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.

Still struggling

Yesterday was hard. Today, I’ll admit, was even harder.

It’s not about my candidate not winning. I’ve voted for more than a few candidates that didn’t win. You buck up, you brush off, you settle in for a presidency you did not choose but that you think will at least not bring the country to civil war, and you wait for the next election. It’s politics.

But this election, this president elect… It’s very, very different. We have elected a man who behaves the way most of us tell our children never, ever to behave. A guy who makes fun of people, who divides us, who incites riots and fear and hate. A bully. A man who has no respect for women. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

There were protests today. Today I saw friends post things their children overheard or endured at school. Today I saw photos of spray-painted swastikas in public places in our country, in the United States, in 2016. Photos of scrawled racial slurs on school lockers. Stories of kids crying as classmates chanted “build the wall.” When those who cast their votes for him were voting on Tuesday, is this what they wanted? I have to hope that most did not.

Yesterday and today I fielded texts from my college-student daughter who, like me, has spent the past 48 hours vacillating between sadness, fear, worry, anger, and an occasional glimmer of hope. I have run out of words to soothe the both of us. She lives in a liberal area and I can only hope for her safety. I tell her to hold her tongue, don’t argue with anyone right now. I want her to feel she can speak her mind, but it frightens me in this climate, and I’ve not done it myself for fear of backlash, of offending someone, of upsetting or wounding, of making someone mad. I don’t like conflict. I try to be nice, polite, easy-going, but I see that many times I’m not afforded the same courtesy.

When I was my daughter’s age I was an intern at a small magazine when the Persian Gulf war began. I remember vividly our minuscule staff crowded around a little television in the office the night war was declared as we tried to finish laying out the magazine. It was the first war I was experiencing and I couldn’t wrap my brain around what it meant. My dad talked me down from the ledge later that night by phone, with soothing words that reassured me my life wouldn’t change because these are the things a sensitive young person who has not seen war in her lifetime must hear. This is what I remember as I search for words to heal my daughter’s heart today. My dad has soothed me many times since then, and I still needed his soothing words yesterday, although they were less reassuring this time.

I don’t want things to change now, either. I don’t want my kids to be fearful, or attacked for their liberal views, or find themselves in harm’s way because they stand up for someone who is being wronged. I don’t want them to see their friends suffer injustices of the sort that I hoped were in this country’s past. I can hope for sensibility to take over, but I can’t promise it will. When we can’t tell our kids that everything will be alright, even when our kids are adults, well, it kind of sucks.

For me, for today and for moving forward, hope is the operative word. But I’m not leaving this transition and these next four years up to hope. I’m going to donate to the causes I know will need help under this administration. I’m going to offer my time to civil rights causes. I am going to get active and I’m going to get educated, because while the president elect is not my candidate, my muted voice helped to elect him. And I won’t be muted any longer.

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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Fall COLEaboration

Earlier this summer I got the opportunity to take part in a creative collaboration with a very creative and talented dancer, choreographer, teacher, founder of Chicago’s The Dance COLEctive, and friend of mine from college, Margi Cole. Like our early summer photo + movement collaboration (and here), we took a highly experimental approach, playing off each other’s ideas and vision in exploration of capturing images of movement that honor and explore both dance and place. Sometimes things worked and sometimes they didn’t, but each location offered unique challenges and opportunities.

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Margi is fearless, and this is one of the qualities I admire most about her. She is a true artist, fully immersed in her craft. It is in this spirit of fearlessness that I take on the task of reviewing these photos, editing, and sharing. There is whimsy and creative license here, too, and I hope that shows. I mean, what is experimentation if you take yourself too seriously? Not fun, that’s what.

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floating

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This time I felt more comfortable giving direction (at least a little more comfortable). I still have to temper the urge to be invisible, though. I mean, here we were on a public beach, roadside, other public places, and although it’s no longer tourist season there were people out. This is what I mean by Margi’s fearlessness… in these places she danced, and yet I was at times self-conscious as I photographed. That’s what I’m learning to abandon and to free myself from.

