I think I’ve run at least six or eight rolls of film through the Mamiya C220 since it was gifted to me last fall. I’ve made multiple mistakes on most of these rolls, from double exposures (although those are almost always happy mistakes) to winding past exposures (I got only two or three exposures on my first roll) to not latching the back properly to… I don’t even know. If there’s a way to do this camera wrong, I think I’ve done it so far.
But, this last roll, Portra 160 shot throughout last week. I worked slowly. I forwarded carefully (oh so carefully). I metered each shot. I kept my hair out the way and made sure my fingers didn’t get in front of the bottom lens. I held the camera steady and didn’t breathe. I still guessed on compensating for the fact that you frame with one lens and the bottom lens is the one that takes the shot–a conundrum if you’re close to your subject, which I was in a few cases. But my guesses weren’t too bad on the close stuff.
It’s grown on me. There is a persistent sort of charm to this camera. It’s awkward to use but I’m getting there. The flipped image is confusing me a little less lately. My horizons are getting a bit straighter. The gentle click of the shutter is soothing. The dreamy image in the ground glass makes me want to look at everything through its eye.
If I’m slow and careful, the detail this camera lets me capture up close is magic. I can’t wait to practice with it on the dunes this summer as more wild things bloom.
(I actually just had to edit the word “literally” out of that sentence.)
Swimming! Finally! And completely out of stagnancy and lack of imagination. I’ve felt in so much of a funk the last few months and just devoid of creative ideas. Everything I think of to create seems stupid, hackneyed, overdone. I’m not getting out with cameras much and it’s getting to me. My time is not my own.
I’m pissy about my lack of freedom; my old dog needs so much right now, and having my dad with me is a big life change. It’s good, but I’m having to face the reality of our relationship, both as it was in the past and as it is today. It’s emotional work I’ve long avoided and I may still be avoiding it. You can think I’m selfish for struggling with these things, and maybe that’s true–but it’s honest.
I’m working on ways to reframe this part of my life as opportunity. Opportunity to know my dad better. Opportunity to spend the final months with this dog that has been my stalwart protector and consummate entertainer. Opportunity to be in the place I love most, although it’s different right now and might always be different.
I’m not good at this, but I’ll keep trying. Also that’s three paragraphs in a row that begin with the word “I’m.” I’m also too tired to edit that. So there.
But, ideas. One is a summer creative project. A way to explore the boundaries that I’m seeing as constraints right at this moment. Instead of boundaries maybe they can be creative guides, moving lines to tuck up against, nudge, color over. I’m always waiting for good creative ideas to slap me across the face, and this one did.
When I was young my mother and I would press flowers between tissues and tuck them into pages in books, which flattened and dried them but preserved their colors. I loved looking at these one dimensional, delicate, paper thin but still colorful flowers later. A few weeks ago I had the sudden urge to press as many blooming things as I can summer. I didn’t know what I would do with this and now I do, and things are just starting to bloom.
It might be the first time I’ve ever felt so sure about a project and so ready to start.
I don’t have a picture of my hair in Texas. I’m not much for selfies, and no one is clamoring to snap any photos of me. But, I was in Austin spending time with my daughter and soaking up the muggy heat and ignoring my own life for just a few days and I gotta say, my hair looked poofy and full and not flat and static-y and I just liked it.
My hip flexor, which I tore and wrote about last post (in March, no less–I’m trying not to ignore this blog but it seems that’s what I’ve done) is 95% better. Sometimes I feel it a little but I’m not babying it anymore. The black and white film class I took at community college just finished a week ago today. I’ve got a bunch of negatives to scan and I’m not thrilled for that because I can’t seem to make a decent scan come out of my scanner. Plus, scanning is a royal pain in the ass.
The cottage window is fixed and the house survived the winter; the beach did not. The bluff in front of our cottage is in ruins, disarray; the pipes and tires we drove into the shoreline as protective jetties more than 30 years ago are now exposed, our stairs no longer usable, a high cliff from the bluff to the water. We know how it goes, but it still stings and it still gives me nightmares. We can only hope for the levels of the Great Lakes to go down, but I’d prefer to plan than leave things to hope or chance. I want to know what’s next, even if I’m not going to like it. I do better with that.
