October 5, 2012 § 16 Comments
About a week ago, I got in contact with Daniel Rodrigue, the journalism & photography instructor at Brookhaven College. He had seen a post about the PolaWalk that I was hosting at the State Fair and after a brief telephone conversation, we decided to meet up. When we did, he and I instantly clicked. We’re both like-minded individuals and the passion that we share for instant photography is one in the same. During our meeting, he asked me if I would mind talking to his students at his Photography 1 class about instant film & The Impossible Project. After some thought, I quickly agreed and it was decided that I’d meet with them the following Tuesday.
I messaged The Impossible Project and they were ecstatic that I had the opportunity to help spread the word about instant film and would send some promotional material for the students. I was really excited for the students and also very grateful for the opportunity from Daniel.
I’m not a public speaker. However, I’ve been inspired to talk a lot about this medium. It’s moved me in a way that no other facet of photography has. It’s incredibly unique and the company that provides it, is just as much.
Following my meeting with Daniel and my conversations with TIP, I wrote a three page introduction about the company and its films; history, how to use it, special techniques and finally, closed it with a little bit of motivation to help spread the word.
Tuesday came along and I was fully prepared with everything that was needed. I had a handful of cameras to show & use, Impossible Project film, an emulsion/lift transfer kit with examples, cork boards filled with many of my favorites Impossible images and finally, the confidence needed to pull this off. This was my FIRST public speaking event. I would by lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I woke up very early that day and was hyping myself up all morning. I knew I had the knowledge to give them, but more importantly, I hoped that some of the inspiration I’ve gotten from using instant film would rub off on them.
When I got to Brookhaven, Daniel was all smiles and very excited for his students. I brought in my box of goodies, gave Daniel a poster from The Impossible Project and started organizing all of the material. Students eventually started to make their way into class, and I could tell many of them were enthralled with some of the images I brought. It made me happy and also was a little calming to see the excitement that was brewing.
Ten-thirty rolled around and I began the class. I started off talking about why I like instant film, how it’s completely different than using digital and the ways it can help improve your skill set. One of the main reasons I love instant film, is that it forces you to slow down. When every shot really counts and burning images, like one does with digital isn’t an option, you think about EVERYTHING (light, exposure, composition, the development temperature, etc.) You inherently become a better shooter because of this. Doing this day in and day out, with every image you take, increases your awareness of what is needed for a successful image and improves on your ability to take great images. Slowing down helps you to produce quality images a lot more frequently.
I had an hour for this portion of the class and I was going to meet back up with the photography club at 3 o’clock to show them how to perform emulsion transfers & lifts. At this point, I had talked and answered questions for about 20 minutes, shown them various cameras that I use, but I really wanted to get some cameras & film into the hands of these people. Sometimes seeing & feeling what it’s like to shoot instant film, is what it really takes to push people past the tipping point. I went over how to shield their images, how to shoot the camera and off they went! The energy was palpable!
Armed with a handful of Polaroid One Steps, some PX-680 CP and PX600 film, the students ran outside and started snapping away! Daniel and I raced around, trying to find the groups of budding photographers that were snapping off instant film as if it were going out of style. Integral film was blazing out of these cameras. It was a sight to see! Many of the other students around campus were looking and I’m sure wondering “Why did I not take a photography class? Polaroids?!? ” Strangers were walking up to Daniel asking him what was going on. It was greatness!
Enjoy some of the images they took …
– Students, if you would like credit for the images you took, please email me and describe which one/s are yours and I will add credit (first & last name) to your image –
Some of the images I took of the action …
Unfortunately, it was nearing the end of the hour and the students had to get to their next class. We found most of them and regrouped for a quick photo.
I asked the students if they would mind if I held onto to some of the photos to scan for a blog post. All of them wanted to keep them (of course) but I assured them that I would bring them back within a couple of days. We spread out an assortment of photos that were taken and took a quick snapshot ..
Later on in the afternoon, I taught their photography club how to do emulsion transfers & lifts. I had made a few examples at my house a few days earlier.
Once everyone had arrived, we arranged some trays in a sink and I started showing them how to perform a transfer. For most, if not all of them, this was the first time they had seen anything like this. I really enjoy seeing people’s expressions, when they see the emulsion become detached from the plastic cover of integral film. Most jaws are usually dropped once the emulsion starts to separate. It looks like an octopus underwater! I wave my arms around, with octopus-like motions, or what I think an octopus-like motion looks like ;-), when I describe the process.
After I had finished teaching the photography club, one of the students, Scott Mitchell, asked me if he could take my portrait for an article he was writing. He was going to pitch it to the school’s newspaper later on in the week. He wanted an image of me, with an assortment of Polaroids taken in their studio. I dragged the box of cameras in, arranged them on a prop table and he snapped this pic …
I had the most amazing time teaching these students. I wouldn’t have done this, if it hadn’t have been for my enormous love for instant photography. I want to infect people, like a virus, with the passion that I have for instant film.
