Last night, I dreamed of taking pictures. I had a model and a classic car, one without window tinting and the like, one you could see into the interior. She was changing clothes. I was shooting through the windows. We did it again and again. She put on a black, sparkly cocktail dress. I drove her to a spot in a shady part of town. She stood on the corner, me across the street with the big camera, she on high heels, the strap of her dress falling, she slumping to her right with that after-party fatigue.
I dreamed this over and over, even after I woke and got up to pee. Even in the dream, I was wondering why I was doing this. Was I trying to make a fashion portfolio to show around? It was fun, but I had no second act. I could end up shooting these same images in various ways over and over again.
Photo dreams, waking and sleeping. Weird.
The dreaming was probably a reaction to my day. Early in the morning, I decided to get out with the Liberator and make some more big pictures. It was early enough that not many people were out on the road. Driving by the big lake that separates a big hospital from the highway, I saw toy boats sailing near the shore. I turned off and drove to where their owners were seated, parked, and grabbed my big camera. As I walked up, the fellows were already saying hello.
"Do you mind if I take some pictures?"
They did not. They were in the middle of a race, though, and said it would be about ten minutes before the boats came back near the shore. I waited and we chatted. I made the photo above while waiting, thinking to get the seated fellow in the foreground and the boats out on the lake. I thought I was focusing on the boats. I could swear it. You see what is in focus, however--the cypress tree. I don't know. I really don't know.
I did hit focus on this one, but. . . WTF?
They asked me a lot of questions about the camera. When I told them the lens came from a movie camera mounted in the belly of a WWII bomber, they wanted to know which one. They started naming types of bombers. I told them I had no idea, so they argued among themselves about which one it probably would be. They told me about their boats. They came from a cast of a model made in 1912 as a design for an America's Cup racing yacht. The boat, however, never went into production, but all the remote control boats were from that mold. I told them I used to race sailboats, and they asked which one. I said I crewed on a J-30. They knew the boat. One of them had sailed one before, he said.
And then the boats came in. I asked if one of them could possibly hold a boat for the camera. I explained my concept of "American Leisure."
They were swell about it, and one of them stepped into the water for me. O.K. Here was my chance. I was rushing a bit as the boat looked a little heavy to hold and I didn't want to keep the fellow standing there a long while. I swear I focused on his face. I looked and focussed.
What you see, however, is that the focus in on his left arm. His hand and the boat are super sharp. But you can see how quickly focus falls off when I shoot that big-assed camera at f2.5. In that distance from his shoulder to his chin, the sharpness is already gone. I don't know. I was worried, so I said, "Hold on a minute. I want to take a second one just in case.
I pulled the film holder and turned it around. I refocussed. Same thing, only worse. Only the boat was in focus this time.
Motherfucker. I told the fellow I would send him a copy of the photos, "If they turn out." I handed him my phone and said, "Just call your phone." But he didn't. I don't know what he did. I think he put his information in my contacts. Maybe. I saw that he had done something when he handed the phone back to me. Now. . . I have no idea where his number is.
Yes. . . once again.
The thing is, they said they are there every Sunday if the weather is o.k. from nine 'til noon, so I will go back next week and see if I can't try again. I will explain to them how difficult the camera is. I will stop down a bit so that the depth of field isn't razor thin. I will do something. Jesus. I blew it.
Not really though, right? I mean, I got a start. I approached some people and asked if I could photograph them. That is as difficult as focussing. Well, obviously that is not true. But it is certainly a step in the good direction. I may get this thing going after all.
When I left them, I drove back toward the Industrial Zone on the far side of Gotham. I decided to take a different route this time, however, one that took me through Zone 13, a road called Division. It is difficult to say "the Negro section of town," these days. Zone 13 seems to work for me, though. I grew up in one. It is not a racial designation but an economic/cultural one. I mean, I grew up where the young men liked trouble--drugs, robbery, sex trade. . . you know.
Zone 13 is busier on a Sunday morning than the rest of town. Things were going on. I stopped the car a few times and made some pictures, but I am in the habit of leaving the car running when I jump out, and. couple times, I watched some young fellows walk by the running, open vehicle thinking, "Shit."
There were cop cars running all around Zone 13. At one point, there were five within a two block area. They must have felt better in numbers. I don't know. But when I drove by what was pretty obviously a hooker, I thought to stop and tell her I'd give her ten dollars for a photograph. But when she saw a cop car turning the corner, she stepped away quickly. Now I was convinced I would get pulled over and charged with solicitation. I mean, what else would I be doing in Zone 13 early in the morning. I was either looking for sex or drugs, right?
"Oh, no, officer. . . I was just taking pictures."
I headed on out to the Industrial Zone and shot the rest of my film. It felt, though, as if I were repeating myself. But I had shot people, I told myself. "You are expanding."
On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store to get the materials for that night's shrimp dinner that I was making for my mother. I hadn't eaten anything yet and was hungry, but I didn't want to cook. I wanted to develop the film I had just shot, so in order to save time, I bought a frozen Jimmy Dean Meat Lovers Breakfast. Microwave for three minutes and eat. And I have to tell you, that Jimmy Dean sure knows breakfast. It wasn't terrible.
It made me tired, though, so I decided to lie down and take a nap. I haven't been sleeping well for a few nights, and my limbs were heavy with fatigue, but I couldn't sleep. I lay there and would doze for a few minutes, but I never got into that good, hour long nap thing that I love to do. In a bit, I was up. Trips to the garage to put the film into the film tank. Mixing up developer. Holding my breath after the final rinse as I took the film from the tank. Images! I had images!
I hoped I had hit focus.
I worked for the rest of the afternoon until it was time to go to my mother's house. I took a bottle of Ohio wine that C.C. had brought back for me from a local winery. Dandelion wine. I shit you not.
"Chill it really well before you drink it," C.C. had said.
"Tell C.C. this is a desert wine," my mother said. It was really very sweet.
By the time dinner was finished, though, the bottle was dry.
Back home, heart in throat, I put on some music and started the long process of scanning the negatives and cooking them up in Photoshop.
"Shit, fuck, goddamn. I knew it! I can't do anything right."
I only thought it, but it was loud.
I had grown confident. I had believed I was ready to shoot portraits. I thought I had the whole big camera process down. And I do but for one thing. I have to slow down and not get rattled. I have to focus. None of it matters if I don't hit focus.
Confidence rattled, however, I'm ready to try again. But yea, in my dreams I was shooting with a 35mm camera once again. No worries there. I've done that my whole life. The scariest part of the dream was standing on that corner across the street from the model in Zone 13 with that big old Liberator. I KNEW it would be a great picture. . . if I could just hit focus!