Expired AGFA RSX II and My First Color Positive Experience

When I first became a part of the film shooting community here online, I was on a quest to become a better photographer. Growing up, I was always the family photographer. I took pictures for friends at weddings, and for family at events. They would be really happy with the results, but I always had that same comment that got under my skin, “I love your pictures, you must have a great camera.” That always upset me because it sounded as if I had nothing to do with the quality of those shots.

One day, I decided I would prove my skills. I had to learn to shoot in manual mode, and better yet I’d shoot on film. Even more of a challenge. So I hoped to find a mentor in the community. I messaged people who I admired from watching them shoot film on YouTube, but most of them ignored me. I even asked one if they’d be my friend, they read it and ignored me. I never felt so pathetic in my life. But then I met a group of guys and one lady, (they know who they are), and they have all become my mentors. Who needs just one.

One of those guys is Alex Luckyx. You may know him from the podcast, Classic Camera Revival. He has been so kind to me. Answering any question I have with patience, and even sending me a camera with some film to help me out when the camera’s I have became too heavy for my arms after recovering from a long hospital stay.

The Film

That brings me to todays topic. The roll of expired Agfachrome AGFA RSX II 100 film that Alex sent me.

This is a professional grade color slide film made from 1999-2005. It originally came in 135, 120 and sheet film. This film is said to not require refrigeration except in hot/humid situations, so that may be why it didn’t have any weird variances for me.

The negative is the fun part of shooting color positive film because unlike color negative film, the picture appears right on your film the way it will appear on print. It doesn’t need to be reversed after scanning.

My Experience

When I received it I was a little intimidated because I had never shot color positive film before and I had heard that there’s not much room for error when it comes to exposing it. So at first I put it away in the refrigerator hoping to try it when I became more experienced with this type of film. Then I realized Alex wouldn’t have sent it to me if he didn’t think I would make good use of it. So I messaged him for advice on how to shoot it and he said “just shoot and embrace the weird.” Ive never heard better words to live by. So even though it expired in March of 2002, I shot it at box speed of ISO 100. I shot the roll also using the camera Alex sent me (article on that in the future), the Pentax ME Super with its built in meter on manual.

Film Negatives

I didn’t look at any examples of this film online before I shot it because when I shoot expired I like to be surprised. Some of the shots came out very under exposed when the sun was strong and I stood in shadows, but the majority of the shots came back pretty nice in my opinion.

I love the colors of this film. It’s very saturated with fine grain, although it isn’t too saturated in my opinion the way Fujicolor 200 tends to be. It seems to simply enhance the colors. It also has a blue/purple cast to it.

I have read that this film does well when pushed to ISO 200, so I hope one day I can get my hands on some more rolls and try that out. I recommend you try it too.

Overall, my first experience with color positive film was a positive one.

For more of my reviews click here. Also, I have a YouTube channel where I review film and vintage cameras. Check it out and subscribe for more to come.

The Kodak Brownie Target Six-16 with the FAK 616

The Kodak Brownie Target Six-16 is virtually the same as the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 that I’ve reviewed in the past. They even use the same manual. The only difference is the size of the film it uses. As I mentioned in my article about the six-20, Kodak started making their own film to go with their own cameras. They took the 116 film and changed it to 616 film, making the spool slightly smaller. It was introduced in 1932, and discontinued in 1984.

The Brownie Target Six-16 was developed after the Target Brownie Six-16 from 1946-1951. Kodaks design department was either genius or extremely sneaky. They played with names that were familiar and reliable to the consumers and made them their own. I picture the real life Mad Men coming up with all of these tactics.

Kodak Brownie Target Six-16

The Specs

The Kodak Brownie Target Six-16 has a fixed lens, so you have to be at least 8ft away from your subject, unless you have a close up attachment. Just like the Target Six-20, it also has a time switch and a slide at the top to switch between an aperture of f/11 and f/16.

616 film creates negatives of 2.5 by 4.25 inches. Picture that next to the well known 35mm negative of only .95 by 1.42 inches.

Kodak Brownie Target Six-16

120 film is roughly the same width as 616 so it can be used in this six-16 box camera. The issue though, is that it is slightly shorter so you would either have to re-spool it or find a way to fit a 120 spool into the wider slot made for the 616 film. That’s where the Camerahack FAK616 adapter kit comes in. The adapter kit is made in Italy by a company called Camerahack, but I purchased mine from Film Photography Project.

According to the the website: This adapter features a stainless steel flange that perfectly reproduce the same hole that’s in the original 616 spool flange.

Camerahack Flak616 Film Adapter Kit

My Experience

I have had my Kodak Brownie Target Six-16 for a long time. So long that I can’t remember when or where I got it from. I have mentioned before that I started out collecting vintage cameras when I was a teenager purely for decoration. So when I got this box camera, I didn’t mind that the mirrors were loose and jingling around inside. Now that I am actually a film shooter, and now that I found this adapter kit, the photographer in me had to fix this camera and shoot with it.

