It was a sunny but cold day in November 2020. Coronavirus was in full swing, but I decided to head up from Las Vegas to Reno for a week to get away from the job search which had characterized my existence for the previous few months and see my brother.
On my agenda for the weekend was a trip down to midtown Reno for a few hours, to roam the streets and take photographs. I’d first seen midtown on a previous trip to Reno when I’d been driven through it to get some food for a trip to Lake Tahoe.
For this specific outing, I’d brought along my Bronica ETRSi: a modular 6×4.5 medium format SLR. The ETRSi is perfect for me: 645 means more shots per roll than 6×7, but with a 4:3 aspect ratio that I prefer to the square frames of 6×6. It also means a smaller and lighter camera and combined with the low price and high modularity of this particular system you’ve got yourself a winning combination in my book.
I set out onto the street bundled up in a jacket and beanie. The streets of midtown Reno fit the name “The Biggest Little City in the World”. Small restaurants with outdoor seating dot the city blocks, flanked by red brick tattoo parlors and small antique shops. Down every alley is a brightly colored graffiti mural to highlight the district’s rich culture. In the background loom the towers of the financial district, which look out of place amongst the small suburban houses converted into businesses that surround them. Back in midtown, old-timey signs advertising motels with color TV or promoting small restaurants spring out of the pavement like palm trees. The whole area is a strange cross between a small-town suburban lane and a busy city street.
For this expedition, I had brought along a roll of Kodak Portra 400. Although most people’s default option for color negative, I wasn’t very well practiced with it at this point. For 35mm film, my go-to film was Ektar 100 since I live somewhere very sunny and prefer subtler grain (at least for color photographs). Upon shooting some 120 rolls of Ektar however, I found the reduced grain unnecessary for a format this large, and the extra possibilities presented by an ISO 400 film were quite appealing.
I’m quite happy with the results; Portra 400 performed wonderfully and the streets of Midtown Reno made a perfect subject. I plan to move to Reno within the next year, and these photos will probably act as a reminder of a time when the city was still new to me, with a new photograph around every corner.
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Great writing and images. That first one if the Motel sign is absolutely gorgeous! I am not a great fan of Portra 400, but you did a fabulous job with it, Cole.
A really nice article Cole – you write well. Thanks, Mark.