It’s easy to forget where I come from because I don’t live near family, but my genetics are half from hearty Italian stock that settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
We spent weekends and holidays of my youth traveling there from Detroit to visit with a plethora of aunts, uncles, cousins. Food, of course, was the centerpiece of these gatherings. My Gram’s pastina soup (later I found out most people call this “Italian wedding soup,” but it will always be pastina soup to me), pizzelles, pasta. These are the foods I remember because Gram made them special for me–pastina soup with mostly the tiny, round noodles and broth, not much else, just the way I liked it; buttered noodles; pizzelle cookies not too dark, but thin and crisp. I was a kid–I never knew any of the politics or family drama. Just the food, the love, the cheek pinches and too-tight squeezes, the hot summer nights on the porch of that house on the impossibly steep dead-end street, the breezes in the dining room coming off the huge cemetery behind, the place where the fence to the cemetery was pried open and we could climb through and read the gravestones (Rose Love is one I particularly remember).
My father and his siblings are old now; some have passed. My brother and I took our dad to see two of his siblings this week, one of whom is very ill. Although our trip was short we saw cousins and second cousins from two families, two uncles, two aunts. In their faces I see my history, my heritage, my story, and mysteries we all have yet to uncover about our family name and the stories of our ancestors. The matriarch of this family enforced our togetherness, but her passing has made those links grow fragile and it will be up to the cousins to maintain the links, the stories, the relationships.
My cousin shared this tiny notebook, which would have belonged to my Pap. I don’t know if this is Gram’s writing to Pap, or something she said to him and he wanted to note it that day in his notebook. Impossible to know, but wonderful to consider.
I shot 8 rolls of film in and not too far outside of Lima, Peru, last month when I spent a week with my daughter there. Last week I sent away the roll of film I managed to muck up several ways to be developed by people who know what to do with mucked up rolls. I mucked this up by:
Forgetting to set the correct ISO on my camera when loading the film.
Completely forgetting what kind of film I had in my camera.
Forgetting that the roll had 24 exposures and not 36.
Thinking that my camera was stuck when it wouldn’t advance past 24, and so rewinding it a bit a ton (what was I thinking?) before I realized I was probably shooting over stuff.
Don’t judge me. I was on vacation. Again, I blame the pisco.
So with all that I wondered what I was going to get. The film is Fuji Superia 400, which I kind of like, but since I shot it at 200 I asked the lab to pull it one stop. The colors on the single-exposed shots are somewhat flat, but I like them. The multiple exposed stuff looks colorful but kind of washed out, too–but, you know, multiple exposures and all. I wish I could say I planned some of these images since I like how they turned out so much, but alas, no such thing. And, these are the lab’s scans. I look forward to scanning them in other ways and putting different frames together. And now I know I want to double-shoot a roll of film. Totally on purpose, though.
This roll was partly from a tour stop at the Hacienda San Jose in Chincha, which was a brief stop on our way to Paracas.
I love how some of the multiple exposed shots end up looking like I ran a roll through a half frame camera and then shot it again through a normal SLR (which gives me an idea…).
If you were here and we were talking face to face, I’d make you a cup of coffee right now. This is long. Grab coffee or a drink, or just skim all the wordy bits and look at the photos if you want to see what I saw. (There are earlier posts here and here.)
I picked up my negatives on the way out of town Friday. Unlike some other film photographers I online stalk follow, I have only just delved into film developing and that was only in a class with an amazing lab facility and only with black and white film. I took color film to Peru and to even imagine the setup, the materials, the time to develop color film just all boggles my mind. I’m not there yet. So I took my film to a lab that’s not too far from me. I think they do an amazing job on developing and scanning, and their price is terrific. I shot 8 rolls of film and they developed 7–I accidentally shot a 400 ISO roll at 200 and they can’t process pushed or pulled film, so I’ll have to take that one elsewhere. Anyway, here’s the photographic evidence of my trip. Anything rectangular was shot on a Minolta X-700 with either a 50mm or with a 28-70mm zoom; square shots were on a recent acquisition, a new Holga by Sunrise, whatever that is (but I adore it).
We arrived a bit after 10 pm local time at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. No stress getting our bags, and then we walked out into a massive arena of people waiting and taxi drivers shouting. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people that steps off a plane and looks for a person holding a sign with their name on it–and thanks to our Airbnb host, Saturday night I was! We found our driver almost immediately, who helped us with bags to his car and then expertly drove through Saturday night traffic the 40 minutes to our rented apartment in Miraflores District. It had been a long day and we were tired, so we settled on the bar across the street for a quick drink and a bite–a Liverpool, England and Beatles-themed pub. Two potato dishes and some kind of pisco drink later, we were exhausted and called it a night.
