable images out of the entire roll.
I started shooting this roll before I moved from Indianapolis to Zionsville. I wanted one more walk through Crown Hill Cemetery, which was so convenient to my former home.
I’ve shot this view from Strawberry Hill, the highest elevation in Indianapolis, many times. But never before has it looked like it came straight from a dystopian apocalypse movie.
Reading up on this film, I learned that it had a reputation for grain. I got plenty of grain, all right! But these heavily Photoshopped images aren’t a fair representation of what this film could do when it was new.
The 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens I used was just right for the cemetery’s wide-open spaces and interesting details.
I finished the roll on an evening walk through Zionsville Village. It’s become tradition that I photograph the Black Dog Books sign. Then Margaret and I stepped inside for the first time, where I found and purchased a book of Edward Weston photographs.
This expired stock let every color fade away — except red.
This film was still in my Spotmatic when Margaret and I traveled to Versailles, Indiana, for a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association. We met in a stunning Art Deco church. Look for photos of that church on this expired film in an upcoming post!
On this day, with this lens (55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar), the Plus-X returned blacks you could just fall into.
And the grays and whites came out creamy.
I wished briefly that I had screwed in my 35mm f/3.5 SMC Takumar. The thick crowds made it difficult, at best, to back up far enough to get entire cars in the frame. The 35/3.5 would have made me back up a lot less.
But I’ve been exploring the 55/1.8’s considerable charms lately, and in retrospect am not disappointed I left it on the camera. It performed well, and it’s seldom a real problem to focus on an old car’s details.
Growing up in the 1970s as I did, when half or more of the cars on the road were from GM, it was easy to take their dominance for granted. Looking back, it’s clear just how good their designs were. How daring it was in 1970 that the second-generation Camaro and Firebird had no distinct rear passenger windows! The shape of this window opening is just smashing.
Packard’s Flying Lady hood ornaments are a favorite subject. I shoot them whenever I come across them at a car show.
This is the famous front end of the Studebaker I photographed from the rear here. The girl walking away was a happy coincidence as I framed this shot, so I made sure to include her.
The Citroën DS is funky from every angle and in every detail. Just check out how these headlights don’t both point forward. This is a later DS; earlier ones had uncovered headlights.
Plenty of American muscle was on display at the Artomobilia. I’m partial to the Mopars of the era for their no-nonsense styling.
Avantis were made in my hometown, South Bend. They were Studebakers at first, but after Studebaker shuttered a new company formed to keep Avanti production going. They used leftover Studebaker engines at first but eventually had to turn to Chevy to provide powerplants. Post-Studebaker Avantis were given the “Avanti II” name, probably for rights reasons.
As the show began to wrap up and the crowds thinned, I was able to get a few wider shots of the event and its cars.
It wasn’t all classics at the Artomobilia. Several owners of newer hi-po Ford Mustangs lined up their cars for inspection.
Here’s hoping I can find time for more car shows. I do love to photograph cars and I think I’ve become pretty good at it. They’re certainly the subject with which I am most confident.