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BRINGING "TOO MUCH" FILM or "TOO MANY" CAMERAS ON A TRIP. (a photograph, one point of time travel)

Updated: Sep 10

Things started later than planned, for me at least, and packing took a bit longer as well. The day was slow warming, as I stood behind the mostly packed car nervously tying and retying knots to hold my girlfriends bike on the rack. I couldn’t stop thinking about the worst possible scenario, so I was diligent. Robins and sparrows picking at the earth nearby, flicked pebbles and grass seed, and hopped in hopes we would remember to fill our bird bath before leaving. We did, and eventually we were on our way. Humming along a river of cars, moving further away from a city where the river churns endlessly, cleansing green. The edges clear and smooth where the water, barely wrinkled rounds those grassy low limbed beaches. Pounding familiar freckled stones into place and moving smaller ones to new points along the rivers bottom to keep the craw dads guessing. The freeway stretched on with much less magic, but the familiar, yet still dazzling landscape rolled out beyond. Where many hawks’ sun still, blazing eyes searched, waiting on splinter rich angled posts. These things and a good song here and there kept us in high spirits. We drove on, getting into Portland, Or. just in time for the rain to greet us. We stopped off to get some tasty late night food for my birthday, before heading to our friends to get some sleep in the car.

Molly, Chaika I, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022

Birthday Hat, Chaika I 1/2 frame, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022


The next morning, at the start of this 10-day trip, I happened to be wandering through a downtown that I no longer recognized and didn’t really want to be in. Never spent much time down there, but I figured since I was there helping my partner move her stuff over from Spokane into her new studio I might as well wander. I always fight with myself when preparing for trips, with what cameras to bring and not to bring. Who doesn’t? There is always that one camera I haven’t used in a while that tugs at the part of me that is easily convinced. Convinced that not only am I going to need to bring 50 rolls of film, but also that this camera and I are truly going to click this time. This is the trip that this camera is going to do all of its best work and I with it will have so much to show when I get home. That is never ever the case. I brought the Leica M3 with a Jupiter 12 and a little 35/90mm finder that I just love. The external finder is small, made by ‘Leidolf Wetzlar’. The glass on my copy is clear and very nice, size wise it’s not intrusive in any way. They are hard to find though, so if you do come across one, I highly recommend grabbing it. They are usually listed for cheaper then one of the Voigtlander or especially Leica branded ones, but equally well made! I ended up shooting two rolls with the M3. That’s it, no more, no less.

Leidolf/Wetzlar 35/90mm finder on the M3, without the 90mm mask.

I also brought with me the Holga 120 GCFN, and the Chaika I ½ frame camera. The Chaika was my everyday, for almost everything camera. I was shooting a lot of flash with it before leaving home, so that was my plan. On the first day though, walking with it, the flash port came loose, so flash became a no go pretty quickly. I decided after that, that I’d use the Holga for flash even though the results would be much different, and I brought way less 120 film. Going out into the world daily, for long walks through this city I once called home, I would have my oversized rain coat on, with the Holga in the pocket without a hole in it and the Chaika in my hand. The place I had known was now corked up with building after building, out of use, windows boarded and dark.

Chaika I 1/2 frame, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022

Leica M3, Jupiter 12, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022

Some days wandering, I would Imagine scenes, beyond what I saw. A rush of people hurdling toward me, but having no interest in me whatsoever, I could be free to spot and snap away! The perfect light resting on the edge of a building, overgrown and classic. A brick building, once painted a cartoonish blue, now faded, mostly peeled away. Two dogs, one is a red the other a chocolate lab, playing out front. A small group of kids wanders out of this light touched building. One of them throws the contents of a cup out at another in the group. A mom half out the doorway sees this and reacts facially, while one hand reaches out. I catch this moment, all of it. The overgrowth burning in the glow, while the dogs do their dance, and the water reaching upwards, the mothers outstretched hand wanting, solving, lifting towards the burning star at the buildings highest corner. This didn’t happen though. It was dead, no one was around. A very interesting time to be in this place. Very transitional. But still, I moved through it day after day, curious and excited. I’d get coffee, sit for a bit, read, and walk around my friends neighborhood. It is a beautiful neighborhood, far off from the downtowns of the world. Its hard not to imagine things up while walking around. All the while I am looking, seeing the layout of this place, and the little human touches. It’s always changing.

