If you’ve never had the misfortune of experiencing a California “fire season”, you are blessed. This was my 39th, and it has been the worst I can remember thanks in large part to the ever-present smoke from the nearby Bobcat Fire. But it didn’t help matters that I picked this particular occasion to pay my sister a visit on her ranch in Nevada County – as in Northern California, the hotbed of the conflagration. I brought along my Minolta SRT 102 and MC Rokkor-X PG 58mm f/1.2 lens.
You may have heard of Nevada County as the hotbed of another conflagration, one whose smoke carries a far more pleasing aroma for much of the population round those parts – Nevada County is where lots and lots of cannabis is grown.
Prior to her purchase, my sister’s ranch produced its fair share thanks to its remote location, isolation from prying eyes, and seasonal stream. This was back in the day when such an operation was against California law. I’m not privy to why things went south for the previous occupants, but by the time my sister took possession it was bank-owned and had been vacant for half a dozen years, the four enormous planter beds overgrown with weeds not of the monetizable variety.
Nowadays, two of the four planter beds have been disassembled, their wood and $50k worth of soil being repurposed for the legitimate grow operation now occupying the property – a vegetable garden.
I photographed the ruins of the remaining two structures at a time when the smoke blanketing Nevada County limited visibility to maybe two miles. So thick was it that its effects could easily be seen even within the confines of my sister’s property, like waking up in fog. By shooting into the barely-visible sun, I hoped to maximize the gaussian, back-lit eeriness. Employing the MC Rokkor-X PG 58mm f/1.2 took this effect even further. This lens has a reputation for creating dreamy renderings at wide apertures, an effect I made full use of for these images.
For 20+ years I have been an on-again-off-again film photographer, staunchly of the ILFORD variety. This was my first foray with Arista EDU ULTRA 100. I see the grain a bit more with the Arista and I feel like there is a glowy halation going on that I am not accustomed to. There’s also a punchy contrast to this stock that I’ve never felt so readily with HP5; I wasn’t planning for it, but this extra contrast probably helped a lot, given the hazy conditions in which I was shooting. Developed in Df96 from Cinestill, scanned on Epson Perfection V500, and digitized with Negative Lab Pro.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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