September on film

This week has been chaos. A drive back to the city, major work project and deadlines, trying to think about what I need to pack for California this coming week, and planning around this weekend, which is jam-packed.

Both kids were under our roof last night–a rare treat–and now everyone is off to their events for the day and I can sit and breathe for just a moment and look at the photos that I had processed this week.

When we were in Pittsburgh for my cousin’s wedding at the start of this month I found out there was a small waterfall less than a mile from the hotel where we stayed. This is Buttermilk Falls, also known as Homewood Falls. It’s a very short hike through a quarry where there are some rocky cliffs that maybe one shouldn’t traverse after overindulging at a wedding the night before, but the light was lovely here and worth a few unsteady moments.

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Jenny’s puppies, Kodak ColorPlus 200, Minolta SRT 102
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my (not) puppy, Kodak ColorPlus 200, Minolta SRT 102

That Bronica SQ-A I’m testing produced one beautiful roll and one awful roll this month, after a first disappointing roll. I still don’t quite know what to make of it… is the awful roll a product of a processing mistake or a camera error? Maybe I need to stick to standard films for testing–the first bad roll was an expired film, and this recent bad one was a redscale film. One roll I didn’t even send for processing because it only advanced sporadically, and I didn’t notice it wasn’t advancing while I was shooting. I need more time with the camera to make sure. I don’t want to keep comparing it to my son’s Mamiya because it has both its own quirks and its own charm. But so far I’ve had three bad rolls to one good… is it me, or is it the camera? I guess I’d like more consistent results before I purchase it. I can’t afford to waste so much film.

Aren’t these gorgeous, though? They look lush and velvety. They make me love 120 film.

And more gorgeousness.

And then the not so gorgeous:

Seriously, I’d love some clues as to what happened here. Can the paper backing stick to 120 film? Is this what might have happened? And redscale shouldn’t come out purple, right? The whole roll looks like this. Purple and muddled. I’m at a loss.

But back to the Minolta and that Kodak ColorPlus. It’s a 200 speed film, it can be found very cheap (last bunch I got ended up being $2.60/roll), and I really quite like it for an everyday 35mm film. So there you go.

Maybe I’ve mentioned this before on this blog, but I’ve been picking blueberries at this particular farm my entire life. My kids have been picking blueberries here their entire lives. The family that owns this farm has put it up for sale and I tell you, if I could manage to buy and run a blueberry farm, I’d do it in a heartbeat because I think I’m going to be around for a while, and my kids are going to be around longer, and I’d love for us all to continue blueberry picking at this very farm. But since it’s probably not a good idea for me to add blueberry farm owner to my plate, someone else is going to have to do it. Anyone interested? I’ll be your best customer.

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dill flower and sky at Cherry Point Market, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak ColorPlus
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color and shadow at Fox Barn, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak ColorPlus
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sign at Fox Barn, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak ColorPlus

So, summer is over. October begins tomorrow, and I’ll be back in the city more now. And that’s okay. My house is a disorganized disaster and I’ve got lots to do to sort it out. And I missed Detroit this summer; like any city recognizing a resurgence, it’s changing rapidly. A new stadium, new businesses. A drive west on Woodward last night made me feel like I’ve been away longer than I have. Slow down a little, Detroit. Let me catch up.

It’s a wrap

Oh, well, bye summer. I guess that’s it for you?

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Everyone left the beach yesterday. Poof. It rained overnight. The north wind blew today like it had a job to do, and a storm came over Lake Michigan this evening that sorta looked like it meant business. There was a freighter out there under the rain clouds, maybe far enough out that it was just at the edge of visibility, because it looked a bit like it was sinking. But it wasn’t (thankfully).

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I know there will be summery days this month, but Labor Day’s the harbinger of things to come. Fall things. An event with my daughter. A yoga festival in Detroit with my niece. A trip to California. A concert with my dad. Holidays on the heels of those things. Fall is going to go fast.

