December 3, 2012 § 6 Comments
So you’re interested in learning more about this whole instant photography thing? I know the feeling. I can go on and on about why I love it, but I’d rather take this time to tell about some of the options that are available.
Fuji makes a couple of types of instant: integral film for their Instax camera line (the Instax mini & Instax wide) and peel-apart film for Polaroid pack film cameras. The Instax system is a great entry-level start into the world of instant. If you’re looking to capture candid images at a club, a party, hanging out with friends, this is a ideal choice. It fires a flash every time and takes good images. Food for thought: If you really get into instant, you might find that that this camera system is restricted when compared against others in the field. However, it’s all in how you use it. I’ve seen some incredible work produced from professionals who shoot with Instax cameras.
Fuji’s peel-apart film, FP-100C (color) & FP-3000B (B&W), is used in 100 series Polaroids, cameras which use a NPC Polaroid back or ones that have been converted to use pack film (Polaroid 110A & Polaroid 110B’s come to mind). Pack-film Polaroid cameras are a lot of fun to use. You can find them for $10-50 (on average) for the cameras with automatic exposure and for the models with manual exposure settings you’ll spend $300+ (Polaroid 180, 185, 190, 195, 600SE, Fuji FP-1). When looking for one, inspect to make sure there are no light leaks in the bellows. Use a flashlight to shine around in the camera when the back is open and look on the outside of the bellows for leaks. Check to make sure the rollers move freely and are fairly clean (wipe them down with a damp paper towel to remove any gunk you might find). Also, the required battery needed to run the meter is a little hard to find. Most people I’ve found covert the camera to use either AA or AAA batteries. It’s really simple. This a great tutorial on how to do it. Just be mindful of whether you need to convert to 3V or 4.5V which is easily determined by looking at the underside of the battery compartment door. But don’t let this technical mumbo-jumbo fool you. Once you get your camera in operating condition, the fun you’ll have with it is endless.
Fuji’s peel-apart film has a very clean look to it. The colors are pleasantly saturated, and the detail & clarity is very good.
Each exposure, when peeled, has a positive print and a negative. Further adding to the enjoyment of it, when shooting color film, the FP-100C negative can be salvaged to scan by bleaching the negative.
As I mentioned earlier, you can use any camera that has a NPC Polaroid back with peel-apart as well. I use a RB67 + a NPC Polaroid back and get great results. Note the black unexposed portion of the frame when shooting with a RB67.
You might be thinking .. What about all of those other Polaroids cameras? Do they still make film for those?? Luckily, since The Impossible Project stepped into the game, they do! They’ve re-invented integral film for literally hundreds of thousands of Polaroids that are still out there. Any of the Polaroid 600 series, Spectra/Image or SX-70 cameras can still be used. Beyond that, they’ve brought 8×10 instant film back into the marketplace.
A good Polaroid to start off with that shoots integral film would be any of the Polaroid One Steps/600 series cameras. You know the ones; boxy, most flipped open and have a flash. Nearly every office in the 80’s & 90’s had one for employee photos. They are fairly easy to use and shoot color (PX-680) or B&W (PX-600) film. There are a large variety of 600 series cameras available. If you’re purchasing on Ebay or Craiglist, you’ll find One Steps from $10-$100+ on average depending on the model and if it’s a collectible. The camera has two focusing distances (2-4ft and 4ft – infinity) and takes good images.
Polaroid Spectra cameras are another great option and are pretty durable cameras too. If you’re going to be roughing it while out and about, this particular camera is perfect for the job. I’ve been using these for a while and they produce really nice results. Most of the Spectra cameras I’ve picked up have been $10-20. They use color (PZ680) or B&W (PZ600) Impossible Project film, use inaudible sound waves to aid in auto-focusing and are pretty user friendly. I took one to a Texas Rangers game at the Ballpark in Arlington this past summer. If you’re interested in reading a little more about the camera & how it works, you can find that here.
This brings me to Polaroid SX-70’s. These are some of my favorite Polaroid cameras to use. They are really fun to operate. Unlike all of the other cameras as fore mentioned, because this particular camera is a SLR, what you see in the viewfinder is what you get. The Sonar SX-70, like the Spectra, also uses inaudible sound waves to measure the subject’s distance from the camera. If you get lucky, you can find these for around $20. But most of the various SX-70 models go anywhere from $40-100 depending on its condition and whether it’s been serviced/refurbished etc. Using SX-70’s with Impossible film can be a little challenging, however once you get over the learning curve and get a handle on how to best utilize their films with this camera, it produces some awesome results.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Polaroid SLR680/SLR690. These are top of the line Polaroids that shoot 600 speed film (PX-680 or PX-600). I’ve seen these online anywhere from $75-$200+, again, depending on the typical used-camera variables. They are modeled after the SX-70. Their rollers spread the film a little more even, it has more focusing zones than the Sonar SX-70 and they come equipped with a flash that can be toggled on/off.
