middle-of-the-night inspiration

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?

spring blossoms/summer fruit

A few weeks ago, after we moved our daughter to Texas but before she stayed there for good (in other words, she came back to town for a bit) we came to the cottage just in time to see the blossoms on the fruit trees.

The west side of Michigan grows cherries, peaches and apples (in that seasonal order, too). Also pears, but the first three are the big ones. Aside from tree fruit, the area is also big on asparagus, strawberries and blueberries.

But back to the blossoms. They’re so pretty, and I wish I could tell you I knew from the blossoms which fruit trees I am looking at, but alas, I don’t–unless I remember what was growing in the orchard in the year past. I do know that I like to (very lightly) trespass on the edges of my neighbor’s orchards long enough to get some photos of these trees at blossom time and then again when the fruit is in season. I really hope they don’t mind.

Actually I’m pretty sure these first three photos are of apple trees.

LDC_20180524_73730027
blossoms, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
LDC_20180524_73730028
blossoms, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
LDC_20180524_73730030-2
blossoms, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
LDC_20180524_73730026-2
Bella/blossoms double exposure, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200

Aside from enjoying the blossoms, we plucked some spruce tips and tried to make a spruce tip syrup. I was excited after reading about spruce tip syrup last year, too late to pluck the spring tips, but my execution may not have been right. I might try again before all the spruce and pine tips have gone and turned into needles. You’ve got to get them when they’re tender and green.

LDC_20180524_73730017
spruce, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
LDC_20180524_73730016-2
spruce tip collection, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
LDC_20180524_73730020
spruce tips, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
LDC_20180524_73730019
spruce tips, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200

Austin, I like you

Austin downtown from under the South Congress Street bridge
downtown Austin, TX

This is going to sound terrible. But, I never gave Texas much thought. I’m way up here in Michigan, and Texas feels a world away; a gigantic state with guns and trucks and carnivores and women with big hair and the kinds of things and people I figured I wouldn’t mix all that well with. I know better, really I do.

LDC_20180524_73740024.jpg
Colorado River/Lady Bird Lake
LDC_20180524_73750026.jpg
don’t handle the bats

But we drove down to Texas a few weeks ago with a carload of stuff and helped move our grown human into a really amazing apartment, and outside of all the work that entailed we ate some pretty amazing meals (Austin knows how to do vegetarian and vegan) and I spent a morning walking on the multi-use paths along the Colorado River/Lady Bird Lake taking pictures. I only brought one camera (my favorite 35mm, the Minolta SRT-102) and finished a roll of Kodak ColorPlus that was half-used and a roll of Fuji Superia, both ISO 200. I already can’t wait to go back; there’s so much more to explore.

LDC_20180524_73740031.jpg
growth spurt
LDC_20180524_73750017.jpg
digging the cloud buildings

Austin, I’m sorry I pre-judged–we’re gonna get along just fine. And, Texas, I don’t know how much I’ll dabble in you beyond Austin, but I promise to keep an open mind.

LDC_20180524_73750008.jpg
Ai Weiwei’s Forever Bicycles
LDC_20180524_73750013.jpg
found a little love along the river

I’m still finding my way with flickr; still not sure how I feel about it. But you can see more of my photos from Austin here.

still waiting for spring

LDC_20180416_24990005.jpg

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.

LDC_20180416_24980001.jpg

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.

LDC_20180416_24990001.jpg

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.

LDC_20180416_24990004.jpg

LDC_20180416_24980003.jpg

LDC_20180416_24980005.jpg

LDC_20180416_24980006.jpg

LDC_20180416_24990003.jpg

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.

LDC_20180324_000206630007.jpg
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.

LDC_20180324_000206630006.jpg
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.

LDC_20180324_000206630009.jpg
greenhouse, shadows
LDC_20180324_000206630011.jpg
greenhouse and cracked pane
LDC_20180324_000206630010.jpg
rake and blue panel
LDC_20180324_000206630012.jpg
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.

LDC_20180321_91760005.jpg
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.

LDC_20180321_91760004.jpg
surfer
LDC_20180321_91750006.jpg
driftwood
LDC_20180321_91750005.jpg
late afternoon shadows on the fishing pier
LDC_20180321_91750004.jpg
blue, reflections
LDC_20180321_91750002.jpg
windsicles
LDC_20180321_91740004.jpg
beached
LDC_20180321_91740005.jpg
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.

IMG_1062
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