Contemplating the divide

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“Did you get any action shots?”–my husband, after I came in from photographing the snail.

I could have watched this snail for hours. Well, maybe not hours… crouching on a wet deck isn’t the most comfortable. But, they’re so fun to watch move! And I couldn’t wait to see what this snail would do when it got to the space between the deck boards. He (she?) made it just fine.

The sky and the lake

It’s just too amazing here. I think in the city we forget to look at the sky. In the country, the sky demands review. Where I am on a bluff above Lake Michigan, it more than demands… it slaps you upside the head.

It must be the time of year, but the cloud formations right now are just amazing. Storms have been rolling though this week. Some stay out over the lake where you can just hear their low, rolling grumbles and catch a flicker of lightning out of the corner of your eye. Others come ashore, steamrolling, blowing deck chairs around like the weather gods have it out for deck chairs or something.

Two days ago the clouds got all puffy and twisty and rolling-hills-looking out over the water. Rain fell out of holes in the clouds out over the lake. One looked as if a funnel cloud was going to form, but fortunately never did.

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And yesterday this front came through. I love when the front of the storm looks like a tendril reaching across the sky, a pointed finger. This, too, dropped a little rain but only for a minute. The wind that came with it pressed the dunegrass nearly flat and whipped the lake into a frenzy, but again these effects were only a few minutes and the calm behind the front belied its intensity.

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And then this morning, clouds stretched like rays across the western sky over the lake, lit up from the east by the sunrise.

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Sun rays

Or, more accurate but less nice sounding, crepuscular rays, which I got to see after the sun set this evening and damn, they were fantastic. And yes, I had to look up the technical name for this phenomena (I hope I’m right… I think I am). I have seen it a few times but never quite as bold as it showed up tonight.

In fact, there were even anti-crepuscular rays going on, which converged right above my neighbor’s house. I’m not a natural phenomenon blogger here, so go look up crepuscular (and anti-crepuscular) rays yourself. But it’s rays. From the sun. And they’re totally awesome.

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Blooming things

Things just caught up to me last night and today. Like, ohmygod I’m about to travel to South America kind of things. Work things. People things. Some kind of stomach bug things. All those things poked me awake at 4 a.m. and refused to let me be. And all those things, compounded by the no sleep thing, really rattled my chain and made today a little messy.

I felt lousy. But a walk around my backyard with my digital camera made things feel at least a little righter. So did reading a guidebook for my destination and looking at a map and picking out a few things I for sure want to do. And talking with people who accept my occasional messiness. Crying helped, too. I realized I hadn’t done that in a while and I’ve gotta say, I’m one of those kinds of people who has to do that every now and then. It’s like opening a valve and releasing the pressure. Like a really good sigh.

But the ferns along my fence are coming up. There are sweet little violets all over my lawn, and a clump of some tiny blue flowers (forget-me-nots, possibly) near the ferns. We have a purpleleaf sand cherry shrub on the side of the house, whose leaves are such a gorgeous deep wine and its tiny whiteish-pinkish flowers smell like heaven. It’s easy to shake off the fog when you see and touch and smell these tiny delights.

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possibly forget-me-nots?

 

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purple leaf sand cherry

Frantic limbo

I’m right in between things.

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barn and field, Kodak Tri-X, Mamiya 645 1000s
leaning shed
leaning shed, Fuji Acros, Mamiya 645 1000s

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?

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White River Light, Kodak Tri-X, Mamiya 645 1000s

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.

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creeping juniper, Ilford FP4, Minolta SRT 102
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new shoots on the forest floor, Ilford FP4, Minolta SRT 102

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?

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orchard road, Fuji Acros, Holga

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.

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resting under a live tree, Ilford FP4, Minolta SRT 102
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alien on the dune, Fuji Acros, Mamiya 645 1000s

Still (barely) upright

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one corner left, Fuji Neopan Acros, 100 ISO, Holga

There’s just a corner left standing after this winter. I’ve been watching this farmhouse in west Michigan deteriorate for decades. Really, for my entire life since it has been empty as long as I’ve known it.

