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

 

of poppies and solitude

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I like to take pictures in the herb and flower garden at a local farm market. There’s a lavender labyrinth there that brings the masses right around now, when the lavender blooms and casts its purple hue across the garden grounds. Smack in the middle of the labyrinth is a raised garden bed, and it’s here that I like to go in the golden hour before sunset and commune with the bees as they dance around the blooms. I like this spot best in June, before the summer crowds descend on this place, right when the poppies open and before things begin to wilt and brown from the summer heat.

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I’m in love with the poppies, but like everything that grows here they don’t stick around long. By July they are replaced by other blooms, and there can be hundreds of people in this garden milling about, taking selfies. I know this is good for the business owner, but I like this place quiet and peaceful, when I can be alone with my thoughts and hear things growing and buzzing all around me–that’s when it’s really magical.

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A few weeks ago I went into the heart of this garden one evening with my Bronica loaded with a roll of Fuji Velvia 50 ISO film. A young woman who works at the farm was just wrapping up her work there and we chatted a bit before she left me alone with the bees. I’ve only used Velvia a few times but I think the colors and that evening’s light and my Bronica just kind of all worked together to make some real beauty. Who can look at the greens and reds and purples that happen in nature and not be quieted, at least for a moment?

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You can see the rest of this roll here, or an older post I wrote with digital photos from this place here.

 

dreamy

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goatsbeard, Bronica SQ-A and Fuji Acros 100 + close up filter

We wandered the music festival grounds last night. I feel honored to be able to do that, through knowing some lovely and talented people that make it possible for us to experience the festival without having to be actual festival-goers. It’s in a pine forest, lit up with light and art and hope and pure escapism. It’s a surreal landscape.

I took my camera to the meadow just under two weeks ago to photograph this goatsbeard, and the next day as I walked by it the meadow was being mowed. All the goatsbeard, the milkweed, the sweet pea and clover and everything else that was erupting or about to be erupting was gone. There’s more right behind it, but it still made me sad. I don’t like the tearing down of anything, I guess.

middle-of-the-night inspiration

Freighters sing tonight;
their serene calls amplified
in the fog-drenched air

Last week the weather on Lake Michigan was a little too spectacular for early June. Summery, hot, beach weather mostly, with little wind and a bug population that hasn’t gotten out of control (yet).

My friend and co-worker came to the lake to stay and work for the week, and we set up shop at the dining room table and made the most of the lovely view, working when we needed to and breaking when the outdoors beckoned. I’m used to being alone here, but it was nice to have a reprieve from the quiet, especially after work. We had plans to have dinner out one night, maybe a lunch, too, but it was just too nice to bother to leave the beach. So we didn’t.

One evening, the fog rolled in and stuck throughout the night. I left windows and doors open because it was warm enough for it, and was awakened at 4 a.m. to the sound of a freighter’s foghorn, steady and gutteral, in the otherwise still night. Soon after, another foghorn in a slightly higher tone; a duet of call and response. There was no picture to take, so I wrote a haiku.

These are the things that make my heart swell. The night sounds, the morning dew, the sunset colors, the ever-changing lake.

Today the power went out and I couldn’t work for almost two hours. A minor annoyance; an enforced break to walk the beach. A neighbor’s generator hummed, but otherwise there was quiet aside from the birds and the bees, which seem busier this year than ever.

I’m thinking a lot about what there is happening when I have a camera in hand. Sounds, mainly, or a mood or feeling in the surroundings. Last evening I shot of roll of 120 film in the meadow, mainly of the seeded goat’s-beard puffballs dotting a small section of the meadow near the road (these look like giant dandelions that have gone to seed). The goat’s-beard shared space with other grasses and some rich purple sweet pea. It was another windless night; gray and dull skies, warm and a bit muggy, sweet-smelling and earthy. I could hear an occasional low growl of thunder from a storm out over the lake, but louder than that were the bees–near hummingbird sized bumblebees, working around me, a din of their buzzing. I added to my mosquito bite collection, getting fresh bites on my hands as I worked. One of the resident eagles soared overhead and disappeared.

I took notes so I would remember these things–the things that you wouldn’t know by looking at one of the pictures from this roll. The things I might not otherwise remember when this film is developed in a week or two.

This is what I want to explore. Can I impart the sounds, or a smell, or my heart bursting, or the pinch of a mosquito bite? Can I infuse these other-sense things into an image?

optical illusions

I promise, this is a freighter.

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It looks as weird in the photo as it did in real life; two nights ago, a rectangular block floating in front of the horizon, accompanied by a familiar low hum that drifted across the quiet, windless lake from the freighter’s motor. More mirages, or optical illusions, from the cold lake and the warming air.