A giant TEXAS-SIZED shout out to Impossible for providing such an incredible product. I can’t express enough, how incredibly happy each of them were during this whole process. Your film just makes people smile and brings joy into this world. Instant photography is so special. I haven’t met ONE person that doesn’t appreciate its value. THANK YOU for enabling me to give the gift of your product to these students. I have no doubt that I have impacted and inspired them. I am forever grateful …
September 18, 2012 § 6 Comments
Last weekend, Synthia and I went to the ranch to photograph Erica Perry’s bridal & promo photos. When we were finished, we headed up to Synthia’s parents house to celebrate her niece’s b-day. While we were visiting, her mom told us that she had an old 35mm camera at the dentist office that she wanted to give us. The three of us cruised up the road and rummaged around the attic and found the camera; a Yashica inter-oral macro camera. The lens has an inner ring flash and is fixed to the body (pretty cool, needs an odd battery). While we were up there, Synthia’s mom mentioned that they might have an old Polaroid too. She went searching through some boxes and dug up a Polaroid Macro 5 SLR. I quickly figured out that this could use Impossible’s Spectra film.
The excitement was buzzing through me! Macros with a Polaroid??? I’d probably seen one of these in the past, but I’d never realized what it could do. With a SX-70, the closest you can focus is 10 inches. Being able to focus closer, provides a whole new realm of creativity to dive into.
When I got back home, I searched online and found the Polaroid Macro 5’s manual. There are 5 different distances in which you can focus the camera; 52, 26, 10, 5 and 3 inches. You press the shutter down 1/2 way and it emits two dots of light from the camera. As you bring the image into focus, the dots intersect and overlap each other; a dual-light rangefinder. There are two flashes on either side of the lens (which you can toggle on & off separately) and there’s also an external PC port on the camera, so you can slave flashes off-camera.
For those that are going to try any off-camera flash photography, you’ll find the following chart useful. You should note, that the Polaroid Macro 5 has a fixed shutter speed of 1/50th. For proper exposures using off-camera flash, you’ll need to use a handheld flash meter to figure out the right output for your strobes/flashes.
The first image I shot, cliche yes, was of Synthia’s eye. I wanted to get a feel for just how close this thing could focus. I set the Macro 5 to focus at its closest distance (3 inches), kept the exposure at neutral with the flashes on, and snapped the photo.
Later on, I went to Archinal Camera to show my friend Robert the newest acquisition. He’s got a TON of old cameras on a shelf above his desk. I grabbed an old Kodak camera and snapped another macro for the blog.
Afterwards, I went to my brother’s house and snapped a photo of Edie (my niece). She was hanging out under the kitchen table. I set the focus to 26 inches and started rocking back & forth until she was in focus. She wasn’t too fond of the focusing lights. When the image developed, I noticed a time stamp on top of the photo. I pressed the Mode button on the back until “– — —-” showed up, hoping it would turn off that feature. It did.
What about its off camera flash capabilities?? I set up a Nikon SB-600, set at 1/16th power, about 3 inches away from a dead fly I found. I figured, why not? I set the camera to its closest focusing distance (3 inches) and hooked up some Pocket Wizards. I turned the Macro 5’s internal flashes off and fired a photo.
As stated in the Macro 5’s manual, “Test exposures may be required to determine the correct location and settings for the auxiliary flash unit for correct exposure”. That’s definitely the case. My Sekonic L-358 can only meter up to f/90. I was guesstimating the right output on the SB-600 and the exposure is overexposed. Regardless of the outcome of this photo, it’s pretty nice that you CAN use slaved flashes if you want to venture down that path.
One more test shot with slaved flashes. This time I used a SB-600 & SB-800 and cross lit my Leica M2. I set the focusing distance to 10 inches and tested the flash output with the L-358. It was sitting around f/51-57.
Phew! Talk about a tough camera to shoot with off-camera flash! With a fixed shutter speed of 1/50th and also dealing with an aperture range of f/20 – f/100, it certainly makes it challenging. Now, I haven’t given up on its capabilities yet, however, I think I’ll save this thing for the next time I’m at the Dallas Arboretum. I would imagine this thing would be great for flower & insect macros.
Thanks for reading!
PS – Impossible Project has just announced their newest batch of film. To learn more about the latest advancements CLICK HERE.
September 4, 2012 § 6 Comments
Round three! Impossible improved on its previous version of PX-680 opacification test film and offered another batch to their pioneers to test. This time around, I picked up as many as I could (4 packs).
Luckily, a couple weeks ago, I had picked up a ND4 filter. I don’t have a 680 and/or 690 so this filter was going to come in VERY handy. For any non-photogs reading this, a ND4 filter reduces the amount of light that hits the film by a measurement of “2 stops”. When using a SX-70, a camera optimized for 100 speed film, a ND4 is necessary in order to get proper exposures with 600 speed film. You still have to underexpose, BUT it makes using PX-680 in a SX-70 do-able.
After the four packs of test film arrived, I loaded up the SX-70 and waited on an opportune time to head outside to snap some test images. After dinner, Synthia and I decided to walk around part of White Rock Lake. Killing two birds with one stone; a little bit of exercise & an opportunity to grab a frame …
I used the ND4 filter and cranked the exposure down 2/3’rds of the way. Trusting the ‘black paste’, I ejected it without shielding it, and tucked it away in my bag.
