Photography

Announcing my new photo book, Vinyl Village

My new book is now available!

It’s a photo essay about the suburban neighborhood I live in — a vinyl village. That’s where the title comes from: Vinyl Village. It’s a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly from the point of view of many, many walks I took through the neighborhood studying it closely.

The book is available worldwide on Amazon:

If your country isn’t listed, go to your country’s Amazon site and search for Jim Grey “Vinyl Village”. If that doesn’t work, try the URL https://www.amazon.XX/gp/product/B09JJKG225/, where you replace the XX with your country’s domain.

I’m pleased to be able to price Vinyl Village at just $9.99. (It’s priced equivalently in other countries.) Publishing on Amazon is key to me being able to offer the book at this price. Amazon takes a much smaller cut than services like Blurb, which I have used in the past. I’ll write more about my experience publishing a photo book on Amazon in a future post.

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“Vinyl village” is a pejorative term for the kind of suburban neighborhood I live in: curved streets filled with frame houses, all swathed in vinyl with some brick decoration. Generally, the houses are built to a minimum standard. They are up to code, but in the least expensive possible way.

But the book isn’t about construction standards. It’s about the way the houses are built to be attractive from the front, but the sides and the back are huge swaths of vinyl interrupted only by the occasional, randomly placed window. It’s also about how the houses are arranged on the land, revealing the vinyl-slathered sides and backs of dozens and dozens of houses and making private back yards hard to come by. Finally, it’s about the high-voltage power lines and the petroleum pipeline that run through, and the Interstate highway that borders it.

For a neighborhood that has this many challenges, it sure has no trouble attracting residents. Houses for sale here frequently sell the day they’re listed. It’s rare for one to stay on the market longer than a week. It’s because this neighborhood is the least expensive way to own a home in what is otherwise a wealthy suburb with well-regarded schools. Few of us get to live in our dream homes. We find the best situation our finances allow, and if we are fortunate, we like it well enough.

Come take a look at my neighborhood. It’s so quintessentially American.

More details, and how to get your copy, at Midnight Star Press here.

My photo essay book, Vinyl Village, is available!
Click here to learn more and get a copy!

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Film Photography

Fomapan 400 at EI 200

Fomapan 400 is a film that’s new to me. My first time out with it I shot it at box speed, but shadows sometimes lacked detail. I thought it might help that to shoot the next roll at EI 200, so that’s what I did. I developed in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B, at the IS0 400 time. I scanned the negatives on my Minolta ScanDual II.

I used fresh L110 for this roll. I’d gotten dense negatives the last couple of rolls I developed with the L110 I had been using. It’s not impossible that the cameras were to blame; they were both essentially new to me and could have been overexposing. And I know L110, like any HC-110 clone, is said to perform like new for years. Still, I decided to remove this variable from the equation.

I shot around my neighborhood to fill in some gaps for the book project I’m working on. Even though the utilities are buried in my neighborhood, these ugly utility boxes appear between every pair of houses. They remind me of crooked, broken teeth. Someone who saw these photos in my Flickr stream said they reminded him of gravestones. I made these images with my Pentax KM and my 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A lens.

Utility boxes
Utility boxes
Utility boxes
Utility boxes

I switched to my 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M lens for the rest of the roll. There were a few images I wanted to make where the long focal length would compress depth. On this first image in particular, I got shallower depth of field than I wanted. I’m trying to show the a long row of these petroleum pipeline markers.

Pipeline
Table and field
Around the bend
Back of house

These all turned out reasonably well. At box speed, I liked the contrast I got. These are flatter, even after boosting contrast in Photoshop. But the shadows aren’t blocked up, and the middle grays are pleasing.

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Snowman

Olaf?
Agfa Clack
Ilford FP4 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B

2021

I seldom have nice things to say about living in this vinyl village. Here’s one nice thing: plenty of families here do fun things together, like build snowmen.

I suppose families are the whole point of neighborhoods like this. For far less than anywhere else in this surprisingly wealthy town, you can get your kids into good schools. This neighborhood overflows with children. In nice weather, lots of them play in their yards and sometimes in the streets. One family down the street wheels a portable basketball goal to the curb, and the kids shoot hoops for hours. Another family on my block rents a bounce house at least once a summer, which brings in kids from far and wide.

It reminds me a little of the neighborhood I grew up in. There were so many kids, the parents took to calling it Rabbit Hill. Families on Rabbit Hill weren’t nearly as well off as families in this neighborhood, so we didn’t have bounce houses or portable basketball goals. But we still made plenty of fun together. Those houses were cheaply built, as are these. It didn’t matter to us. It was grand to have so many kids to play with. I’m sure the kids here feel the same.