Still, it’s not like the cottage is about to fall off the bluff and into the lake (I don’t say this jokingly as there are cottages on these lakes that have done just that). We’re not in danger yet. The view is still spectacular, the wildflowers and the deer and the foxes and the eagles will still make appearances, the sun will still rise and set and make for appreciative conversation. Summer warmth will kiss our bare skin and make us feel better about the world.
Austin and film soaked in McClary Bros. thai basil drinking vinegar
Yeah, say that three times fast.
We went to a park in an Austin suburb and walked a trail there that wound through scrub and cacti and wildflowers and it was hot and sunny and wonderful. The leaves had only just unfurled here in Michigan and the earliest spring flowers are in bloom, but in Texas it was lush and green and fields of yellow and red and orange wildflowers were riotous and plentiful. Anyway, I shot a roll of film mostly in that park with the last few shots around my daughter’s neighborhood and on the rooftop deck of her apartment building.
The film is Lomography 100 ISO color film. The thai basil drinking vinegar I soaked it in a few months ago offered a pretty subtle effect, with no great streaks or bubbles of color, but some gentle color shifts mainly. I’m good with it.
Until next time, Texas. I might not come ’round in the summer because, well, you’re really hot, and I don’t mean that in a nice way. But you’ve grown on me, and I like to see my kid, so keep some beer in the cooler for me, will ya?
I didn’t forget about you, blog. I’m just having a moment. A few moments, really.
I guess this blog has turned more into a place for me to post my photographs, and if I’m not photgraphing that much I wonder if I should write, and if I write, how much of my life do I actually offer up? I don’t know; social media is a wild west–a place where people offer up intimate details of their lives. That’s not really me.
But I’m having a tough winter. I don’t know if I’ve written about my vertigo here, but I have intermittent vertigo, the details of which are boring and it really just means that sometimes I look drunk when I’m not. The vertigo has been a companion of late. And just about two weeks ago some overzealous workouts conspired to tear my hip flexor. It hurt, bad, for a few days and then started to feel better; and then I did a couple of harder workouts and now I can’t ignore it. The pain is constant and, at times, too intense to function around.
I give. I’m paying attention.
Before the hip flexor, nearly three weeks ago I came to the cottage for a weekend and the inner pane of one of the front double pane windows was broken; cracks in all directions like wandering rivers. I taped the window up and worried, because I am good at worrying and because I know nothing about windows, thinking it might still fully shatter, break the outer pane, and expose the house to the elements. I bought a cheap webcam and pointed it at the window so I could watch it while I was gone (I checked the camera almost obsessively at first).
Of course the tape job held, a new window is on order and will be placed tomorrow, and all will be fine. Things get old and worn. Windows break. Hip flexors tear. I get dizzy; it goes away.
Anyway. We are on the beach now. We got iced in last night, but we had nowhere to go. My best friend was here working on her cottage just a few doors down from ours. I’m alternately heating and icing my hip, enjoying the fire that my husband keeps stoked in the fireplace, and walking the beach, carefully, gently, to try to get blood flowing to the torn muscle and inflamed fibers so that they begin to heal. I’m trying to be positive and treat myself gently, maybe even spoil myself a little. It’s a process, this healing, this fixing of broken things.
I’ll celebrate the little things, like today the sky stays light longer. I walked the beach this evening in a bold wind, hearing the lake roar but not seeing the wild waves because of the ice hills that have formed at the shoreline. I won’t say it was peaceful because the wind howled and pushed me around and the lake gnarled back at the wind. But the wildness itself was soothing. It always is.
As I begin to write, I’m being stalked by a dog that I have a sneaking suspicion is well on the path to senility. I woke up late; she’d already been fed and walked, and yet has followed me around the house asking for I don’t know what. I reassure her, smooch her, pet her. Finally she has settled next to me on the couch. I’ll walk her again in a bit but between her decreasing strength, the bad leg and the prolific snow here, very small walks will be the norm today.
Jim is watching women’s cyclocross on tv, a world championship race, in very grim-looking weather seaside in Bergen, Denmark. He periodically spouts off with details about each rider; a typical Saturday morning for us and while I don’t share his love of all things cycling, I’m reassured by this routine. It’s him, and he’s steady, and this is good.
