The dune grasses on Lake Michigan go to seed in the fall. One variety shoots a tall wispy stalk of delicate seeds several feet above the grasses; another produces these thicker stalks, which are soft and sturdy and remind me a bit of a cat tail (but not the plant called cattail, or bullrush–I mean an actual cat’s tail). The grasses turn from a verdant green in summer to a rather striking golden straw color in the winter.
In the spring, the green shoots of new grasses poke their way up through the golden carpet. This carpet of old and new grasses just layers on top of itself, helping to stabilize the dune. It’s miraculous, I think.
I took this photo last winter on a short hike across the dune near the Little Sable Point Lighthouse with my Minolta SRT-102.
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.
I’ve meant to get back to those last rolls I shot on the west side and I’ve just been so busy. Busy at work, busy being busy, busy avoiding things, busy with things I don’t feel like doing but must do. You know. Or maybe you don’t (lucky you).
I’ve been missing my dog. I know it takes time, but I miss having her near me. I miss hearing her breathe. There is a lot I don’t miss about how her last several years were, but I feel a bit lost without her. There are moments of tears that surprise even me.
Last week was a whirlwind of work meetings in California, then a long weekend on a mountaintop near Ukiah, spent with an old friend plus strangers who now feel like family. I felt mothered for a weekend, and I haven’t felt mothered in a long time. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed this, either. Maybe it’s not true for everyone, but to be cared for is such a treat. I want to have this and to provide this. If you come to stay at my house, I want to make you feel this way. It was nourishing, and I am grateful.
I still feel like I’m recovering from the trip. I left a sunny, hot mountaintop to come back to an early winter and six inches of snow. This week in Michigan was gray, dull, cold, a sharp contrast to the sun and brilliant colors of the changing leaves on fields of grapevines blanketing the valleys and hillsides of California. It’s been a rough re-entry. After travel and several beds, and the summer at the cottage and the fall back-and-forth from home and the cottage, I often have to get my bearings when I wake up each morning. I’m not quite sure where I am for a minute or two. And I’m enjoying that, really. There’s a moment of dream state and a realm of possibilities before I know where I am settled.
But I meant to get back to those rolls of film I shot in September, and so here are some photos I took on the I guess not-so-newly released Kodak Ektachrome. Gosh, it’s pretty, the cool, saturated colors of this slide film. I walked through the woods with it loaded in my favorite camera, the Minolta SRT-102, and took my time with it, waiting for colorful sunsets and clouds over the lake.
You can see a few more from the roll here, if you like.
I’m trying so hard to be gentle on myself and those around me. Really, I am. Watching my dog decline by the day is hard; so is trying to work in a place where everyone else is vacationing. I’m counting all my blessings, but I’m also allowing myself the feelings because how can I not? I have more responsibilities right now–to my dad, to my dog, to the people I love. I’m getting snippets of time for me, and I’m going to have to make the most of them right now. It all changes. This will change.
I have shot a few rolls of film but am waiting until I have a few more before I send them to be developed. In the meantime, I’m writing when something pops into my head. Sometimes it’s just a phrase and sometimes it develops into something else. I’m painting with watercolors, abstracts and I’m drawing over top of them sometimes and learning how things work and making all the mistakes and loving it. There is a soul-stirring that happens when I look through a lens or dip a brush into water and then a color and touch it to paper. It’s healing and recharging and soothing and magic all at once. It’s therapeutic in such a profound way.
My daughter spent a week and a half here at the cottage; her boyfriend came for half of that; my son and his girlfriend were here a few days; my husband was here; my dad was present when he wanted to be part of the fray and then did his own thing when he didn’t. We ate and drank and talked over each other and I reveled in all of it, except the decision-making parts (like meals) and soaked up the love. They’ve all gone and the quiet, well, I love quiet. But the transition is tough, and I miss my kids and husband.
It really only started to feel like summer a week ago. Lake Michigan warmed up enough to let people in (or, to let me in specifically; I’ve become a cold water wimp). The fourth happened, and I get more and more crusty on the whole fireworks thing. My dog is already distressed enough these days and watching her panic with the explosive onslaught of fireworks all up and down the beach was brutal. Things are blooming, I mean really blooming–pink, purple, yellow, white, clovers and fleabane and sweetpea and daisies and the tiger lilies, which I think might be a little late here this year. The cherries are getting ripe and I think blueberries will be soon, too.
Mid-June, with the two rolls of film from the last two posts, I also had developed a roll of Portra 400 ISO that I shot in my Minolta SRT-102, of plant life just in the driveway of the cottage. Ferns and evergreens mostly, but also this swirly cloud formation that I couldn’t get enough of. New growth, fresh greens.
The valley just behind our cottage and all our neighbor’s cottages is filled with evergreens. We planted some of these decades ago, just after our cottage was built. I believe the DNR either sold (cheaply) or gave out 100 tiny trees to whoever wanted them, I think in the mid-1970s. My brother and I and neighbors took these plants, dug little holes into the welcoming sand, and popped them in. They’re two or more stories tall now.
