Wednesday, July 31, 2019

[35mm Ohio] A Rock Garden, The Road, & Columbus

I finished off a roll of Portra 400 in the Pentax, then switched to a fresh roll in the Minolta. Prior to this, I had pretty much timed my film consumption with the travel. I’d start a new roll when leaving and end a roll or two before pulling into home. That always seemed to work out story-wise—perfect for the usual, overwhelmingly digital format of QC/D where images tend to flow right along with the narrative.

This recently developed roll, though, features photographs ranging from April-July. Unlike in the previous update (“RN, like a nurse spells it”), these images don’t really follow any linear experience. We weren’t even going all the way up to Cleveland or the Northern part of the state for the second half of the film—simply Columbus to see some wonderful friends—so this collection tends to be a bit more “random.”

Looking back at my notes, there weren’t even really any reflections—just a nice getaway. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t traveling alone or since shooting anything was pretty much secondary. In a way, this kind of trip was a bit more formulaic and indicative of why I spent so much time making a map of potential things to see. We were able to easily diverge, visit something, then get back on track. Maybe that takes something away from what this project is about (if it’s about anything at all)? So many other times I have a destination and time in mind, but I try to give myself plenty of travel and wandering leeway. That doesn’t always work out well, but it makes things a bit more spontaneous. We’ll see how things shake out when I’m traveling throughout Ohio even more this year and the next.

In the end, when I cap off this “35mm Ohio” project (and probably title it something more clever (taking suggestions if you’ve got any)), I won’t use all of these photographs. So if you’ve got a favorite from the series or see one that really sticks out, I’d like to hear which ones and why.

This roll started in the Spring, but on a relatively warm day that felt more like summer due to the sunlight and my distaste for the winter and faux-springs of the Midwest. I snapped a quick shot of the Columbus skyline through my windshield without looking.

- Interstate 70 Columbus.

After getting turned around, I made one more windshield filtered frame off of I-70.

- Miller Ave. and Mooberry St., Columbus.

I stopped to grab some coffee at a truck stop near Washington Courthouse. I’ve been to this highway exit a lot. When I was running between Cincinnati and a rural university for a time, this was where I changed roads nearly every weekend. I was always driving home, back to a city that I was far more interested in compared to a school I didn’t appreciate at the time and back to a job with people I preferred to streets suffocated with frat boys. I like stopping at the Love’s west of the highway because it’s much calmer and less of a reminder of times spent getting gas and energy drinks on the east side where I dreaded destinations.

- Love's Travel Stop, Jeffersonville.

And I finally had a reason to go look at the often passed, not yet visited, long abandoned CB radio shop as the sun went down.

- Abandoned CB radio shop, Old U.S. 35, Jeffersonville. 

- Abandoned CB radio shop, Old U.S. 35, Jeffersonville. 

- Abandoned CB radio shop, Old U.S. 35, Jeffersonville. 

I’ve shot a fair amount of film in Cincinnati, but my road trips don’t usually focus on my hometown. While walking to grab some food one night, I snapped one frame of an ice cream parlor’s grand opening (I went in to La Michoacana a few weeks later, it’s amazing).

- La Michoacana, Springdale.

And while I don’t remember what match we were watching or why I had one of my film cameras with me, I apparently made a frame in the bar that our soccer supporters group frequents. Either the copper bar caused a weird reflection or the camera has a light leak. I totally misjudged the focus, but I like the image anyways. I think it’s an accurate representation of Rhinehaus.

- Rhinehaus, Cincinnati.

The camera sat on a shelf for awhile longer before Laura and I jumped on the road in July to visit some friends and stay in Columbus for a weekend. At the peak of summer—the sun was direct, bright, and warm (save for a few rain showers). This is the fourth or fifth roll of Portra 400 I’ve shot. I’ve found that it doesn’t really capture warmth the way I wish it would (or how other film does). It’s a bit too dark, moody, and leans toward shades of green. Even with some light digital editing, I feel that a lot of these scenes didn’t develop the way I remembered experiencing them (could be the camera too).

On the way up, we briefly stopped at the Hartman Rock Garden in Springfield, a pin on the map. 

SIDE NOTE: The “map” is a Google Map. If anyone has any interest in it, leave a comment below, and I’ll share it publicly. It could* make your time driving through Ohio far more interesting.

*not guaranteed

- Hartman Rock Garden, Springfield.