We are in a cozy cottage on a bluff overlooking an ice-crusted Lake Michigan. When we arrived last night, it was the darkest night. The only thing offering brightness was the blanket of snow, but the sky was black as ink and the lake was eerily quiet. After a worrisome week of record-breaking temperatures here in the midwest, I was afraid that there would be a burst pipe or other damage here. I have no shortage of worries–about the cottage, the house, my kids, my dad, whatever it is that isn’t right in front of me at that very minute, and even some of the things that are right in front of me. I don’t know how to shake these worries, but I’m trying to acknowledge them and not let them be bigger than they ought to be.
But the cottage was fine, thanks to our plumber who came in several times to check, bump the heat up, and arrange for someone to plow out the drive. Jim shoveled the massive drifts on the deck, made a fire, and we settled in. I don’t take lightly the responsibility of this place and am forever grateful to be able to be here, in any season, to see the beauty it offers.
The temperature is in the balmy 20s and I’ll snowshoe on the beach if it’s not too windy or otherwise in the woods. After being cooped up all week due to the polar vortex and because I’ll be indoors for meetings all this coming week, I want to be outside as much as possible today.
Anyway. A few weeks ago I was in Austin, Texas, on a birthday weekend trip courtesy of my daughter, and it was wonderful. I don’t want to gush, but she made me feel really special and I hope she knows how much I appreciated that weekend. While I was there I shot a roll and a half of Kodak Portra (and I can’t remember at the moment if it was 400 or 160…) in my trusty Minolta SRT-102.
Thursday we worked in her apartment, cooked dinner, watched tv, and turned in early-ish. Friday Austin was grey and rainy but I’d taken the day off work and while my daughter went to her office I walked South Congress and ate at what may be my favorite restaurant there, Bouldin Creek Cafe, and then wandered the shops in that neighborhood. I get accused of talking too much to strangers, but I enjoy it and I met several people from Pittsburgh and Chicago (my dad is from Pittsburgh so I know it well, and I lived in Chicago for nearly a decade). Like any city, Austin seems populated by people that come from somewhere else. That evening I spent nearly an hour and a half being treated to a massage, followed by drinks with my daughter and her coworkers and then dinner with her friends. Saturday was sunny and windy and lovely and we got up early and headed out for pedicures, then had brunch at an amazing restaurant next to a huge record store, neither of whose names I can remember, and wandered UT Austin’s campus where I took a few photographs and accidentally popped open the back of my camera. We went to the Blanton Museum of Art, which I highly recommend if you like that sort of thing (I do), and afterward walked through Texas’s capitol building. Sunday we walked the boardwalk on Ladybird Lake and ate again at Bouldin Creek and had a cupcake at Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop before I had to leave her to head back home.
And I missed her just about instantly.
I added these and other photos from this trip to my Austin flickr album if you want to see more.
Ooof. It’s mid-January. It finally decided to be winter around here, starting today (our first real snow is happening as I write). I turned 52 a few weeks ago. And I’m not even about to say the things you’d think I might be about to say about that. I’m not even kidding. I’m 52, I’m here, I’m okay with all of it. Really!
Also as I write, right now, I’m sort of waiting to collectively decide if we are driving across state today to check on the cottage. The roads are crap, so we might hold off until morning in hopes that they will be less snow-covered. It’s been a long week and my decision-making skills are near to nonexistent on a Saturday, so while the snow falls I think I’ll write here and let the weather prevail. Besides, there’s a dog snoring on the couch across from me. Which makes me want to nap and even further put off both decision making and driving.
I did walk around town a bit today in the falling snow and shot most of a roll that was already in my Minolta SRT-102. I’ve not had great luck with snowy scenes thus far but I’ll keep trying. And I want to finish this roll of color film because I’ll be shooting black and white for a while. Last week I started a darkroom class at a community college not terribly far from me. I took this class in winter of 2017 and I really could not wait to take it again, so here I am. I hope I don’t annoy the instructor or my classmates because I am way too excited to be in a darkroom again!
I shot several rolls of film the first few weeks of the year, with some mixed results. I shot a gift roll of dubblefilm sunstroke, one of the many rolls of film I got from my EMULSIVE Secret Santa, around the dunes in Silver Lake State Park. I knew it would be a fun film, and it was a little more subtle than I expected, but I love a good surprise film and this didn’t disappoint. It has a nice warmth to it, don’t you think? It’s actually Kodak Gold 200, and I’m not sure what the folks at dubblefilm do to it make the random flares, but who cares? It’s fun, and I’ve got nothing against that.