Sunday morning dawned a little foggy and a lot steamy. I knew from reading about Lima that it is very muggy pretty much all the time, and in the fall and winter there is often a fog that mists everything up and makes it all the more damp. I wasn’t quite prepared for how hot it felt and wished I’d packed more summery clothes, which was kind of funny because the Lima natives were bundled up most of the time while I was a sweaty mess.
We took our time Sunday morning and my first priority was getting to a place I’d read about online, El Pan de la Chola, which wasn’t far from the apartment–it did not disappoint. Two hearty sandwiches on thick, crusty bread, a shared gooey, oozy, chocolate almond croissant, and two rich cappuccinos later and we were in absolute heaven. We walked the neighborhood a bit more and then headed to the ocean front, where we took the walkway over the highway to dip our toes in the Pacific ocean.
Bella’s Birks, Fuji Superia 400
rocky beach, Kodak Portra 400
surfboard, Fuji Superia 400
surfer, Kodak Portra 400
And now the rest of that day is vague. I know it involved a trip to the grocery store for bottled water (you can’t drink tap water there), lots of yogurt to eat with the granola we bought at El Pan, more walking the neighborhood and exploring, dinner somewhere.
Monday and Tuesday mornings both started with a workout in the apartment, yogurt and granola for breakfast, then showers with varying degrees of warmth (hot water went quick), and then to the bank in the grocery store to exchange U.S. dollars for Peruvian soles, which was super fun because $60 U.S. gets you almost $200 soles.
I think on Monday we walked to Parque Kennedy where all the cats are, and had dinner at a vegetarian pizza restaurant, which was excellent. Mid day we toured Huaca Pucllana, a pyramid about a half mile from the apartment. These ruins are active research grounds and we found their history fascinating. The one hour tour cost maybe 12 soles, and then we had lunch at the onsite kinda-fancy restaurant where we tried pisco sours for the first time (I wasn’t so sure about the frothy egg white topping but I am now a big fan). Lunch here was good but not earth shattering, and it took forever. Seriously, the place was nearly empty when we sat down, filled up once we were seated, and then emptied again before they brought our check. Service is leisurely in Lima and asking for the check doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it in the time you think you should. My kid kept reminding me to calm down. Maybe I should have had a second pisco sour here?
Huaca Pucllana, Fuji Superia 400
from atop the ruins, Portra 400
Huaca Pucllana, Fuji Superia 400
Again, foggy details, and maybe my kid will read this and clear things up for me. But I think this was the evening that after we ate pizza we settled into our apartment to call my dad for his birthday, facetime some people back home, and start watching a season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race on Netflix. Because, you know, what else do you do after a long day of exploring some 2800 miles from home?
Tuesday I’m nearly certain is the day we took an Uber to Lima’s city center. I knew I wanted to see the Plaza de Armas, which is Lima’s main city square, and the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco (church and convent of San Francisco). We got a nearly private tour of this absolutely stunning piece of history, a living reminder of Spain’s history in Peru. They don’t let you take pictures inside, which is a little bit of a shame because the light and the shadows and the reflections off tiled floors was right up my alley. But the history of it all was humbling.
pink buildings, Lima city center, Kodak Ektar 100
merchant alley in city center, Kodak Ektar 100
Lima city center, Kodak Ektar 100
Lima city center, Kodak Ektar 100
Lima city center, Kodak Ektar 100
From the city center we walked to the Magic Water Circuit in the Parque de la Reserva to see the water fountains that light up after dark. We got there in daylight and wandered a bit, sat a bit, hooked up to wifi and zoned out on our phones for a bit. Once the sun went down and the fountains started to light up, though, we were like kids. We didn’t want to get soaked so we didn’t go in the interactive one, but walked through the tunnel fountain probably a dozen times because it was really fun.
interactive fountain, iPhone
main fountain, iPhone
tunnel fountain, iPhone
We had a bus to catch super early Wednesday morning, so we Uber’d home after this and then ran over to the grocery store for snacks and water to take with us on the bus.
Wednesday morning came too early. We were picked up in front of the apartment by a Peru Hop bus; we’d booked a two-day trip north to Paracas and Huacachina and our pick up was 6:30 a.m. I didn’t know what to expect from this tour, which included an overnight in a hostel in the small, coastal town of Paracas. I’ve never hosteled before. Or, at least not as an adult. And, the trip included a thing on day two that I was at this point starting to get kind of nervous about–a dune buggy tour and sandboarding. Not that I’m scared of these things… but the potential for something unforeseen to happen doing something adventurous was starting to sink into the part of my brain that handles all the responsible adult stuff. I kept trying to push thoughts of buggies overturning or crashing out of my head.
