After the fun I had on 120 Day, I was terribly excited about January 27 (127 Day). Sadly, I shot the last of my 3 rolls of hand-cut 127 film some months ago. What to do?
It’s imminently possible to roll 35mm film into 127 backing paper, so I grabbed a roll of ISO 100 film (Lomography Color 100), some tape and scissors, the darkbag, a 127 spool, and two 127 spools with backing paper (from the rolls I picked up for testing the Brownies), and got to work.
Now, the backing paper that came with the hand-cut 127 rolls is about a millimeter short. With the preloaded rolls, this led to some light leaks along the edges. I wasn’t worried much about that with 35mm, as it’s not as tall/wide as 127 film, but it did lead to some slightly wonky frames. (I cropped them all to square-ish.)
All in all, it was a really easy operation. A single 36 exposure roll gave me 2 rolls of 127, with about 8 frames leftover (and that I shot in the XA randomly, just to see how much film remained), and I was all ready for 127 Day.
Early Sunday morning (1/27), I packed up some snacks and water, and the Brownie Reflex Synchro (and a few 35mm cameras) and drove out to Mineral Wells, Texas. The plan was to check out Mineral Wells proper, then go to the Mineral Wells State Park.
Well, Mineral Wells is small town about an hour west of Fort Worth, and, as you might suspect (though it didn’t even cross my mind), it’s largely closed and empty on Sunday. The fast food restaurants on 180 were open, but I only found one actual restaurant open: Happy Days Diner, on Oak St. in downtown Mineral Wells.
I had a veggie omelet, hashbrowns, toast, and coffee: $9, and tasty.
And with all that good food in my belly, I felt ready to wander the town some. But it was a bit chilly, and the town was largely empty, the streets wide, and I felt a mix of mild anxiety and… what’s the opposite of inspiration? So I just hopped in the car and drove to the park.
Back in the late 1990s and early 00s, I used to go rock climbing with Mike Miller out in Mineral Wells, so I have some memories of the place, but they’re spotty. I remember always wanting to go wander around the park, and Mike only ever wanting to climb, so I looked forward to going walkabout some, but also wanted to see Penitentiary Hollow, one of the few natural rock climbing locations in Texas, and reminisce.
I stopped at the first little area by the lake and took a few frames. The sun was low and bright, and I worried about flare.
Just before departing for Penitentiary Hollow, I threw all the cameras I had onto the hood of the car and took a quick picture. I shot exclusively Lomography film on this trip: Lomo Color 100 in the LC-A, Nikon Lite Touch Zoom, and Brownie Reflex Synchro, and Lomography Berlin Kino in the new clear Action Sampler.* Here they are, if you’re curious.
I hopped in the car, drove around to the Penitentiary Hollow parking, and started walking, down the old stone steps into the hollow, then down to the lake, around the Red trail for a bit, back to the Hollow, back down to the shore, then back up to the car, largely more interested in getting a good sweat on, but keeping my eyes open for pictures.
I wasn’t particularly happy with anything I shot in the Brownie. I had hopes for the picture of my shadow on the rocks, but the center of the frame came out strangely blurred. I’m not sure what caused that, but it happened in the middle ~8 pictures from both rolls. The first and last few frames are sharp-enough throughout, but the middle group all have a strange blur somewhere in the middle of the frame.
You can see it more clearly in this next group, shot after I made it back to the car and drove to the other side of the park for a hike to the Primitive Camping area. (I didn’t make it… I got most of the way there, then started feeling weary, and just made it back to the car before becoming completely exhausted.)
At first, I thought it was something on or in the lens, but the lens is clear. Now I think maybe the film wasn’t completely tight and flat. Maybe it warped slightly in the middle? I rolled them as tightly as I could, but in the camera, the film wasn’t in contact with the top and bottom guides, and so could have warped slightly due to some slack in the winding.
Any thoughts will be appreciated. I’d like to try this again: I like the way the Brownie Reflex feels in the hand, and appreciate its age and simplicity. But if I can’t get acceptably sharp results across the frame, I probably won’t bother.
I arrived home about 1pm and just took the rest of the day off. It’s been a long time since I walked that much, over such uneven, rocky, terrain. It felt good, and I want to do more of that, but it left me weary. I watched a few videos (including a wonderful interview with Paul Graham on Vimeo), had a nap, and just relaxed for the rest of the day.
My darling, adorable wife and her son were out of town for the weekend, and I took Friday and Monday mostly off, so the next day I took the glass recycling to some recycling dumpsters in Dallas. (The City of Irving doesn’t provide glass recycling.) I remembered the Paul Graham video, and his work in a shimmer of possibility (collected in The Whiteness of the Whale) and decided to devote the last few frames in the Brownie to my recycling trip.
Most were marred by the unfortunate blur, but two are passable enough, though they don’t in any way capture the whole event, and I really want to work on style of photography. I absolutely love Graham’s shimmer series and would love to incorporate that way of working into my project somehow.
And that was the end of that. 127 Day (and 1/28 too, I guess) was loads of fun, and if you have an old 127 camera, be sure to get ready for 12/7/2019 and 1/27/2020. 127 Day rolls around twice a year, and it’s as good an excuse as any to use that old Brownie. The FPP and other online sellers occasionally have some Rerapan and maybe other films in stock, and jrdnmrk on eBay will happily cut some black & white film (T-Max 100 or 400, Delta 100, and HP5+), Portra 400, or Ektar for you, so you have no excuse.
*I gave my chrome one away in the Emulsive Secret Santa 2018 giveaway, immediately regretted it, bought a clear one from eBay for super cheap (it came, I think, from Toys R Us’s bankruptcy liquidation sales), then got a white & black one from my Emulsive Secret Santa, so I’m rich in Action Samplers now, and should really find someone to give one of them to.