San Francisco

I’m so lucky. I traveled this past week for work, and I’m so lucky because I got to squeeze in an extra day of non-work, which I spent with a coworker doing the thing I like best (taking pictures) and catching up with her and you know, I don’t think we even talked about work at all. Suzanne, you rock.

I want you to know how hard it was for me to write the headline to this post. I’m bad at headlines. Usually literary phrases or lyrics or song titles come first to mind, and okay, sometimes I use those, but I feel like I’m cheating. I mean, who doesn’t leave their heart in San Francisco? And, yeah, now I know the way to San Jose. But those aren’t my words. So, just plain old San Francisco will have to do for this post, because that’s pretty much where I was. Or, the bay area. Or, is it Bay Area? (I’m still recovering from the whirlwind trip so I’m refusing to consult my sources to check which is correct.) I was in and around San Francisco and Sonoma for work, and it was all of these things: fun, exhausting, exhilarating, enlightening, and fantastic to be face-to-face with my coworkers.

But, pictures.

I’ve given no love to my digital camera in months, and because I was tasked with photos for a work outing while I was there, I took the digital camera. Which is, like me, showing its age. A rubber grippy part of it fell off last summer and I intended to glue it back on but never got around to it and now I don’t know where that part is. A plate on a button on top of the camera, the one that shows what mode you’re shooting in, fell off while on this trip. I haven’t lost that and I’ll probably glue that back on, but I don’t need to. I’ll admit I kind of like the camera better a bit worn and ratty looking. After using old film cameras that are metal, sturdy and more substantial feeling than a modern plastic DSLR, the plastic camera feels a bit, well, cheap. Ratty and imperfect are more my style anyway. And settling on one camera and one lens is a little hard for me, but I do like a challenge. So the clunky, somewhat ratty, DSLR with 17-55mm lens came with me, jammed into my backpack not carefully at all, and they did just fine.

Also after working with black and white film for the last four months I’ll admit the ease of upload and edits was (at least a little) fun. Maybe I even missed it a bit. But I still couldn’t help but make some of the fort images black and white, a little crusty and contrasty. Maybe a little like film. Whatever. Editing is such a personal thing, dependent on mood when you sit down to do it. At least for me.

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Fort Point in the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge
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Fort Point inner courtyard

So, the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point in the Presidio. I’m not delving into any history here because you can go find that yourself. I’ll just say I love a space with brick, shadows, girders and trusses, some height, an underbelly. Some grit, some history, something that takes up a sizeable amount of space. This place hit all my buttons.

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stairs and shadows

Driving through cities in the bay, the outer roads, hilly and winding roads in wine country, stuff that makes your heart jump a little with the beauty and the occasional fear of dropping off a cliff. There’s something almost a little too bright about California, too shiny, perfect and beautiful.

But I can’t get enough of it.

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boats and field
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house on stilts
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driveby

hoya on Holga

hoya plant, lomo purple and Holga
hoya plant, lomo purple and Holga

I don’t have a green thumb (or a purple one). I love plants, but it’s not in my nature to take care of them. Maybe some day.

There is a hoya plant in my front window that faces south, a big, lovely picture window. It’s about the same size as the picture window in the house I grew up in, which also faced south (faced? faces? The house, and the window, both still exist…). These are the kind of windows that, in February, beg you to lay on the floor in a winter sunbeam and soak up the light. If you don’t have one of these, find a friend that does and spend a February afternoon doing just that.

Anyway.

The hoya plant in my front window is a clipping from my friend Kelly’s hoya plant, who got the clipping from my dad from the original hoya plant that I grew up watching grow in my lovely south-facing picture window in the house I grew up in. I don’t remember who gave my dad the original clipping from their own hoya plant–probably one of his teacher friends–at least 40 years ago.

My dad planted the hoya–which really was just a little tendril and maybe one or two thick leaves sticking up from the earth–in a little pot. It grew, slowly. It was supposed to bloom but it seemed we had it for years before it surprised us one year, maybe around Christmas, with the most delicious-smelling bloom, a funky waxy-looking thing with little florets. My dad built a trellis for it and it climbed and bloomed and the blooms smelled terrific and everyone lived happily ever after.

(Okay, I went away to college and then moved away and forgot about the hoya.)

But at some point in my early adulthood my dad gave my friend Kelly a clipping of that hoya, and some years ago Kelly gave me a clipping from that hoya, and now I have it in my front room, growing profoundly slowly and appreciated by me but cared for by my husband. It hasn’t bloomed yet, but I’m hopeful.

Of course I had to photograph it in purple film on a Holga, which I thought fitting for kind of a funky plant. But aren’t the shadows lovely?

Frantic limbo

I’m right in between things.

barn and field
barn and field, Kodak Tri-X, Mamiya 645 1000s
leaning shed
leaning shed, Fuji Acros, Mamiya 645 1000s

In between a work trip. My film photography class is ending. Then a vacation to an unknown and, to me, exotic place. Then a move from town to the beach for the summer. And in the meantime I feel the unease of my kids as they finish their college terms. Does that part ever end, I wonder–the part where you feel the pain of whatever stress or difficulty your (albeit adult) children are going through? Somehow I don’t think I was totally prepared for that part of parenting.

Oh but who am I kidding? All the parts of parenting have surprised me. Why would I think that now, because they are grown, it should be any different?

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White River Light, Kodak Tri-X, Mamiya 645 1000s

In any case I feel such a sense of limbo right now. I’m trying to roll with it.

And speaking of rolls… I have been frantically shooting film like I have the budget of someone who has, well, a big budget for film. I’m a copy editor, after all, and last I checked no one ever said they wanted to go into copy editing to make the big bucks. But here I am buying and blowing through rolls of film like they’re free or something.

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creeping juniper, Ilford FP4, Minolta SRT 102
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new shoots on the forest floor, Ilford FP4, Minolta SRT 102

I have developed 22 rolls of black and white film for my class and will develop three more this week before the lab will be off limits. I had four rolls of color film developed in February; I’ve got five rolls of color film at a lab right now, and had two rolls of color film developed a few weeks ago. That’s 36 rolls of film shot and developed since January. Of nothing special, even. I could have far worse vices, right?

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orchard road, Fuji Acros, Holga

For my last class assignment I wanted to photograph a thing I love. The sand dunes at Silver Lake offer a shifting landscape that at times buries and other times unearths the ghostly treasures of its past. I’ll never tire of hiking these dunes and coming across these alien, sculptural roots and trunks of the trees that once forested this landscape. The light cooperated, but I found the resulting photos an interesting juxtaposition–these images look serene, but the wind was so fierce it nearly knocked me off the tops of some dune ridges and sand came out of my scalp for two days after I got home.

I still have so many more to scan, and a few might show how windy it really was.

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resting under a live tree, Ilford FP4, Minolta SRT 102
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alien on the dune, Fuji Acros, Mamiya 645 1000s

Still (barely) upright

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one corner left, Fuji Neopan Acros, 100 ISO, Holga

There’s just a corner left standing after this winter. I’ve been watching this farmhouse in west Michigan deteriorate for decades. Really, for my entire life since it has been empty as long as I’ve known it.

I have always been fascinated by this house and I’ll mourn the day there’s nothing left to see, but until then I’ll keep photographing it so that I can hold the image of it and the stories I’ve created for it in my mind.