NOTE: When using a ND4 filter with PX-680 film in a SX-70, be aware that the camera is metering for 100 speed film. Exposures might be a little on the long side depending on where and what you are shooting. You’ll see examples of softer images in this blog post. DO NOT think for one second, that PX-680 isn’t sharp. It’s ridiculously crisp.
The following afternoon, I burned a few images on my buddy Mike Hawkins; a brilliant guy & solid friend. He’s been living in Alaska for the past year and just recently got accepted into the Peace Corps. He’s in town for a month before he makes his way out to Vanuatu (between Papa New Guinea & Fiji) to go teach English. Ya .. he’s one of those people 😉
I figured a triptych would suit him well. Hawkins-style; headband, RayBans, some old plaid shirt and his Nalgene. Word.
– Click the image for a larger size –
Later on that evening, Synthia and I went to my grandparents for dinner. When we arrived, it was nearing sunset, so I grabbed the two of them and snapped a couple of photos before it was too dark. You should have seen their faces. They lit up when the image came out of the SX-70. “A Polaroid!!!” Yes, Mema & Papa. That’s how I roll.
That weekend, my wife and I shot a wedding in Carrollton, TX. For almost all of the Impossible images I shot, I used PX-70 COOL, but for one image, I used this test film. There was an elderly couple, that had just finished dancing and I grabbed a quick pic of them as they were walking off the dance floor. I used the MINT flash bar and had it set, as suggested, at 1/2 power. I showed their son the image later on and he was ecstatic that I was going to give the bride & groom a stack of ‘polaroids’ that included this one …
A few days later, I went out to play some disc golf with Hawkins. I snapped one image while we were there. It was nearing twilight, so the light was fading quickly. The exposure was nearly a 1/3 – 1/2 of a second.
Later on during the week, I stopped by our local neighborhood convenient store to grab a drink. I’ve been going here for a good 15+ years and the owners are super friendly. Ryan, the one I seem to talk to the most was working this particular afternoon. As I was paying for my drink, I asked him if he would mind if I took a photo of him with this new test film I had. He smiled and said “Of course!” We stepped outside and I had him sit on the curb in front of the store. Because were we pretty deep in the shade, the exposure was a little long (maybe 1/10th).
After I snapped his photo, I took a quick snapshot of their sign (ND4 & -2/3rd’s). I ejected the film, without shielding it, in direct sunlight. I cruised back up there later on and gave Ryan the images I took. I figured he & his family would appreciate them.
Overall .. WOW! A huuuuuuuuge improvement in the color, compared to the PX-680 V4B that I tested out a month ago. ALL OF THESE images were shot without being shielded, upon ejection. The anti-opacification molecule is working wonders. Granted, if you don’t want a vintage look like the image above has, you might want to shield in direct sunlight. However, having that look as an option just gives you more creative flexibility on the spot. How cool is that?
The only thing I’m wondering is, upon the release of these new films, how long will it be before Impossible reveals the camera they have been working on?
August 24, 2012 § 6 Comments
A new batch of test film via The Impossible Project! This particular batch is PX-70, optimized for use in SX-70 cameras. PX-70 is rated at 125 ASA, where as the PX-680 V4B I tested was rated about 640 ASA. For these tests, I’ll be shooting in various lighting scenarios; in the shade, overcast day, sunny day, indoors, using flash etc.
— The first image I shot was of our boxer, Maybelle. She’s been catching/chewing up sticks & tennis balls in the backyard lately. I shot this with a dark-slide protecting the image from direct light nearing sundown, however when I went back inside and removed the photo, I placed it right side up to develop. I’m guessing, but it looks as if the anti-opacification juice has been ‘upped’ a little bit. As stated on their website, this version of PX-70 does take 35-45 minutes to fully develop.
Off the bat, A HUGE IMPROVEMENT over the PX680 I tested a few weeks ago. The colors that were in the scene are represented very well in this image.
— My wife and I had a portrait shoot in downtown Dallas. While I was in the Arts District, I grabbed a quick photo of the new Museum Tower. When the newsletter came out for this particular test film, Impossible stated that you should “shield from direct sunlight, with little stress if the sun hits it shortly”. It was an overcast morning, and admittedly I was overcautious. I did shield this particular image and tucked it away in a box to develop. I cranked the exposure all the way down and fired away. I checked on it every minute or so for the first 15 minutes and then brought it out into the open light to watch it develop.
— Fair Park: For the following, the image was taken with the exposure dial cranked all the way down and the image was ejected into the open in the shade. The image was exposed to ambient light for about 5-10 seconds, while I flipped it over and tucked it away in a box. There looks to be little difference in the sky, between the image shielded at the Museum Tower and the image of the Texas Star Ferris Wheel.
— I had picked up some flowers for Synthia, so I decided to use them to test the color indoors. I set them near the window and cranked the exposure dial down 2/3’rds of the way on the SX-70. I’m weary of over-exposure; can you tell? For this image, it was shot near a window indoors, without being shielded, and was developed out in the open. To be honest, I would probably focus this a little differently if I had the chance to do it over. In my hurried state of excitement, I just let the autofocus go where it wanted to.
