Saturday, September 21, 2019

The 2019 Flood of Mississippi and Testing Kodak Ektar 25 Film

Introduction

Dear WorldofDecay readers, I am a dreamer. I keep hoping I will be able to buy some Kodak Ektar 25 (or Royal Gold 25 – the same emulsion) which has been frozen all these years and will respond perfectly, as if it was fresh. In previous posts, you have seen examples of 120 Ektar 25. but I concluded that it was too late and was time to move on. Ha, I can’t keep my own advice. A seller on eBay claimed that three rolls of 135 Ektar 25 had been stored frozen in an old photography studio. The price was reasonable, so I bought them.
Expired Ektar 25 film - was it really stored frozen all these years?

The Flood of 2019 - More Examples

As of spring and early summer of 2019, much of west central Mississippi was inundated by Mississippi River floodwaters and local runoff, making for plenty of interesting photographic subjects. I have posted photographs before, but here are some examples that I took with our 1971-vintage Pentax Spotmatic Camera. My wife bought it new in Boston, Massachusetts.
Inundated houses off US 61 near Floweree Road,Redwood, Mississippi (135mm Super Multi Coated Takumar, tripod-mounted)
Farm road, US 61 near Floweree Road
Tar paper shack, US 61 near Floweree Rd., Redwood, Mississippi (55mm Super-Takumar). This is in the area that would be drained by the Steele Bayou pumps if they are ever installed.
Dead dogs, US 61 near Floweree Road. 55mm Super-Takumar lens
Trump sign, US 61, Vicksburg, Mississippi (135mm, tripod-mounted). The pumps refer to massive units that Congress authorized in 1941 to be installed near the Steele Bayou flood gates to pump water out of the lower Delta and into the Yazoo River. These would be some of the largest pumps on earth and would now cost over $300 million. The US Army Corps of Engineers, farmers, and environmentalists have been arguing over the pumps for 75 years.
Flood waters north of Haining Road, Vicksburg (35mm Super-Takumar lens)
Trees north of Haining Road, Vicksburg (35mm Super-Takumar lens)
Big River Shipbuilders, 404 Port Terminal Cir, Vicksburg (35mm Super-Takumar)

Summary

This first roll of expired 135 Ektar 25 surprised me:

The good: some of the frames are superb, like the poster of Trump Finish the Pumps.

The bad: On many frames, the colors are definitely off. Blue was not recording correctly, and many scenes were too green. However, that is not completely unexpected because here in summer, there is so much forest and wetland, the green light bounces back down from the humid summer sky. I noted this many years ago when I started a roll of Kodachrome in Greece and finished it in Mississippi. The Greek scenes were quintessential blue and glowing with light; the Mississippi scenes were green and muted – same roll of film, same Leica and lenses. Regardless, I was able to partly correct most frames with the auto color correction function in Photoshop CS3.

Scanner issue: I scanned this Ektar 25 with a Plustek 7600i scanner controlled by Silverfast Ai software. The Ai does not have an Ektar 25 profile. The closest appears to be the Ektar 100 profile (the modern emulsion), so this may account for some of the color issues. But I am sure the Ektar 25 is just too old now. I corrected the color on some frames by using the neutral grey dropper on pavement, concrete, or metal roofing, but afterwards, I needed Photoshop CS3 for further correction.

Camera motion: I also experienced some camera movement, so I am not being quite stable enough when hand-holding. And I slightly mis-focussed the 35mm Super-Takumar several times. The old Spotmatic has a rather grainy finder screen. I have had excellent results from this 35mm lens before, so my copy is not damaged.

Grain: This Ektar 25 seemed to be coarser grain than I remember. Possibly something happens to the emulsion when it is old, but I am not sure. Maybe I am romantically remembering how fine-grain it was in the old days.

All in all, it was a fun experiment, but realistically I should concentrate my efforts on contemporary films, such as Ektar 100. This old Ektar 25 seemed lower contrast than when it was new, so I may try another roll in an environment with bright hard sun (such as my upcoming trip to the US southwest - Route 66, here I come again).

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Mid-state Mississippi Road Trip Part 3: Hazelhurst, Crystal Springs, Pattison

Dear Readers, this is the third installment of our mid-state Mississippi road trip. This time, we are approaching Interstate 55 from the east. I-55 approximately follows the much older US 51.

