square love

So, the Yashica Electro 35 GSN I for some reason felt absolutely compelled to buy… doesn’t work. Well, it does. I mean, all the bits work. But when I put a battery in it, the things that the battery is supposed to make work don’t work. So technically I could run a roll of film through it because it defaults to a shutter speed of 1/500; so I could use it, but with limitations. That’s the chance you take on eBay, and I’m only out the price of a couple of fussy pour-over coffees or a pour of very nice bourbon, so not a big deal. I might run it over to the camera repair anyway and get a quote. In any case it’s shelved for now and I’ll mess around with it in January because I have a gazillion things to do because, you know, holidays.

I still haven’t bought chemicals and equipment to develop my own black and white film (I have tanks and reels, but not the other stuff) and I didn’t shoot any black and white over the summer anyway, but I have lately and I’ve sent it off to The Darkroom because they do a terrific job. I am in limbo right now because I hoped to sign up for another film class at a local community college and I just assumed they’d have a winter night class available like they did last winter, but alas, all the film classes are during the day and I am beholden to my employer during the daylight hours. There is a new community darkroom that I contributed to that will hopefully open in January, but I’m not seeing any updated news on their website so I don’t know. In any case, I’m itching to have a darkroom available to me so I can do this myself. I miss the magic. I miss printing and reprinting until an image is just right (er… is it ever just right?). So for now The Darkroom will develop my black and white film until I can do it myself again, and I’ll have to live with digital scans instead of prints.

I’m itching, I tell you.

I shot two rolls of black and white film, Ilford FP4+ and an expired roll of Kodak Tri-X Thanksgiving weekend. 2018 should be the year I start to take notes… I’m awful at that, and didn’t write down the year the Tri-X expired. I metered at box speed (400) and that seemed fine. It was my first time with FP4+ (I think, anyway. See, that’s where notes would come in) and I might be in love.

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Brookwood in a dusting of snow, Bronica SQ-A, Ilford FP4+

I’m feeling a little googly-eyed and swoony over the Bronica SQ-A right now. I am dreaming in square format. I want to use it all the time. For everything. I want to lay it on the pillow next to my head when I sleep so I can gaze at it lovingly when I wake up, although I think it would hurt a lot if it bonked me in the middle of the night because it’s really quite heavy. If it were one of my children, I’d without shame tell it that it’s my favorite. I wouldn’t even whisper so the other kid wouldn’t overhear.

Everyone does this, right? Gets all swoony and wants to write poems about things like cameras and films.

No?

Ah, well. I shot two more rolls through the Bronica after a snowfall this past weekend. I’ve a bit to learn about proper metering in snow, so who knows what I’ll get. And one roll was a 2003-expired Kodak Verichrome Pan (I took note! there is hope!), a film I know nothing about. You can’t say I’m afraid to experiment.

“What kind of photographer are you?”

I had a dream last night. I had wild dreams the night before–of loss and flood and wildfire and being out of control. These are the kinds of dreams I have when I’m worried about someone I love, and I suspect these are the kinds of dreams others have in that situation, too. But the snippet of the dream I remember from last night was somewhat less perilous.

I dreamed someone asked me the question, “What kind of photographer are you?” And I answered, “I’m a documentarian. I document what’s around me, what will be gone, what is fleeting.” (I said it with conviction, and I was proud of myself for that answer because I don’t think it’s come to me quite so succinctly in my waking world. Then again, every photograph is a capture of something that won’t be there in exactly the next moment, so now in hindsight I’m not so proud…) “But… where is your voice?” asked the interviewer next, and I fell silent. Is my voice in my photographs? Without a caption or an explanation or a hashtag, is my voice apparent? I’m not sure, sometimes. It’s worth exploring.

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Lake Michigan, Kodak ColorPlus 200

Yesterday I gave my digital camera to my daughter. Not gave as in I won’t have it back, but gave to her to use for a time. I’ll never speak on which is better–film or digital–because it’s a silly discussion. I know right now that artistically film is the medium I’m interested in and that’s where my focus is. I want to learn and explore in that world. So maybe that’s what prompted the question in my dream.

