Thursday, December 16, 2021

Wandering around Upper Clay Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Clay Street view west (Panatomic-X film, Hasselblad 250mm Sonnar lens, 1/15 ƒ/8.0½)

Clay Street is the major east-west road through Vicksburg. Before Interstate 20 (I-20) was completed in the early 1970s, US 80 came into town on Clay Street. A driver heading west would drive on Clay to downtown, turn left on Washington Street, and drive south to the old Mississippi River bridge.

I label the part of Clay Street just west of the Vicksburg National Military Park as upper Clay, while the area downtown near the Yazoo Canal is lower Clay. Here we will look at some scenes in upper Clay. Decades ago, private homes lined the street, but now it is strip America of the ugliest sort. You car, tire, and muffler repair shops, check-cashing and title-loan places, a few real estate offices, abandoned buildings, a dead A&P super market, derelict historic homes, and fast food emporiums. Empty lots show where houses once stood. A former resident labeled this "the ugliest street in America." Well, maybe not the ugliest, but certainly a contender. 

The Eastview Apartments, situated between Clay Street and Baldwin Ferry Road, are low income housing subsidized by the federal government via HUD (Housing and Urban Development). They are unusual construction, being suspended between telephone poles that were driven into the ground on the steep hillside. It was a practical solution compared to grading flat terraces and pouring concrete slabs. 

Eastview Apartments with Stouts Bayou in foreground (Panatomic-X film, Hasselblad, 50mm ƒ/4 Distagon lens, green filter)

Stouts Bayou flows under Clay Street through some form of culvert or tunnel because it emerges out of the hillside below the Eastview Apartments. This is kudzu jungle. It needs a cleanup by goats.

Warfield's ServiceCenter, at 2910½ Clay Street, has served customers for over 30 years. Good people.

One of the nondescript street running into Clay Street from the north is Hope Street. The proprietor at A & V Discount Tobacco & Beer generously let me take a photograph.

The long-unused Parkview Regional Medical Center building looms over the area north of Clay Street. It has been vacant since 2002, except for homeless who occasionally find ways to enter.

Mercy Hospital, Grove St. (Kodak Super-XX film, Tachihara 4×5" camera, 90mm ƒ/6.8 Angulon lens)

The Sisters of Mercy, who have a long history of care in this town, originally built Mercy Hospital in 1957. The present owners have tried to sell it but with no results. Who wants an obsolete hospital building considering the cost to renovate and upgrade electricity, exits, stairwells, and utilities? Externally, it looks intact, but I do not have information on the roof or the interior. 

When I took photographs in the parking lot in the rear, the neighbors came by and said they watch for vagrants. The police come, clear away the homeless, and then they return later.

Further west is a short segment of Crawford Street. This is not the main Crawford Street downtown but a short detached section running directly next to Stouts Bayou. The houses are on the south side of the road and have access via wood bridges. I photographed more of the Crawford Street region during my tour of neglected Vicksburg houses (Nov. 16, 2020 article).

1517 Main Street (Panatomic-X film, Hasselblad 501CM camera, 80mm lens, 1/8 sec. ƒ/8.0½)

Main Street is one of Vicksburg's historic streets. It is still lined with old houses, but one by one, they have been condemned and demolished. This house at 1517 looks pretty good, and I do not know its issues.

This ends our short tour of upper Clay Street. Standby for more Vicksburg photographs soon. Thank you all for riding along.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Treasure: a Real Camera Store in Carrboro, North Carolina

Southeastern Camera, Carrboro, North Carolina

For all of you film photographers, here is a treasure in Carrboro, North Carolina: Southeastern Camera. Walk in, and a visual delight of cameras, film, tripods, bags, photographic detritus, and stuff awaits you. 

