Amidst the colors and the vibrancy of Barcelona, I found some stolen quiet moments. In a three-week traveling adventure, and in the everyday routine, a space of calm and solitude is welcome.
Both images shot using my Canon AE-1 camera on Tri-X 400 film, scanned by Indie Film Lab.
Back to playing catch-up on our summer adventures! After our few days in Sevilla, we headed to Barcelona. This is the only city in Spain that I had previously visited — I spent 5 days there during my epic 7-week, solo backpacking journey many moons ago. I was eager to return to Barcelona as I remember falling in love with that city when I had been there prior. I wondered if its architecture, color, art, and food would still hold its enchantment all these years later. I’m happy to report Barcelona did not disappoint.
to the colorful Casa Batlló…
and the towers atop La Pedrera.
The market, La Boqueria, is a visual feast with everything from fresh octopus…
All images shot using my Canon AE-1 camera on Portra 160 film, scanned by Indie Film Lab. As always, you can click on each image to see a larger format.
I’m still playing catch-up here at Life Refocused, working my way through our summer adventures to share with you. A few short days after returning from the Tribe retreat, Tony and I headed off to Spain and France for three weeks! I had been accepted to present my research at a conference in Paris, and as we had just been to the City of Light in 2012, we were very excited to return to one of our favorite cities on the planet. My motto is if you’re going to travel that far and spend that much money to get there, you may as well stay for as long as you can and get the most bang for your proverbial Euro. That’s where Spain came in.
We flew into Madrid, but only spent 24 hours there before heading south to Sevilla. I won’t even go into the massive debacle that unfolded for our traveling companions. Suffice it to say, your passport actually expires, for all intents and purposes, six months PRIOR to the printed expiration date. Given the distractions of how to get our friend’s passport issues sorted and agonizing about how this would effect our travel plans, very few photos got taken in Madrid. Thankfully, the passport dilemma got solved with help from the literal powers that be, our friend arrived in Madrid with only 24 hours delay, and off to Sevilla we went.
I have many friends who have traveled to Sevilla, and all of them simply rave about this town. Having never been there myself, I was very much looking forward to seeing what all the hype was about. It is a charming place, particularly the old town which is where we spent our three days.
We visited the Alcázar of Seville, where I found one of the loveliest sitting spots…
and on to the famous and immense Plaza de España…
As recommended by the New York Times, La Azotea was our favorite dinner spot…
All images shot using my Canon AE-1 camera on Tri-X 400 film, scanned by Indie Film Lab. As always, you can click on each image to see a larger format.
In my last post, I shared my new love affair with black and white film. The affair is still in full bloom with no signs of fading. I also hinted about a photo shoot with my Tribe sister, Melissa. For her amazing, year-long Project Adventure, Melissa decided she wanted portraits of herself taken in an intimate photo shoot. I was flattered and humbled when she asked me to be the photographer behind the lens. Before meeting up in Oregon for our retreat and the backdrop for this photo shoot, we compared notes about ideas for shots and made our respective packing lists: Melissa’s for wardrobe and mine for photo gear. I knew I wanted to primarily shoot film for these photos of Melissa, so I brought along three film cameras — Polaroid 195, Polaroid SLR680, and Canon AE-1 — and lots of film for each.
Rather than do the photo shoot all at one time, Melissa and I found ourselves allowing some space and freedom for these photos to emerge over the few days we had together. This gave us room to experiment with different locations, various lighting, and divergent moods. It also let us have some fun with costume changes. More importantly, giving ourselves the time to spread the shoot over a few days let us learn that pushing or forcing a photo session when something feels off or isn’t quite vibe-ing does not make for good portraits.
Since I’ve been immersed in self-portraiture for the past year, taking portraits of Melissa also let me hone skills I haven’t used in quite some time. I got to work through posing Melissa and positioning myself for good angles. This included working collaboratively to find the sweet spot of what I wanted as a photographer and what felt good to Melissa in her body.
I practiced how to talk with Melissa during the photo shoot. This might sound odd — she’s one of my best friends, after all — but making someone feel at ease while having her portrait taken is harder than it seems. It’s especially hard when using a rangefinder or other manually-focused cameras, as the process of shooting a photo becomes more of an ordeal, taking longer to get proper focus. Additionally, I became more aware of my own discomfort when taking the time to focus properly with these old-school cameras. I noticed how I start to rush myself out of concern that the person I’m shooting is getting annoyed or uncomfortable waiting for me to get my focus and position settled. This rushing is definitely not good for my process, and I was able to recognize and begin to work it out during our time together.
Best of all, I learned how totally fun a portrait session can be! I’m so used to shooting self-portraits and being alone during the process, I had forgotten the joy it brings me to create photos of someone else who is equally invested and into the session. Despite me being behind the lens and she in front of it, Melissa and I felt like a team. I think that collaborative spirit comes through in these images and makes these photos that much better.
