While Margaret and I stood on the bridge overlooking the Fox River in St. Charles, this man and boy waded out into the river and started fishing.


I zoomed my lens in as far as it would go, but the pair were still mighty small. So I put them more-or-less on rule-of-thirds lines and bathed them in context.


In my 52 years I’ve never watched anyone wade out into the middle of a river in a city’s downtown to fish.


As you can see, it’s easy enough to do in St. Charles: just ease down the stairs from the Municipal Center with your gear and step in.


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Just a man and boy fishing, in the middle of a river, in a city’s downtown. How improbable!

Muncipal Building

St. Charles Municipal Center
Pentax K10D, 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL

This dramatic Art Deco/Art Moderne structure really stands out on the main street in downtown St. Charles, Illinois. It stands right on the east bank of the Fox River. You can follow a path down the left side of the building and walk along the river’s edge.

St. Charles is charming. If you’re even in the far west Chicago suburbs, it’s worth visiting. They’ve made a lot of their frontage of the Fox River downtown, and there’s plenty to see and do on the main street.

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Photography, Preservation

single frame: St. Charles Municipal Center


Eastbound on IL 64

Illinois 64
Pentax K10D, 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL

We lost Margaret’s mom last week. The funeral was yesterday.

JoAnne Joyce was 90. She wasn’t ill; it was just her time. She leaves behind a husband of 63 years, eight children, 25 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.

Margaret and I got away last weekend, impromptu. We drove straight to her hometown of St. Charles, Illinois. We saw the house she grew up in, and we walked the town’s lovely main street. It was good to reconnect with her past as she faces a future without her mom.

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Personal, Photography

single frame: Illinois 64


Camera Reviews

Canon EOS 650

The Canon EOS 650 is the first-ever Canon EOS camera, from 1987, making it historically significant. And I got the body for a trifle: a buck! (Plus $12 shipping.) I love a bargain!

Canon EOS 650

Even though I already had a 35-80mm zoom lens for this mount, I wasn’t very impressed with it. So I bought a used EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens for $45. It has long been the least expensive prime Canon sells for its EOS cameras, but it’s widely praised.

Canon EOS 650

I already owned an EOS 630 which, despite its lower model number, came out two years after the 650 and had more features. The 650 lacks some of the 630’s modes, and its motor drive is a little slower (3 fps vs. 5 fps). Also, the 650 doesn’t automatically rewind the film after the last frame as the 630 does. You have to flip down that little panel below the film door, and press the rewind button. I learned that the hard way — after shooting the roll, I opened the camera and ruined a bunch of photographs. Drat.

If you like, you can see my review of the 630 here. Other Canon EOS SLRs I’ve reviewed include the EOS A2e (here), the EOS Rebel (here), and the EOS Rebel S (here). You might also enjoy my reviews of the Canon AE-1 Program (here), the AL-1 (here), the T70 (here), the FT QL (here), and the TLb (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I dropped some Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 into the 650 and took it along on a trip to St. Charles, Illinois. The Fox River flows through town. You’ll find fox statues all over town. These twin foxes guard the bridge that carries St. Charles’s main street over the river.

Foxes on the mighty Fox River

Fast film and a fast lens let me get these night shots of the art-moderne St. Charles Municipal Building. The dome changes color.

Municipal Building

The downside of using a 50mm lens was that I would have had to back up all the way into the river to get the entire building in the photo.

Municipal Building

Here’s a near-sunset shot of the main drag through St. Charles, also known as State Route 64.

Downtown St. Charles

And here’s a daylight shot of a footbridge over the Fox, south of downtown. As you can see, the 650 and this lens handles a bunch of lighting conditions with ease. But I’ll bet that if I’d brought one of my Pentax SLRs with a 50mm Pentax prime attached, I’d’ve gotten warmer, livelier color tones on the same film. These colors just don’t jazz me.

Piano Factory Bridge

Fast film and fast lens let me shoot indoors with available light, too. The in-focus patch was mighty thin, however.

Bumblebee glasses

The 650’s autofocus worked fine for the most part. It’s a little slow, but for what I was shooting it didn’t matter. Once in a while I was puzzled by its focusing choices, as in this shot. But this is my favorite photo from my test roll anyway. I like the light play and the rough surface of the desk my Kodak 35 was sitting on.

Kodak 35

To see more photos from my test roll, check out my Canon EOS 650 gallery.

I shot everything in straight program mode and let the camera focus for me. The EOS 650 handled just like the EOS 630, which is to say fine, which is also to say uninspiringly. Frame, press the button, zip-zap-click. I just don’t have as much fun with auto-everything SLRs. But as you can see, this one performed competently.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Film Photography

Shooting Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400

I love a bargain. Whenever a store has a Clearance sign, I am drawn to it like a magnet to iron. So drawn one day at my neighborhood Walgreens, I found a four-pack of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 for $3.97. No matter that the box was pretty ratty, or that the expiration date was just a couple months into the future. A buck a roll!

I shoot a lot of Fujifilm’s Fujicolor 200 and figured the Superia X-tra 400 would behave much the same, except for being a stop faster. But it turns out that while Fujicolor 200 has the usual three layers of color-sensitive material, one each for red, green, and blue, the Superia X-tra films all add a fourth layer meant to render greens and violets more accurately. Apparently, fast color films often don’t get these colors right.

I dropped a roll into my Nikon F3 with the 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens and took it along on a trip to St. Charles, Illinois, with Margaret. She grew up there; it was fun to explore her hometown. The Fox River flows through St. Charles, and these twin bridges span it just north of downtown.


On the way to one of the houses Margaret lived in as a girl, we passed by a church with some interesting architectural features. So we stopped for a look.


A school was attached to the church, with this interesting cornerstone.

A.D. 1929

I have a little Potawatomi Indian ancestry, and so was delighted to find St. Charles’s main park named for the tribe. Pottawatomie is an alternate spelling.

Pottawatomie Park

I have no complaints about the color the Superia X-tra 400 returned. Just check out the blue in that sky, and the good detail in the shadows! But I’m coming to appreciate how films of 400 ISO and above are best for gray days and indoors no-flash work. If you look at this image at its full scanned size, the sky is mighty noisy with grain. On this sunny, snow-covered day, I would have been better off shooting something like Ektar 100. Even good old Fujicolor 200 would have been a lower-grain choice.


I finished the roll at home. I think I would have been better served reducing exposure by a half stop when photographing snowy scenes, as the snowy portions of these photos look blown out. This film’s grain really shows up on my blue car’s flank.

Snow-covered Matrix

It’s not entirely fair that I’ve compared Superia X-tra 400 to Ektar 100 a few times here. Superia X-tra 400 is a consumer-grade film meant to work in any camera, and is priced accordingly. You pay more for Ektar, which is marketed to professionals. But at any price, when shooting handheld with my f/2 lens, Ektar 100 is way too slow to get this photo of my living room in the morning.

Morning living-room light

I like this film well enough. I’ll enjoy shooting the rest of the rolls I bought. But I’m not sure I’ll buy Superia X-tra 400 again. For everyday color work the Fujicolor 200 works fine and is a little less expensive. And when I need to take candid shots indoors, this film’s faster brother, Superia X-tra 800, gives me one more stop of exposure with no noticeable increase in grain.