In one week…

…I’ll be on my way to Iceland!

Yesterday I packed my camera bag, and in case you’re interested, this is what’s in it currently (subject to completely change if I panic about my choices next weekend):

  • Bronica SQ-A with 80mm lens and 50mm lens (debating the need for the 50 and it will go if I need more space)
  • Minolta SRT-102 with 50mm 1.4 Rokkor lens (and I just had to go check this because I just realized I’ve been tagging my Instagram photos with this camera with #MinoltaSRT201, which is ridiculous because it’s my favorite camera and how could I not remember that???)
  • Olympus Pen EE3, because it’s small and cute and I have some ideas for it
  • about 30 assorted rolls of 120 and 35mm film, mainly Fuji Acros (120 only), Portra 160 (120 and 35mm), Portra 400 (35mm only), some T-Max, some Ektar (120 only), and some Lomo Purple
  • a lens cloth and brush
  • shutter release cable
  • a few filters and filter holder

Since my camera backpack will be my only carry on, I have to leave room for the necessities–wallet, passport, headphones, Ipad (haven’t decided if I’m bringing this) or book, sunglasses, eyeglass case, charging cord, and yeah, now I’m thinking the 80mm Bronica lens might have to go because of all this.

And this is why I like road trips. I can bring everything I think I might possibly use (and of course use only a third of it). It’s hard to narrow things down to what you really need, or will want to use, when you’ve never been to a place. Oh well, I have to do it. And I can’t drive to Iceland.

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Lake Michigan, fiery red

In the last few weeks I’ve been around sick people, and I’ve been a little smug about this because I don’t get sick very often and the last time I got sick was coming home from Peru a year and a half ago. I’m pretty healthy. But I napped yesterday and when I woke up my eyeballs felt weird and I had a tickle in my throat. And this morning, my throat and my head both hurt. I have a week to shake it off, and hopefully it won’t sideline me because, well, work and all that.

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my father and my daughter having a chat

 

Anyway, Labor Day weekend was mostly beautiful weather punctuated by some lovely storms. Our daughter was with us from Texas. My dad came for an overnight. My heart felt full. Neighbors were around and the annual year-end potluck and goodbye summer party happened and we all got to see a gorgeous storm cloud roll in.

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storm over Lake Michigan
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after storm

And just like that, summer was a wrap.

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the lookout, and fungi
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fungi and pine needles

Speaking of road trips… there was a camper tucked into the woods and I’m so glad we noticed it as we drove by one afternoon. I went back three times after we first saw it, just hoping no one had taken advantage of the “FREE!! (please take)” sign because I couldn’t wait to photograph it. I hope it stays for a while because it might be even lovelier in the fall, or maybe with a little snowfall. Although the owner won’t be thrilled if it remains, I will be.

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FREE!! (please take)
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welcome
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may need some work
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tucked into the woods

There are a few more photos from these two rolls, both Kodak Ektar 100 ISO shot with a Bronica SQ-A, here.

If you’re feeling it, send me a little luck to get over this bug before I’m Iceland bound, please and thank you.

(nearly) Iceland bound

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moonflowers in the garden at Cherry Point Market

In just under two weeks I will wake up in a different bed every morning for eight mornings as I travel around Iceland with my friend Jane. We don’t have an itinerary or firm plans other than to see the beautiful landscape and get to each resting spot each night–this is the way I like to travel. If you make firm plans, what do you do if something exciting or interesting lands in your lap? I don’t want to say no to anything.

I can hardly believe it’s almost here! And I’m finally starting to feel mostly ready. I’ve broken in my new hiking boots. I know what clothes I plan to take. Most importantly, I know exactly where my passport is (I don’t always know where anything is). And I know work will be okay without me.

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lavender, also at Cherry Point Market
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dill flower, Cherry Point Market

In the meantime, I’ve been stockpiling film and I’m nearly certain about which cameras I’m taking. I also just sent six rolls of film for developing and am tentatively planning not to shoot any more until the trip–I’ll be too busy, anyway.

I stood on the deck at the cottage last evening and had a moment about leaving. The more I stay there, the harder it is to leave. When I get back, the corn stalks will be bleached and maybe even mowed down for the season. The trees will be well into wearing their colorful fall wardrobe. The summer will give way to fall and the nights will get cold. I’ll hear gunshots in the woods when I go out for walks as locals prepare for hunting season. The lake will chill and get moody and wild from fall storms. These things happen whether I’m there to see them or not, but I don’t like to miss a day there, even if it is for leaving to go on fun adventures. It feels a little selfish, but it is this: my heart stays there.

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mullein field
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grain (barley, maybe?)

