Unceremoniously, the Great Lakes are in retreat. Some normalcy in what feels like a very un-normal world. I’m celebrating, but quietly, lest the climate gods and goddesses think I’m taunting them. In other good news here on the Lake Michigan shoreline:
there’s a ton of milkweed growing
I haven’t had to pluck a tick off myself yet this year
the family of eagles living nearby are thriving
my neighbor’s construction is done
either there are more birds than usual, or I’m just noticing them more (some are a bit much, like the crow that woke me up tapping and cawing from my roof early one morning this week–but most are just chatty)
I’m forcing myself out of a creative rut
there are fresh sweet cherries to be had today
I’m actually taking a week off of work (which feels indulgent but also necessary)
I sent a few rolls of film to the lab last month, which felt good because it meant I used my favorite cameras and I actually had some time and energy to get out and photograph. Is it just me, or is everyone exhausted? I’m so tired lately I feel like the world is starting to pass me by. I’m not even sure I feel bad about this. Anyway.
I used a roll of Cinestill 800T in my Mamiya C220 in May, I think, or maybe it was late April even, on a hike in the woods behind the cottage, an experiment with my friend Jane while she simultaneously shot a roll on the other side of the state. It was a gray evening and we had a project in mind, but I ended up thinking I’d completely ruined the roll and expected only a few images to come from it. This camera is finicky; if I don’t forward the film slowly and carefully, it doesn’t catch where it should and I over-advance, which means I get fewer (sometimes MANY fewer) than the 12 frames per roll that it should deliver. I could maybe get someone to repair this, but there’s something I love about the quirks and constraints of a finicky camera. I mean, I’ve got my quirks, too, and I don’t want anybody fixing them.
I happen to love the starkness of these two images and the light leaks. Some of the other images from this roll were over-exposed or just boring. But I love these two.
Both literally and figuratively. I’m paddling hard here.
Lake Michigan is high. I mean, all the Great Lakes are high. Polar ice caps are melting, oceans are rising, we’re toasting up this blue ball we live on here and the news isn’t good. But I’m not tackling all that. I’m just one person in one little cottage atop a bluff on Lake Michigan, and that lake is getting closer.
That’s the literal bit.
The figurative bit is that it’s been a rough summer. It was different, sharing close quarters with my dad. I think we did ok but there were bumps for sure. And, I lost my sweet old dog in early September. It was for the best, but I’m still bruised and missing her. Things are going on with my kids and my husband, too, but those aren’t my stories to tell. It’s interesting, parenting grown people. The things I worried about when they were little make me laugh a bit now. If I’d known the challenges of parenting adults I might have softened up a bit back then.
Hindsight is 20/20 though, right? Or so they say.
Anyway, I sent seven rolls of a variety of films off to the lab a bit more than a week ago. Here are images from one of those rolls, Ilford FP4+ shot on my Mamiya C220.
Silver Lake State Park is just a few miles from me. Most people think of the park as a place to go dune buggy riding, and that’s probably what it’s most known for. But I like it for the landscape. And I like it best off season when I can hike all of it, not just the areas relegated for foot traffic. Plus, I feel like I’m the only one out there off-season–just me and 3,000 acres of dunes and woods. The dune buggy season ends at the end of this month, so I’m really looking forward to visiting again soon.
I love shooting here. I can shoot the same piece of driftwood a hundred times or year after year–I swear it’s different every time. The sands shift, the wind covers one piece and unearths another. These skeletons of old trees are gorgeous sculptural elements on this vast, shifting landscape. I can never get enough and so I will keep going back.
I’m pretty sure my husband does not read this blog, because a) I don’t know him to be the blog-reading type and b) I don’t write about bikes or cycling, which is pretty much the thing that he loves best (and I have no issues with this–we each have our “things”). And I don’t talk about him here because he’s a private guy and he’d think it’s cheesy and all that. Maybe I’ve written about him once or twice in the context of us being married for a really long time and that we might know a little something about being married a long time. Or maybe that he’s good at a lot of things. And smart. But that might be it.
But things are changing in our lives, and some of those changes have been challenging but some have also been pretty enlightening and overall good in the scheme of life-things. We just spent a week together, which might sound weird because we are married, but we’ve been mostly living apart since late May, so the week together, alone, was a little different but so very regenerating. Marriages are hard, maybe particularly so with independent types (and maybe by independent I actually mean stubborn, but we’ll leave it at independent for now). When he left today it hit me that I don’t show him or tell him that I appreciate him enough. I’m going to work on that. I’m not exaggerating when I say he’s been a rock, particularly in the last year and a half. I’m not sure I deserve any of it.