Day one of the bus tour had us stop at a roadside restaurant for a Peruvian specialty whose name escapes me, but it was little patties of bread with either meat, cheese, or olives baked inside. The stop was quick and we realized too late that we should have ordered more of these yummy things, but we had a timetable to keep on. Next stop was at a hacienda in Chincha–once a wealthy family’s home and now a hotel. The family owned the place for centuries and there was a brisk and brutal slave trade running through here. The earthquake in 2007 apparently unearthed a network of many kilometers of tunnels used for this slave trade, plus tunnels beneath the hacienda where the slaves lived and worked. We toured the tunnels and although I’m not claustrophobic I had a moment of panic as 18 of us jammed into a “room” not much bigger than an expanded oval-shaped dining room table. It was hot and the air felt chalky–everyone was coughing and sweating and our lovely guide kept us in there too long. I would have fared better with a pisco sour on board.
I don’t have any photos from most of this day. This was the day I popped a roll of 400 speed Fuji Superia into my camera but forgot to change the ISO setting to 400. I took some photos of the hacienda grounds, the vast porch and the onsite church and some blooming trellises. I also later screwed this roll up… when it stopped advancing at 24 (I thought I had a 36-shot roll of film in), I decided to rewind the roll a bit because I thought the film had gotten stuck. So, this one will be a surprise when I get it back–maybe doubles and some weirdness.
I didn’t want to sleep on the bus because the passing scenery was like nothing I’ve ever experienced–mountainous at times, the ocean at times, shanty towns and half-built or half-ruined neighborhoods, poverty beyond scope amidst fenced and gated homesteads. At one point we went through a section of land that was so foggy I’m not sure how the driver managed.
Once we landed in Paracas the sun was wildly bright. It was mid-afternoon and we checked into our little hostel room and then headed out to see the town. Which is about two city blocks. Hostels, restaurants, cab drivers, street merchants, a beach, boats. Not much to it, but colorful and kind of a sensory attack. We had lunch and then had to nap a bit before walking around to take some sunset photos and then meet some others from our bus for dinner.
lifeguard tower, Kodak Ektar 100
boater’s pier, Kodak Ektar 100
The next morning we were supposed to go on a boat tour of the Ballestas Islands, where we would have seen penguins and sea lions and sea birds and other wildlife, but alas, no boats were going out due to winds. Bella read by the pool while I wandered with cameras. I paid $2 soles to walk out onto the pier the fishermen use to get to their boats. The photos I took in Paracas on the Holga remind me why Kodak Ektar 100 is my favorite film right now. I can’t get enough of the colors!
pelican on pier
boat in bay
hostel and powerlines
So the morning dragged a bit without much to do, but by afternoon we boarded the bus for the next activity, a spin through Paracas National Reserve. I’d seen images online of amazing cliffs with a pounding ocean below and I couldn’t wait to see this, but I’ll admit the bus tour of it was a little disappointing. We made two brief stops to hop out and get sandblasted and take pictures. If I’d done my research I might have planned for a whole day here and we could have taken a cab from Paracas and spent the day exploring this place. Still, we were awed by the beauty.
Apparently the 2007 earthquake changed the landscape here–that hunk of rock in the ocean was once larger and linked to the cliffs pre-earthquake. The wind here was wild. We left with fine sand in our teeth, glued to our lip balm, in our scalp and ears.
From here we went back to the town of Paracas where we dropped some passengers and picked others up for the trip to Huacachina for dune buggies and sandboarding. My tension was mounting, as was the pit in my stomach from hunger. I may have nodded off on the trip there, but once there we had an hour before the buggy tour and we needed food, pronto.
paddleboats in pond, dunes beyond, Kodak Ektar 100
red building against blue sky in Huacachina, Kodak Ektar 100
Huacachina is even smaller than Paracas. It is literally an oasis in the desert. There is a small pond, a villa that used to belong to someone wealthy but that now is a hostel; a few more hostels, a few restaurants, all surrounded by mountainous dunes and teeming with hot and tired looking backpackers and dune buggy drivers. The thick smell of exhaust from the buggies was utterly intoxicating (not in a good way) and was adding to my growing anxiety. We stored our bags in a sideroom of the main hostel and I worried about them being stolen. We did a quick spin through town the tiny town and then sat down at the restaurant attached to the main hostel, where we ordered pasta because we were starving and it sounded good and we thought it would be quick. With only minutes to spare before our tour was to leave, we wolfed down massive plates of pasta and hoped they wouldn’t show up on the Huacachina dunes (luckily they did not).
