Jan 28, 2018

Cemetery Series: Holdman

Note: This is an on-going series of articles documenting the old and abandoned cemeteries of the inland Pacific Northwest on film. You can see the entire series here

When my dad got sick two years ago, I started making more trips back and forth to see him and help out with his care. This was an hour away from where I live and I could easily get there by traveling most of it on an Interstate Freeway. Instead, I decided to use the backroads, something I hadn't done for several years.

Clouds were breaking up quite nicely.

Those back roads take me right through an area called Holdman, which includes a small cemetery built on a hillside, just above the main road but hidden by a bank of greasewood brush. Unless you know to look for it, you can drive right by without ever knowing it's there. I have stopped here with my camera maybe a couple of dozen times, so I'm certainly no stranger to this cemetery. I was going right by it on my way to visit Mom when I saw that the clouds were breaking up and the sun was starting to poke through. I hadn't planned on shooting anything, but this was as good an opportunity as any that I was going to get this day.

The only image in this post that doesn't utilize a #25 red filter.

Luckily, I had a camera with me, albeit not everything at my disposal. This was my Canon Rebel 2000 loaded with some Ilford PanF+ 50. I decided to shoot it at ISO 40, something I've had some luck with before. Unfortunately, my only lens was the kit zoom that came with it: A Canon EF 80-210 f/4.5-5.6.  Not my first choice, but I did have a red #25 filter that fit.  What's the best camera you can shoot? The one you have with you.  So, that's the setup I used.

Not the cemetery itself, but this is the view looking northeast, the only road in sight. 

That kit lens clearly doesn't hold a candle to any of the L glass I have available for an EOS film camera. It would have been nice also to have my 17-40mm available for some wider shots. In that case, I would have been able to get closer to the monuments and make them more prominent in the image, without having to decrease the importance of the sky. But maybe next time.

Having exposed these images a third of a stop over box speed, I developed these in Rodinal 1+25 at 68℉ (20℃) for 5 minutes. The negatives came out a bit thin, and the resulting scans contained more grain than I'm used to seeing in PanF+.  I'm not sure if that is due to compensating for some under development or the fact that a red #25 filter always seems to pronounce the grain more in my film images. The resulting contrast was a little more than I'd bargained for, but as I look through these images I think it helps enhance that sense of stark isolation.

The view looking west, sans monuments.

So, while I hadn't showed up here with the intention of this being a part of my Cemetery Series, I'm glad I got some images here.  I'm sure I will be back sooner rather than later.

Jan 19, 2018

Cemetery Series: Sand Hollow

Note: See the first post in the Cemetery Series for more details about this project. Entire series here.

It has saddened me to visit a rural cemetery in the past and see blatant vandalism committed to the grave sites. Sadder yet is when efforts are no longer made to fix the damage done, to put things back together. The people who cared about them and marked their existence are now gone themselves.

I think this is more common in our rural pioneer cemeteries, away from anything resembling a city and away from the manicured green lawns and big, sprawling oak trees. We know that these people lived a hard life. In our efforts to create an idyllic past, however, we gloss right over the poverty and despair and hardship many of them lived through during that time. And life itself was never a guarantee. So many of these markers record dates of children who never made it past grade school. Some of them lie side by side by side, all from the same family.

Time has taken its toll at Sand Hollow Cemetery. Find A Grave reports that as many as 95 graves exist here. I personally question that number; it's just hard for me to fathom that many people in such a small area. But it's clearly more than big enough for the 19 that are known, and seven whose markers still exist today.  I think the vandalism left standing has kind of given way to a natural deterioration all its own. Some day, even the place itself will be forgotten.

The day I visited in January was cold and gloomy, just a hint of precipitation in the air with the fog just starting to roll in. I didn't stay long. Perhaps I would have if the day had been filled with better skies. As it was, there wasn't much to shoot, certainly nothing sticking up out of the ground. In fact, as I approached from the road, only one marker was visible. Everything else had been toppled over and lie hidden in the grass.

This had been broken for a long time. Also, light source at left: Not sure if that is a leak, or...
I shot these with my newly-repaired Canon Elan 7, a camera that I had given up as beyond repair when a technician told me he had a part for it. This has been my flagship film camera in the past, so it was a great relief to get it working again. Sometimes it's nice to shoot and not have to think about what I'm doing. And yes, I used a Lensbaby on this, a Muse actually, probably my only impulse purchase related to my camera gear. These were all shot at f/8, in case you're wondering.  I don't get this lens out often, but when I do I try to make sure its unique characteristics are used to benefit the photo, and not just as another toy. It's probably up for debate whether or not I accomplished that here.

The fog was rolling in just was I was packing up to go. 
Film/developer details: This is Ilford hp5+ shot @ ISO 1600. Developed in Ilfotec DD-x 1+4, 13 minutes at 68℉ (20℃). 10 inversions first 30 seconds, then 4x per minute in 10 seconds afterward. I don't know that this is the best developer for pushing this film two stops. It seems like the grain got away from me a bit. It's a little harsher than Microphen, which I used on my last development session.

Jan 7, 2018

Winter light = Ektar time

For me, the best and longest-lasting light for landscape photography occurs in the winter months, roughly Dec-Jan. Of course, that might be different depending on where you are at in your hemisphere. But it's ideal here in the inland Pacific Northwest. That afternoon sun just hangs around as pleasantly as an old childhood chum who's come to visit.  It never gets more than 45 degrees above the horizon, and it takes a good long time to go down.The only problem is, where I live, we can get low-hanging, lifeless clouds for much of that time. Or fog. Or just ice without snow. Just not ideal times for color film photography.

