adjusting, changes

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.

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.

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.

evolution, changes

And here things go again, all changing and rearranging.

I only just got used to the idea of my oldest graduating college and then the idea of her interviewing kind of snuck up (I know, it’s sneaked, but I like snuck better even if it’s wrong) on me and then just really out of nowhere it appears that just weeks after she graduates she’s moving too many states away from me. She’s leaving her mama.

How does that happen? (I’m only partially asking rhetorically. I’m dumbfounded.)

I’m excited–so excited!!!–for her. I’m obscenely proud. I will be thrilled to visit her when she invites me. But selfishly I want her right here, a couple of towns away from me, where I can drive to her when I need to lay eyes on her. She is capable, I know this. But I remember the first time I sent her to camp for two weeks and it felt like forever and I worried endlessly (and needlessly) and walked around feeling like a part of me was absent, like I’d left a piece of my body somewhere I couldn’t see. Out in the rain. And the wind. Dangling from a cliff.

I felt like that again when she moved off to college. You settle into these things and they begin to become okay, that odd feeling that a part of you is not attached ever so slightly starts to fade. You adjust. I know I will adjust, but oh how this part is bittersweet.

So, there is that. An end, a beginning, new adventures. These are good things.

stone rail, foot bridge in fog in distance
foot bridge railing

I sent four rolls of film to the lab and hoped I’d get them back before I went to California for work last week. One was a roll of 35mm Lomography Earl Gray film shot on the Minolta SRT 102, and the other three were 120mm film–Kodak Tri-X, a Kodak T-Max and Fuji Acros–all shot on the Bronica SQ-A (the square shots are the Bronica).

foot bridge detail

These first images are from a neighborhood park on a day that remained foggy all day.

I don’t know about you, but I kind of love fog. It’s mysterious, you know?

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ducks and ice

The rest are some of the images from that snowy hike with my son a few weeks ago.

My son.

I don’t want to put pressure on the kid, but with my daughter leaving I’m kind of hoping he sticks around a little longer.

the one I hope will stick around a bit

I know, I know. It’s what they’re supposed to do. I’ll roll with it.

frozen brook
branches and tree
snow on fungus on tree
the kid and the 8 x 10
8 x 10 and light leak

So, an oddity… I never have light leaks in the Minolta SRT 102, but in shooting the 8 x 10 in the snow I have this lovely light leak shooting through. Isn’t that interesting?

tiny nest
shelf, fungus
tree fort
leaf curls, close-up filter
milkweed pods with close-up filter
winter dried leaves

 

I know myself

 

I had a minor epiphany last evening. It happened during pigeon pose in a hot yoga class that up until that moment I was feeling pretty fantastic about. Pigeon always throws me–I get panicky and want to run–but I’ve been practicing yoga long enough (on and off for more of my life than not) that I know not to run. Still, I have to breathe through this pose and remember that it’s just a passing moment. Like an unpleasant interaction, or ice cream brain freeze.

It was this: I know myself.

I actually heard that. My voice, but from somewhere else in the room, saying it.

I get flaky and wishy-washy and indecisive. But, in reality, I know what I like and don’t like. I know what’s good for me and what I need to move on from. I know more than I am letting on that I know about my own self-worth. I know my own mind. I know myself.

It felt pretty freeing to have this thought come to me as I became still and patient during pigeon pose, allowing its lessons to wash over me, with sweat dripping down my nose and a seriously clenching gluteus maximus.

Of course, I’ll probably need reminders. But there it was, plain as day. Or, plain as the voices in my head.

I know myself.

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my dad, laughing

I know where I came from, too. The guy in this picture, my dad. He was with me for a few days several weeks ago and agreed to let me photograph him, and I was eager to try the Bronica SQ-A for portraits. I only took 12 images. This one, to me, is him. His laugh takes over his face.

I miss you, Mamiya

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fog on inland lake, Mamiya 645 1000s and Kodak Ektar 100

Last winter when I was taking a black and white film photography class, my son lent me his Mamiya 645 1000s camera, a behemoth of a thing (compared to any 35mm camera I have), with a sturdy feel and the most satisfying shutter-click sound. It intimidated the hell out of me with its 120 film and its battery fussiness and well, just the sheer size of it.