The weekend I shot the dubblefilm I also shot another gift roll from my Secret Santa of Lomography f2 through the Mamiya C220 that I am still working to get the hang of. I also ran a roll of Lomography color 400 and a roll of Kodak Portra 400 through the C220 that weekend, which was a gorgeous, sunny, mild weekend on the lakeshore. I have a lab that I love, but sometimes the 120 images I get back from them have some kind of funky pattern on them; I’m not sure if it’s the developing or the scanning. And, one of the rolls from this group came out really extra crispy. Lots of grain, plus patterning. I never have an issue with 35mm film they develop, but every now and then 120 has the patterning and other oddities.
Like this one:
Lots of noise, plus a pattern. And, this one:
But here are some others that came out a bit better. And again, I’m really working hard with the C220. The whole twin lens thing is mysterious to me. You have to sort out how to position the camera just right, and how to adjust yourself just right, to get things in frame correctly and get a horizon that is, well, horizontal. The struggle is real.
I just wonder if maybe the chemicals needed refreshing when these rolls were developed, because my last roll of the year, developed the week before these, doesn’t have the same characteristics. Here are a few from that one:
Last weekend I was in Austin, Texas visiting my daughter. A trip she bought me, AND she surprised me with a massage at a swanky spa AND a pedicure at her favorite salon. My heart was full all weekend. I shot one roll of film, which I’m eager to have developed because I definitely screwed it up. About 10 shots in and walking on UT Austin’s campus on a beautiful, warm, windy day I accidentally popped the back open on my Minolta. It must not have been fully shut, but it surprised me. So I’m not sure what I’ll get with that one.
I was great about taking film and camera notes in 2018 and I was very proud of myself for that, and already a few weeks in to 2019 I’m not sure what’s what. I have a roll of Portra 160 in my Minolta now; I’ve shot and accounted for four rolls of film, but without the negatives in front of me I can’t remember what’s what. I would say 2019 might be the year of limiting my film choices so my recordkeeping is a little easier, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. I have a stockpile of differing films that I should probably use up, so I will. Ah, well. I have 11 months to get my act together.
These images and a few others from these rolls of film are on my flickr albums, here and here, if you want to see more. Speaking of flickr. I’m still debating using it, which will in the near future require me to pay for a pro membership. I am wrestling with the pros and cons of that. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.
I don’t do resolutions, but it’s not a bad time to consider the good, the bad, and the ugly from the previous year and the things in store for the upcoming year. And I haven’t written here all month, which is not normal for me but oh my, it was a month, and if I don’t squeeze one blog post in here I’ll be disappointed with myself. Or is it disappointed in myself? I don’t feel like thinking too hard about that at this moment so let’s just leave it alone, shall we?
Anyway. In the past I’ve been grateful for years to end because they’ve brought heartache, but 2018 overall has been a year of mostly good things. While November brought some unexpected changes, we watched our kids blossom and grow this year. We managed to have one kid graduate from university, get a job, and move many states away. While part of that is bittersweet (the moving away, of course), the majority of that is pretty damn awesome.
Also no one got downsized or laid off this year, and no one got catastrophically ill, either. I got to see my brother a few times and I actually took two vacations with friends, both of which are pretty rare. I don’t want to brag about the good stuff though, because I’m a believer in karma and balance and if I get full of myself about the good stuff, something lousy might kick me in the shins to remind me that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Because, you know, that’s life.
I can’t find my film notebook just at this moment, but as of yesterday I believe I shot 70 rolls of film in 2018, which includes the two rolls I shot yesterday. I had hoped for 52 for an equivalent of one per week, so it’s more than I hoped for. I guess that’s a lot, and developing hasn’t been cheap, but I can think of more expensive hobbies. I also said I wasn’t going to buy any cameras in 2018, but that didn’t go so well. I bought a few (albeit very inexpensive ones), won one (thanks to Film Photography Project), traded some Lomo Purple film for one (a Polaroid, from a local guy I follow on Instagram) found one (I think it had been my mom’s, I don’t know for sure), and was gifted five (very grateful for these gifts!). I don’t know how many I actually have at this point (more than 25 but I don’t think it’s more than 30).
