The VVitch, 2015

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The VVitch was so creepy to me the first time I didn’t sleep at all that night.

It also focuses on historical accuracy, has a gorgeously eerie soundtrack, and depicts the struggle of one family who leaves their fortified Puritan town due to religious disagreements. It is not a cheap-trick sort of film, but rather draws you in by looking you straight in the eyes.

I’d highly recommend and it’s on Netflix right now (Canadian Netflix, which is notoriously pathetic, that is).

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Palermo, mi manchi.

6223903220_f496024fd0_b6223898176_ec30d30067_bI’ve been reading the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri. These books take place in Sicily, in Catania, outside Palermo, where the clever, savvy, well-fed Police Inspector navigates working in southern Italy. The descriptions of the food he eats alone makes reading the books worthwhile, and they’ve taken me down memory lane quite a bit recently.

There’s one passage where he takes his lover to the Vucciria market (she’s from Genoa, up North) while they stay in Palermo and it brought me right back to walking through and smelling all the fresh fish, sea water, blood and flesh of newly slaughtered animali, fruits and vegetables, all mingling together, while hearing shouts of prices in Sicilian and people arguing, with slick, wet stone streets full of people not paying attention meandering, looking for ingredients or a meal. A marvelous assault on the senses.

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I remember when Exa and I bought some enormous fragole and blood-red ciliegi, or strawberries and cherries, in the Vucciria, from a man who teased us for our passable Italian and gave us DVD’s of him singing songs- I still have the DVD somewhere tucked away. We ate our delicious meal on the balcony of our hostel, fat and happy.

Palermo itself an assault on the senses, visual included. It’s a mishmash of every architectural style all together- one moment you’re in a Baroque church, and the next a Fascist, morbid looking building is around the corner, while down the next block a Greek-style building proudly stands as the neighbor to a Norman-influenced structure. Sicilian itself is a gorgeously harsh dialect (or language- we could discuss this point all day), with Greek and Arabic roots woven in, and if your Italian is not very good, Sicilian will take you for a ride. (We rode the struggle bus the whole time).

The thing I do remember most were the epic meals Exa and I consumed. They will never be forgotten. We ate arancini, which are delicious rice balls full of meat and vegetables about the size of a fist. We had slightly bitter hot chocolate in tiny cafes, and ate at the same trattoria three nights in a row, splitting un mezzo litro di vino rosso every evening (Palermo at night for the two of us was a bit daunting and the trattoria was close by).

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We stayed at a brightly lit, nicely located hostel run by a fiercely caring woman whose name I sadly don’t recall, in a room that was sparse with high ceilings. Outside our window was a courtyard with beautiful orange trees and lines full of laundry. The first night, Exa and I were very, very lost deep in Palermo when we arrived to the city with our packs on our backs, and we got phone calls from this wonderful woman on my cheap phone, frantic and telling us that we were quite stupid, to get to her soon, to be safe, because surely we would end up in a no good situation being silly American girls, who likely have no common sense. (We eventually got a map from a hotel lobby and found our way there without incident).

When we went to a museo, everybody assumed we were from Alemania- Germany- and that was why our Italian was so funny. We said, yes, siamo tedeschi, and quietly made up fake German-ish names to go by, even if it was just for a few hours. We saw gorgeous paintings, milled about in the midst of a group of schoolchildren while their teacher told them about the art. I lost a part of my heart to the most gorgeous fresco, Trionfo della Morte (Triumph of Death), which was the most fantastical example of Italian Gothic art I’d ever seen- it took up a whole wall, and the museum was very caring in placing it so that you could climb a set of stairs and look at it from a second story as well as from the floor. It was in poor shape, but the skeleton horse and it’s rattled-bones rider will never leave my mind.