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abandoned farm outbuildings, Mamiya 645 1000s
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rusted, Mamiya 645 1000s

It eats batteries like crazy (as in, put in the battery, take a picture, take the battery out–or else you drain the battery mid-roll) and it’s hard to maneuver. The shutter is easy to accidentally misfire (I had at least one, often more, accidental or blank shot on every roll). I swore at it while using it, but always apologized immediately because it’s hard not to be charmed by its quirks, really, and the detail in the negatives of 120 film is enough of a bonus here.

In any case, I mostly happily shot maybe 8 or so rolls of black and white film with it during my class and got comfortable working with 120 film, and in doing so, I really fell hard for the camera. I joked about stealing it from my son, but that would mean a lifetime of lies (“no, really, that was shot on 35mm film, I swear”), and a few weeks ago I very sadly handed it back to him. I was even pouty about it for a few days. I know I can borrow it any time, but it’s not the same as having it in my possession, loaded with film and at the ready.

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dead end, Mamiya 645 1000s
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country road, Mamiya 645 1000s

Knowing I would have to give it back to him, I ran a couple of rolls of color film through it to kick myself in the gut one last time see how it handled color. And, it’s as beautiful as I expected.

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rye, Mamiya 645 1000s
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reddest sunset, Mamiya 645 1000s

Sigh.

I miss you, Mamiya. I hope my kid takes care of you like I did (minus the swearing at you–I still feel bad about that). Even if I end up with my very own camera of your genre and we don’t hang out again, know that you were my first medium format love.

family links

It’s easy to forget where I come from because I don’t live near family, but my genetics are half from hearty Italian stock that settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

We spent weekends and holidays of my youth traveling there from Detroit to visit with a plethora of aunts, uncles, cousins. Food, of course, was the centerpiece of these gatherings. My Gram’s pastina soup (later I found out most people call this “Italian wedding soup,” but it will always be pastina soup to me), pizzelles, pasta. These are the foods I remember because Gram made them special for me–pastina soup with mostly the tiny, round noodles and broth, not much else, just the way I liked it; buttered noodles; pizzelle cookies not too dark, but thin and crisp. I was a kid–I never knew any of the politics or family drama. Just the food, the love, the cheek pinches and too-tight squeezes, the hot summer nights on the porch of that house on the impossibly steep dead-end street, the breezes in the dining room coming off the huge cemetery behind, the place where the fence to the cemetery was pried open and we could climb through and read the gravestones (Rose Love is one I particularly remember).

My father and his siblings are old now; some have passed. My brother and I took our dad to see two of his siblings this week, one of whom is very ill. Although our trip was short we saw cousins and second cousins from two families, two uncles, two aunts. In their faces I see my history, my heritage, my story, and mysteries we all have yet to uncover about our family name and the stories of our ancestors. The matriarch of this family enforced our togetherness, but her passing has made those links grow fragile and it will be up to the cousins to maintain the links, the stories, the relationships.

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My cousin shared this tiny notebook, which would have belonged to my Pap. I don’t know if this is Gram’s writing to Pap, or something she said to him and he wanted to note it that day in his notebook. Impossible to know, but wonderful to consider.

Camera decisions

In just over one week I will be traveling to Lima, Peru. I’ll spend a week there with my daughter, and then I’ll leave her and she’ll go off to teach smart computer-coding things to some high school students. How brave is that? When she told me she was doing this through her university, she had the audacity to chide me for allowing her to study Latin as her college language choice. Ha! Like I’ve ever had any influence over this kid. Pffft.

(I remember distinctly suggesting Spanish to her. I wish I’d studied it but I did not have a language requirement in college. So, kid, I told you so.)

In any case, we will explore Lima together for one week and although in some ways this terrifies me, I’m far more terrified of the idea of her traipsing about Lima all on her own. Capable as she is, Lima feels so… out of my comfort zone and therefore a scary place to dump my firstborn. My own Spanish is limited to what I learned in second grade from my favorite teacher, who spoke Spanish as her native language and taught all her students how to count to 10, say good morning to her, and maybe a few other key phrases that are escaping me right now. So the kid and I will struggle with our Spanish together.

When my daughter asked me to join her and I agreed to do this, I immediately decided that I would not bring my DSLR but would bring one 35mm film camera and maybe a second “fun” camera. I read that you can only bring one camera into the country, but I can’t find really good information on this… the second one might incur a charge rather than getting confiscated or anything dramatic.