But as 2018 closes out I’m thinking ahead to how I can frame things in 2019. I’m aiming for more positivity and growth, and more creative pursuits. I’m starting 2019 with a class at community college where I can be in a fully stocked darkroom once a week. I took this same class two years ago and I can’t think of a more fulfilling way to spend four hours every Thursday evening for 15 weeks but to be shoulder to shoulder in a darkened room with a group of people of mixed ages and backgrounds, sharing feedback and suggestions, as we watch film and chemicals intermix to create magic.
I also need to do some unearthing this year. I cleaned out an overstuffed closet this month and got rid of most of its contents, but I still have spaces full of things that aren’t getting used and need to go. While cleaning out that closet I found two undeveloped rolls of film, plus the camera that may or may not have been my mother’s and that had a mostly shot roll of film in it. I got a battery and it zipped into life, so I shot the rest of the roll and had the three developed. One of the found rolls of film was from last winter when we nearly got stuck at the cottage New Year’s weekend, and the other, plus the one in-camera, were from the early 2000’s, with some Halloween photos and beach photos of my kids, still sweet and young and innocent.
So I’m ending 2018 with a celebration of the good that happened this year and a readiness for what’s in store for 2019. Or, a sense of adventure for what’s in store for 2019. I’m choosing to face it all, good and bad, with determination and growth. And a bunch of rolls of film.
Changes are still rolling along around here. Just riding the rollercoaster, trying to be the best daughter, mother, partner, human, all of that, and continue to nurture my creativity and my soul. I’ve said more times in the last few weeks phrases like “I won’t go down with the ship,” and “I won’t let this break me.” Dramatic, I know. But we get so comfortable in our phases and it stings a bit to get pushed out of them. Or maybe that’s just me, and I’m a bit selfish.
Anyway. In late October, just after I got back from Iceland, I spent a weekend at the cottage while my husband, son, and a few of their biking friends took part in a race in a town just a few miles from here. That weekend, my son’s girlfriend (who is like a daughter to me) and I spent a few hours out on the dunes of Silver Lake. This is truly one of my favorite places to photograph and it simply never disappoints. Open landscape, windswept dunes, ghosts of trees from centuries past, living and breathing dunescape. I don’t have the negatives in front of me, but I’m pretty sure it was T-Max 100, maybe expired.
And now I can’t remember if it was that same weekend, or a later weekend, that I shot this odd roll of Lomography Lomochrome Purple on the backroads and at the market near the cottage. I love this film and I have shot it a fair bit, but this one was different…
There are little green flecks in it, not totally visible in some of the images but definitely there in all of them. This roll wasn’t stored very well and traveled with me to and from Iceland, so maybe something went wrong with it somewhere? Odd, but that’s okay.
So, yesterday was Thanksgiving and it’s been a bittersweet several days. My family has been in and out and I am beyond thankful for time I get with my kids. But I am struggling to be what my dad needs and still be myself. We have been home and at the cottage. The waves and wind on Lake Michigan soothe me but I think they are unnerving my dad. I don’t know what’s next. I just don’t know what’s next.
More from these two rolls here. (Edited this last sentence because while writing last night, I apparently accidentally pasted a link to a concise answer to a grammar question I was asked rather than the link to my flickr album. Oops.)
A few weeks ago, before my dog hurt her leg and before I even began to realize that holidays are coming and winter is coming and the days are getting short and there will be snow soon (in fact, it’s snowing as I write this and it’s really beautiful), I was gifted two cameras and I couldn’t wait to use them. So I did use them, on the west side of Michigan, to document the then-colorful leaves and other fall-type stuff.
woods in west Michigan, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Ektar
wooded trail, west Michigan, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Ektar
The Mamiya M645 was easy. It is actually quite a bit smaller than my beloved Bronica SQ-A, and I already had experience with my son’s Mamiya 645 1000s. The differences are that the 1000s has a shutter speed up to 1000 (mine only goes to 500), and it literally eats batteries–to use it, you have to pop the battery in before you take a photo and then pop it out again and carry it in a warm pocket. If you are out and about with it and forget to do this, the battery will croak mid-roll. There’s no meter, but the shutter relies on the battery and will stay open if the battery is dead. My M645 seems to have no battery issues but the foam seals are pretty crusty and I did get some bits on some of my images. I might try to replace the seals myself if I’m feeling crafty over the winter, but it’s certainly usable for now.