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For me, Palermo was very intimidating. Mind you, this is from a girl who lived in clean, orderly Ticino, Switzerland and grew up in quiet, rural Montana. Palermo was loud, it felt disorganized, and it felt like it had a film of age, but it was also utterly entrancing. Having been a major stop and trading outpost, it’s hosted the British, the Greeks, the Arabs, the Normans, and has been a beautiful mosaic of cultures and influences. Because Italy didn’t become a unified nation until the Risorgimento in the mid-19th century many parts of Italy feel like puzzle pieces in that they are all very different. Milan and Palermo, Rome and Florence, Genoa and Calabria, every city and region has its own wonderful histories. For somebody not used to so many energies, Palermo was an adventure in the best sense. (We also did happen to see a Communist rally that a man in a Superman suit marched into outside a mall. Ah, what oddness.)

In short, if anybody wants to take a trip to Sicily, please let me know. I’ll brush up on my Italian and we can eat to our hearts delight.

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Bits of Blue

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I arranged the film I scanned in two parts: White and Blue.

Montana in the winter tends to be shades of White and Blue and Grey, but luckily my pictures were a bit happier than just being Grey.

I don’t have much to say. My photographs here are mostly quiet morning moments on the weekends when I would put on my heavy boots and head outside with the camera in my gloved hands. More crystalline ice structures, beautiful evening light on the grass, the light streaming in through my filmy curtains, and time outside. Working 40 hours a week I do find it hard to commit to being outside, but lately I’ve been trying very hard to go on walks, sit outside when it’s sunny, and just have more time, no matter how short, with a less artificial world.

Snowscapes

I recently got some film developed and spent all of last Sunday curled up with my scanner, watching it slowly reveal what my negatives had gotten from my adventures outside. I watched A Streetcar Named Desire and swooned over Marlon Brando a bit while my negatives appeared, and remembered capturing these images.

A few months ago the lake would get the most incredible ice structures and snow patterns and I avidly tramped all over the frozen surface to capture the nuances. Depending on the light and the crystals I got to see many different kinds of frozen H20, and it was incredible.

I hope you enjoy admiring all the beauty nature gives us without a second thought. It’s beginning to be a Montana Spring, which is where Winter and Spring go into a fight to the death. For several weeks there will be intermittent lovely days and snowy days, windy and clear, cold and warm. Spring always wins, Primavera always comes with her flowery cape and brings greenery to the landscape, but she has to fight very hard indeed here.

One autumn

Can a person be an adventure?

I think so. I had a lovely, if short, adventure with a creature that was unlike any I’d ever met. I had quite a blast. I made some really good photographs that season, I think because finding out things about somebody else and being with them can be a really incredible experience and tinge other parts of your life. It was odd and sometimes sad and others completely euphoric.

I took a lot of my photographs on weekends when I wasn’t with the adventure, and others walking to go see the adventure. I would take my time and find weird ways to get to his house because to get there I had to pass by some really beautiful architecture and the lighting was always different. Montana in the fall can be the most beautiful place in the world.

Down by the river

 

This was January 1st.

And what a beautiful day it was.

Chelsea and I drove to Bozeman to stay the night and go out. We ate plates of olives and cheese, drank very good gin, saw Cody and hugged quite a bit. There were all the good people, and the best cat.

We drove back in the afternoon after seeing a movie. We passed Townsend and I asked Chelsea if she’d be down to pull over near a little campground that bridges the Missouri River.

I am in love with ice in a way I cannot explain and to capture some frames of the incredible formations the river created as the sun went down was too tempting. Chelsea and I walked to the edge of the river, where pink and blue hues tinged everything. I felt euphoric – I had meant to pull over dozens of times in this particular site, but had never made the time. And now, it was finally happening.

We stayed for only about 15 minutes, as it was cold and getting colder. Chelsea took pictures, I took pictures, and we meandered along the river’s edge. It was the perfect stop before we continued towards home.

Year in photos: 2014

Even though I didn’t shoot as much as I would have liked to, I think I still had some decent shots.

Some are in Los Angeles, others home in Montana. A few are from our annual trip to the Cape haus, and some are from Austin, Texas. Overall these highlight the better parts of the year. The bad parts, luckily, weren’t photographed so they’ll fade fast.

All the ice for the ice queen + some camera talk.

Cooper the black Labrador wandered away and my voice is almost gone due to being very sick, so in the midst of photographing our lake ice I had to go and literally run to get him. He’s almost deaf and I can’t yell and we are a mess in general.

