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Betty and I are off venturing in the foothills of Northern California on the beginning of another screening tour. One of the things we like best about traveling like this is how we get to see so much of the US that we might not be able to visit otherwise. We get to meet people we probably would never have met. We get to shoot video and take photographs. We get to SEE.
The last few days we’ve conducted a prolonged and detailed discussion about film and video and photography, something we seem to do a lot. Each of us is toting around multiple cameras and we have been taking in and recording what we have discovered. Beside our screenings, paramount on the agenda have been a couple of days shooting photos in the Mono Lake Basin and Yosemite country. We are old travelers in this part of the world but remain amazed and hypnotized by nature’s variety. Tufa tubes like soft, crumbling teeth, and new aspen leaves the color of Bearss limes, snowy peaks far above the tree line, ice on the high meadow tarns, spots of dirty snow (it’s a dry year here and the portents are for FIRE).
On Wednesday, Mono Lake wore a variety of hues, some like high mountain lakes in Idaho, some reminding me of the Mediterranean off the southwest coast of Majorca in the channel between Isla Dragonera and the fishing village of Sant Elm. Besides dental imagery, the tufa formations reminded me of hoodoos in the south of Utah and as Betty says, the ancient remains of Roman villas on the west coast of Italy.
In Yosemite, the moisture content is dangerously low and the threat of fire will hang over the Sierra until major rain/snow shows up and drops heavy doses of relief. Despite the lack of snow, the meadows are the color of fresh mornings and the waterfalls thunder and thump, throwing echoes into the walls of the canyons.
Some of the conflict between film photography and digital photography just got resolved around our outfit. We used to shoot film. Then we put our old Pentax K1000 film cameras away with all the lenses and the accoutrements of a past artistic age and moved on to digital cameras which we have to upgrade. Upgrade. Upgrade because the ones we own right now just…they just don’t….they just can’t…we don’t like….
We got our K1000s reworked, renewed; bought some film…yes it still exists…and we’ve been taking photos of the country with our new old cameras. Black and white film is our milieu and that means it is about form and shape and shades of gray. It’s also about planning the shot, thinking of aperture and shutter speed and light, things that you think of too with digital, but film is finite in a number of ways—how many shots on a roll, how much they cost—not like digital where you just throw away what you don’t like at no apparent cost, although I suspect that with the act of shooting a photo there is a cost in time and effort and something more that cannot be regained, something about artistic moments lost and never again showing up. Because each moment, each shadow, each glint of light on a distant piece of quartz, the osprey pair on the tufa formations, the coyote at Glacier Point, the mule deer in Yosemite Valley, all these things in composite will not occur again, just the same way, in our short lives. Too, with film there is something very satisfying about the sound of the film advancing and the click the shutter makes when you take that photo. Digital doesn’t do that although they try to make the cameras so that they might sound that way. But it is not the same.
We still shoot digital too, and especially if the scene, like Half Dome over the rush of Merced River rapids, is about the vibrant colors of May in the mountains, yellows and greens and blues, not black and white and gray. We use our cell phones too and shoot both still and video. Hopefully we will look at what we have created as not just shooting photos for the act of shooting photos, but shooting photos for the aesthetic. For what it means, whether black and white or red and blue, or digital or film or….
This is the season of remembrance and I suppose as we get older we can expect our opportunities to mourn and grieve to line up and bang at our metaphorical portals. This one is a bit tardy, but nevertheless, I choose to now write my remembrances. Last summer Betty and I were traveling in the [...]
It seems like whenever I think it may be time to move on from Idaho and experience some other part of the world that moment of indecision coincides with a trip to the one-hundred-five-year-old Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding environs in southeastern Oregon. The country there is a mix of high sage and bitterbrush [...]
The red in the rocks to the north of where we stood bled like rusty paint into the juniper-piñon green. To the south and west, the chalky white buttes and ridges jutted and alternately reminded me of the ends of white spuds and crumbling teeth from a shark’s jaw fossil. The streets in the little [...]
Wednesday Betty and I drove from Boise to Moscow, Idaho, and Pullman, Washington, via US Highway 95. Well, not all the way; the first hundred or so miles we journeyed along Idaho Highway 55 through Horseshoe Bend, up the Payette River Canyon into the high long valley that runs through Cascade, Donnelly and McCall, Idaho [...]
Betty and I are going north to Moscow, Idaho, to screen our documentary film BRAVO! and as always, the prospect of traveling to a new location leaves me with—besides a sense of elation—a sense of trepidation…sort of, anyway. Not that I am on edge like I would be if I had to travel to Syria [...]
But then I did eat lobster. Not one of those big sea-bottom bugs that cleans all the trash off the floor of the ocean. The bug-eyed wavy-feelered gout-creating sea-bottom bug. My lobster came disguised as chowder and seafood filling for a wrap. I finally gave in to the push push push to eat lobster bugs [...]
I am sitting here in central Maine thinking about radiant hardwoods that glow like neon in the waning light of evening. Brilliant, possessive reds and oranges and yellows crowd my inner vision, but we are in Maine too early, so the only colors here are summer green and the hinted ends of the maples barely [...]
Yesterday the blue in the sky acted like a magnet, dragging me into the puffed-wheat world of clouds. The road bored into a thick hardwood forest. The humidity and temperature pitied my dry-skinned Idaho-ness and remained in the realm of comfort. Betty and I showed at Shiloh battlefield early, before the midday Sunday visitor rush [...]