I’m smitten with this piece of architecture, this battered seawall. I’ve photographed it in all seasons. I love its jagged shapes and protruding planks, the way the incoming rush of a wave moves around or through it.
A few years ago it was in several feet of water. It didn’t have a chance then. The lake was gaining on its borders and there’s no stopping that. Nature says when she’ll give a reprieve, and she wasn’t in the mood to bargain.
As Lake Michigan continues to lower and the shoreline does its normal shifting and scalloping, this seawall is battered less and less. Someday soon, I hope, it’ll be mostly covered by sand, but I’ll keep photographing it until then.
I’m also still attempting to use up a shoebox full of film, much of it expired and of dubious quality. This was a lone roll of Lomography color 100, and I couldn’t tell you when I bought it. Maybe for that Iceland trip in 2018? It’s been carried around, left in hot places, and generally not treated well. The colors on this roll look a little blown out, but that’s okay. I like the pale hues here.
In August, my cousins came from Pittsburgh to spend two weeks at the cottage nextdoor. It was an upended month already, as I had my dad at the cottage with me and also his cat, who was living out her last moments (she is now in the valley behind the cottage with the other beloved pets that went before her). But I managed to take a few days off while my cousins were here and we had plenty of communing, stories, wine, tequila, and excellent dinners together.
In any case, they bestowed upon me a load of darkroom equipment, for which I’m extremely grateful. Trays, a clock (I love those darkroom clocks), an enlarger, books, more. I haven’t unpacked it all, and I’m still not sure if I’ll build an actual darkroom in the basement or just cover light sources and take over the bathroom every now and then. Now, all I really need is chemicals, time, patience, and the guts to do this.
I’ve spent time in a school darkroom, but I still find the process daunting. Exhilarating, but daunting. It’s easy to make mistakes, and then a roll you may have lovingly shot, or that you have big plans for, just fizzles. That thing that you witnessed that just won’t happen again, that you feel so lucky to have caught on film–you have to prepare yourself for the possibility that your favorite old camera malfunctioned, or that the film wasn’t loaded right or stored correctly, or that you’ll totally just open the lid of the tank in the middle of the developing process (yep, I’ve done this) or something equally foolish, and you’ll have nothing to show for it.
I’m being dramatic, though. It’s just film. It’s just pictures. It’s all a learning process. I should chill out. I can do that, I think.
The dune grasses on Lake Michigan go to seed in the fall. One variety shoots a tall wispy stalk of delicate seeds several feet above the grasses; another produces these thicker stalks, which are soft and sturdy and remind me a bit of a cat tail (but not the plant called cattail, or bullrush–I mean an actual cat’s tail). The grasses turn from a verdant green in summer to a rather striking golden straw color in the winter.
In the spring, the green shoots of new grasses poke their way up through the golden carpet. This carpet of old and new grasses just layers on top of itself, helping to stabilize the dune. It’s miraculous, I think.
I took this photo last winter on a short hike across the dune near the Little Sable Point Lighthouse with my Minolta SRT-102.
Unceremoniously, the Great Lakes are in retreat. Some normalcy in what feels like a very un-normal world. I’m celebrating, but quietly, lest the climate gods and goddesses think I’m taunting them. In other good news here on the Lake Michigan shoreline:
there’s a ton of milkweed growing
I haven’t had to pluck a tick off myself yet this year
the family of eagles living nearby are thriving
my neighbor’s construction is done
either there are more birds than usual, or I’m just noticing them more (some are a bit much, like the crow that woke me up tapping and cawing from my roof early one morning this week–but most are just chatty)
I’m forcing myself out of a creative rut
there are fresh sweet cherries to be had today
I’m actually taking a week off of work (which feels indulgent but also necessary)
I sent a few rolls of film to the lab last month, which felt good because it meant I used my favorite cameras and I actually had some time and energy to get out and photograph. Is it just me, or is everyone exhausted? I’m so tired lately I feel like the world is starting to pass me by. I’m not even sure I feel bad about this. Anyway.
I used a roll of Cinestill 800T in my Mamiya C220 in May, I think, or maybe it was late April even, on a hike in the woods behind the cottage, an experiment with my friend Jane while she simultaneously shot a roll on the other side of the state. It was a gray evening and we had a project in mind, but I ended up thinking I’d completely ruined the roll and expected only a few images to come from it. This camera is finicky; if I don’t forward the film slowly and carefully, it doesn’t catch where it should and I over-advance, which means I get fewer (sometimes MANY fewer) than the 12 frames per roll that it should deliver. I could maybe get someone to repair this, but there’s something I love about the quirks and constraints of a finicky camera. I mean, I’ve got my quirks, too, and I don’t want anybody fixing them.
I happen to love the starkness of these two images and the light leaks. Some of the other images from this roll were over-exposed or just boring. But I love these two.
I’m still still here. Hoping you are, too, without having been kicked around too much by what we’ve collectively gone through, now over a year of COVID, the end of a U.S. administration that tried our humanity, the beginning of a new one that maybe helps you breathe easier, too.
I realize what I just wrote there will connect with some who read this and will cause others to roll their eyes, stop reading, unfollow this blog. But there, I’ve said it. If you don’t know me personally or haven’t guessed from previous posts, I am a liberal, pro-human, science-believing, hate-hating human. I want everyone to feel safe, secure, loved, cared for. The last four years under the former president were traumatizing, and the final year of that administration felt like the icing on a great big shitcake.
