An Emulsion in the Wilderness: in lightning Agnes
A Project of the 2014 Wilderness Film Expedition
In 2014, the Wilderness Film Expedition -- the Handmade Film Institute's Robert Schaller, with participants Curt Heiner and Armand Tufenkian -- made a film in Colorado's Mt. Zirkel Wilderness which they entitled "in lightning Agnes." It briefly chronicles both a climb (of Big Agnes Mountain) and the struggle to document it using a handmade photographic emulsion that was prepared and coated onto celluloid outside on a rock at night using water from a rushing creek, rolled up before dawn during a lightning storm, shot under the constant threat of more lightning, and processed carefully on-location the next night. What results is presented as it came out of the camera, the result of a collaboration between the filmmakers and the wilderness environment where they lived for a week.
A creative reconstruction in several voices

Robert's Account: just the facts

Three of us set out on the 2014 Wilderness Film Expedition: Curt Heiner, Robert Schaller, and Armand Tufenkian. We carried the usual filmmaking and processing equipment and chemistry, a weeks worth of food, etc., but at Armand's urging we carried something new this year: the necessities for making our own emulsion in the field.

It took several days of climbing and adjusting to life in an alpine environment, but on a Thursday afternoon the weather seemed unlikely to bring rain soon and we decided that this was the day.

We laid out our coating surface -- a plastic table cloth -- on one of the outcroppings of glacier-scoured granite that surrounded our campsite, and rolled out about 60 feet of clear 16mm film to coat...

Curt's Account: a waking dream of buddhism and trails

Night had just arrived to our campsite, a light blue horizon line sat to the west, the fire was in full force, our ember-ridden pot of water was beginning to boil, and we had just added the first half of solution B to solution A. Under starry skies above, solid rock beneath, and distant lightning storms foreboding to the south, we knew we were in for the long haul...

emulsion coating room

The emulsion coating room