still waiting for spring

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My best friend and I spent a few days getting the cottage ready for the summer season, which presumably is coming even though the weather is doing its very best not to comply. We drove across state in rain the whole way with the threat of snow, sleet and ice for the following day. We tempted fate by not bringing snow boots, because, you know, the forecast is sometimes wrong and it was mid-April, for heaven’s sake.

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We ended up getting snowed/iced in. Well. I’d like to say that’ll teach us but I’m not prone to learning my lesson. We managed, it was adventurous, and we had fun. Isn’t that all that matters?

In a break from the precipitation, I did get a brief walk on the beach with the Bronica SQ-A loaded with Kodak Porta ISO 160, a new film for me. The colors that day were muted but lovely; golden grasses and sand, teal water, a dark freighter, white snow; the sun poked through the clouds just a few times, making the water sparkle. I think this film captured the colors and the mood accurately.

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The beach really took a pounding this winter, leaving even more staircases stranded or worse, broken and many miles away from where they once lived. A huge tree trunk that I’ve been watching get sand-covered and uncovered for years, and that was a quarter mile north of my community, is now lodged on my neighbor’s beach (I think it’s beautiful). We will have to find creative ways (rappelling? installing a lift?) to get from the bluff to the water line this year.

I can only hope the water levels start to recede so the beach begins to rebuild. It’s all cyclical, we know this. But I so miss walks on a big beach.

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Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory

Growing up, my parents never took us to Belle Isle, an island park in the middle of the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. They were huge nature lovers, too, but Belle Isle, let alone downtown Detroit, just wasn’t in their rotation. So I grew up never experiencing the delights there. Then again, I’m not quite sure how delightful Belle Isle was in the late 1960s and 1970s. I know the Detroit riots in 1967 shook my dad up. He was a middle school teacher at the time, a new father, young and politically aware, a bit of an outsider himself as a bearded, dark, Italian man in a very golden suburb.

We didn’t go there as teenagers in the 80s, either. There was Greektown and Hart Plaza and Mexican Village, all places to find some trouble and have some fun. And then I left town for a decade and by the time I came back, Belle Isle was neglected and in disrepair. But some years ago the state took it over and it just keeps getting better.

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conservatory dome

One of my favorite places on Belle Isle is the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. It’s muggy and green and earthy-smelling and feels like a sauna and makes your glasses and camera lenses steam up.

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Fernery entrance

I was there in early March and used the Bronica SQ-A with Fuji Velvia 50 ISO, which is slide film, and which I don’t totally know how to work with. I brightened up a few images in Lightroom but mostly these are as The Darkroom developed and scanned them. Slide film is less forgiving and I think I have to figure out how to meter it differently. I also think the roll turned out much more blue than color negative films I’ve used. Anyway. All experimentation, but I’m not unhappy with these results.

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greenhouse, shadows
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greenhouse and cracked pane
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rake and blue panel
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greenery in a greenhouse

Also, I really have no idea what I’m doing with Flickr. I set up an account and added some albums so that I could link to photos there rather than fill up space here. I’ve made the albums from the last two posts public. But, I’m not sure I want to have public Flickr albums. I’m just not sure how I feel about Flickr in general. Pros, cons, anyone?

Saint Joseph

I spent a few days in a little town on the west side of Michigan called Saint Joseph. I was there a week ago, and I can’t go there without spending some time on the beach.

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longshadows

I like my beaches empty and windblown, moody, wild.

And I still can’t get enough of my Bronica SQ-A and the 6×6 medium format. The camera isn’t perfect; I’m getting some lines on my negatives that I can’t quite sort out how to get rid of. But, I’ve never been much for perfection anyway.

I used Kodak Ektar 100 ISO for these images. And I completely froze, although you’d never guess just how cold and windy it was from these photos.