I’m breathing again. I don’t flinch when I see a news update pop up on my phone (at least not as often–there is still dire news, but our current president’s reaction to it is more appropriate, without insults or hate-tweets or disinformation). And now, because people I love are getting vaccinated, I can see them, hug them, look at their whole faces and expressions. But this country is profoundly divided. I don’t know if it’s more divided than ever; it’s always been divided. It feels deeper to me. There is no meeting in the middle with people who believe something global and devastating is a hoax, or that helping their neighbors takes something away from them, or that trump’s version of a “great” America denies Americans whose ancestors built this country.
I don’t have answers, but I have some hope. I wish I’d have written here about how I was feeling a year ago when the virus began to unfold. How I felt when a knee on a neck made people take to the streets and demand the human rights they should already be afforded. How I worried about family and friends getting sick. How I felt when a friend suffered an unimaginable loss. How navigating grocery shopping turned into a political landmine. Staying quiet has been my protective blanket to avoid the uncomfortable. Staying home got comfortable. It will take me a while to feel safe outside of the cocoon.
I’ve missed my daughter and haven’t seen her in a year and a half, but she is well and safe. And, we will see her and her partner this summer. Our son, his partner, and another friend just came and stayed with us for two days. All grown young adults in their early 20s, they were happy to be parented a bit while recovering from their vaccines. We cooked for them, and it connected me to the memory of my mother doing the same. When I was in my early 20s and came to the cottage with my boyfriend, often bringing other friends, my mom was ebullient, cooking for us, starting spontaneous dance parties, organizing late night skinny dips, howling at the moon, staying up late into the night with us, wanting to know everything about our lives in the city. This part of parenting is delicious. Like when you have little kids and they fall asleep wrapped around you and you’re sweating and need to go to work or do dishes but it’s so painfully delicious that you’re not about to disturb them and so you stay, sweating, maybe with an arm or leg cramping beneath their weight, not doing what needs doing but wrapped in the biggest, yummiest love. It feels like that. Different, but just as delicious.
I’ve been busy, though. I am grateful to have a job that has kept me busy doing something I love and working with people I respect and admire, and for a company that I know values me. Even so, I’ve given a lot over the past year and haven’t allowed myself balance. I promised myself this year I’d take my PTO and I may need reminders to do that, but I’m committed.
My cameras need some love, too. I still have a shoebox of film, although I’m down to the oldest, most expired, and weirdest rolls at this point. I shot a few rolls over the last two months but am in no rush to get them developed. I’m not bored with my usual subjects, but I’m eager for some new scenery, a new town or woods, a new photographic find. I’m painting, and trying my hand at sketching. It feels good to create. It has always felt good to create.
Anyway. I am feeling some hope in what feels like an in-between time of still not-quite-right, but starting to get a little better. Spring brings growth and that is a physical manifestation of hope, at least for me. I don’t want to go back to what was our normal, because I don’t think it was particularly sustainable. I want to go forward to something else, something with a whole lot of love. I don’t want to use any energy toward anything else.
Hi there. I’m still here–are you still here, too? Are we all okay? As okay as we can be, that is?
I’ve had so many feelings about this shitstorm of a year. And, mostly, I’ve felt not unable to write, but more of a sense of impropriety about writing. The horrors of living through a global pandemic are not even the issue at this point. It’s the maelstrom of what the virus has exposed. A world I don’t know or understand. People I no longer know how to connect with. Maybe I never understood, but I felt like I had more of a grip on things.
Being introspective about it here, on a public (although minimally-followed) blog feels indulgent, and just plain wrong. But, I started this blog and it’s been a way to remember events in my life, so… I don’t know. I’m navigating some things, like aging and menopause and working and creativity and family. These things continue, regardless. I miss writing my way through life’s complicated bits, selfish as it may be.
I do feel lucky, though. To not have gotten sick so far, that my family has not gotten sick so far, that mostly the people I love and care about are weathering this. I try not to get bogged down in what’s next and focus on this: I’m still here. I’m doing my best to stay here. I want to see this play out. I want to fly to Austin and visit my daughter and her two new kittens. I want to sit and have a beer with my son and talk about his life. I want to be so in love with the world again that I sing, alone in my car, loud enough and for long enough to make my voice hoarse. I want to see mountains and rocks jutting up from the ocean floor in places I’ve never been to. I want to skinny dip and lay in warm sand and get muddy in the woods. I want to have weird conversations with strangers.
So goodbye, 2020. You were awful, to say the least. I’ll admit you had a handful of bright spots, and I didn’t lose my ability to laugh or be caustic. You taught me a couple of lessons, too, about how much I really don’t (and conversely, do) need and how much better I want to be about nurturing relationships–including the relationship with myself.
I didn’t take very many photos this year, but here are my very favorites of the maybe 10 rolls of film that I shot. I really only shot with my two Minolta cameras this year and the two medium format Mamiya’s that were gifted to me by a friend’s dad, although my favorites here are from my go-to, the Minolta SRT-102. Next year I’ll have to put the other cameras in my stash to work. Maybe a project of one camera per month might get me moving in the right direction again..
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.
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 am not quite sure what it says about me that I’d rather lay in bed tonight with the windows and doors open and listen to my dog snore loudly and the intermittent call of an owl in the woods behind the cottage and the constant chirping crickets, than go over to the neighbor’s bonfire. I love my neighbors. I can be social and I love being social. But it’s Friday night, it’s the beginning of August, I don’t know how much longer this dog will be around and oh, the owl and the crickets sounds are intoxicating.
Today I got the scans from five rolls of film; three black and white, one Lomography Lomochrome Purple, and one Kodak Ektachrome that expired in 2006. I don’t think I’ve been so happy with images since the photos I took in Iceland. Primarily July blooms, some macro, with a cheap macro lens I bought decades ago as well as even cheaper macro filters. I make no apology for my use of cheap tools–I love the outcome.
I’ll upload them all to flickr over the next few days and write more, but here’s a moonflower for now.