Photos & Projects

“I am Lonely” said Spottie the Spotmatic – by Andrew Morang

December 13, 2021

Spottie (Pentax Spotmatic) is not unloved but tends to not get enough exercise. She proudly sits in the glass cabinet with her neighbors. However, when I shoot 35mm, I usually choose my Leica M2, the little IIIC, or even the little Voigtländer Vito BL.

Though in her 50s, Spottie is still svelte and elegant. She never porked out like some of the later-vintage SLRs with their bulbous housings and motors (let alone compared to behemoth he-man DSLRs and their penile canon-like zoom lenses). Spottie joined the family in 1971, when my girlfriend  (now wife) bought the body and a 55mm ƒ/1.8 Super-Takumar lens at Lechmere Sales in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Lechmere was an early-vintage discounter, famous in those days to shoppers in the Boston area. We still have a receipt, which proves the danger of retaining stuff forever (Americans have big houses in which to keep junk).

Original 1971 hand-written receipt. Note that 2 rolls of Plus-X cost $1.30.

Original 1971 instruction manual for Honeywell Spotmatic

Spottie is a well-traveled lady and still is in nice shape. She received a thorough cleaning and refurbishment from Eric Hendrickson, a well-known Pentax repair expert in Tennessee. I even have the correct mercury batteries for the meter. The CDS meter is accurate but rather slow to respond, especially in low light. Because it measures a broad area, I point it downward to prevent underexposure by the light sky. As I usually use meterless cameras, I forget how convenient it is to have a camera with a built-in meter.

Spottie’s 55mm ƒ/1.8 Super-Takumar lens has thorium elements, which yellowed over time. But a few weeks under a UV light cleaned the yellow nicely. Optically, it is an amazingly good lens, an example of Japanese optical and mechanical excellence from the 1970s. Some users prefer the famous 50mm ƒ/1.4 Super-Takumar, but truly, both are superb lenses.

Back to the topic. Spottie needed exercise, so I loaded a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 and wandered about. Some of you long-term readers may remember that I like Kodak Ektar 25, but it has been discontinued for many years and I doubt that I will ever be able to find any more rolls.

Vicksburg

Vicksburg is a city on the Mississippi River in west central Mississippi. Long-term 35MMC readers may remember other Vicksburg photographs that I have posted here. The city is known as the site of the great siege during the American Civil War. Vicksburg now has an active railroad yard, port facilities, and tourist sites.

Warehouse, 1910 Levee Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi (28mm ƒ/3.5 SMC Takumar lens, 1/15 ƒ/8)

Kansas City Southern rail yard, Levee Street, Vicksburg (135mm ƒ/3.5 SMC Takumar, 1/15 ƒ/11)

Kansas City Southern rail yard, Levee Street, Vicksburg (135mm ƒ/3.5 SMC Takumar lens, 1/15 ƒ/11)

Car repair shop, Clay St., Vicksburg, Mississippi

Raymond

Raymond is a nice little town southwest of Jackson, the state capitol. Raymond is best known as the home of Hinds Junior College. It is also known among locals for its Volkswagen repair (junk) yard. Unfortunately, the gentleman who formerly sold and repaired Beetles and other models has been ill and needs to dispose of the stock. His sister said I could have all the cars that very afternoon. Please, take them away! She graciously let me wander around the property and take pictures.

Volkswagon repair yard, 10986 Hwy 467, Raymond, Mississippi (35mm ƒ/3.5 Super-Takumar lens, tripod-mounted)

Please, give me some love. Volkswagon repair yard, Raymond (35mm ƒ/3.5 Super-Takumar lens, tripod-mounted)

Port Gibson

Port Gibson is a small town near the Mississippi River in Claiborne County, nestled between Natchez and Vicksburg. Because of its elegant architecture, General Ulysses S. Grant spared the town during the Civil War because he said it was too pretty to burn. Today, Port Gibson is a sad mixture of fine antebellum houses and grim poverty.

Mack’s Alterations, 1503 Church Street (U.S. 61), Port Gibson (maybe I’ll skip Mack for my repairs; 35mm ƒ/3.5 Super-Takumar)

Mack’s Alterations, 1503 Church Street (U.S. 61), Port Gibson, Mississippi

Fayette

Fayette is another town in west central Mississippi that is in rough condition. The strip consists of gasoline stations, payday loan shops, closed warehouses, and some fast-food restaurants.

Main Street, Fayette, Mississippi

Former garage, Main Street, Fayette, Mississippi

Natchez

Natchez is a famous river town with an outstanding architectural heritage of antebellum and Victorian era houses. The town survived the Civil War with most no war damage.  Arlington Mansion (now in decay) is an example of the mansions. I need to explore Natchez in more detail. The two examples below are of more modest architecture.

Old South Pawn Shop, 107 St. Catherine Street, Natchez

113 S. Canal Street, Natchez, Mississippi (55mm ƒ/1.8 Super-Takumar lens)

Conclusions

Spottie enjoyed her outing and performed quietly and precisely, as always. Her 28mm, 35mm, 55mm, and 135mm Takumar lenses were the best of their era and even today perform as well optically as most contemporary lenses. She has exposed hundreds of films over the decades, including Kodachrome, Panatomic-X, Tri-X, Plus-X, Ektar 25, and even Technical Pan.  She has been quite the traveler, having been all over the USA, Iceland, the Soviet Union, Israel, Egypt, and Western Europe. I wish I had aged so gracefully.