Kodak Brownie Target Six-16

At first, I was deterred because in order to get to the insides of this camera, the faceplate has to be removed. Strangely, this one doesn’t have regular screws holding it on. It has tiny pins. From what I have seen, there are two variations to this camera. Black lettering on the bottom of the faceplate (like mine), and white lettering at the bottom. The ones with the black lettering seem to have these pins and the ones with the white have screws. I have no idea why that is. I couldn’t find any info. I’m thinking it has something to do with when they were made and what was available at that time. That is only a guess. If you have any idea, let me know in the comments.

The Pin

Anyway, so these pins were all that was stopping me from fixing this camera and shooting with it. I asked around online and researched, but could not find anything on how to remove these pins. I almost gave up. What was throwing me off was the assumption that the pins had to be pulled out. I didn’t want to wreck them. It never occurred to me that maybe they were screwed in. So I decided to take some tiny keychain pliers I happen to own and see if I could turn them. Guess what, they’re screws. It’s the little things isn’t it?

So I took the faceplate off, cleaned the loose mirrors and glued them back on. I used a pencil eraser to start the pins back in place before screwing them in tight using the pliers. See the video below to get a better idea of what I did.

Now that I fixed it up, all that was left was installing the adapter. This was easy enough. I followed the instructions and loaded it up with some Lomography Redscale film I had in the fridge. I know this is a strange option to use to test out a vintage camera, but it was all I had at the time and it turned out to be a happy surprise.

The main challenge when using this film in this camera is knowing how far to advance your shots. The instructions advise you to wind on starting at frame 3; then every 2.5 frames after that. It also says you may have to use some trial and error. I went a little bit past the 2.5 and I am glad I did because otherwise there was no room in between for the negatives to be cut. In the end you get 6 panoramic shots.

The first shot I took of my cat inside was just a test shot. It didn’t come out good because of the lighting, and I wasn’t more than 8ft away from her.

Lomography redscale

These next shots I took around town, I actually liked. As you can see, greens are rendered an orange/red color that makes me think of liquid Tylenol or cool-aid, and the blues are rendered yellow. I actually thought it added a sort of vibe to the pictures. Especially, the cemetary.

oak hammock park
oak hammock park

Anyway, this isn’t a review for Lomography Redscale film, but as for the camera and the adapter, I enjoyed using it. The only issue I had with the adapter was when I would wind on to the next frame, sometimes the adapters felt like they were loose and falling off of the knob. It wasn’t a major issue, but it was happening enough that I wanted to mention it.

Final Thoughts

I find it very interesting that there was a box camera that existed soley for panoramic shots back then. I say this because most of the advertising and consumer products at that time were aimed at the average family and the snapshot. This seemed to be for the advanced amateur. This is the first that I know of, but that is one of the joys of learning film photography and shooting with vintage cameras. There are so many of them out there, and there is so much to learn.

For more pictures taken with this camera, check out my video below.

I hope you will continue learning with me by subscribing to my YouTube and to this blog. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Until next time, Stay Motivated and Keep Shooting.

5 Photobooks for the Quarantine Life

Coronavirus, the new dirty word. So dirty that people stopped drinking Corona Beer even though it had no affiliation to the virus, other than the bloat you experienced after drinking a bottle.

The Coronavirus is actually a blanket term for a family of viruses such as SARS-CoV and Covid-19 is the actual name of the virus we are all hiding from at the moment.

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. 

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

– The World Health Organization

Now, while politicians fight over who’s hoax it is, and people fight over hand sanitizer, most Americans are biding their time at home anxiously awaiting the news when professionals have discovered what the nature of this virus really is, and we are called to come back out of our caves. But until we can walk out our front doors shielding our sun weary eyes from the light of day, most of us are bored. I know in the film community we are all itching to get back out and about, taking photos again.

I am no stranger to quarantine. Living with an autoimmune disease, such as Crohn’s Disease, there have been many times when I’ve had to stay away from people to preserve my health. I have been criticized much for it, even shunned by people who just don’t understand. But if nothing comes from this time of solitude and inner reflection, I hope at least people of the world, and particularly Americans, will at least realize they’re getting a small taste of what people dealing with chronic illness deal with everyday of their lives: fear of contamination from others because our immune systems are weakened by disease and medications; isolation because we have no energy to leave our beds and most people don’t understand so they just stay away, and of course, anxiety over the uncertainty of what our futures are going to bring.

In this uncertain and anxious time in our world right now, a time that will surely be in the history books in the future, we as film photographers and storytellers almost have an obligation to record what is going on around us. So I have decided to put together a list of 5 photo books that will, hopefully, help you to get motivated and recording the world around you, if not at the least entertain you for a few hours.

