Book Review
Exceptional Ordinary
Jim Grey

I’m guessing that most people buying this book do so because of an interest in old cameras. Or an interest in film photography. Or an interest in photography as art. Those are all reasons that I bought it but none of them is the primary reason. Or even the secondary reason. It might seem a little crude to admit it but my number one reason for buying Exceptional Ordinary was that I know the author. The number two reason was curiosity. Old cameras, film photography, and art were reasons three, four, and five for the purchase but turned into my top reasons for enjoying it.

Knowing the author really needs no explanation as a reason for buying the book. We all buy things from friends and relatives simply because they are friends and relatives. I first met Jim through a mutual interest in historic roads then learned we also had mutual, but not quite identical, interests in cars and photography. That we both blog probably helped; That we’ve both been involved in software development maybe not.

Buying the book out of curiosity might not be so easily understood. In my limited experience, print on demand photo books were either really expensive or really crappy. By going with a “magazine” format and keeping the page count down, Jim had kept his book from being expensive. I wanted to see if it was crappy.

It’s not. The photos are crisp and the colors look right on the semi-gloss pages. I don’t doubt that offset printing with an expert spending some time on color matching could produce something better but it might not be much better and I — and maybe you, too — might not know the difference. Construction and general quality seems good and the book was nicely sealed and packaged when it arrived.

So Blurb, the company doing the printing and order fulfillment, did their part of the job properly. What about Jim’s contribution? There are thirty photos in the book plus an un-cropped (or less-cropped) version of the cover image and a small photo of the author. Each of the thirty main photos is accompanied by a paragraph or two describing the picture and something about its creation. Sometimes the picture gets a page all to itself with text on the opposing page and sometimes picture and text share a page. No page has more than one photo. The lens and film are always identified. More often than not, the text will include what it is that Jim likes about the picture. In other words, why it’s in the book. There seems to be a roughly even mix between color and B & W. Subjects range from buildings to people and from automobile trim to pets. Surroundings range from sunlit outside spaces to dark interiors to midways at night. It’s really quite the sampler and every image is worthy of study. Jim also did his job properly.

I know that part of what Jim wanted to accomplish with this book was to satisfy his own curiosity about publishing one. A more general goal was to show that art can be produced while having fun and that high priced gear isn’t required.

The book’s subtitle is “Everyday Photography with the Pentax ME”. The reason that only lens and film need be identified for each picture is that the Pentax ME is used exclusively. Jim talks about the camera in a short introduction and explains that, while quite capable, the ME is usually overshadowed by the better known Pentax K1000 along with some other popular 35mm SLRs. As a result, the ME can often be found for under $50 which not only gets you a very good camera but includes access to a large selection of extremely good lenses. Jim put this very ordinary equipment to work producing some exceptional images. Goal accomplished.

The book can be previewed and purchased here.

Jim’s blog, which is typically but not exclusively about photography, is here.

Exceptional Ordinary, Jim Grey, Published via Blurb (March 21, 2017), 11 x 8.5 inches, 44 pages, ISBN 978-1366200280

Trip Peek #35
Trip #61
Sweetheart Cruise ’08

pv44This picture is from my 2008 Sweetheart Cruise trip. This was my first time joining the annual (weather and other stuff permitting) cruise organized by a small group of Missouri road fans. The name comes from its proximity to Valentines Day and the fact that it usually includes sweethearts Kent and Mary Sue Sanderson. This particular cruise ran north along the Mississippi River from St. Louis to Hannibal then crossed over and returned through Illinois at some distance from the river. There were lots of bald eagles and pelicans to be seen on the way to Hannibal with the area around Lock 25 near Winfield, MO, where the picture was taken, being one of the hot spots. The second day featured some Sanderson childhood memories including a look (from the outside) at the Lustron house that Mary Sue remembered her father assembling after it arrived on a truck. Weather was fine for the two days of the actual cruise but I did encounter snow on the way home which prompted me to move from two-lane to expressway much sooner than planned.

Two aspects of this trip, one good and one bad, were photo related. On the good side was the move to posting 800 x 600 pixel photos after more than eight years of sticking with 640 x 480. On the bad side was the failure of a memory card containing lots of snowy National Road pictures on the third day. I’m sure they would have looked marvelous in the new larger format.


Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

Book Review
Fading Ads of Cincinnati
Ronny Salerno

faoc_cvrBuying local is a good thing and so is reading local. I was able to combine the two recently. November 30 was the official release date for a new book about Cincinnati and in the early evening its author made the book and his signature available at a downtown location that appears between its covers. The book was Fading Ads of Cincinnati, the author Ronny Salerno, and the location Igby’s Bar inside a building with a fading “TWINE PAPER” painted on its side. Those two dim words are typical of the fading ads that are the book’s subject.  How could I not?

Although this was my first time meeting Salerno, I knew the name. I first spotted it on some photographs in a small exhibit near downtown Cincinnati a few years back. I wasn’t clever enough to find his wonderful Queen City Discovery blog from that prompt but I did find it eventually and I’ve followed it for some time now. Salerno loves taking photographs and he’s really good at it. He especially loves taking pictures of old abandoned buildings with a story. A third love is also apparent in that blog: the city of Cincinnati. He brings all three loves to Fading Ads of Cincinnati.

The book is the latest in the Fading Ads of… series published by History Press. About the only reference to a publisher I’ve made in past reviews is an identification at the end. Saying a bit more seems appropriate here. Until last year, the USA’s History Press Inc. was part of the UK’s History Press Ltd. It was acquired by Arcadia Publishing in the middle of 2014. All of those entities deal with local and regional topics and often use something of a formula approach. Although it is not all they do, Arcadia is probably best known for their sepia-toned Images of America books. As hinted at by the title, these books are filled with images most of which are historical. The images are selected and described by local experts who typically also provide several pages of introductory text at the book’s beginning. More often than not, these experts are not just knowledgeable but have a personal attachment and attraction to the subject. Saying that most love what they write about would not be wrong. History Press publications tend to be wordier and, although historical images are sometimes used, include plenty of modern color photos. But, just like those Arcadia books, History Press books rely on local experts for their creation and, just like those Arcadia book writers, these experts are often in love with their subjects, too. Kind of sounds like Ronny Salerno, doesn’t it?

Salerno is a good match for the Fading Ads… series. Before reading the book it had actually occurred to me that he might have had every subject identified and many photographed long before he even took on the job. That wasn’t quite the case, however. He was naturally familiar with many of the area’s old signs but not all. He conferred with other “sign hunters” and got tips from friends but he also found his own senses sharpening as he strolled through both unfamiliar and familiar neighborhoods. The result is nearly one hundred new color photos of mostly — but not entirely — old stuff. There are also several historical photos from places like the Library of Congress.

faoc_int1The photos aren’t left to stand alone. Captions describe each of them, of course, and many get multiple paragraphs of attention. Salerno has been successful in digging up many of the signs’ histories with some of the best stories coming from signs identifying local or regional companies that are no longer with us. Names like Shillito’s and Brendamour’s will be recognized by many Cincinnatians and probably some others as well. Out-of-towners might not be familiar with local landmarks like Davis Furniture (“The Friendly Store”) or the Dennison Hotel (“105 Rooms – 60 baths”) but they are exactly what I and some other locals think of when we think of “fading ads” or the more common “ghost signs”.

faoc_int2Salerno brings up the phrase “ghost signs” in the introduction and says people often thought he was writing about the supernatural when he used the term. “Fading advertisements”, he says, doesn’t have that problem. Fair enough but it’s just possible that his position also has something to do with the book’s predetermined title. “Ghost sign” slips into the book a time or two and in the final chapter Salerno more or less acknowledges the validity of both. As for me, I’m comfortable and most familiar with the term “ghost signs” (and “ghost bridges” and “ghost towns”) so I’ll just continue to think of Fading Ads of Cincinnati as a book about ghost signs.

