Camera decisions

In just over one week I will be traveling to Lima, Peru. I’ll spend a week there with my daughter, and then I’ll leave her and she’ll go off to teach smart computer-coding things to some high school students. How brave is that? When she told me she was doing this through her university, she had the audacity to chide me for allowing her to study Latin as her college language choice. Ha! Like I’ve ever had any influence over this kid. Pffft.

(I remember distinctly suggesting Spanish to her. I wish I’d studied it but I did not have a language requirement in college. So, kid, I told you so.)

In any case, we will explore Lima together for one week and although in some ways this terrifies me, I’m far more terrified of the idea of her traipsing about Lima all on her own. Capable as she is, Lima feels so… out of my comfort zone and therefore a scary place to dump my firstborn. My own Spanish is limited to what I learned in second grade from my favorite teacher, who spoke Spanish as her native language and taught all her students how to count to 10, say good morning to her, and maybe a few other key phrases that are escaping me right now. So the kid and I will struggle with our Spanish together.

When my daughter asked me to join her and I agreed to do this, I immediately decided that I would not bring my DSLR but would bring one 35mm film camera and maybe a second “fun” camera. I read that you can only bring one camera into the country, but I can’t find really good information on this… the second one might incur a charge rather than getting confiscated or anything dramatic.

The Minolta SRT 102 is heavy, but it’s my favorite at the moment and even if I don’t use this feature, I can do easy double exposures. The Minolta X-700 is lighter. And, the self-timer on it works. And, it has a program feature in case I don’t want to think about anything other than focusing. I have two additional lenses (aside from 50mm lenses) for either Minolta, in case I have room for an additional lens. The Pentax K1000? Bombproof, easy; but no extra features and no doubles. Okay, the Pentax is out of the running.

And then I fell in love with 120mm film after using it for several months in my son’s Mamiya 645 1000s. But, no way can I add that behomoth to my bag and, well, it’s not mine. I picked up a Holga, or really a knockoff Holga, and have had a ton of fun with that so far. If that fell off a bridge or got stolen I’d shed a tear but not be put out other than sad that I had 120 film and nothing to shoot it with. It’s smallish, cheap and plastic and I won’t worry about it one bit. The knockoff Holga is going. I have big plans for it.

So I think I’ve narrowed things down to one of the Minolta’s and the Holga. I have some Ektar 100 and some Portra 400 in 120mm color film and some Tri-X 400 and Fuji Acros 100 in 120mm black and white. For 35mm film I have some Ektar 100 and some other odds and ends, but I may have to pick up some more 35mm film. And how many rolls? Ah, another conundrum. I read I can only bring 10–but I can pack some in my daughter’s carry-on or I can simply declare more (I don’t know what that means. An additional charge?)

But then I start to second guess myself.

Should the DSLR come with me? Pros: No film to carry. Big memory card. I can take a million photos and I can see them immediately. Cons: Increases the technology I would want to bring (laptop to upload, or thingy needed to transfer images from SD card to my iPad). I’d spend more time uploading and editing every night and less time seeing/doing things. It’s big and conspicuous. If I broke it, dropped it, or it got stolen I’d be pretty devastated. If I bring it, I don’t really have room for a film camera.

Does anyone else obsess over these things? I’m arguing with myself about all of this. I am firm one day, up in the air the next.

I like the idea of relegating this trip to only film. If I miss a shot, I miss a shot. I know with digital I’m trigger happy–but who needs a million shots with only a few being images I really love? With film I’m much more deliberate. I might make some really bad shots but even those will have meaning (to me, anyway). I’m not saying one is better than the other–it’s all about where my head is, my process and exploration with both mediums. Right now it’s film. Tomorrow might be different.

So, what would you do? You know, just for the sake of discussion. And to help me quit obsessing over this decision. Even though I know what I’m going to do.

Sort of.

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

San Francisco

I’m so lucky. I traveled this past week for work, and I’m so lucky because I got to squeeze in an extra day of non-work, which I spent with a coworker doing the thing I like best (taking pictures) and catching up with her and you know, I don’t think we even talked about work at all. Suzanne, you rock.

I want you to know how hard it was for me to write the headline to this post. I’m bad at headlines. Usually literary phrases or lyrics or song titles come first to mind, and okay, sometimes I use those, but I feel like I’m cheating. I mean, who doesn’t leave their heart in San Francisco? And, yeah, now I know the way to San Jose. But those aren’t my words. So, just plain old San Francisco will have to do for this post, because that’s pretty much where I was. Or, the bay area. Or, is it Bay Area? (I’m still recovering from the whirlwind trip so I’m refusing to consult my sources to check which is correct.) I was in and around San Francisco and Sonoma for work, and it was all of these things: fun, exhausting, exhilarating, enlightening, and fantastic to be face-to-face with my coworkers.

But, pictures.

