Sycamore Row

Sycamore Row
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros
Rodinal 1+50
2019

In my new book, Square Photographs, I shared an image of Sycamore Row. That image shows the historic marker that was there at the time I made the image in 2019. (That marker was damaged in an accident and a new marker with a different message was put in its place; see it here.)

I was on the fence about whether to include that image in the book, or this one. That image showed the historic marker, but this one did a much better job of showing the road itself, and how narrow it was. This was a state highway until 1987! Imagine encountering an oncoming semi in here.

I landed on the other image, but I’m still not sure I was right.

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Photographs

single frame: Sycamore Row

A b/w image of Sycamore Row, a narrow passage on the old Michigan Road.

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Film Photography

A test roll in my malfunctioning Olympus XA

I got out my Olympus XA specifically to shoot some Kodak Plus-X I bought recently. Because the film has always been stored frozen, and because Plus-X is so hardy, I expect it to behave as if new.

Olympus XA

After I put batteries in the XA, I noticed that the needle inside the viewfinder read a few stops off. Drat it! The XA actually, and strangely, has two meters, one that controls the viewfinder needle and one that controls the shutter speed. It was possible that the shutter-speed meter was fine, and only the viewfinder needle meter was off.

I decided to shoot a test roll to check for that. But there was no way I was going to potentially waste a precious roll of Plus-X. Instead, I used a roll of T-Max 100. I shot all but a few frames with the XA set in its snapshot mode, focused to three meters at an aperture of f/5.6. Both of these settings are marked in orange on the camera.

I developed the film in Rodinal 1+50. The negatives were appropriately dense. This is the first time I’ve scanned T-Max 100 on my Plustek 8100, and I wasn’t wowed by the images straight off the scanner. I boosted contrast considerably on all of the images. But they were all properly exposed. Here are the best of the images.

Pool house
Looking out over the retention pond
The American House, Burlington
Suburban houses
The road, she is closed
Dance studio
Bathroom mirror selfie

Several of my film cameras are queued to be sent for repair and CLA, and with this, my Olympus XA joins the group. I enjoy this camera enough to invest in having it overhauled and having its needle meter repaired. But because the camera sets exposure properly and otherwise works fine, it goes to the end of the repair line.

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Dashboard

Dashboard
Olympus OM-4T, 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S

Agfa APX 100 (x/7-98)
Rodinal 1+50

A law went into effect here this summer prohibiting drivers from holding their phones in their hands while driving.

The only reason I pick up my phone in the car is to skip a song or start a new playlist. I play music from my phone over the car’s Bluetooth link. But my car is just old enough not to have integrated controls. The only way to interact with my playlist is via the phone itself.

I bought a phone holder that clamps to the vent’s louvers. Because the phone is so available, it tempts me more to interact with it. Could Indiana’s new law have backfired?

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Film Photography

single frame: Dashboard

The dashboard of my car, with my phone prominently displayed.

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Collecting Cameras

Operation Thin the Herd: Certo Super Sport Dolly

Statue before the big house

Yes, Operation Thin the Herd is still running. The pace has slowed to a crawl, however. I’ve been distracted by cameras donated to the collection since this project began, which is a wonderful problem to have. I’ve also wanted to shoot some of the cameras I’ve kept in this project! But back to it at last, down to the last few cameras. This time I’m considering my Certo Super Sport Dolly, a folding camera for 120 film.

Certo Super Sport Dolly

I used this camera last not long after it was given to me. It needed some repair to work properly, including patching pinholes in the bellows and replacing a broken focus-stop ring. But once repaired, it worked well. Here, I shot some Kodak Ektar 100 in it.

Test

The Super Sport Dolly gave me great sharpness from corner to corner. The colors are a little strange, but that isn’t unexpected with an uncoated lens. This camera is from the late 1930s, before lens coating was a thing. This lens is the 75mm f/2.9 Meyer Görlitz Trioplan, a three element, three group design based on the Cooke triplet. It’s set in a Compur shutter that operates from 1 to 1/250 second.

For this outing I loaded some Ilford FP4 Plus, which I developed in Rodinal 1+50 and scanned on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II. I got unexpected results.

Ampitheater

The light leak is back, but that’s not surprising as my bellows repair consisted of dabbing black fabric paint onto the pinholes. That lasts only so long. The leak shows up in only a couple frames because I closed the camera between many of these shots.

Silos

But check out that vignetting. I didn’t experience that at all with the other rolls of film I’ve put through the Super Sport Dolly. Who knows why it’s showing up now. (I cropped the vignetting out of some of the photos that follow.)

Ampitheater

I also didn’t get the same sharpness I enjoyed before. My scanning might be to blame; I’m still figuring out how to get the best results from my scanner.

Shadows

But man, did I have fun shooting the Super Sport Dolly. I can’t say the same with many other old folders that I’ve used. The Super Sport Dolly is small and light compared to many other old folders. Its f/2.9 lens and 1/250 shutter might not strike you as blazing fast, but I’ve encountered a lot of old folders have limited use except in blazing sunshine due to specs like f/6.3 and 1/100. The Super Sport Dolly’s pop-up “frame” viewfinder offers easy framing, where many old folders have small, hard-to-read brilliant viewfinders. Finally, the Super Sport Dolly takes 120 film, rather than a defunct format like 620 or 116.