Geography has a lot to do with the book’s organization and the bulk of the photos are in three chapters titled “Downtown”, “Northern Kentucky”, and “The Neighborhoods”. Like any city of any size, Cincinnati has official and unofficial neighborhoods with their own identities. It’s southern boundary is defined by a river that also defines the border of Ohio. In some ways, the Kentucky communities on the south side of the river are quite different from those on the north but the ease with which a cluster of bridges usually allows interstate traffic makes them often seem like Cincinnati suburbs. The prominent “John R. Green Co” sign in Covington, Kentucky, fits in this book as comfortably as the “Little Kings” sign in Cincinnati’s West End.

I mentioned that not everything pictured in the book is old. One chapter in particular shows almost exclusively new unfaded and non-ghostly signs. The photos were taken at the Cincinnati Reds’ home field and include a shot of a huge sign announcing the 2015 All-Star Game which Cincinnati hosted. The “fading ads” connection is solid and arrow straight. Those stadium signs and many more around the area are the work of Holthaus Lackner Signs, a company headed by Kevin Holthaus. Kevin is the grandson of Gus Holthaus who started the company and whose signature appears on many signs in the area including several in Fading Ads of Cincinnati. The only old sign appearing in the “Signature Legacy” chapter is a remnant of a sign possibly painted by Kevin’s great-grandfather, Arnold Holthaus.

A link at the end of this article leads to the book on Amazon. An entry on Salerno’s blog identifies other online outlets and several area stores where it is also available. Another option is to catch the author at a local bar with a faded sign but you’ll have to be both patient and vigilant.

Fading Ads of Cincinnati, Ronny Salerno, The History Press, November 30 2015, 9 x 6 inches, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1467118729

Road Trip Essentials Redux
A My Gear Extra

This post first appeared on June 8, 2014. It was done at the request/suggestion of a company called RelayRides. The company has changed its name to Turo and recently contacted me to request an update in the 2014 post. I made the name and URL changes then decided to reuse the post as well. Turo is a peer-to-peer car rental company. I still have not used the service so can no more rate or endorse it now than I could in 2014. What I can say is that the company seemed to honestly appreciate a mention in that original post and, unlike some other outfits, have not pounded me with additional requests since then. The current request is not only reasonable but helpful. I appreciate being given an opportunity to fix things. I will also compliment them on some very good timing.

I had already decided to queue up a “Trip Peek” for this week’s post but after rereading the original “…Essentials” post decided to reuse it instead. I like the post and everything is basically the same now as it was then. So, with only minor corrections, here it is again.


rtecolI recently received a request/suggestion for a post on “must have” road trip items. I initially blew it off but returned to it a week or so later. Since I am about to actually head out on a road trip, I need to stockpile some “dateless” (“timeless” almost, but not quite, fits) articles for posting while I travel. You know, the “Trip Peek” or “My Wheels” sort of things that have no connection to what I’m actually doing but can be posted at anytime to meet the blog’s every Sunday schedule. In the middle of generating a couple of “Trip Peeks”, I remembered the email and realized that the suggested “Road Trip Essentials” was as good a topic as any. Of course, it would take more time than a “Trip Peek” but it could be sort of a consolidated “My Gear” and it might be fun. If it also made somebody (the requester) happy, even better.

The request came from RelayRides (now Turo), a peer-to-peer car rental outfit. I’d never heard of them and naming them is not meant to endorse them but I could see that continued references to “the requester” were going to get old. Though the services offered are different, the contact from RelayRides (Turo) reminded me of a recent conversation with some friends about Uber, a person-to-person taxi service. After using Uber on several occasions in a couple of different cities, they were singing its praises. These person-to-person/peer-to-peer businesses are certainly worth keeping an eye on. The RelayRides (Turo) call was for blog posts that could tie into an upcoming “Road Trip Essentials” campaign. There is absolutely nothing in it for me except the possibility of an extra visitor or two but neither are there any restrictions or guidelines. The friendly and conversational request used playlists, caffeine, and frozen grapes as possible essentials so my list may be a little more serious than what they’re thinking. I believe everyone knows, however, that, while I take my road trips seriously, they are rarely serious trips. There was no actual suggestion that I include a collage but the word was used twice and I figured making a small one might be fun. It was.

