Saturday, July 6, 2013

Polaroids and Memories from 2013 MT Rainbow Gathering

  As some of you may remember me from posts from last June or July I make a yearly pilgrimage to a wonderful event called Rainbow Gathering.  This year is was conveniently held right on the way of my perimeter run and so I could not help but stop by, even though time was limited.  Here are some memories and Polaroid images from those fantastic three days.

  Last year I took the bus to the Gathering in Tennessee.  It was completely worth it (after all the very idea of building a darkroom in a school bus came to me at my first Rainbow in OR 1997), but having a big rig at the Gathering turned out to be more pain in the neck than I was looking for.  I had to be  checking on it constantly and going back to 'Bus Village' at any Gathering can take anywhere from 30minutes to 2 hours, so a lot of time was wasted on that, plus the energy by the road is so different from the one that prevails in the woods and it's not my favorite energy.  So this time I left Gilli behind in Missoula and caught a ride with a friend of Brian.

  She is a very nice girl, but her behavior perpetuates my perplexity with female half of out population...  She is 24 and this was her first gathering 'without mom', so something she's been waiting for is a 'rainbow fling'.  I have no quarrels with such self-assigned destruction, but c'mon - you can find a better guy to mess around with than what she fished out...  Seriously, the Gethering is full of mindful, kind and respectful young men.  It may be true that most of them don't represent anything close to 'husband material', but at least there's something in the gray matter there that's intriguing.  No, the two guys I saw her last with were the most pathetic losers that you will ever find in the woods - hip-hop wannabes with nothing to say and vacant eyes.  Oh well, to each their own, at least she's got her 'rancher guy' to go back to when she gets back.  She says that she's always wanted to live on the ranch and this guy has one, so she's going with him in the long run...

  Enough of that though, let's concentrate on the actual Gathering.  This was my 14th National Rainbow Gathering in a row.  Since the year 2000 I have not missed a single one and I am very happy with that.  In reality I was thinking of not going, but the very thought of being in civilization on 4th of July was repugnant to me and I went even though I only had 3 days there and that's REALLY not enough time to spend at such an event.  As it happens the 2000 Gathering was not only held also in Montana, but was also located on the exact meadow as this 2013 one, so it really felt like going home and becoming 14 years younger.  I wish that all of the people who came in 2000 were there, but not all of them could make it for one reason or another.  I did see a lot of old friends and made a lot of new ones as well.

  With me I took 4 cameras - Rolleiflex 3.5F, Stereo Realist and Polaroids 450 and 680.  I shot 25 rolls on the Rollei and 3 on the Realist (hoping to develop all of them tomorrow at the Photographers Formulary).  I didn't have much Polaroid film with me, so I only got about 30-35 shots from that.

  I am so glad that the same meadow was chosen.  I really can't imagine a more perfect setting - large meadow with a stream running through it and surrounded by forested hills, how can it get any better?  Here are a couple of shots that faintly convey the beauty of the spot.  I once again express my regret about the low quality of copies...
Polaroid 600

Fuji FP100c (Sunsets were out of this world)

  From what I saw this Gathering was a lot better in terms of people getting out of hand with alcohol.  The Gathering is supposed be completely alcohol-free, but in the recent years that rule has been slipping and the drunken vibe has been encroaching and ruining the good times for all.  This time I only saw one or two people who I would have liked to put in a drink-tank and they weren't really causing trouble (yet).  There was a lot of love in the air and someday I'll probably end up finding a wife at one of these events.... not yet though.  The story about me trying to find love at this years' Gathering will have to be left to one-on-one conversations.   Here I'll just say that mothers who should bring children to such an event should really be more mindful of their presence....  

  I spent three days meandering the meadow and woody paths, making exposures of things and people that caught my eye and genuinely enjoying myself.  Helped make danishes at the bakery (Lovin Ovens),  played drums to many talented guitarists and found some silver wire for converting the two new 5x7 holders that I picked up in Missoula to take 3.5x4x5in collodion plates (now I'll be able to use the 600mm lens with that format and that will open up new zooming possibilities).

  Here are the rest of the Polaroid images from 2013 Rainbow.
 Girl Over Meadow, Polaroid 690

Meadow Scene, Fuji FP100c 

Fantuzzi and Crowd, Fuji FP100c

Vermin Supreme and Glowing Feather, Polaroid 690

Faith, Polaroid 600

Face Painting, Fuji FP100c

Tee-Pee entrance, Fuji FP100c

Tee-Pee, double exposure on Fuji FP100c

  Skip this paragraph is you wish.  This is a list of things that happened to me that I'm going to insert here with no further explanation, but that will serve as reminders to myself one day when  I want to remember them for one reason or another: Polaroid 680 take away by the disco ball shaman,  Ashlee in the field with fudge, axed on the first round at G-funk game (oh, I'll be back!), beauty, love, serenity.