Melissa was so open, so vulnerable, allowing me to really see her. I feel like I was able to capture her beauty — inside and out — in an authentic way. I hope she feels the same. I’m so grateful Melissa wanted to do a portrait session and that she selected me from the many talented photographers with whom she works in the wedding and film industry. It was truly my pleasure and honor.
All of the photos shown here were shot with my Polaroid 195 camera and Fuji 3000B film. This last photo makes me swoon. Shooting this film and seeing these portrait results breaks my heart that this film was recently discontinued. Melissa is sharing many more photos and her experience of being on the other side of the lens over at The Long Haul Project. Check it out HERE.
I have so much to share about summer that does not include near-death experiences and losing photos. Where to begin… June brought our annual Tribe retreat and travel to my favorite place on the planet. This year’s gathering, our fourth, brought with it inevitable life circumstances that kept two of our sisters from joining us. Turns out, you can’t plan around arrivals of babies and new jobs. We held these sisters in spirit during our time together, much like we did the year previous when a death in the family kept another sister away from our sacred time. I imagine that this will be how our years together get marked, with the life events, the ebbs and flows, that etch our memories.
As always, we engaged in deep conversations, catching one another up on the big events and the smaller whispers that had transpired since we last gathered. Although we keep in regular contact throughout the year, many parts of our lives — our longings, the risks we’ve taken, the transitions we’ve weathered — need to be shared with one another in person with more time and space to hold our stories. Connecting and being together in this way on retreat is such a gift. And with that, the documenting of our time in photos and video took a backseat.
The only real photography plans I had for the trip was a photo shoot Melissa and I had been scheming — much more on that later. These plans, however, did encourage me to pack along some black and white film to shoot with my Canon AE-1. I adore the look and feel of black and white photography, but had only really shot true B&W film with my Polaroids cameras.
All images shot using Tri-X 400, scanned by Indie Film Lab. As always, you can click on each image to see a larger format.
When I got the email from Indie Film Lab with the subject line, “Your Scans are Ready,” my heart skipped a beat. A few weeks earlier, I had shipped the lab four rolls of film — three from our trip to Spain and France, and one from our trip to Colorado. You know the one from Colorado…that roll of film that was in my camera as I was pulled into the turbulent rapids of the North St. Vrain River. The roll of film that spent 15 minutes under water inside my now-waterlogged camera. The roll of film for which I had slim hopes of the lab being able to process as I expected the emulsion to have either slipped off or to have dried and stuck to itself in the canister. Yeah, that roll of film.
The email didn’t say anything about that roll of film. Despite me contacting the lab ahead of time to tell them what had happened and regardless of my notes on the order itself about the water damage, the message was simply the usual, somewhat automated email from the lab. I held my breath as I downloaded the zip file. Indeed, there were four folders that appeared in the unzipped file, one for each roll of film that I had sent. I quickly determined which folder contained the Colorado roll of film and opened it. And there I discovered 19 scans. Really?! 19 scans? Lest I get too excited just yet, I braced myself for streaky, muddied, images.
To my surprise, as I clicked on each jpeg file, I discovered that Indie Film Lab salvaged these photos! Yes, the images were a bit hazy, a bit “off,” but the photos were there.
I’m so grateful for the work Indie Film Lab did to save this half-shot, damaged roll of film. Not only did they salvage these images, they salvaged my memories from a trip that seemingly got washed away.
Don’t forget that you can click on each image to see a larger version.
I don’t want summer to end. The slower pace, the lessened responsibilities, the lack of structure. That all sounds just so very good as I write these words. Yes, it sounds good to me, in theory. If I get quiet with myself and I’m really honest, I know these kinds of days don’t equate to the feelings in myself for which I long. The truth is, I’m restless. I’m antsy. I’m a little down.
Knowing myself — really knowing and accepting myself — is a work in progress. I heard Gretchen Rubin give a great talk last year on this very subject, and I’m only now hearing all of its reverberations. Over time, and particularly of late, I’m becoming more and more clear that my personality is wired for structure. Spontaneity, free-flowing time, and days without set plans all seem enticing to me. It sounds great. But it isn’t great for me. Those type of days make me feel more restless, more antsy, more depressed. I realize I have been holding on to some notion that those kind of days are supposed to be awesome and fun and freeing. After all, I can sleep in if I want. I can stay home in my pjs all day, be with Parker, and work on my manuscripts. I don’t have scheduled meetings, so the day can just flow. Sounds good, right? As much as I don’t want to let the idea go that I could be “unstructured, free-flowing Meghan,” I have to accept the truth that these kind of days are not good for me. I have to know and honor my true Self enough to accept who I am.
