Horizontal Light

I had no intimation what was coming when I went to sleep at 9:30 pm last night. I was thinking about something else entirely, something to do with the Yashica Electro 35 that was sitting in the repair shop in New Jersey awaiting the ministrations of probing fingers, poking screwdrivers, and hot soldering irons. Then it all went dark.

I woke around 2:00 am feeling a push toward something not quite yet defined. Some event. Something that had to be done. Walking down the hallway, it suddenly came to me. I wanted to pull the motorcycle out of the garage, pack the saddlebags with cameras and ride out to Joshua Tree in the east for the horizontal light just after sunrise.

I lumbered around the house for a couple minutes thinking about the ride, which was just long enough to wake Lisa up. “What is it?” She asked, horizontally.

“I’m going to ride out to Joshua Tree.” I replied, vertically.


“Yeah. If I leave soon, I’ll be there just after sunrise for the good horizontal light.” I said. “I’m just going to stick my head under the shower to get my hair wet. It’ll look like a rat’s nest when I get back, anyway.” There are ways of avoiding helmet hair, but I don’t want to shave my head, for instance. I’m not particularly partial to the bonehead look.

“Okay.” She said. “Wake me up when you leave and tell me you’re going.”

Packing “some” cameras in the saddlebags was fairly non-specific. Actually, not just any camera combination would do for the plan that processed in the background while I was sleeping. The gear combination had to be pointed in the direction of a real film test of the recently acquired Yashica Mat 124.

The “Mat” was clean when it arrived, and I ran a “throwaway” roll of 120 film through it to check that the mechanical parts were working. The shutter also seemed to be working, at least when set for one second and one-half second, though the check of that was by sight and ear. It was still possible that the shutter wasn’t really working properly, but shutter speeds often go awry first in the longer times, so that subsystem of the machine might be alright. As expected the meter was not working, which is common with older cameras with selenium sensors, since they just deteriorate over time, and the Mat 124 was manufactured between 1968 and 1971. At best, my example of the camera is 41 years old.

I packed the Yashica Mat 124 TLR (Twin Lens Reflex), the Nikon N90s SLR, and the Panasonic Lumix G1 ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera). Three cameras in the saddlebags typically seems like two too many to me, but I had a reason for each: I needed to test the Yashica and it had 7 of 12 frames left on the roll of black and white 120  film in it. The G1 would be used to meter for the Yashica, since I’m relearning the “Sunny 16” system and don’t yet trust myself to calculate all lighting conditions in my head. I loaded the Nikon N90s with a roll of Fuji Neopan 100 Acros, intending to shoot it over the weekend to evaluate the film for my purposes.

The Acid Test

Regardless of what a camera looks like, how it feels, or if film runs through it, the real test is shooting a roll or two of film, then checking how it looks when developed. The Yashica Electro needed some time at the repair shop, but that was only apparent after I shot a roll of color film, then had the negatives developed. I don’t know if the Mat 124 is working properly, since I haven’t developed the negatives. But it made for a damn good reason, as if any was needed, to get up in the middle of the night and take a 207 mile round trip ride to Joshua Tree and back.


The above photograph was made with my Panasonic Lumix G1, the camera used as a “light meter” for the Yashica Mat 124.