Oh, and… I lied. It didn’t take me long to break the promise I made to myself of no new cameras. I picked up a rangefinder because I started looking on eBay and then I just couldn’t stop, and my plan was to buy it for the person I am matched up with in a film photography secret Santa thingy because, well, who wouldn’t want a fun little camera for that? And then in the time it took to ship to me (which admittedly was only a few days) I went to the local used camera shop and, damn it, there sat a lovely Olympus Pen and it just came home with me. It just did, okay??? And on the drive home I decided that rather than waiting for the Yashica range finder to arrive, test it with a roll of film to make sure it worked, and test this new Pen to make sure that worked, that I would just send my secret Santa my own Pen because I already know it works. And I think he’ll love it. So technically I only got one camera because it replaces the Pen I’m gifting, and the Yashica… well, it was so cheap it was practically not a purchase at all.

So I revise. No new cameras starting in 2018. Eh. I hope.

as the dark sets in

Oh, these short, short days. They always take me by surprise. I know they’re coming, but they still upend me a bit. It doesn’t even make sense to attempt to be a morning person… those are too dark right now, too. The daylight is over before it’s barely begun.

Anyway, I always feel like I have to get a last blast of color in before the dark takes over and the landscape turns muddled grays and browns. Accordingly, I shot a lot of color film this month and managed to knock off four rolls while hosting Thanksgiving. We converged in waves at the cottage beginning early in the week–kids, friends, my dad–and we all ate and drank and laughed and got outdoors as much as the wild wind would allow until we all left.

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Little Sable Point beach, Bronica SQ-A, Kodak Ektar 100
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Little Sable Point Light, Bronica SQ-A, Kodak Ektar 100
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neighbor’s boats, , Bronica SQ-A, Kodak Ektar 100
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reaching, , Bronica SQ-A, Kodak Ektar 100
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blue sky and crusty vehicle, , Bronica SQ-A, Kodak Ektar 100
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long shadows, , Bronica SQ-A, Kodak Ektar 100

It wasn’t sunny and colorful the whole time we were there, though. There were gray days, too. At first I thought these two pictures with the snow were from when I first arrived on Tuesday, but now I can’t remember… they might have been a few weeks ago when there was a light dusting.

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post, Bronica SQ-A, Kodak Ektar 100
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fall meets winter, Bronica SQ-A, Kodak Ektar 100
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dead tree and field, Bronica SQ-A, Kodak Ektar 100
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beach fence, Bronica SQ-A, Kodak Ektar 100
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farmhouse, Bronica SQ-A, Kodak Ektar 100

And I had some film in my Minolta SRT-102 needing to be used up, too.

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dune, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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tree and roots on dune, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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inland lake, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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milkweed pods and seeds, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200

I should have some black and white film from earlier in the month done soon. I’m feeling a black and white mood coming on, and some experimentation with expired slide film. Not sure where that’ll take me, but hopefully it’ll provide some winter entertainment.

I know myself

 

I had a minor epiphany last evening. It happened during pigeon pose in a hot yoga class that up until that moment I was feeling pretty fantastic about. Pigeon always throws me–I get panicky and want to run–but I’ve been practicing yoga long enough (on and off for more of my life than not) that I know not to run. Still, I have to breathe through this pose and remember that it’s just a passing moment. Like an unpleasant interaction, or ice cream brain freeze.

It was this: I know myself.

I actually heard that. My voice, but from somewhere else in the room, saying it.

I get flaky and wishy-washy and indecisive. But, in reality, I know what I like and don’t like. I know what’s good for me and what I need to move on from. I know more than I am letting on that I know about my own self-worth. I know my own mind. I know myself.

It felt pretty freeing to have this thought come to me as I became still and patient during pigeon pose, allowing its lessons to wash over me, with sweat dripping down my nose and a seriously clenching gluteus maximus.

Of course, I’ll probably need reminders. But there it was, plain as day. Or, plain as the voices in my head.

I know myself.

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my dad, laughing

I know where I came from, too. The guy in this picture, my dad. He was with me for a few days several weeks ago and agreed to let me photograph him, and I was eager to try the Bronica SQ-A for portraits. I only took 12 images. This one, to me, is him. His laugh takes over his face.

new old things and it’s getting dark

I’ve been driving my new (but not new new) car for about a week and a half and it’s just so great. I’m attached. We’ve bonded. We’re pals. I haven’t come up with a suitable name yet, though.

The car was a necessity. But I also bought the Bronica SQ-A I’ve been testing, which was definitely not a necessity.