The camera needs little explanation. If I’m on a full tilt road trip, I need pictures for the daily updates and there are other trips taken with the clear intent of using all or part of the outing in a blog entry. In addition to pictures that, if they’re not too crappy, might appear in a journal or blog entry, I use a camera to take notes. Snapping a photo of a sign or menu is a lot easier and less error prone than trying to write down what I think I might want to know later. Even when there is no advance thought of documenting any part of a trip, l want a camera near by in case some Martians land along the road or Bruce Springsteen’s car breaks down and he needs a ride.

I imagine that almost everyone now considers a GPS unit at least useful on a trip. It can keep you from reaching Tijuana instead of Vancouver and can be a great help in finding gas, food, or lodging. I do use mine to find motels and restaurants and such but I also use it in a manner that makes it truly essential. Many of my trips are on historic (i.e., imaginary) highways. They probably don’t appear on any current map or atlas and there are few, if any, signs to follow. Even if there were, I typically travel alone with no one to constantly read maps or watch for signs. What I do is plot the exact route I want to follow and load it into the GPS unit which then verbally directs me along my chosen path. Yes, it does require a fair amount of advance work and a more capable than average GPS unit.

Even with every turn programmed into the GPS, I pack guide books and maps. The GPS can fail, the situation on the ground might not match the plotted course, or my intentions might simply change. Plus, guidebooks like those in the picture provide valuable information when putting together a journal or blog entry.

The last item pictured, the cell phone, is the electronic Swiss army knife of our age. It is almost essential to everybody everyday just to talk, text, search, and email. In my case, in the context of road trips, it is also essential as a backup camera and as a voice recorder. Not too long ago, I would have included a small voice recorder in my essentials but the phone now serves to make quick notes especially while driving. I still carry a digital recorder for use when appropriate but it no longer rides on the seat beside me.

rtecabOf course, all of those accessories have their own accessories. For many years, I only bought gear that used AA batteries on the theory that I could always buy power at the corner drug store if required. I believe that happened once. I carried around a bag of nicads and the chargers to fill them in either car or motel. I eventually had to abandon that position but I still cling to the ability to recharge everything whether stopped or on the go. I now carry spare proprietary batteries and AC/DC chargers for two different cameras and a cell phone. I do not carry a spare for the GPS since I seldom operate it on battery power.

I’ll also almost always have my laptop along and some music/podcasts, and maybe, depending on departure time and length of trip, a thermos of coffee and a cooler. The cooler will have water or Gatorade and possibly a beer or two. There will probably be some carrots, or apple slices, or grapes in there, too. Next time, the grapes might even be frozen.

Behind My Back

A couple of weeks ago, the amount of miscellany filling my life prompted two posts: Much Miscellany and Much Miscellany 2 Sloopy at 50. I don’t often appear in my own posts and I didn’t appear in either of those. I did, however appear in the posts of others — sorta.

bmbcffcff15-03One of the activities in the first Much Miscellany post was the Cincinnati Film Festival. My post included a photo of producer Daryl Sledge and comedian/actress Rain Pryor during the opening night Q&A. That’s the first picture to the right. The other pictures is from the festival’s Facebook page showing that they were keeping an eye on me that night.

sloopy03bmbucafThe second Much Miscellany post covered a Rick Derringer concert held as part of the Union City Arts Festival. It seems they were also keeping me in sight. The first picture is one I took of the band and the second is one from that festival’s Facebook page. I don’t know whether I’m being stalked or if both festivals simply had photographers with really bad luck.

Book Review
Hues of my Vision
Ara Gureghian and Spirit

homv_cvrWhen I previewed this book in April, it was with the hope that a Kickstarter campaign would result in a bargain priced offset printed version. Ara had turned to the crowd funding site to facilitate pre-ordering the book in support of a cost saving bulk order. As noted in a mid-May update to the preview, the campaign failed resulting in the price of a hard copy more than doubling from $40.00 to $92.99. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it is beautiful.

For those unfamiliar with Ara and Spirit, here’s a quick introduction. In 2006, following the death of his son, Ara Gureghian left his job as a personal chef and, accompanied by a rescued pit bull named Spirit, hit the road on Old Faithful, his BMW motorcycle. Since then, they have crisscrossed the country and spent lots of time in some of its emptier areas. Freedom on Both Ends of the Leash tells the story of those travels. Hues of my Vision contains a selection of the many photographs taken along the way.