First you’re going to need some film. You most likely already have a fridge full if you’re like me, but if not, why not buy some film from Kosmofoto or Shot on Film Store? I bought some from Shot on Film and with the code FREESHIP on an order of +$29, shipping was free and quick. These small businesses are going to be hit hard from this whole thing, so we should support them when we can.

So now you have no excuse not to shoot some film. While you’re at it, during your quarantine and beyond why not consider binge watching some of my videos on my YouTube channel? It makes for some nice entertainment and maybe you’ll learn a little something.

Now on to the list

  1. The first book on my recommended photobook list is
    Stephen Shore – Uncommon Places The Complete Works.
    I got this book online from the Museum of Modern Art. You can get it a little cheaper from amazon or buy smaller series books of his work, but this one I liked because it includes his complete series.
    The reason I recommend this book is because while looking at Stephen’s work you relate to the everyday scenes his photos depict, but at the same time they come from a world that doesn’t exist anymore.
    For us as photographers, we have the opportunity to photograph our lives around us, and though it may not seem significant today, ten years from now everyday life will not look the way we remembered it today. Take pictures of your breakfast table, the walls in your house, taking note of the wallpaper or paint. Take pictures of the items in the trunk of your car. One day you will look back at these and realize how fleeting life is and you’ll be glad you stopped time just for that moment.



  2. Fred Herzog – Modern Color
    Herzog recorded Vancouver after moving there from Europe. He especially liked to photograph advertising and second hand stores. I chose his work for this list to inspire you to record your town, and for right now while you’re in quarantine, to record your neighborhood.


  3. Vivian Maier – Self Portraits
    I am a big fan of Maier. I love all of her work. I chose this specific book of her work because one of the easiest things you can do while stuck inside, is practice taking self portraits. To some it may seem a little self centered but in my opinion some of my favorite pictures in a photographers work is their self portraits. There is a drama involved in it.
    I love this one of Fred Herzog. Its probably my favorite self portrait:


  4. Linda McCartney – The Polaroid Diaries
    Pretty much everyone has a polaroid camera laying around their house, or even the more modern Fujifilm cameras. This book I think can serve as an inspiration to take photos of your family and pets. Be goofy, and just record good times with the ones you love because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
    Paul McCartney’s wife Linda used an SX-70 to record her family and the towns she lived in. One of the benefits of these cameras is you can get your pictures almost instantly instead of having to mail them out or developing them yourself. Film packs can be purchased on Polaroid Originals, amazon, or anywhere film is sold.



  5. Jessica Lange – Highway 61
    Jessica Lange is mostly known for her long acting career. You may have seen her recently in American Horror Story, or you may remember her from the movie Tootsie and many more.
    A little known fact is that she also loves photography. She has a Leica and she has said she doesn’t use any kind of flash. She likes to observe like a fly on the wall.
    This book was a series she did driving up Highway 61 where she grew up, and photographing America along the way. I chose this book because again I want to encourage you to record your neighborhoods. Especially if you live in a rural area where you won’t have to come into contact with any other people right now during the quarantine.




I hope you will find some inspiration in one or all of these books to stay motivated and keep shooting.

Let me know in the comments below what you’ve been shooting during this time. Leave me a link to your work. Id love to see it.

Stay safe and wash your hands.

The Kodak Brownie Target Six-20

Not to be confused with the Target Brownie 620 made in 1941, the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 was made from 1946 until 1952. It has the Art Deco stripe design on the front plate that was common back in the era of skyscrapers.

 Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 Box Camera
The Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 Box Camera

Kodak created the Brownie box camera in 1900 as a way to offer photography to the masses at a time when taking photos was largely left to professionals. For $1 the average consumer could take their own snapshots using one of these simple devices. It came preloaded with film and gave you 8 shots. This could be comparable to the disposable cameras we all used in the 1990’s.

Kodak Brownie
The Original Brownie Circa 1900 ad

Kodak improved the design of their box camera over the years, and by 1932 they decided to create their own film to corner the market even further. Taking the popular 120 film, they changed the 1 to a 6 for the 6 shots the film originally would include, and they rolled the 120 film onto their slightly smaller 620 spool. They even stopped making cameras that took 120 film until they finally realized 120 film was more popular.

Although some 620 cameras can take 120 film if the spool will fit into the film holder, this camera does not. You will have to buy the 620 film from a supplier who hand rolls it like I did from Film Photography Project, or you can respool the film yourself. Doing this second option opens your film up to scratches and dust, but it is the cheaper option.

How to load film into the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20
Loading Film into the Brownie Target from the manual
Back view of the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20
Back view of the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 where the red window is located to read your films frame number

The Specs

By the time the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 was produced in 1946, the price for taking your own pictures was $3.50. Like most of the box cameras, it has a meniscus lens, meaning it has one convex side and one concave side like a crescent moon. This lens doesn’t have the best quality, but it does its job and often gives that soft focus, vintage look that instagram tries to duplicate with filters.