The driver was wild. We made a few stops to sightsee and he wasn’t too worried about us getting strapped into our seats before he zoomed off again (can you feel my nerves getting even more frayed here?). There were 10 of us in the buggy and the two young girls in the seat with me and Bella were more concerned about strapping me in than about their own welfare, which was awfully sweet. Just as I started to settle in and shove my fear down, we stopped for our first foray into sandboarding, which you could either do standing on the board (there were straps to velcro your feet into) or you could lie headfirst, your hands gripping the front straps. We all opted for lying and I will tell you, when our driver started handing out the boards I flat out refused. Bella gently nudged. The other young people in our car offered encouragement. I wanted to do it but worried I’d look silly. I grabbed the board and when it was my turn, I went down, shouting like an idiot and laughing my head off. Hooked!
So for the rest of the time I didn’t bother to get a camera out, but was loving the stops to slide down hills that got bigger, longer, and sometimes faster each stop.
buggy shadow, Kodak Ektar 100
dune buggy tour, Kodak Ektar 100
Huacachina dunes, Kodak Ektar 100
Huacachina dunes, Kodak Ektar 100
Until my kid got hurt. I won’t tell her story, but she was involved in a crash at the bottom of a hill and I was at the top of the hill and I felt a couple of years of life leave my body. All my fears were suddenly founded, I went through all the possible horrible scenarios in my head in the (probably only seconds of) time it took for her to stand up and answer that she was okay. Once I got to the bottom I saw that she was banged up and cut up and in some real pain. But because she is one hell of a tough woman, she was able to enjoy the rest of the tour, which we weren’t even at the halfway point of when this happened. We still boarded the rest of the hills and laughed and communed with our other passengers.
After cleaning up Bella’s wounds and getting our bag from the hostel, we had to board the bus that would take us back to Lima. I don’t remember much of the trip because we both (thankfully) slept much of it, but we arrived back to the Lima apartment dirty, gritty, tired, and one of us quite sore. I was grateful to not have to spend that night in a hostel but in a very comfy bed in a modern apartment with cold water and creamy yogurt in the fridge and warm water for showers in the tap.
The next day we met the family responsible for the educational program that brought my daughter Bella to Peru. They took us to lunch and then welcomed us warmly into their home. I stayed at the apartment Friday night while Bella hung out with the people she would be working with for the next three weeks. Saturday we packed up our belongings and she left for her next adventure. I walked down to the park and the Pacific ocean one last time before my travels back home.
goodbye Miraflores, Kodak Ektar 100
stairs down from Miraflores, Kodak Ektar 100
Miraflores cliffs, Kodak Ektar 100
Miraflores cliffs, Kodak Ektar 100
The reason for this trip was that my daughter Bella is teaching computer science in an afterschool program at a private school in a very nice suburb of Lima. I could not be more proud of her and she asked me to join her for this week before her program started. As I’m writing this now, one week after I’ve been home, she has one week of the program under her belt. I still have more to say about Lima but wanted to get photos out and some of the logistics written before I totally forgot.
The smells were overwhelming: exhaust and cars, food, the ocean–all pungent and at times too much for me, but also exciting and different.
The driving is insane: we learned quickly to cross streets fast, the horns are constant, drivers are not distracted like they are in the U.S.–they are entirely focused. The horns, like the smells, got exhausting and overwhelming.
Dogs are everywhere: there are tons of stray dogs almost everywhere we went (not in Miraflores, though) and particularly in Paracas, where if you’re just standing around they sort of insert themselves into your crowd, which is entertaining, but also sad because they all limp, or have missing tails, or are visibly banged up in other ways. Scrappy panhandlers.
Sometimes I felt daunted about going out because it got a little exhausting to communicate. I felt bad that I didn’t know more Spanish, and really appreciated that most people we came across seemed patient and tried to work with us. I want to do better next time I travel to a place where English is not the native language.
It’s okay to get annoyed with each other when you are traveling with someone. It’s going to happen. Pisco sours smooth things quickly.
I wouldn’t have traded this week with my daughter for the world, even with the couple of hiccups.
Yep, would have been nice to see Machu Picchu, but we couldn’t fit it in. Maybe another trip, and I’d like to do it hiking.
