One of several limitations of the current crop of SX-70 films is their sensitivity to temperature. Taking a picture below 13°C could result in a dark, muddy image with a blue/green cast and lacking contrast. Technically, the developer “goo” that spreads across the image as it is ejected from the camera is, more likely than not, to spread unevenly, creating white splotches, spidery lines and/or a snowy field of white specks on the finished picture.
Which is a dilemma if you live in Winnipeg, Canada as I do, where the winter lasts at least ffive months and the temperatures can dip into the minus 20s and 30s Celsius for days on end.
Packing my beautiful Polaroid folding SX-70 camera in a camera bag and waiting for summer to return, is not an option. I need to find a way that allows me successfully make a Polaroid picture in the midst of a cold prairie winter.
What follows is a video outlining what works for me and a few pictures taken using my cold weather technique.
My Polaroid work of late has been entirely in colour, using the latest iteration of Polaroid SX-70 colour film. However, for some time I have coveted the opportunity to play with Polaroid’s Black and White SX-70 film. After all, I was a black and white film photographer for twenty-plus years leading up to my introduction to digital photography—and colour— at the turn of this century.
Ordinarily, I would recommend a walk down the frozen surface of Omand’s Creek, the perfect antidote for these COVID-19 days of uncertainty and social-distancing. At its mid-winter best, this is a walk with some risk—crawling on ice through a steel conduit, for example—but spring is closing in, temperatures are rising and water can already be seen flowing over deteriorating ice. A walk is all but impossible till next winter.
In its place, I offer a self-isolating, fireside-and-scotch alternative: my just-published On Omand’s Creek, the eighth in the Ways To Walk series of small softcover books.
Winnipeg is blessed with frigid winters. Its rivers and creeks freeze over every year, without fail, becoming seasonal sidewalks, opportunities to revisit the city from unique perspectives. Of all those frozen waterways, Omand’s Creek is arguably the most tortured, most compromised. Yet there is an aching beauty to be seen from its white banks. On Omand’s Creek is the story in words and pictures of my trek up this iced-over creek, from its mouth at the Assiniboine River and stretching north to Brookside Cemetery.
Just yesterday, walking down the riverside walk, as it passes through the The Forks, I found this sad reminder that winter is passing its baton onto spring. Trapped in the exchange are these few remaining blocks of bluish ice set on a barely frozen Assiniboine River.
Just last week, I walked comfortably around these blocks, down a river-top path at the centre of the river. In February I likely sat on one of these blocks. Then, they were furniture set out at the centre of a winter palace. Continue reading →
I call it my Assiniboine Park Loop, a good 10-kilometre walk from my Wolseley neighbourhood home, down the river trails lining the south bank of Assiniboine River, through Assiniboine Park, its English and Leo Mol Sculpture Gardens and then back home on the north side of the river, following the quiet residential streets of St. James. Along that return loop, I pass by Bourkevale Community Centre with its leash-free dog park on the river side and outdoor ice rink on the other.
This is that rink, a sleek surface of manicured ice waiting for a game of hockey. Its sole occupant on this sunny afternoon is a lone, broken chair that somehow escaped from its home in the community centre hall and ended up here, in this improbable winter scene.
How many times have I walked this same loop over the seasons and years, seeing the same things every time? Yet there always seems to be a red chair waiting to be discovered, the gift of a good walk.
The ninth of a series of jaunts in the key of white. This week: the second half of a walk on Omand’s Creek from the Assiniboine River to Brookside Cemetery.
Passing through the concrete conduit beneath the Sargent Street bridge marks something of a transition point for the frozen Omand’s Creek. Behind me, the landscape has been commercial with big box stores, parking lots, hotels and busy roads lining the straight-jacket course of the creek as it makes its way south to the Assiniboine River. Ahead is all industrial. And my passage upstream this warmish winter afternoon all the more challenging. Continue reading →