working on the thankfulness

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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.

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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) 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.

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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…

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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.

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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.)

Mamiya(s) test rolls

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Lake Michigan, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Ektar
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sun rays over Lake Michigan, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Ektar

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.

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.

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branch, Lake Michigan, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Portra
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driftwood, Lake Michigan, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Portra

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.

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Lost Lake, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Ektar
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tree stump, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Ektar
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Lost Lake reflections, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Ektar

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.

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old well in dunegrass, Mamiya C220, Fuji Acros

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.

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.)

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close up fail, Mamiya C220 and Lomography f2 film

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.

two new cameras

I have been gifted not one but two medium format cameras. If you’re wondering what I did to deserve such a gracious gift, well, I am, too. A friend’s father, a former professional photographer, offered them to me and I couldn’t say no. I did try to impress upon him that he could sell them, and that I’d be willing to pay, but he insisted that he only wanted them to go to someone who will use them.

I feel beyond lucky, extremely grateful, and quite honored. I don’t know that we open ourselves up to such generosity very often. Giving something of ourselves means being okay with an unexpected outcome. When you give something freely, you’re accepting that your recipient might not behave in the spirit in which you intended your gift. And accepting such a gift means remembering to carry that spirit forward, which is what I will try to do.

In any case, I now have a Mamiya M645 (a model near to my son’s, which I have borrowed and which I pined about here) and a Mamiya C220, my first TLR (twin lens reflex). While the M645 won’t be difficult for me to get used to using, the C220 is a new experience that I am really looking forward to.

I’m busy this week with work and a bit of freelance that I took on to help pay for the trip to Iceland so I don’t think I’ll get out with these until the weekend, but I hope to have some test rolls run though them both and developed and up here soon.

In the meantime, I’m thinking of ways I can be just as generous as the wonderful human who offered two cameras to a stranger with no expectations.

Iceland, final installment in Lomochrome Purple

Iceland on film

I know I’ll think about and talk about Iceland until I go back. But it feels a little sad to post the final photos from this trip. I took my Olympus Pen EE3 with me to Iceland, too, and didn’t think twice about using Lomography Lomochrome Purple, a whimsical film in a whimsical camera.

Iceland on film

The EE3 is a half-frame camera, a compact little thing with the faintest whisper of a click when you press the button to take a picture. There’s no mirror to flap about. It’s a true point and shoot–you set the film speed (it only goes to 400) and there are only two shutter speeds (the camera chooses). If it’s too dark to get a decent image, a little red flag pops up in the viewfinder and the shutter won’t fire. It shoots on half of a 35mm frame, so you get two images (portrait mode unless you turn the camera sideways), which you can treat as individual images or as groupings, and which means you get 72 (or more) images from a 36 exposure roll of film. Kind of a lot of bang for the buck. I love this camera.

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

I asked the lab to scan this roll two-up, since I try to shoot with two images per frame in mind. But they forgot, and so I got 72 single images. Which means if I want any diptychs or triptychs, I’m going to have to haul my scanner out and get serious about trying to get a decent scan out of it (I need help).

Iceland on film

So, the final installment. I’m no longer walking around all dreamy-eyed, seeing mountains and waterfalls. I’m in my house, working in my office, listening to my dog snore ever-louder in her old age, hearing the train whistle as it goes through my city, looking in my pantry and wondering what to make for dinner, getting the mail, etc. Travel and newness is exciting, but there’s nothing wrong with the mundanity of daily life.

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

You can see most of the rest of this roll here; read more from my September trip to Iceland in my previous three posts.

 

more Iceland

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

I’m feeling more here, now. And that’s okay, but I’m also spending a few minutes (at least) each day letting myself feel all dreamy about Iceland and also think about what might come next. Oh have I got ideas. There is so much out there to see.

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

I got notice that my last five rolls of film were developed, scanned, and uploaded yesterday, and that my film is on its way back to me from the lab in California. I ordered prints–matte with white border–so those are on the way as well (I love to have prints, but I almost never order them).

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

These are all from the Bronica; two rolls of Fuji Acros (100 ISO), one Ilford FP4+, and the color roll is Fuji Velvia (50 ISO slide film).

