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.