— I went out later to a DART rail station by my house. The sun had just set, so I went ahead and shot the image, cranked 2/3’rds of the way down & unshielded. Once it ejected, I tucked it away in my bag. When I got back to my car (after maybe 2 minutes), I pulled the image out and drove back home.
— Another image grabbed was at a Rangers game. The last time I went to one, I had shot some with a Spectra & some PZ680. This time around, I was happy to have the SX-70 loaded up with this test film 🙂 We had tickets alllllllll the way up top and I snapped an image of the viewpoint. This was shot unshielded @ 2/3’rds dark and was tucked away into a box to develop seconds afterwards.
Unfortunately, since it was an evening game, I didn’t get to shoot as much as I would have liked. The ambient light faded quickly and I decided to NOT test fate on iffy exposures.
— I went up to Zak’s Donuts to snag a quick pic of a donut with sprinkles. It would be a good test of the film’s sharpness. I did the, now, normal routine of shooting it unshielded & tucked it away in the box. I shot this @ 2/3’rds dark, near a window. NOTE: As as I’ve also seen some state online, this particular batch of PX-70 film needs a little more exposure than what you’re used to giving it. I probably could have shot this at 1/2 – 1/3 dark and been OK.
— A quick shot of Synthia at the park. I used the Impossible flash bar by MINT @ 1/2 power and had the exposure dial set in the center. Shot unshielded and tucked away. It’s a little underexposed. I’ll try full power and maybe 1/3’rd dark next time around at this distance.
— We ate at the Crazy Horse Saloon in Rockwall, TX. I snagged this photo just outside the restaurant/bar that’s located in the marina. Synthia suggested to shoot it upside-down. It was a little tricky but not too bad. This image was shot 2/3’rds dark and unshielded.
The last example image shot was the one at the beginning of the article. I used the Impossible Flash Bar at 1/2 power to fire 3 other flashes in a small studio setup. I used two strip boxes and a SB-800 flash to help illuminate the scene. Please excuse the flash stand haha …
If you’ve never shot Impossible Film before, NOW IS THE TIME to get on the wagon. Word on the street is that these versions of their films will be available THIS FALL. Think about it. Pick yourself up any type of Polaroid 600, Spectra, or SX-70 and you’ll be set! Because the newer batches of film aren’t as sensitive to light, all you have to do is tuck the image away within a few seconds to develop, OR if you’re indoors, you can watch it develop! Up until this point, the images have needed a high level of protection in order to keep them safe from ambient light when the initial stages of development had begun. Shielding the film has been a necessity. Very quickly, that level of protection is becoming less & less needed.
August 1, 2012 § 8 Comments
Impossible Project announced to their pioneers last week, that their chief chemist Martin Steinmeijer, had invented a brand new opacification molecule. They said it’s designed to completely absorb light as the photograph exits the camera and remains colorless and transparent once the image has fully developed. TIP also stated “this new molecule is as powerful as the molecule used in the original Polaroid materials and for the first time will allow you to take your Impossible photographs without the need of immediate shielding.” THIS is what everyone has been waiting for.
I received the pioneer newsletter in my email one morning, and when I saw how fast the packs were going, I snagged two of them (limit of 4). I was going to wait, but I’m so glad I didn’t … they sold all 400 packs available in the states, in under 30 minutes. When the film came in the mail a few days later, I was pretty excited. This was the first time I’d been able to test a new batch of film … I ripped open the package.
I didn’t have a Polaroid 680/690 to shoot this film with, nor did I have a ND4 filter to slap on the SX-70 .. but I did have a Polaroid One Step Flash that had been sitting on my shelf. I figured I’d shoot a variety of subjects with the OneStepFlash, the RB67 and possibly the SX-70+ND2 lit by the mid-day sun, indoor on-camera flash, studio strobes, ambient light, long-exposures etc.
I loaded up the first pack of film and headed out with Synthia. We ended up going to the Design District Gallery Day to check out some new photographs that were at PDNB. I was going to snag some photos but it was 106 outdoors and nothing really looked worthy enough. We ended up cruising up the road to one of my favorite overlooks of downtown. Over the past couple of months, I had come here to snag two other impossible photos on an overcast day and in the evening. I jumped out of the car, cranked the exposure down & fired off a shot with the OneStepFlash. WITHOUT SHIELDING THE PHOTO, it ejected into the blazin’ sun when it was still 100+ degrees. During the ride home, the photo developed out in the open & in my lap for about 30 minutes (at 80ish degrees I would imagine).
Regarding the color you’ll see in these images, TIP stated “these packs are not yet fully optimized for color performance .. it is still being worked on at this time .. the focus was on the opacification layer.”
My friend JV had met up with us to check out the gallery, so after we got back home, I set up a few lights and took a picture of him. Don’t look too serious now buddy … 😉
I shot this particular impossible photo on the RB67. After I shot it, I went to a dark closet to extract the photo, put it in an empty PX-70 pack and slid it fully inside the SX-70. Then I brought the SX-70 out into a lit room, closed the front .. *camera ejects film* .. and BAM – opacification molecules doing their ‘thang’ in the light. It sat on a table for 25 minutes developing in the office.
