|Homerville, OH Post Office, Svema FN-64|
It's been a couple of weeks since I returned home, and I am finally caught up with developing and scanning of the film from my trip. I am pretty happy with the 18 rolls that I shot, and as I have been scanning them, it's given me time to evaluate where I shot and my results from the different films and lenses. One of the constraints imposed on myself was of course, the use of fully manual cameras, and not my typical Nikons. The three Spotmatics - two SP - one silver, one black, and the Spotmatic F, each worked well, and at any time where I felt that the metering wasn't quite right, I reverted to my own intuition/sunny-16 to override the camera's indication. In all, almost all of my exposures were where they should have been, and the Takumar lenses performed beautifully.
My favorite combo was the black Spotmatic SP with the 35mm f/3.5 Takumar lens. I rarely used a different lens with that body, and it's made a believer of me that 35mm is a great all-purpose travel focal length. This trip was also the first time that I used a Spotmatic exclusively on a road trip since 1980. My photographic skill set is much improved since then, as is my appreciation for the place that photography has in documenting the ephemeral. In 1980, I was a 23-year old graduate student using a borrowed Spotmatic for my thesis work, and on a field trip to the SW US. Now, I'm a 65 year old retiree that's looking backwards on these road trips, knowing what's been lost as I travel forward. The Spotmatics that I used are basic photographic tools - had I made such a trip in 1974, the Spotmatic F would have been the latest model, and the last, as Pentax moved to the K-mount series of SLRs. Now, the Spotmatic F is considered to be an old classic, not on par with a Nikon FE, but more like a Nikon FM. However, as I found on this trip, once you immerse yourself with a specific set of gear, you get comfortable with its operation and abilities, and it becomes effortless to use. To me, that's the hallmark of good ergonomics and design. The Spotmatics are not quirky to use, they work smoothly, and don't get in the way of making a photograph. Also, it was a revelation to me at just how good that 35mm f/3.5 Takumar lens is at street/documentary images. For the longest time, I have thought that the 50mm was "it." I still like 50mm for a lot of things, but as I found with my Leica M2 and the 35mm f/1.4 Summilux, that slightly wider view is better suited for travel and roadside adventures.
|close-up of the gull slide, Tawas, MI|
I didn't shoot too many different film stocks on this trip - Eastman 5231 (thanks, Bill P!), Kentmere 100, Kentmere 400, Ilford HP-5+, oh, and my last roll of Svema FN-64 that I had already loaded in my new-to-me black Spotmatic SP that I had purchased at Ball Photo not long before the trip. It was C-41 only in the Spotmatic F, and the roll of Lomography Color 100 was a nice surprise in how it rendered colors. Also, a probably expired roll of Rite-Aid 400 (shot at 200) was lovely - maybe it was Agfa? My results from Fuji 200 and Kodak Gold 200 were as expected. I think my favorite emulsion on this trip was Ilford HP-5, which I used a lot for the candids at Photostock, and they came out beautifully. I know there are a lot of photographers that swear by Kodak Tri-X, and I have certainly shot it a great deal in the past -- but I love Ilford's HP-5+ and Kentmere 400 so much more. That's the beauty of film, though - you can find an emulsion that suits your style, regardless of the type of camera or system that you use. Whether it's a 1950s Leica or a 2000s Canon EOS or Nikon FM3a, you can get the kind of image you want just by changing the film. These simple cameras like the Spotmatics do one thing really well - an uncomplicated view, a reasonable set of shutter speeds, and a variety of excellent lenses, to let a photographer really "see" and produce an image that is made as much in the mind as it is on the piece of film. I never once worried about my battery life while traveling with the Spotmatics. To me, that IS freedom.
|Part of US-23 in Michigan - the best part!|
As I have been transferring what I wrote in my journal onto typed pages, I gathered together the maps that I used to trace my route, and it's far more illuminating than trying to see it on a computer screen. I love using Google Earth to see where I was, and also to check things out ahead of a trip, but you can't possibly see a trip like this in its entirety at a comprehendible level on a single screen. Laying out the road maps, seeing the relationship of the route with other features and in context with a greater area, gives more understanding to the 2,241 miles that I traveled in 8 days. This intersection of digital and analog involves not just photography, but also cartography and writing. As I have often stated, a paper map doesn't tell you where you are, it shows you where you can go. On that small screen of the Garmin GPS attached to my windshield, I can see where I am, but it's not showing me the possibilities that a paper map gives me.
|Not far from where 23 ends at I-75 in Mackinaw City|
|Port of Cheboygan, MI|
|Cross Village, MI|
|US-31, N of Petoskey, MI|
That is part of the fun of doing these trips - encountering the unknown and the unexpected. Part of my reason for taking US-23 was just that -- the unknown. It took me through the coal regions of KY, WV, VA, and the Ohio river valley, the flat expanses of agriculture in Ohio, and up into the beauty of the lakeshore in Michigan. If you truly want to see America, you need to drive it. US-23 is one of the original 1929 US routes, and whether you pick the Lincoln Highway, Route 1, Route 2, Route 11, the remnants of Route 66, or some other secondary road (not the Interstates), you'll see more of every day America and can make your own conclusions. My next goal is to take US-23 all the way to Jacksonville, FL and document that trip. Maybe it will be with Spotmatics for Takumar Trek II!
I shot a lot - and some images are reserved for ongoing projects, some for an upcoming zine or book, and I'll show a few more here. Check my Flickr account (mfophotos) for more.