The fixed focus keeps you limited to staying 8 feet or more from your subject, unless you have a Kodak portrait lens attachment.

Kodak's Close Up lens attachment
Kodak’s Close Up lens attachment

The camera is made up of two parts: the sleeve made of cardboard and leatherette, and the inner works and faceplate made of metal and wood.

The simple rotary shutter is set at one speed of around 1/40th of a second, which matched the slower film speeds at the time it was made. The aperture is set by pulling a slider on the top of the metal faceplate. Pulling up gives you an aperture of f/22 for brighter subjects like snow, and keeping it pushed in gives you an opening of f/16 for ordinary shots.

top view of Kodak Brownie Target Six-20
The aperture switch is seen here next to the viewfinder

There is an instant setting and a timed setting switch on the side of the camera above the shutter release lever. You pull it out for the timed setting. The timed setting really is just bulb because you have to hold down the shutter release to keep the shutter open for a timed shot.

the side of the camera where the shutter release lever is located, & above it is the switch for the timed/instant settings.

The camera has two viewfinders, one on top for portrait style shots and one on the side for landscapes. These viewfinders are often found unusable on old box cameras because the old glue lets go and the mirrors inside end up loose and broken.

My Experience

I got the opportunity to use one of these Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 cameras because my girlfriend Kelsey was given one by her grandmother. Hers had the common issue mentioned above. One of the mirrors was detached and everything was very dirty and dusty from storage and age.

I removed the front faceplate and easily glued the mirror back on with Gorilla glue after I cleaned everything up. You can see more on this on my YouTube video.

My YouTube Video about the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 Please go check it out and Subscribe to my channel

Kelsey’s grandmother sent her some pictures taken of herself and her family with this camera when she was a little girl in 1950’s Missouri.

I wanted to use the camera for the same type of photos that were taken of Grammie, so I had Kelsey pose around our yard the way her family had.

To take a picture with this camera and its very slow shutter, you have to hold it firmly against your body, and hold your breath before releasing the shutter. I didn’t want to take any chances because the sun was going in and out that day, and I have an unsteady hand. So I sat the box on a tripod. I also measured my distance from her using a tape measurer to make sure she would be in focus.

I previously wrote about the lot next door being cleared, and on the day I took these photos the giant trees had just been knocked down. Kelsey had the idea to take a shot of her standing amongst the giants. So I followed her out there with my tripod and took these shots through our fence.

Black and white film today is more sensitive to light than it was back then when they used the red film counter windows on their cameras, so sometimes you will have to tape over these windows to prevent light leaks. I didn’t take this measure in order to see if it was necessary. Only one of my shots had what appeared to be a light leak (picture above), but I can’t be sure if that was the cause.

Final Thoughts

In the end, I enjoyed using this camera. It was made more enjoyable by knowing the history of the camera and its past. Even though it is considered a “primitive” camera compared to today’s tech, you really have to give people from that era credit as good photographers considering what they had to work with. It is a good challenge for a photographer. Working with a set focus, set slow shutter speed, only two apertures, and no flash really makes it challenging to get good shots. Remember that back in the early 1950’s when this camera was used, they were taking pictures of their kids and around their homes. This isn’t easy with these limited specs. You had to know what you were doing if you didn’t want to waste film. I recommend you give it a try.

I will be posting more box camera reviews this year because I have joined a Facebook group called Project Box Camera. Go check it out. We will be offering a Zine at the end of the year with some of our favorite shots.

The Fujica ST801 and My Dad’s Birthday

My dad passed away from a massive heart attack when I was eleven years old and although that is now 22 years ago, it is a loss that was burned into the genetic makeup of my life. It is a loss I still feel today.

I have mentioned in my posts before that photography is a medium I use to feel close to him, because he loved cameras. He was always taking pictures from the time he was a kid, up until he passed away. In fact, the last camera he owned was a Canon Sure Shot WP-1 and he was taking pictures with it right before he died. I will hopefully own one of those cameras in the future.

When I was growing up, he was always taking pictures of my siblings and I with a Canon SLR. I can’t for the life of me remember what model it was. I only know he purchased it new around 1989. I wish so badly I knew what camera that was, but I did find this picture of him in my Grandmother’s photo albums and I was excited to see a camera around his neck.

Now at first, I didn’t know what this camera was because these were taken way before I was born. I posted it on a vintage camera page on Facebook and they steered me in the direction of the Fujica ST series of cameras. Through the deduction of the time this was taken and the two ports clearly on the side by the lens, I found that this was the Fujica ST801. So I of course went on Ebay and bought one.

