Why yes, I’ve been drinking

I ignored the inauguration today.

There, I said it. I admit it. I listened to classical music today while I worked. Arcangelo Corelli, Bach, Vivaldi. Light, cheerful stuff. Stuff that’s centuries old, from composers long gone, from a time of tenuous politics possibly not unlike today’s politics. Different actors, different times.

We had friends over for dinner and drank wine tonight, too much, talked a little about current events but not a whole lot. Touching on the things we worry about, our kids, their futures.

I’m torn between wanting to scream and shout and rally against what I see as a shocking turn of events for my country and ignoring what’s happening, retreating to my bubble. But… I have a job that doesn’t stop because I grieve for where we are and the future of the United States. I have an old dog who doesn’t care. I have bills to pay, old cars to maintain, emails to answer, clothes to clean and fold and put away, rooms in my house to unearth, meals to prepare, a life to lead. If there’s one thing I don’t do very well, it’s balance. How do other people do this? How do you register your shock, anger, disappointment and yet still manage a life, a job, hobbies, family?

I’m bad at this.

And yes, yes, yes, I’ve been drinking tonight. I don’t have to make sense.

Tomorrow I’ll attend one of the women’s marches because I feel a need to stand in solidarity. For me, for my daughter, for women who have a bigger stake in what’s to come. I’ll join voices and shout until I’m hoarse. But I still get to come home to a warm house, to food, to an assurance that too many people don’t have. It’s not fair and I know it.

And after tomorrow, I’ll hope. Hope that unqualified appointments surprise us. Hope that love and decency prevail. Hope that insults give way to understanding, and that divides shrink and become traversable. I’ll especially hope that people awaken to dealing with each other with a newfound sensitivity. I don’t know how these things will manifest, or how I will do my part, but I’ll commit. Wine-soaked as I am tonight, I commit to approaching it all with love and understanding. It’s a small start, anyway.

Love letters to the city, part two

More of Detroit’s downtown buildings, these things that make me swoon and forget to look where I’m going.

This time in black and white, also 35mm film. A study in shapes, lines, angles. I took these on both the last day of 2016 and on the first day of 2017, closing out and opening up the new year looking up.

These were shot on two different different Minolta SLR cameras and both with Kodak Tri-X film–an SRT-102 using the suggested film speed (400) and an X-700 pushing the film two stops to 1600. I’m not certain I can tell the difference, but this is my first stab at pushing and I think it might not be my last.

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One Woodward Ave.
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Light beam
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Lines, shadows and reflections
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Westin Book-Cadillac (left, with windows), and the Guardian Bldg. (tall, at right)
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“Transcending”
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Rosa Parks Transit Center
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Rosa Parks Transit Center

Love letters to the city

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One Woodward Ave., Minolta SRT-102, Kodak Ektar 100

Oh, Detroit.

You’re not what you were. You won’t be the same tomorrow, either. You had a heyday, you declined, then a recession. Today, a resurgence. You are loved and loathed, fought over, talked about, dismissed, underestimated, maligned, deified, abandoned, thriving. Through it all, you stand tall. You’ve got chops. You are what we make of you, but you have your own heart and our stories don’t define you.

I didn’t appreciate you when I grew up in your suburbs. I left; you called me back. Today I honor you–your shape-shifting, your grit, your perseverance.

So nice, I like you twice.

I took these double exposures on a sunny and not-so-cold New Year’s Day. Seemed a perfect way to honor the old and ring in the new.

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Penobscot Bulding, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak Ektar 100
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Federal Building, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak Ektar 100
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Westin Book Cadillac, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak Ektar 100
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Book Tower, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak Ektar 100

Don’t believe what they say about 50

I’m serious. Just don’t.

I just turned 50, and after a week of surprises and a big gift from my brother and brother-in-law and all the stars essentially aligning to create some kind of crazy halo–I swear it–right above my silver-tressed head, my husband threw me one bang-up of a party.