Later on in the weekend, I figured a test of the highlights, and how the film handled harsh on-camera-flash would be good to have. I snapped a pic of Maybelle indoors (by enticing her with treats) and walked the exposed picture over to an area I had set up by the window. I shot a stop-motion video sequence with the D700 so I could show how the picture developed. I snapped a photo every 5-10 seconds over a 25 minute period, but admittedly it was probably every 3-5 once the development started to kick in. The image is about as good as I would expect from a OneStep indoors, with a bright blaring flash .. *poor Maybelle .. she got lots of love after being temporarily blinded*
The next day, I ended up experimenting a little bit and extracted a test photo *in the darkroom*, slid it inside an empty Spectra pack and loaded up my Spectra AF. Why not?
I went up the road and snagged a quick photo of a donut shop. The sun was probably a little behind me to my left and it was 4 o’clock. I shot it with an even exposure. When I got back home, I went back into the closet to do the impossible shuffle and again, brought the camera out to eject the photo into the light to test the new opacification molecule.
One thing I have noticed, is that the level of goopyness in the shadows isn’t as pronounced as it has been in the past. In previous versions of their films, there were blobs and a splotchiness to the images (which honestly I liked) which is not prevalent in these test packs.
I liked the outcome of the first Spectra image, so I loaded up another shot and went out later to test a long exposure. I ended up cruising to The Dog Stop; a place I ate at years ago with my wife one day. I set the Spectra up on a tripod and bumped the exposure up 1/3rd of the way; it was about a second or two as I recall. I drove back home and did the impossible shuffle yet again, so the image could develop in the light.
The following day, I stuck with the theme of ‘random-buildings-i-have-always-wanted-to-shoot-but-never-have’ around the area and snapped another photo with the Spectra.
OK – Enough with the building photos ..
I loaded up the PX680-V4B in my SX-70 and swung by the lake. The sun had just set and there was this incredible light on the lake (isn’t that always the case ;-)). I cranked the exposure dial all the way down and hoped for the best …
Again, less goopy-ness in the shadows. It does look like the overall quality of the highlights & shadows are improving. It seems, like in this image, it’s getting a little less gunked up and is rendering smoother tonal gradations. Now with that said, I love the gunk/funk of the old images. That’s part of what makes those old-gen, 12/11, NIGO and other variations so cool. I just like it gunky.
EDIT: One more from the RB …
Same thing. Did the impossible shuffle to extract the photo and get it into the SX-70, however, after I ejected the photo in the light, I stowed it away, a few seconds afterwards, in a box for the duration of the development @ 75 degrees.
Overall, it looks to be a massive improvement in the way their films can handle direct ambient indoor light & outdoor light once the image has started its development. The Impossible chemists have been trying to solve the opacification issue for a while. Soon in the near future, as I did with these, you WILL NOT HAVE TO SHIELD THE PHOTO as it ejects from the camera. This is a HUGE step forward. There will be no need to teach shielding techniques to new shooters, nor will there be a need to convince them that all the hassle is worth it. For the average person, who might want something special beyond a digital snapshot, this is a massive leap in their direction. Convincing them to use Impossible Project film will be a hell of a lot easier, when shielding the film isn’t a necessity. Bravo Impossible .. Bravo.
July 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
About a month ago, I was browsing the internet and came across Paul Giambarba’s website. Giambarba, is the graphic designer that created Polaroid’s iconic product identity. I read an article about the integral role he played in the branding of Polaroid and after reading it, I was so inspired by the designs he created, I rummaged around the house for materials and recreated one.
Since I’ve been back from our recent trip to Aspen, I’ve been pondering what to photograph and have had the itch to use the RB67 with some Impossible film. I picked up some PX-70 NIGO this month, and had a few images left from a pack I shot at the ranch. With the NIGO film, I’ve been carefully sneaking peeks at the colors as I’ve been shooting it, and I knew that an orange-framed photo about to surface.
I started to look through old Polaroid ads online and came across a strikingly simple image of a folded-up SX-70 partially pulled out of its case. A couple months ago, I picked up a first model SX-70 w/ case at an estate sale and knew that I had the equipment to recreate this image. The lighting aspect of it is quite simple. You only need one flash/strobe & a snoot w/ grids to light the subject.
I put together a quick studio setup and placed the camera on a piece of black foam core board. I boomed up a flash with a homemade snoot/grid and I dialed in the exposure with the D700. Once I had the light just right, I went to position the RB, but it turned out to be a little tricky. Of course when viewing the image, it was reversed. But even more challenging, because I was shooting vertically, the camera/subject was actually upside down when I was looking at it.
It took some time before I was ready to pull the trigger, but when I finally was, I did the Impossible/RB67 shuffle and created this image.
It seemed it wasn’t complete without text, so I photoshopped a scan from something Impossible I had in my house and overlaid it in CS. You can see the image here.
From my limited experience with TIP & flash, I am enjoying the level of control you have over the highlights in a ‘studio setting’. Metering scenes and knowing exactly how much juice I’m giving the negative always makes for a more consistent outcome. I look forward to the day that Impossible creates their own analog camera and I really hope it has manual settings and flash-sync capability …
Thanks for reading.
