A few weeks ago I wrote about a film photography “walking workshop” that I went to in Ohio. A week before that I’d shot a roll of film, mostly of the flowering plants in a garden I like to frequent in west Michigan, plus some wildflowers and a few sunsets. I finished the final shots of the roll in my backyard of the flowering plants there, on the east side of Michigan, and then re-shot the roll at a car show and in Findlay, Ohio’s downtown during the workshop.
I just really, really like a lot of these. I used my trusty Minolta SRT-102 and Kodak ColorPlus 200 ISO film.
Last year, and I can hardly believe it has already been a year, I traveled to Peru and spent a week with my daughter in Lima. I brought two cameras–a Minolta X-700 and a Holga and I was super happy with my decision not to bring a digital camera. In fact, I just gave my now ratty-looking but still capable digital camera to my son to borrow, with the caveat that I can borrow it back when I need to. I like where film is taking me right now so I’m going to keep exploring that.
So in just over a month my friend Jane and I are heading to Iceland and while I am pretty well decided on which cameras I’m bringing, now I am suddenly obsessing about how much and what kind of film to bring. I’m no expert on all the films out there, but I’ve tried a few and I’ve got some favorites. If you don’t believe me that there really are lots and lots of films available, take a look at this compendium by EMULSIVE (this is part 5, but see the links to all four parts before this one if you want your head to spin).
But, I am struggling among my favorites. I know I want to shoot both black and white and color, but should I stick to one film each so my resulting images have somewhat the same voice? A variety, so I can mix it up (my norm)? And, how much film? 20 rolls? 40? I like to have options but I also need to pack smart and consider my budget.
I’m actually more worried about what film to bring than what clothes to pack. Have you been to Iceland in late September? If you have either film or clothing/footwear suggestions, I’m all ears.
Otherwise, after a two and a half week hiatus, I’m back on the shores of Lake Michigan for a little while. It’s hot, the beach has grown a bit, the Queen Anne’s lace and the mullein and the summer squash and the corn fields have all exploded, the bees are busy and the cicadas are humming the evenings away. We watched a bit of the Perseid meteors last night but couldn’t stay awake, although they were beautiful, sending silver glitter streaks through the sky. It’s high summer and it’s just heaven.
Last weekend my friend Jane and I went to Findlay, Ohio to participate in the Film Photography Project‘s “walking workshop” with about 100 or so other people, who were about 95% men. That last bit is neither here nor there, but I did find it a little surprising and somewhat noteworthy. Do men have more free time for pursuits like camera collecting and film photography? Are women just not as interested in workshops? I don’t know these things. But, Jane and I enjoyed the workshops, the freebies, the FPP store, the FPP podcast crew, wandering around town during the car show, and the venue (the Jones Mansion).
We each bought $10 plastic point and shoot cameras with ridiculous telescoping lenses. I bought a $10 t-shirt (can’t have enough t-shirts) and a roll of T-Max 3200 ISO film. I won a Minolta Hi-Matic G. I’ve never had so many men say “I like your dress” (it’s my favorite dress right now, a print of old-style cameras)–the best comment being “I don’t wear dresses often, but I’d wear that one.” I mean, c’mon! What’s not to love here?
I shot a roll of color film a few weeks ago on the west side of Michigan, mostly flowers (both wild and planted) with the idea of re-shooting for a whole roll of double exposures. Since there was a car show going on in downtown Findlay during the workshop, I ended up shooting some cars and alleys and streetscapes over the flowers on that roll. I have some other film ready and a few rolls to finish up before I send the re-shot roll for developing, but I’m excited to see what I get.
Anyway, here are some images from the test rolls from those two cameras I mentioned a few weeks back, the camera given to me by a neighbor (that Minolta Maxxum 300si) and the goodwill camera (a Minolta Freedom Zoom 90). The goodwill camera is huge and clunky and the zoom pretty much broke at the end of the test roll. The Maxxum’s longer lens might be really useful and although overall I probably won’t use this camera too often, I’m going to keep it around. The Freedom shot a 1989 expired roll of Ektachrome (cross processed) and I didn’t expect much from that, but got a few shots I kind of liked. The Maxxum had a roll of Fuji 800 ISO film in it and who knows how old it was or how it was stored. So, experiments.
I don’t really know what I can say here. I’m in love.
I know when I first started to shoot film I was so excited by not knowing what I was going to get when my film was developed. I have a little more experience now, so I pretty much do know what I’m going to get, but I’m still chasing the fun of the mystery, which is why I’m drawn to expired films, film soups, new (to me) old cameras. A guarantee of not knowing what you’ll get, and so you’ll definitely get a surprise (good or bad).
In prep for a film secret Santa exchange last Christmas, I chopped up some fresh ginger, squeezed the juice out of a lemon, and boiled the ginger and lemon with some water for, oh, I don’t know, a while. Then I let the concoction cool and dropped two rolls of film into it to soak for, oh, I don’t know, another while. Then I took them out and rinsed them and dropped them into a baggie with rice to dry for a few weeks, and then I mailed one to my secret Santa recipient in California and kept the other for myself.
I’m still kind of bad about noting things and I kind of thought I would remember which roll I soaked, but of course I didn’t. So I forgot all about it until I put this roll in my Minolta SRT-102 a few weeks ago and it was just a little crispy feeling when I tried to advance the first few frames and a lightbulb went off in my brain and ta-da! I remembered about that film I soaked over the winter.