The Hartman Rock Garden’s website describes the attraction as…

 “ of the nation’s most intriguing and revered works of 'in situ' folk art, an outsider art phenomena where self-taught artists construct fascinating worlds out of concrete, metal, stone, and whatever else they can find.”

Harry George “Ben” Hartman originally hailed from Pennsylvania. He moved to Springfield, Ohio in 1913 to work for a local machining company. As Ben’s family grew, they shared a love for gardening. Laid off during the Great Depression, Ben began working on house projects. This morphed into an interest in sculpture as he began creating the structures seen in these photographs. Eventually, Ben’s garden was filled with several unique works. He eventually returned to his career and passed away shortly after in 1944. His wife, Mary, continued the rock garden’s legacy by giving tours and adding the occasional contribution.

- Hartman Rock Garden, Springfield.

Mary passed away in 1997 and what she called “a garden of love” began to deteriorate. A foundation focused on preserving folk art stepped in and restored the garden, celebrating a grand re-opening in 2010. Today, the garden continues to be a historic monument to not just folk art, but personal creativity and self expression. It’s free to visit and open 365 days a year from dawn to dusk. These days, the site is maintained by the Friends of the Hartman Rock Garden. It’s a nice little spot to visit, filled with many interesting details. If you swing by, be sure to drop a donation in the box.

- Hartman Rock Garden, Springfield.

Back on the road, we quickly made it to Columbus while the car’s a/c did battle with the humidity. We checked into the Hotel Leveque, met our friends for dinner, and then went our for a few drinks as the sun set below some gray clouds that had rolled through and dropped rain.

- LeVeque Tower, Columbus.

- Summit Chase Condominiums, Columbus. Former residence of Astronaut and Ohio hero John Glenn.

- Columbus.

- Columbus.

The next morning was coffee…

- Nate.

- Nate.

…and wandering around the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds:

- State Fairgrounds, Columbus.

- State Fairgrounds, Columbus.

- Columbus Crew Stadium at the State Fairgrounds, Columbus.

- Ohio History Connection, Columbus.

- Ohio History Connection, Columbus.

Ever since last year, I’ve been contemplating a trip to Cave City, KY. I wanted to stay in the Wig-Wam Hotel for a weekend and go photograph, experience, and write about all the kitschy tourist attractions down there. I ended up opting out of that trip, in the end feeling like I was only distracting myself from more important things. I saw the Ohio State Fair as a backup plan. I could go up to that, shoot some film that could be used in this project, and partake in a summer experience loosely in the vein of the cancelled Cave City excursion. Wandering the fairgrounds on this day, though, I kind of let that idea go too. Then I thought: maybe I’ll photograph one of Cincinnati’s many summer church festivals or county fairs with film, but I have other things I need to do and I did some carnival style film work back in 2014 (and I’ve spent more than enough time at church festivals as a kid). Not to mention, all the digital captures of parking lot carnivals through the years.

I have one more backup plan in mind: some Northern Ohio tourist attractions that I may be able to hit this summer while armed with 35mm. We’ll see what happens. I love summer and I can feel it slipping away every moment.

- The one time I needed Portra to show some shades of green and it misses the mark. 

We got smacked with rain on the way home outside of Wilmington where I started another roll with the same camera. Given a few of the light leaks and my indifference towards Porta, we’ll see how this next roll—focusing mainly on Cincinnati and its suburban environs—develops. It went out to the lab today (EDIT: it's here).

Back on the road much more regularly in the Fall and one more weekend in Columbus scheduled. Thinking of switching to Kodak Gold or even cheap (but wonderfully warm) UltraMaxx once again. I love that warmth and Porta just doesn’t seem to have it. But then again, neither really does Ohio in the Fall and Winter.

View the other entries in 35mm Ohio


  1. Up here, Mooberry St. always sounded like a delicious cereal to me :)

  2. Its too bad that a few years ago, the St Rita's Festival ended after being held for 99 years. It was certainly one of the biggest church festivals and would have been worthy of photographing. I loved going there as a kid from Greenhills; meeting local celebrities like Nick Clooney, The Cool Ghoul and Ira Joe Fisher. I guess St Rita's decided that the raffle was just as good if not better as a fundraiser for their school as the festival was. I thought that sucked.

  3. Damn, I never made it to the St. Ritas Festival. Didn't even realize it had ended. I think a lot of parishes are facing similar issues now.