I shot these back in Autumn, 2016 at the International Balloon Festival in High River, Alberta. Hot air balloons only fly at dawn, so I had to drive out to High River early that morning to catch the action. There were very few spectators and I was able to set up my tripod in a great spot. It seems like the balloons take forever to inflate, but once they launch they shoot up into the sky quick. I had to be fast with my framing and focusing if I wanted to snap a photo.
Last year I took a trip to Vietnam. I had an absolutely amazing time. These photos are from an encounter I had with some locals on the streets of Hoi An.
As I was walking along the river, I spotted two women with baskets of fruit hanging from their shoulders and snapped a quick photo. I had hoped to go unnoticed, but then they spotted me as I snapped one more. It was at this point that one of the women came up to me, placed her hat on my head, gave me her baskets of fruit and tried to take my camera! She gestured that I should stand next to her friend so that she could take my photo. I tried to say no thank you but unfortunately I don’t speak Vietnamese and she didn’t speak English.
Now, the Canonet QL17 is a rangefinder with manual focusing and I guessed that she wouldn’t have a clue how to focus it, so I simply set the focus to infinity and hoped for the best. I gave her the camera and stood next to her friend. At first she was surprised that there was no digital screen on the back of my camera, but then she found the viewfinder and brought the camera to her eye. She snapped a photo. Then she tried to snap another, but the shutter wouldn’t fire. She was quite confused and I was unable to communicate to her that she needed to advance the film manually before taking the next shot. Unable to get my camera to work, she handed it to a random man walking by (the man in the third photo). At this point, I started to worry that I wouldn’t get my camera back! Fortunately, the man was much more camera savvy and managed to advance the film before snapping the fourth photo. He then handed the camera back to the woman who gave it back to me. But they weren’t done.
The women then proceeded to sell me some fruit! Again, I tried to say no thank you, but they were persistent and I figured if they were kind enough to snap my photo, then I could at least buy some fruit from them. They overcharged me for the fruit (150,000 Vietnamese Dong–about $8), but after some protesting on my part, I decided to just pay what they were asking. After all, it wasn’t about the fruit. For $8, I had a fun little cultural exchange. And got some photos.
These photos are from one of the few rolls of film to have survived my recent postal film fiasco. I shot these at YMCA Camp Chief Hector while I was out on a morning hike. I used Kodak Elite Chrome 100 film that I had cross-processed at The Darkroom. I love how some of the shots have a warm redscale look to them while the others have more of a cool blue tone. I remember varying the exposure between shots, but I didn’t take notes and my Rebel 2000 does not record metadata so I doubt I could reproduce the settings I used that morning.
My worst nightmare just came true. Eight rolls of exposed film have gone missing. They are lost in the mail, possibly forever. This is the challenge of shooting film: once it leaves your hands, it’s out of your control. You just have to trust that it will all work out. And while most of the time it does, there will be the occasional screw-up.
Three weeks ago, I packaged and mailed 11 rolls of film to The Darkroom just as I always do. I tracked its delivery online and the day it was due to arrive, USPS stopped updating the tracking number. This is odd, I thought, but I still had faith. Then I get an email from The Darkroom asking me if I was planning to send them the remaining 8 rolls from my order separately. What do you mean? I asked. There should have been 11 rolls. Apparently, only 3 rolls made it. The other 8 had somehow never arrived. It seems that my package must have been damaged in transit (or, God forbid, someone stole my film!) and only part of my shipment made it through. Ironically enough, the 3 rolls that made it were all slide film.
Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I discover that my second shipment of film has gone astray! I sent another 11 rolls of film to The Darkroom a week after the first package and tracking this shipment on USPS has revealed a problem. For some reason, USPS has forwarded my second package to God knows where and have claimed that I had made an error in the address. Not bloody likely! I used the shipping label printed directly from The Darkroom’s website. There was no error on my part. So now I have no idea if the second package will make it to The Darkroom or if I’ve lost another 11 rolls. Sigh. Once is bad luck, twice is incompetence!
Out of sheer frustration, I called Canada Post and filed two complaints—one an insurance claim for the lost film and the other an investigation into the whereabouts of my second package. I’m still waiting for an answer. I have lost all faith in Canada Post (and USPS) and don’t expect any kind of resolution on their behalf. Even if they pay out on the insurance claim, my photos are lost forever.
However, there is one silver lining in all this. Throughout this entire ordeal, The Darkroom has been amazing! They have answered all my questions and even offered to speak with USPS on my behalf. They have a great relationship with their local post office and will let me know if the missing 8 rolls ever turn up (it’s happened before where loose rolls have made their way back to The Darkroom after getting lost). And they will speak with the postmaster to look into the whereabouts of my second package. Hopefully, it will be found and rerouted to The Darkroom.
So what have I learned from all this?
First, package your film so that it is as strong and damage-proof as you can make it. This will also deter anyone from tampering with your package. And make sure that both the destination and return addresses are big and bold so that there is no confusion.
Second, I will no longer trust Canada Post and USPS to deliver my film safely. I will send my packaged film through FedEx from now on. They may or may not be any better, but I can’t risk another issue with the mail.
Third, The Darkroom rocks! Their customer service is second to none. They have exceeded all my expectations in helping me to resolve a problem that did not originate with them. I can’t say this enough: They do a quality job from start to finish and have never disappointed me. I will always send my film to them.
The photo above is not the film I lost, although a roll of Fuji Sensia was among the missing. It’s just a photo of some expired film I purchased six months ago.
Here is the second installment in my 52 Week Photography Challenge. Week 2’s challenge was to take a traditional landscape photo. This was taken at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. I shot this on some newly acquired Svema Color DS 100 film that I ordered online from Ukraine. Not bad for film that expired in 2002!
As we paddled along Widgeon Creek, one of the guys spotted a tributary to the creek. Despite the clear “Do Not Enter” sign and the chain across the entrance, we decided it was worth a further look. The water level of the creek was just high enough over the chain that we could paddle our canoes across. The farther we travelled up the creek tributary, the narrower it became until we ran out of water.
We had no idea how to rejoin the main creek and we were certainly not going to turn back so some of the guys went off scouting ahead on foot. They shortly returned with cries of “That way!” and “Portage!” Soon we were all yelling “Portage!” We picked up our canoes, held them over our head and began to portage in search of rejoining the main creek.
After a short trek, we came across an old abandoned dock. The dock was no longer on the water as the creek had changed course over the years, but the creek was just on the other side. As we traversed the dock, one of the guys nearly fell through the rotten timbers. He was lucky to make it across with nothing more than a few scrapes. Luckily no one else fell through. Once on the other side, we re-entered the creek with our canoes. The water was crystal clear (unlike the rest of Widgeon Creek) so we decided to have a swim and play in the water for awhile. Soon we were racing each other to see who could pull the canoes the fastest while swimming.
After our swim, we followed the new creek to see where it would lead us. As luck would have it, we rejoined Widgeon Creek not more than 100 feet from where we entered the tributary. Talk about a shortcut! Our adventure over, we continued up to the Falls.
My first trip to Widgeon Falls was back in July 1994. My friend Kevin was getting married and he really wanted to do this hike for his bachelor party. So we rented some canoes and paddled across Pitt Lake past Siwash Island to the entrance of Widgeon Creek. But that was only the beginning of this memorable adventure. We would soon go off exploring and get ourselves lost!
I love the look of cross-processed Fuji Velvia 100. It gives beautiful pink and purple tones. These shots of the ferris wheel were taken in Heritage Park.