While I’m waiting for film, here are some photos from high summer. I got a little sloppy this summer with my note-taking, so I don’t know exactly when I shot this roll, but I think it was either late July or the first days of August. In fact, my note-taking was non-existent for this roll; I thought I had Ektar ISO 100 in the camera when I shot it and was a bit surprised when I finished the roll and found that it was Portra 160 ISO. Oops! So my metering was a bit off but I think Portra was forgiving. My favorite is the moonflower. I just love those.

I have shot 46 rolls of film so far this year. I didn’t set out with a goal, but there you go.

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forgotten memorial
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windbreakers

The whole roll is here if you want to see a few more.

the wild rose bush

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There’s a wild rose bush on the side of the road that leads to the community where our cottage is. It produces some varying shades of pink roses, and we’ve been watching it expand over the last 15 years at least–maybe longer. It usually begins to bloom in late June and is done by mid to late July. Passing by when it’s not in bloom you’d never know it’s there. But when it’s blooming… wow. It’s even creeping up into the trees behind it and spreading across the ground inching closer to the road.

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I don’t use slide film often because it costs more than negative film and also costs a small bit more to process. I’m less confident with it and it’s less forgiving, too, and with only 12 shots to a roll of 120 film in my Bronica SQ-A, it feels like too much of a gamble. Not that I have much experience with slide film. I’ve shot a few rolls now of Fuji Velvia 50 ISO and I like the cool, rich colors. Plus the negatives are really neat to look at, because they’re positive images. So I like to have a roll or two hanging around for just the right subject, and the wild rose bush earlier this summer seemed perfect.

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shot, reshot

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A few weeks ago I wrote about a film photography “walking workshop” that I went to in Ohio. A week before that I’d shot a roll of film, mostly of the flowering plants in a garden I like to frequent in west Michigan, plus some wildflowers and a few sunsets. I finished the final shots of the roll in my backyard of the flowering plants there, on the east side of Michigan, and then re-shot the roll at a car show and in Findlay, Ohio’s downtown during the workshop.

I just really, really like a lot of these. I used my trusty Minolta SRT-102 and Kodak ColorPlus 200 ISO film.

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You can see a few more from this roll on my flickr album.

film, travel, angst

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twin mullein stalks on the bluff, Bronica SQ-A and Portra 160

Last year, and I can hardly believe it has already been a year, I traveled to Peru and spent a week with my daughter in Lima. I brought two cameras–a Minolta X-700 and a Holga and I was super happy with my decision not to bring a digital camera. In fact, I just gave my now ratty-looking but still capable digital camera to my son to borrow, with the caveat that I can borrow it back when I need to. I like where film is taking me right now so I’m going to keep exploring that.

So in just over a month my friend Jane and I are heading to Iceland and while I am pretty well decided on which cameras I’m bringing, now I am suddenly obsessing about how much and what kind of film to bring. I’m no expert on all the films out there, but I’ve tried a few and I’ve got some favorites. If you don’t believe me that there really are lots and lots of films available, take a look at this compendium by EMULSIVE (this is part 5, but see the links to all four parts before this one if you want your head to spin).

But, I am struggling among my favorites. I know I want to shoot both black and white and color, but should I stick to one film each so my resulting images have somewhat the same voice? A variety, so I can mix it up (my norm)? And, how much film? 20 rolls? 40? I like to have options but I also need to pack smart and consider my budget.

I’m actually more worried about what film to bring than what clothes to pack. Have you been to Iceland in late September? If you have either film or clothing/footwear suggestions, I’m all ears.

Otherwise, after a two and a half week hiatus, I’m back on the shores of Lake Michigan for a little while. It’s hot, the beach has grown a bit, the Queen Anne’s lace and the mullein and the summer squash and the corn fields have all exploded, the bees are busy and the cicadas are humming the evenings away. We watched a bit of the Perseid meteors last night but couldn’t stay awake, although they were beautiful, sending silver glitter streaks through the sky. It’s high summer and it’s just heaven.

 

home, and random thoughts on a summer night

I live now in a city that is just a few cities over from the city in which I spent my youth. It’s part of a group of cities known as “Downriver,” meaning that it’s south of, or down the river from, the city of Detroit. I guess I don’t write about that much because unless you are from Michigan, or more specifically metro Detroit, it wouldn’t matter. Even some people from certain metro Detroit cities don’t know where Downriver is or know the cities that make it up, but they might think of the area as working class, where a steel mill once thrived, where post-war simple homes erupted and housed the masses. It’s that, but more.

Some people wear their upbringing here like a badge; others are ashamed of it. I knew I’d leave here and I did, but I came back. I’m neither proud or ashamed. I don’t really feel connected here, though. It’s the lake I feel in my soul.

