A snowy visit to Purdue

I spent an afternoon with my son, who’s in his last semester at Purdue. He really likes to walk, so we walked together, all over West Lafayette. It did my middle-aged body good to put some miles on my feet.

He lives in Cary Quadrangle, which is this grand old building.

Cary Quad *EXPLORED*

We walked to the northwest corner of campus where there’s a large hill. Lots of people were out sledding. Many of them were using cardboard boxes, because who brings a sled to college? This giant stage is at the bottom of the hill.


We walked through campus a little. The cold got to me so I asked if there were a coffee shop nearby. My son led the way. We passed this building, which very clearly was once a Burger Chef restaurant. Burger Chef was a competitor to McDonalds that was headquartered in Indianapolis. (See more old Burger Chef buildings, repurposed, here.)

Former Burger Chef

A burger joint still operating is the XXX, which has delicious root beer. Here’s one of its signs. You don’t see many of that style of Coca-Cola sign still in use.


Here’s another, this time in neon.


As usual, my son and I wound up at an Irish restaurant near the river. I got this nice portrait of him while we waited for our beef stew and shepherd’s pie.


Despite the cold, it was a good afternoon. I had in mind to have a long conversation with him about searching for a post-college job, but frankly, neither of us was in the mood so we skipped it and just enjoyed each other’s company.

Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL

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Snow-covered steps

Snow-covered steps
Kodak VR35 K40
Kodak Max 400 (expired)

At church, we all come in the back door. Our parking lot is back there.

But it means we often forget about our front door. The door that the neighborhood sees. And so on this snowy Sunday, nobody thought to shovel it clean. Were it not for the footprints on the steps, our neighbors might think we were not even open. Indeed, when we encounter them around the neighborhood that’s sometimes what they tell us.

It’s a common trap churches fall into: we know our ways. But we want to meet people who aren’t in our church, and they find our ways strange, or even to make no sense. And we wonder why we seldom see anybody new on Sunday.

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Film Photography

single frame: Snow-covered steps


Victoria at Northgate

Victoria at Northgate
Unknown camera
Kodak Gold 400 (expired)

Here’s another photo from the mystery camera. Its lens surely had some endearing qualities, as this photo shows. Especially this photo makes me wish I could remember which camera I used!

Film Photography

Photo: Street blade, Victoria at Northgate.

Film Photography

Taking photographs in the cold

Do you take many photographs during the cold of winter? I don’t. I hate cold weather.

Cary Quadrangle
Pentax H3, 55mm f/2 Super Takumar, Kodak Gold 200, 2016

So do some of my old cameras. Last winter when I shot my sexagenarian Pentax H3, I foolishly took it out on a near-zero day. It was out of my warm car for two minutes when I made the first shot, above. The shutter sounded odd, so I wound and shot one more time. That time, the shutter sounded quite sick. It made an exposure, below — a hot mess but I like it anyway. Those colors are so Kodak.

Too cold for the camera
Pentax H3, 55mm f/2 Super Takumar, Kodak Gold 200, 2016

The mirror wouldn’t come back down after this shot. Worried, I tucked the H3 into my coat and then, shortly, back into my warm car. Thankfully, when the H3 warmed back up it worked fine.

If your camera is fussy about cold at all, then keep it warm right up until you need to shoot it. My oversized wool coat is great for this — it’s super warm and can hold even my bulkiest SLR. I make my shot and then let the camera warm back up before I make another.

Most of my wintertime shots are around the house, which gives the camera little time to get cold in the first place. In Gracie’s last year I shot her in the driveway with my Pentax ME, right after I knocked snow off the gutter and onto her head and back.

Snow-covered dog
Pentax ME, 50 mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M, Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400, 2013

It was wintertime when I got around to testing a Kodak 35. I shot about half the roll around the yard in the cold. It did all right.

Front door
Kodak 35, Kodak Plus-X, 2015

I took my 1980s-vintage Canon EOS 630 out for a long walk along the Michigan Road a couple winters ago. I let it hang off my neck the whole time, exposed to the elements, and it performed great.

Barber Shop
Canon EOS 630, Canon EF 35-80mm f/4-5.6, Arista Premium 400, 2015

The camera I’ve shot most outside on cold days is my digital Canon PowerShot S95. I made this photograph on a day when temperatures hovered around -12. A foot of snow had fallen, making the tree branches beautiful. I tried to capture the beauty. I largely failed, but this shot of my next-door neighbor’s house worked out all right.

Snowy day
Canon PowerShot S95, 2014

My S95 performed fine shot after shot in that extreme cold, but I did stow it in my warm coat between shots. But my friend Alice also has an S95, and she finds hers to be fussy in weather below about 40 degrees. Who knows.

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Snowy day

Snowy day
Canon PowerShot S95

Film Photography

Photographing snow

Still life with snow

I keep trying to photograph snow, and I keep getting mixed results.

It’s because it takes some finesse to make a camera expose snow properly. Cameras with built-in meters tend to overcompensate, leading to gray snow. Even when the exposure is right, vast expanses of white tend to look washed out.

One snowy afternoon I took my Nikon F3 out briefly while I shoveled my driveway. As you can see in this shot of my resting shovel, the meter exposed for the non-white elements in the frame, which led to the snow washing right out.

Sometimes a camera does all right with it. The photo below came from my Olympus Trip 35 several years ago. The exposure is just right for the house, the trees, and the sky, yet the snowy yard is washed out only right in the middle.

Snow-covered yard with dog

But I’ve had a few moments of good luck that have taught me a thing or two. First: look for textures in the snow, and photograph them. Here I shot my Canon PowerShot S95. This was actually after an ice storm; this snow was rock solid and supported my weight!

The frozen yard

While shooting my Kodak 35 earlier this year, I hoped it would pick up the delightful shadows this tree’s branches cast in the late-afternoon sun. I hoped to use the snow as a canvas. To bring the shadows out I needed to play with contrast and brightness a little bit in Photoshop.

Snow shadows

But I think the best thing is to use snow as an element of a shot, rather than shoot it for its own sake. Here, the snow adds interest to this old Cadillac’s front end. Believe it or not, I shot this with my Palm Pre.

Snow-covered Caddy

And here, the snow provides a clean backdrop for my late friend Gracie, and creates abstract shapes where it rests on that bush. I think this is another S95 shot.

Dog in the snow

As you can see, despite learning a few things, I still haven’t entirely figured out how to photograph snow. And now that spring is arriving, snow is but a memory until next winter. I’ll have more opportunities to practice then. A big part of the fun of photography for me is figuring things like this out.

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