The first one I got I loved shooting with right away. I shot a whole roll up until the end. I wound on the last picture and the advance lever let go. Thinking back now I am not sure if I just didn’t push the lever all the way to make it bounce back or if it really let go, but I returned it. The second one I bought came to me described as “like new” but showed up with brown crud smeared all over the mirror and camera. Third times a charm, and I finally have one in great shape and I love it.

The Specs

The Fujica ST801 was produced from 1972-1978. It doesn’t have a lot of features, but it has everything you need.

Fujica ST801

It was the first 35mm SLR camera to use viewfinder LED lights for its meter, replacing the popular center needle meter. The LEDs made it easier to see in low lighting conditions and it eliminated the mechanical failure often experienced with the needle meter.

The meter is TTL Average (through the lens), and the 7 LEDs light up the scale inside the viewfinder as you compose your picture. It also has open aperture metering which means the camera can take a reading at any aperture while still keeping the viewfinder bright and open to the widest aperture of the mounted lens. It does this through a small tab on the back of the lens that couples to the meter, allowing it to communicate what the lens widest aperture is while at the same time metering according to your settings.

Fujinon Lens

The Fujinon lens I have is the 50mm F/1.4. These lenses are EBC coated (Electron Beam Coating), with 11 layers to make sure it doesn’t get sun flare or ghost imaging. It also gives your pictures great color definition. The wide aperture gives this lens great bokeh or shallow depth of field, which I really love.

The lens mount is an M42 screw mount which was a universal mount being used a lot at the time. Fuji decided to make their Fujinon lenses non-standard by adding that tab. You will often find these great lenses with these tabs filed down because people want to use them on other M42 mount cameras and some digital cameras. You can use other M42 lenses on the Fujica ST801, but you would have to stop down meter.

The meter also uses Silicon photocells instead of Cds, which makes it, according to the manual, ten times faster and more accurate than the previously used Cds cells.

The shutter speeds on this camera are Bulb, and 1 second up to 1/2000th of a second. The ASA speeds are built into the speed dial, and you change the ISO by lifting it up and turning it.

It conveniently takes a 6V PX28L/4LR44 battery instead of the dreaded mercury batteries.

The flash syncs at 1/60th of a second, and it has two PC ports on the side next to the lens for electronic flash or for a bulb flash.

The shutter release button can be turned to the right to lock it. I like this feature because it prevents accidental shots, which I tend to do.

The left side of the lens has the depth of field preview button next to the self timer lever.

My Thoughts

I loved this camera right away. I of course purchased it because of its connection to my dad, and honestly I was afraid I wouldn’t like it, but I fell in love with this camera and the results I have gotten with it.

The Fujica ST801 is small and compact. I take it in my purse with me to doctors appointments and shoot pictures inside the hospital and around town. I am excited to be documenting my life now the way my father did with this same camera back when he was around my age (he was younger then I am now when he owned this camera).

Stuart Florida
The view by the hospital
Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Portra 400
Wall decor at the Doctor
Kodak Portra 400
Kodak P3200

Today, February 15th, would have been my dad’s birthday. I thought a nice way to remember him on this day would be to shoot with this camera and take it to a place in town where he often took my sister and I for pictures. He loved animals and birds like I do and I found myself taking pictures that he would’ve taken.

I am very afraid of water and bridges, mainly because I can’t swim. Back when he would take us here he would have to talk me into walking across the bridge and he was the only one I would walk it with. Today was the first time since then that I came to this park and walked on the bridge.

The park is now called Veteran’s Memorial Park, and back in the early 1990’s when he would take us there, it was nothing but one bridge, a couple of trails and bathrooms. You could go there and see the manatee and otters sun bathing. The trails sometimes were known to house Florida panthers, and I was always afraid we would run into one. Now it is built up with a marina for boats and another larger bridge for fishing. He would have loved it.

If you are in the market for a compact SLR with a reliable meter, I highly recommend the Fujica ST801, and its great Fujinon lenses. I hope you enjoyed my pictures.

If you want to see more from this day check out my video on my YouTube channel and be sure to subscribe to the channel for more videos to come.

For more of my vintage camera reviews click here. For more of my photography, visit my instagram or Facebook page.

Everything Will Change in the Blink of an Eye – so take a picture of it

The lot next door to my home has been wooded for as long as I have lived in this house, going on 16 years now. In all of those years I have photographed the birds in its trees, met bobcats from afar, and watched squirrels come scurrying into my yard from their homes every morning. It brought me a lot of joy to listen to the sounds of nature right outside my home, considering just a few blocks away is the loud city.

If you’ve been following my blog and reading my posts, you know that because of my health I am more often than not stuck at home and am often limited to my back yard as a place to take pictures and test out my cameras. You may also know if you are following my instagram, that most of the pictures I take are of the birds and trees right from my yard.