Beauregard

Shack or former store, Beauregard Rd., Beauregard (Kodak BW400CN film, Leica IIIC camera, Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens)
Victorian cottage, Elmore Street, Beauregard (note the white circle, a pinhole in the rubberized Leica IIIC shutter curtain)
Beauregard is a small town of only 326 in Copiah County. It is on old US 51, and likely had much more commercial traffic in the era before I-55 was built. I looked around the historic Beauregard Cemetery but did not take any pictures there. This cottage on Elmore Street must have been quite handsome in its day, as were a number of other older homes in the vicinity. 

Hazelhurst

Hwy 51, south end of Hazelhurst (Panatomic-X film, Fuji GW690II camera, yellow filter, ¼ sec f/8.0½)
207 Caldwell Drive, Hazelhurst (digital file)
Hazelhurst is the seat of Copiah Country and was first settled in 1819. The city is just off I-55 about 35 miles south of Jackson. I had never driven through town, just buzzed by on I-55. I assumed that it would be reasonably prosperous because of its proximity to the interstate, but what I saw on old Highway US 51 was pretty rough. The house in the photograph above was empty but clearly had been a nice home in the early-mid-20th century. The car title loan company occupying an old Pan American Petroleum & Transport Company station says a lot about the financial conditions in the town.
Pine Bluff Lodge 428, 11155 Dentville Rd., Hazelhurst (BW400CN film, Leica M2, 50mm f/2.0 Summicron-DR lens)
Templeton Grocery, 1011 Jack Rd., Hazelhurst (BW400CN film, Leica M2)
Templeton Grocery, 1010 Jack Rd., Hazelhurst (expired Kodak Ektar 25 film, Rolleiflex 3.5E with 75mm Xenotar lens) 
Some of the side roads in the area are pretty out-of-the-way. Dentville Road runs west-northwest out of Hazelhurst. About 13 miles west of Hazelhurst, an old grocery store occupies the junction with Jack Road. The store was closed but boarded up and not abandoned. I experimented with some expired Kodak Ektar 25 film in my Rolleiflex, but the film was well past its prime.

Crystal Springs

Wilson's Meat House, Crystal Springs (Panatomic-X film, Fuji GW690II camera)
On my 2019 trip, I was heading home, a bit disappointed with the day's photographic opportunities. But wait, a big cow on Hwy 51 just south of Crystal Springs. Just waiting for a portrait. It was too good to resist. I love scenes like this. I should do a cross-country expedition looking for cows, chickens, catfish, and what-not - folk art at its best.

Pattison

Store, MS 547 near White Hall Rd., Pattison (Kodak TMax 100 film, Olympus Trip 35 camera)
Store, MS 547 near White Hall Rd., Pattison (Kodak TMax 100 film, Olympus Trip 35 camera)
House on Lopiah Rd., Pattison (Kodak TMax 100 film, Olympus Trip 35 camera) 
In 2017, my wife and I drove home through the center of the state via Hwy 547. We passed through Pattison, a quiet and rather sad little town. It was probably more prosperous 50 years ago.

This ends out mid-state road trip. I have written about other small towns further north, such as UticaEdwards, Learned, and Bolton.

Most of the photographs above are from film cameras. The house in Hazelhurst and the cow portrait are from Kodak's long-discontinued Panatomic-X film taken with my Texas Leica. Many of the others are from BW400CN film taken with Leica M2 and IIIC cameras with various lenses.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Mid-state Mississippi Road Trip Part 2: Pinola, New Hebron, Silver Creek, Georgetown, and More

Dear Readers, we continue our meandering mid-Mississippi road trip (done over two years, 2018 and 2019).

Pinola

Farm house, 677 Old Westville Road, Pinola (Kodak BW400CN film, Leica M2, 35 mm f/2.0 Summicron lens
This little house was at the corner of Westville Road and Hwy 28. A small town called Westville (one of Mississippi's ghost towns) was once located a few miles south along Westville Road, but only the historic cemetery remains now.
Jail, Johnny Bush Drive, Pinola
Historic school, 104 Johnny Bush Drive, Pinola
Pinola is an unincorporated community in Simpson County. It has some historical buildings including the oldest jail in Mississippi(?). Maybe I misread the sign. Regardless, it is the little wood building in the middle picture.
Closed gasoline station, Hwy 28, Pinola
S&W Grocery & Deli in 2018, 2248 Hwy 28, Pinola (closed permanently?)
It was a Sunday in 2018 when I drove through Pinola and not much was open. Quite by chance, I saw cars at the S&W Grocery & Deli on Hwy 28. The church crowd was there for Sunday luncheon. I joined them and had an excellent lunch. The folks were very friendly and seemed surprised that a tourist was exploring and taking pictures. A little mouse scampered along the baseboard with minimal concern that humans were present. But when I intended to return in 2019, I learned that the S&W was permanently closed.