  As I mentioned before I did meet a whole lot of wonderful people whom I've known before.  Among them was a girl who I met in Missoula just a few days earlier - Alyssa, the wonderful muse who accompanied me on my trip to Photographers Formulary.   The girl who I got there with was nowhere to be found and so I was left to fend for myself as far as the ride back in concerned.  Alyssa did say that she would give me a ride back to town, but unfortunately when I made the plan to meet her at 'rainbow noon' by a certain kitchen I forgot to explain how fluid and ephemeral the concept of 'rainbow noon' really is.  Rainbow Noon is a time after you wake up, the sun is pretty high in the sky and kitchens have stopped serving breakfast.  That's about as precise as it gets.  If someone tell you to meet them at that time in any location so not be disappointed if you have to wait an hour or so.  As much as I personally hate being late when in civilization (and people who make plans and then show up an hour or more late), when I'm at a Gathering all real clocks disappear and I tune into 'Rainbow Time'....  I guess Alyssa and her friend were still on 'Real Time' and so I missed them by about 45 minutes.

  After I actually realized that I was struck by the realization that I will be once again found on the road hitchhiking out of a Gathering - something that has not happened in about a decade now.  I would have spent a few more days there and found a ride back, but there was an art walk in Missoula in the 5th and I felt that I needed to get back to make some gas money by doing pirate print sales.  Summoning all my previous knowledge and courage I walked out to the road, found a wonderful little piece of cardboard and a large Sharpie made a sign saying simply - 'Missoula'.  It didn't take long till a car with three local-looking boys picked me up.  Right off the bat I didn't feel that this ride was going to work out, so it didn't come as a surprise when about 300 yards, after finding out that I was only willing to contribute $20 to gas funds, and to be fair $20 would have been more than needed to get back to Missoula) away they told me that they weren't really going to Missoula after all and so I had to walk back to my hitching spot.  There were at least 4 other folks who were trying to get to the same destination, but I was adamant that I needed to get there first due to 'work obligations'.   The gentleman who at the moment was in charge of directing traffic was someone who had seen me year after year on the trails in various states where Gatherings have been held and so he started pulling people over and asking them if they could take me along.  Interestingly enough the guy who picked me up did it out of pure good-heart feeling and not because he was asked to do so.  How do I know that?  Well, he was deaf - there was no way he could have heard my plea for a ride.  All he did was pull over, pull out a note book and scribble 'Missoula' on it - I knew I had my ride.  His name is Kevin and he was actually going to the same art walk as I was.  He is studying art right now and was looking forward to experiencing local flavors and talents.  The ride went by smoothly and soon I was back in a city with all its traffic, buildings and lights.  In my heart I knew I could have stayed in the woods for another few weeks, but I also knew that my gas funds are going to run low very soon and so I picked up Gilli and headed downtown.

  The art walk was good and in combination with this morning's farmers market I made enough money to fill the gas tank and maybe get myself a hotel room in the next few days once I get tired of sleeping on the narrow bench of the bus.  

  Once the market was over I headed back out into the wilderness of northern Montana.  The plan is to visit Photographers Formulary once again tomorrow.  Not only did I seem to completely misplace the tintype portrait of Bud and Lynn that I promised to them (I truly hate when that happens - I mean the bus isn't that big!  Where in the world can that plate be?!), but I would also love to use their beautiful darkroom to develop and possibly even proof the film from the Gathering.  On my way up I made this tintype of Salmon Lake.

  I don't normally get those white marks...  They are commonly referred to as 'comets' and the description of their cause in the books that I have read so far make little to no sense at all when I analyze this particular shot and its imperfections...  Well, I guess I'll test out my own theories about their cause and hopefully I won't see these little buggers again.  I still like the image, so I decided to keep it.

  Now I am stilling in the dining area of the biggest restaurant/hotel/bar/store thing in the town of Seeley Lake - a tiny place that you would blow by on he highway if not for speed limit signs that slow you down from 75 to 30 in a rapid succession.  There is a karaoke madness going on right next to me and I'm having a pretty tough time concentrating, so please forgive me if this post was less coherent and photo-related as the other ones, but I didn't want to wait longer and forget more things that happened to me in the past few days.

  Tomorrow - more plates, film development and more adventures await!

Anton Orlov


  1. As it has been a while since I attended a rainbow gathering, this was really nice to read! Thanks for sharing your experiences and beautiful pictures! ~Kristina xo

  2. Love the photos! It ads a sense of nostalgia with the washed out colors. And posting photos of the polaroids creates a great artistic effect. Well done!

    I brought my camera out too and posted some photos on my website.