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Park City Doorways

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Life took me to Park City, Utah at the beginning of July. I had no idea what to expect, especially since I had done no research at all besides finding a place to stay (a cheap place). My experience with ski towns in general was at level zero at the time, and it was my first trip to Utah - still, whatever I thought I was going to find, the place took me completely by surprise.

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I didn’t anticipate that it would be so built up, with a main street lined with upscale shops, restaurants, and galleries. I had images of Creede, CO in my mind, but what I discovered was more like the Domain in Austin. It took my feeling like a fish out of water to a new level, particularly since I was lumbering around the streets like a Galapagos tortoise thanks to my overstuffed photo backpack.

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It was a short trip, and I spent a good deal of time walking around. I was pretty nervous going in places to look at art with a piece of luggage on my back, but the gallerists I met there were so kind and friendly that they put me immediately at ease. I wish I could shake them all by the hand and thank them personally. Since I can’t, I will instead share the photographs I made when I passed by open doorways. If you get the chance to visit Park City, be sure to go in all the galleries (and get an ice cream - it’s delicious).

All photographs Hasselblad 500CM and Kodak Tri-X

Large format pinhole!

I have experimented with a pinhole “lens” board my Dad made me for my Crown Graphic, but haven’t been completely satisfied with the results and also haven’t been particularly excited about doing pinhole work with that camera: if I am going to go to the trouble of hauling it around, I would rather just make the usual type of photographs. Enter Ondu Pinhole’s latest kickstarter campaign! I jumped at the chance to purchase one of their newest generation of large format pinhole cameras, and then sat back down and waited with varying amounts of patience for the campaign to come to fruition. It took a while, but good things often do. The camera arrived the day after my birthday - happy dancing all around!

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My Mom just happened to be in town that day, and obligingly let me use her as a test subject. I made two exposures, which you can see below, using the off-center pinhole for the second one.

These test results were all I needed to be ready to take the camera on a photowalk with friends in downtown Austin. I used the exposure chart for the first couple shots and then decided to wing it. Fortunately that worked out mostly well. I had a tripod with me for once, and only got fussed at in one location for setting it up. “Private property,” said the security detail guy. “Not allowed.”

Aside from Congress Avenue, the parts of Austin we walked around were so foreign to me I may as well have never seen them before. When did this place become so urban? When did they manage to turn the downtown of the “weird” city into something that kinda feels like Manhattan? The new architecture is, at least, very photogenic.

These sculptures are also something I could photograph repeatedly. The top one is blue and reminded me of Cookie Monster.

They are still building in downtown Austin, and we will keep visiting it with our cameras!

All photographs Ondu 4x5 rise and Ilford HP5 in DK50 developer, tray processed, for those who care to know.

Salt water cyanotypes

I love to walk on the beach. Strolling the edge of the water, where the sand is packed down, where the waves dance around your ankles (and maybe higher), searching for washed up treasures is one of my favorite things to do. I haven’t exactly had all that many opportunities in my life to make those kind of pleasant promenades, but I’ve done it enough to yearn for more.

A few years ago, in Port Aransas, after a morning of sitting in stunned silence in a room full of women who were not only more self assured, but also more talented and way more adept at talking about it than I was, I learned about cyanotypes. I don’t recall if I had brought the fabric with me or if some was given to me, but we all went to the beach, Judy produced a dizzying array of booty like mardi gras beads, starfish, and shells, and we made cyanotypes. I had a memory of making “sun prints” with my daughter when she was very young, thanks to a kit someone had gifted her for a birthday or Christmas. Making them for myself, however, was something new. I played around with the technique a little bit when I returned home, then kindof filed it away.

Next came the first World Cyanotype Day, and it changed everything for me. Now, 4 years down the road, I find myself with more stacks of cyanotypes than I know what to do with, and often being the unofficial local champion / spokesperson for the process.

Today is World Cyanotype Day, and a lot of people all over this beautiful planet are celebrating in all kinds of ways. To commemorate it myself in my own tiny corner of cyberspace, I present to you the cyanotypes I made on the beach in Galveston over Labor Day weekend this year. I strolled, I collected, I created - and then I sat in the surf and washed them with the sea!

The above pieces are all cotton fabric, from a grab bag I ordered from Blueprints on Fabric. The ones below I made on paper with treasures from the beach after arriving home.

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World Cyanotype Day has a website, as well as a Facebook Page and Instagram. Please visit them if you’d like to know more! There’s even a Facebook group you can join.