I shot a roll of Portra 160 on the Bronica SQ-A over the course of one day last month, all of Lake Michigan, from atop the bluff in front of the cottage. The lake goes through many moods throughout each day and this one just seemed full of color, interest, and an odd wind coming from the west and pushing the lake away from the beach. Even on the grayest day I think she’s gorgeous, but I’m a bit biased.
Right now I have five rolls of film from July ready to develop, plus two rolls of film in two cameras that have just a few shots left. More lake pics. The wild rose bush on the side of the road that keeps expanding. The blooming milkweed. The lavender. All the things I love, plus test rolls from the point and shoot I picked up from the goodwill, and the camera given me by a neighbor.
This week I’ll leave the cottage for a few weeks in the city, and get back to the cottage just in time for the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. When we were kids, during the Perseids we’d set up sleeping bags and pillows and camp out on the deck for as much of the night as we could handle being soaked from the dew. They are one hell of a show if you have a nice dark sky from which to view them.
I’m not the only one that needs it to rain every now and then, am I? I mean, not for days and days on end… that’s too much. But after a stretch of summery sun and warmth a bit of rain just feels like a necessary break. A permission to be a little blue, or introspective. It’s a little like crying after going a really long time without. I don’t know–it feels good to me.
It’s raining right now on a late Thursday afternoon. I heard thunder growling for about an hour before the rain started, and some interesting clouds formed over the lake. Nothing dramatic, just a gentle release. The dog is especially tired today and has been snoring either on the couch or under my feet at the dining room table (my cottage office). I could curl up and nap, too, if not for work. These are the kind of days I’d skip college classes and spend the day in bed reading and drinking tea. I miss those days.
I made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t buy any cameras in 2018. I’m not really sure why I made such a foolish bargain now, and maybe I should have clarified. Like, no cameras over $20 or something more sane. In any case, I went to a local good will shop last week and took a $6.95 chance on a clean-looking, fully automatic, clunker of a late 1980’s plastic point and shoot. I also picked up a Cokin A series filter holder and three filters–one of which is a double exposure “splitter” that I was pretty excited to find. I took the clunker on a beach walk with a roll of heavily expired slide film from the same era as the camera. Who knows if anything will come of that roll, but it was fun. I tried the splitter two nights ago and again, who knows what will come of it. I’m not organized enough to plan decent doubles when I’m out; I’m just shooting and enjoying things most of the time lately.
I also put feelers out to neighbors via an online community about taking old cameras off their hands, and someone offered up an SLR. I met a complete stranger in the parking lot of the local market who handed me a bag with a Minolta Maxxum 300si, two lenses, a roll of unused film in the camera and a second roll in the bag. He was nice, just happy to get rid of something he didn’t use that was taking up space. It’s also a fully automatic thing and I promised I’d use it and then donate it if it didn’t become part of my regular rotation. The funny thing is it happens to take the same battery as the good will clunker, so I didn’t have to wait to test it out. I wanted to ask some background but he seemed in a rush, so, I’ll make up stories about where the camera has been and what it has seen.
I had five rolls of film developed a few weeks ago–two were Lomography Lomochrome Purple. One of these I’ve been carrying around for over a year, so it’s an older formula, and the other was a “new” formula. I don’t think I can judge how the two formulas differ, because I am absolutely terrible about storing film properly and the older roll went with me to Peru last May (but did not get used) and has been in and out of camera bags and hot and cold cars and basically has not been treated the way an $11.90 roll of film should be treated. But the “old” formula images look a little overexposed, a cooler purple. The “new” formula images seem a bit more saturated, a warmer purple. Conditions, light, subjects all play a roll, of course.
Enough writing on a rainy afternoon, and I have to get back to work. Here are some purple film photos, in no particular order. You can see more in this flickr album, if you want.
I like to take pictures in the herb and flower garden at a local farm market. There’s a lavender labyrinth there that brings the masses right around now, when the lavender blooms and casts its purple hue across the garden grounds. Smack in the middle of the labyrinth is a raised garden bed, and it’s here that I like to go in the golden hour before sunset and commune with the bees as they dance around the blooms. I like this spot best in June, before the summer crowds descend on this place, right when the poppies open and before things begin to wilt and brown from the summer heat.
I’m in love with the poppies, but like everything that grows here they don’t stick around long. By July they are replaced by other blooms, and there can be hundreds of people in this garden milling about, taking selfies. I know this is good for the business owner, but I like this place quiet and peaceful, when I can be alone with my thoughts and hear things growing and buzzing all around me–that’s when it’s really magical.
A few weeks ago I went into the heart of this garden one evening with my Bronica loaded with a roll of Fuji Velvia 50 ISO film. A young woman who works at the farm was just wrapping up her work there and we chatted a bit before she left me alone with the bees. I’ve only used Velvia a few times but I think the colors and that evening’s light and my Bronica just kind of all worked together to make some real beauty. Who can look at the greens and reds and purples that happen in nature and not be quieted, at least for a moment?
You can see the rest of this roll here, or an older post I wrote with digital photos from this place here.
We wandered the music festival grounds last night. I feel honored to be able to do that, through knowing some lovely and talented people that make it possible for us to experience the festival without having to be actual festival-goers. It’s in a pine forest, lit up with light and art and hope and pure escapism. It’s a surreal landscape.
I took my camera to the meadow just under two weeks ago to photograph this goatsbeard, and the next day as I walked by it the meadow was being mowed. All the goatsbeard, the milkweed, the sweet pea and clover and everything else that was erupting or about to be erupting was gone. There’s more right behind it, but it still made me sad. I don’t like the tearing down of anything, I guess.
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.