Wednesday, January 24, 2024

A Pleasant Interlude

I'm going to quit reading reports of research done about nutrition, wellness, disease, fitness, and aging.  I can't do it all.  I read, for instance, that even a little bit of light in a bedroom will kill you.  Eventually, I mean.  It will cause all sorts of health problems and shorten your life.  My mother's 90 year old neighbor goes to bed early and turns her t.v. on.  She doesn't turn it off.  She is doing fine.  I've been looking for my sleep mask because of that report.  

Just one example.  They have me terrified.  

Other than trying to cheat death, though, I haven't much to report.  Just this.  Sometimes just going out. . . things can happen.  

Mid-afternoon yesterday, I drove to the photo store to get some chemicals and a step-down ring for my Liberator.  Don't worry about what that is, just know that what I was looking for was a rarely sold item.  Both brothers who own the place were there.  They each asked me, in turn, what was happening with the police and the thieves who stole my cameras.  I had nothing of substance to report.  As we chatted, I asked if they had an 82 to 78mm step-down ring.  One brother took me to the counter.  Now here's the freaky part.  A woman standing next to me who was checking out had just bought two of them--the exact things!  There was no way they would have three.  I looked at her.  

"Did you just buy two 82 to 78mm step-down rings?"

She looked at me and smiled.  


"I can't believe it.  What are the chances?"

Just then, the owner handed me one.  What luck!  The woman asked me, "What are you using it on?"

I told her about my camera.  She was a professional photographer, she said.  When I hear someone say "professional photographer," I grin.  Indeed, she did corporate headshots.  Digital.  She was a control freak, she said.  

"Let me see your hand," I said taking it and turning it to see her ring.  "I pity him," I laughed.  

"Oh, he's used to it by now."

She was a real friendly lady, and we chatted for about half an hour.

"Do you have an Instagram account or somewhere I can see your work?" she asked.  

I paused, looked around, eyes focussed on the ether, eventually saying, "No."

She looked nonplussed.  

"Surely you must have something somewhere."

The fellow at the counter said, "He keeps them all hidden.  He has plenty."

I looked at her, biting my lip, and then said, "I have people asking to see my 'work' a lot.  The republican gymroids ask.  I ask them, 'Who is your favorite photographer?'  'I don't know,' they say, so I ask, 'Do you prefer flowers or sunsets?'  I'm sure that they would look at my photos and be like, '. . . Huh. Did some kid take this out the window while you were driving?'  I mean. . . I don't really want that.  It is why I don't have social media.  All it takes is for someone to say one bad thing and I'm like, 'oh, shit. . . they are right,' and I just want to sell all my cameras."

"No, no. . . you have to get over that.  Don't listen. . . ."

"Look.  I've never even asked a girl out on a date.  Not the first time, anyway.  I can't take rejection.  I was a coddled only child."

My plan had been to buy my chemicals and then go to the Cafe Strange and try to take some pictures.  I was going to force myself to photograph people, but in my heart of hearts I knew I would chicken out and take pictures of "things."  But I knew I had to get over this, too, or give up.  But now, maybe thankfully, the afternoon was slipping by.  I was on a mission to take four photos with the Liberator a day, develop the negatives that night, and scan them in the morning.  

"Are you going to your car?  Walk with me.  I want to take your photo with that camera I told you about.  I  have it in the car."

It took everything I had.  I was ready to soil myself.  But she, being a "professional photographer," you know. . . what could she say.  She didn't even blink.  So we walked out to the parking lot.  

"I'll be right back," she said.  "I want to get my cameras out of the car.  I want to take a photo of you, too."

Oh, shit.  Inside, though, when she saw me buying chemicals, she said she had decided she needed to start shooting film again and doing her own processing.  She hadn't done any since she was in school.  I told her I stood at the sink every night developing and dancing to the music in between tank rotations.  I told her the whole story.  

When she came back, she had an old, brown leather valise.  It was really nice.  

"This belonged to my father, she said.  She opened it up and I saw her old film cameras.  She took out a Pentax with a super telephoto lens.  Portrait photographer for sure.  

I was nervous, of course.  What if I took her photo and missed focus.  I would take two.  I would have to send them to her.  I loaded the film holder into the back of the camera, had her face the clouded sun, and took out my phone to meter the light.  Then I looked through the viewfinder and focussed.  I hoped.  I got out my loupe to aid me.  

"O.K., " I said.  She looked at me and I snapped the picture.  "Wait," I said.  I had forgotten to remove the dark slide.  Shit.  I looked really incompetent.  

We did it again.  Then I told her to pick up the valise.  I flipped the film holder over and did it again.  All of it, including not removing the dark slide.  WTF?  Yea.  I took the second shot, then she said that now she wanted to photograph me.  She walked down the parking lot about fifty feet.  As she was futzing with her camera, a guy in a pickup truck stopped.  He asked about the Liberator as people often do, then said, "I just bought a medium format camera," smiling from ear to eat.  

I had seen him in the store with a Mamiya 450, a camera that shoots 4.5 x 6 mm images, the smallest of medium formats.  

"That's a fun camera," I said.  We chatted a bit more while my professional portrait photographer waited.  When he pulled away, I tried to look. . . something.  The wind was at my back and was blowing my hair into my face.  This was surely going to be a disaster.  Whatever.  I could see her making multiple exposures.  When she finished, she said, "Wait. . . I want to take some digital images, too.  So she got her professional camera and did some more.  

While she did that, I took a photograph of her photographing me from the edge of the parking lot.  Then I took another.  

When she finished, she walked back to where I was standing.  I held up a credit card and asked, "What's your PIN number?"  I had noticed it on the ground where she had been standing.  

"Ha," she said, "you wouldn't get very much."  

We chatted some more.  She pulled up her IG account on her phone and showed me some of her work.  She had shot a project with a bearded drag queen.  They were nice.  She gave me her card with her email, phone number, and IG account.  The afternoon had drifted by.  It was already time to go to my mother's house.  But. . . I had taken my four photos for the day.  

I developed the photos last night.  When I took them out of the developing tank, I saw that one sheet was blank.  Shit, piss, fuck, goddamn.  I hadn't turned the film holder over when she was taking my picture.  I had double exposed one sheet of film.  I am nothing if not incompetent.  

When I scanned the negatives this morning, only one was in focus.  One out of four.  I would be sent back to the minor leagues if this were professional baseball.  And looking at the one focused photo out of the four, I think that is just where I belong.  

Will I ever learn to make good photos with the Liberator?  I am starting to doubt.  I was nervous as a frog in a blender.  I made multiple mistakes and ended up with little.  I will have to send her this photo, of course, and I will be embarrassed at the averageness of it.  I'm supposed to be making marvelous and magical images.  I could have done this photo with any camera. . . only better.  I was only thinking about "The Beast" and not about her.  I should have looked at composition and not simply tried to focus.  I should have had her turn her hips at an angle and had her turn her shoulders more toward me.  Beauty and glamor and all that.  I should have done a lot of things, but I wasn't seeing.  I was just pulling levers and pushing knobs.  More work, more familiarity, more confidence and competence.  

But she was a very nice lady and a real pleasure.  She would have hung around longer, I think, but I had to go. . . mother and all.  I had enjoyed the attention, though, and maybe she did, too.  She lives in a city on the coast about an hour away.  I'm going to tell her I will make a better picture of her when she is in town again.  

I think she'll want that.  I mean. . . I'm pretty sure.  

I sent this song to Sky.  I thought/think she is mad at me,  She wrote back and said it was true that life was confusing and people are insane.  

"Including us.  Especially."

I'll have more on that later.  I've many thoughts on the subject.  

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