So, I am committing to no more cameras for the rest of this year and for all of 2018. I pledge this. I mean it. I really mean it. To clarify, I mean I won’t buy any cameras for this period of time. Well, unless something happens, like if a critical camera breaks. Then I’d replace it. But that would be the only reason.

I really hope I stick to this. Maybe I will need reminders.

It’s also getting dark. And cold. Last weekend was supposed to be another collaboration with my friend Margi, who was going to meet me at the cottage and we were going to take more photos exploring movement in nature, but the weather didn’t cooperate and I had a shortage of ideas for indoor locations, so I cancelled. I went to the cottage on my own but Saturday was a bust, weather-wise. I wanted to give the Bronica a fair chance and I finally sorted out an issue with one of the film backs, so I ran a roll of film through on Saturday in a bit of rain.

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cornfield, Bronica SQ-A, Lomo 100 ISO
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cornfield, Bronica SQ-A, Lomo 100 ISO
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cornfield, Bronica SQ-A, Lomo 100 ISO
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corn and dried stalk, Bronica SQ-A, Lomo 100 ISO
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Little Sable Point, Bronica SQ-A, Lomo 100 ISO
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Little Sable Point, Bronica SQ-A, Lomo 100 ISO

Sunday started gray and cold but the sky was dramatic and it wasn’t too windy and the blue even poked through the clouds every now and then, so I ran a second roll through the Bronica and finished up the roll I started in California on the Minolta.

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DANGER, Bronica SQ-A, Lomo 100 ISO
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the farmhouse, Bronica SQ-A, Lomo 100 ISO
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a little fall color, Bronica SQ-A, Lomo 100 ISO

I’m forever inspired and amazed by these ghosts of old trees. The wind and sand buries and unburies them, topples and rights them, year after year. The landscape changes so dramatically. I love documenting this.

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driftwood on dune, Bronica SQ-A, Lomo 100 ISO
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driftwood on dune, Bronica SQ-A, Lomo 100 ISO
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growth, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak ColorPlus 200 ISO
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driftwood, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak ColorPlus 200 ISO
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toppled, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak ColorPlus 200 ISO
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trunk, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak ColorPlus 200 ISO
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relics, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak ColorPlus 200 ISO

Anyway. I’m excited to explore more with this camera and happy to be driving my new car, and not so happy about the impending shorter days and cold. But that’s life.

more Mendocino, this time on film

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somewhere in the sky
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surfers and fog

I imagine we’re not meant to live as if on vacation every day. But, what if we were? Could we stand that much sunshine? Could we stand the gorgeousness? So much of it? Would it hurt too much to live like that, or make us too soft, or too happy?

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my friend Kelly, contemplating the view

I don’t know. I tell people that here in Michigan the winters make our summers so much sweeter. Not that I mind the winters. Because maybe we have to do penance with the dark days, or the miserably cold days, to really appreciate the warm and sunny days. But I wonder if maybe we’ve got to see and taste and touch beauty every single day. Maybe it makes us better. I’m willing to bet it does.

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our cabin in the woods
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prayer flags and path
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garden

In any case, I took film to the lab today and they had it developed and uploaded before I even got home. Just when I’ve become more patient with the whole process, they go and make it instant! I shot one and a half rolls of Kodak ColorPlus film on my trusty Minolta SRT 102 in California two weeks ago, and this is the one. The half roll isn’t finished yet and that is what is making me feel so unsettled and thinking about just how much beauty we are entitled to in our everyday life. Perhaps it’s all in the way we frame things. Beauty is everywhere, after all.

I think some days we just don’t feel like looking at it. But it kind of smacks you across the face in California.

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Mendocino

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And here’s another thing. The fires are still burning. We left Sunday morning, and the fires broke out in wine country that night and they are continuing today. It sounds trite to say my heart breaks for California. But oh how it does. Such beauty, such loss.

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September on film

This week has been chaos. A drive back to the city, major work project and deadlines, trying to think about what I need to pack for California this coming week, and planning around this weekend, which is jam-packed.

Both kids were under our roof last night–a rare treat–and now everyone is off to their events for the day and I can sit and breathe for just a moment and look at the photos that I had processed this week.

When we were in Pittsburgh for my cousin’s wedding at the start of this month I found out there was a small waterfall less than a mile from the hotel where we stayed. This is Buttermilk Falls, also known as Homewood Falls. It’s a very short hike through a quarry where there are some rocky cliffs that maybe one shouldn’t traverse after overindulging at a wedding the night before, but the light was lovely here and worth a few unsteady moments.