Nikon F Photomic FTn with Kodak Gold 200
Hawks watching the trees being knocked down

Since America is in the middle of another real estate boom, there has been land being cleared, homes and buildings going up everywhere. It is all very reminiscent of the time right before the recession in 2008. We had the same kind of boom in construction that ended with piles of wood being abandoned and lots left empty along with many construction workers being out of a job. Hopefully this boom won’t end with the same outcome, but I also hope we don’t end up losing too much wildlife as a result.

Nikon F Photomic FTn Kodak Gold 200

The peace and quiet I have enjoyed for so long all came to an end a few weeks ago when I saw the SOLD sign outside the lot next door. My stomach sank. I had only hoped they would take a long time before they started building, but they didn’t. One morning I went outside for a walk to find this giant log hauler parked in front of the lot. Later cops showed up I think because it was parked near a curve in the road, and much later it was moved.

Canon TX
Eastman Double X 5222 Film
Canon TX
Eastman Double X 5222 Film
Canon TX
Eastman Double X 5222 Film

The next day this tractor appeared in its place. Then I knew it was only a matter of time, and I had to start taking my last photographs while I still could.

Nikon F Photomic FTn
Fujicolor Superia Xtra 400
The tallest tree towering over my house

It all happened very quickly. Very early one morning I was woken up by the loud sounds of the tractor crunching over the smaller palms and bushes. I wanted to capture every branch, and every tree before they were carried off. Luckily, I had a few different cameras already loaded. I always have several different cameras with different focal lengths loaded at one time.

The Tractor made me think of a Monster devouring its lunch

I ran outside and started shooting as much as I could before the tractor tore them down. It was a very dramatic experience to witness. These once very large, old trees were now being pushed over, shook, and crushed with sounds of cracking that sounded like bones breaking. Trees that once grew together for decades would now die together within hours.

Giant Trees
Canon T6i
Oak Trees
These trees towered over my home for over 15 years

As you can imagine I had an emotional attachment to these trees. The experience was very dramatic for me, so you will have to bear with my dramatic descriptions. I couldn’t help feeling this way as I watched it happening in front of me.

The egrets came with the tractor as if it was their everyday job too. They were brave, flying in next to the scoop and standing inches from the tires before it rolled on. They reminded me of the birds that sit on the backs of gators or rhinos hoping to catch fish while symbiotically living on another living animal.

They would run up to the claw and grab snakes and lizards impaled on the teeth. They ate well that day.

A once tall palm being pushed over. It looked like a ribcage

At first I figured the guy was just going to clean up the bushes and weeds around the tall trees and then a larger tractor would come later to maybe saw down the gigantic trees. I had no idea how they were going to manage such tall trees in between two houses without them falling on us.

Canon T6i
Canon T6i
These trees looked like the legs of a giant
Canon T6i

I gasped when he started to nudge the giants with his tractor until they fell over with a ground shaking crash.

Tractor tearing down a palm tree
Canon T6i

Trees often represent life, and stability. It was both awe inspiring and gut wrenching to see them being torn down by this metal man made machine, and tossed around like sticks.

Canon T6i
Fallen Trees being dragged out
Canon T6i
Tractor Crunching a Palm in half
Canon T6i

By the late afternoon I was still in shock that this small tractor had managed to clear the entire lot of giant trees all by itself in one day. After the guy left I went around to get some shots of the lot from the front.

Nikon F Kodak Tri X 400
Nikon F Photomic FTn
Kodak Ultramax 400
Nikon F Photomic FTn
Kodak Ultramax 400
The Roots of the Giants
Canon TX Kodak Double 5222
Roots of trees
The Roots
Canon T6i
A RedShouldered Hawk sitting on the uprooted tree
Canon T6i
Sany Tractor

The only thing remaining on the lot was the giant carcasses of the once tall trees and a pile of crushed palms.

Palm Tree
Palm Tree Crushed
Canon T6i
Argus C3
Fujicolor Superia Xtra 400
Nikon F
Kodak Tri-X 400
Nikon F Photomic FTn
Fujicolor Superia Xtra 400
Nikon F Photomic FTn
Fujicolor Superia Xtra 400
Palm Tree Roots
A Pile of Palms
Nikon F Kodak Tri X 400
Fallen Palm Trees
Kodak Retina IIIs
Ilford XP2 400
Nikon F Kodak Tri X 400
Nikon F Kodak Tri X 400
Nikon F Photomic FTn
Kodak Ultramax 400

The guy left one tree that thankfully is on the part of the land that belongs to the city. I am so grateful for that because I often photograph this tree because it is where the hawks perch. They flew in to see what happened to their home.

Red Shouldered Hawks
Nikon F
Kodak Gold 200
You can see the hawk on the lower right branch
Canon T6i
Nikon F Kodak Tri X 400

Later that night I looked at the trees lying there in the dark lot next door. It was very eerie. They reminded me of sleeping giants, and that is what I called them after that.