When looking for a used camera, of course look for signs of damage, but even more so, check the lens to make sure it’s clean. Inspect the rollers; they should move somewhat freely. If you bring an empty film pack with you, you can check to make sure the camera’s ejection mechanism is working (this is not needed on Polaroids which use peel-apart film). Simply slide a darkslide into the empty pack, put it into the camera and if everything functioning properly, when you close the film door, the darkslide should eject out. Some cameras might sound slow or sluggish if they haven’t been used in a while. Actuate the shutter a handful of times. It will help move the gears and get the juices flowing. If you’re in the D/FW area, I have a few empty packs laying around. I’ll mail you one if you’re in need.
A big thanks to Daniel Rodrigue, Mark Goode, Patrick Clarke, Annie Donovan, Laidric Stevenson, John Morrison & Synthia Goode for letting me use their images to fill out this blog post. It is appreciated!
If you’d like to know more, send a message my way. I’d be happy to help you in any way that I can. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
November 12, 2012 § 10 Comments
The meet-up at the fair was the inaugural event for the Instant Film Society, an organization I’m helping start that promotes the use, accessibility and education of analog instant photography. Following the success of the State Fair PolaWalk, we were all anxious to hook up again for another. The next event was scheduled for November 10th. The weather up ended being gorgeous and the turnout was phenomenal.
On the day of, I packed a Polaroid Sonar SX-70, a SLR680 and a handful of packs of Impossible Project PX-70 COOL & PX-680 CP. Synthia had her trusty Spectra AF with some Polaroid Softtone film. We threw in a couple more Polaroid cameras for some friends to borrow, hopped in the car and made our way over to Ft. Worth.
The evening before I had been contacted by one of my cousins, Luke. To my surprise, he told me his family was going to join us at the zoo and needed to know where he could pick up some film. I mentioned I had a One Step he could borrow and directed him to Urban Outfitters. He ended picking up a pack of Impossible’s Rainbow Frame film. Another friend of ours, Amy, joined as well. She had been keeping up with the blog and was interested in learning more about The Impossible Project and instant film in general. In fact, they weren’t the only ones who were new to the walk. While promoting this event, I got connected with a few other photographers online who came and a large group from Brookhaven met up too. We had more than 20 people there. It’s really cool that we all met up for the love of instant film.
After we arrived and hooked up with everybody, we started making our way around the zoo. The images shot were a mix of Impossible Project, expired Polaroid and Fuji instant film. Enjoy the pics!
Some of the group has wandered off at this point and had gone their own way. We regrouped as many of us as we could and snapped a quick shot about halfway through the afternoon.
Throughout the day, we were approached by strangers inquiring about the event and just what all this was about. Everyone was thrilled that you could still buy instant film, smiled at the sight of the cameras and were glad to know that it was still being produced. We passed out handfuls of flyers & stickers from Impossible and helped spread the word about all things instant.
The next day I talked with many of the people that joined up with us. Everyone loved the event and most were already talking about the next. I could feel the energy & excitement. One in particular said she spent her Sunday afternoon obsessively looking on Ebay for Polaroid cameras and felt as if somehow she was supposed to stumble upon this hobby. That’s what this is all about for me. Spreading the love of instant photography to others and inspiring more people to reach out and try it. Once you shoot it and feel it .. it’s really hard not to love it.
Want to learn more? Come to our next PolaWalk on December 15th in Sundance Square. You can find details here.
October 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’ve recently started using Impossible’s LIFT IT! brush set for emulsion transfers. Included in the set are four brushes, varying in size, which aide in the removal, positioning & manipulation of the gelatinous emulsion during transfers. In the past, I was using regular watercolor brushes to remove the emulsion from the mylar surface of instant images. That had been working OK, but since I’ve gotten these, I’m never turning back …
I’ve heard, “Aren’t these the same as brushes that I can pick up at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby?” At first, I assumed they might be. Not quite the case. When I would use other brushes, the bristles would flare out and I’d end up using the base of the bristles to push off & remove the emulsion. Sometimes I would end up tearing the emulsion while I was removing it, because invariably I was using the metal/wood portion at the base of the bristles. The LIFT IT brushes are designed well. The brushes that need to stay ridged and/or soft deliver. The #1 brush for instance, stays ridged while you use the soft bristles of the brush to remove the emulsion. This helps the user remove it without the heightened risk of tearing it. When you’re dealing with a gelatinous material, being as careful as you can is key.
