I think I’ve run at least six or eight rolls of film through the Mamiya C220 since it was gifted to me last fall. I’ve made multiple mistakes on most of these rolls, from double exposures (although those are almost always happy mistakes) to winding past exposures (I got only two or three exposures on my first roll) to not latching the back properly to… I don’t even know. If there’s a way to do this camera wrong, I think I’ve done it so far.
But, this last roll, Portra 160 shot throughout last week. I worked slowly. I forwarded carefully (oh so carefully). I metered each shot. I kept my hair out the way and made sure my fingers didn’t get in front of the bottom lens. I held the camera steady and didn’t breathe. I still guessed on compensating for the fact that you frame with one lens and the bottom lens is the one that takes the shot–a conundrum if you’re close to your subject, which I was in a few cases. But my guesses weren’t too bad on the close stuff.
It’s grown on me. There is a persistent sort of charm to this camera. It’s awkward to use but I’m getting there. The flipped image is confusing me a little less lately. My horizons are getting a bit straighter. The gentle click of the shutter is soothing. The dreamy image in the ground glass makes me want to look at everything through its eye.
If I’m slow and careful, the detail this camera lets me capture up close is magic. I can’t wait to practice with it on the dunes this summer as more wild things bloom.
Ooof. It’s mid-January. It finally decided to be winter around here, starting today (our first real snow is happening as I write). I turned 52 a few weeks ago. And I’m not even about to say the things you’d think I might be about to say about that. I’m not even kidding. I’m 52, I’m here, I’m okay with all of it. Really!
Also as I write, right now, I’m sort of waiting to collectively decide if we are driving across state today to check on the cottage. The roads are crap, so we might hold off until morning in hopes that they will be less snow-covered. It’s been a long week and my decision-making skills are near to nonexistent on a Saturday, so while the snow falls I think I’ll write here and let the weather prevail. Besides, there’s a dog snoring on the couch across from me. Which makes me want to nap and even further put off both decision making and driving.
I did walk around town a bit today in the falling snow and shot most of a roll that was already in my Minolta SRT-102. I’ve not had great luck with snowy scenes thus far but I’ll keep trying. And I want to finish this roll of color film because I’ll be shooting black and white for a while. Last week I started a darkroom class at a community college not terribly far from me. I took this class in winter of 2017 and I really could not wait to take it again, so here I am. I hope I don’t annoy the instructor or my classmates because I am way too excited to be in a darkroom again!
I shot several rolls of film the first few weeks of the year, with some mixed results. I shot a gift roll of dubblefilm sunstroke, one of the many rolls of film I got from my EMULSIVE Secret Santa, around the dunes in Silver Lake State Park. I knew it would be a fun film, and it was a little more subtle than I expected, but I love a good surprise film and this didn’t disappoint. It has a nice warmth to it, don’t you think? It’s actually Kodak Gold 200, and I’m not sure what the folks at dubblefilm do to it make the random flares, but who cares? It’s fun, and I’ve got nothing against that.
The weekend I shot the dubblefilm I also shot another gift roll from my Secret Santa of Lomography f2 through the Mamiya C220 that I am still working to get the hang of. I also ran a roll of Lomography color 400 and a roll of Kodak Portra 400 through the C220 that weekend, which was a gorgeous, sunny, mild weekend on the lakeshore. I have a lab that I love, but sometimes the 120 images I get back from them have some kind of funky pattern on them; I’m not sure if it’s the developing or the scanning. And, one of the rolls from this group came out really extra crispy. Lots of grain, plus patterning. I never have an issue with 35mm film they develop, but every now and then 120 has the patterning and other oddities.
Like this one:
Lots of noise, plus a pattern. And, this one:
But here are some others that came out a bit better. And again, I’m really working hard with the C220. The whole twin lens thing is mysterious to me. You have to sort out how to position the camera just right, and how to adjust yourself just right, to get things in frame correctly and get a horizon that is, well, horizontal. The struggle is real.
I just wonder if maybe the chemicals needed refreshing when these rolls were developed, because my last roll of the year, developed the week before these, doesn’t have the same characteristics. Here are a few from that one:
Last weekend I was in Austin, Texas visiting my daughter. A trip she bought me, AND she surprised me with a massage at a swanky spa AND a pedicure at her favorite salon. My heart was full all weekend. I shot one roll of film, which I’m eager to have developed because I definitely screwed it up. About 10 shots in and walking on UT Austin’s campus on a beautiful, warm, windy day I accidentally popped the back open on my Minolta. It must not have been fully shut, but it surprised me. So I’m not sure what I’ll get with that one.