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surfer
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driftwood
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late afternoon shadows on the fishing pier
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blue, reflections
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windsicles
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beached
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101

possibilities, and light

So many things I’m looking forward to. One is the time change this weekend. More light! Longer days! I’m kind of acquiescing to the fact that I’m not a morning person, so I’ll relish in the addition of late afternoon light. I’m spending a few days with my dad next week, and I’m going to attend a writing workshop at the end of this month. A graduation next month, and then I will help my daughter move nearly 1,400 miles away. Road trip! New scenery!

After what seems like (aside from work travel) a few months of humdrum and not much else, I’m starting to get excited about what’s coming. I’m thinking about summer, and travel, and projects, and new adventures. Here’s to the coming light.

Two weekends ago I joined a group of photographers to shoot a former grand theater-turned-parking garage. Here in Detroit, we are in the midst of a renaissance. We are repurposing, rebuilding, revamping, recreating. Like crazy. But this place doesn’t fit in, at least to me. A nondescript square of a building from the outside, bits of grandeur left inside, gutted and exposed.

view from balcony toward what would have been the stage

I’ve seen some interesting photos from this place, but it was different than I expected. Much darker, less visible color. I wanted to capture it on film so I brought the Bronica SQ-A and used Kodak Ektar 100 color film. It was challenging, but a learning experience.

ceiling detail
ceiling at front of stage
ceiling over lobby
former lobby ceiling and arches
reflection
hallway and worklights
light and shadows in the mirror room

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?

ice floats on river
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

 

patience

If you shoot film, you know about patience. Even if you develop your own film, there’s the waiting. I think even if I was set up to develop my own film right now I’d still probably not have the time to run straight to my darkroom and develop the rolls I’d just shot (but wouldn’t that be lovely?). Even with digital you don’t always have the time to come home after a shoot, upload, sift through for the best shots, process those, etc.

There’s never enough time for the fun stuff, it seems.

Anyway, I spent last Saturday hiking and shooting film with my son, which was wonderful not just because I was out doing my favorite thing but because I was with this human that I like and I was doing my favorite thing, with him. There’s an interesting thing that happens when your kids are grown and you find things you have in common and do them together. Kind of magical, really. You spend all this time parenting them when they are little and then poof, they’re grown up and you’re not hanging out with each other because you have to but because you both want to. Also it was snowing while we were hiking, and that’s just magical in itself.

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my kid and his 8×10

So I just sent four rolls of black and white film off to the lab and now I do the waiting thing, obsessively checking USPS tracking to see when the package will be delivered. Checking the lab’s website. Checking email for an email from the lab.

I’m trying to get better about this, really, I am.

When I want to shoot color and I want film back quickly, fortunately there is a lab near me that does a great job with C-41 processing. They’re quick, their scans are great, they’re accommodating of my experiments, and their prices are pretty great.

I shot a roll of Rollei Chrome (which my local lab cross-processed) and a roll of Kodak Ektar on a sunny day with my friend Jane a few weeks ago. The cross-processed Rollei Chrome came out super funky and I quite like it. When I asked the lab to cross process it (they don’t do E-6, so I knew I was taking a chance) they warned me that sometimes the roll will come back empty. I was pleasantly surprised by the weird coloring and extra-crunchy grain.

A running theme for photo shoots with Jane is that we always seem to find the mud. That day was no different–we drove to our favorite marsh and found plenty of mud to bring back on our boots.

I also had the Bronica SQ-A with me that day. Kodak Ektar is one of my favorite color films a) because it’s affordable and b) because it offers up rich, true colors.

 

winter landscapes

We got quite a lot of snow in December and the year started off snowy, but the rest of January has been kind of non-wintery. Even kind of spring-y. In fact the sun is shining as I write this, it’s nearly 50 degrees, and last weekend I went out with a friend and used color film, with some also pretty interesting results, which I got back today and will put up next post.

