Blog Index

My blog is an intersection of art and nature. It is where I write about my adventures into Florida wilderness.

The Things We Carried

 
Juniper-Prairie-Wilderness-Ocala-National-Forest-Mamiya-7ii-80mm-5.jpg

They warn you about the bears. They warn you about the alligators. They warn you about the rattlesnakes and the water moccasins. But they never warn you about the two guys hauling an oversized bathroom mirror miles through the brush and the thicket into the wilderness.

Probably best to stay clear of those two.

1. The mirror

Me carrying the mirror in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness.  Photo by Alex Catalano.

Me carrying the mirror in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. Photo by Alex Catalano.

I’ve had an unreasonably heavy four-foot by four-foot mirror taking up space in my office ever since rescuing it from the dumpster a few months back. I figured it was time to put it to use, so last week I emailed the only person I know who would willingly help me carry it into the woods. Alex agreed.

My goal was to capture the dichotomy of a single place, to explore the idea that everything is constructed of coinciding, yet entirely different, realities. And like a wormhole that connects distant dimensions, the mirror had the potential to help illustrate this relationship.

There is nothing original about a mirror photo. The concept alone conjures visions of community college class projects where dozens of images plaster the walls of a student critique and the only things people know how to say are, “I like it,” and, “I don’t like it.”

But there was something special about this mirror that made me look past all that. The large size, the geometrically perfect proportions. Maybe it was the fact that it was free. I couldn’t resist carrying it into the woods.

Alex disappearing behind the mirror in between photos at the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

Alex disappearing behind the mirror in between photos at the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

The mirror sits in the middle of the prairie reflecting a far-off pine tree. Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

The mirror sits in the middle of the prairie reflecting a far-off pine tree. Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

The mirror sits in the middle of F.R. 33. Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

The mirror sits in the middle of F.R. 33. Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

2. The camera

The Mamiya 7ii hangs from my shoulder as I meter the scene.  Photo by Alex Catalano.

The Mamiya 7ii hangs from my shoulder as I meter the scene. Photo by Alex Catalano.

I recently sold my RZ67 Pro II and bought a Mamiya 7ii. It’s a camera I’ve been wanting since plunging into the medium format world; and while I originally opted for the RZ due to price, I quickly realized it wasn’t built for carrying miles around the woods.

This trip was the first time the Mamiya 7ii and the Juniper Prairie Wilderness met. I think it’s the beginning of a great relationship.

I’ve been using a combination of Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600 and a red filter for my current project. It gives the images a gritty and grainy mood that I think compliments the atmosphere of the woods.  Photo by Alex Catalano.

I’ve been using a combination of Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600 and a red filter for my current project. It gives the images a gritty and grainy mood that I think compliments the atmosphere of the woods. Photo by Alex Catalano.

Me standing in the middle of F.R. 33 as I shoot the image shown below.  Photo by Alex Catalano.

Me standing in the middle of F.R. 33 as I shoot the image shown below. Photo by Alex Catalano.

My 2006 Ford Econoline, Howl, sits with the doors wide open on the side of the road after Alex and I jumped out to photograph the morning fog. Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

My 2006 Ford Econoline, Howl, sits with the doors wide open on the side of the road after Alex and I jumped out to photograph the morning fog. Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

3. The potential

Alex stands for a portrait in front of the reflected mirror light in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

Alex stands for a portrait in front of the reflected mirror light in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

I wasn’t able to capture the image I had in my mind - the mirror broke only a couple hours into the trip. Let’s face it, a giant piece of glass dragged across the prairie and hung in trees is not long for this world. But there was a hidden potential we carried in the mirror that we didn’t discover until it broke.

When Alex walked by the broken mirror laying on the ground, I noticed the intense light reflecting up at him. It was so intense, that as we were leaving and carrying the pieces of mirror back to the van, we realized we could essentially use it as a hyper-powered flashlight, beaming a 3-foot by 4-foot rectangle of light hundreds of yards across the prairie. I’ve never seen such a focused beam of light.

While it was laying on the ground, I took some portraits of Alex standing in this cancer-inducing beam of light. It’s not a flattering light, but the combination of the noon sun shining downward, the mirror reflecting upward, and the red filter drawing out the contrast in the sky created a really intense, gritty look that I enjoy.

It’s always a good day when you learn something new, and I’m excited to use this technique in the future.

Another portrait of Alex standing in the reflected light in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.

Another portrait of Alex standing in the reflected light in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. Mamiya 7ii, 80mm, Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600.