This acceptance fills me with some excitement. Getting closer to my truth is GOOD! I’m already thinking through my plans to kick this restlessness to the curb. Although it still only the first week of August, my summer is just about over. I leave this week for the American Psychological Association conference and and when I return, preparations for the semester will be in full swing as classes begin a few short days later. Thus, with the new semester on the horizon, I’m thinking through the structure I want to build for myself. I’m making plans for how and when I want to spend my time — writing my book, working on research manuscripts, teaching class, meeting with students, yoga, lunches/walks/happy hour with friends, dates with Tony. These are all the parts of my life I want to really sink into, and for me to really sink in, I need to prioritize and schedule it all. As well, I need to wake up, get dressed, and leave the house. As a true (and extreme) extrovert, I need to be with other people, even if it’s working and writing at the coffee shop. Staying at home in my pjs all day, alone, is a recipe for disaster. That’s knowing myself, being secure in who I am, and living my truth.
It’s been almost a week since the scare of our lives happened. The bruises are moving through their stages of purple to blue to green to yellow as my body works to heal itself. The scrapes and cuts are on the mend. My chiropractor is helping to get the trauma — the tense and locked up muscles of my neck, shoulders, and back — out of my physical being. And writing, journaling, and connecting with friends and family is helping me get the trauma out of my psychological being. I’m noticing as frequently as I can how very fortunate I am (and Tony is) to be alive, to be here, to be virtually unscathed from this nightmare of an experience. Focus on the big picture, right?
So…I’m trying not to care. I’m trying not to care about waterlogging our iPhones to the point of no return and subsequently losing all of our iPhone photos from the last month. Normally, this would be a bit upsetting — a month’s worth of phone photos. Disappointing, but not the end of the world. But our last month?!? Our last month is when we went to Spain and France and Colorado. Our last month was when I chose to forgo taking a digital camera on our epic trip and only shoot film and iPhone photos. Our last month of memories and travel experiences was primarily captured with my iPhone. And all of those photos, those tangible visible memories, are gone.
I’m trying to refocus. See the big picture. I’m trying not to care. But…I do.
Tired. Legs a bit wobbly. Growing ever hotter as the intense Colorado sun beats down on the national park along with everyone and everything in it, including me. This is how I was feeling as Tony and I were in the homestretch of a 14-mile hike last Friday. I was thinking about filling up our CamelBaks at the nearby natural springs and taking some photos of the many hummingbirds in the area as we came into the last mile. Having already passed Calypso Cascades (a waterfall), the North St. Vrain River was rushing down the mountain next to the trail.
Tony jokingly mentioned dipping his head in the river to cool off as he ventured a bit off the trail to get closer to the water. I followed him a few moments later, thinking I would put my hand in to grab a bit of water to throw on my overheated face. As I began to reach down toward the river, I heard Tony’s voice, not registering what he said. The slimmest edge of my left toe, encased in a heavy hiking boot, dipped ever so slightly into the water. In an instant, I felt the slippery surface of the riverbank, and I was gone.
Thrust into the rapids of the rushing river, my feet and legs slipped out from under me as I tried to fight against what was happening. The river’s bottom was too slick and the water too powerful for my legs to find any success. I frantically looked up to search for Tony on the river’s edge only to find him amongst the rapids coming after me. The river was moving so quickly, my brain couldn’t keep up to assimilate what was truly happening. I crashed into rocks, brushed harshly against fallen trees that I desperately attempted to grab on to with no avail. This is what fear feels like.
Then, I was pulled under the water’s surface. My body was tossed about as I gulped in water with an open mouth, caught off guard by this raging river. It felt like slow-motion when I was underwater. Images of Naomi Watts in The Impossible flashed through my mind. I felt like I was in a movie, being pummeled against boulders and debris as I was kept under by the sheer force of the water. I had the fleeting thought that this might be it. This is how I might die. This is what fear feels like.
I surfaced, facing up-river, wildly searching again for Tony and gasping for air. He was close behind, the current moving him directly to me. He yelled to me, urging me to try and grab the fallen trees that we kept rushing by. Again, I tried getting a hold of anything I could to stop this nightmare from unfurling. It was so hard to hold on. Part of a branch would be in my hand for a moment only for it to slip away from me as the river kept pushing me downstream. We began edging ever more closer to the next set of waterfalls. This is what fear feels like.
Next, I feel Tony grab me. I’m still wearing my backpack and my camera across my shoulders, and thankfully, the river has forced Tony closer and closer to me that he is finally able to get me in his grasp by snatching up part of my pack. I hear him repeating, “I’ve got you. I’ve got you. I’ve got you.” The current pushes us farther from the trail edge of the river but that much closer to a downed tree. With his free arm, Tony manages to wrap it around the tree and stop our forward momentum.
