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.
In thanks for a favor, reader Christopher May sent me a roll of Arista Premium 100 black-and-white film to shoot. This film is widely thought to be rebranded Kodak Plus-X, which went out of production in 2011. After that, Arista stopped offering its Premium 100 film as soon as stock ran out. This roll expired in 2011, but had been stored frozen.
I loaded the film into my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK, a terrific little viewfinder camera with a coupled selenium light meter. I hadn’t used it in some time and it deserved some exercise. But also, its lens is put-your-eye-out sharp and I looked forward to what it would do with this film.
I shot most of the roll on a bike ride over to the cemetery next to a little country church not far from my home. I developed the film in LegacyPro L110, Dilution H (1+63), and scanned it with VueScan and my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II.
Things didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. Every time I pick up a viewfinder camera I forget to focus a couple photos early in the roll, and this time was no exception. It’s as if not seeing a rangefinder patch or split-image circle in the viewfinder makes me think the image must already be in focus, or something. I also misfocused a couple photos because I’m not the greatest guesser of distance.
But even then, almost all of these images were soft. Several were hazy, as well. I was able to Photoshop most of the haze out, but I was only able to improve sharpness only so much. The photos I’m sharing here all look sharp enough at blog size. The softness comes out at full scan size. If you’re curious, click any photo to view it on Flickr, and once there click the photo to expand it.
The photos above and below are the sharpest on the roll. They give a good sense of what this camera’s Carl Zeiss Tessar lens can do.
I had a lovely time with the Contessa LK, at any rate. I left its ever-ready case on and slung it over my shoulder and across my torso for this bike ride. The leather strap was still solid and strong despite the case showing heavy use.
I finished the roll on a walk with Margaret through the Garfield Park neighborhood in southeast Indianapolis. We’re starting to dream again of where we want to live next, and I’m drawn to some of Indianapolis’s old neighborhoods.
Houses on two streets overlook stunning Garfield Park with its sunken garden and conservatory. Garfield Park is a real hidden gem in Indianapolis.
Despite everything, it’s good to see the signature even tonality and smoothness of Plus-X again. Yes, I believe that’s what Arista Premium 100 is, just as I believe that the also discontinued Arista Premium 400 was rebranded Kodak Tri-X.
I think I need to give the Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK another spin soon, and see if I can improve on these results.
I’ll never forget the first time I came to Indianapolis. It was 1976. My dad’s best friend knew the director of the about-to-open Children’s Museum and had arranged us a preview tour. We had the museum and its exhibits all to ourselves. That’s memorable enough — but my other great memory of that day is entering town on US 31, Meridian Street, and having my breath taken away by the stunning homes that line it.
More than forty years hence I still love to drive along Meridian Street to see its wonderful homes. Many of the most expansive and expensive homes are within the North Meridian Street Historic District, which runs from 40th St. north about a mile and a half to Westfield Blvd.
The District’s homes were built between the two World Wars in classical styles. All are large, detailed, and well kept. Here now, a brief tour from a walk I took from 40th St. up to about 46th St.
Margaret and I met my sons for dinner during their recent Spring Break. She photographed us with my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK, a viewfinder camera with a coupled selenium light meter. Before I handed it to her I matched the needle to set exposure, using an aperture narrow enough that it wouldn’t matter whether I guessed distance wrong.
It performed, of course, delivering good sharpness, contrast, and detail even on this overcast day. That’s the goodness inherent in a Tessar lens! This camera was my first experience with a Tessar. I first shot seven years ago when my sons and I spent our Spring Break in a cabin in the Tennessee woods. Here’s the fencepost in front of our cabin, on Fujicolor 200.
This time I spooled in some Ultrafine Extreme 100 and brought the Contessa along everywhere I went for a few weeks. That included my recent trip to Logansport for a Michigan Road board meeting. Margaret came along; here she is photographing the State Theater. I do love her long gray hair.
I’d never shot the Ultrafine film before and didn’t know what to expect. The seller is mum on who makes it, but Ilford is the most common guess I’ve found. Some even say it’s Kentmere 100. The last time I used this camera I shot the Kentmere in it (as you saw in yesterday’s post). The results look similar.
The Contessa was a lovely, willing companion when I took it for a walk along Meridian Street in Indianapolis. If you’ve never walked or driven our Meridian Street, put it on your list: it is lined with stunning homes. I’ll share more photos from that walk in an upcoming post.
I also took the Contessa to the places I usually go. I keep thinking I’m going to find a new, more interesting angle on my church, but I seem never to.
Some views always work photographically, and I suppose it’s no sin to keep revisiting them.
I’m not blown away by this film — it’s fine, but not fantastic. But the Contessa brought feelings of delight every time I composed, exposed, and pressed the shutter button. I even liked the winder’s long-travel action. Everything about this camera is light and easy, yet still solid and sure.
I drive past a nearly derelict mall on the way home from church. This used to be its Sears Auto Center. I remember when Sears closed here. I bought a ton of stuff cheap at their closeout sale. I also remember when this mall was bustling and vital. When I started my career I drove to it all the way from Terre Haute to buy a young careerman’s wardrobe in one of its men’s stores. Harry Levinson’s, I think. But that was almost 30 years ago. Times change.
Its taken me most of a decade to figure out I should use a camera for what it does best. The Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK is brilliant at medium-distance group shots and does pretty well for landscapes and, if you back up enough, architectural work. The lens just adores black-and-white film. Its only flaw is that whenever I load a 36-exposure roll of film, it tears during rewinding. That’s kind of a bummer. But I always have 24-exposure rolls of film in the fridge. And this camera is just a pleasure to carry and shoot. It’s hard to say goodbye to a camera like that.