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Mike Kijewski

"There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.”

-Edward Abbey


Travel Journal Entry - June 26th, 2015

“She said yes. To save you all the emotion that went in today, let’s just say I’m happy. Really happy. Relieved. Just a little nervous now as opposed to really nervous before. I hope she likes the ring. I think she does. Damn, I really hope I got that shot. Regardless, I’m glad the fog broke. She looked so pretty. That thai food tonight was the bomb.” 

I just got engaged. 

Okay, let me rewind a bit. I rented a camera that has always eluded me; the Contax 645 medium-format film camera. One 120 back, a fixed Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 140mm f2.8 and an incredible Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm wide-angle f3.5. 

So you think you’re 5D is bulky? This camera is no joke. However, there’s a reason that 645’s are staples within the fashion and editorial industries. They work. Real well. Really really well. 

This film camera is probably the closest thing to a DSLR out there. It has all the bells and whistles. Here are a list of some (some) of them:

- Autofocus (seriously)

- Aperture and shutter priority

- Exposure compensation

- Full range ISO

- Pre-flash TTL (through-the-lens) metering

- Autowind film back (optional polaroid back available)

Honestly, just to have autofocus on a medium-format film body is insane. It feels like cheating. This camera is really easy-to-use. The optics are great as well. The viewfinder is huge and bright and the digital TTL metering works perfectly. You could easily replace all of your camera bodies with this thing. A luxury within a workflow. 

The Contax really allowed me to focus on composition this trip and enabled me to catch certain moments my other camera bodies might have had me miss. I really trusted this camera, even in super unpredictable conditions. 

Back to the story. 

On her birthday, we found ourselves alone on the beach. As the fog started to peel back into the coast line, I started setting up my tripod. I asked her to stand looking out into the water as I framed up the shot. As she turned, I composed, let the autofocus do its thing and metered. I reached into the bag, took the ring and placed it into my back pocket. I made sure that the shutter timer was set to ten seconds and peered through the viewfinder one last time. I hit the release and stepped quickly into frame.

I knew I had ten seconds. She stood thirty feet from the camera. I quickly walked toward her. At that point, time just seemed to slow down. I know that sounds cliche but I remember it clearly. I turned, fumbled getting the ring out of my back pocket, opened the box and took a knee in the sand. I remember asking her to marry me and hearing her say yes but the rest is a blur. We laughed and joked about staying engaged forever. We kissed and I kept my fingers crossed. 

Well, I missed the perfect shot by about 1-2 seconds. 

As I’m writing this review I have yet to decide if it’ll be in the gallery above. It’s bittersweet. It’s personal. It’s heart-wrenching yet means the world to me. I think it represents more to me than just a moment. Maybe love in general. Maybe our love. Tough but strong. The good and the bad. When I first saw this image it really bummed me out and now every time I look at it, I admire it more and love her stronger because of it. She looks happy. Really happy.


Thanks Acme Camera. Hope you’ll make it to the wedding.  

all photos shot on Kodak Portra 400
processed and scanned by the Alpine Film Lab