Sunday, February 5, 2023

The Shaman

The Shaman thing among friends and enemies grows.  After sending around the Tarot and palmistry images, after talk of mushrooms and poppy seed concoctions, someone mentioned voodoo, and I remembered I had these creepy dolls that were given to me decades ago in Peru by an adventure guide when I was leaving to come back to the states.  Weird gift.  I put them on a shelf and had pretty much forgotten about them.  After the voodoo mention, though, I took them out and leaned them up against the antique coffee pot on the deck, photographed them, and sent them to my spooky friends.  Then I got the idea of photographing them with my 4x5 Chamonix field camera and with the big-assed Liberator.  What else did I have to photograph?  What else would I do? 

Sometime midmorning, I ended the internal conversation with "yes."  I went to the garage and dug out a three piece background stand and put it together in the yard.  I went to the car and made several trips hauling my big cameras and film holders.  I dug out some twine and brought the dolls out to hang.  I thought to simply hang them from the neck, but the wind was blowing them around, so I tied their hands to the side poles as well.  Now it was getting weird.  I was hoping none of the neighbors would see, but of course I was in the open and my neighborhood is a walking one.  Many people passed and stared as I set up the tripod and mounted the big camera.  After this, if anything strange happens in the neighborhood, I am certain the police will stop by.  

But whatever.  I'm an artist, dammit.  Ha!

Using 4x5 cameras isn't easy.  There are no exposure meters in the camera, so you have to take light readings with something external.  I was using an app on my phone which works pretty well.  

Oh, my God--why didn't I take any photos with my phone?!?!?  That just occurred to me now.  But I didn't.  As I say, the 4x5s are complicated.  The Liberator is easiest, but it, too, has a tilt and a shift and the goddamn thing is never parallel when I want it to be so some parts of the frame are in focus and others out.  Focusing it isn't easy, and the exposures are pretty approximate since its shutter is a big cloth sheet that has only a few sizes.  Don't worry about it.  My point is that it took a lot of concentration, and even with the dolls trussed up, the wind blew them around, and a slight movement could throw the whole image out of focus.  

The Chamonix has knobs and dials everywhere.  I haven't used it for many, many months, and so. . . .  The front standard has three movements--tilt, shift, and rise.  The back standard tilts.  Neither of the two snaps into a neutral position.  The lens has to be opened to focus.  You meter and set the f-stop and shutter speeds.  Then you slip in the negative holder in the spring-loaded back and hope you haven't moved the camera enough to change the composition.  You can't tell, though, because once the holder is in place, you can no longer see the image on the ground glass.  If you worry that you might have jolted the camera too much, you take the film holder out and put the big cloth hood over the camera again and get your loop and check focus.  Then you take off the hood and replace the film holder.  You remove the dark slide and remember that you forgot to close the lens, and now you've ruined the film.  After cursing for awhile, you put the dark slide back in and flip the film holder over to use the second negative on the other side.  This time, you close the lens shutter and. . . click.  As sometimes happens, when you put the dark slide back in, it catches the film and slides under it and so the negative is ruined once again.  More cursing.  Start over.  

Finally, you get everything to work.  You hope.  You won't know until you develop the film.  You inevitably decide to change the lens out for a different focal length and you begin all over again.  You must move the tripod, readjust the legs to get the right height and angle. . .  etc.  

By midafternoon, I had managed to expose a number of negatives.  But wait!  I hadn't been paying attention.  There were three different types of film in the holders.  Which ones are color?  Which ones are the speedier black and white?  Which the slower?  And which ones had the ruined film? 

Much more cursing.  A lot of standing, looking, pondering.  After a long, frustrating time, having tracked your movements in your memory, you hope you've figured it out, and you wonder for the millionth time why you haven't put labels on the holders yet.  

Then comes the breakdown, the packing up of big lenses, tripods, stands.  Trip after trip.  