I’ve given no love to my digital camera in months, and because I was tasked with photos for a work outing while I was there, I took the digital camera. Which is, like me, showing its age. A rubber grippy part of it fell off last summer and I intended to glue it back on but never got around to it and now I don’t know where that part is. A plate on a button on top of the camera, the one that shows what mode you’re shooting in, fell off while on this trip. I haven’t lost that and I’ll probably glue that back on, but I don’t need to. I’ll admit I kind of like the camera better a bit worn and ratty looking. After using old film cameras that are metal, sturdy and more substantial feeling than a modern plastic DSLR, the plastic camera feels a bit, well, cheap. Ratty and imperfect are more my style anyway. And settling on one camera and one lens is a little hard for me, but I do like a challenge. So the clunky, somewhat ratty, DSLR with 17-55mm lens came with me, jammed into my backpack not carefully at all, and they did just fine.

Also after working with black and white film for the last four months I’ll admit the ease of upload and edits was (at least a little) fun. Maybe I even missed it a bit. But I still couldn’t help but make some of the fort images black and white, a little crusty and contrasty. Maybe a little like film. Whatever. Editing is such a personal thing, dependent on mood when you sit down to do it. At least for me.

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Fort Point in the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge
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Fort Point inner courtyard

So, the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point in the Presidio. I’m not delving into any history here because you can go find that yourself. I’ll just say I love a space with brick, shadows, girders and trusses, some height, an underbelly. Some grit, some history, something that takes up a sizeable amount of space. This place hit all my buttons.

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stairs and shadows

Driving through cities in the bay, the outer roads, hilly and winding roads in wine country, stuff that makes your heart jump a little with the beauty and the occasional fear of dropping off a cliff. There’s something almost a little too bright about California, too shiny, perfect and beautiful.

But I can’t get enough of it.

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boats and field
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house on stilts
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driveby

hoya on Holga

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hoya plant, lomo purple and Holga

I don’t have a green thumb (or a purple one). I love plants, but it’s not in my nature to take care of them. Maybe some day.

There is a hoya plant in my front window that faces south, a big, lovely picture window. It’s about the same size as the picture window in the house I grew up in, which also faced south (faced? faces? The house, and the window, both still exist…). These are the kind of windows that, in February, beg you to lay on the floor in a winter sunbeam and soak up the light. If you don’t have one of these, find a friend that does and spend a February afternoon doing just that.

Anyway.

The hoya plant in my front window is a clipping from my friend Kelly’s hoya plant, who got the clipping from my dad from the original hoya plant that I grew up watching grow in my lovely south-facing picture window in the house I grew up in. I don’t remember who gave my dad the original clipping from their own hoya plant–probably one of his teacher friends–at least 40 years ago.

My dad planted the hoya–which really was just a little tendril and maybe one or two thick leaves sticking up from the earth–in a little pot. It grew, slowly. It was supposed to bloom but it seemed we had it for years before it surprised us one year, maybe around Christmas, with the most delicious-smelling bloom, a funky waxy-looking thing with little florets. My dad built a trellis for it and it climbed and bloomed and the blooms smelled terrific and everyone lived happily ever after.

(Okay, I went away to college and then moved away and forgot about the hoya.)

But at some point in my early adulthood my dad gave my friend Kelly a clipping of that hoya, and some years ago Kelly gave me a clipping from that hoya, and now I have it in my front room, growing profoundly slowly and appreciated by me but cared for by my husband. It hasn’t bloomed yet, but I’m hopeful.

Of course I had to photograph it in purple film on a Holga, which I thought fitting for kind of a funky plant. But aren’t the shadows lovely?

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.

Spring, sort of

Last Friday’s burst of warmth and color quickly turned to chill, gray, lackluster. I crave that color, but I’m beginning to see things differently. Black and white film opens you up to that, I think.

Since January I’ve shot and processed (myself!) 16 rolls of black and white film, 35mm and 120mm. I have one more assignment in the class I’m taking and then I may need to go a little nuts with color film for a while after that, especially as I’ll be in California for one day of sightseeing before a few days of work and then after that in Lima, Peru for a week. I don’t know much about Lima yet, but I am imagining it’s a place requiring color film. I can’t wait to find out.

But despite the gray, there are green shoots, buds, the smell of wet earth, wildly chirping birds… all these signs of impending color and warm and sun. We are poised and ready and the wait makes the reward that much more delicious.

This week is exciting, different, changing. I have a new outlook. My youngest turned 21 this week, which feels like a new era… both my babies are adults. I shared an interview and photos with a community of film enthusiasts and the experience makes me feel lucky, like pinch-myself lucky, to be considered as someone with a passionate voice. I will have family around me this weekend and I will revel in that.

Good things are coming.

 

Chasing color (and don’t mind that Holga in my camera bag)

It’s been the grayest month. Gray everywhere. After some teaser days in February we got just the grayest, dreariest March ever. Well, until last Friday, which was a big, blue, bright, bold, sunny and lovely day with a wind that blew the winter’s dust around and sent the cobwebs packing.

Of course the rain came over the weekend but whatever. It’s spring now and rain happens. But let’s get back to Friday. The temps even hit the low 70s. It was glorious. You shoulda been there.

But you weren’t, so I’m going to share some photos because I sneaked out of work a tiny bit early and went in search of color with my friend Jane.