I was great about taking film and camera notes in 2018 and I was very proud of myself for that, and already a few weeks in to 2019 I’m not sure what’s what. I have a roll of Portra 160 in my Minolta now; I’ve shot and accounted for four rolls of film, but without the negatives in front of me I can’t remember what’s what. I would say 2019 might be the year of limiting my film choices so my recordkeeping is a little easier, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. I have a stockpile of differing films that I should probably use up, so I will. Ah, well. I have 11 months to get my act together.
These images and a few others from these rolls of film are on my flickr albums, here and here, if you want to see more. Speaking of flickr. I’m still debating using it, which will in the near future require me to pay for a pro membership. I am wrestling with the pros and cons of that. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.
I don’t do resolutions, but it’s not a bad time to consider the good, the bad, and the ugly from the previous year and the things in store for the upcoming year. And I haven’t written here all month, which is not normal for me but oh my, it was a month, and if I don’t squeeze one blog post in here I’ll be disappointed with myself. Or is it disappointed in myself? I don’t feel like thinking too hard about that at this moment so let’s just leave it alone, shall we?
Anyway. In the past I’ve been grateful for years to end because they’ve brought heartache, but 2018 overall has been a year of mostly good things. While November brought some unexpected changes, we watched our kids blossom and grow this year. We managed to have one kid graduate from university, get a job, and move many states away. While part of that is bittersweet (the moving away, of course), the majority of that is pretty damn awesome.
Also no one got downsized or laid off this year, and no one got catastrophically ill, either. I got to see my brother a few times and I actually took two vacations with friends, both of which are pretty rare. I don’t want to brag about the good stuff though, because I’m a believer in karma and balance and if I get full of myself about the good stuff, something lousy might kick me in the shins to remind me that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Because, you know, that’s life.
I can’t find my film notebook just at this moment, but as of yesterday I believe I shot 70 rolls of film in 2018, which includes the two rolls I shot yesterday. I had hoped for 52 for an equivalent of one per week, so it’s more than I hoped for. I guess that’s a lot, and developing hasn’t been cheap, but I can think of more expensive hobbies. I also said I wasn’t going to buy any cameras in 2018, but that didn’t go so well. I bought a few (albeit very inexpensive ones), won one (thanks to Film Photography Project), traded some Lomo Purple film for one (a Polaroid, from a local guy I follow on Instagram) found one (I think it had been my mom’s, I don’t know for sure), and was gifted five (very grateful for these gifts!). I don’t know how many I actually have at this point (more than 25 but I don’t think it’s more than 30).
But as 2018 closes out I’m thinking ahead to how I can frame things in 2019. I’m aiming for more positivity and growth, and more creative pursuits. I’m starting 2019 with a class at community college where I can be in a fully stocked darkroom once a week. I took this same class two years ago and I can’t think of a more fulfilling way to spend four hours every Thursday evening for 15 weeks but to be shoulder to shoulder in a darkened room with a group of people of mixed ages and backgrounds, sharing feedback and suggestions, as we watch film and chemicals intermix to create magic.
I also need to do some unearthing this year. I cleaned out an overstuffed closet this month and got rid of most of its contents, but I still have spaces full of things that aren’t getting used and need to go. While cleaning out that closet I found two undeveloped rolls of film, plus the camera that may or may not have been my mother’s and that had a mostly shot roll of film in it. I got a battery and it zipped into life, so I shot the rest of the roll and had the three developed. One of the found rolls of film was from last winter when we nearly got stuck at the cottage New Year’s weekend, and the other, plus the one in-camera, were from the early 2000’s, with some Halloween photos and beach photos of my kids, still sweet and young and innocent.
So I’m ending 2018 with a celebration of the good that happened this year and a readiness for what’s in store for 2019. Or, a sense of adventure for what’s in store for 2019. I’m choosing to face it all, good and bad, with determination and growth. And a bunch of rolls of film.
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.
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) and I 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.
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…
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.
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.)
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.
woods in west Michigan, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Ektar
wooded trail, west Michigan, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Ektar
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.
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.
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.
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.
fall, backroad in west Michigan, Mamiya C220 and Lomography f2 film
fall, backroad in west Michigan, Mamiya C220 and Lomography f2 film
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
You can see most of the rest of this roll here; read more from my September trip to Iceland in my previous three posts.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
*I say ramshackle because I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing on Flickr.
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.
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.