Georgetown

Historic house, Hwy 28, Georgetown (BW400CN film, Leica M2, 50mm f/2.0 Summicron-DR, yellow filter)
Cottage (occupied?), Hwy 28, Georgetown
Georgetown is a little town (pop. 286) in Copiah County. There was not much to see, but these little cottages caught my eye.

New Hebron

Franklin St., New Hebron (Panatomic-X film, Fuji GW690II camera, green filter, ¼ sec f/11)
South of Pinola is the nice little town of New Hebron. I have been here before many years ago. It was Sunday and the churches were busy in the morning. This old snack shop/stand was on Franklin Street. I need to return and explore again.

Silver Creek

Fortenberry's Service Center, 3240 Southern Ave., Silver Creek (digital file)
Shop, 1245 N A Sandifer Highway, Silver Creek (Panatomic-X film, green filter)
Mechanic shop, 1245 N A Sandifer Hwy, Silver Creek (Panatomic-X film, 1 min f/11)
Silver Creek is a small town just off the main east-west US 84, which passes through south Mississippi. I did not see much of interest in the main part of town other than a classic filling station. But just to the west, I stopped at an old mechanic shop on the oddly-named N A Sandifer Highway. The inside was a wonderful conglomeration of metal parts, cobwebs, bicycles, and soft filtered light. This exposure was 1 minute at f/11. I exposed at 4 times the incident light meter reading to allow for reciprocity failure (film becomes less and less sensitive at longer exposures, so you need to add time to the light meter's reading). (Click the picture to see detail.)

Sontag

Cottage, Sontag-Nola Road (Kodak BW400CN film, Leica IIIC, Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens)
Porch detail, Sontag-Nola Road
Cottage, Sontag-Nola Road
Sontag is an unincorporated community in Lawrence County. I came across a number of abandoned cottages and buildings. I expect that this area, like many other rural areas around the United States, has lost population as people moved to cities for more job opportunities. There is still farming in central Mississippi, but it needs much less labor than decades ago.

This ends the second installment of the mid-state tour. Most of the photographs are from Kodak BW400CN film exposed with Leica M2 and Leica IIIC cameras. The New Hebron and Silver Creek frames are from the fantastic Kodak Panatomic-X film, exposed with the "Texas Leica" (a Fuji GW690II medium format camera). 

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Mid-state Mississippi Road Trip Part 1: Raleigh, Mize, Magee, Mendenhall, and Florence

Introduction

Central Mississippi is out of my usual exploration area. I suppose I do not get out enough. Therefore, in conjunction with driving my wife to the airport, I have made an effort in the last couple of years to explore south of Interstate 20 and south of Jackson. This is an area of gentle rolling hills, farmland, forest, and small towns. We will take a gentle swing heading south from Jackson, then west, and then back to Vicksburg. There is a wealth of photographic subject matter. I will break up this impromptu tour into three blog articles. Also, the tour is a conglomerate of two years exploring, so it is not exactly one big circle route.

Florence

3011 Hwy 49, Florence, (April 14, 2019, Panatomic-X film, Fuji GW690II camera, 90mm lens, ½ sec f/11)
In 2019, I drove south on Hwy 49. Usually, I just rush through Florence in a hurry en route to Hattiesburg or somewhere else. Seen from 49, it consists of fast food shops and gas stations - totally dull and horrifying in an American strip-mall way. Ah ha, an interesting shop. A gent was cleaning and we chatted. He said it was once a mechanic shop, but it now sells antiques. (Click the photograph to see detail at 2400 pixels wide).

Brandon


Unused cottage, Brandon, Mississippi (Leica M2, 50mm Summicron-DR, green filter, Kodak BW400CN film)
On my 2018 trip, I drove south on Rte 18 from Brandon, which is now largely a suburb of Jackson. Heading south on Rte 18, I saw an abandoned cottage in the woods. Otherwise, not much caught my eye.

Raleigh

Gasoline pumps, Raleigh Food Center, Hwy 35, Raleigh
Raleigh is at the south end of the Bienville National Forest. I assume the town was once heavily involved with forest products. I did not see much that was photogenic.

Mize

Faithway MB Church, Maple Street, Mize (50mm f/2.0 Summicron-DR, green filter)
Mize is a pretty little town with a couple of handsome churches. The railroad went right through town, as it did for almost all small towns in the early 1900s.