I have always been fascinated by this house and I’ll mourn the day there’s nothing left to see, but until then I’ll keep photographing it so that I can hold the image of it and the stories I’ve created for it in my mind.

Pervasive fog

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We woke up to a fog yesterday that never diminished. It blanketed my riverside town and persisted even into the early hours of this morning. Today calls for more rain and fog, I guess the result of unseasonably warm January temperatures.

I don’t think I’ve touched my digital camera in more than a month now–maybe longer. While I did shoot a roll of black and white film yesterday, I wanted some images I could see right away, so my DSLR went into my bag. My friend Jane and I drove to some of our favorite local natural spots to wander, get muddy, laugh, see things through our foggy lenses.

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Desolate dunes

There is something I love about being in a huge space all by myself.

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On Saturday I walked a short, wooded trail that opened up onto the Silver Lake dunes, not the spot where I usually go but an area closer to the lighthouse. The dune grass was prolific here and is a gorgeous warm, golden color right now–nothing like the vibrant green of midsummer. I thought it was a beautiful contrast to the sometimes stormy sky that was occasionally letting loose with lovely, light flakes of snow.

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From the top of the first dune I climbed, I was treated to these amazing vistas, Lake Michigan in the distance and rolling, grassy dune criss-crossed with paths, either made by humans or by the many resident deer. The clouds sometimes opened and the sun peeked through, lighting up changing sections of the dune before me.

I didn’t see another soul as I hiked toward the area where the dune buggies race all summer long. This is among the things that I love most–being the sole inhabitant of this spacious land, now filled with the natural sounds of wind through the dried grasses, tugging on the remaining leaves that crinkle and tap against dry branches, roaring lake in the distance. It’s exhilarating. I can be alone here for hours and never feel lonely.

How can you be lonely with the wind whispering love poems in your ear?

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Aside from the vistas that stretch out from atop a dune, there are low sections of trees and plants that love these sandy areas. And of course ghosts of the trees that once were. I’ll never get tired of seeing these, the trunks and former root structures of these formerly living trees. They’re majestic now, sun-bleached and wind-whipped and topsy-turvy. They tell stories. Tall tales.

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I love the changes in color, too. This low, earthy growth turns shades of gray and warm gold where in the summer it’s a lush, deep green. During my hike it held oak and poplar leaves from the nearby trees in its grasp, and tiny pockets of snow.

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Red stands out, and this red–some earthy growth both on the ground and on this stump–was easy to miss until I noticed it. And then it seemed to be everywhere.

And then camera batteries die and fingers and toes and noses get mighty cold, and it’s time to remember that you’re not part of the landscape here, and you must go back to a warm cottage and cement the sounds of the wind on the dune and the images of golden vistas and roots reaching skyward into your brain until the next venture.

Ah, outside

Sometimes it just takes a walk outside in the sunshine to set you straight again.

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phragmites, bullrushes, marsh, sky

Even if it’s the kind of cold out that takes you a little bit by surprise, because after all you were just walking downtown a week ago without a hat or gloves or anything.

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The kind of cold that on three hours of sleep doesn’t feel all that great and takes a little too long to recover from. That kind of cold.

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But who’s complaining? The sun made a grand appearance today after what seemed weeks of grey. A cold wind blew, but look how majestic the grasses on the marsh look as they’re blowing?

I’ll take it.

October on film

Aside from the two rolls of purple film in October, I also ran a roll of Kodak Gold 400 and Agfa 200 through the Minolta SRT 102 and Pen EE3, respectively. Countryside, mid-October colors, the usual (for me) suspects. No edits, other than the addition of a watermark.

I’m still smitten with film. The planning, the composing an image, the waiting, the surprise. It just slows everything down in a super delicious way that I’m finding I’m really okay with.

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