A Day of 35mm Film Color Photography in October

Seize the Time to Create

My Canon 1V has fresh batteries, my vehicle was running great and I’d just received a shipment of 35mm film (Kodak Portra, of course)…the day was mine. On top of that, the fall color is looking like someone increased the Photoshop saturation on the maple leaves and it’s incredible. There are times when a plan in place for making images is a good idea. If you’re a planning person and need an area or structure to your photographic outing, then by all means make one.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Mich.
Camera: Canon 1V

To mix it up though, try selecting one camera, without a destination, and just drive. It can be nearby or it can be close, but just move.

I was fed up with planning and coordinating; so much so, that when the day arrived that I was to head out, I was letting the wind guide the way. Fortunately, the wind whispered at me to travel around a nearby county, mostly west toward Lake Michigan, and to just take pictures.

Leelanau County, Mich.
Camera: Canon 1V

Don’t Overthink Art

Of course, the week leading up to my unencumbered day of pictures was a stressful one: work was hectic, bills were stacking and house projects were waiting to be completed. Leaving all of that behind was, on some practical levels, nonsensical. Here’s a fact about art though: It doesn’t have to make sense. There may be a fire inside of you that can’t be extinguished unless you create. Listen to this voice. Make art.

Leland, Mich.
Camera: Canon 1V

To create is one of the greatest gifts. That’s why, even though there may be obligations of life waiting, it’s important to make the effort to create. It doesn’t have to be all day, like I was so fortunate to’ve had, but it can be in short amounts of time, which is what I most often have. You’ll find that if you wait for a certain amount of time or a certain circumstance before you create, it may never happen. This is unacceptable. When something important is at stake—and creating art is that something—we must do whatever we can to make it happen.

Port Oneida, Mich.
Camera: Canon 1V

For this particular photographic adventure, the whispering wind indicated not only to travel west, but I head toward the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. When I find myself overthinking a destination, I often choose this place because it possesses a ridiculous amount of natural beauty. No matter what happens or how bad the light is, I’m confident I’ll be able to capture pleasing images in this area.

Let the Photographic Day Begin

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore—specifically, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive—is where I landed. There’s a dune of sand, at the overlook, that faces Lake Michigan. Its lines are clean and the water behind it looks like it goes forever. For all I know, it does. On this particular day, a man was walking toward the top of the dune. For my aesthetic goals, this is exactly what I enjoy: minimalism and landscape with a person.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Mich.
Camera: Canon 1V

After photographing at the dunes, I headed north toward the historic Port Oneida Rural Historic District. This preserved and restored turn-of-the-century community allows an incredible amount of unique photographic opportunities. Old farmsteads are abundant and sometimes you can even find tools in the woods. My photography often lacks landscape vistas so I tried to incorporate much of that into my Port Oneida images.

Port Oneida, Mich.
Camera: Canon 1V

After Port Oneida, I meandered my way back home, but not before stopping at Long Lake Grocery…probably inspired by the Port Oneida historic buildings. For this photo, I was really interested in the road, and allowing the store to be situated to the side of the frame. When something is the obvious choice for a picture, like the store was, I often enjoy placing it off-center to include it in the frame but not make it prominent. To do that would be obvious and I usually try to avoid the obvious. I try.

Traverse City, MI
Camera: Canon 1V

That concluded my fall outing with no plan and some 35mm film. Had I contemplated all the places I might be able to photograph, the sun may’ve set by the time I reached a conclusion on where to go. As it was though, I quickly chose some spots, traveled from location to location while being receptive along the way and let the photographing do the rest. I think back to that day and I’m so glad I had no plan.

The next time you’re searching for a place to take pictures, give yourself about 15 minutes. If you don’t have a location selected by then, just drive until you find a place and continue from there. Most importantly, have fun and make art.

“Forever is composed of nows.”

~Emily Dickinson

6 thoughts on “A Day of 35mm Film Color Photography in October”

  1. This made me miss the great lakes a great deal. I grew up spending my summers in Duluth, Minn., and I’ve enjoyed many a day on Wisconsin’s shores looking out over Lake Michigan.

    If I hadn’t just ordered a boatload of Ektar and 400tx for EOS-1 (Not as nice as a 1V but a fourth the cost), I might have been tempted to pick up a brick of Portra 400.

    Just a quick question as to the timing of this excursion. Was this recent or a throwback?

    1. The EOS-1 is a fourth the cost? Incredible. In my experience, any Canon that has a ‘1’ in the name, is a fine piece of photographic machinery.

      My fall excursion was a throwback from exactly one year ago. It was one of those days when the light was absolutely perfect.

      I’ve heard Duluth, Minn. is beautiful but I have not been there. If it looks over Lake Michigan though, I can imagine it’s as serene as serene can be.

      I just subscribed to your blog last night. Sorry it’s taken so long! Your posts—the couple I’ve read so far—have resonated a lot. You’re a really good writer and your blog is fantastic.

  2. I do that sometimes too. My other theory is I can’t take a photo with a camera that is not with me….in the last couple of years I have progressed from Fuji C200 as I relearned the art of film to Ektar 100 and more recently Portra 400 and 800. There is something magical about it 🙂

    1. That’s fantastic Steve! I’ve never tried Portra 800 but it sounds perfect. Too often I’ve been stuck in low light conditions where the 800 speed would be perfect. I hope to experience the magic soon 🙂

Leave a Reply