42

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares, [and sorrows]
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.” — John Newton

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And now I’m 43. If there’s one self portrait that I feel defines a good portion of the past year of my life, it’s the one you see above. A lot of things have changed, and I felt myself quite often removed and isolated, even while I was in the middle of it all. I don’t like to think of this phase that way - I doubt there’s ANYbody who actually likes the term “middle aged” - but, God willing, that’s what it is. The middle. And boy oh boy am I smack dab in the middle of so many things.

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My relationship with my only child has altered greatly in the past 18 months or so. I’m still dealing with the effects of being, in essence, forcibly downsized from a job I feel like I was born to do. There’s plenty of emotional fallout to the various stages of motherhood without having the rug pulled out from under you repeatedly. But that’s where I find myself. Sometimes, survival takes disguises.

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Keep it all in. Keep it to yourself. Suck it up, you can get through this. "Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum." Pretending like you’re fine when you aren’t doesn’t really help anyone in the long run, however. It can leave you feeling like a shadow of your former self.

(Also, sometimes shadows are just plain fun.)

I’ve had the opportunity to travel a fair amount in the past year, mostly in the passenger seat of the truck but I did go on an airplane for the first time since 2012. WiFi on planes! Who knew.

Estes Park, CO, after an incredible morning in Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park, CO, after an incredible morning in Rocky Mountain National Park

I’m thankful beyond belief for some of the new steps I was able to take in my 42nd year. I got involved in things I had never considered before, and what I found there has done so much to heal my broken heart. It’s easy, when you’ve been through something that’s difficult and painful, to keep your eyes on the ground, to be afraid to look up again. But when you DO look up, and look around, there are people waiting for you with hugs warmer than Olaf’s and a welcome so genuine you wish you’d knocked on the door years ago.

What’s next? More years, I hope - lots more. More chances to learn and grow, to do good, to spread joy, to give and give and give.

The Beach!

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I went to the beach - WE went to the beach. It was the first time in over 3 years since we were at any beach, and from the moment we arrived all I could think was “why has it been so long?” Living where we do in central Texas, we are fortunate to be able to drive there in 4-5 hours (not bad by Texas standards), but that doesn’t mean we do it often. Most of the time, when I think about trips to the sand along the Gulf, it calls to mind the hideous sunburns I brought back home with me when I was younger: the sun is so hot that it’s difficult to manage even with SPF 1 zillion sunscreen. Winter is my favorite time to go.

Also, I am obsessed with seagulls. Something about their pert stance is endlessly amusing and photogenic to me.

Labor Day weekend, however, was the window we ended up with, working around a couple of circumstances and making the best of the situation in which we found ourselves. I found a cheap condo and away we went. Turns out the condo was right around the corner from where one of my sisters used to live, within spitting distance of Seawall; the first morning there when I stepped outside and realized this I was so excited I could hardly stand it.

I packed so many cameras; too many cameras. Before we arrived I had visions of using my dark cloth as shade while I hunkered behind the ground glass of my view camera. I brought it with me, but it didn’t leave the condo; the tripod never left the truck. Once my feet hit the sand, all I wanted to do was comb for treasures, make cyanotypes, and preserve a few moments with my Holga. I didn’t feel like working, and let’s face it, manual cameras - especially large format ones - are work!

What I wanted to bring home with me, from those two days of complete & utter perfect happiness & contentment, was the feeling of the beach. The glorious abandon that I experienced, that I saw people around me experiencing. Adults building sand castles. Kids running & hollering with glee. I didn’t care about perfect images, I cared about the joy! . . . . . Unfortunately I also didn’t care enough about checking to make sure my Holga didn’t get pushed into Bulb setting when I crammed it into my bag repeatedly.

So I had a little bit of a surprise when I pulled the negatives out of the tank. Why are they so dense? It wasn’t that bright. . . . . oh no maybe the switch accidentally went to bulb. . . . . a quick trip upstairs to where the camera was stashed confirmed it. This didn’t happen until the second day, so I do have a few photographs that came out the way I envisioned them. What the scanner revealed to me once the negatives were dry was a bunch of dreamy images: not a complete loss, but not what I had hoped for. Sometimes I guess life steps in and gives you something different, especially if you leave yourself open to it. I’m not altogether unhappy with the end result (although goodness knows these will not be easy to print) but I will admit that I can’t help wondering what might have been. . . . . . We will just have to find another time to go back, sooner rather than later.

All photographs Holga 120N, and either Kodak Ektar or Tri-x. If you’re unfamiliar with the bulb setting, it means that the shutter stays open, allowing you to make long exposures. So instead of the shutter opening & closing quickly when you push the button, it opens when your finger presses the button and closes when you let up, unless you’re using a cable release in which case it responds to that impetus instead. If you aren’t using a tripod (and I wasn’t), your results are going to be pretty blurry.