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car as art, Holga, Kodak Ektar 100
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car and sky, Holga, Kodak Ektar 100
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Let’s Do This, Holga, Kodak Ektar 100

Detroit’s Eastern Market is the perfect antidote to a too-gray month that has gone suddenly, brilliantly bright. On Saturdays the market is alive and crowded, but other days it’s fairly quiet. Go on Saturdays for people-watching (and food buying) and on other days for wandering and mural-gazing.

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Eastern Market murals, double exposure, Holga, Kodak Ektar 100
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Dequindre Cut mural, Holga, Fuji Pro 400
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Ghosts of what I might have been, Eastern Market, Holga, Fuji Pro 400
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2126 Pierce, Holga, Fuji Pro 400

I’ve got it bad. I sort of made a deal with myself to not acquire any more cameras for a while and focus on the ones I have (and the one I’m borrowing). But I broke my own deal in January when I used gift money to buy a Lomography Sprocket Rocket. And then some fascination with the Holga made me buy one of those, too, earlier this month. I kind of don’t count these two cameras in my deal with myself because they’re plastic. Not that they’re not real cameras–I’d argue with anyone on that. But, they’re really inexpensive. Faulty logic, but there you go.

I fall in love too easily. 120 film is my current crush. These Holga images from Friday’s adventure make me happy I don’t listen to myself sometimes.

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Clouds and corner building double in Eastern Market, Holga, Fuji Pro 400
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Sacred Heart, Holga, Fuji Pro 400
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Razor wire and sun flare, Holga, Fuji Pro 400
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Eastern Market, Holga, Fuji Pro 400
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No idle zone, Holga, Kodak Ektar 100

Getting back to yoga

Many years ago when my children were small and my office was not in my home and my life was far more complicated than it is now I decided to take a yoga teacher training class and add teaching yoga to the list of things I had to do. I loved practicing yoga, and for a while after that I loved teaching it, too. I taught for several years and then burned out, even though by the time I stopped teaching I was already working from a home office. But there were still deadlines to meet and growing kids to drive around to so very many activities and it all was just one big swirl. Something had to go.

I stopped practicing yoga pretty much. Every now and then, here or there, I’d take a class or roll out my yoga mat at home, but I didn’t do it often enough to have a regular practice.

Just this past November an absolutely beautiful studio opened up so close to my house that I couldn’t ignore the siren song of the things I loved best about yoga, like the retreat into my own mind and body that happens in a supportive studio with excellent instructors, the breakthroughs that happen with a regular practice, the way my language changes about myself when I am being kind and loving toward my body while practicing yoga. And when I say “so close” I mean I can walk there in just about 6 minutes flat–5 if I’m running late. Nope, no excuses not to get back to it.

I’ve been maintaining a practice at this studio for just over three months. We practice flow sequences in a room heated to 90°, a delicious sweat-fest. I’m dripping 10 minutes into a power flow class, and loving every second. I’m already starting to think about how much I will miss this place when I am on the lake in the summer, where I’ll just have to cue Jennifer, Kate, Katie and the other teachers’ gentle voices in my head as I create my own flow.

The light in this second floor studio is one of its best features. On a corner, with windows facing both south and east, window light spills across the floor most of the day. Jennifer, the owner, let me make use of this gorgeous light to take some photos for a class assignment, and I chose her Tibetan singing bowls and the light and shadows as focus. I took these with my Minolta X-700 and Kodak T-Max 400 ISO film, my first time with this film. I developed the roll and scanned these images myself.

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Unusual weather we’re having

I think the lion says that line, in Wizard of Oz. When they’re running through the poppies and it starts snowing, maybe? I’m not certain. But it’s appropriate because February has been really odd, mostly, and now the trees are actually blooming, and you don’t need a coat to go anywhere. In February. I don’t want to complain, but I didn’t get to snowshoe yet this year. And, this stuff messes up the whole fruit season. We can’t have that.

Unusual weather, unusual cameras, unusual times.

In December I took part in a secret santa gift exchange for people who shoot film. I sent a bunch of film to a guy in Germany, and oddly the person who sent my gift (a different person than who I sent my gift to) was also in Germany. My gift took a while, but I was so excited at the end of January when I got some expired film, a Lomography baby fisheye (and they mean baby, this thing is so tiny!) with a cartridge of 110 film, plus some other awfully sweet goodies.

Although there’s been a lot of gray this month, there’s also been some color. The Luminosity installation in Detroit, for instance. The blue sky, the golden dried grasses on the marsh. Red hydrants, blue buildings, murals. Good news kind stuff. Good surprises. All colorful.

The expired film colors are a little funky, but I’m digging them. I shot this roll of 2007-expired Minolta 200 ISO film on a gorgeously warm evening on the marsh.

This unseasonable weather business makes people happy. Well, it makes me happy. It makes me start thinking about what’s next. The spring. Hopeful things. New adventures. Like, a trip (I have one brewing). I’m about to enter the age of saying yes. Ask me if I want to go somewhere with you… I’m most likely going to say yes.

Yes to weird cameras. Yes to new experiences. Like this silly, plastic, double-wide Lomography Sprocket Rocket, which might be my favorite new thing.

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Yes to color. Yes to adventure.

Are you saying yes to anything these days?