I wouldn’t mind using my snowshoes some more so I’m hoping for more typical weather to come ’round. In the meantime, I’m trying to catalog my negatives and keep myself organized (as much as I can be organized–I’m not the organized type) and peruse photos from the last weekend at the cottage before we closed up for the winter.

The day I wrote this was the last day of the year and I’d showshoed on the beach with two cameras and two films. These are the photos from my Minolta X-700 camera, with January 2009-expired Ilford SFX film. I had a 25A red filter on the lens, which I wasn’t entirely sure how would affect the results, but I had it in my arsenal so I thought I’d try it and there you go. It all looks a little muddy, but I think it also looks a little dream-scape-y, too.

You know I like to experiment.

ice pearls on Lake Michigan shore
ice pack, Lake Michigan beach
where the ice meets the water
more ice/water
dunegrass tips under heavy snow
beach stairs, stranded
pines in the valley
wintery pine cones
fort built for the boys who are now men

The other camera was the Bronica SQ-A, with which I am still smitten. Can you blame me? I love the square format. I love the shallow depth of field and the sharp lenses. It’s heavy, strong, sturdy, and the battery lasts forever (seriously, that’s a handy thing). I used a roll of Velvia 50, just expired earlier in the year, gifted to me by my secret santa in a film swap organized by this amazing place/blog/person-behind-the-curtain/resource. If you are interested in film photography and haven’t spent some time on that site, go right now. I don’t mind one bit.

ice pearl and splash
aqua blue, white snow, sandy ice
sandy ice pack on the beach
a neighbor’s summer shade
view through

whole year, half frames

I put a roll of Ilford HP5 in my Olympus Pen EE3 last winter, maybe sometime in January or February, with the intent to shoot it through and develop it during my class. But, I don’t know, I got distracted by 120 film and I just had a hard time looking at things in a half-frame frame of mind, you know?

Detroit shadows and sign
construction, the Wurlitzer Building, People Mover tracks
Detroit steam, mural, People Mover

Then summer came and I really only envisioned the world in color, so the EE3 sat. And then summer ended and I started thinking about black and white again and wondered what I’d already shot on the half of the roll that I’d managed to go through, so one day in October (or maybe November?) I met a friend on the riverfront for a wander and the EE3 fits nicely in a pocket, so it came with me.

financial district, Woodward Ave.
more Woodward and financial district
flipped, Joe’s fist
Fort Street
lines and angles

I finished off the roll hunting for light and shadows in my house, but it really energized me for the half-frame format again. I feel a project coming on.

Also, I’m trying something new… hoping I can utilize flickr to upload private photos (still deciding if I want a public gallery over there) that I can then show here, but I’m not quite getting how it all works. I mean, I see these images in my post, but I’m worried once I publish it I’ll have mucked the process up and the images won’t show up for you.

I’m nervous, but I’m going to try it…

square love

So, the Yashica Electro 35 GSN I for some reason felt absolutely compelled to buy… doesn’t work. Well, it does. I mean, all the bits work. But when I put a battery in it, the things that the battery is supposed to make work don’t work. So technically I could run a roll of film through it because it defaults to a shutter speed of 1/500; so I could use it, but with limitations. That’s the chance you take on eBay, and I’m only out the price of a couple of fussy pour-over coffees or a pour of very nice bourbon, so not a big deal. I might run it over to the camera repair anyway and get a quote. In any case it’s shelved for now and I’ll mess around with it in January because I have a gazillion things to do because, you know, holidays.

I still haven’t bought chemicals and equipment to develop my own black and white film (I have tanks and reels, but not the other stuff) and I didn’t shoot any black and white over the summer anyway, but I have lately and I’ve sent it off to The Darkroom because they do a terrific job. I am in limbo right now because I hoped to sign up for another film class at a local community college and I just assumed they’d have a winter night class available like they did last winter, but alas, all the film classes are during the day and I am beholden to my employer during the daylight hours. There is a new community darkroom that I contributed to that will hopefully open in January, but I’m not seeing any updated news on their website so I don’t know. In any case, I’m itching to have a darkroom available to me so I can do this myself. I miss the magic. I miss printing and reprinting until an image is just right (er… is it ever just right?). So for now The Darkroom will develop my black and white film until I can do it myself again, and I’ll have to live with digital scans instead of prints.