I’m having such a hard time putting into words my experience of travel last week! Maybe it’s the illness that hit me after, but I don’t think that’s being honest. I even had a hard time putting the experience into words while my daughter and I were in Lima. It might also be the fact that I’m really not well traveled. Maybe my language for describing my travels would be more refined if I had more experience. Who knows? Peru makes only my second trip outside the United States. Well, that isn’t counting Canada, which is right next door (literally, I can walk down the street and see it).
The trip made me feel very small. I think I am broad-minded, yet my experiences are so narrow. I don’t know how truly broad-minded a person can be if they don’t actually experience much outside their “normal.” I also felt kind of brave, but I can thank my daughter for that–I wouldn’t have been there if it weren’t for her. She’s really brave.
But I’m getting philosophical and really I want to explore some aspects of the trip. So maybe I need to write about it the same way I experienced it… in bits.
In light of trying to pack light, I didn’t bring a notebook. I was sort of thinking I’d try to experience rather than document (aside from photos), but I should have known that was a mistake. For me, writing things down makes them stick in my brain. Even if I never read what I’ve written, the act of writing when or just after an experience cements it in my brain. I have details and feelings and images and it’s all at my fingertips (well, mostly). But I didn’t do that and already I’m finding myself at a loss. The fog is setting in now, so I better task myself with noting a detail or two every day so that they don’t all flit away.
Here is what I want to write about or at least remember in regard to the trip, in no particular order, and this list is really just so I don’t forget:
smells, good god, the smells (good and bad)
food, thinking about food, ordering food, eating food, deciding where to eat food
traffic and drivers
language (or, language barrier) and wishing I knew one other than English
heat and humidity and my hair, which looked like a poofball
dogs, everywhere (and some cats)
traveling with my adult kid, trying not to annoy my adult kid, drinking with my adult kid (or, pisco sours make the tense bits all better)
talking to strangers in foreign countries (which is different than talking to strangers at, say, the grocery store)
doing things you are secretly excited to do but think you shouldn’t because you’ll look ___________ (old, ridiculous, stupid, etc.) but then you do them anyway and realize you don’t care one bit if you in fact looked ___________ (same list)
not working for a week, and not being freaked out about it
I know there’s more but late night blog posts just aren’t going to come out fully formed. Anyway, I’ll toss another picture out here even though I haven’t picked up my negatives yet so I don’t know which film this is. Maybe that doesn’t even matter.
I promise this is not a dead cat. This cat was very much alive, sleeping soundly on a walkway in Parque Kennedy, which was a few blocks away from our apartment and is known for having something like 80 cats that live there and which also has something to do with honoring JFK but the cats are probably a more curious detail. We saw them everywhere–sleeping, playing, eating food that people bring them.
My friend Jane came by my house yesterday. I had my exposed film in a baggy that I haven’t touched since I got back, which is a good thing since I am still toxic. I washed my hands thoroughly and decided I should still put the film in a fresh baggy anyway, you know, just in case; and I put it between my front door and the storm door for Jane to pick up. She dropped it at a local lab which I’ve been super happy with and, voila, I got an email a few hours ago that my scans were ready!
This makes me so phenomenally happy, even though I still pretty much feel like crap. And I totally owe Jane donuts and a roll of film. Friends who enable each other’s film obsession are friends to hang on to.
But, pictures! From Lima!
I will wait to post more until I am well enough to go to the lab and pick up my negatives because I don’t remember what film I used where, and I like to put that info here in case anyone reading or coming across this blog is interested. But for now, I can’t wait. I just can’t.
So here is one, with a little backstory. We stayed in an airbnb apartment in the Miraflores District, a really nice neighborhood in Lima, that sits on cliffs above the Pacific ocean. A walk of a little over a half mile from the apartment got us to the park atop the cliff and a walking/bike path that took us to stairs (many) that zigzagged through the park and then on a walkway over the highway and down to the rocky beach. These morning glories grow along the cliffs, accenting the spectacular view.
I will also say I don’t regret for a second my camera choices. The Minolta X-700 had a brief blip where it decided not to work in a tiny coastal town north of Lima, but it was short-lived. The Holga never wavered and even got dropped in the sand, which made the film-winding knob even louder and more conspicuous, which I didn’t think was possible.
All sorts of surprises in Lima. I wanted a change of scenery, a trip with my daughter, adventure, something different to photograph. I got all of these and more.
I’m still (mentally) processing the week in Lima with my daughter, which was mostly amazing. The bad parts:
Two very long days of travel, particularly the coming home day, which consisted of 24 hours and three flights.