Since I’ve started using the LIFT IT kit, I’ve made a handful of transfers for family & friends. I made a couple more this evening for this blog post to walk you through the steps. The steps might vary from person to person. This is one of the methods I use. I used three images to make two emulsion transfers. One will be dried & stowed away in the “another random transfer” file & the other will end up being a card for my grandmother.
Brush #3 was made to shape, distort and to remove contortions after the transfer, however, I found that it also served well as a tool to wipe away the developer residue from the backside of the emulsion. The brush is super soft and the fine bristles worked really well at this task.
At this point, I used brush #4 to brush away some of the creases. After a little bit of brushing the creases grew on me; I decided to leave it alone and let it dry.
Positioning these onto paper can be a little difficult. It’s best to use small delicate motions with the brushes to move it around. Once the emulsion is spread out, I’ve found you can position the paper underneath, and use gentle side-to-side motions to carefully make water movement push the image around. It takes a little bit of practice. Once I get the image where I want it, I slide a brush underneath the paper and gently push up from the middle to bring it out of the water.
About halfway through this process, brush #4 was a little gunked up with the gelatinous goo. Nothing a quick dip in cold water couldn’t fix; it was as good as new.
When I was finished transferring the emulsions, I used the soap provided in the LIFT IT kit and thoroughly cleaned the bristles. They were clean within a matter of seconds and I set them aside to dry.
– The Transfers –
Should you buy it? Of course. Why? For a couple of reasons .. the main one is they really do work well and if cared for properly, these brushes should last you many, many, many transfers (years!). #2 – Do I really have to say it? You’ll be supporting one of the only instant photography companies by purchasing it. Buying their products empowers them to keep providing us with great analog materials to create art. It’s a no brainer!
Help keep instant alive!
If you have ANY questions whatsoever, please send a message my way. I’m always happy to help in any way that I can.
Thanks for your time!
September 30, 2012 § 6 Comments
Phew! I’m sitting at my desk right now, 3 hours after my arrival back home, and I can’t help but to keep grinning at all of the things that happened today. What an amazing experience. I can’t begin to stress how great it was, to see such happy pepole on a day like today. On any other day, we probably would have been miserable! The non-stop rain .. the endless, torrential downpour that pummeled the group today … But you know what? EVERYBODY was smiling. Not one person was unhappy about making the trek out to the fair to meet fellow instant photographers. I say it all the time, but it’s incredible the type of people that this medium attracts.
My day began, with knowing that it would be wet … REALLY wet today. The forecast was 80%-90% rain throughout the duration of the day with thunderstorms likely ALL day. What do you do, when you’ve organized an event and promoted it for a month. Do you abandon ship? No. You go through with it as planned and hope for the best. I can’t stress enough, that “the best” did occur.
Synthia and I left the house at noon, so we could make our way down to the Texas State Fair and grab a Fletcher’s corny dog before we hooked up with everybody else. Parking was fairly easy (plenty of spaces) and of course, there weren’t the usual crowds that normally accompany the fair’s 2nd day. We made our way in and I snapped off a couple of photos as we made our way towards Big Tex.
Daniel R. and Catherine met up with us first and they were both smiling. They rain hadn’t affected their moods in the slightest (i wouldn’t have thought so, they are really kind & cool people). After some chuckles and small talk, a fellow photographer I met online, Richard, made his way towards our group and introduced himself. He jumped in with both feet; pulled out his cameras, started gabbing photography, it was greatness! It seemed like he was really happy to be around other instant photographers. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he had to split early and didn’t end up hanging out with us. Hopefully he can make it out to the next event that gets organized. Before, he left I snapped a quick picture of him with his 680 SLR …
At this point, Christian & Elaine showed and were grinning from ear to ear as well. Christian helped promote this event and it was definitely appreciated. He mentioned that he had been so excited about this event that he could hardly sleep. Truth be told, I had been tossing and turning most of the week. A few minutes later, Jeremy & Amber showed up. I introduced them to everyone, passed off one of the Spectras I brought for them, and got them up to speed on the ins and outs of the camera. One of Daniel R’s students arrived, Adriana, and all of us introduced ourselves to her. She walked up holding this super cool pink, black and yellow neon Polaroid Cool Cam. It looked awesome! We waited around a little while longer for two more guys that I had met online; Daniel P. & Matthew. They drove in from Tyler and once they arrived, they were already soaked, but again nothing but smiles. I handed Daniel a Polaroid Automatic 100 with a few packs of FP-100C that I had promised him and we quickly organized a group photo.