The people I love came, one all the way from Chicago. My best friend cleaned bathrooms (that’s love, cleaning someone’s bathroom). My dad came. My two dearest friends helped me clean and put cheese out and and helped bake and laid everything out on the table just perfectly and were both like tornadoes (and I mean this in the best way ever). We had the best food. If we do anything right around here, it’s the food. We made some of it (cakes, cupcakes, orzo salad and quinoa salad, a Swiss chard erbazzone) and had some amazing stuff we didn’t make (samosas, savory and sweet pies, expensive cheeses) and oh I can’t even remember what else. Booze. Plenty of booze, and no scrimping there.

I will say in all honesty that my 50th birthday party knocked every other birthday celebration out of the park, although the birthdays my parents threw me in our basement when I was a kid, with balloons, friends around a picnic table, my mom’s cakes and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey are a distant second (and a distant memory). You know what I wore? Bare feet, that’s what I wore. And no one even batted an eye. And a comfortable dress. I was totally myself. The invite said no gifts, but the gifts came anyway. Who deserves that? I didn’t think I did. But oh man, the love I felt has me fuller than a huge pasta dinner. It’s going to last all year, I know it.

50 is the new 30. 50 is the bomb. 50 kicks ass. I think this is going to be one hell of a decade.

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I didn’t die, I just turned 50. No biggie.

User error

Or, happy accidents.

I had trouble loading a roll of Ilford HP5 into my Pentax K1000 just about this time last year. I loaded and reloaded and remember reloading it again. I wasn’t sure the film was advancing correctly while I was shooting, and eventually I just stopped shooting, rewound the film and took it out.

And then I forgot about it for months, until I handed it to my son to develop at school. I was right… it hadn’t advanced correctly at all. I forgot about the negatives until I was clearing out a bit of junk in my office a few days ago and almost threw out the film canister that contained the negatives.

I’m still working on figuring out the best settings for my scanner, but I think the resulting accidental double, triple, and maybe more exposures are at least interesting.

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blinds, light and shadow, old theater
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underbelly of a bridge, river, trees
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trees, light and shadow on wood stairs
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lift +

November on film

The obsession continues.

Last month, I felt like I was on a mission to capture the last bits of color before the bleak winter set in. It’s not like there are never any blue skies in the midwest in the winter–of course there are lovely sunny days. And there is color. There are warm sandy-colored grasses like phragmites and bullrush and other marsh-dwelling plants that dry into warm shades. There is still green grass here and moss, too. But the colors are much less riotous. Everything seems subdued. And when blanketed in snow, all is white and shades of gray. Still beautiful, but it tends to wear on a girl who craves color and contrast and is stuck in cement-bound suburbs for the winter. But maybe I need to look at winter as a creative lesson? I guess we’ll see in the coming months.

Anyway.

I shot some film in November. Color (Kodak GC 400 and my current favorite, Ektar 100), black and white (Kodak Tri-X, which I am finding I really like a lot), and my last roll of Lomography lomochrome purple (which I still think is some kind of ridiculous, happiness-inducing, magical magic trick). I managed not to buy any new cameras although I’ll admit to scouring eBay listings and dreaming of my next purchase (I may have bought a couple of old lenses but they were super cheap). I used the two Minolta’s (SRT 102 and X-700), the Pentax K1000, and the Olympus EE3 in November. I’m not bored with any of these yet and still learning some of their differences and quirks. It’s too difficult and probably unnecessary to zero in on just one, so I’m not going to.

Stay tuned to one of my other favorite places right now, EMULSIVE, which in January April will feature an interview with… me. Yes, me! A relative newbie to film! I love the community that EMULSIVE has built, with an exchange of creativity and a wealth of information for people like me who have fallen head over heels and all punch-drunk in love with this craft. And, maybe most importantly, offers up for your viewing pleasure a ton of gorgeous (film) photos from some incredibly talented photographers.

So, while I got this film processed weeks ago, I wanted to take my time so that I could choose a few images that wouldn’t be anywhere else (as in here) before they show up on EMULSIVE. My two very favorites from November will be featured there first.