I am sicker than sick. The first night home I spent running to the bathroom, followed by a day of fever and constant sleep. Two days later I feel a tiny bit better, but not much.
I only shot 8 rolls of film and I definitely screwed one of those up. There were places I didn’t feel comfortable shooting–not because I felt unsafe, but because I felt like it might not be polite. People don’t walk around with cameras there like they do here in the states.
My daughter got injured while sandboarding on the massive dunes of Huacachina, and I swear, watching that happen and not being able to do anything about it probably took a few years off my life. She is a trooper and it didn’t stop her from carrying on, and we both had a blast.
I missed my dog. My husband, too, but the dog…
I’m too damn sick to take my 8 rolls of film to get developed.
The good parts:
I just vacationed for the first time in a decade.
I just spent a week with my daughter, which I haven’t done since she moved off to college.
Lima is loud and fast and totally unlike other places I’ve been I’ve been in the U.S. And although I felt out of my comfort zone, I think it’s a good to do that periodically. It reminds you that there is so much more out there to experience.
It’s amazing how much you can communicate with others when not speaking the same language.
Lima is nowhere near as scary as what I’ve read online. I mean, I expected that. Read stuff online about Detroit and you’d think you can’t even step foot within city limits. I figured as much but still wanted to be prepared so I read anyway.
We ate some amazing food.
We saw some amazing things in and not too far out of Lima.
Pisco sours are the best.
I know there’s more, but I’m kind of having a hard time putting it all together since I feel only slightly better than death. I can’t wait to get my pictures developed, but unfortunately I will have to wait until I feel well enough to get film out to be developed.
Overall, I’m glad I chose to bring film cameras as I would have only taken pictures in the really touristy areas with my digital camera since it’s big and conspicuous. Hopefully I have some shots I like, but ultimately it was the experience.
And now I’m going back to sleep.
I don’t even care if I’ve made typos in this post. That’s how sick I am.
In just over one week I will be traveling to Lima, Peru. I’ll spend a week there with my daughter, and then I’ll leave her and she’ll go off to teach smart computer-coding things to some high school students. How brave is that? When she told me she was doing this through her university, she had the audacity to chide me for allowing her to study Latin as her college language choice. Ha! Like I’ve ever had any influence over this kid. Pffft.
(I remember distinctly suggesting Spanish to her. I wish I’d studied it but I did not have a language requirement in college. So, kid, I told you so.)
In any case, we will explore Lima together for one week and although in some ways this terrifies me, I’m far more terrified of the idea of her traipsing about Lima all on her own. Capable as she is, Lima feels so… out of my comfort zone and therefore a scary place to dump my firstborn. My own Spanish is limited to what I learned in second grade from my favorite teacher, who spoke Spanish as her native language and taught all her students how to count to 10, say good morning to her, and maybe a few other key phrases that are escaping me right now. So the kid and I will struggle with our Spanish together.
When my daughter asked me to join her and I agreed to do this, I immediately decided that I would not bring my DSLR but would bring one 35mm film camera and maybe a second “fun” camera. I read that you can only bring one camera into the country, but I can’t find really good information on this… the second one might incur a charge rather than getting confiscated or anything dramatic.
The Minolta SRT 102 is heavy, but it’s my favorite at the moment and even if I don’t use this feature, I can do easy double exposures. The Minolta X-700 is lighter. And, the self-timer on it works. And, it has a program feature in case I don’t want to think about anything other than focusing. I have two additional lenses (aside from 50mm lenses) for either Minolta, in case I have room for an additional lens. The Pentax K1000? Bombproof, easy; but no extra features and no doubles. Okay, the Pentax is out of the running.
And then I fell in love with 120mm film after using it for several months in my son’s Mamiya 645 1000s. But, no way can I add that behomoth to my bag and, well, it’s not mine. I picked up a Holga, or really a knockoff Holga, and have had a ton of fun with that so far. If that fell off a bridge or got stolen I’d shed a tear but not be put out other than sad that I had 120 film and nothing to shoot it with. It’s smallish, cheap and plastic and I won’t worry about it one bit. The knockoff Holga is going. I have big plans for it.
So I think I’ve narrowed things down to one of the Minolta’s and the Holga. I have some Ektar 100 and some Portra 400 in 120mm color film and some Tri-X 400 and Fuji Acros 100 in 120mm black and white. For 35mm film I have some Ektar 100 and some other odds and ends, but I may have to pick up some more 35mm film. And how many rolls? Ah, another conundrum. I read I can only bring 10–but I can pack some in my daughter’s carry-on or I can simply declare more (I don’t know what that means. An additional charge?)