Old timers like me remember when every town and city had at least one camera store. Some were well-equipped, while others mostly provided film and print processing. But regardless, you could step into one and buy film and, often, some sort of hardware. The digital tsunami of the 2000-2010 era eliminated most of these stores. Internet commerce, and especially eBay (ePrey), killed off most of the survivors. Typically, only major cities like New York or Los Angeles had enough customer base for physical camera stores to survive. 

Bodies and lenses? Just rummage and select.
Broken body for parts or repair? Just look around.
Some of these probably work

I saw a large number of classic 1970s bodies, like Pentax Spotmatics and Minoltas, in the bins. Many of these probably work but may need adjustment.

Off-brand zoom lenses. Some may be all right, but many were poor even when new.

In the 1970s and 1980s, various companies sold millions of zoom lenses, often covering 80 to 200mm in focal length. Many were mediocre optical quality. Amateurs often bought one of these in a kit along with their body, prime focal length lens from the camera manufacturer, braided banjo-style neck strap ("for comfort"), and, of course, "protection" filters for those "valuable camera lenses." The protection filter scam has lingered into the digital era. They are aimed at those rugged photographers who riding camels in the Sahara Desert or crossing the Antarctic on snowmobiles, taking pictures all the way.

Enlargers and film scanners.

In the early 2000s, photographers scrapped millions of optical darkroom enlargers. Now that are popular again. Nikon, Minolta, Hasselblad and others made film scanners in the early 2000s. They were discontinued and are now old, unreliable, and unrepairable electronic devices. The units in good operating condition sell for serious $$$s.

Film, real film!

Southeastern stocks all types of film, some of which is in a refrigerated case. I assume some of the customers are students at nearby University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. 

Sample photograph from the 35mm Leitz Summaron lens (Kodak BW400CN film)

When I stopped by in late-October, Southeastern had a beautiful little Leitz 35mm Summaron lens in thread mount for my Leica IIIC. It was $450, and I reluctantly (barely) passed. They had at least one Hasselblad, many Nikons, and a functioning Rollie 3003. I found a brand new Nikon cable release with the wide tip that fits my Leica, so I gave them some commerce. 

Summary: friendly employees and great stock. It's great to see a traditional camera store again. (Thank you SE Camera for letting me take some photographs in your store).

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Levee Street Railroad Yard, Vicksburg, Mississippi

The Kansas City Southern rail yard on Levee Street usually has interesting patterns, shapes, and textures to photograph. Long-term readers know that I have photographed here many times before, but I usually find new material when I explore. Nowadays, it is a rare treat to walk next to or within a rail yard that is not fenced off with security razor wire. The two big rail yards in Jackson are off-limits. 

Fairground Street Bridge, closed since the early 1990s

The rail yard is much quieter than it was before the 2011 Mississippi River flood. I do not know where all the rolling stock went. For older articles on Levee Street:

These photographs are from Kodak Ektar 100 film. I used a venerable Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic camera. Most of the rail yard photos are with my 135mm ƒ/3.5 lens, an inexpensive optic in its day but excellent mechanical and optical quality. Northeast Photographic in Maine developed the film and scanned the negatives with a Noritsu system. I reduced the saturation with Photoshop CS6 software.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Fading: the Volkswagen Disposal Yard, Raymond, Mississippi

Please, give me some love
In mid-September, I drove by the Volkswagen Disposal Yard (where old VWs go to be dismantled or rebuilt) at 10987 Hwy 467, a few miles west of Raymond, Mississippi. I had been there before when it was active. But now it is sad. I saw far fewer hulks than in previous years. I walked to the trailer on the property, and a cheerful lady came out to talk. She said her brother once repaired the cars, but he was sick and had just returned from the hospital. She asked me if I wanted all the old Beatles. I could have them that day! Please, take them away. (I decided to pass....)

Ten years ago, this field was just covered with Beatles, a few Golfs, and a smattering of other models such as a Type 411. I do not remember seeing any busses, but he probably repaired them, as well.

The nice lady said there were more cars in the forest (jungle) behind the trailer. Yes, indeed, there were a mess of relicts back in there. 