I mentioned it a few posts back but in late June I shot a roll of Portra 400 on a foggy morning, driving alone through the back roads around the cottage. The land looked really mystical and I hoped the shots would be even more foggy looking, but overall I really liked most of them.
Also, a few days ago I enrolled in a creative writing class for this fall. My minor in college was fiction writing and I’ve dabbled before and since, have always written poetry and essays and bits of this and that. It’ll be interesting to do it again in a class and get feedback and critique again. I miss that exchange. I’m excited and ready for it.
Tonight I shot two rolls of black and white film in the garden at Cherry Point Market, which smelled amazing and was teeming with buzzing bees and zipping hummingbirds. Black and white partly on a whim, but also because I’m committed to putting a dent in the shoebox full of film I have going on (don’t make me count. It’s a lot.) So tonight I shot a roll of TMax 100 and used a macro lens on my Minolta X-700 with a cheapy close-up filter on top of that for most shots. I also shot a roll of Fomapan 100, a film I haven’t tried yet, on the Mamiya C220, mostly getting really close to herbs and flowers and hoping upon hope I framed things the way I wanted but who knows? Close ups with that camera remain mind-boggling, but I keep trying.
Anyway, I kind of can’t believe it’s already late July. Storms came through the last few days and Lake Michigan just mowed down more of the bluff in front of our cottage. We (and by “we” I mean mostly the rock I mentioned earlier in this post) had to right and reset the beach stairs. The former post that marked the high water of the 1980s washed away, so we don’t have much bluff to work with here. The chicory and the queen anne’s lace are beginning their roadside takeover. The wild rose bush is at its peak. It’s high summer.
(You can see a few more shots from this roll here.)
I’m still enamored with the Mamiya C220 and intent on making the best photos with it that I can. One thing that plagues me is that you can get close–I mean really, really close–with this camera, but in doing so you have to frame just right because what you’re looking at is not what the film is going to capture because the lens you’re looking through is two inches higher than the lens that records the image. Roughly. I’m no expert on this, but I do know that when shooting something far away, this is not a problem. Up close, yeah, it can be funky.
But since it lets you get so close, that’s what I want to do. I’m not going to hunt for the tripod device that does this for you since I don’t often shoot with my tripod. So I’ll keep guessing and probably getting it wrong a lot. Fine with me.
A week or two ago now (I don’t know, the weeks are getting mushy), the evening I shot what ended up to be all red and hot pink cross-processed images, I also shot a roll of Kodak Portra 400 through the Mamiya C220, focusing on the new blooms of the herbs and the poppy flowers in Cherry Point’s garden. Some of the poppy images came out poorly framed, so, I have some work to do figuring that out. Again, fine.
I had a day and night alone at the cottage and yesterday the fog blanketed the beach and the backroads, in some places so thick it was otherworldly. I know these backroads by foot, bike and car and even I was turned around in some spots. But it meant for seeing things differently, and I had the Mamiya loaded and with me when I went out for an errand and filled a roll of what I hope are foggy, ethereal landscapes evocative of yesterday’s still, damp, foggy mood.
Also yesterday, I cancelled an appointment. In desperation last week I scheduled my dog for, you know, the end of life (I can’t write the word–I just can’t). She seemed like she was going downhill so quickly and I was sure of it, resolved in my decision to not let her suffer. And then over the weekend she seemed to rally, enjoy things, even play a little. She’s still aging. She’s still suffering dementia and I know she’s in some pain, stiff, confused at times, and I know where this is going. But she’s not ready right now and I owe her whatever time she can enjoy. It’s hard and it’s life and that’s it.
Storms came through last night although I didn’t hear them. I woke up once to lightning and some low growls but that’s all I remember. Today the lake is loud and shouty although the wind is light. I used to love a rough lake, but now one rough day does so much damage to the fragile shore and dune–you can see the damage from just one day of wild waves. I’m hopeful that later summer will bring some stabilization of the shoreline, because that’s what usually happens, but water levels are expected to continue going up.
I know I have to not worry so much.
Anyway, in a week or two I should have a roll of Lomography Purple showing a bit of the dune decay, among other things, and that roll of Portra on the backroads in the fog. Today though, on a sunny and loud day on the beach where my dog is still here and snoring comfortably on the couch and I am drinking coffee and need to get to work, here are some photos of herbs and flowers, some not framed exactly as I expected, from Cherry Point Farm Market’s garden.