I’m itching, I tell you.

I shot two rolls of black and white film, Ilford FP4+ and an expired roll of Kodak Tri-X Thanksgiving weekend. 2018 should be the year I start to take notes… I’m awful at that, and didn’t write down the year the Tri-X expired. I metered at box speed (400) and that seemed fine. It was my first time with FP4+ (I think, anyway. See, that’s where notes would come in) and I might be in love.

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Brookwood in a dusting of snow, Bronica SQ-A, Ilford FP4+

I’m feeling a little googly-eyed and swoony over the Bronica SQ-A right now. I am dreaming in square format. I want to use it all the time. For everything. I want to lay it on the pillow next to my head when I sleep so I can gaze at it lovingly when I wake up, although I think it would hurt a lot if it bonked me in the middle of the night because it’s really quite heavy. If it were one of my children, I’d without shame tell it that it’s my favorite. I wouldn’t even whisper so the other kid wouldn’t overhear.

Everyone does this, right? Gets all swoony and wants to write poems about things like cameras and films.

No?

Ah, well. I shot two more rolls through the Bronica after a snowfall this past weekend. I’ve a bit to learn about proper metering in snow, so who knows what I’ll get. And one roll was a 2003-expired Kodak Verichrome Pan (I took note! there is hope!), a film I know nothing about. You can’t say I’m afraid to experiment.

“What kind of photographer are you?”

I had a dream last night. I had wild dreams the night before–of loss and flood and wildfire and being out of control. These are the kinds of dreams I have when I’m worried about someone I love, and I suspect these are the kinds of dreams others have in that situation, too. But the snippet of the dream I remember from last night was somewhat less perilous.

I dreamed someone asked me the question, “What kind of photographer are you?” And I answered, “I’m a documentarian. I document what’s around me, what will be gone, what is fleeting.” (I said it with conviction, and I was proud of myself for that answer because I don’t think it’s come to me quite so succinctly in my waking world. Then again, every photograph is a capture of something that won’t be there in exactly the next moment, so now in hindsight I’m not so proud…) “But… where is your voice?” asked the interviewer next, and I fell silent. Is my voice in my photographs? Without a caption or an explanation or a hashtag, is my voice apparent? I’m not sure, sometimes. It’s worth exploring.

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Lake Michigan, Kodak ColorPlus 200

Yesterday I gave my digital camera to my daughter. Not gave as in I won’t have it back, but gave to her to use for a time. I’ll never speak on which is better–film or digital–because it’s a silly discussion. I know right now that artistically film is the medium I’m interested in and that’s where my focus is. I want to learn and explore in that world. So maybe that’s what prompted the question in my dream.

Oh, and… I lied. It didn’t take me long to break the promise I made to myself of no new cameras. I picked up a rangefinder because I started looking on eBay and then I just couldn’t stop, and my plan was to buy it for the person I am matched up with in a film photography secret Santa thingy because, well, who wouldn’t want a fun little camera for that? And then in the time it took to ship to me (which admittedly was only a few days) I went to the local used camera shop and, damn it, there sat a lovely Olympus Pen and it just came home with me. It just did, okay??? And on the drive home I decided that rather than waiting for the Yashica range finder to arrive, test it with a roll of film to make sure it worked, and test this new Pen to make sure that worked, that I would just send my secret Santa my own Pen because I already know it works. And I think he’ll love it. So technically I only got one camera because it replaces the Pen I’m gifting, and the Yashica… well, it was so cheap it was practically not a purchase at all.

So I revise. No new cameras starting in 2018. Eh. I hope.