There are 61 photographs; Each on its own page accompanied by a quote and a map. The maps mark the location and direction of the photo. The quotes are some that Ara has personally found meaningful. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Kahlil Gibran, John Muir, and Dan Aykroyd are among those quoted. Most of the quotes are unique but, whether by accident or design, a few are repeated. The paper is high quality and the pages are large. It’s a real coffee table book from a man and dog who haven’t had a coffee table in quite some time.

homv_intNot surprisingly, many of the photos are of America’s open spaces. Ara has visited and camped in some rather isolated spots and has captured some of their beauty. Canyons, lakes, and improbable shapes carved by wind and water are masterfully recorded and there are many gorgeous sunsets. A quote from Jo Walton really resonated with me:

There is a Sunrise and a Sunset every single day, and they are absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.

Ara hasn’t missed too many during the last nine years and I’d like to think that I’ll not be missing so many from here on out.

Landscapes are in the majority but people and buildings appear, too. Some of those landscapes make marvelous backgrounds for photos of Spirit, Old Faithful, and even Ara himself. Subjects also include other people and animals and an occasional building. In these pictures, Ara has skillfully and artfully recorded the world he has been immersed in for nearly a decade. It’s largely a natural world that most of us only catch short glimpses of from time to time. He continues to report on that world through his blog, The Oasis of my Soul.

The book is available in electronic form for about $20. Is the hard copy worth the more than $70 premium?.I thought it was and am quite happy that I have the “real book” to hold in my hands. However, with the exception of size, I believe that everything I’ve said about the print version applies to the electronic versions as well. They might be just the thing for those without a coffee table. All formats are available here.

Hues of my Vision, Ara Gureghian and Spirit, Ara Gureghian (May, 2015), hard cover, 13 x 10 inches, 62 pages

Cincinnati the Exhibitionist

cte01I visited a few museums this week. One reason was that I realized some temporary exhibits I wanted to see would be ending soon but there was also a lot of happenstance involved. For those of us spared desperate last minute shopping, the week before Christmas seems to be rife with days needing to be filled with something and a little catching up fits nicely. This post will wander a bit but will eventually get around to explaining the nose shortage revealed in the photo above.

cte02cte03cte04Early in the week, I attended the Mummies of the World exhibition at Cincinnati Museum Center. No photos were permitted in the traveling display so I’ve included a picture of the museum’s resident mummy, Umi. Mummies of the World will be in Cincinnati through April 26. The third photo is of the museum’s giant Christmas tree backed by Union Terminal’s brightly painted half-dome. For those who feel a little disoriented by that shot, a more traditional view is here.

cte08cte07cte06On Friday, I went out for breakfast then decided it would be a good time for an overdue visit to the American Sign Museum. There is so much here that it’s often near impossible for me to know if a sign is truly a recent addition or simply something I’ve not noticed before. As I gawked my way around, founder Tod Swormstedt made a point of saying hello and verified that a couple of signs in the local area were indeed newly placed. I clearly remember driving and walking by the Wizard sign many times in the wild but do not recall ever being inside the Clifton area record shop. Tod also gave me a little behind the scenes tour that included a recently acquired 1944 sign truck that will be used in parades and other promotions.

cte10cte11This year’s Fotofocus was in October and, with the exception of Treasures in Black & White at the museum center, I pretty much missed it. However, some related exhibits are still in place. One of them isn’t too far from the Sign Museum so I figured this was a good time to visit it as well. Good thing, too. It had just two more days to run. Documenting Cincinnati’s Neighborhoods at Hebrew Union College contains examples of the work of three local photographers from the middle of the 1900s.

cte13ncte12Maybe realizing how close I came to missing the Neighborhoods exhibit scared me because I next headed straight to the Taft Museum where two photo exhibits were in progress. I didn’t really need to hurry, I suppose, since both Black, White, and Iconic: Photographs from Local Collections and Paris Night & Day: Masterworks of Photography from Atget to Man Ray continue through January 11. No pictures were allowed in either exhibit but amateur photos of photo masterpieces aren’t all that appealing anyway. On the other hand, what I believe is a fairly recent policy change, not only allows but encourages non-flash photography in the other areas of the museum. The two photos here are of displays in the museum’s annual Antique Christmas exhibit.

