As a child I remember foggy mornings on Lake Michigan; waking up to the foghorns of freighters and stepping onto the deck to feel the chill of the moist air. I don’t remember, however, so very many days of fog. Maybe because we weren’t here in May and early June back then?
Either way, it seems more foggy here in recent years. The fog rolls in and stays, laying down a chill blanket that obscures the lake and shrouds the woods behind us. When you drive or walk inland as little as a quarter mile you’d never know as the sun shines cheerfully and blue skies prevail. We can’t be mad at the fog for hiding our surroundings–it has its own cool beauty.
It’s late afternoon and I’m breaking from work to write for just a moment. A sleeping cat on the chair to my right; a snoring dog on the couch to my left. It’s warm enough to have the sliding door open to the deck, and outside I hear a foghorn call every minute or so from one boat, getting louder and closer with each minute now, as well as the sounds of multiple birds and the buzzing of insects.
Our former neighbor Adeline is long gone, but her lilacs–even though they were chopped all the way down last year–have grown back and are just blooming. I like to think of Adeline, standing on her cement slab porch in her robe with an ever-present cigarette hanging from her lips, maybe shouting for her shovel because a snake is slithering across the slab, or laughing her gruff, hearty laugh. She was both rough and gentle and her lilacs, baby’s breath, and lily of the valley planted along the driveway and between our houses keep coming back, year after year, a testament to the past and a sweet reminder of persistence and grit melded with beauty and softness.
And now the sun is shining through the fog and I see sparkles on the lake again, the foghorn is getting distant, the dog is demanding an afternoon walk and I’ll have to get back to work.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
And just like that, summer was a wrap.
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.
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.
I don’t really know what I can say here. I’m in love.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.