A few weeks ago, after we moved our daughter to Texas but before she stayed there for good (in other words, she came back to town for a bit) we came to the cottage just in time to see the blossoms on the fruit trees.
The west side of Michigan grows cherries, peaches and apples (in that seasonal order, too). Also pears, but the first three are the big ones. Aside from tree fruit, the area is also big on asparagus, strawberries and blueberries.
But back to the blossoms. They’re so pretty, and I wish I could tell you I knew from the blossoms which fruit trees I am looking at, but alas, I don’t–unless I remember what was growing in the orchard in the year past. I do know that I like to (very lightly) trespass on the edges of my neighbor’s orchards long enough to get some photos of these trees at blossom time and then again when the fruit is in season. I really hope they don’t mind.
Actually I’m pretty sure these first three photos are of apple trees.
Aside from enjoying the blossoms, we plucked some spruce tips and tried to make a spruce tip syrup. I was excited after reading about spruce tip syrup last year, too late to pluck the spring tips, but my execution may not have been right. I might try again before all the spruce and pine tips have gone and turned into needles. You’ve got to get them when they’re tender and green.
This is going to sound terrible. But, I never gave Texas much thought. I’m way up here in Michigan, and Texas feels a world away; a gigantic state with guns and trucks and carnivores and women with big hair and the kinds of things and people I figured I wouldn’t mix all that well with. I know better, really I do.
But we drove down to Texas a few weeks ago with a carload of stuff and helped move our grown human into a really amazing apartment, and outside of all the work that entailed we ate some pretty amazing meals (Austin knows how to do vegetarian and vegan) and I spent a morning walking on the multi-use paths along the Colorado River/Lady Bird Lake taking pictures. I only brought one camera (my favorite 35mm, the Minolta SRT-102) and finished a roll of Kodak ColorPlus that was half-used and a roll of Fuji Superia, both ISO 200. I already can’t wait to go back; there’s so much more to explore.
Austin, I’m sorry I pre-judged–we’re gonna get along just fine. And, Texas, I don’t know how much I’ll dabble in you beyond Austin, but I promise to keep an open mind.
I’m still finding my way with flickr; still not sure how I feel about it. But you can see more of my photos from Austin here.
My best friend and I spent a few days getting the cottage ready for the summer season, which presumably is coming even though the weather is doing its very best not to comply. We drove across state in rain the whole way with the threat of snow, sleet and ice for the following day. We tempted fate by not bringing snow boots, because, you know, the forecast is sometimes wrong and it was mid-April, for heaven’s sake.
We ended up getting snowed/iced in. Well. I’d like to say that’ll teach us but I’m not prone to learning my lesson. We managed, it was adventurous, and we had fun. Isn’t that all that matters?
In a break from the precipitation, I did get a brief walk on the beach with the Bronica SQ-A loaded with Kodak Porta ISO 160, a new film for me. The colors that day were muted but lovely; golden grasses and sand, teal water, a dark freighter, white snow; the sun poked through the clouds just a few times, making the water sparkle. I think this film captured the colors and the mood accurately.
The beach really took a pounding this winter, leaving even more staircases stranded or worse, broken and many miles away from where they once lived. A huge tree trunk that I’ve been watching get sand-covered and uncovered for years, and that was a quarter mile north of my community, is now lodged on my neighbor’s beach (I think it’s beautiful). We will have to find creative ways (rappelling? installing a lift?) to get from the bluff to the water line this year.
I can only hope the water levels start to recede so the beach begins to rebuild. It’s all cyclical, we know this. But I so miss walks on a big beach.
Growing up, my parents never took us to Belle Isle, an island park in the middle of the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. They were huge nature lovers, too, but Belle Isle, let alone downtown Detroit, just wasn’t in their rotation. So I grew up never experiencing the delights there. Then again, I’m not quite sure how delightful Belle Isle was in the late 1960s and 1970s. I know the Detroit riots in 1967 shook my dad up. He was a middle school teacher at the time, a new father, young and politically aware, a bit of an outsider himself as a bearded, dark, Italian man in a very golden suburb.
We didn’t go there as teenagers in the 80s, either. There was Greektown and Hart Plaza and Mexican Village, all places to find some trouble and have some fun. And then I left town for a decade and by the time I came back, Belle Isle was neglected and in disrepair. But some years ago the state took it over and it just keeps getting better.
One of my favorite places on Belle Isle is the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. It’s muggy and green and earthy-smelling and feels like a sauna and makes your glasses and camera lenses steam up.
I was there in early March and used the Bronica SQ-A with Fuji Velvia 50 ISO, which is slide film, and which I don’t totally know how to work with. I brightened up a few images in Lightroom but mostly these are as The Darkroom developed and scanned them. Slide film is less forgiving and I think I have to figure out how to meter it differently. I also think the roll turned out much more blue than color negative films I’ve used. Anyway. All experimentation, but I’m not unhappy with these results.
Also, I really have no idea what I’m doing with Flickr. I set up an account and added some albums so that I could link to photos there rather than fill up space here. I’ve made the albums from the last two posts public. But, I’m not sure I want to have public Flickr albums. I’m just not sure how I feel about Flickr in general. Pros, cons, anyone?
I spent a few days in a little town on the west side of Michigan called Saint Joseph. I was there a week ago, and I can’t go there without spending some time on the beach.
I like my beaches empty and windblown, moody, wild.
And I still can’t get enough of my Bronica SQ-A and the 6×6 medium format. The camera isn’t perfect; I’m getting some lines on my negatives that I can’t quite sort out how to get rid of. But, I’ve never been much for perfection anyway.
I used Kodak Ektar 100 ISO for these images. And I completely froze, although you’d never guess just how cold and windy it was from these photos.
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!).