My allegiance is to Lake Michigan; my sense of home is the feeling of sand under my feet.

It’s Friday night and I drove home from a friend’s house thinking about lacking this sense of home and of my upbringing, with my windows down, my moonroof open, music playing. If you don’t let the wind push your hair around or make you have goosebumps on your arms on a summer night, I’m not sure we can be friends. Let yourself feel some wind on your skin, and sing in your car. I don’t like to tell people what they should do, but do that.

Anyway. I have said many times in my life that I feel unmoored, trying to gain my footing. I have family, but I don’t have a great sense of my ancestry. I identify more with my dad’s side of the family, Italians, but I don’t know for sure why. I’m a lot like my mother (English, mostly) and also her sister. I feel like I should connect more with that. Will I know myself better by finding a sense of home in my ancestry? I’m not sure. And, have I created a sense of home, of attachment to place of some sort, for my children? I worry I haven’t. Will they know who they are, create their own sense of home?

A friend I care very much about told me today that I live in a world that is “fuzzy around the edges, fireflies, everything lavender, dreamy and lovely.” I will tell her how much that means to me, because that indeed is the world I want to live in. No hard edges. Full of love and good stuff. Sounds like a perfect home to me.

Summer is waning. This is the first year I don’t have a child starting school of some sort in the fall. This in itself feels like a huge shift, a change in time, a totally new and uncharted season. Almost unbearably sweet, like a too-ripe summer peach.

FPP Walking Workshop

Last weekend my friend Jane and I went to Findlay, Ohio to participate in the Film Photography Project‘s “walking workshop” with about 100 or so other people, who were about 95% men. That last bit is neither here nor there, but I did find it a little surprising and somewhat noteworthy. Do men have more free time for pursuits like camera collecting and film photography? Are women just not as interested in workshops? I don’t know these things. But, Jane and I enjoyed the workshops, the freebies, the FPP store, the FPP podcast crew, wandering around town during the car show, and the venue (the Jones Mansion).

We each bought $10 plastic point and shoot cameras with ridiculous telescoping lenses. I bought a $10 t-shirt (can’t have enough t-shirts) and a roll of T-Max 3200 ISO film. I won a Minolta Hi-Matic G. I’ve never had so many men say “I like your dress” (it’s my favorite dress right now, a print of old-style cameras)–the best comment being “I don’t wear dresses often, but I’d wear that one.” I mean, c’mon! What’s not to love here?

I shot a roll of color film a few weeks ago on the west side of Michigan, mostly flowers (both wild and planted) with the idea of re-shooting for a whole roll of double exposures. Since there was a car show going on in downtown Findlay during the workshop, I ended up shooting some cars and alleys and streetscapes over the flowers on that roll. I have some other film ready and a few rolls to finish up before I send the re-shot roll for developing, but I’m excited to see what I get.

Anyway, here are some images from the test rolls from those two cameras I mentioned a few weeks back, the camera given to me by a neighbor (that Minolta Maxxum 300si) and the goodwill camera (a Minolta Freedom Zoom 90). The goodwill camera is huge and clunky and the zoom pretty much broke at the end of the test roll. The Maxxum’s longer lens might be really useful and although overall I probably won’t use this camera too often, I’m going to keep it around. The Freedom shot a 1989 expired roll of Ektachrome (cross processed) and I didn’t expect much from that, but got a few shots I kind of liked. The Maxxum had a roll of Fuji 800 ISO film in it and who knows how old it was or how it was stored. So, experiments.

 

Ginger-lemon summer

I don’t really know what I can say here. I’m in love.

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freighter on Lake Michigan
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pines and clouds

I know when I first started to shoot film I was so excited by not knowing what I was going to get when my film was developed. I have a little more experience now, so I pretty much do know what I’m going to get, but I’m still chasing the fun of the mystery, which is why I’m drawn to expired films, film soups, new (to me) old cameras. A guarantee of not knowing what you’ll get, and so you’ll definitely get a surprise (good or bad).

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sunset and driftwood

In prep for a film secret Santa exchange last Christmas, I chopped up some fresh ginger, squeezed the juice out of a lemon, and boiled the ginger and lemon with some water for, oh, I don’t know, a while. Then I let the concoction cool and dropped two rolls of film into it to soak for, oh, I don’t know, another while. Then I took them out and rinsed them and dropped them into a baggie with rice to dry for a few weeks, and then I mailed one to my secret Santa recipient in California and kept the other for myself.

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seaplane and clouds

I’m still kind of bad about noting things and I kind of thought I would remember which roll I soaked, but of course I didn’t. So I forgot all about it until I put this roll in my Minolta SRT-102 a few weeks ago and it was just a little crispy feeling when I tried to advance the first few frames and a lightbulb went off in my brain and ta-da! I remembered about that film I soaked over the winter.