But then I start to second guess myself.
Should the DSLR come with me? Pros: No film to carry. Big memory card. I can take a million photos and I can see them immediately. Cons: Increases the technology I would want to bring (laptop to upload, or thingy needed to transfer images from SD card to my iPad). I’d spend more time uploading and editing every night and less time seeing/doing things. It’s big and conspicuous. If I broke it, dropped it, or it got stolen I’d be pretty devastated. If I bring it, I don’t really have room for a film camera.
Does anyone else obsess over these things? I’m arguing with myself about all of this. I am firm one day, up in the air the next.
I like the idea of relegating this trip to only film. If I miss a shot, I miss a shot. I know with digital I’m trigger happy–but who needs a million shots with only a few being images I really love? With film I’m much more deliberate. I might make some really bad shots but even those will have meaning (to me, anyway). I’m not saying one is better than the other–it’s all about where my head is, my process and exploration with both mediums. Right now it’s film. Tomorrow might be different.
So, what would you do? You know, just for the sake of discussion. And to help me quit obsessing over this decision. Even though I know what I’m going to do.
I’m so lucky. I traveled this past week for work, and I’m so lucky because I got to squeeze in an extra day of non-work, which I spent with a coworker doing the thing I like best (taking pictures) and catching up with her and you know, I don’t think we even talked about work at all. Suzanne, you rock.
I want you to know how hard it was for me to write the headline to this post. I’m bad at headlines. Usually literary phrases or lyrics or song titles come first to mind, and okay, sometimes I use those, but I feel like I’m cheating. I mean, who doesn’t leave their heart in San Francisco? And, yeah, now I know the way to San Jose. But those aren’t my words. So, just plain old San Francisco will have to do for this post, because that’s pretty much where I was. Or, the bay area. Or, is it Bay Area? (I’m still recovering from the whirlwind trip so I’m refusing to consult my sources to check which is correct.) I was in and around San Francisco and Sonoma for work, and it was all of these things: fun, exhausting, exhilarating, enlightening, and fantastic to be face-to-face with my coworkers.
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
I’ve given no love to my digital camera in months, and because I was tasked with photos for a work outing while I was there, I took the digital camera. Which is, like me, showing its age. A rubber grippy part of it fell off last summer and I intended to glue it back on but never got around to it and now I don’t know where that part is. A plate on a button on top of the camera, the one that shows what mode you’re shooting in, fell off while on this trip. I haven’t lost that and I’ll probably glue that back on, but I don’t need to. I’ll admit I kind of like the camera better a bit worn and ratty looking. After using old film cameras that are metal, sturdy and more substantial feeling than a modern plastic DSLR, the plastic camera feels a bit, well, cheap. Ratty and imperfect are more my style anyway. And settling on one camera and one lens is a little hard for me, but I do like a challenge. So the clunky, somewhat ratty, DSLR with 17-55mm lens came with me, jammed into my backpack not carefully at all, and they did just fine.
drive by, Golden Gate Bridge
sun flare, Golden Gate Bridge
Also after working with black and white film for the last four months I’ll admit the ease of upload and edits was (at least a little) fun. Maybe I even missed it a bit. But I still couldn’t help but make some of the fort images black and white, a little crusty and contrasty. Maybe a little like film. Whatever. Editing is such a personal thing, dependent on mood when you sit down to do it. At least for me.
So, the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point in the Presidio. I’m not delving into any history here because you can go find that yourself. I’ll just say I love a space with brick, shadows, girders and trusses, some height, an underbelly. Some grit, some history, something that takes up a sizeable amount of space. This place hit all my buttons.
light on circular stairwell in Fort Point
light on circular stairwell in Fort Point
Driving through cities in the bay, the outer roads, hilly and winding roads in wine country, stuff that makes your heart jump a little with the beauty and the occasional fear of dropping off a cliff. There’s something almost a little too bright about California, too shiny, perfect and beautiful.
How do you sum up a very short trip to New Orleans? I’m still processing all of it. New Orleans is not like anywhere I’ve ever been. Ever.
And I mean that in the best way. Not in the way where you ask someone what they think of something and they say, “oh yeah, that’s… [different, interesting, not like anything I know, etc.].” Nuh-uh. New Orleans IS all of that, and in the best, most delicious and weird and wonderful ways possible.
My friend Maggie found a cheap flight back in December, sent me an email and said “let’s go take pictures in New Orleans!” My thought process went like this: no, I can’t spend the money, I can’t take vacation, I shouldn’t do this, wait, I want to do this, why can’t I do this?, I’m gonna do this! We asked our friend Jane to join us, and voila, flights booked, hotel found. All we had to do was wait until April.