July 16, 2012 § 11 Comments
We decided the night before, that we’d wake up early on Sunday and take the jeep to check out The Crystal Mill. From Aspen, it takes about an hour to get to Marble and the mill is 5 miles outside of town, only accessible by way of the Crystal River Jeep Trail. I’ve seen it books in the past and have always wanted to see it in person. After it was built in 1893, it used a water turbine to power an air compressor, for use in silver ore processing at two nearby mines. The drive in was gorgeous, but was no comparison to what was in store. Once we reached it, we were stunned!
I ran around like a nut snapping pictures with the SX-70, Leica and the Polaroid 100 (for an emulsion-transfer collage). We stayed there for the better part of an hour and when we were about to leave, two jacked-up jeeps came roaring around a bend in the road and parked by us. One of the drivers hopped out and started walking towards us and Kat asked him if there were other roads to take besides the one we drove in on. He smiled. “It depends on where you want to go. You can go all the way to Crested Butte if you like. But if you’re trying to get back to Marble, if you take this road just past the town of Crystal, the Lead King Basin trail will loop around and take you back into town. If you’ve never done it before, it is totally worth it. A little sketchy at times, with some challenging switchbacks and steps (he motioned his hands to represent about a foot’s height), but if you take it slow you’ll be fine.”
As soon as Kat confirmed some of the more important turns on the route, we hopped back in the jeep and drove up the road into the quasi-ghost town of Crystal, CO. The town (10 or so homes & structures) is only occupied in the summer, as it’s completely uninhabitable in the winter. When we drove into Crystal, it was a sight that I had always imagined but had never seen. Nestled deep in the Rocky Mountains, was this little slice of heaven .. an outdoor-lover’s paradise. We pulled up a bit but then we all decided, for the sake of time, we’d backtrack our way in. We busted a U and I snagged a quick frame of one of the homes on some PX-70 NIGO film.
When we drove back towards the Crystal Mill, the gent we had talked to earlier was standing near the middle of the road. He raised his arms in the air, put his hands on his hips and had a look of total disbelief. Kat chuckled and said “Oh lord, the Sheriff of Crystal …” He started shaking his head .. “I’m telling you guys, it’ll only tack on 30 minutes to your route. We’ll be right behind you if you come into a problem. We’re headed up the Schofield Pass, but we’ll be taking Lead King Basin on our way out.”
You just have to go with the flow sometimes. We busted another U and went back up the road into Crystal. As we were driving through the town, we passed a couple of kids who were playing with their dog, aptly named Crystal. The last home was deep inside a giant grove of Aspens before a fork in the road. As soon as we passed through the town, we all knew the man was correct; this was the way to go.
To the right was the trail to Crested Butte and to the left was our trail. In between the fork, was a giant sign that read “Extremely Rough Road Ahead – Vehicle Traffic Discouraged – 4×4 with Experienced Drivers and Narrow Wheel Base Only”. Kristina asked Kat “Uhh .. Kat? Are you an experienced driver?” “Yes, Kristina.”
It took us about 2 hours to drive 8 miles in some of the prettiest parts of Colorado I have ever seen …
When we went through Marble earlier on our way to the Crystal Mill, we passed a barbecue joint; Slow Groovin’ BBQ. We all were starving by this point, so we stopped in for some grub & beer.
When the first round of brews arrived, we saluted Kat’s driving abilities and then sat back and enjoyed the Colorado summer day. After some pretty tasty BBQ topped off with a root-beer float, we started to make our way to the Yule Marble Quarry. It only took about 10 minutes to get there, but when we arrived, it was yet another spectacular view.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. We headed back to the house, to enjoy one last evening of hanging out before we had to leave in the AM. Due to a little bit of car trouble we had during the week (no road trip is complete without right?), we left a little later than we wanted to. As we were driving through the mountains on the way back, we both had that “why don’t we live here?” feeling. It’s just so nice in Colorado …
The drive out of the mountains was beautiful. Even though it was a little chilly, I rolled down the windows so I could breathe in the crisp mountain air one more time. I stopped a few times to take some snapshots …
When we passed through Westcliffe, about 30 miles outside, everyone was being stopped. Construction workers were telling everyone to turn around because the road had been washed out by a storm. The lady directing traffic told us that we’d have to go back into Westcliffe, and then make our way back up to Colorado City (about 60 miles away) to get towards I-25. She said from there, it would take about 20-30 minutes to get to the highway. Boo.
Synthia and I rode quietly in the car together for about an hour until we crested over a one of the mountains in the San Isabel National Forest. To my right, was something I hadn’t seen in years; The Bishop Castle. About 25 years ago, my family used to occasionally come to Colorado in the summer, to stay near Wescliffe. We had taken this route at one point, and I vaguely remembered visiting this castle as a kid. One man, Jim Bishop, has built this castle by himself over the past 40+ years …
As a scale reference, there is a man on top of the right tower in the image above …
Once the initial excitement of seeing this structure wore off, we hopped back in the car and made our way towards I-25 ..
We merged onto the highway and cruised down to Raton, NM. When we started heading east towards Dumas, we drove right into a rainstorm ..
After a while the storms gave way, and we drove the 400-ish miles we had left on our journey through the clear of the night …
It was a trip that I will remember for a lifetime. Synthia and I can’t thank Kristina and Kat enough for showing us such an incredible time, yet again, in Colorado. We love you guys so much!