cte14That opening photo was also taken at the Taft. A trio of reindeer stands in the lobby with an oval cutout that allows anyone to be photographed as one of the group. Apparently red noses were once available so that adding a Rudolph like touch was an option. That option, it seems, was quite a bit more popular than anticipated which led to it currently being unavailable. BYON.

Road Trip Essentials
A My Gear Extra

rtecolI recently received a request/suggestion for a post on “must have” road trip items. I initially blew it off but returned to it a week or so later. Since I am about to actually head out on a road trip, I need to stockpile some “dateless” (“timeless” almost, but not quite, fits) articles for posting while I travel. You know, the “Trip Peek” or “My Wheels” sort of things that have no connection to what I’m actually doing but can be posted at anytime to meet the blog’s every Sunday schedule. In the middle of generating a couple of “Trip Peeks”, I remembered the email and realized that the suggested “Road Trip Essentials” was as good a topic as any. Of course, it would take more time than a “Trip Peek” but it could be sort of a consolidated “My Gear” and it might be fun. If it also made somebody (the requester) happy, even better.

The request came from RelayRides (now Turo), a peer-to-peer car rental outfit. I’d never heard of them and naming them is not meant to endorse them but I could see that continued references to “the requester” were going to get old. Though the services offered are different, the contact from RelayRides (now Turo) reminded me of a recent conversation with some friends about Uber, a person-to-person taxi service. After using Uber on several occasions in a couple of different cities, they were singing its praises. These person-to-person/peer-to-peer businesses are certainly worth keeping an eye on. The RelayRides (now Turo) call was for blog posts that could tie into an upcoming “Road Trip Essentials” campaign. There is absolutely nothing in it for me except the possibility of an extra visitor or two but neither are there any restrictions or guidelines. The friendly and conversational request used playlists, caffeine, and frozen grapes as possible essentials so my list may be a little more serious than what they’re thinking. I believe everyone knows, however, that, while I take my road trips seriously, they are rarely serious trips. There was no actual suggestion that I include a collage but the word was used twice and I figured making a small one might be fun. It was.

The camera needs little explanation. If I’m on a full tilt road trip, I need pictures for the daily updates and there are other trips taken with the clear intent of using all or part of the outing in a blog entry. In addition to pictures that, if they’re not too crappy, might appear in a journal or blog entry, I use a camera to take notes. Snapping a photo of a sign or menu is a lot easier and less error prone than trying to write down what I think I might want to know later. Even when there is no advance thought of documenting any part of a trip, l want a camera near by in case some Martians land along the road or Bruce Springsteen’s car breaks down and he needs a ride.

I imagine that almost everyone now considers a GPS unit at least useful on a trip. It can keep you from reaching Tijuana instead of Vancouver and can be a great help in finding gas, food, or lodging. I do use mine to find motels and restaurants and such but I also use it in a manner that makes it truly essential. Many of my trips are on historic (i.e., imaginary) highways. They probably don’t appear on any current map or atlas and there are few, if any, signs to follow. Even if there were, I typically travel alone with no one to constantly read maps or watch for signs. What I do is plot the exact route I want to follow and load it into the GPS unit which then verbally directs me along my chosen path. Yes, it does require a fair amount of advance work and a more capable than average GPS unit.

Even with every turn programmed into the GPS, I pack guide books and maps. The GPS can fail, the situation on the ground might not match the plotted course, or my intentions might simply change. Plus, guidebooks like those in the picture provide valuable information when putting together a journal or blog entry.