Shadows

I normally keep cameras that work very well and, ideally, are in very good cosmetic condition. This Certo Super Sport Dolly doesn’t clear this bar. But I enjoy it enough that it doesn’t matter. I already want to shoot it again.

Verdict: Keep

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Preservation, Road Trips

Revisiting the bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

I climbed down the bank to see what kind of bridge this was. I was richly rewarded — it’s a true beauty.

Bridge over Cagle Mill Lake

That was in 2008 when I toured Indiana’s State Road 42, which stretches from near Indianapolis at Mooresville to Terre Haute. Along the way the road reaches Cagles Mill Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers flood-control project. This bridge was built in 1951 to span the lake, and SR 42 was realigned to cross the bridge. Upon my visit, it had been freshly renovated. It looked like new!

In the years since I stopped clambering down banks to see the undersides of bridges. Perhaps after seeing enough bridges I stopped being surprised and delighted by them. I’m sure that as I’ve gotten older I have become more risk averse — climbing down a steep bank can be hazardous! But after I visited the new SR 46 bridge near Bowling Green, I knew I wanted to see the Cagles Mill Lake bridge again, up close and personal. It wasn’t too far away.

It was like old times when I clambered down the bank to photograph this bridge. I had my Nikon F2AS along with a 35-105mm zoom lens attached. This unwieldy kit did not make it any easier to get into position.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

I made one shot at 35mm and another at or near maximum zoom. Neither of these photos turned out as well as I hoped. When I visited last time, the bank was clear except for large rocks placed to retard erosion. This time, the rocks were still there, but so was a considerable amount of brush that made it hard to get a good angle on the bridge. A lot of brush can grow in 12 years! I’m also not pleased with the exposure in either of these photos. But at least I got them.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

The best photo of the visit is this one of the deck. I love how the road disappears into the trees.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

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Road Trips

Goodbye to the bridge that kindled my love of bridges

I fell in love with bridges because of this bridge.

Public domain image by Wikipedia user Nyttend

In 1987 I was a junior in college and I had a girlfriend at Indiana University. My buddy Doug also had a girlfriend at IU — and he had a car. He generously let me ride along every time he drove to Bloomington.

Terre Haute and Bloomington are connected by State Road 46. It rolls and winds gently through the countryside. It’s truly a lovely drive; make it if you’re ever out that way.

I never paid any attention to bridges until Doug and I started making this trip. Just west of tiny Bowling Green, State Road 46 crosses the Eel River. Starting in 1933, it did so over this two-span Parker through truss bridge.

Passing through this bridge became a quiet highlight of the trip. I probably never mentioned it to Doug. I came to enjoy the shadows the sun cast through the overhead trusses as we passed.

I came to enjoy other truss bridges in my travels. Soon I was curious about other kinds of bridges. My inner bridgefan had been awakened.

A regular inspection in 2011 found some failed gusset plates, critical to the bridge’s safety. They were repaired in a one-month closure. Then in 2012 more structural problems were found, leading to a three-month closure for repairs. But the Indiana Department of Transportation could see that this bridge would soon need either a thorough restoration — or replacement.

I’ll cut to the chase: INDOT chose replacement. People who lived near the bridge wanted it restored. They rightly pointed out that this bridge was on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to its association with settlement and economic development in the county. Their arguments only delayed the inevitable. In 2019, this old bridge was removed, and this bridge was built.

Replacement SR 46 bridge near Bowling Green

It’s been years since I had been out this way. Since moving to Indianapolis in the mid 1990s, I had little call to drive the road between Bloomington and Terre Haute! But in August I met one of my sons at a state park near his home for a long hike. Because of COVID-19, we hadn’t seen each other in at least six months. We were long overdue. That state park is on State Road 46.

After our hike, my son needed to be on his way. I had a couple hours to kill, so I plotted a long drive and went on my way. My first destination was this bridge. I knew not seeing the old truss bridge would be challenging. Fortunately, SR 46 is just as charming a drive today as ever. Enjoying the drive took some of the sting out when I came upon the new bridge.

I’ve lamented modern bridges before: they stir no hearts. Their utilitarian design probably makes them less expensive to build and maintain. As a taxpayer, I appreciate that. Also, when this one has outlived its useful life, nobody will protest its demolition and replacement.

I’ll say this much in praise of the new bridge: it’s plenty wide. The old bridge’s deck was just 23.6 feet wide. Encountering an oncoming semi in there always felt like an uncomfortably close encounter! Actually, those semis are a big part of what make old truss bridges like these obsolete. Trucks just weren’t as big and heavy when these bridges were built. Today’s semis simply wore these bridges out faster. The new bridge offers no eye candy, but it is stout enough to take on any vehicle the modern era can throw at it.

Because of the bridge’s historic status, all is not lost. It was dismantled and will be relocated to a park near Nashville, Indiana, where it will serve as 2 single-span pedestrian bridges. When I hear that this project is complete, I’ll make a trip to see — and experience this old bridge once again.

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