Daniel R. spotted an interesting looking character walking towards a streamliner that was parked near Big Tex and asked him if he could take his photo. The moment I saw the guy, I knew it was “the voice of Big Tex”. I ran over there with my camera and once Daniel was done shooting this image on his Instax …
I snapped off a quick triptych on the SX-70 .. .
– CLICK IMAGE FOR LARGER SIZE –
We all snapped off a few more photos, while we waited around a little while longer for any stragglers …
Then we started making our way towards The Midway area and commenced burning some film!
The rain was relentless! It just wouldn’t stop. I’m still in awe, that all of these people came out in such high spirits, despite the rain. Nothing was going to stop this group!! Rain?!? Pshaw!! Whatevs! After a while, we decided to make our way into the Food Court to dry off a little bit, relax and get to know each other a little more.
For Synthia and I, this was the first time we had met most of these people. I’m usually not the type to go out and seek the company of strangers for events, and for that matter, I really don’t like talking to strangers. It’s funny. My passion for using instant film is helping me turn a new leaf in my life. Many of you have never met me, and don’t know that I stutter. Sometimes it can get the best of me, but most of the time, it’s not that big of a deal. Sure, it doesn’t define me, but it has shaped me into the person that I am. For a guy like me, meeting strangers and talking to new people is a thing that I try and avoid most of the time. When I started thinking about hosting this PolaWalk, I knew that I would killing a few birds with one stone: 1) I’d get an opportunity to “break the mold” so to speak, and get out there and meet strangers and force myself over this hump. 2) I’d get the chance to spread the love of Impossible to other shooters. And 3) I’d be able to make new friends in the area that share the love that I feel for photography. All in all, it was a winning idea all around.
Anyhow, at this point Jeremy, Amber, Synthia and Adriana all had to bolt. So we packed up our things and made our way back outside. We started walking along and WHOOMFFF!! A huge gust of wind ripped apart my umbrella, haha! It was hilarious! Daniel R. snapped a quick pick while everybody was laughing. Later on, Amber wrote something about it being an UNbrella. Very fitting Amber …
We headed indoors to the petting zoo. Walked around a little while and eventually made our way back outside.
Most of us were pretty tired and fairly soaked (COMPLETELY) so we decided to call it a day. We all parted ways and made our way out of the park. I snapped a couple of images on the way out, but by this time it really started pouring some heavy rain. I had no umbrel … UNbrella at this point, so I got even more soaked! Luckily, I had some plastic bags in my backpack and saved my gear & film from getting completely drenched.
Overall, an incredible experience! I can’t wait to schedule more of these around the metroplex and help spread the word about the greatness that is Impossible Project film. If you are interested in learning more about this medium, please get in touch with me. I’m an open door and would love to help you get into this medium. There’s nothing better for personal photography. Even more so, it’s a fantastic medium for the professional photographer. Offering this sort of “out of the box” photography is giving your clients something you can’t get anywhere else. There’s only ONE company making integral film. Get off your butts and support them! Doing so, gives the gift of “the polaroid” back to this generation and hopefully the next.
September 11, 2012 § 4 Comments
This past weekend, Synthia and I photographed Erica Perry at one of our favorite places; Buzzard’s Paradise. Erica is a super-talented country singer that has been performing around the metroplex for a few years. We’ve worked with her in the past on various projects which included some promo material for her EP, some images of her band and also some engagement photography.
This time around we shot her bridals and some new promotional photos for her. We figured that our friend’s ranch, Buzzard’s Paradise, was the perfect setting for these images. Of course, I can’t share the bridal photos now, but I can share some of the other photos we shot. A good friend of mine just recently let me borrow his Hasselblad 503CW with an 80mm & 50mm lens, so naturally, I used the hell out of that bad boy on this day. I also used some Impossible Project PX-70 COOL with a Polaroid SX-70.
A few images from this shoot …
Erica just recently made it to the top 24 of The CW’s The Next television show and this Thursday (9/13), the Dallas episode airs at 8PM. From what I understand, once the producers of The Next whittled down the competition to 24, they toured around to 6 cities to listen to the remaining contestants. Each of the cities had the audience vote and the winner of that particular city is announced when the show airs.
Of course, myself and everybody else I know hopes she wins and makes it to the next round, BUT if she doesn’t, there’s still a chance for her to make it to the finals. You can vote her into the wild card spot on September 20th.
Help support a local rising artist and watch The Next this Thursday night at 8pm! We’re keeping our fingers crossed!!
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.
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 …