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

I should have mentioned in that previous post, where I was all grateful about the peanut butter, that I’m grateful to my husband for keeping the show going while I was trying to not get blown off a cliff 3,000 miles away. He kept our old dog alive and (relatively) happy. If anything burned down or broke or flooded while I was away, he took care of it and I’m none the wiser. If there were any upheavals or complaints that I might have otherwise have been called upon to contend with, he kept me out of them. He’s a bit of a rock and I don’t think I tell him often enough that I appreciate him. And if he’s intolerant of my need to see the world, he doesn’t show it and for that I am profoundly grateful.

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

If you want to see more photos, see my last post or the one before that, or just skip all the wordy bits and look at a ramshackle* Flickr album here.

Iceland on film

Iceland on film

*I say ramshackle because I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing on Flickr.

Iceland’s in my head


I’m having a hard time coming back down to earth. Work took extra concentration this week. I’m seeing mountains. The landscape seems mismatched here. Where’s the sea, just around that curve? Oh, wait… I’m no longer in Iceland.

I still don’t know how to sum up the trip. The details seem fuzzy already. My friend Jane and I landed in Keflavik on the last Monday of September, traveled first south and then east and then north and west and then back to Reykjavik and left the first Monday of October.

I took only film cameras, and I love the resulting colors I got on these initial rolls.

I can still feel the mist from the waterfalls. I can still see the mountains in the distance. I can conjure up the sulfur-y smell of the thermal pools. The stoic horses, the mighty wind, the pelting rain, the sudden rainbows. Who could stand in sight of these things and not be moved, or fundamentally changed?

 

There were bumps, like our baggage leaving the airport with someone else (but fortunately coming back before we left the car rental); a punctured tire that fortunately got resolved quickly because we were lucky enough to be in a town with a tire shop; misguided directions from Google maps that put us quite off-course a few times; house spiders that didn’t bother my travel companion, but that tested my spider-tolerating capabilities. The rest of it, though–a tomato-lentil soup with big hunks of crusty farm bread in a cozy coffee shop; the snowy mountain pass; the spectacular sunset one evening; the sea spray and the mossy rocks and just the surprises the landscape offered around every curve–all of this is firmly implanted in my psyche.

Maybe I’m waxing poetic because I’m not so well-traveled, but it all makes me ache for more. I can’t wait for the next adventure. I can’t wait to see the next mountain range or seaside cliff. I can’t wait to feel the air and the wind and the water of the next place. I can’t wait to be changed again. Until then I’ll keep looking at my pictures and remembering how I felt when I was there.

I shot 16 rolls of film. Six 35mm rolls and 10 120mm rolls. I wish I’d shot more, and gone a little more slowly and patiently. But, the wind and the cold were more of a factor than I expected. I wrote and took notes but even those got chaotic, and so now I’m not sure where I was for some of these photos. Whatever. I was madly in love with everything. Not much else matters when you’re swooning, does it?

I’m still waiting for five more rolls, so I’ll write more and share those photos soon. The photos in this post were taken on a Minolta SRT-102 (my favorite camera), a Bronica SQ-A (my other favorite camera), and an FPP Debonair–a $20 plastic camera that I used for the first time on this trip and that I think is actually really terrific. The films reflected in this post are Kodak Portra (160 and 400 ISO), Kodak Ektar (100 ISO), and a Kodak Gold (200 ISO) I soaked in grapefruit-habanero kombucha, which made for some subtle color shifts and some streaks; more subtle than I expected but I still like it.

If you’re interested, you can see more from these 11 rolls on this flickr album.

waking up from the dream that was Iceland

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near Selfoss, Minolta SRT-102 and Kodak Portra 160

Oh, Iceland.

I was rendered speechless. I mean, that’s not surprising–it happens to me often as I’m better with writing words than speaking them. But, I said “wow” way too many times. And “stunning,” “beautiful,” “really?,” “oh, come on!,” “holy shit,” “oh my god,” and other noises and nonwords like grunts, gasps, etc. And then after a while I just shut up because, seriously, Iceland.

I don’t regret only bringing film. I brought four cameras and used all four of them. I brought some filters and a tiny tripod and didn’t use those at all. I winged it (I might look up the accuracy of this term later, but for now I’m using it) and took a chance on my Minolta SRT-102 battery holding up because I realized I should have a backup just a little too late and couldn’t get one in time. Sure enough, the minute I loaded that camera the battery was dead. So I had zero cameras with a working light meter and had to rely on a light meter app on my phone. I’d been doing this with pretty damn good success with the Bronica, but I hadn’t used it for 35mm film. All in all, metering in Iceland is no picnic (snow, black sand, mountain shadows, sun and then suddenly no sun, yada yada) but I think it all worked out okay.

