State Theater

Tree blocking the State Theater sign
Minolta SR-T 101, 50mm f/1.7 MC Rokkor PF
Ferrania P30 Alpha
2018

Memo to cities everywhere: stop planting trees near your downtown walkways, as they block clear views of your classic architecture and signage!

This theater in my hometown of South Bend needs an owner and a profitable purpose. It is one of the last two remaining theaters of many that South Bend used to have; read about them here. And see a photo of this theater from when South Bend replaced its main street with a disastrous pedestrian plaza here.

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Film Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: Tree blocking the State Theater sign

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Photography

Revisiting the Canon PowerShot S80

At the encouragement of fellow blogger Dan James I got my Canon PowerShot S80 out and have been shooting it. This 2005 camera is positively ancient as digital cameras go, but it still works and delivers fine shapness and color in its eight-megapixel images. It’s been frightfully cold so I haven’t been out shooting much, but now that it’s March it should start warming up.

The S80 was a gift from a reader. (Lone Primate, are you still out there?) It became my chief road-trip camera, such as on a trip exploring all the old bridges of Putnam County, Indiana, in 2010. (Read about that trip here and here.)

Hibbs Ford Bridge
Hibbs Ford Bridge, Putnam County, Indiana.

I also used the S80 as I explored US 50 across Indiana in 2010. It’s a spectacular road.

View from US 50 in Martin County, Indiana
View from US 50 in Martin County, Indiana.

If you ever get a chance to drive Indiana’s US 50, do. It’s lined with charming little towns with plenty of great old architecture.

Hillforest
Hillforest, Aurora, Indiana.

This wooden bridge was on US 50’s original alignment in Jennings County, Indiana. It’s been demolished in a road realignment. Never delay taking a road trip — what’s here today might not be tomorrow!

Wooden bridge
Wooden bridge on Base Road, Jennings County, Indiana.

I made this quick shot in my hometown of South Bend while there on business one afternoon.

Ready to Strike
At South Bend’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.

When each of my sons turned 13 I took them on the train to Chicago, just son and father, for a weekend of sightseeing. My older son and I explored Millennium Park one foggy morning.

The Bean
The Bean, Chicago.

The S80 whetted my appetite for a high-quality compact digital camera. Canon had recently released the S80’s successor, the S90, which they shortly updated as the S95. That’s the camera I went for in late 2010; my S80 days were brief in comparison to all the years I’ve used the S95. But when I charged the S80’s battery and inserted it, the camera fired right up. Let’s see what it can do.

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Road Trips

Lit neon at the South Bend Motel

South Bend Motel

On our recent Michigan Road trip, we whizzed right by the South Bend Motel. It was cold, we were tired, and some of the neon was out on this great old sign anyway. Not much new to photograph. So these photos are from earlier road trips. Above, 2009; below, 2007.

South Bend Motel

Fortunately, little has changed (except the non-functioning neon). This little motel has been plugging away here for as long as I can remember. I grew up less than a mile away.

This motel is on the Michigan Road (and Dixie Highway and Old US 31) on South Bend’s south side. It’s always stood alone in this heavily residential neighborhood. Here’s a daylight shot of its sign.

South Bend Motel sign

Online reviews of this place range from “cheap but decent” to “dirty rooms and rude staff.” So if you ever decide to stay, set your expectations accordingly.

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Film Photography

From the archives: Wandering around with a camera in 1985

I think I always wanted to do what I started only in my 40s: wander around with a camera and photograph whatever interests me.

It was 1985 and I was about to graduate high school. My life had been about strict routines, and I was excited that they would soon end and my life would be much more mine to create. I felt a desire to document the waning days of my soon-ending life, so I dug out a camera and loaded it with film.

I’ll bet I owned more than 100 cameras then. I’d already been collecting for upwards of ten years. But which camera I chose for this roll is lost in the mists of my memory. The negatives attest that it was a 35mm camera. I’m trying to remember what decent 35mm cameras I owned then. The only one I remember is my Argus A-Four.

I wanted very much to photograph the downtown of my hometown, South Bend. I rode the city bus downtown, just me and my camera. I made just one photograph, this one — and my self-consciousness overcame me and I got right back on the bus and went home. I feel compassion for my then-self now. I wish I could step back and give that fellow a shot of confidence that the things that interested him were perfectly okay, and to hell with what anybody else might think about it. And then I would have told him to keep shooting that day, as downtown South Bend would change dramatically over the next 30-plus years and it would be great to have a record of how it was. The pictured WSBT building is a great example. WSBT moved out some years ago and the building has been so extensively remodeled it’s hard to recognize it.

Downtown South Bend, 1985

Most of the rest of this roll is of mundane subjects and a few photographs of my classmates at the Senior Picnic. But I did make a few more photographs that showed the world I lived in, and I treasure them. This is the high school I went to.

Riley High School

The building is no more, demolished after some years of neglect, replaced by a gleaming modern school a block away. I got to tour the building just before it was torn down and it had fallen into sorry, sad condition. I felt bad for the students who had to use it.

Riley High School

I climbed the oak tree in our back yard to make this photograph. We lived on a corner; this is the side street. That’s Dad’s work van, which we affectionately called The Iron Maiden. Read its story here.

Up a tree

My subject was this fire hydrant in our yard. It had recently replaced one that had been painted to look like a Minuteman. Most fire hydrants around the city had been so painted in 1975-76 in honor of the Bicentennial. Fortunately, I did not know yet to fill the frame with my subject, and so I got a pretty good photo looking down the street I grew up on. It was a good place to grow up. Have a look at some more recent photos from this street here.

Down Erskine Blvd.

I scanned these negatives a few years ago with my Wolverine Super F2D scanner (review here). The flatbed I own now would do a much better job, but these are good enough.

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Double exposure of my brother, 1985
Argus A-Four
Kodacolor VR 200 (probably)
1985

My brother ran for the high-school track team. The practice track was behind the school, along a side street. Mom and Dad used to drive over there and watch practice.

It was my senior year. I have negatives from a roll of film I shot that May as I was preparing to graduate. This photograph tells me I was using my Argus A-Four camera. That’s because it’s the only 35mm camera I owned then that allowed me to take a double exposure.

I didn’t mean to take this one. I took one shot of my brother leaning against the fence, and then a minute later took another — but forgot to wind in between. Also, I turned the camera both times for a landscape photo, but the second time upside down from the first time.

It made this double image of my brother, made perfectly symmetrical with a judicious crop.

Film Photography

single frame: Double exposure of my brother, 1985

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DTSB on the river

Downtown South Bend on the river
Minolta SR-T 101, 50mm f/1.7 MC Rokkor-PF
Ferrania P30 Alpha
2018

On my visit to downtown South Bend I had a deep sense that this town has a lot going for it that they are not leveraging fully.

I don’t know how hard it is to run a medium-sized Midwestern city today. I know that in most of the Midwest, if you are not a major population center you are slowly losing residents to those larger cities. I’m sure South Bend is no different. I’m sure that makes is challenging as heck for city leaders to build on what’s good.

But my old hometown really does have lovely attractions. This view from the east bank of the St. Joseph River overlooks Seitz Park, which is at the southern tip of an island in the river. Beyond is the city’s low skyline, with some still-proud older buildings cutting a strong profile.

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Film Photography

single frame: Downtown South Bend on the river

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