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power-full

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These are only a handful of the photos I took, but these are my favorites. Today, anyway. I’m sure as the days pass and I come back to them to create a collection for Margi, I’ll have new favorites and new edits. I’m just grateful for the process of collaboration, brainstorming, rolling with ideas as they ebb and flow, and allowing myself the freedom to create and experiment.

Dreaming in purple

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abandoned farmhouse in Lomography Lomochrome Purple film

A few weeks ago I spent a small fortune on a few rolls of Lomography Lomochrome Purple film on a whim. Because, well, I’m in an experimental phase here and I’m rolling with that. But really, it’s like magic, this film–it turns greens purple (but only sometimes) and mucks about with other colors in weird and wonderful ways and yes, I do know that I can do that in Photoshop but I want to create magic right in my camera with no other faffing around. And I want to be surprised by what I get when my film is developed. And I don’t want to control everything. (I take that back. I kind of like control, but not where film photography is concerned. I am still in love with the surprises there.)

So I put one roll in my Minolta SRT 102 and after that I ran another through my Olympus Pen EE3. Was I surprised? Yes. Delighted? Totally.

Will I use this film again? Yes, oh yes. And I can’t wait.

In the meantime, here are some favorites from those two rolls.

Minolta SRT 102

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sumac in foreground, abandoned barn
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diamond window shed, sumac
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pine needles suspended in web, abandoned car in forest
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pine forest
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forest floor, dried pine needles, mushroom and green (purple) moss
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forest and light
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pumpkins get a deeper orange in lomo purple
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small lake, lily pads and reflections
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lake and reflection through trees

Olympus Pen EE3

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train tracks and vines
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shadows and alleyway
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lines, shadows, and time transport box (okay, probably not)
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foggy woods, road after the fog cleared
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country roads
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orchard
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orchard and plowed field
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multicolored trees and old shed
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fields, trees
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grassy road, more sumac
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sumac and milkweed, roadside

How do you pick a side?*

It’s pouring here, has been since early this morning.

I’m restless, too busy–my brain won’t quiet. I barely finish a thought when the next one comes barging in, shoving the one before it into the swamp-marsh of things in my head that bubble and are forgotten.

I have a lot of questions rumbling around in my head. I often wonder if it’s too many questions, but this is the way my brain works and who am I to argue that? And if you know me personally, you might know that I ask a lot of questions. I want to know how people work.

And the question that woke me up at 3 a.m., before the rain started, when the dog had 90 percent of my bed space and the world was so quiet outside that I was nearly convinced that me and the dog and the cottage were the only existing things on earth, was this:

What side of the bed do you sleep on? And why?

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Which then led to these questions:

  • Do you change the side of the bed you sleep on when you sleep somewhere else, or when you move?
  • Is your choice dependent upon bed placement, or size or shape of room?
  • What about geographical placement (like, do you need be on the northernmost side of the bed)?
  • Do you let other people (or pets) influence your side-of-bed choice?
  • Is your choice influenced by needing to be close to or farther away from a door or window?
  • Do you not even choose a side, but sleep in the middle (understandable for a twin bed, but anything bigger and middle sleeping just seems unfathomable to me)?
  • Is it weird that I am even pondering these questions?
  • I mean, why do I need to know how other people sleep?
  • Should there even be hyphens in the phrase “side-of-bed choice”?
  • Wait, do I really want to be questioning hyphen use in the middle of the night?

And so it went for a good half hour longer, pondering beds and sides and pillows (fat and thick? or flat and thin?) and the ultimate question of why dogs in beds, even tiny dogs, seem to expand to take up so much more space than it seems they should.

Maybe that’s a question for another sleepless middle of the night. Dog expansion.

*Oh. You thought I was going to write about the election? Sorry to disappoint.