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.
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.
Two weeks ago I stepped into the Pacific Ocean. I wasn’t prepared for a dip, but I might have done it. I mean, unless a beach is snow-covered and there are ice floats in the water, a Midwesterner worth her salt is at least going in up to her ankles. Maybe even knees, if she’s wearing the right clothes and isn’t going out to dinner with co-workers right after.
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.
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).
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?
The rest are some of the images from that snowy hike with my son a few weeks ago.
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.
I know, I know. It’s what they’re supposed to do. I’ll roll with it.
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?
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.
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.
Sometimes I forget how lucky I am. I don’t write much about work here, but I have a pretty amazing job at a company that doesn’t scrimp on showing its employees that they are valued. More than that, though, it’s the people I work with. They make it all even better.
I spent a week in January at my company’s office in the San Francisco Bay, and while it was busy and I didn’t get to spend any time outside (my favorite thing) at least it was nice to have not only a change of scenery, but to be able to wear cute shoes and not ruin them because of snow and salt. I’m luckier still that my dear friend will be joining our team in just one week, and I will be flying again to California to help get her started.
I also think that it’s a luxury to have a job like this. I hear too many stories about people hating their job, their workplace, or their supervisors and tolerating those things, sometimes for decades, because they have to. I’ve either been lucky or I’ve played my cards right, but my career has been full of friends, mentors, and people I respect. I wish everyone had that.
Anyway, maybe because I was there three times last year, I’m starting to have dreams about California. It’s starting to feel more like home.
And I’m getting itchy for another non-work trip. I poked around a bit on Airbnb last night, dreaming of different skies. When I do that I feel like I’m half-here, half-somewhere else… one foot in my normal world. It’s a strange feeling, but not an unpleasant one.
But I also dream in pictures. And most of my pictures, or at least the ones I feel like I’m meant to be making, are here in Michigan and of the lake, the plants, the landscape I feel connected to.
These photos are from my first roll of film of 2018. It was snowing like mad and I left the cottage to wander into the meadow and woods with the Bronica SQ-A and a roll of Ilford FP4+. There are some odd lines on a few of these images and I’m not sure what might have caused them, but they are on the film and not just on the scans. I was more worried about correct exposure with all the white, but I either lucked out a bit or FP4+ is forgiving. Either way, I like my snowy shots and feel a little more comfortable shooting in the snow now, in terms of metering (it’s still challenging in terms of managing gear, snow on lenses, cold, and wetness!).
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.
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.
I put a roll of Ilford HP5 in my Olympus Pen EE3 last winter, maybe sometime in January or February, with the intent to shoot it through and develop it during my class. But, I don’t know, I got distracted by 120 film and I just had a hard time looking at things in a half-frame frame of mind, you know?
Then summer came and I really only envisioned the world in color, so the EE3 sat. And then summer ended and I started thinking about black and white again and wondered what I’d already shot on the half of the roll that I’d managed to go through, so one day in October (or maybe November?) I met a friend on the riverfront for a wander and the EE3 fits nicely in a pocket, so it came with me.
I finished off the roll hunting for light and shadows in my house, but it really energized me for the half-frame format again. I feel a project coming on.
Also, I’m trying something new… hoping I can utilize flickr to upload private photos (still deciding if I want a public gallery over there) that I can then show here, but I’m not quite getting how it all works. I mean, I see these images in my post, but I’m worried once I publish it I’ll have mucked the process up and the images won’t show up for you.
Just a few days shy of mid-December, I drove on a snowy afternoon out from the cottage to see what I could find to photograph and found myself at “the channel,” a small spot of public beach where a little inland lake feeds out into Lake Michigan. While I was gathering my camera another car pulled up, and I watched two men get out of the car, one with a surfboard. We don’t see many surfers at this spot even in the warmer months, although the kiteboarders love the area.
While one was surfing, the other stood on the shore and we chatted a bit. Tom (I think that was his name) is a local; said his friend was in from California and this was his second time in the water today, although the waves had calmed down a lot from earlier that morning.
I like how at first glance he looks as if he’s walking on water.
It’s the final hours of 2017 and I’m listening to the soft breathing of my husband and (not-so-soft breathing) dog as they snooze, competing for space on the couch.
We are all worn out. The dog got multiple walks in snow that balled up in between the pads of her feet. My husband rode his bike on snow-covered backroads and shoveled the long driveway at the cottage multiple times, ensuring we don’t get stuck here tomorrow when we go to leave. I got to use the snowshoes that replaced an old, broken pair last winter (but never got used because the snow stayed away), snow-shoeing for nearly three hours on a deserted lunar-landscape of a beach. I shot my last two rolls of film for the year–one 120mm slide film, something I’ve never shot before and an expired Ilford SFX 35mm, opting for a red filter and again, a risk as I haven’t explored that kind of film before.
It’s New Year’s Eve and we sure know how to party.
There’s a fire in the fireplace, my feet just inches away. I’ve binge-watched three episodes of Black Mirror, which is dark and fitting (I think, anyway) for a place like this, a stretch of beach that few inhabit in the winter. I can hear the wind and the waves, and the nearly-full moon made a short appearance before the clouds swallowed it up a few hours ago.
It is desolate here. When Lake Michigan tells you you’re not wanted, you best believe her. Tomorrow we’ll leave and the house will be winterized and I won’t see the ice buildup, the drifts that cover the doorways, the unpassable driveway. By spring it’ll be chillingly cold but the snow will have left no trace, other than a re-carved and freshly scrubbed beach. It’s how it works here, the seasons cycle and refresh. I hate to be away.
I am cherishing the quiet of these last few hours of 2017.
I feel doubly responsible to consider each new year as a fresh start. For one, the calendar tells me there is a new year and for two, my birthday is just a week later. Two chances for a fresh start; two opportunities to consider what I’m holding on to that no longer serves me or makes me a better human, or that is impeding my relationships, my peace, my life.
Oh, am I holding on to some crap. Papers and books from college. Trinkets that won’t be used or displayed. Pots, pans, mugs and glassware that I don’t love and don’t use.
The catch-all places in my house are stuffed, and it is this I have to face in 2018. My office closet (disaster). The furnace room. Kitchen drawers. The pantry and spice cabinet. The storage space under the stairs. Bedrooms that hold the remnants of my children’s youth.
I know I’m not alone, and I know that what might feel insurmountable to me (like my office closet) might be nothing compared to someone else’s closet, garage, or studio that they are facing clearing out. Somehow that doesn’t make me feel much better when I open that closet door, reach in to begin, and then shut the door again in panic.
But I don’t know what to do with the stuff I don’t know what to do with. You know? Papers from my kid’s elementary schools. Old bits of mail. Boxes or receipts from electronics. Typewritten papers from college with notes I might want to read again (like the note from my poetry professor, who wrote encouragements like “Now you’re cooking!” and “yes! you got it!” in the margins of my poem analysis papers). What do people do with the stuff they might want to revisit but don’t need to use every day? Pack it away and deal with it later? Toss it and never look back?
I’m going to make a start, at least. Donate or sell the two cameras I have that aren’t working. Get into that closet. One kitchen drawer/cupboard, one basement shelf, at a time. Designate a space for the important papers from my children’s school years and toss the non-important ones, like those old field trip permission slips still jammed into kitchen drawers. I’d like to end 2018 feeling at least a little bit more organized than I’m beginning it.