I am gulping in air now. I grab on to the tree. My upper torso has actually slammed into the tree. I look searchingly into Tony’s eyes. He tells me over and over, “I’m not gonna let you go. I’m not gonna let you go. I’m not gonna let you go.” And I believe him. I start to think – to feel – that part of the tree, a stray limb, may in fact be embedded in my side. Although we are in some momentary safety, I am keenly aware that we might not be in this spot for very long. The current is still raging, still pushing, still threatening. This is what fear feels like.
Repeating words of my own begin to spill out of my mouth. “Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay.” I say it over and over. Am I pleading with my mind? With the Universe? Or is this just what shock does to the system? I glance down at my arm holding onto the tree branch and I see my hand and my wrist, noticing how pink and red my skin looks. That’s when something registers in my brain. I’m cold. This water that I am submerged in is very cold. We cannot stay in this river for much longer. This is what fear feels like.
While we are remaining fairly steady in our found bit of safety, we are also being shifted about at the whim of the river. I feel a huge rock under me and I try to wedge one of my legs behind it. I’m doing whatever I can to stay put. Hold on to the tree. Keep my leg plastered to this boulder. Do not go downstream. Do not go over Copeland Falls. Tony and I look at each other, and in that flicker of eye contact, I think we realize that we are not getting out of this river on our own.
Tony yells, “HELP!” Right, we need to call for help. Then I start screaming, “HELP!” My back is turned toward the trail, so it is difficult for me to see anything except the river and Tony. I can tell that someone has heard us, that someone has come toward the river and seen that we are in it. I hear Tony tell this person that we need help.
Then, a man quickly appears on the river bank. I turn my head to see what’s going on. I see this man trying to find his footing, precariously edging toward us. He’s looking for another fallen tree to use to help us get out. A few other men join him. There are four of them now. I realize that me turning back toward the trail is making my position in the water more risky. I look back at Tony and keep my eyes fixed on him. He reassures me we’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.
The men have linked themselves together, formed a human chain. The man in front extends the fallen tree he’s found toward us. Tony somehow manages to keep my pack firmly in his grasp, hold the fallen tree we have been clinging to for safety under his other arm, and then grasp the extended tree under the arm that is holding onto me. The four men slowly pull the extended tree toward them, hand-over-hand, pulling us toward them and toward safety. We get to the riverbank and one of the men pulls me out. I take a step forward away from the river and turn to watch the men pull Tony out of the rapids. We’re on land. Out of the current. “Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay.”
I stand on the river’s edge for a few moments. I think I am in shock. I take off my pack. Remove the camera from around my neck. And I still stand there. I look at the men, and I say to them, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…” I burst into tears. We stumble up onto the trail. A mass of people have assembled to watch the scene. I’m outside of myself now. Is this happening? Did this all just really happen?
Two women from two separate groups of hikers start talking to Tony and me. They are urging us to get out of our clothes. They tell us we are shivering and cold. We reply that we are fine, we’re okay. We have no idea how cold we are. They continue to urge. They insist we have to get warm, now. They each have a warming blanket in their packs – those metallic, aluminum foil-type blankets – and they unwrap the blankets and then wrap each of us up.
The four men who pulled us from the river have gone on their way, nameless to us forever. Another man asks if he can walk us to our car. He offers to carry Tony’s pack for him. The Park Ranger arrives, relieved to see us on the trail and not in the river. He gets some information from us, and asks us repeatedly if we have hit our heads, if we think we have broken any bones, and the like. He tells us we are the fifth and sixth people to get swept into the raging water just this week.
We – the Park Ranger, the man with Tony’s pack, one of the “blanket ladies,” Tony, and myself – walk the last mile of our 14-mile hike. At the car, I finally take off my shirts to see that, in fact, I was not impaled on the tree limb. Tony and I both assess our respective bodies, and despite massive bruises, cuts, and scrapes, we have exited this waterlogged nightmare virtually unharmed, all things considered. Our new friends bid us good luck and goodbye. And with our faith restored in humanity and the sheer kindness of strangers, and my decision to spend my life with Tony reinforced yet again, we pulled away from the trailhead.
If you’re curious about this experience through Tony’s eyes, you can read his account HERE.
We’re back! Our epic trip to Spain and France was a blast, and I’m in denial that it’s over. While I’m waiting for my rolls of film to get developed and I take some time to scan my Polaroids, I thought I’d share a few fave iPhone shots to give you a peek into our travels.
We started in Madrid. The color “had me at hello…”
I cannot wait to get my film photos. I’m dying to see what I captured. Oh, and did I mention I didn’t take my digital SLR? I’m over at Mortal Muses today sharing a bit more about opting to leave “the big girl camera” at home while traveling. Click HERE to see more!