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.
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, 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.
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.
post, Bronica SQ-A, Ilford FP4+
milkweed pod and seed, Bronica SQ-A, Ilford FP4+
rows, Bronica SQ-A, Ilford FP4+
farmhouse, Bronica SQ-A, Ilford FP4+
firewood, Bronica SQ-A, Ilford FP4+
bee smoker, Bronica SQ-A, Ilford FP4+
gull, , Bronica, expired Kodak Tri-X
sentinel, Bronica, expired Kodak Tri-X
Everyone does this, right? Gets all swoony and wants to write poems about things like cameras and films.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Napa vineyard, Kodak ColorPlus, Minolta SRT 102
redwoods, Kodak ColorPlus, Minolta SRT 102
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In between a work trip. My film photography class is ending. Then a vacation to an unknown and, to me, exotic place. Then a move from town to the beach for the summer. And in the meantime I feel the unease of my kids as they finish their college terms. Does that part ever end, I wonder–the part where you feel the pain of whatever stress or difficulty your (albeit adult) children are going through? Somehow I don’t think I was totally prepared for that part of parenting.
Oh but who am I kidding? All the parts of parenting have surprised me. Why would I think that now, because they are grown, it should be any different?
In any case I feel such a sense of limbo right now. I’m trying to roll with it.
And speaking of rolls… I have been frantically shooting film like I have the budget of someone who has, well, a big budget for film. I’m a copy editor, after all, and last I checked no one ever said they wanted to go into copy editing to make the big bucks. But here I am buying and blowing through rolls of film like they’re free or something.
I have developed 22 rolls of black and white film for my class and will develop three more this week before the lab will be off limits. I had four rolls of color film developed in February; I’ve got five rolls of color film at a lab right now, and had two rolls of color film developed a few weeks ago. That’s 36 rolls of film shot and developed since January. Of nothing special, even. I could have far worse vices, right?
For my last class assignment I wanted to photograph a thing I love. The sand dunes at Silver Lake offer a shifting landscape that at times buries and other times unearths the ghostly treasures of its past. I’ll never tire of hiking these dunes and coming across these alien, sculptural roots and trunks of the trees that once forested this landscape. The light cooperated, but I found the resulting photos an interesting juxtaposition–these images look serene, but the wind was so fierce it nearly knocked me off the tops of some dune ridges and sand came out of my scalp for two days after I got home.
I still have so many more to scan, and a few might show how windy it really was.
long shadows on the dune, Fuji Acros and Holga
driftwood and dunegrass in valley, Fuji Acros and Holga