Nikon F
Kodak Tri-X 400

The next day someone else came back with his very young son and some workers to break up the tall trees into pieces. I decided to use my Canon TX which was loaded with some Lomography Lady Grey I was trying out for the first time. It ended up fitting the subject perfectly to look like an old, 1940’s monster movie.

Sany Tractor
Canon TX
Lomography Lady Grey

I watched in horror as he picked up the carcass of each tree, raised it high in the air, and then dropped them to the ground to help crack them in half.

Sany Tractor
Canon TX
Lomography Lady Grey
Sany Tractor
Canon TX
Lomography Lady Grey

Then he would lift them back up slightly and hold it about 2 feet in the air while his young son came over with a chainsaw and sawed off the bottom half where the roots once fed life into the tree.

Sany Tractor
Canon TX
Lomography Lady Grey
Young boy chainsawing the roots off the tree
Canon TX
Lomography Lady Grey

Next he violently shook the roots free of any dirt before tossing it into a pile. The sawed off log then was carried over to a separate pile awaiting the log hauler to come take them away the next day.

Kodak Retina IIIs
Ilford XP2

This guy was pretty nasty. I could hear him screaming at his workers, and at one point he stopped the tractor and screamed at me in my yard, “What you takin’ my picture for!!” I yelled back that I wasn’t taking his picture, I was photographing the trees, but he ignored me. I felt pretty bad being scolded, and went inside. I guess I shouldn’t have let him get to me, but I wasn’t expecting that. I just really hate the way people seem to be particularly nasty these days.

Like a rose on a grave this branch dangled on the wire above the torn down lot
The lone standing tree
Nikon F Photomic FTn
Fujicolor Superia Xtra 400

The Bright Side

At the end of the day, there is nothing I can do about any of this. I couldn’t stop them from taking down those trees. I can’t stop them from building this house. Change is the only thing you can bet on in life, and there is nothing I can do about all of these changes that are taking place. I can however, control how I react to these changes. What I can do is see the bright side.

The literal bright side after all of this is the beautiful new view that has been revealed to me.

Sunset across from my backyard

When the lot next door was covered in those beautiful trees, it was also blocking my view to the sunset.

Hawk on top of the trees on a cloudy day

I now have this beautiful view to enjoy and photograph as well as the one tree they left behind that the hawks perch on especially for me to take their picture. Although I do know this too will be temporary because once the house is built I probably will lose that view too, it is these small blessings that keeps life going. These small happinesses are what we should all grasp hold of and never take for granted because in the blink of an eye it will all change.

The Nikon F – the Camera that Will Outlive You

The title of this article may be a strong statement, but the reason I stand by it is because this tank of a camera just feels indestructible. When you hold a heavy Nikon F you just feel like this monster could never be broken. That of course isn’t true. No camera is indestructible. Even the Nikon F sometimes suffers from stuck shutters and loose focal planes, but the reason I say it will outlive you is because it is an all mechanical camera that doesn’t depend on a battery or any kind of electronic whatsoever the way todays digital cameras and even most film cameras of the past do.

The History and Specs

In 1959, Nikon created their first Single Lens Reflex camera, the Nikon F. After the success of their Rangefinder line, they took the S3 along with the most popular features on the market at the time and turned it into an SLR. At the time SLR’s were slow and unpopular because the mirror would stay up after an exposure and wouldn’t come down until you advanced to the next frame. This changed with the Nikon F and the quick return mirror.

It also had a non-metered prism head viewfinder, and the body was very similar to its predecessor. If you put the S3 back to back with the F you’ll see the similarities right away.

The original prism head did not have a built in meter, but you could buy the Nikon meter that clipped on. These meters used selenium type cells and are hard to find still working today.

Vintage Nikon Ad

The Nikon F was made around the time when flash bulbs were mainly in use. When you pull up on the shutter speed dial and turn it, different colored dots and letters appear in the tiny window above it. Each dot and letter corresponds with a set of speeds on the dial making the Nikon F fully syncable with flash at all speeds. Electronic flash wasn’t developed until the end of production of these cameras, therefore most of the flash options are for the different types of bulbs that were around at the time and then one setting, FX, is for electronic flash.

The top view of the Nikon F body

The film counter includes a slider that reminds you if you’ve loaded a roll of 36 exposures or 20. The speed dial includes speeds from 1/1000th of a second down to 1 full second and includes Bulb mode and Time mode for very long exposures if the 3-10 second self timer isn’t sufficient.

There is also a PC socket on the side where an electronic or bulb flash unit can be connected and cable releases that screw on to the shutter button are available as well.

