5 min read

journeying to the center of the desires

journeying to the center of the desires
kodak gold 200, pentax 645

or maybe just three miles down

Many of us have demons. We fall to their temptations, ceding to sins like gambling, drinking and doing drugs. When you walk down the street, you may see that your fellow citizens are also suffering from such demons, plaguing them with each step as they are cursed on this mortal earth.

I know this isn't a typical travel blog entry intro but I too have these demons. It's the demon of temptation. And she's tempting me to shoot medium format film. What? You ask. What the hell is that? What does that have to do with de-

me, noah, stephen, connie and my pentax 645. photo courtesy of connie liou

Medium format film is, well, a larger size of film. Most of the trendy film pictures you see on instagram these days are shot on the smaller 35mm film. As you may be able to guess, the film is 35 mm wide! Then, there's its bigger cousin medium format film (there's also large format but we won't get there). Medium format film is bigger, and is thus able to hold more information in each shot. Shooting medium format film requires using a larger camera which is heavier, and in my opinion loading medium format film is also much more of a hassle.

So you can imagine that lugging a large-ass camera with hard-to-load film up and down the Grand freaking Canyon may be a little tough, right? You'd think that I would think about it, right? That I would not fall victim to the sneaking temptations of the glorious large negative size of medium format film, right?

Yeah. I gave in.

There's not much in Arizona. For the most part, it's filled with desert. Sand blowing around, dried  ground with cacti rising out of the earth against all odds, like roses in concrete.

It's fitting that the state's most attractive piece of land is a grand and awe-inspiring lack of said land.

Not to bore you all with the rest of the details, but we all know the story of the Grand Canyon. Carved through the Earth by the Colorado River like a toddler dragging a chair across a hardware floor, it measures 6,000 feet deep, with some hikers making the trip from rim to rim in two days.

My friends and I did not endeavor to do much in this hiking wonderland. We got there and just decided to do a short six mile hike. No problem, right? Nope. Stephen was terrified of the heights, making our descent a little slower than usual. It didn't help that I am very short and walk slower.

But thanks to Stephen, we got to truly enjoy the magic of the canyon, step by step. The grandiose scars in the Earth stared back at us as we trotted down the Bright Angel Trail, taking in the impending snow clouds curve by cuve.

When we reached the bottom of our hike (not the canyon), we stopped to eat lunch at a small shelter. Bananas, sandwiches, and general drinking of water. It was going to be a rough hike up. The impending snow clouds definitely scared us a little as we didn't know exactly how bad the snow would be, so we quickly made our way up, accompanied by some fellow hikers who were coming from the other side of the ridge. The sun, hidden by the clouds, steadily began its downward descent as we headed to meet it in the middle.

And suddenly, snow!

Thankfully it was just a light dusting but it made the hike all the more magical. Never mind there were now some flecks of snow lightly stinging my face as I hiked up toward steadily decreasing oxygen density. It was like we were in a video game, or a fairy tale, trudging through the falling snow in the magical silence of the canyon.

If I was going to miss one thing about the canyon, it would be the overbearing and controlling silence of it all. With the animals in hibernation during the winter, not much was scurrying around at night as we looked to the stars. The peaceful silence (only disrupted by Stephen's voice), wrapped its arms around us and let us know: this is your time to relax. Work can't find you here. Only the sounds of beef brisket sizzling in the pan reminded us

Even during the hike down with so many people, it was just the sound of shuffling feet as we went down and up. It was nice to know I was in good company — with fellow people admiring the Grand Canyon.

Ok you might be wondering how film comes back into it. Let me tell you: having to stop and reload film is hard as it is when hiking. But medium format especially with the Pentax 645? God damn. This is truly a studio camera and you cannot convince me otherwise. But then again the whole point of film is to slow down. So maybe I should've been learning from this whole experience, instead of cursing it (as I did)!

But the results are undeniable. I think me being out of shape and being tired during the hike affected a few areas where I clearly missed focus, but it was good for the most part. Honestly I was missing focus even with my digital A74 so ... I think it's just me, not the camera.

To wrap this whole shebang up, here are some things to know for later when hiking and taking pictures:

  1. Hate the lighting. But figure it out ... please.
  2. Bring a lighter camera. You may think you're in shape but the grams add up over the miles (especially if you're going 5+ miles).
  3. You will be tired. Take these as breaks to take photos. You're not there to break records, just to take some pictures while being safe.