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.

spring blossoms/summer fruit

A few weeks ago, after we moved our daughter to Texas but before she stayed there for good (in other words, she came back to town for a bit) we came to the cottage just in time to see the blossoms on the fruit trees.

The west side of Michigan grows cherries, peaches and apples (in that seasonal order, too). Also pears, but the first three are the big ones. Aside from tree fruit, the area is also big on asparagus, strawberries and blueberries.

But back to the blossoms. They’re so pretty, and I wish I could tell you I knew from the blossoms which fruit trees I am looking at, but alas, I don’t–unless I remember what was growing in the orchard in the year past. I do know that I like to (very lightly) trespass on the edges of my neighbor’s orchards long enough to get some photos of these trees at blossom time and then again when the fruit is in season. I really hope they don’t mind.

Actually I’m pretty sure these first three photos are of apple trees.

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blossoms, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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blossoms, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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blossoms, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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Bella/blossoms double exposure, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200

Aside from enjoying the blossoms, we plucked some spruce tips and tried to make a spruce tip syrup. I was excited after reading about spruce tip syrup last year, too late to pluck the spring tips, but my execution may not have been right. I might try again before all the spruce and pine tips have gone and turned into needles. You’ve got to get them when they’re tender and green.

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spruce, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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spruce tip collection, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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spruce tips, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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spruce tips, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200

May storm over Lake Michigan

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storm, view from cottage deck

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of getting to see a storm roll in over the lake.

I waited for this storm all day. It was uncharacteristically hot and muggy for even late May, and storms were supposed to roll in around noon but they stayed away and it got super hot and sticky. This one was awfully pretty as it came in but was more bark than bite, with no real thunderclaps and not much lightning. Doesn’t matter. I’m in love with them all.

All the storms are gorgeous. All the sunsets are, too.

Austin, I like you

Austin downtown from under the South Congress Street bridge
downtown Austin, TX

This is going to sound terrible. But, I never gave Texas much thought. I’m way up here in Michigan, and Texas feels a world away; a gigantic state with guns and trucks and carnivores and women with big hair and the kinds of things and people I figured I wouldn’t mix all that well with. I know better, really I do.

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Colorado River/Lady Bird Lake
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don’t handle the bats

But we drove down to Texas a few weeks ago with a carload of stuff and helped move our grown human into a really amazing apartment, and outside of all the work that entailed we ate some pretty amazing meals (Austin knows how to do vegetarian and vegan) and I spent a morning walking on the multi-use paths along the Colorado River/Lady Bird Lake taking pictures. I only brought one camera (my favorite 35mm, the Minolta SRT-102) and finished a roll of Kodak ColorPlus that was half-used and a roll of Fuji Superia, both ISO 200. I already can’t wait to go back; there’s so much more to explore.

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growth spurt
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digging the cloud buildings

Austin, I’m sorry I pre-judged–we’re gonna get along just fine. And, Texas, I don’t know how much I’ll dabble in you beyond Austin, but I promise to keep an open mind.

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Ai Weiwei’s Forever Bicycles
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found a little love along the river

I’m still finding my way with flickr; still not sure how I feel about it. But you can see more of my photos from Austin here.

am I seeing things, or is that just an inversion?

There’s this thing that happens on Lake Michigan, and the other Great Lakes, and probably other large bodies of water, too. When conditions are just right–and here, that’s when the air starts to warm up but the lake water is still cold, or late spring–there is a confluence of temperature and bending light rays that lets you see things you aren’t ordinarily able to see, namely buildings and light that are far beyond the reach of normal vision and the curve of the earth. It’s called a temperature inversion, and like rainbows and fog-bows and northern lights and water spouts and other magical things, when you get to see one you feel a little changed.

I won’t get science-y about it because I don’t want to write about things I don’t understand all that well, but the first time I got to see this phenomena was a Memorial Day weekend about five or six years ago. There was a small group of us on a neighbor’s deck, and I kept wondering if I was seeing some abnormally tall freighter out on the horizon. Only it wasn’t moving, and soon it was joined by other abnormally tall freighters that weren’t moving, and then as the sky darkened there were white and red lights around these structures, some blinking and some steady, and we realized we were seeing the buildings from the city across the lake… which was 80 miles across the lake. One of my neighbors fortunately knew that we were seeing was a temperature inversion so we weren’t in the dark about it for very long.

Anyway, last evening I just had a feeling it might happen. There is a chunk of land south of our cottage that juts out into the lake, and a few hours before sunset it looked weird. Weird as in higher than it normally is, and if you watched this chunk of land as you walked down the bluff to the water line, it changed. It looked like a mirage was happening. I figured the conditions might just be right for an inversion.

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I don’t have a high-end lens for capturing things far away, so these will have to do. The first image is from the top of the bluff, and the second is how things looked just walking down the stairs to lower on the bluff. It went from looking like a cliff to looking like a big alligator jutting out into the lake. On a normal day, this bit of land looks more like the top half of the second image (the alligator’s top jaw and up). A little elevation, yes, but no cliffs.

I wish I had pictures of last night’s inversion, but I don’t think I could have done it justice. So, maybe just imagine it: a crisp, dark night full of stars; a chorus of Spring Peepers; a fairly quiet Lake Michigan; a quarter moon leaving a dazzle on the lake; bright lights, white and red, some blinking rhythmically (think traffic lights), in city clusters, for miles and miles across the horizon.

 

in need of inspiration

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Joe Louis fist statue, Detroit, Bronica SQ-A with Fuji Acros 100

I love this statue that sits in the boulevard at Woodward and Jefferson in Detroit’s financial district, across from Hart Plaza. It’s the boxer Joe Louis’s fist. Pow, you’re in Detroit. To me it denotes strength, grit, power.

I’m a little unmoored this month. My daughter’s graduation and move to Texas for work. A lack of focus and direction on my part. Work is busy; that’s good. But I feel unsettled and a bit lost, and rather suddenly not young anymore. Sort of waiting for Joe Louis and his giant, bronze fist to punch me in the gut. Pow, ideas and focus, a project, artistic inspiration.

I took some pictures in Austin last week, but haven’t dropped the film off yet. Maybe the greenery and blooms and Lake Michigan’s freshly-scrubbed shoreline will set me straight this weekend, or some other light bulb will go off in my floaty head.