Slowing time

Analog photography is a slow and mindful process, each step a deliberate choice that begins with the selection of the film. Long before my walk had started, I stood in my kitchen before the open door of my cool and bright refrigerator, reaching for a box of Ilford HP5 blanc et noir 35 mm 36 exposure film. I turned to face the kitchen counter where I would open its tiny canister and place the film gently in the camera I have selected for today. Today, I will walk with my dad's old camera, and as I reach for the app where I log the date and time of each roll in each camera, I think of him and the photos he made with it. It will be nice to walk with him, to think of him, to remember. Today, I want my photographs to look like charcoal pencil drawings of the nature that surrounds me, and as I slide into the front seat of my car, I choose to head towards the hills. My measured pace walking them will slow this day and add to the thoughtfulness of the morning. I begin with the explorer's spirit rushing towards the starting line only to have my rapid breath fall out of sync with my plodding feet as I ascend. About midway up the incline, I first notice the white rock, whose surface catches the tiniest bit of morning light and the small glistening leaves that face east and frame the path that leads into a dark unknown.

I step back to see, really see, what has caught my eye. By choosing black and white, I have limited my response to the spectrum of available colors and selected to measure the intensity of light, in essence, simplifying my choices to subject and luminance only. I remember thinking the decision as a good one as we soon would head out for a few days of reconnection and the idea of being present in the pure essence of our time together appeals to me, to narrow the wavelengths that I explore to focus better on the spectrum of you.

I pull the camera to my eye and begin to frame the wooded path, the rock, and the bits of light that will last only a bit longer. I set the speed and focus point, and then, I inhaled deeply and still each part of my body while I press the shutter. I love this moment, the still concentration just before catching the light. And, then, the moment is forever gone, and I turn to continue the trek up the hill.

I fill this day with moments such as this, intervals of movement and stillness interspersed with profoundly deep breaths and concentration. Walking to the car, I review the morning's photo count. As I drive back into town and home, I consider the rhythms of this day, slow and methodical, intensely aware, and engage with my surroundings. There are no headphones, no noise, just the quiet cadence of feet on the path.

It will be another week before I finish this roll of film, and I will be miles from home on a cliff at Los Osos State Beach in the Central Valley before I unload it. And it will be another month before the negatives and the scans return from the lab. It will be like a Christmas morning as I look at each of the precisely made photographs as the scans download and consider that I made one morning last five weeks, effectively slowing time.