Anyway, I may have to underexpose a tiny bit with the M645 as more of my shots seemed slightly overexposed, especially on the beach. But, I couldn’t be more thrilled with this camera and I’m happy to have a non-plastic camera (don’t get me wrong, I love my toy cameras) in the 6×4.5 format. This camera will be in regular rotation.
The Mamiya C220 is a different bird altogether. A TLR (twin lens reflex) with a standard waist-level viewfinder means you hold it at around chest or waist level and look down into this beautiful piece of ground glass that makes you feel all swoony and happy because something about it just looks like you’re about to get the most gorgeous, dreamy, lovely image ever.
Except that you’re looking at your image flip-flopped, as in right is left and left is right, and if there’s a horizon your brain has to do all sorts of work to figure out just the right way to tilt the camera and your body so that the horizon is straight (if you like straight horizons, which I really do), and then if you’re close to your subject (which you can be very close with a TLR) you have to take into account that you’re framing by looking through the top lens, and the lens that actually captures the image is two inches lower than that, and so your brain just explodes because it’s not used to all of that.
fall, backroad in west Michigan, Mamiya C220 and Lomography f2 film
fall, backroad in west Michigan, Mamiya C220 and Lomography f2 film
So, I know that you probably shouldn’t test a new camera with experimental film, but I seem to have a knack for doing just that. The color roll I shot through the C220 was Lomography f2 400, which the folks at Lomography aged in wine casks for 7 years. There is a red/pink line that runs down the right side of all of the images from this roll, and I think it’s the film rather than the camera, because the few shots I got from the black and white Fuji Acros I tested did not have this line. (I only got three shots from the Acros roll–I hadn’t quite figured out the sensitivity of the film forwarding crank.)
So, the M645 is easy and familiar and wonderful. The C220 challenges me and is going to take a lot more practice, but I’m all in. The C220’s foam seals are also pretty deteriorated, which may account for some light leaks on the edges of some shots.
I just registered for the winter term of the same film class I took two years ago at a local community college and I really can’t wait to take it again, to be in the darkroom processing film and printing again with all kinds of equipment and tools available to me. I think the C220 will be a big part of my winter work there.
I also learned first from another blogger (who you might want to read if you like photography) that flickr is changing their mode of business. I started using flickr to host my photos because it was (fairly) easy to link them to this blog, and it seems like if I don’t do something like that the space here gets filled mighty quickly and I will have to go to a pricey plan in order to stay here. Flickr was free. But now it’s not. So, I need to make some decisions about how to proceed–pay for a flickr pro account or upgrade to a business plan on WordPress, or just upload super low res images (ick) that take up very little space. When I started blogging it was more about having an avenue for my writing, but then I picked up a camera and, well, things just get more expensive. So, decisions to be made.
It’s so interesting how life changes, and how things you weren’t sure you’d be capable of doing become your reality because, well, sometimes things just go that way.
My sweet Moonie Pie is adjusting. I give her medicine morning and night. She eats, sleeps, and is mostly normal except for the struggle of getting up and down steps, and standing or walking for long. She’s putting more weight on her damaged leg and she’s not unhappy; she doesn’t stew about it or mourn her disability. I started taking her on short walks, just up and down the block and she wants to go further but I know she’d end up in too much pain, so I keep it short and let her stop and sniff for as long as she wants.
A bigger change in my life is that we’ve moved my dad in with us. I don’t know if this is going to be a permanent situation, but for now it is an adjustment for us, learning to live with each other’s rhythms and idiosyncrasies. I am realizing I’m more rigid, more impatient, and more set in my own ways than I would like to be. I’m learning.
Right now, and very suddenly, my world feels rather small. I know it’s a transient feeling, and things will shake out as they will. I’m trying to consider the opportunities in this and let go of my own selfishness. This is life and I’m here to live it. I won’t let the changes upend me.
I do have images back from the rolls of film I ran through my two new cameras, but it’s been a long day and words will have to suffice tonight.