The last item pictured, the cell phone, is the electronic Swiss army knife of our age. It is almost essential to everybody everyday just to talk, text, search, and email. In my case, in the context of road trips, it is also essential as a backup camera and as a voice recorder. Not too long ago, I would have included a small voice recorder in my essentials but the phone now serves to make quick notes especially while driving. I still carry a digital recorder for use when appropriate but it no longer rides on the seat beside me.

rtecabOf course, all of those accessories have their own accessories. For many years, I only bought gear that used AA batteries on the theory that I could always buy power at the corner drug store if required. I believe that happened once. I carried around a bag of nicads and the chargers to fill them in either car or motel. I eventually had to abandon that position but I still cling to the ability to recharge everything whether stopped or on the go. I now carry spare proprietary batteries and AC/DC chargers for two different cameras and a cell phone. I do not carry a spare for the GPS since I seldom operate it on battery power.

I’ll also almost always have my laptop along and some music/podcasts, and maybe, depending on departure time and length of trip, a thermos of coffee and a cooler. The cooler will have water or Gatorade and possibly a beer or two. There will probably be some carrots, or apple slices, or grapes in there, too. Next time, the grapes might even be frozen.

ADDENDUM 24-Nov-2015: This post has been edited to reflect a name change from RelayRides to Turo.

Celebrating Diana

diana-1I wavered on going to see Diana: A Celebration at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The Center attracts some of the world’s best traveling exhibits and I generally make a point of taking them in. Some, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, I start planning to see as soon as I learn of them. Others, even though I fully intend to see them, I just sort of work in “whenever”. Until something reminded me of it on a rainy and idle day, I wasn’t even sure that I would be attending this particular exhibit.

My lack of commitment was not due to any dislike for Princess Diana. In fact, I think she probably did as much for the good of the world as any public figure of her time and a lot more than most. I simply don’t have much interest in royalty in general and nothing in the description of this exhibit aroused much interest in it. Gowns and jewels were not the only things on display but they are what advertisements and descriptions mentioned the most. To be fair, the relatively small amount of time that separates Diana’s life from the present no doubt has a lot to do with my lack of interest. I couldn’t wait to attend the Cleopatra exhibit in 2011 and I’m sure I’d eagerly work a display based on Queen Victoria or Catherine the Great. Of course, those women were all rulers while Diana was not and that may have as much to do with it as time.

I think a desire to not regret not going was a large part of my decision to go. I went and enjoyed it enough to not regret going. The exhibit and my level of enjoyment were pretty much what I expected. The only surprise was the demographics of the other attendees. A young man scanned my ticket at the entrance. About halfway through, I encountered an older fellow wearing a museum ID badge who seemed to be doing some sort of status check on some of the displayed items. At roughly the same time I spotted a guy listening to one of the optional audio guides along with a woman I took to be his wife. I saw something on the order of fifty attendees as I made my way through the exhibit. Only two of approximately half a hundred patrons were male and only one — me — was certifiably there of his own volition. In hindsight, perhaps I should have anticipated that but I hadn’t. Clearly, the trappings of a princess are of much greater interest to those who are at least physically qualified to become one than to those who are not.

diana-2No photos are allowed in the Diana exhibit. The picture at left is from the companion exhibit, Daughters of the Queen City, which honors women noted for their charitable work in and around Cincinnati. Among the women featured were Louise Nippert, Mary M. Emery, and Patricia Corbett whose names even I recognize. Diana: A Celebration and Daughters of the Queen City continue through August 17.

diana-4diana-3While at the museum, I took in two other temporary exhibits. Medicine, Marbles and Mayhem displays items retrieved from 19th century privies. Aside from their intended purpose, privies were used to dispose of just about anything and many details of life in in the good old days can be learned through “outhouse archaeology”. Medicine, Marbles and Mayhem runs through May 26.

diana-5diana-6Treasures in Black & White: Historic Photographs of Cincinnati is quite accurately described by its title. At the risk of angering princesses everywhere, I have to say that this is what I enjoyed most on this museum visit. Every photo depicts something important from Cincinnati’s past plus many of them work as pure art. Some artifacts, such as a Ruth Lyons guest book, augment the photographs. The book is displayed near a photograph of Liberace signing it and opened to show his entry. Treasures in Black & White runs through October 12.