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Film Photography

single frame: Olaf?

A snowman in a neighbor’s yard.

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Film Photography

Kodak T-Max 400 in Adox HR-DEV

Into the tree tunnel

I still have a lot of Adox HR-DEV to use up after buying a small bottle to develop a roll of its companion film, Adox HR-50. I’m developing other films in it to see how it performs. I liked Arista EDU 200 (aka Fomapan 200) in it not long ago, so this time I tried Kodak T-Max 400.

I also took this opportunity to test a second Olympus OM-2n body given to me by the same benefactor who gave me the first one, as well as the Olympus OM-4T I recently shot. This very generous fellow also gave me a whole bunch of lenses and other OM gear. He hadn’t shot his OMs in a long time and he was ready for them not to take up space in his home anymore.

I mounted a large, heavy 35-70mm f/4 S Zuiko Auto-Zoom lens. It’s probably this hefty because of its fixed f/4 aperture — if I recall correctly, variable-aperture zooms can be made much smaller and lighter. Despite the weight, I slung the OM-2n over my shoulder and took it on a long bike ride.

To the left

HR-DEV is supposed to enhance sensitivity, better differentiating light from shadow. I don’t know if I see that; this looks like normal T-Max 400 to me.

High-powered cornfield

But I very much appreciated how sharp these scans were off my flatbed. They still needed a little unsharp masking in Photoshop, but far less aggressively than normal after developing this film in any of my usual developers.

Farmhouse on the hill

I finished the roll on a few walks through the neighborhood. What I especially appreciated about these negatives was how little Photoshopping they required to look good. About half of them needed only that touch of unsharp masking.

In the vinyl village

I made these neighborhood shots on full-sun days, and I think I detect the light areas being lighter than I’m used to with this film under these conditions. Or I could be seeing things.

In the vinyl village

Just a side note: it’s crazy to me how much of the sides and backs of houses you can see on any walk through this neighborhood, and how often windows are placed haphazardly on them.

In the vinyl village

If you look at these images at full scan size, which you can do by clicking any of them to see them on Flickr, there’s detectable grain here. But at blog sizes they look smooth enough.

In the vinyl village

Bottom line, this combination works. Don’t be afraid to try it if you, like me, have some HR-DEV to use up.

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Film Photography

Arista EDU 200 at EI 125

Before I started developing film at home, I really liked Fomapan 200, which I usually buy from Freestyle Photo rebranded as Arista EDU 200. I shot it at box speed and the labs I used always returned scans with good contrast and dramatic dark tones. And the images always looked so smooth, with almost imperceptible grain.

But I wasn’t so thrilled with the film when I developed and scanned it myself. It just lacked the punch I was used to, with muddy middle grays and blocked up shadows. In Rodinal, sharpness was pretty good, but not in HC-110.

A couple of you mentioned in the comments that this film does better when shot at EI 125 or 160 and developed normally. So I loaded my last roll of this film into my Olympus XA2, set it to EI 125, and shot it around the neighborhood.

It would have been a better test if I had developed it in Rodinal, but I used Adox HR-DEV instead, diluted 1+35 and developed for 9:29 at 22.9┬░ C. And so I don’t know whether it was the extra exposure or the developer that gave these results. But these are the results I was used to getting from this film when I shot it at box speed and sent it out for developing and scanning!

Retention pond
Over the retention pond
Vinyl village homes
Lots of cars
Vinyl village homes
Vinyl village homes

I used the HR-DEV because I have no idea of this developer’s shelf life and I have a lot of it left. I found a recipe for this film and developer on the Massive Dev Chart, so I went ahead and used it. I’m sure I’ll buy more of this film one day, and when I do I’ll shoot it at EI 125 and develop it in Rodinal to see if I keep getting results like these.

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Neighborhood and power lines

Power lines towering overhead
Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK
Arista Premium 100
LegacyPro L110, Dilution H (1+63)
2020

I’m still working on my project to document my vinyl-village neighborhood, with an eye toward publishing a book with the photos.

I think this photo will make a perfect cover for the book! It says a great deal about this neighborhood.

High-voltage power lines cut through the neighborhood. I’ve made a lot of photos involving those lines and their towers lately, trying to show how in some parts of this neighborhood they dominate the view.

In other parts of the neighborhood, such as the part I live in, what dominates is the constant drone of vehicles on nearby I-65.

This neighborhood is a middle-class enclave in what is otherwise a wealthy town. These homes sell for well below Zionsville’s median home price. I suppose detractors such as these power lines and the Interstate is part of the reason why.

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Film Photography

single frame: Power lines towering overhead

A power-line tower dominates this neighborhood scene.

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