the heady scent of lilacs as a monarch drifts over the blooms the sand, still warm from the day the breeze twisting, twirling my long hair the lake, not too cold for bare, brave, knowing feet the sandy, wet puppy, who is not interested in me the older dog, who lets my hand gently drift across her back the dog owners, who smile and tell me their names, which I promptly forget the blue sky that was just a moment ago gray the wispy cloud that, when I notice it, mirrors the shape of the dune beneath it the cloud that looks like the softest, sweetest lamb’s coat the sun as the clouds soften its landing into the lake the breeze as it begins to chill the nearly full moon as it bursts onto the scene
I went to San Jose for work in November and then drove north from there with my friend (and coworker) Rachel where we got spoiled rotten by her super interesting aunt and uncle and we did some redwood therapy in Hendy Woods State Park in Mendocino County. I shot this roll of black and white film and then it sat kind of hidden behind a few things on my office desk and I although I didn’t totally forget about it, by the time I sent it to The Darkroom with two other rolls of film a week or so ago, I’d actually completely forgotten what was on it. And because I don’t have the actual film back from the lab yet (I have the scans) and I’m completely useless with note-taking on my photography, I honestly cannot remember what film this is. Maybe I’ll update this post next week when the film comes through the mail, but knowing me, I’m not going to remember.
All I know is these shots are super contrasty and I’m really digging them. Mostly I remember the smell of the forest as we were walking through, but because those redwoods are so massive, I think even on a very sunny day it’s just always dark in a redwood-heavy forest. I loved the occasional spotlights of sun that burst through, though, and I was trying to capture that where I could.
I have everything I need to develop my own film except the chemicals. I’m procrastinating because although I do have a scanner, it’s a royal pain in the ass to use and I haven’t gotten one decent scan out of it yet. I’m not blaming the scanner–it’s probably my fault but I’m running out of patience trying to figure the damn thing out. But I do think I’m closer to pulling the plug on buying chemicals, and I either need to have a local lab scan my film or I need someone to show me how to use my scanner. With a tighter budget coming up, I should save money where I can and develop my own film. Right?
Anyway, here are some shots from Hendy Woods, all light and dark and contrasty-yummy, from a gorgeous day last November.
I’ve meant to get back to those last rolls I shot on the west side and I’ve just been so busy. Busy at work, busy being busy, busy avoiding things, busy with things I don’t feel like doing but must do. You know. Or maybe you don’t (lucky you).
I’ve been missing my dog. I know it takes time, but I miss having her near me. I miss hearing her breathe. There is a lot I don’t miss about how her last several years were, but I feel a bit lost without her. There are moments of tears that surprise even me.
Last week was a whirlwind of work meetings in California, then a long weekend on a mountaintop near Ukiah, spent with an old friend plus strangers who now feel like family. I felt mothered for a weekend, and I haven’t felt mothered in a long time. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed this, either. Maybe it’s not true for everyone, but to be cared for is such a treat. I want to have this and to provide this. If you come to stay at my house, I want to make you feel this way. It was nourishing, and I am grateful.
I still feel like I’m recovering from the trip. I left a sunny, hot mountaintop to come back to an early winter and six inches of snow. This week in Michigan was gray, dull, cold, a sharp contrast to the sun and brilliant colors of the changing leaves on fields of grapevines blanketing the valleys and hillsides of California. It’s been a rough re-entry. After travel and several beds, and the summer at the cottage and the fall back-and-forth from home and the cottage, I often have to get my bearings when I wake up each morning. I’m not quite sure where I am for a minute or two. And I’m enjoying that, really. There’s a moment of dream state and a realm of possibilities before I know where I am settled.
But I meant to get back to those rolls of film I shot in September, and so here are some photos I took on the I guess not-so-newly released Kodak Ektachrome. Gosh, it’s pretty, the cool, saturated colors of this slide film. I walked through the woods with it loaded in my favorite camera, the Minolta SRT-102, and took my time with it, waiting for colorful sunsets and clouds over the lake.
You can see a few more from the roll here, if you like.
Both literally and figuratively. I’m paddling hard here.
Lake Michigan is high. I mean, all the Great Lakes are high. Polar ice caps are melting, oceans are rising, we’re toasting up this blue ball we live on here and the news isn’t good. But I’m not tackling all that. I’m just one person in one little cottage atop a bluff on Lake Michigan, and that lake is getting closer.
That’s the literal bit.
The figurative bit is that it’s been a rough summer. It was different, sharing close quarters with my dad. I think we did ok but there were bumps for sure. And, I lost my sweet old dog in early September. It was for the best, but I’m still bruised and missing her. Things are going on with my kids and my husband, too, but those aren’t my stories to tell. It’s interesting, parenting grown people. The things I worried about when they were little make me laugh a bit now. If I’d known the challenges of parenting adults I might have softened up a bit back then.
Hindsight is 20/20 though, right? Or so they say.