The little station wagon was the Type 3 Volkswagen, known in the US market as a Squareback and in Europe as the Variant. My dad bought one of these when we lived in Turkey in 1965. We later shipped it to USA, and I ended up with the car in undergraduate school. The flat rear-mounted engine was only 1500 cc and put out about 55 horsepower, which was inadequate for US freeways. Top speed was about 65 mph. But it was excellent on mountain dirt roads, and I could sleep in the back. 

Sadly, all of these cars look to be beyond repair or rebuilding. Long-term readers may remember that I visited a Volkswagen yard in Moab, Utah, with many examples in much better shape (click the link).

These photographs are from Kodak Ektar 100 film, exposed via a Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic camera with 28mm and 35mm lenses. I used a tripod for all frames. Northeast Photographic scanned the negatives with a Noritsu system. The colors in the scans were too vibrant, and I reduced the saturation with Photoshop CS6 software.

Monday, November 22, 2021

2021 Mid-State Road Trip - Central Mississippi (Hopewell and Crystal Springs)

Last May, mid-COVID, I was bored, restless, and grumpy. My wife and I had not been far afield in over two years. Walking and bicycling were getting boring. It was time for another road trip to central Mississippi.


Harris Carmichael Store, MS 27 (50mm ƒ/2 Summicron-DR lens)
Porch at Harris Carmichael Store

The Harris Carmichael Store is on Hwy. 27 near Utica. Mr. Carmichael died in 2005, and I do not know if the store operated after that date. It is is good condition, so someone maintains the property.

Hopewell and Vicinity

I had driven on Hopewell Road before while driving from Mendenhall to Crystal Springs. I saw some old buildings that were worth another visit. I returned on May 20 with Royal Gold 25 film in my Leica and looked around. The unincorporated community of Hopewell, in Copiah County, is pretty quiet.

House, Tillson Road off MS27, Crystal Spring (35mm ƒ/2 Summicron lens) 
Fixer-upper house, 1148 Hopewell Road, Hopewell (25mm ƒ/4 Color-Skopar lens)
Fixer-upper house, 1162 Hopewell Road, Hopewell (25mm ƒ/4 Color-Skopar lens)
Fixer-upper, Hopewell Road, Hopewell 
Come on, give me some tender loving care, Old River Road, Hopewell
The red door, Hopewell Road (1/2 sec. ƒ/11, 50mm Summicron-DR lens)
Where is my VCR? Hopewell Road near MS 27, Crystal Springs (1/8 ƒ/16, 50mm Summicron)
How do you really think? Hopewell Road near MS 27, Crystal Springs (50mm Summicron)

These are negatives from the long-discontinued Kodak Royal Gold 25 film. I knew that it had been frozen since new and felt confident that it would be viable. I exposed it at Exposure Index (EI) = 16 in my Leica M2 camera. For many frames, I used my Leitz 50mm ƒ/2 Summicron-DR lens and tripod-mounted the camera. This was the Type 2 Summicron from the 1960s, a superb optic that many film photographers still use. I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner operated with Silverfast Ai software.

My previous experiments with Ektar 25 film, which was the same emulsion, were less successful, most likely because the Ektar was even older. For current use, buy the modern Ektar 100 film.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Return to the Dead Car Wash, Robinson Road, West Jackson

A few months ago, I wrote about an abandoned car wash at 4420 Robinson Road in Jackson (near the semi-unused Metrocenter Mall). The paint was imaginative, but it looked like a suitable topic for black and white film, as well. Without further ado, here it is, a monochrome visual treat for the eyes.

Across the street is an old pizza restaurant and a closed Shell gasoline station. I recall buying fuel there because it was a bit cheaper there than at many other outlets. But now - a gas station that could not make a profit? 

These are 4×5" Super-XX frames from my Tachihara 4×5" wood camera. I took the two of the car wash with a tiny little 90mm ƒ/6.8 Angulon lens. 