But once in awhile the landscape gods smile down on us and treat us to some fresh snow and a nice, sunny day with a few clouds overhead. That was the case for me just before Christmas of 2017. School was out, and snow had fallen throughout our region, a good 6-10 inches on the ground depending on where you were. I had spent the morning paying a visit to my mom, who lives about an hour away, and was lucky enough that I brought my camera with about a half roll of Ektar left in it.

Ektar can go really blue in the shadows while leaving sunlit areas with good colors. It was cold out, after all.

Some morning cloudiness had given way to sunny skies and clear conditions, so I took advantage of the situation and left mom's house to take the long way home. Having brought my 4WD pickup along, I managed to make my way through some snowed-over gravel roads that made up most of my trip that afternoon.

I love the comp here, but I scanned a lot more turquoise than I should have.

These images represent about 2 and a half hours of cordial light and lengthy shadows, something you're never going to get around here in the summer months.

I'm getting the hang of developing c-41 myself at home. For the most part, my colors are coming out well. When they're not, it's a result of my scanning, which I'm still trying to improve and perfect. And in the end, my goals for these images aren't scans for the computer screen, but optical prints that get physically handled. That is what I have in mind now when I'm shooting.

We might or might not see any snowy weather the rest of this winter. Temps are supposed to be well above freezing for the forseeable future, but it's only the beginning of January. There's still time. If we don't, I'm glad I had the chance to get out and burn some Ektar. And if we don't get any more snow, I'll be patiently waiting for spring!

Jan 5, 2018

Doing Work

My grandfather immigrated to the US from Germany in 1907. When he got here, he had no friends, no family, and had to create his own life from scratch. He settled in Oregon, and ended up doing a lot of physical labor work until he landed in a saw mill doing...more physical labor work. He eventually married, raised four kids and tried to retire at age 65.

I say 'tried' to retire because he was miserable in his retirement. His work had become his purpose, and that part of him was impossible to let go. So, within a few months, he went back to the sawmill, doing the same job he'd retired from earlier. (As a side note, I can well imagine that they put new hires with him on the board chain. If you wanted to work at that sawmill, you had to keep up with Dutch.)  Grandpa worked there until he was 75 and then retired for good. He lived another 15 years and was physically healthy and active up until the very end of his life.

I look at my Canon A-1 in that same way. When that model came out in 1978, it had all the technology that that era could muster up.  ISO that went all the way to 12,800. Three autoexposure modes: program, aperture priority and exposure priority, all under one roof. Fully manual operation if you preferred that. Solid metal construction. It was meant for work.

My particular camera was purchased in the early 1980's and was used by one guy for a couple of decades, reportedly taking thousands of 35mm film images during that time. He 'retired' it when he went digital, but that camera still had a lot of life in it and still needed to fulfill a purpose. It fell to me at some point in the last few years and I've given it a second career with my work.

I had reported my intentions to retire it for good when the dreaded 'Canon squeal' came up along with a sticky shutter. However, over this winter I made the decision to spring for a CLA at Blue Moon Camera in Portland. They assured me that that squeal didn't really mean an impending death; it just meant that some maintenance was needed.

So off it went, and was just recently returned to me, well, not 'good as new', but in very usable, workable condition with everything sounding as it should. The days of heavy lifting might be behind it, but that doesn't mean it can't put in a full day and carry a big share of my 35mm work going forward. Eventually, something will happen and we'll have to send it to that great Camera Lab in the Sky, but until then it's going to continue fulfilling its purpose. Because I've got a whole lotta 35mm film taking up space in the freezer that needs to get shot.

Jan 2, 2018

2018 Directions

First of all, Happy New Year, everybody. I hope your holiday season has been good to you this year. 2017 was a bit of an off year in terms of how much I was able to get out and shoot, and in particular taking advantage of some seasons. This next year looks to be better for me in that regard.

My first post of the last couple of Januarys has been to discuss the path I want my film photography to take in the upcoming year. Looking back, some of my items succeed, while others go by the wayside, or postponed for another time. The year 2017 was no different, nor will 2018 likely be either. So here are my thoughts about my film endeavors for this year:

  • I plan on saving my best negatives and having some prints made of them at Blue Moon Camera in Portland. As of this writing, 5x6 prints are only $0.80 USD apiece, so not bad if you just get a few of them done at a time. It's not much more to print from a 120 negative. Film is meant to be a tactile experience; the end product should be as well.
  • With four different kinds of black and white 35mm film bulk loaded and in the freezer, I need to shoot a lot more of it. "Shoot more film this year" seems like a cliche, but specifically I need to shoot the film I've got rather than keep buying more. 
  • And to contradict my 2nd bullet above, I'd like to add some color film to the freezer. That Kodak Vision 3 50D from FPP would work great. I'm getting more comfortable developing my own c-41 film. 
  • Or how about some Eastman Double-X 5222 black and white film?  That's available in bulk as well.
  • I've been neglecting my pinhole camera lately, so it's time to get that back out and see what I can do with it. 
  • And to combine the first, third and fifth bullet, I've seen some nice color pinhole prints when the film is exposed, developed and printed properly. With some Lomo Purple, Ektar, Fuji 160 NS (fresh, purchased locally) and Portra. 
So as always, I'm looking forward to enjoying 2018 with some film, getting out and enjoying this big world of ours. Happy New Year, everybody.