Anyway, I sent seven rolls of a variety of films off to the lab a bit more than a week ago. Here are images from one of those rolls, Ilford FP4+ shot on my Mamiya C220.
Silver Lake State Park is just a few miles from me. Most people think of the park as a place to go dune buggy riding, and that’s probably what it’s most known for. But I like it for the landscape. And I like it best off season when I can hike all of it, not just the areas relegated for foot traffic. Plus, I feel like I’m the only one out there off-season–just me and 3,000 acres of dunes and woods. The dune buggy season ends at the end of this month, so I’m really looking forward to visiting again soon.
I love shooting here. I can shoot the same piece of driftwood a hundred times or year after year–I swear it’s different every time. The sands shift, the wind covers one piece and unearths another. These skeletons of old trees are gorgeous sculptural elements on this vast, shifting landscape. I can never get enough and so I will keep going back.
The month sort of slipped by me. Late July blooms on five rolls of film here, and an August that seems to be moving the way August’s do, hot and too fast and suddenly you’re looking down the barrel of September and wondering where the time went.
I had plans and ideas and projects. Most of which I only half carried out. I love September and October, don’t get me wrong. And it’s not like I’m starting school (oops, wait, I am starting one class but I’m not in school) or have kids in school anymore–nothing really changes in that respect. But yesterday I went back to the garden that I love, the garden I shot some of these blooms in (the black and white images), and it’s in its last hurrah. That’s the part I’m having trouble with. So many beautiful blooms in so many shapes and colors, and they’re nearly done. I know, there are fall colors to look forward to until next summer. But, I could stand a few more months of blooming things.
I’ve fallen into a bit of malaise, too. More of a longing, or a need for a change. A road trip or a weekend away, a surprise, just something outside of my norm. I know it’ll pass, but it’s where I am.
Anyway. I have a shoebox full of film that I decided I should make a dent in this summer, so from that shoebox I shot three black and white rolls (one TMax 100, one TMax 400, both 35mm, and a 120mm Fomapan. I also shot a roll of 2018 formula 35mm Lomography Lomochrome Purple and a 2006-expired roll of Kodak Ektachrome. I used my Minolta X700 and Minolta SRT-102, and the 120 film went through the Mamiya C220. I used a cheap long lens on the Minoltas and some cheap macro filters to get really close on some of these, and I love how ethereal and dreamy they came out.
Really, if I’m being honest, I’m tired this summer. I feel the weight of some heavy responsibilities and even though my dog is still with me (snoring, heavily, on the couch as I write this) I am already mourning her. Her personality is gone; she flinches at shadows and at my hand as I reach to pet her. She nips me when I help her onto the couch, up the steps to the deck, or up from the floor if she gets stuck. There’s an evening routine of panting and pacing, around and around the dining room table, only stopping to stare at me until she decides to go around again. Today I think the last of her hearing went. Still, she eats, goes out (mostly) to go to the bathroom, still likes treats from the neighbors, still gets around (not very far). So it’s still not time yet. I feel like we’re in a holding pattern. I’m not great at the unknowns, but I’m working on working my way through this.
I don’t think about black and white film when color is raging all around, but geez, I’m not embarrassed to admit I’ve had it all wrong! I was really excited to get the three black and white film rolls developed, and they didn’t disappoint. They didn’t disappoint me, that is. I can’t speak for anyone else here.
You can see a few more from these rolls here. And, I’ve managed to further dent my film shoebox and have three rolls of film ready to develop so far this month. Not a serious dent, but I’ve still got some summer left, I suppose.
I’m pretty sure my husband does not read this blog, because a) I don’t know him to be the blog-reading type and b) I don’t write about bikes or cycling, which is pretty much the thing that he loves best (and I have no issues with this–we each have our “things”). And I don’t talk about him here because he’s a private guy and he’d think it’s cheesy and all that. Maybe I’ve written about him once or twice in the context of us being married for a really long time and that we might know a little something about being married a long time. Or maybe that he’s good at a lot of things. And smart. But that might be it.
But things are changing in our lives, and some of those changes have been challenging but some have also been pretty enlightening and overall good in the scheme of life-things. We just spent a week together, which might sound weird because we are married, but we’ve been mostly living apart since late May, so the week together, alone, was a little different but so very regenerating. Marriages are hard, maybe particularly so with independent types (and maybe by independent I actually mean stubborn, but we’ll leave it at independent for now). When he left today it hit me that I don’t show him or tell him that I appreciate him enough. I’m going to work on that. I’m not exaggerating when I say he’s been a rock, particularly in the last year and a half. I’m not sure I deserve any of it.
I mentioned it a few posts back but in late June I shot a roll of Portra 400 on a foggy morning, driving alone through the back roads around the cottage. The land looked really mystical and I hoped the shots would be even more foggy looking, but overall I really liked most of them.
Also, a few days ago I enrolled in a creative writing class for this fall. My minor in college was fiction writing and I’ve dabbled before and since, have always written poetry and essays and bits of this and that. It’ll be interesting to do it again in a class and get feedback and critique again. I miss that exchange. I’m excited and ready for it.