I’m in a coffee shop because there is no internet at our rural home. Maybe it’s not appropriate to be sitting in a public place while I’ve got the plague but I need internet more than I have morals so…that’s a lost battle.

I sent 5 rolls of film for my sister to get developed so very very soon I will be sitting in front of my trusty scanner and scanning film again!

One of the worst parts of 2014 was not shooting as much film. I know that sounds odd but it really made the year seem less memorable. Some people have amazing memories and can pull the most minute aspects of an event out of their minds; I have no such ability. I think the reason I photograph so much is so that I can highlight events and illustrate them in my own slanted way and never forget them. I can remember the random creepy carny wearing devil horns in July at the county fair or remember that my freckles were very vivid that one summer. I can recall details about my loved ones that I couldn’t otherwise, like how their faces have changed in little ways or how they hold their hands, or how we made duct tape dresses for a fashion show and picked raspberries and drove around aimlessly.

CAMERA TALK TIME:

As I mentioned to one blogger, I’m making the big transition really soon to a DSLR! GAH! For the first time in my life I will have good digital gear. I’m not throwing down $3,000 for a Canon 5D iii, and I’m not splurging on any f/1.2 lenses, but I’m getting good, decent gear that will do what I need. I’m nervous to take the plunge- it’s a serious investment, because even if I am not purchasing professional grade photography gear I’m still paying good money that I worked really hard for! (And at a job that I’m really unhappy with…every dollar means that much more!)

WHY:

I’m finally throwing down the cash because of geography. I live in Montana, where getting film developed is getting harder and harder, and also more expensive. Now only specialty photo shops develop film, and for them to scan your images onto a disc or harddrive is over $10/roll. My parents gave me a beautiful Epson V700 scanner, which is truly a beautiful machine, so that I wouldn’t ever have to bother with that again. However, that comes with its own learning curve! (Professional software, patience, etc…) For me to get a single roll of film developed, I either have to drive 90 minutes or mail it there, wait for it to get mailed back, and then scan it after cutting the negatives on my own. It takes a very very long time.

After reading thousands of reviews (I’ve been researching for months now) and thinking about what I really want vs. what I really need, I think I’ve settled on a Canon 60D. I’d rather put a bit more cash into some good lenses than a good body. I’ll then purchase a 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens and probably the Canon or Sigma 50mm f/1.4 (after having an f/1.4 lens on my film cameras I can’t look back). Maybe a zoom lens? We’ll see how much money I can actually put forward (my laptop is also on its last legs and I need a good bright screen for editing and scanning my film, so when I enter grad school I’ll have to drop some cash for a decent Mac).

For a while I was really really tempted to go for the new Olympus Micro Four Thirds system. I’m mostly getting gear for travel photography and portraits. My sister and I are spending 3 weeks in Iceland, the Netherlands, and Belgium and I really want a camera that I can carry around all day alongside my Olympus OM-G. I’ll admit it: I love my Olympus SLR from the 80’s and the Zuiko lenses I have are simply fantastic pieces of glass. Zuiko and Olympus had some good shit going on back in the day and I would love to see what they’ve done with technology. Plus, the cameras are lighter and those little Zuiko lenses on the Four Thirds system are absolutely adorable. The OM-D E-M10 (phew Olympus, couldn’t you make that more of a mouthful!) is also weather sealed and seems pretty hardy, and if it’s anything like my OM-G, it’ll be a beast.

A lot of camera enthusiasts will ask me why I haven’t considered Nikon and I’ll be honest: figuring out which damn lenses go with which bodies confused me so much. I couldn’t do it! I’m sure if I was more focused and paid more attention I would get it, and I know Nikon puts out some awesome cameras and lenses, but Canon and Olympus both had very user friendly systems that didn’t require me to distinguish and really study which lenses go with which bodies. Sorry, Nikon, you got a bit too complex for me.

If anybody has any recommendations or experience with DSLRs and lenses, feel free to give me feedback or ideas! I haven’t made any purchases yet…

And I will always, always shoot film. My OM-G is too sturdy and awesome and those Zuiko lenses are too nice to gather dust.