I think I’ve run at least six or eight rolls of film through the Mamiya C220 since it was gifted to me last fall. I’ve made multiple mistakes on most of these rolls, from double exposures (although those are almost always happy mistakes) to winding past exposures (I got only two or three exposures on my first roll) to not latching the back properly to… I don’t even know. If there’s a way to do this camera wrong, I think I’ve done it so far.
But, this last roll, Portra 160 shot throughout last week. I worked slowly. I forwarded carefully (oh so carefully). I metered each shot. I kept my hair out the way and made sure my fingers didn’t get in front of the bottom lens. I held the camera steady and didn’t breathe. I still guessed on compensating for the fact that you frame with one lens and the bottom lens is the one that takes the shot–a conundrum if you’re close to your subject, which I was in a few cases. But my guesses weren’t too bad on the close stuff.
It’s grown on me. There is a persistent sort of charm to this camera. It’s awkward to use but I’m getting there. The flipped image is confusing me a little less lately. My horizons are getting a bit straighter. The gentle click of the shutter is soothing. The dreamy image in the ground glass makes me want to look at everything through its eye.
If I’m slow and careful, the detail this camera lets me capture up close is magic. I can’t wait to practice with it on the dunes this summer as more wild things bloom.
Ooof. It’s mid-January. It finally decided to be winter around here, starting today (our first real snow is happening as I write). I turned 52 a few weeks ago. And I’m not even about to say the things you’d think I might be about to say about that. I’m not even kidding. I’m 52, I’m here, I’m okay with all of it. Really!
Also as I write, right now, I’m sort of waiting to collectively decide if we are driving across state today to check on the cottage. The roads are crap, so we might hold off until morning in hopes that they will be less snow-covered. It’s been a long week and my decision-making skills are near to nonexistent on a Saturday, so while the snow falls I think I’ll write here and let the weather prevail. Besides, there’s a dog snoring on the couch across from me. Which makes me want to nap and even further put off both decision making and driving.
I did walk around town a bit today in the falling snow and shot most of a roll that was already in my Minolta SRT-102. I’ve not had great luck with snowy scenes thus far but I’ll keep trying. And I want to finish this roll of color film because I’ll be shooting black and white for a while. Last week I started a darkroom class at a community college not terribly far from me. I took this class in winter of 2017 and I really could not wait to take it again, so here I am. I hope I don’t annoy the instructor or my classmates because I am way too excited to be in a darkroom again!
I shot several rolls of film the first few weeks of the year, with some mixed results. I shot a gift roll of dubblefilm sunstroke, one of the many rolls of film I got from my EMULSIVE Secret Santa, around the dunes in Silver Lake State Park. I knew it would be a fun film, and it was a little more subtle than I expected, but I love a good surprise film and this didn’t disappoint. It has a nice warmth to it, don’t you think? It’s actually Kodak Gold 200, and I’m not sure what the folks at dubblefilm do to it make the random flares, but who cares? It’s fun, and I’ve got nothing against that.
The weekend I shot the dubblefilm I also shot another gift roll from my Secret Santa of Lomography f2 through the Mamiya C220 that I am still working to get the hang of. I also ran a roll of Lomography color 400 and a roll of Kodak Portra 400 through the C220 that weekend, which was a gorgeous, sunny, mild weekend on the lakeshore. I have a lab that I love, but sometimes the 120 images I get back from them have some kind of funky pattern on them; I’m not sure if it’s the developing or the scanning. And, one of the rolls from this group came out really extra crispy. Lots of grain, plus patterning. I never have an issue with 35mm film they develop, but every now and then 120 has the patterning and other oddities.
Like this one:
Lots of noise, plus a pattern. And, this one:
But here are some others that came out a bit better. And again, I’m really working hard with the C220. The whole twin lens thing is mysterious to me. You have to sort out how to position the camera just right, and how to adjust yourself just right, to get things in frame correctly and get a horizon that is, well, horizontal. The struggle is real.
I just wonder if maybe the chemicals needed refreshing when these rolls were developed, because my last roll of the year, developed the week before these, doesn’t have the same characteristics. Here are a few from that one:
Last weekend I was in Austin, Texas visiting my daughter. A trip she bought me, AND she surprised me with a massage at a swanky spa AND a pedicure at her favorite salon. My heart was full all weekend. I shot one roll of film, which I’m eager to have developed because I definitely screwed it up. About 10 shots in and walking on UT Austin’s campus on a beautiful, warm, windy day I accidentally popped the back open on my Minolta. It must not have been fully shut, but it surprised me. So I’m not sure what I’ll get with that one.