Tonight I shot two rolls of black and white film in the garden at Cherry Point Market, which smelled amazing and was teeming with buzzing bees and zipping hummingbirds. Black and white partly on a whim, but also because I’m committed to putting a dent in the shoebox full of film I have going on (don’t make me count. It’s a lot.) So tonight I shot a roll of TMax 100 and used a macro lens on my Minolta X-700 with a cheapy close-up filter on top of that for most shots. I also shot a roll of Fomapan 100, a film I haven’t tried yet, on the Mamiya C220, mostly getting really close to herbs and flowers and hoping upon hope I framed things the way I wanted but who knows? Close ups with that camera remain mind-boggling, but I keep trying.
Anyway, I kind of can’t believe it’s already late July. Storms came through the last few days and Lake Michigan just mowed down more of the bluff in front of our cottage. We (and by “we” I mean mostly the rock I mentioned earlier in this post) had to right and reset the beach stairs. The former post that marked the high water of the 1980s washed away, so we don’t have much bluff to work with here. The chicory and the queen anne’s lace are beginning their roadside takeover. The wild rose bush is at its peak. It’s high summer.
(You can see a few more shots from this roll here.)
I’m still enamored with the Mamiya C220 and intent on making the best photos with it that I can. One thing that plagues me is that you can get close–I mean really, really close–with this camera, but in doing so you have to frame just right because what you’re looking at is not what the film is going to capture because the lens you’re looking through is two inches higher than the lens that records the image. Roughly. I’m no expert on this, but I do know that when shooting something far away, this is not a problem. Up close, yeah, it can be funky.
But since it lets you get so close, that’s what I want to do. I’m not going to hunt for the tripod device that does this for you since I don’t often shoot with my tripod. So I’ll keep guessing and probably getting it wrong a lot. Fine with me.
A week or two ago now (I don’t know, the weeks are getting mushy), the evening I shot what ended up to be all red and hot pink cross-processed images, I also shot a roll of Kodak Portra 400 through the Mamiya C220, focusing on the new blooms of the herbs and the poppy flowers in Cherry Point’s garden. Some of the poppy images came out poorly framed, so, I have some work to do figuring that out. Again, fine.
I had a day and night alone at the cottage and yesterday the fog blanketed the beach and the backroads, in some places so thick it was otherworldly. I know these backroads by foot, bike and car and even I was turned around in some spots. But it meant for seeing things differently, and I had the Mamiya loaded and with me when I went out for an errand and filled a roll of what I hope are foggy, ethereal landscapes evocative of yesterday’s still, damp, foggy mood.
Also yesterday, I cancelled an appointment. In desperation last week I scheduled my dog for, you know, the end of life (I can’t write the word–I just can’t). She seemed like she was going downhill so quickly and I was sure of it, resolved in my decision to not let her suffer. And then over the weekend she seemed to rally, enjoy things, even play a little. She’s still aging. She’s still suffering dementia and I know she’s in some pain, stiff, confused at times, and I know where this is going. But she’s not ready right now and I owe her whatever time she can enjoy. It’s hard and it’s life and that’s it.
Storms came through last night although I didn’t hear them. I woke up once to lightning and some low growls but that’s all I remember. Today the lake is loud and shouty although the wind is light. I used to love a rough lake, but now one rough day does so much damage to the fragile shore and dune–you can see the damage from just one day of wild waves. I’m hopeful that later summer will bring some stabilization of the shoreline, because that’s what usually happens, but water levels are expected to continue going up.
I know I have to not worry so much.
Anyway, in a week or two I should have a roll of Lomography Purple showing a bit of the dune decay, among other things, and that roll of Portra on the backroads in the fog. Today though, on a sunny and loud day on the beach where my dog is still here and snoring comfortably on the couch and I am drinking coffee and need to get to work, here are some photos of herbs and flowers, some not framed exactly as I expected, from Cherry Point Farm Market’s garden.
I put a roll of poorly stored, expired (2006, I think?) Fujichrome (Sensia, I think?) film in my Minolta SRT-102 last week and shot it in the garden at Cherry Point Market, then mailed it to the lab and asked them to cross-process it. I wasn’t expecting much (see “poorly stored” and note my lack of actual attention to the film details).
Uh, I don’t know what happened here. Every image is either this crazy pink/purple or red. I don’t have the negatives back so I can’t tell if they really look like this or if the lab maybe had the settings wrong on the scanner, but these are the scans they sent me and I’m totally digging whatever it is that is happening here.
This sort of result is not for the perfectionist, I know. But I’m no perfectionist. I’m messy, bad at a lot of things, experimental, and I’m done censoring myself. I’m going to make crappy art. I’m going to explore. I’m not apologizing.
(Wait. I apologize if this post hurts your eyeballs. But that’s all I’m apologizing for.)
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 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.