We will have more Jackson photographs in the future. Can't you wait?

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Abandoned House on MS 27, Vicksburg, Mississippi

In early 2021, a friend told me about his grandmother's country store on MS Highway 27 somewhere northwest of Utica. I did not find it initially, but came across another abandoned house with an address of 6494. It was accessible because the power company had trimmed the trees and brush under the power lines. 

There is nothing too special about this house; it is an example of a modest domicile of the type built in large numbers in the early 20th century. It still had siding of asphalt shingles, similar to roof shingles. This was common on mid-income housing, and I recall seeing many triple-decker apartments in Medford and Chelsea, Massachusetts, with this type of shingle exterior.

The first photograph is from Kodak Panatomic-X film in a Hasselblad with 50mm ƒ/4 Distagon lens. The two lower photographs are 4×5"Tri-X negatives using a 90mm ƒ/6.8 Angulon lens.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Railroad Town: Skykomish, Washington

Undated photograph, approx. 1920s, from

Skykomish, a historic railroad town, is on the first flat terrain west of Stevens Pass in the North Cascades in Washington State. The town had a raucous railroad and mining history. From

Skykomish, known affectionately by railway employees, rail fans and it's citizens as "Sky" got its start in life from the Great Northern Railway. In 1889, James J. Hill (the Empire Builder) decided to extend his railroad from Montana all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Mr. Hill hired John F. Stevens, famed as the builder of the Panama Canal and his work with the China-Trans Siberian Railroad, to determine the exact route of the railroad.

After discovering Maria’s Pass in Montana Mr. Stevens continued west to Spokane and the Columbia River. Crossing the Cascade Mountain Range they settled on building the railway through the pass that now bears his name.

John Maloney was hired to help survey and design the railroad and was advised to develop a homestead seventeen miles east of Steven’s Pass, in an area called the “flat spot”.

Later, during the construction of the railroad in 1892, the soon to be town, was called “Maloney's Siding”. The depot was a boxcar sidetracked for this purpose. After completion of the railroad in 1893 a post office was established and the town became known as “Skykomish”. The town was platted in 1899 and it was incorporated on June 5, 1909. Mr. Maloney built a store to supply the needs of railroad men.
The town contained a roundhouse, shops, coal yard, and switching equipment. In 1927, the Great Northern started to use electric locomotives to pull the trains through the Stevens Pass tunnel. At first, I was perplexed why the railroad switched to electric. Maintaining electric pylons and overhead lines in the hahsh winter climate must have been a maintenance challenge. Then I read that the issue was ventilation and smoke in the tunnel. Railroad companies had learned that the fumes from coal locomotives could be deadly in tunnels, especially if the train was forced to stop. Eventually, ventilation was installed in the Stevens Pass tunnel and today, diesel locomotives provide the traction for goods trains. There are no electric pylons now.

Skykomish is quiet nowadays. Route 2 bypasses the town to the north across the South Fork of the Skykomish River. Most travelers rush past the turnoff. This the same US 2 that will take you to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and then, via another segment, to New Hampshire and Maine. I do not remember stopping in Skykomish in the 1970s when I lived in Washington.

 BNSF trains thunder through town, but the shops and depot are gone.

A young couple owns the historic Skykomish Hotel on East Railroad Avenue (click the link to read the long sordid history). The lady runs the Sky River Coffee shop, and the gent is repairing and overhauling the building with intent of opening vacation rentals. The hotel was formerly on the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation "Most Endangered Places" list.  

Many of the historic buildings in town have burned. This is the architectural fate in so many older towns throughout the country.

The 1922-vintage Cascadia Inn Cafe & Lounge is open for business. Railroad view and train noises.

This was our short tour of Skykomish. Stop the next time your drive though the north Cascades on US 2 and grab a coffee at the Sky River.

The photographs are from a Fuji X-E1 digital camera.