For more pictures from Mississippi and other sites, please see my blog, WorldofDecay.blogspot.com. Thank you all for following along.

 

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Terry B
    December 13, 2021 at 11:34 am

    Andrew, more fascinating urban decay images showing the other side to the American dream. No country is a stranger to poverty in its ranks, but that this is the USA, the richest country in the world, is an eye opener.

    • Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      December 13, 2021 at 2:59 pm

      Unfortunately, poverty, despondency, decay, and the hollowing out of small towns is spreading throughout the US South and rural areas. It has led to political instability and could be the seed of the second civil war.

  • Reply
    thorsten
    December 13, 2021 at 11:45 am

    Well done Andrew, send my love to Spotty! And while I’m impressed by your almost Sothian studies of the Mississippi, (Vicksburg I only knew about because of the civil war), I was surprised to find two images from my neighborhood in Berlin on the manuals cover.

  • Reply
    RJ
    December 13, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    These are wonderful photos! Were these scanned yourself?

    • Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      December 13, 2021 at 2:41 pm

      Thank you for the kind words. I did scan all these negatives on a Plustek 7600i scanner that uses Silverfast software.

      NO, error. I forgot. These scans came from a Noritsu system at the processing laboratory. I reduced the saturation a little using Photoshop CS6 software.

      • Reply
        Mats
        December 13, 2021 at 5:02 pm

        What version of the Plustek software are you using? These look pretty nice. The colors look a lot better than what I remember getting out of that scanner/software duo. I haven’t used it in years since I got the Pakon 135. But I remember there was some new version of Silverfast released not long ago with the promise of better colors.

        • Reply
          Kodachromeguy
          December 13, 2021 at 7:16 pm

          My mistake! I forgot, these scans came from a Noritsu system at the processing lab. I reduced the saturation a bit with Photoshop CS6 because the original scans looked a bit too vibrant.

          • Mats
            December 14, 2021 at 4:43 pm

            Well, that explains the nice colors 🙂 I think the only way still to get nice colors out of the Plustek might be to do raw scans and convert in Negative Lab Pro

            This made me too optimistic:)

  • Reply
    Kurt Ingham
    December 13, 2021 at 5:10 pm

    Some really excellent photos! (Your commentary isn’t quite to MY taste-but that is an individual preference!) Well done!

    • Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      December 13, 2021 at 7:29 pm

      Thank you, glad you liked the photographs.

  • Reply
    Eric Rose
    December 13, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    I loved the Pentax 35mm cameras and lenses of that era. I have a pre-Spotmatic that is still going strong. In todays dollars your camera and lens would cost $1,159.83USD. Total rate of inflation 586%.

  • Reply
    Castelli Daniel
    December 13, 2021 at 10:36 pm

    I cut my photographic teeth on a Honeywell Pentax H1a. That was in 1970; I was 18 and recently graduated from H.S. I got my camera @ Caldor’s (another retail/discount store in New England.) I always compared the Pentax cameras to a MG. Nikon F/FTn cameras were Mack trucks, and Leica’s were Porsche’s.
    I love the architecture you’ve captured. There is some truth to the observation that the American south is in genteel decay.
    I no longer feel we’ll be able to stop the tide of hate and turn things around here in the US. We just lack the visionary leadership and the will to patch things up. I so hope I am a fool about this and we’re going to be ok.

  • Reply
    Graham Line
    December 14, 2021 at 11:02 am

    Those are nice lenses but you owe it to yourself to unearth an 85/1.9 SMCT.

    • Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      December 14, 2021 at 2:55 pm

      Thank you. I have read good things about that lens. But it is always the fight against having too much photographic equipment at home. I also have a 24mm SMC Takumar, but did not show any pictures from that lens in this article.

      • Reply
        Lee
        December 14, 2021 at 5:40 pm

        Is there such a thing as too much photographic equipment at home? Sacrilege!

        • Reply
          Kodachromeguy
          December 14, 2021 at 10:10 pm

          Ah, true enough. But the Hasselblad keeps telling me that it wants it’s 40mm lens. And the Leica M2 would enjoy a 28 (but here I think I will use my 28mm SMC Takumar with an adapter). And the Leica IIIC has only a 50mm. You see where this could go.

          • Lee
            December 15, 2021 at 12:50 pm

            Yeah, my Mamiya 645 really wants a 55mm lens to go with the 80mm and 150mm too. But I think I’m covered in all the 35mm lens mounts I have.

  • Reply
    Christian Schroeder
    December 16, 2021 at 10:16 am

    Hi Andrew! Really nice set of pictures, as usual. I especially enjoyed the last one as I have a weak spot for flat, symmetrical representations of buildings. Furthermore, I think small and unremarkable structures deserve to be documented as well (the Fayette garage would be another good example to emphasize this). The beetle yard is pretty cool, too! 

    • Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      December 16, 2021 at 3:21 pm

      Thank you, Christian. I have been trying to record ordinary structures for decades, the regular places where people lived and worked. If you want a VW Beetle, come and get one (or 2 or 4). Then we can eat BBQ.

  • Reply
    Peggy
    December 16, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    I love seeing the photos of the area. It is so different from where I live. Thank you.

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