Anyway, I dropped 11 rolls of film off at a local lab and had scans in under two hours. Someday I really want to do this part of it myself, but I don’t have the time right now and am grateful to the two labs that do it for me. I sent the three rolls of black and white film, one roll of Lomography purple, and a roll of slide film all off to The Darkroom yesterday, so I won’t see those for a bit longer.

Taking six days off of work means I’ve come back to a pile of things to sort through, but I’m grateful for a supportive team that made it possible for me to leave. I’m grateful to my friend Jane for asking me to go on this trip with her. I’m grateful for the peanut butter we ate in Iceland because it was excellent and saved us from what might have been iffy moments of hangriness.

I’m still trying to process the trip and I’ll write more about it, and share more pictures, when I have a little more time this weekend. But here are a couple for now.

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one of the many waterfalls, in south or east Iceland, Minolta and Portra
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Icelandic horse, FPP Debonair (Plastic Fantastic), Kodak Ektar 100
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Black Sand Beach in Vic, Minolta and Portra 160
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fence and open land, Bronica, Kodak Portra 160

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.

(nearly) Iceland bound

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moonflowers in the garden at Cherry Point Market

In just under two weeks I will wake up in a different bed every morning for eight mornings as I travel around Iceland with my friend Jane. We don’t have an itinerary or firm plans other than to see the beautiful landscape and get to each resting spot each night–this is the way I like to travel. If you make firm plans, what do you do if something exciting or interesting lands in your lap? I don’t want to say no to anything.

I can hardly believe it’s almost here! And I’m finally starting to feel mostly ready. I’ve broken in my new hiking boots. I know what clothes I plan to take. Most importantly, I know exactly where my passport is (I don’t always know where anything is). And I know work will be okay without me.

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lavender, also at Cherry Point Market
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dill flower, Cherry Point Market

In the meantime, I’ve been stockpiling film and I’m nearly certain about which cameras I’m taking. I also just sent six rolls of film for developing and am tentatively planning not to shoot any more until the trip–I’ll be too busy, anyway.

I stood on the deck at the cottage last evening and had a moment about leaving. The more I stay there, the harder it is to leave. When I get back, the corn stalks will be bleached and maybe even mowed down for the season. The trees will be well into wearing their colorful fall wardrobe. The summer will give way to fall and the nights will get cold. I’ll hear gunshots in the woods when I go out for walks as locals prepare for hunting season. The lake will chill and get moody and wild from fall storms. These things happen whether I’m there to see them or not, but I don’t like to miss a day there, even if it is for leaving to go on fun adventures. It feels a little selfish, but it is this: my heart stays there.

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mullein field
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grain (barley, maybe?)

While I’m waiting for film, here are some photos from high summer. I got a little sloppy this summer with my note-taking, so I don’t know exactly when I shot this roll, but I think it was either late July or the first days of August. In fact, my note-taking was non-existent for this roll; I thought I had Ektar ISO 100 in the camera when I shot it and was a bit surprised when I finished the roll and found that it was Portra 160 ISO. Oops! So my metering was a bit off but I think Portra was forgiving. My favorite is the moonflower. I just love those.

I have shot 46 rolls of film so far this year. I didn’t set out with a goal, but there you go.

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forgotten memorial
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windbreakers

The whole roll is here if you want to see a few more.

the wild rose bush

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There’s a wild rose bush on the side of the road that leads to the community where our cottage is. It produces some varying shades of pink roses, and we’ve been watching it expand over the last 15 years at least–maybe longer. It usually begins to bloom in late June and is done by mid to late July. Passing by when it’s not in bloom you’d never know it’s there. But when it’s blooming… wow. It’s even creeping up into the trees behind it and spreading across the ground inching closer to the road.

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I don’t use slide film often because it costs more than negative film and also costs a small bit more to process. I’m less confident with it and it’s less forgiving, too, and with only 12 shots to a roll of 120 film in my Bronica SQ-A, it feels like too much of a gamble. Not that I have much experience with slide film. I’ve shot a few rolls now of Fuji Velvia 50 ISO and I like the cool, rich colors. Plus the negatives are really neat to look at, because they’re positive images. So I like to have a roll or two hanging around for just the right subject, and the wild rose bush earlier this summer seemed perfect.

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