I’m also still trying to figure out how I want to display photos here. I’ve used headers and grouped images by camera (I think I did this for October’s shots). Do I caption each with the camera and type of film? I know when I look at other people’s photos, this is something I like to know. So I’ll try that this time. Do you like to know what kind of film and camera, or is that info overkill or detracting?

Margi

Technically these are not November photos… but Margi came to visit in very late October and this roll got finished in November, so there you go. Not so much a film fan but a Margi (Chicago dancer, teacher, choreographer) fan? The digital images from her visit are here.

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Margi on the bridge, Olympus Pen EE3, Lomography Lomochrome Purple
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Margi in forest, Olympus Pen EE3, Lomography Lomochrome Purple

And, my maiden attempt at a double exposure. Which didn’t turn out exactly how I invisioned but that’s how things go. I attempted to keep the camera still (via tripod), so the trees and bird would remain still, but there would be two Margi’s. Instead it looks a little like a psychedelic trip. See? Learning process.

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Margi with the forest bird, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak GC 400

Late fall

Mostly images from the west side of Michigan, although I finished two rolls in a local metro Detroit park. A few images here are the ends of those rolls.

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Leaf and branches double exposure, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak GC 400
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Sunset, Pentax K1000, Ektar 100
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Dusk on Lake Michigan, two ways, Olympus Pen EE3, Lomography Lomochrome Purple

Thanksgiving

We were lucky enough to again spend our Thanksgiving at the cottage with the people we love best. Of course I ditched them all to be outside as much as possible, but otherwise we had plenty of togetherness and merry-making.

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Farmhouse in ruin, Minolta X-700, Kodak Tri-X 400

And…

Other stuff.

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Window gazing, Minolta X-700, Kodak Tri-X 400

I’d been a little hesitant to shoot black and white film, but I think I’m over that now. Out of November’s four rolls, I think I most love the images I took using Kodak Tri-X. I still have plenty of other films to try out, so I’m not calling any favorites just yet…

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.

Unsticking

There is this thing that happens to me and I bet to plenty of other people. Something that knocks you quite off your rhythm, freezes you, and you just stumble to get back into the flow. November 9 did that to me, and I’ve given myself the space and the time to have all the feelings and thoughts and fears and to decide on the actions I want to take to move forward.

In that time, which I’m a little shocked to realize is already coming up on a month, I’ve had to both soften and harden. I’m open to respectful conversations with those who disagree or don’t see my position. But I also have to keep living my life. I have people to be my strongest for, relationships to nurture, an old dog to spoil, a job I love and for which I must be fully present and alert.

I’m doing things to nurture myself, like uncluttering bathroom drawers and cupboards (who needs 10 bottles of 95% empty shampoo or conditioner? bottles of decade-old and rancid oils and creams? make-up from who knows when?), re-finding a (nearly) daily yoga practice, catching up with girlfriends I’ve not seen since spring.

I closed down creatively, too, and I’m working to get back to taking pictures and writing.

This week has me re-inspired, however–I went to a local college to see 17 of my prints framed and installed in common spaces there. Big and bold prints of nature and the city, and I’m just so incredibly honored to have them displayed. And another honor, an article and photos of mine published on a site I greatly admire, a site full of voices and dreamy film photography from both experienced and new photographers (if you have any interest in film photography, I encourage you to cozy up with your computer or tablet and get lost in this site).

It’s a process, this unsticking, thawing. I’m working on it.

After the color

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There is still bright green, cheerful moss on the forest floor, surrounded by a carpet of now dry, pale fallen leaves and pine needles. The mushrooms have all dried and shriveled. I saw one tiny, purple thistle flower on the side of the road today; an accidental bloom.

Holidays are bittersweet. Even after 21 years, I miss my own mom as I navigate changing relationships with my young adult children. Moments of great laughter mixed with moments of strain, heavy dinner table conversations–I still have to tread carefully.

The woods makes me happy. This little lake makes me happy. Even with the absence of color, the gray skies, the bare branches.

I’m not unsure of myself in the woods.