By the time Race left it was getting dark. The sun set behind horizon about 15-20min before I walked him out to the car and while saying our goodbyes we saw a peculiar optical phenomenon of cloud iridescence in the sky. I’m always happy when seeing a rainbow and have seen some very spectacular ones, including some produced by snow and fog, and a few that were so bright that they looked over-saturated in Photoshop. I have also seen quite a few instances of iridescence, when the light refracts through ice crystals within clouds to make them turn rainbow colors, sometimes in usual linear and sometimes in very abstract manner. I’ve always considered them a good sign, never seen it this late after sunset though and so it buoyed my spirits.
By the time I was exposing the last plate at Mexican Hat Rock location it was past 7om and the sun was literally touching the horizon, so a 12 second exposure was required at f11. Collodion fairies decided to be kind to me and paused the wind for just those seconds. I cleaned up, took one last sip of Hammer Head and drove another two hours to Durango, Colorado, where I finally found a hotel to rest after a tumultuous 45 initial hours of my adventure.
That was the coldest weather I’ve shot in so far. In South Dakota, while shooting the scene with smoke stack and clouds, it was also brutally cold and windy. I tried to remove the gloves, hoping that the heat from my hands will warm up the wash water, but instead the water just froze upon my fingers. In Wisconsin, while shooting the old cemetery, I got a little smarter and hid in the car while washing plates. When I came out to get the last plater from the tray where it was resting in water, I saw a thin layer of ice covering it. The whole time on the way to NYC, and in fact there as well, temperatures were unseasonably cold, with many places setting new record lows for that time of year. Cold and wind aren’t friends of collodion, and so some of the plates you’ll see below have a bit more artifacts than I like to see in my work, but I think they still stand, considering the weather and also the fact that these were all done on the fly during extremely brief stops as I’m zooming on toward my next workshop destination.
On the return portion of the trip the weather was a bit warmer and I was truly overjoyed when around Kentucky I started seeing fresh green leaves on trees and finally no snow banks were in sight. It was also right in the middle of the bridge over Ohio River between Cincinnati and Kentucky, that my car reached a nice little milestone in the life of a car – 200.000mi odometer mark! It being a Toyota though, that’s not a lot, I’m hoping to have the 300K and 400K shots on this blog sometime during future road trip adventures.
We decided to go shoot outside and Gerald, being the local, showed us to a park with a small ruin of an old mill perched on the banks of a mellow river. I made a plate of the gearing from old waterwheel and two of the river and was ready to start wrapping up, when Gerald, who was shooting on the bank about 50ft away signaled to Connor and I and yelled that there’s a neat snake that he spotted. We walked over and saw a long thin brown snake coiled up on a very thin twig-like branch of some shoreline plant. The sun was shining right onto it and the snake seemed to be very relaxed and so I decided to attempt to make a plate of it. My box was set up on a picnic table about 200 feet away and so there was a bit of running back and forth with plate holder in hand while trying to keep the plate from drying and also to make the shot happen before my model decided it had enough of sitting in one place. During the first exposure (1sec at f8) the snake decided to let out its tongue and wiggle it in their usual way while feeling the air for whatever they feel it for. I was rather astonished to see that the middle part of the tongue was apparently not moving enough to disappear completely and actually recoded very nicely. Inspired by that I dipped another plate in hopes for success again – the snake appeared to be almost frozen the entire time and the second plate came out to be almost identical to the first. By the time I was back there with the third plate though, my little friend was on the move; clinging to a single little twig in search of a new place to settle, this time the whole body was in the shade. I refocused my 4x5 on the fly and hoped that the wind wouldn’t move my subject during exposure (which this time was f5.6 at 2sec). I got lucky and the plate came out almost as sharp as the first two. All this running made me take my shirt off and of course Gerald documented that less than stellar moment on his Fuji advanced point and shoot 35mm…. sigh, that’s what I get for hanging out with documentary photographers.
Next two weeks will be spent frantically preparing for a trip to European Collodion Weekend, which is held in Luxembourg on May 10-13th. Very much looking forward to meeting all the folks I've known online for a while and of course new faces, plus I'll be shooting the entire time I'm in Europe, so watch for the blog post about that trip in a bout a month or so.