BTW, Impossible Project – A big thank you to the chemistry of your product; from the way the film “sees” a scene, to the soft colors, to the painterly quality of the images, to the rich analog life it has .. all make me crave its photographic substance a little more. Diving deeper into instant photography is something I do not regret. Thank you for making such a quality product and for the inspiration.
July 13, 2012 § 2 Comments
The following day, we decided to drive up Aspen Mountain to play some frisbee golf. When we got to the top, the signs read “highest disc golf course in the world!”. At 11,200 feet, it was an awesome place to play some disc. The course had 18 holes which zig-zagged their way down & up the side of the mountain.
We ended up playing about 1/2 of the course and then decided to walk over to The Sundeck to take a break.
When we were finished, we took the jeep down the backside of the mountain towards Hunter Creek Rd. to get back into town.
We eventually parted ways and Synthia and I decided to go up Independence Pass to check out the Lost Man Lake trail. The trail goes up to two lakes, Independence and Lost Man, which are near the top of the continental divide. We started at the Roaring Fork Trailhead and once we walked in about 1000 feet, it was like we had stepped into another part of the world. Dense, lush, spongy landscape rich with wildflowers and moss covered rocks. Just beautiful …
This was one of many moments on this trip, in which I was really glad we brought our boxer with us. Seeing her run up and down the trail, prancing around was a sight to see. She was so happy!
While we were en route, we could see a few people alongside a ridge about another mile up the trail. That was our goal. I knew that over that distant ridge was either Lost Man Lake or at the very least, an amazing view. Once we got to Independence Lake, we knew that Lost Man was just over the ridge. We passed a hiker on the way up, and mentioned something about it being our first time on the trail. A broad smile appeared, and he assured us that the view the first time, was something we’d never forget … he was SO right. When we reached the top, I was completely wowed. All I could do was stumble around in awe, as I gawked at the wondrous display of nature that was before me. We stayed up there for a good 30-45 minutes, just soaking it in …
It was nearing 7 o’clock and some storms started rolling in. We put on some parkas and made our way back down the trail. We were supposed to have dinner at Steakhouse 316 with Kristina and Kat at 9, so it was a good thing the impending storm nudged us along.
Dinner was scrumdiddlyumptious! If you’re ever in the Aspen area, you have got to go check this place out. Kat is the ridiculously talented executive chef at Steakhouse 316, and everything, I mean EVERYTHING she makes is fantastic. Hands down .. the things she has cooked has been some of the best food I’ve had in my life. The four of us enjoyed a delicious spread at the restaurant which included jumbo lump crab cakes and savory steaks, along with many highly delectable sides. By the time we finished our food, they were closing down so we walked back home to relax the rest of the evening …
Synthia: Relaxed? We actually went home to enjoy our 4th bottle of wine …
To be continued …
July 12, 2012 § 4 Comments
The next morning, Kristina & Synthia went to breakfast while Kat went to do some prep-work at the restaurant. I took the jeep out and cruised up to The Grottos to check out the ice cave. When we visited last year in June, the entrance was blocked with ice and there wasn’t a path. I was anxious to see if there was a clear route through the ice this time around. Luckily, there was and I made my way down and crawled inside …
Later on that day, I found some info on this cave in Hiking Colorado’s Geology ebook online. “The Grottos formed when the Roaring Fork River was swollen with meltwater from receding Ice Age glaciers about 15,000 years ago. The meltwater coursed over the granitic bedrock carrying rocks and other debris that sculpted the cavern’s walls through abrasive action. Today, the river has abandoned the channel through the Grottos, leaving behind a slot canyon with windows open to the sky. Unlike most caverns, which are created where limestone is dissolved by water, the Grottos are carved in solid Precambrian granitic rock (1.4 billion-year-old quartz monzonite).”
Once I was done chillin’ in the ice cave, I walked around for a bit and eventually sat down at this bench to watch the cascades …
I made my way back down the mountain and met up with Kristina & Synthia at Victoria’s coffee shop. By the time I downed the best Cafe Mocha I’ve had in my life .. literally, Kat had cruised up on her bike. Maybe it was the coffee, but I was antsy to get back out there and ‘do something’ but Kristina & Synthia were content just hanging out sippin’ on their wine (I can’t particularly blame them now can I?). Something about hiking the Ute Trail was mentioned, and both Kat and I decided that was a good idea.
We brought the dogs with us, Diego & Maybelle, and made our way to the trailhead. Kristina & Kat had both warned me that this hike was BRUTAL … I had no idea. It was literally like being on a stair-master for almost an hour .. intense. The hike is about a mile up and you gain 1,300 feet of elevation during the hike.
The whole way up, we were both huffin’ and puffin’, but as we passed people who were hiking down, they all said the view was completely worth it. Kat mentioned, that there are people that have lived their whole life in Aspen and have never made it to the top. A shame, considering the stunning view that awaits its victors …
Unfortunately, it started to rain and Kat had to make it back into work. We hauled booty back down the ever-increasing slippery trail, but by the time we got back to the jeep, the rain was letting up.