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Jenny’s puppies, Kodak ColorPlus 200, Minolta SRT 102
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my (not) puppy, Kodak ColorPlus 200, Minolta SRT 102

That Bronica SQ-A I’m testing produced one beautiful roll and one awful roll this month, after a first disappointing roll. I still don’t quite know what to make of it… is the awful roll a product of a processing mistake or a camera error? Maybe I need to stick to standard films for testing–the first bad roll was an expired film, and this recent bad one was a redscale film. One roll I didn’t even send for processing because it only advanced sporadically, and I didn’t notice it wasn’t advancing while I was shooting. I need more time with the camera to make sure. I don’t want to keep comparing it to my son’s Mamiya because it has both its own quirks and its own charm. But so far I’ve had three bad rolls to one good… is it me, or is it the camera? I guess I’d like more consistent results before I purchase it. I can’t afford to waste so much film.

Aren’t these gorgeous, though? They look lush and velvety. They make me love 120 film.

And more gorgeousness.

And then the not so gorgeous:

Seriously, I’d love some clues as to what happened here. Can the paper backing stick to 120 film? Is this what might have happened? And redscale shouldn’t come out purple, right? The whole roll looks like this. Purple and muddled. I’m at a loss.

But back to the Minolta and that Kodak ColorPlus. It’s a 200 speed film, it can be found very cheap (last bunch I got ended up being $2.60/roll), and I really quite like it for an everyday 35mm film. So there you go.

Maybe I’ve mentioned this before on this blog, but I’ve been picking blueberries at this particular farm my entire life. My kids have been picking blueberries here their entire lives. The family that owns this farm has put it up for sale and I tell you, if I could manage to buy and run a blueberry farm, I’d do it in a heartbeat because I think I’m going to be around for a while, and my kids are going to be around longer, and I’d love for us all to continue blueberry picking at this very farm. But since it’s probably not a good idea for me to add blueberry farm owner to my plate, someone else is going to have to do it. Anyone interested? I’ll be your best customer.

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dill flower and sky at Cherry Point Market, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak ColorPlus
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color and shadow at Fox Barn, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak ColorPlus
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sign at Fox Barn, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak ColorPlus

So, summer is over. October begins tomorrow, and I’ll be back in the city more now. And that’s okay. My house is a disorganized disaster and I’ve got lots to do to sort it out. And I missed Detroit this summer; like any city recognizing a resurgence, it’s changing rapidly. A new stadium, new businesses. A drive west on Woodward last night made me feel like I’ve been away longer than I have. Slow down a little, Detroit. Let me catch up.

last year, this year

I’m trying not to compare. But, last year at this time I was on a wild mission with films and cameras and taking pictures. It’s not that I’m uninspired this year… it’s maybe that I want to avoid taking the same pictures over and over. In some cases, anyway.

Another digital sunset, anyone?

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Last year I just felt more confident in my art. I knew how to use all the cameras I had and I wasn’t planning on adding any more. But then, of course, I did. And it might have shaken my confidence a bit. This is good, though. Comfort is a stifling position to be in.

I’m still trialing (is that a word?) a medium format camera and I hope its owner isn’t getting too annoyed at the time I’m taking with it. The first roll was disappointing but there are so many factors that could have contributed. Another roll didn’t advance correctly. Two did advance correctly, however, and those will be off to the lab on Monday and I will hopefully have an answer for the camera’s owner by the end of the week.

And another lesson, the pinhole camera I got midsummer. I really don’t know what I’m doing, and after these results from a first roll through it, I’m even more intimidated by it. But I need to get over that and give it another go. I learn by feeling my way through something, and I’m not going to figure this thing out unless I keep trying.

So after a bit of a hiatus, the digital camera has been in rotation a little more this summer. I’ve still got plenty of love for it.

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In just over a week I’ll be in California for a short vacation, and I am nearly certain the Minolta SRT 102 is the camera I’ll take with me, because it’s my favorite and it may be the most reliable camera in my arsenal at the moment, and I’d rather shoot film thoughtfully than take a million digital images (which is what I would do, even if I decided to shoot digital thoughtfully) and tax myself with the time of going through them all.