Chaika I 1/2 frame, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022


I would be out for a majority of the day, going into 2nd hand stores looking at all the things, old and new and trying to find cameras. I would find myself on a main street like Hawthorne or Division or another and force myself off into the side streets. I missed riding my bike there as I slowly winded along. There are so many beautiful houses and flower walls and interesting little court yards nestled in the centers of apartment complexes. It’s hard not to stop every 20 seconds to shoot, advance, step, focus, shoot again.


Leica M3, Jupiter 12, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022

Leica M3, Jupiter 12, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022

Leica M3, Jupiter 12, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022


Even still with all the days walking and shooting, I hadn’t even made a single dent in the film I brought. It’s amazing how over prepared we can be when we have an abundance of something and still somehow struck with the feeling of scarcity. I’m not trying to complain, I just need to think about my shooting style and what I am actually going to be doing before packing film, most trips. Have you ever felt this? Do you bring a couple rolls, or a freezer bag or a whole backpack? Do you bring 35mm, 120, 220, and 4x5? How many cameras?

Chaika I 1/2 frame, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022


During my 8th day there, I had made a plan to go visit and stay with a friend. We met up and caught up and it felt so nice to have that time. I met some great new people and we ate some really tasty food just off Mississippi. We were putting around most of the day in Zachs Datsun to far out places, and feeling the fullness of being around one another. That night we stayed up, Zach and I talked for a while, and we looked at the enlarger I had brought them. They helped our friend Lo develop some film and it was just, a nice time. Seeing someone elses process and what came of it was so exciting. The next day I ate a quick waffle that Zachs partner Flor made and headed out on my own again.

Chaika I 1/2 frame, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022

Chaika I 1/2 frame, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022

There were condos stacked, row after row all over this area of modest, lovely homes. Constant reminders, over priced monuments of the end times. I walked on and eventually found the land of roses and walked among them all, as a cleansing of sorts. It was beautiful.

Peninsula Park, Chaika I 1/2 frame, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022


The sun was leaning into the oncoming gray in the sky and this told me to get inside. I went to a bar that was celebrating Pride and I ended up drinking two Earl gray vodka mixers. It was early, but it was vacation! As I sat and the rain fell, I read and waited this part of the day out.

Later Zach and I met up and continued our walking and talking. We went to record stores and ended up stumbling on a free outdoor day event for The Mississippi records festival! Zach and I were going to see The Sun Ra Arkestra later that evening, which was part of this fest, but this was a treat. Some bands played, while we sipped colas and sat among many other people scattered about on the sidewalk, and on the little mounds of green in the lot beside the grocery. Michael Hurley and his long time band mate came out and played a great set in the dust beneath the canopy, while the rain hung there, planning its next fall, weighing heavy on the coat racks of our minds. It did not fall. It moved on and the sun brought with it a wash, a swelling of camaraderie and joy. I went crawling through the people, laid down in that splinter ridden dust and made a few photos with the Chaika.

Michael Hurley, Chaika I 1/2 frame, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022

Michael Hurley, Chaika I 1/2 frame, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Portland, Or. 2022


I had an Idea of stitching them together in mind, to make a “complete scene.” It was fun to just be there and hear good music and get a few photos to make something of this time for the future. Cameras are the perfect toys to help us remember. Maybe not how it was, but in the bare bones way a scattering of images can teleport us back to a time, and tease those long gone memories out from hiding.

These things weigh heavier on my mind than remembering to bring a toothbrush, or an extra pair of socks. Trying to have on hand, whatever it will take to make a copy of a time. This time that I am existing, that I’ve existed with others I love, in places that are forever being altered. It’s hard to convince myself that “this will be enough” when I am just so unsure. As I pace around the house holding this camera then that, going to the fridge grabbing some film, setting one back, deciding color or black and white. So many decisions. What are the right choices? Being in a new place or an old home place, and getting to feel that feeling, the vibration in the air all around you. The buzzing of these surroundings. Natural or made by, we the people. Sometimes the hum is loud and not so positive, but coming back to those other points to relive and revisit, and find the old anew! This is why I go, and I guess its in these times where the hopes are so big, that I choose to be over prepared rather then puffing about, out of film and out of luck. Even after all this thought, I will continue to pack it in and over indulge in these tiny time capsules offerings. And I know looking back, I’ll remember to be thankful I did.

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