The Minolta SRT 102 is heavy, but it’s my favorite at the moment and even if I don’t use this feature, I can do easy double exposures. The Minolta X-700 is lighter. And, the self-timer on it works. And, it has a program feature in case I don’t want to think about anything other than focusing. I have two additional lenses (aside from 50mm lenses) for either Minolta, in case I have room for an additional lens. The Pentax K1000? Bombproof, easy; but no extra features and no doubles. Okay, the Pentax is out of the running.

And then I fell in love with 120mm film after using it for several months in my son’s Mamiya 645 1000s. But, no way can I add that behomoth to my bag and, well, it’s not mine. I picked up a Holga, or really a knockoff Holga, and have had a ton of fun with that so far. If that fell off a bridge or got stolen I’d shed a tear but not be put out other than sad that I had 120 film and nothing to shoot it with. It’s smallish, cheap and plastic and I won’t worry about it one bit. The knockoff Holga is going. I have big plans for it.

So I think I’ve narrowed things down to one of the Minolta’s and the Holga. I have some Ektar 100 and some Portra 400 in 120mm color film and some Tri-X 400 and Fuji Acros 100 in 120mm black and white. For 35mm film I have some Ektar 100 and some other odds and ends, but I may have to pick up some more 35mm film. And how many rolls? Ah, another conundrum. I read I can only bring 10–but I can pack some in my daughter’s carry-on or I can simply declare more (I don’t know what that means. An additional charge?)

But then I start to second guess myself.

Should the DSLR come with me? Pros: No film to carry. Big memory card. I can take a million photos and I can see them immediately. Cons: Increases the technology I would want to bring (laptop to upload, or thingy needed to transfer images from SD card to my iPad). I’d spend more time uploading and editing every night and less time seeing/doing things. It’s big and conspicuous. If I broke it, dropped it, or it got stolen I’d be pretty devastated. If I bring it, I don’t really have room for a film camera.

Does anyone else obsess over these things? I’m arguing with myself about all of this. I am firm one day, up in the air the next.

I like the idea of relegating this trip to only film. If I miss a shot, I miss a shot. I know with digital I’m trigger happy–but who needs a million shots with only a few being images I really love? With film I’m much more deliberate. I might make some really bad shots but even those will have meaning (to me, anyway). I’m not saying one is better than the other–it’s all about where my head is, my process and exploration with both mediums. Right now it’s film. Tomorrow might be different.

So, what would you do? You know, just for the sake of discussion. And to help me quit obsessing over this decision. Even though I know what I’m going to do.

Sort of.

Spring, sort of

Last Friday’s burst of warmth and color quickly turned to chill, gray, lackluster. I crave that color, but I’m beginning to see things differently. Black and white film opens you up to that, I think.

Since January I’ve shot and processed (myself!) 16 rolls of black and white film, 35mm and 120mm. I have one more assignment in the class I’m taking and then I may need to go a little nuts with color film for a while after that, especially as I’ll be in California for one day of sightseeing before a few days of work and then after that in Lima, Peru for a week. I don’t know much about Lima yet, but I am imagining it’s a place requiring color film. I can’t wait to find out.

But despite the gray, there are green shoots, buds, the smell of wet earth, wildly chirping birds… all these signs of impending color and warm and sun. We are poised and ready and the wait makes the reward that much more delicious.

This week is exciting, different, changing. I have a new outlook. My youngest turned 21 this week, which feels like a new era… both my babies are adults. I shared an interview and photos with a community of film enthusiasts and the experience makes me feel lucky, like pinch-myself lucky, to be considered as someone with a passionate voice. I will have family around me this weekend and I will revel in that.

Good things are coming.

 

After the color

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There is still bright green, cheerful moss on the forest floor, surrounded by a carpet of now dry, pale fallen leaves and pine needles. The mushrooms have all dried and shriveled. I saw one tiny, purple thistle flower on the side of the road today; an accidental bloom.

Holidays are bittersweet. Even after 21 years, I miss my own mom as I navigate changing relationships with my young adult children. Moments of great laughter mixed with moments of strain, heavy dinner table conversations–I still have to tread carefully.

The woods makes me happy. This little lake makes me happy. Even with the absence of color, the gray skies, the bare branches.

I’m not unsure of myself in the woods.