Mid-afternoon.  My knee was killing me.  I was limping painfully now.  I needed to sit down.  Everything put away, anxious to see if anything worked, I decided to develop the color film first.  A trip to the garage to move the negatives from the holders to the developing tank in the dark tent.  Back to the house.  Put the big plastic pan in the sink and fill it with the hottest water.  Color film chemicals must be over 100 degrees to work.  Pour some developer into a measuring cup and put it in the microwave.  When the liquid is 102 degrees, it is ready.  Soak the film for one minute in warm water.  Drain.  Pour in the developer.  Rotate the tank for ten seconds, then for ten seconds every 30 seconds.  Between times, keep the tank in the hot water.  Pour the developer back into the measuring cup and rinse with plain water for one minute.  Take the combo bleach and fix out of the bath and pour it into a measuring cup.  Empty the tank and pour the Blix in.  Same agitation.  After eight minutes of that, pour the Blix back into the measuring cup.  Fill the tank with water.  Five rotations. Empty and fill again.  Ten.  Again.  Fifteen.  Again.  Twenty.  Drain and fill with distilled water.  Begin pouring the developer and Blix back into their containers.  Drain the developing tank and, holding your breath, pull out the negatives hoping it all worked.  Some are overexposed.  Some are right.  Hang them on clips in the bathroom to dry.  Rinse everything in the sink and put them in the dish drainer to dry.  

You now have shot and developed four negatives.  Hours later, once they are dry, you can scan them.  Maybe they will be in focus.  Maybe they will be good.  You will import them into Photoshop to digitally enhance them.  If you are lucky, you might like one.  

You still have the black and white ones to do.  

Now if you think reading that was a chore, don't buy a 4x5 camera.  I promise you.  Just use your phone.  

I jumped in the shower, dressed, and headed to my mother's.  She and my cousin were cooking.  I didn't stay long.  I wanted to go out and get a Mahi sandwich and a beer at the big outside patio bar just up the street.  

By the time I got there, the place was packed.  I had to park a couple blocks away in front of my old studio.  Fuck me, it made me sad.  I limped painfully up to the patio.  There were no empty tables.  People were standing in groups.  I asked a couple if I could sit with them.  It was a big picnic table and they said sure.  I looked around at the large and rowdy crowd.  I have never liked crowds.  They make me nervous.  The boys wore ball caps and the women were very loud.  They were something else, too, that I have yet to find the words for.  I sat a long time before a waitress came over.  I ordered the Mahi and asked the fellow sitting down the bench from me who also had a Mahi sandwich what beer he had ordered.  All the beers are brewed on site and have crazy names, so I had no idea.  He had the Dr. Swine & Stein.  I ordered the same.  

Then the band started up.  Their first song was "Country Roads."  I could have been miserable, but I decided not to be.  I was texting the whole affair to my New Old Friend who was on a scouting mission in the keys.  She said of course a place like that would be crowded on a Saturday.  She called me an "amateur."  Ha!  

Negativity is not an attractive thing, and I was glad to have her on the line as a good reminder.  I let myself flow in the moment and have fun.  

I had a good time. 

When I got up after my meal and started the painful limp back to my car, I was greeted by the Full Snow Moon, small and distant.  Still, it lighted my way.  

Back home, I decided to develop more film.  Don't worry.  I won't narrate all that for you again.  

After that, I sat down to scan the four negatives that were now dry.  

As you can see, I manipulated them in Photoshop.  It takes time.  Some of the negatives were from the Liberator, some from the Chamonix.  I can't tell which one(s) I like best or if I like any of them at all.  The one posted at the top was from a lens I ordered from a seller on eBay.  Something is wrong with it.  The images are never sharp.  I was sending the pictures to Q as I cooked them.  We both decided we liked the blurry one best.  It was more ominous, somehow.  

Music and Photoshop late into the night.  That is what I did for years almost every night.  The music was good.  I was happy(ish).  

Later, I went to bed and read about Peter Beard and the Hog Ranch in Kenya.  When I turned off the light to sleep, it was the full moon and Sky's video that took me to Slumberland.  Voodoo and romance.  

Or so it seemed.  

No comments:

Post a Comment