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vineyard and truck
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driftwood, double

Surprise!

I like good surprises.

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lighthouse, unmoored

Anyway. Color shifts, streaks, green bubbly-looking spots. Be still my heart. I soaked some film in sparkling honey mead last summer and was happy with that. This venture has made me equally happy.

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moonflower
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yellow garden groundcover
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lavender sky
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lavender
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more lavender

You can see more from this roll here.

 

Lake Michigan moods on Portra

I shot a roll of Portra 160 on the Bronica SQ-A over the course of one day last month, all of Lake Michigan, from atop the bluff in front of the cottage. The lake goes through many moods throughout each day and this one just seemed full of color, interest, and an odd wind coming from the west and pushing the lake away from the beach. Even on the grayest day I think she’s gorgeous, but I’m a bit biased.

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fog and morning
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late morning, from deck
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afternoon
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early evening, lake and shoreline
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evening and light rays
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late evening sparkle and stormy skies

Right now I have five rolls of film from July ready to develop, plus two rolls of film in two cameras that have just a few shots left. More lake pics. The wild rose bush on the side of the road that keeps expanding. The blooming milkweed. The lavender. All the things I love, plus test rolls from the point and shoot I picked up from the goodwill, and the camera given me by a neighbor.

This week I’ll leave the cottage for a few weeks in the city, and get back to the cottage just in time for the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. When we were kids, during the Perseids we’d set up sleeping bags and pillows and camp out on the deck for as much of the night as we could handle being soaked from the dew. They are one hell of a show if you have a nice dark sky from which to view them.

it’s raining, and some purple

I’m not the only one that needs it to rain every now and then, am I? I mean, not for days and days on end… that’s too much. But after a stretch of summery sun and warmth a bit of rain just feels like a necessary break. A permission to be a little blue, or introspective. It’s a little like crying after going a really long time without. I don’t know–it feels good to me.

It’s raining right now on a late Thursday afternoon. I heard thunder growling for about an hour before the rain started, and some interesting clouds formed over the lake. Nothing dramatic, just a gentle release. The dog is especially tired today and has been snoring either on the couch or under my feet at the dining room table (my cottage office). I could curl up and nap, too, if not for work. These are the kind of days I’d skip college classes and spend the day in bed reading and drinking tea. I miss those days.

I made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t buy any cameras in 2018. I’m not really sure why I made such a foolish bargain now, and maybe I should have clarified. Like, no cameras over $20 or something more sane. In any case, I went to a local good will shop last week and took a $6.95 chance on a clean-looking, fully automatic, clunker of a late 1980’s plastic point and shoot. I also picked up a Cokin A series filter holder and three filters–one of which is a double exposure “splitter” that I was pretty excited to find. I took the clunker on a beach walk with a roll of heavily expired slide film from the same era as the camera. Who knows if anything will come of that roll, but it was fun. I tried the splitter two nights ago and again, who knows what will come of it. I’m not organized enough to plan decent doubles when I’m out; I’m just shooting and enjoying things most of the time lately.

I also put feelers out to neighbors via an online community about taking old cameras off their hands, and someone offered up an SLR. I met a complete stranger in the parking lot of the local market who handed me a bag with a Minolta Maxxum 300si, two lenses, a roll of unused film in the camera and a second roll in the bag. He was nice, just happy to get rid of something he didn’t use that was taking up space. It’s also a fully automatic thing and I promised I’d use it and then donate it if it didn’t become part of my regular rotation. The funny thing is it happens to take the same battery as the good will clunker, so I didn’t have to wait to test it out. I wanted to ask some background but he seemed in a rush, so, I’ll make up stories about where the camera has been and what it has seen.

I had five rolls of film developed a few weeks ago–two were Lomography Lomochrome Purple. One of these I’ve been carrying around for over a year, so it’s an older formula, and the other was a “new” formula. I don’t think I can judge how the two formulas differ, because I am absolutely terrible about storing film properly and the older roll went with me to Peru last May (but did not get used) and has been in and out of camera bags and hot and cold cars and basically has not been treated the way an $11.90 roll of film should be treated. But the “old” formula images look a little overexposed, a cooler purple. The “new” formula images seem a bit more saturated, a warmer purple. Conditions, light, subjects all play a roll, of course.

Enough writing on a rainy afternoon, and I have to get back to work. Here are some purple film photos, in no particular order. You can see more in this flickr album, if you want.

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200 stairs
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hidden
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ethereal clouds
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poppies
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garden
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orchard
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corn field, early
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my favorite forgotten garden
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out for a walk
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ferns along a path
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woods
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grain field
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old farm truck