Magee

1st Ave. NE, Magee (50mm, polarizer)
Hotel site, Hwy 49 north of Magee (50mm f/2.0 Summicron-DR, green filter)
Magee looked reasonably prosperous, and several blocks of turn of the century commercial buildings attest to its being an important commercial center decades (or a century) ago. Somewhere between Magee and D'Lo, I found an old drive-in theater almost engulfed by the woods. Unfortunately, there was no way to photograph the screen, and I think the projection booth hut was gone. A trucking company may have owned the land.

Mendenhall

Big Smitty's, Hwy 149, Mendenhall
Main Street, Mendenhall (Leica M2, 50mm Summicron-DR lens, polarizing filter to emphasize sky) 
Mendenhall tracks, view west from Main Street crossing (50mm f/2.0 Summicron-DR, polarizer) 

Mendenhall Grocary & grain, Main Street, Mendenhall
Maain Street, Mendenhall (50mm f/2.0 Summicron-DR, polarizer)
Mendenhall, about 25 miles south of Jackson, is the seat of Simpson County. The handsome courthouse dates from 1908 and occupies a prominent spot on a hill at the top of Main Street. It is a nice little town, but the stores on Main Street are now largely empty.

Many years ago, the Mendenhall Hotel was famous for its southern cuisine served via lazy Susan turntables. It was featured in the 1977 edition of Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern. We had the book and meant to try out the Mendenhall Hotel but never passed through the area at the right time of day.
Star Theater, Main Street, Mendenhall in 1990 (no longer extant). (Kodachrome slide, 35mm f/2.8 Olympus Zuiko Shift lens.)
I was lucky to photograph the Star Theater (opened in 1938) on Main Street in 1990. But when I looked for it on my 2019 trip, it was gone. According to Wikipdia:
"During the late 1960s, the Star Theatre had problems with vandalism and growing racial tensions among its young patrons who objected to maintaining segregation. Under Jim Crow customs, black customers were required to sit in the segregated balcony and wanted this changed after national legislation to end such practices.
In October 1979, a newly remodeled and fully integrated Star Theatre reopened under the ownership of Danny Collins, a young local entrepreneur. Its first movie was the Chuck Norris film A Force of One. The theatre enjoyed revived popularity until competition from video arcades and cable TV forced Collins to close some three years later. 
The theatre was repainted when used as a location for the film My Dog Skip. Heavy rains caused the roof to collapse in April 2008. The theatre burned down in 2016."
This ends Part 1 of our informal tour of mid-Mississippi. In the next installment, we will proceed west to Pinola and other small towns.

For the Florence photograph of the old store, I used Panatomic-X film in my Fuji GW690II, the "Texas Leica."  Some good news: I bought 6 more rolls of the 120-size film from the same eBay seller who sold me my present stock in 2003. In effect, I have paid him to store the film in his freezer for a decade and a half. Fortunately, slow speed black and white film, when kept cold, is usable decades after its official expiration date. But color films do not last as well, as my experience with expired Ektar 25 demonstrated.

The other photographs are from Kodak BW400CN film taken with my Leica M2 camera with 50mm and 35mm Summicron lenses.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Another visit to the Farmers' Market in Vrahati, Greece (with Ektar 100 film)

Whenever I travel anywhere, I try to check out local markets. My brother-in-law took me to the farmers' market in Vrahati, near Corinth, in the Peloponnese region of Greece. We have been here before, but this time I had a film camera (my little Yashica Electro 35CC) and, of course, I could not resist. The light was glarey and unforgiving, but the automatic exposure system in the little Yashica handled the conditions well.
Map from ESRI ArcGIS software
The market is set up on streets in town. I am not sure if the stands are here every day of the week or if the vendors need to take their umbrellas and tables away on certain days. Parking is a real mess - typical Greek village.
Most shoppers buy vegetables and fruit. I did not see as many vendors this time with inexpensive plastic goods, utensils, and clothing as I did in 2008. Then, I saw more Roma and Albanians selling miscellaneous inexpensive goods, but maybe they have moved on.
 The fish looked good. Some is locally caught, some comes in frozen from the Atlantic Ocean.
The tomatoes are locally grown in the rich soil of the Peloponnese. All the vegetables here taste like they are supposed to.

I have written before about other markets. If you are interested, type "market" in the search box, or try the words Athens, Kathmandu, or Rangoon.

I took all these photographs with Kodak Ektar 100 film in my little Yashica Electro 35CC camera with its fixed 35mm f/1.8 lens. The color balance tended towards red because of the many orange umbrella covers. Better color balance is one big advantage of digital capture, but I still derive more reward from film.