Me at Crown Hill

Your humble photographer
Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros

When I took my son to Crown Hill Cemetery for some portraits, I asked him to shoot mine, too. He’s always been my official photographer. Pretty much every photo of me I have from the last dozen years, he took. I was trying to look serious here, but I think I managed only to look bored.

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I am the unofficial photographer at church. Our pitch-in lunches are a great time for me to make portraits. Everybody seems to really love it that I bring my camera. Especially the children, who clamor to be in a photograph.

Would you guess that we are an inner-city mission where almost everyone who attends on Sunday has a difficult life story? Hunger, addictions, abuse, homelessness, undertreated and untreated health issues — among our members, we see all of the problems of poverty.

We really pack ’em in for lunch because it’s a sure meal. We call it a pitch-in lunch, but we tell everyone to join us whether or not they brought a dish to share. Many of our members probably don’t have enough food in their homes to get them through the next few days.

Living situations for our families can change suddenly. I haven’t seen the boy on the left in more than a year. His mother and his several brothers and sisters attended for months, until one Sunday they weren’t there. They were living across the street; when we went to check on them, we found they had moved without a word.

I see the boy on the right from time to time. His grandmother, despite having her own considerable troubles, was a major source of stability in his life. She passed away unexpectedly last month; she was only about five years older than me. He and his sisters now face considerable uncertainty.

All we can do is offer love, support, and encouragement, and try to connect them with available community resources. And sometimes, we offer them lunch.

I always make prints of the photos I take, and give them to the subjects. For some of them, these are the only portraits of their families that they have.

Boys in church • Pentax ME • 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M • Kodak Tri-X 400 • February, 2013

Film Photography

Favorite Photos Week: Boys in church

Film Photography

Life at 135mm

I had planned to spend 2014 shooting almost nothing but my Pentax ME. In preparation, I had been quietly buying K-mount lenses in various focal lengths, including one at 135mm. I’d made only a few photographs with a prime telephoto lens before, just fiddling around. I decided it was time to get serious.

Nikon F2AS

But then a Nikon F2AS walked into my life, followed quickly by a few Nikkor lenses. I immediately abandoned my K-mount plans and set about Nikoning. Most of my efforts this year have involved my 50mm f/2 and 55mm f/2.8 macro lenses, because they’re just great fun to use. Meanwhile, a 135mm f/3.5 lens patiently waited its turn. At last, late this summer I clipped it to the F2AS and loaded some Fujicolor 200.

But then I realized I had no idea what to do with this lens. I wasn’t used to seeing the world at 135mm! I aimed it at a bunch of stuff, including my new grill, and pressed the shutter button to see what happened.

My new grill

I’ve taken the F2AS on a lot of walks this year. I live pretty close to Indianapolis’s great Broad Ripple neighborhood, where I photographed this detail of a larger sculpture mural. One of my Flickr followers thinks he sees the 1970s advertising character from Quisp cereal in here; do you?


The Indiana Central Canal cuts through Broad Ripple. I stood on a pedestrian bridge next to College Avenue to photograph the canal and the 1906 concrete-arch bridge at Guilford Ave.


Margaret and I took an evening walk along Main St. in Zionsville and stopped for ice cream. I focused on the sign, but missed somehow. A few other shots on this roll suffered the same way — the in-focus area fell right behind what I thought I focused on. I had this and a few other photos printed to give to Margaret, and interestingly the sign lettering is as crisp as can be on the print.

You can't buy happiness

Dark clouds gathered while we walked, and shortly we were caught in a downpour. We waited it out on a bench under an awning. But I got this photo first.

Threatening sky

It appears to be conventional wisdom that 135mm is the focal length for portrait photography, and so naturally I gave it a try. It worked out fine.


I took this photo of Margaret at about the same time I schlepped my sons to the Target portrait studio for our annual sitting. I know the mass-market portrait mills are a roll of the dice, but we’ve had good luck at Target for years. But this year, even after making the photographer take us back into the studio four times to get it right, we still got wooden poses and plastic smiles. But now that I know I can do work like this, I think I’ll just photograph my sons at home from now on.

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