I was great about taking film and camera notes in 2018 and I was very proud of myself for that, and already a few weeks in to 2019 I’m not sure what’s what. I have a roll of Portra 160 in my Minolta now; I’ve shot and accounted for four rolls of film, but without the negatives in front of me I can’t remember what’s what. I would say 2019 might be the year of limiting my film choices so my recordkeeping is a little easier, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. I have a stockpile of differing films that I should probably use up, so I will. Ah, well. I have 11 months to get my act together.
These images and a few others from these rolls of film are on my flickr albums, here and here, if you want to see more. Speaking of flickr. I’m still debating using it, which will in the near future require me to pay for a pro membership. I am wrestling with the pros and cons of that. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.
A few weeks ago, before my dog hurt her leg and before I even began to realize that holidays are coming and winter is coming and the days are getting short and there will be snow soon (in fact, it’s snowing as I write this and it’s really beautiful), I was gifted two cameras and I couldn’t wait to use them. So I did use them, on the west side of Michigan, to document the then-colorful leaves and other fall-type stuff.
woods in west Michigan, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Ektar
wooded trail, west Michigan, Mamiya M645 and Kodak Ektar
The Mamiya M645 was easy. It is actually quite a bit smaller than my beloved Bronica SQ-A, and I already had experience with my son’s Mamiya 645 1000s. The differences are that the 1000s has a shutter speed up to 1000 (mine only goes to 500), and it literally eats batteries–to use it, you have to pop the battery in before you take a photo and then pop it out again and carry it in a warm pocket. If you are out and about with it and forget to do this, the battery will croak mid-roll. There’s no meter, but the shutter relies on the battery and will stay open if the battery is dead. My M645 seems to have no battery issues but the foam seals are pretty crusty and I did get some bits on some of my images. I might try to replace the seals myself if I’m feeling crafty over the winter, but it’s certainly usable for now.
Anyway, I may have to underexpose a tiny bit with the M645 as more of my shots seemed slightly overexposed, especially on the beach. But, I couldn’t be more thrilled with this camera and I’m happy to have a non-plastic camera (don’t get me wrong, I love my toy cameras) in the 6×4.5 format. This camera will be in regular rotation.
The Mamiya C220 is a different bird altogether. A TLR (twin lens reflex) with a standard waist-level viewfinder means you hold it at around chest or waist level and look down into this beautiful piece of ground glass that makes you feel all swoony and happy because something about it just looks like you’re about to get the most gorgeous, dreamy, lovely image ever.
Except that you’re looking at your image flip-flopped, as in right is left and left is right, and if there’s a horizon your brain has to do all sorts of work to figure out just the right way to tilt the camera and your body so that the horizon is straight (if you like straight horizons, which I really do), and then if you’re close to your subject (which you can be very close with a TLR) you have to take into account that you’re framing by looking through the top lens, and the lens that actually captures the image is two inches lower than that, and so your brain just explodes because it’s not used to all of that.
fall, backroad in west Michigan, Mamiya C220 and Lomography f2 film
fall, backroad in west Michigan, Mamiya C220 and Lomography f2 film
So, I know that you probably shouldn’t test a new camera with experimental film, but I seem to have a knack for doing just that. The color roll I shot through the C220 was Lomography f2 400, which the folks at Lomography aged in wine casks for 7 years. There is a red/pink line that runs down the right side of all of the images from this roll, and I think it’s the film rather than the camera, because the few shots I got from the black and white Fuji Acros I tested did not have this line. (I only got three shots from the Acros roll–I hadn’t quite figured out the sensitivity of the film forwarding crank.)
So, the M645 is easy and familiar and wonderful. The C220 challenges me and is going to take a lot more practice, but I’m all in. The C220’s foam seals are also pretty deteriorated, which may account for some light leaks on the edges of some shots.
I just registered for the winter term of the same film class I took two years ago at a local community college and I really can’t wait to take it again, to be in the darkroom processing film and printing again with all kinds of equipment and tools available to me. I think the C220 will be a big part of my winter work there.
I also learned first from another blogger (who you might want to read if you like photography) that flickr is changing their mode of business. I started using flickr to host my photos because it was (fairly) easy to link them to this blog, and it seems like if I don’t do something like that the space here gets filled mighty quickly and I will have to go to a pricey plan in order to stay here. Flickr was free. But now it’s not. So, I need to make some decisions about how to proceed–pay for a flickr pro account or upgrade to a business plan on WordPress, or just upload super low res images (ick) that take up very little space. When I started blogging it was more about having an avenue for my writing, but then I picked up a camera and, well, things just get more expensive. So, decisions to be made.