Ye Olde Flex-Master
A My Gear Extra

Flex-Master cameraI am not someone who delights in using old film cameras. I can appreciate that others do and I can appreciate the phenomenal engineering and manufacturing accomplishments embodied in high-end film cameras. But I like the convenience and economy of digital photography far too much to spend my own time and money on anything else — with one exception.

That exception is the camera at right. It’s certainly old and it uses film but it is about as far from high-end as you can get. The exact same camera was sold under a variety of names with prices around three or four dollars. An uncle won this one by investing a quarter in a punch-board in 1940. I never knew him. He went off to war and never came home. My Mom, his sister, ended up with the camera. I remember it being our family camera in the early 1950s.

Flex-Master cameraFlex-Master cameraThere’s not much to it. It’s called a pseudo-TLR. TLR stands for twin lens reflex which means one lens for the photo and an identical twin for the viewfinder. I’m not sure that what feeds the viewfinder on this camera can properly be called a lens at all. It does somehow produce a dim right-side-up but reversed left-to-right image on an upward facing screen. There’s no focus or aperture control and not exactly any shutter speed control. There is a shutter release and a little lever that selects “INST.” or “TIME”. The length of an “instant” isn’t specified but I’m guessing it’s somewhere between 1/50 and 1/100 second. As you’d expect, “TIME” holds the shutter open as long as the the release is held down. The back is held in place by a thumbscrew. Remove it to thread the paper backed film onto the relocated empty spool from the previous roll then close it up tight. Turn the knob on the side to move a frame number into first one then the other red window.

Picture from Flex-Master cameraPicture from Flex-Master cameraI believe both of these pictures were taken with the Flex-Master. The first one is known to be from the winter of 1950. The other is probably from the next spring. It’s one I frequently use as an “on the road” Facebook profile picture.

I said I appreciate folks who work with film cameras and I know some, too. One in particular, Jim Grey, lives close enough that I’ve passed a few junk classic cameras his way. Jim not only gets a lot of pleasure from his cameras, he gets some very nice pictures from them, too. I recently asked Jim about the Flex-Master and he told me where I could buy film for the camera and also where to get it developed. There aren’t many choices. It’s tough enough finding processing for film from a still-in-production Canon or Nikon let alone something out of a seventy-three year old punch-board prize. Nor is it cheap. With postage, two rolls of 127 black & white film came within pennies of twenty-eight dollars. Processing, with postage but without prints (you get jpgs), is $16.50 a roll.

Picture from Flex-Master cameraPicture from Flex-Master cameraOne of the first places I tried the camera was in front of the 1886 Hayesville Opera House after Cece Otto’s American Songline concert. I managed to totally botch two of the three pictures I took of Cece by doing double exposures (Now, there’s something you don’t hear of much in the digital world, Chauncey.) and the one that did kind of turn out has a building that looks like a reflection in a fun-house mirror. I’m guessing that the film wasn’t held flat but I don’t know why. The picture of the Roebling Bridge with Cincinnati in the background doesn’t seen so distorted so maybe the film got pulled tighter later in the roll… or something. Both pictures have a pair of vertical scratches that I think line up with rails molded into the camera back which I’m guessing are there to press the film flat. Matching scratches can be seen in some of the pictures taken with the camera in the ’50s. Just remember that “far from high-end” statement near the beginning  of this article. 

If the first roll had been a complete disaster, I’d have given the other one to a friendly Hoosier camera collector and saved my self $16.50 in processing. Since the disaster was less than complete, I’m going to take the “seventy-three year old punch-board prize” along on my upcoming ride in a fifty year old car on a one hundred year old highway and see what develops.


Picture from Flex-Master cameraDoyle Bankson, that camera winning uncle, is buried at Colleville-sur-Mer in France. His parents (my grandparents) placed his name between theirs on this tombstone in Ohio. Part of me felt really silly using the camera he won as a teenager to take a picture of a stone more than four-thousand miles from his grave. Part of me didn’t.


http://www.dennygibson.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/doyle.jpgThis article is being posted on Father’s Day. That’s somewhat, but not entirely, a coincidence. Dad took quite a few pictures with the Flex-Master. He was in some, too. Here’s a picture of Dad, my sister, and me that was taken with a twelve year old punch-board prize.