I’d never been to New Orleans. I know what anyone knows about it: Bourbon Street, jazz, above-ground cemeteries, the storm. I know that like many places (and people), there’s a lot more to the story of New Orleans. A blogger I like moved there from California and I love her photos and depictions of the place. I know about the balconies. I know about the beignets (and how to pronounce them, and that if you breathe in whilst eating one the powdered sugar will send you into a choking fit). What I didn’t know: it’s tropically hot, people go there to PARTY (in all caps, I’m serious), it’s beyond friendly, courtyards and shutters abound, and you really have to watch your footing in the French Quarter because the sidewalks are crazy uneven. And get the hell outta the way of the streetcars, for pete’s sake!
Anyway. Did I mention how hot it is? It is hot. And the locals don’t even think it’s hot, at least not in late April. They’ll tell you summer is hot, but April and May is NOT summer. Summer, and hot, is July and August. Apparently the locals just up and leave then. I don’t know who runs the show there in the summer, but I wonder if they’re as friendly as all the people that I met? Who can be friendly with sweat dripping into your socks? I don’t know. I digress. It was hot, but I like hot. Mostly, anyway.
It’s hard to see much when you arrive late in the day and only have two full days after that before you leave the next morning. But we managed to pack a lot in, including seeing a private hush-hush house concert of some very talented jazz musicians, one of whom I am proud to say I know. I shot a roll of film. I took some digital photos. We ate some good food and sampled the local booze. We saw (and heard, and smelled) Bourbon Street. We got torrential-rained on.
I like that New Orleans feels like an old friend that you know so well, it doesn’t trouble itself to neaten the joint up when you come over because you’re just that comfortable around each other. It doesn’t even bother to ask you to accept it like it is–it just knows that you will. It embraces your faults just as easily, maybe more so.
Carry on, New Orleans. I only had a few days to take you in, but I’ll be back for more.
You’ve got some windy plains, Ohio, and some weird insistence on ditches on the sides of your minor roads which makes pulling over to explore something interesting near impossible. You’re a lot like your neighboring states of Michigan and Pennsylvania–flat in places, hilly in others, part pastoral loveliness and gritty, forgotten industry. When I think of you I think of traffic tickets and Chrissie Hynde, but this is neither here nor there.
My friend Jane and I took off late Wednesday afternoon and drove to Mansfield, Ohio, which is just past halfway between Detroit and Pittsburgh, stopping on our way because the light was kind of awesome to shoot things that struck our fancy. Oh, but that wind! It made standing still to shoot a little tough.
We stayed Wednesday night in an upstairs room and alcove in a farmhouse in another small town about 10 miles from Mansfield with a very nice couple named Ron and Sarah. We ate black bean burgers at a nearby restaurant and actually went to bed around 9:30. Which is just crazy.
In the morning Ron fed us breakfast of homemade bread and jam with eggs fresh from their chickens and regaled us with stories about the house and the area. I can’t get enough of that stuff, and I hope I didn’t annoy him with all my questions. I could have spent the day bugging Ron, but we had to get on our way.
We were there mainly to go on a photography tour with about 40-some other people of a prison that was built in 1904. It’s been closed since the 1990’s and has been the site of a few movies (it’s fairly famous for one in particular, The Shawshank Redemption), has a reputation for being haunted, yada yada. But before we got to the prison, we took a little spin through downtown Mansfield, which is a bit hilly and charming and weird and frankly, a place I’d like to get to know a bit better. We didn’t have a lot of time, though.
But on to the prison. We went on this exact tour last year and were in it not for the movie thing or the haunting business, but for the crusty, peely, yummy textures, lovely lines and light. Plus, even with 5 whole hours there last year, there were rooms we missed and we were on a mission to get to those spots.
The place is now run as a historical site by a bunch of really nice, knowledgeable volunteers, who were so terrific they jumped out of our shots, helped us find our way, and answered tons of questions. These people really love this building and are serious about its preservation.
The library was apparently the prison hospital at one time.
And after about 4.5 hours of lugging tripods and camera bags around, we had our fill and headed out. With stops, of course. Missed a turn and came upon this abandoned factory, and with the puffy clouds and blue sky and the wild wind whipping through the buildings making the most foreboding clanging sounds, well, who could resist?
And a final stop at a cemetery, view towards a farm.
Rural Ohio has a thing for putting cemeteries on hills. I imagine there is some purposeful reason for this, but I appreciate it for the vistas. Again, the sky–gorgeous!