Escapism

I’ve been slowly scanning in film and getting familiar with my monster of a scanner.

Getting the colors right in the scan is definitely probably my biggest challenge! I know that certain films highlight different tones than others, and seeing as I use a mix of Fuji, Kodak, and whatever else, I definitely just scan it in and sometimes it’s pretty obvious that it’s not…quite right.

For now, that’s alright.

I’m learning and I’m  happy seeing images I’ve captured. I had such a beautiful weekend up North in my favorite National Park. Summer is winding down, and it’s currently raining outside. I’m wearing a grey angora sweater and cashmere socks and I can now drink hot tea and I am in love with this weather. I like taking walks just after the rain stops, when it’s slightly misty out and people aren’t wandering around because it’s still not right.

A little peek at where I’ve been

I joined a gym.

I’ve been working so much I have to in order to sleep well or get any semblance of adrenaline going. I love having something to do after work, and I feel better already, even after only a week of going.

I also received a beautiful, sleek, almost professional grade Epson V700 scanner as a graduation from university gift.

And it’s amazing.

I’m definitely still getting the hang of it but I am definitely in love.

I can’t wait to be able to shoot my pictures and still be able to scan them in myself. It’s very gratifying to do so!

These are some shots from Glacier National Park. I want to film a series like Twin Peaks there, except among the hotel staff and the guests. It’s perfect, don’t you think?

Montana Winters

Winter here was long and cruel. It was colder than any I’ve ever experienced.

But it also made me feel alive. One night I didn’t realize it was -65F with windchill and walked over a mile to my favorite bar. Halfway through I couldn’t feel my legs. My cheeks were red and I am surprised my face didn’t have frostbite.

Winter tests you. It makes sure you’re ready. It makes you worthy. You learn to get good boots and gloves and you get used to slipping and sliding through intersections. You ready yourself for school with 4+ layers of wool, fur, and cotton, topping it all off with down. Hats become necessary and the windows have frost on the inside.

Here are some bits of my December in the midst of our winter. I sat on my bed with Chris playing with lenses. We meandered all over the lake in Helena. My sister and I ate pies. My father ice fished for the beautiful, delicious rainbow trout that circle the lake. We went hunting and I shot my own goose and later plucked it.

Winter.

 

 

The Cape: A look back

In about a month I’m heading back to Cape Cod for a glorious week. I’m stopping off in Boston for two days to see Exa, and then I’m off on the ferry for some good old adventure in a beautiful place!

People think Cape Cod and think polos, boats, gin, beaches, stripes and polka-dots, old money, nice cars, proper WASP breeding.

I think when my family arrives we sort of are the antithesis of this. We get a rental car at Logan, dress in whatever we bring from Montana, and show up to our little bungalow with questionable electric wiring. The yard is covered in pine needles. There’s not a dishwasher or a dryer so we hang out clothes in the backyard, where it takes over 24 hours for things to dry because of how humid it is.

We take outdoor showers at night while moths crowd the porch light. Soft moss grows in the patio cracks. The beach is a short walk away and sand is in the cracks in the house. The first time you slip into bed the sheets almost feel damp and you think, “I’m back.” It’s very different from Montana. People aren’t as friendly or open. The smells are all different- salt, sand, and greenery all inhabit your nostrils. Rain patters at night, and the mornings are chilled.

I like going in May when people haven’t arrived yet, when the beaches aren’t crowded, and when the baby plovers run in and out of the beach scrub early in the morning.

The “bad” frames

My Argus Argoflex E is about 70-75 years old. It’s sturdy and pretty light, but I wasn’t used to working without a light meter, and didn’t carry one with me.

This meant that many of my frames weren’t properly exposed, or I didn’t time them right. Or I was moving too quickly to focus accurately (bugger). Nonetheless, I don’t see these as wasted frames. They’re learning frames. There’s no way every frame in a roll will be a worthwhile one, or that it will be impeccably framed, focused, and composed. Sometimes they’ll be downright awful.

To me, these are still awesome. They have memories attached. I was fumbling around, dashing, trying to keep up, or having trouble figuring out the intricacies that every camera presents when getting to know it. Especially this one!