Anyway. It’s late as I write this. The dog has finally settled after doing her nightly pacing and panting. I’m writing this, and will set up the coffee for the morning and step out onto the deck to say goodnight to the half-moon, leave windows and doors open because it’s a warm night, and climb into bed.
I don’t have a picture of my hair in Texas. I’m not much for selfies, and no one is clamoring to snap any photos of me. But, I was in Austin spending time with my daughter and soaking up the muggy heat and ignoring my own life for just a few days and I gotta say, my hair looked poofy and full and not flat and static-y and I just liked it.
My hip flexor, which I tore and wrote about last post (in March, no less–I’m trying not to ignore this blog but it seems that’s what I’ve done) is 95% better. Sometimes I feel it a little but I’m not babying it anymore. The black and white film class I took at community college just finished a week ago today. I’ve got a bunch of negatives to scan and I’m not thrilled for that because I can’t seem to make a decent scan come out of my scanner. Plus, scanning is a royal pain in the ass.
The cottage window is fixed and the house survived the winter; the beach did not. The bluff in front of our cottage is in ruins, disarray; the pipes and tires we drove into the shoreline as protective jetties more than 30 years ago are now exposed, our stairs no longer usable, a high cliff from the bluff to the water. We know how it goes, but it still stings and it still gives me nightmares. We can only hope for the levels of the Great Lakes to go down, but I’d prefer to plan than leave things to hope or chance. I want to know what’s next, even if I’m not going to like it. I do better with that.
Still, it’s not like the cottage is about to fall off the bluff and into the lake (I don’t say this jokingly as there are cottages on these lakes that have done just that). We’re not in danger yet. The view is still spectacular, the wildflowers and the deer and the foxes and the eagles will still make appearances, the sun will still rise and set and make for appreciative conversation. Summer warmth will kiss our bare skin and make us feel better about the world.
Austin and film soaked in McClary Bros. thai basil drinking vinegar
Yeah, say that three times fast.
We went to a park in an Austin suburb and walked a trail there that wound through scrub and cacti and wildflowers and it was hot and sunny and wonderful. The leaves had only just unfurled here in Michigan and the earliest spring flowers are in bloom, but in Texas it was lush and green and fields of yellow and red and orange wildflowers were riotous and plentiful. Anyway, I shot a roll of film mostly in that park with the last few shots around my daughter’s neighborhood and on the rooftop deck of her apartment building.
The film is Lomography 100 ISO color film. The thai basil drinking vinegar I soaked it in a few months ago offered a pretty subtle effect, with no great streaks or bubbles of color, but some gentle color shifts mainly. I’m good with it.
Until next time, Texas. I might not come ’round in the summer because, well, you’re really hot, and I don’t mean that in a nice way. But you’ve grown on me, and I like to see my kid, so keep some beer in the cooler for me, will ya?
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.
I was rendered speechless. I mean, that’s not surprising–it happens to me often as I’m better with writing words than speaking them. But, I said “wow” way too many times. And “stunning,” “beautiful,” “really?,” “oh, come on!,” “holy shit,” “oh my god,” and other noises and nonwords like grunts, gasps, etc. And then after a while I just shut up because, seriously, Iceland.
I don’t regret only bringing film. I brought four cameras and used all four of them. I brought some filters and a tiny tripod and didn’t use those at all. I winged it (I might look up the accuracy of this term later, but for now I’m using it) and took a chance on my Minolta SRT-102 battery holding up because I realized I should have a backup just a little too late and couldn’t get one in time. Sure enough, the minute I loaded that camera the battery was dead. So I had zero cameras with a working light meter and had to rely on a light meter app on my phone. I’d been doing this with pretty damn good success with the Bronica, but I hadn’t used it for 35mm film. All in all, metering in Iceland is no picnic (snow, black sand, mountain shadows, sun and then suddenly no sun, yada yada) but I think it all worked out okay.
Anyway, I dropped 11 rolls of film off at a local lab and had scans in under two hours. Someday I really want to do this part of it myself, but I don’t have the time right now and am grateful to the two labs that do it for me. I sent the three rolls of black and white film, one roll of Lomography purple, and a roll of slide film all off to The Darkroom yesterday, so I won’t see those for a bit longer.
Taking six days off of work means I’ve come back to a pile of things to sort through, but I’m grateful for a supportive team that made it possible for me to leave. I’m grateful to my friend Jane for asking me to go on this trip with her. I’m grateful for the peanut butter we ate in Iceland because it was excellent and saved us from what might have been iffy moments of hangriness.
I’m still trying to process the trip and I’ll write more about it, and share more pictures, when I have a little more time this weekend. But here are a couple for now.
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.
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.
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.
And I had some film in my Minolta SRT-102 needing to be used up, too.
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.