I love fall, but I still never really want summer to end. Does anybody?

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ghost sail in fog

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sailboat and fog

A fog rolled in this morning and blurred the line between the lake and the sky in such a lovely, muted way. There have been boats all day so far, coming in and out of the fog. Some I can only hear the low hum of their motors; others, the tips of their sails peek out from the fog, like this one. Some seem to emerge fully from the fog only to be enveloped again.

I ventured down to the beach this morning to try to photograph the fog with my new pinhole camera. Because of the high water levels on the Great Lakes, our beach is slim (and on rough days there is no beach to be had at all). The stairs go down the bluff from the house, and then there is a short path that is carved through the prolific dune grass. The kayaks lie to the left of the path just as it drops to the beach. I paused for a minute there, for no good reason, and that’s when I realized that something was blocking my way… a short, thick, just-barely-darker-than-sand-colored snake, with no discernible markings. I’m not afraid of snakes, but I don’t exactly feel comforted by the fact that this one was just a few feet in front of my feet, and that this one, or one like it, could just emerge from the thick grasses onto the narrow path at any time. Of course I talked to it, asking it gently to move along, and it did in its own sweet time, in no rush at all. It didn’t seem threatened at all and moved under the kayaks and then back into the grasses.

a quiet house again

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After many weeks with my kids being here, and then various guests in and out, and then a week of extended family renting a cottage just a few doors down, I am now the only one in our cottage.

Aside from the dog, who is snoring on the couch as I write this.

I really loved having so many people around and catching up with extended family that I don’t see often enough. But I am kind of a loner by nature–I couldn’t wait for the peace and quiet, and now, well… it feels way too peaceful and quiet. I especially miss my kids–their banter, rousing conversation, just having them in the house again. I am sure I’m not the only one who gets exhausted by social interaction but misses it when it’s not available. What’s the secret to that, anyway? How do you marry the two? I’d really like to know.

Anyway, it’s a Monday and it’s back to work for me, albeit from my dining room table overlooking Lake Michigan, where this beautiful catamaran motored by in the late morning light under a bold blue sky and wispy clouds, close enough where I could just overhear the sailor’s voices from where I stood on the cottage deck.

The sky and the lake

It’s just too amazing here. I think in the city we forget to look at the sky. In the country, the sky demands review. Where I am on a bluff above Lake Michigan, it more than demands… it slaps you upside the head.

It must be the time of year, but the cloud formations right now are just amazing. Storms have been rolling though this week. Some stay out over the lake where you can just hear their low, rolling grumbles and catch a flicker of lightning out of the corner of your eye. Others come ashore, steamrolling, blowing deck chairs around like the weather gods have it out for deck chairs or something.

Two days ago the clouds got all puffy and twisty and rolling-hills-looking out over the water. Rain fell out of holes in the clouds out over the lake. One looked as if a funnel cloud was going to form, but fortunately never did.

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And yesterday this front came through. I love when the front of the storm looks like a tendril reaching across the sky, a pointed finger. This, too, dropped a little rain but only for a minute. The wind that came with it pressed the dunegrass nearly flat and whipped the lake into a frenzy, but again these effects were only a few minutes and the calm behind the front belied its intensity.

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And then this morning, clouds stretched like rays across the western sky over the lake, lit up from the east by the sunrise.

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Sun rays

Or, more accurate but less nice sounding, crepuscular rays, which I got to see after the sun set this evening and damn, they were fantastic. And yes, I had to look up the technical name for this phenomena (I hope I’m right… I think I am). I have seen it a few times but never quite as bold as it showed up tonight.

In fact, there were even anti-crepuscular rays going on, which converged right above my neighbor’s house. I’m not a natural phenomenon blogger here, so go look up crepuscular (and anti-crepuscular) rays yourself. But it’s rays. From the sun. And they’re totally awesome.

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Who could not be happy?