So that’s where I am. About to go to California and see some areas I’ve never seen, forest and shore and redwoods. Testing a camera and getting over being intimidated by another camera. Waiting for some film to come back, 120 and 35 mm. I’m a bit in limbo and that’s all okay.

When the tall ships come in

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neighborhood church at sunrise, Kodak Gold 200

I’m not on the beach. I piss and moan about this a bit, and when I’m not on the beach and I’m in the city, I think about all the things I’m missing on the beach. The fact that cherry season is well over, for instance. And that the corn grew tall in my absence. Have the peaches come in yet? And, how many sunsets on the lake have I missed? Have I missed the best one of the season?

Sigh. Shame on me.

Yesterday evening I walked my city for miles. I walked on blocks and streets I either haven’t been on in a few years or simply haven’t appreciated. I like this city, with its modest older houses and orderly city blocks, lovingly tended gardens and lawns. There are sidewalks here. I said hello to people sitting on porches (and they said hello back). I watched a squall come in and the sky turn into a fireball in the west where the sun prepared to set. Granted, there were houses and trees and power lines in the way of an open-sky view, but it was still shockingly beautiful. And, when the sky dropped tremendous raindrops and I took cover under a corner tree for a few minutes, but still got soaked anyway, I had an attitude adjustment. I’m so lucky I can spend time on Michigan’s west side gazing at the lake. I’m so, so lucky. And I’m lucky to have a roof over my head here on the east side of the state, in a living, breathing, working neighborhood just outside of Detroit.

But anyway, the ships.

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There is an organization, the Columbus Foundation, that sails two ships, replicas of Columbus’s Niña and Pinta, floating museums as homage not so much to Columbus’s voyage but to the type of ship he sailed. They sail most of the year and make stops around the U.S. and through the Great Lakes system, and one such stop happens to be right down the street from me in a neighborhood park on the Detroit River. While freighters regularly go by here, and they are beautiful to watch, there is something different about seeing these two beauties docked here for several days.

I got up early one morning to catch the ships in the sunrise with some friends and brought my trusty Minolta SRT 102, which had some shots left on a roll of Kodak Gold, a cheap 200 speed film that I’ve decided I like quite a bit.

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I shot a roll of black and white 120 film that morning on a camera I’m testing and may buy (ahem, don’t judge), but I’d like to hand develop that and I haven’t gotten to it yet. And, the first roll of expired color film I ran through it has me scratching my head a bit as the results are, well, weird. But that’s for another post.

I miss you, Mamiya

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fog on inland lake, Mamiya 645 1000s and Kodak Ektar 100

Last winter when I was taking a black and white film photography class, my son lent me his Mamiya 645 1000s camera, a behemoth of a thing (compared to any 35mm camera I have), with a sturdy feel and the most satisfying shutter-click sound. It intimidated the hell out of me with its 120 film and its battery fussiness and well, just the sheer size of it.

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abandoned farm outbuildings, Mamiya 645 1000s
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rusted, Mamiya 645 1000s

It eats batteries like crazy (as in, put in the battery, take a picture, take the battery out–or else you drain the battery mid-roll) and it’s hard to maneuver. The shutter is easy to accidentally misfire (I had at least one, often more, accidental or blank shot on every roll). I swore at it while using it, but always apologized immediately because it’s hard not to be charmed by its quirks, really, and the detail in the negatives of 120 film is enough of a bonus here.

In any case, I mostly happily shot maybe 8 or so rolls of black and white film with it during my class and got comfortable working with 120 film, and in doing so, I really fell hard for the camera. I joked about stealing it from my son, but that would mean a lifetime of lies (“no, really, that was shot on 35mm film, I swear”), and a few weeks ago I very sadly handed it back to him. I was even pouty about it for a few days. I know I can borrow it any time, but it’s not the same as having it in my possession, loaded with film and at the ready.

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dead end, Mamiya 645 1000s
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country road, Mamiya 645 1000s

Knowing I would have to give it back to him, I ran a couple of rolls of color film through it to kick myself in the gut one last time see how it handled color. And, it’s as beautiful as I expected.

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rye, Mamiya 645 1000s
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reddest sunset, Mamiya 645 1000s

Sigh.

I miss you, Mamiya. I hope my kid takes care of you like I did (minus the swearing at you–I still feel bad about that). Even if I end up with my very own camera of your genre and we don’t hang out again, know that you were my first medium format love.