Once we got back to the casa, Synthia had made a picnic dinner for the two of us and wanted to go lay out somewhere to enjoy the scenery .. uhh Ya! 🙂
I wanted to show her the ice cave, so we drove back to The Grottos and made our way up to this great little nook at the top of the cascades. It was away from the traffic of most of the visitors and to be honest, we saw maybe 10 people in the 3 hours that we were there.
When we got back, I ‘pulled the old man card’ and relaxed the rest of the evening. I had to get a jump start on writing about our trip 🙂 Synthia eventually met up with K&K when they got off work, and the ladies came giggling back after the bars closed.
To be continued …
July 11, 2012 § 6 Comments
A road trip to Aspen. Two of my favorite people, Kristina & Kat, are fortunate enough to live there and my wife and I have visited them a couple of times since they moved. We have vowed to make the trip every year at least once. If you drive to Aspen it’s about ~ 16 hours from Dallas, but totally worth it. Granted, it takes 10 hours to get out of Texas, but who cares .. the last 6 are filled with an inspiring landscape worthy of any road trip. Colorado just makes you feel so good. Being there replenishes my soul ..
The plan was to leave on Tuesday night, July 3rd. We’d drive through the evening, take a nap for a few hours in Raton, NM and then hit the road again. Luckily, the adrenaline of being on a road trip usually just keeps me going. We decided to take Maybelle, one of our dogs, with us. She’s a 2 1/2 year old boxer and we knew that she would have the time of her life up there.
I brought a variety of cameras with me; a Leica M2, a Polaroid Sonar SX-70, a Polaroid 100 Land Camera and a Mamiya C330. For film, I brought some PX-70 COOL & NIGO, Kodak Ektar 100, Fuji Acros 100 & Adox CMS 20. 🙂 Synthia brought her Spectra SE and her grab bag of Spectra film. She’s been shooting a lot with it and is loving the black frame PZ600. It has this really cool vintage look and it ended being a perfect fit for the images she shot on this trip.
We packed all of the other essentials and ended up leaving at 7 o’clock. After we drove 6 hours and made it into Amarillo, we chose to just make the push to Aspen without stopping, and took turns driving and sleeping through the night. I can’t believe we had it in us to drive straight to Aspen from Dallas.
Once we got over Independence Pass and were making our way into town, we stopped at a grove of trees and Synthia snapped this killer B&W shot with some black frame PZ600 …
Our little Scion arrived in Aspen at 11am, just enough time to take a quick shower and find a spot to relax before the July 4th parade started. The four of us sat down at Hunters Bar and enjoyed some good ol’ fashioned ‘merican food (beer, burgers & dogs) while watching the parade from a distance. We both snuck up for a couple of frames of the festivities …
After the parade was over, Kristina and Kat had to head into work so Synthia and I went back to their place and passed out. When we woke up from our much needed nap, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat.
We ended up going to New York Pizza. Last year, I had met a local photographer by the name of Michael Brands there when I was in town. He had mentioned that his friend had just opened up a photography gallery in Aspen called The Nugget that was worth checking out. I made a point to stop in again this year to show Synthia and to introduce myself to the owner, Ross. When we walked inside, there were some fantastic photo-realistic paintings that a friend of his was showing. We started talking photography and about 1/2 way through our conversation, I asked him if he still shot instant film and if he had heard of The Impossible Project. He had not 🙂 I filled him in on the details and his interest seemed to pique when I mentioned that Impossible was now making 8×0 film as well. Later in the evening, when Synthia and I were walking around, she chuckled and said that TIP needs to hire me as a spokesman for their product. I’m practically an evangelist for them! But you know what? They deserve all of the positive press they can get.
The next morning, we all woke up and hiked part of Lost Man Loop. We probably hiked about an hour or so before turning around. It was a great warm up for us and I’m glad we ended up taking it a little easy. I think Synthia and I were still a little beat from the drive and adjusting to the altitude.
After we got back, we were starving so we all ordered some grub from The Big Wrap. Kat recommended I have the Babs-E-Que and I’m so glad I did .. it was CRAZY good! Apparently this joint is packed all the time and rightfully so.
When the ladies went off to work, Synthia and I took their jeep out and drove up Hunter Creek Rd. to the ghost town of Ashcroft.
We had snowshoed right by this place in Feburary of 2011. To see it again in the summer was really cool. The town sprung up in in the early 1880’s when there was a silver boom in the area. At its peak, there were about 2,000 people living and working there. The mines initially produced 14,000 ounces of silver to the ton, but unfortunately for Ashcroft, it turned out to just be shallow deposits. As quickly as it boomed, Ashcroft went a bust.
After a little while, a family met up with us and asked Synthia to snap a photo with their camera. When she was handing it back, she asked them if they wanted an instant photo. At first they said no because they didn’t want us to waste our film, but after showing them a photo that Synthia took of me on the hotel steps, their attitudes changed.
“Did you use some sort of filter for that?” “No. It’s just the way this particular film looks …” Synthia replied. After she shot their family photo and tucked it away in a brochure, we explained to them that they had to wait a little while before taking a peek. They were grateful and went on their way.
We moseyed our way back through the ghost town and then stopped at a nearby picnic table so we could just soak in the surroundings …
To be continued …