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oh, just another sunset on Lake Michigan

Is it normal to experience a bit of a depression after a vacation? Not like I have experience in this. I’ve only had what I would call a true vacation once, 10 years ago when my best friend and I went to Tuscany to celebrate the year we both turned 40. In the years before and since Italy I’ve had little trips, yes–long weekends, short weekends, a few days off at a time but not a “real vacation” until Peru a few weeks ago.

And even that is starting to feel more like a dream.

It is so refreshing to step away from work. I knew everything would be handled expertly so I didn’t worry. It felt amazing to experience a new place. But there’s a shift after something like that; everyday doesn’t feel quite the same. Like, there’s a little piece missing, a change of some sort, something is not quite right. It’s more than a little unsettling.

I’ve moved to the west side of Michigan for the summer and get to wake up on a bluff above Lake Michigan. I make coffee in the morning, feed the dog, settle in to my workday while she snores away on the couch. I break from work to walk her and see what the weather is doing. Like today, a north wind makes the air a little chill while the sun is warming if you’re out of the wind, like on the south side of the house or in the dips on the road behind the cottages. It’s quiet, peaceful, beautiful. Who wouldn’t be happy here? But this malaise, or post-travel funk, follows me on these walks, taps my elbow as I brush the sand off my feet when I come up from the beach.

With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?

I came across that quote yesterday, which is attributed to Oscar Wilde. I have freedom. And books. And oh there are flowers popping up everywhere. The moon is waxing right now and was bright and loud enough to make it hard to go to sleep last night. How could I not be happy? Yeah, it’s a little pitiful to feel sorry for myself here. Cue the violins and all that.

I’m sure I’ll shake off the funk any day now. A new photography project will help.

Frantic limbo

I’m right in between things.

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barn and field, Kodak Tri-X, Mamiya 645 1000s
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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

Desolate dunes

There is something I love about being in a huge space all by myself.

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On Saturday I walked a short, wooded trail that opened up onto the Silver Lake dunes, not the spot where I usually go but an area closer to the lighthouse. The dune grass was prolific here and is a gorgeous warm, golden color right now–nothing like the vibrant green of midsummer. I thought it was a beautiful contrast to the sometimes stormy sky that was occasionally letting loose with lovely, light flakes of snow.

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From the top of the first dune I climbed, I was treated to these amazing vistas, Lake Michigan in the distance and rolling, grassy dune criss-crossed with paths, either made by humans or by the many resident deer. The clouds sometimes opened and the sun peeked through, lighting up changing sections of the dune before me.

I didn’t see another soul as I hiked toward the area where the dune buggies race all summer long. This is among the things that I love most–being the sole inhabitant of this spacious land, now filled with the natural sounds of wind through the dried grasses, tugging on the remaining leaves that crinkle and tap against dry branches, roaring lake in the distance. It’s exhilarating. I can be alone here for hours and never feel lonely.

How can you be lonely with the wind whispering love poems in your ear?

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Aside from the vistas that stretch out from atop a dune, there are low sections of trees and plants that love these sandy areas. And of course ghosts of the trees that once were. I’ll never get tired of seeing these, the trunks and former root structures of these formerly living trees. They’re majestic now, sun-bleached and wind-whipped and topsy-turvy. They tell stories. Tall tales.

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I love the changes in color, too. This low, earthy growth turns shades of gray and warm gold where in the summer it’s a lush, deep green. During my hike it held oak and poplar leaves from the nearby trees in its grasp, and tiny pockets of snow.

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Red stands out, and this red–some earthy growth both on the ground and on this stump–was easy to miss until I noticed it. And then it seemed to be everywhere.

And then camera batteries die and fingers and toes and noses get mighty cold, and it’s time to remember that you’re not part of the landscape here, and you must go back to a warm cottage and cement the sounds of the wind on the dune and the images of golden vistas and roots reaching skyward into your brain until the next venture.