Along with this new SLR came the new F-type bayonet mount that Nikon still uses today. At a time when the screw on M42 lenses were in popular demand, Nikon created their own efficient, and quick mounting lens system. I will be writing a blog in the future with more in depth details about the lenses because it is a topic worth its own article.

Nikon F lenses Nikkor
Nikon F Pre- AI
lenses use the F Mount

This camera was the choice of professionals at the time, and was often chosen as official equipment for newspapers and publishing houses, especially for journalists reporting on the Vietnam war. They would slap on a motor drive called the F-250 and shoot off 250 exposures of the horrors they witnessed. Don McCullin famously was rescued by his Nikon F when it took a bullet for him.

Don McCullin with his Nikon F in Vietnam

The Nikon F is a modular system that allows you to customize it to your needs as a photographer. With the push of a button you can release the viewfinder and the focusing screen to replace them with whatever type you prefer. There were 21 focusing screens made, some standard and some for specific uses like the grid lined one for architectural photography.

Vintage 1960 ad for Nikon F
Nikon F with a Prism Meter Head and a Nikkor 50mm lens
Nikon F with the Prism Finder and a Nikkor 105mm lens

In 1962 Nikon introduced their first metered prism, the Photomic. This one is now called the flag finder because the on/off switch was a flag shaped switch that lifted up and down to reveal the electric “Eye”. It didn’t have through the lens metering. It metered through a tube mounted on the head in front of the CDs cells that powered the meter. This tube narrowed the meters sensitivity and it also came with a screw on incident light meter attachment. Later the flag was replaced with a push button on/off switch.

The First Metered Viewfinder for the Nikon F

As the years went on Nikon improved their meter heads and modified the body of the Nikon F to take the different meters they developed over the course of the cameras production until 1974 when the F2 took over completely.

The modified bodies are recognized by the red dot the factory placed next to the serial number. These models are very desirable for collectors. I will also be writing a blog in the future about all of the meters that were made for this camera, and my experiences with them.

In 1971, Nikon made the F2 to succeed the F, but the original was still seeing a lot of success and continued to be produced for three more years. These final F’s given by Nikon (pun intended), were the coined “Apollo” versions. There is no known connection to the Apollo space program other than it existed at the same time as the camera, and Nikon had made a camera especially for the program in the past. Other than that, the Nikon Apollo is just a Nikon F that now donned a black plastic tip on the advanced lever and self timer like its younger brother the F2.

Nikon F Apollo
Nikon F Apollo Photomic FTn

My Thoughts

The Nikon F is my favorite SLR. I love many Single Lens Reflex cameras, but the F is my first love. I first saw it on the Vintage Camera Collectors Facebook page in 2019 and it was love at first sight. I had never seen a modular camera before, and I just had to have one.

My first Nikon F
My First Nikon F Photomic T

My first Nikon F had the Photomic T meter head, but the meter was dead. I was very ill at the time and bed bound, so I mostly just held it as you can see in the picture above taken while in bed.

As I’ve explained in a past blog I have used photography as a therapeutic pursuit to help improve my mental and physical health, and the Nikon F has been my companion and tool for this the whole time.

I started out with the dead Photomic T mounted on the camera, and used a handheld Sekonic meter for my exposures, but the process was too slow, and soon the collector in me took over. I had to try out each type of metered head, and accessory I could afford. The whole process was proving to be the greatest distraction for the horrible things I was going through at the time.

Accessories I own for the Nikon F

After a couple of returns on Ebay, I eventually found a properly working Photomic T. I will be selling my non-working one along with one of my Nikon F bodies very soon so hopefully someone out there can get it working again.

Nikon F with the working Photomic T

I also have purchased the the original Photomic with the on/off switch. I took a chance on it. The owner wasn’t sure if it worked, but I decided to buy it because it was a good price and came with two really good Nikkor lenses and an older body. When I received it (you can watch the unboxing here) I was disappointed to find it didn’t work, but I can’t afford to buy a working one right now so for now I admire it in my collection for what it is. I have enjoyed the lenses though.

Out of all of the viewfinders I have tried on my Nikon F, I would have to say my favorite one to use is the Photomic FTn. I really enjoy using the original non-metered prism head because it is light and simple, but as I’ve stated, I really like having a built in meter that is reliable, and the FTn is just that. The FTn was the latest modification to the meters Nikon put out for the Nikon F before production stopped, therefore it is the best out of the bunch.

Taken with the Nikon F Photomic FTn

I eventually bought the Nikkor 35-200mm zoom lens because my main type of photography is nature and I need to be able to zoom in to get shots of birds. This setup with the Photomic FTn meter, and this heavy lens proved to be a lot on my arms that were still very weak, but it has proven to be a good exercise and I lug this camera with me on my walks in the morning. I am still on the lookout for a lighter option. If you can recommend one that is compatible with the Nikon F please leave it in the comments below.

Nikon F Photomic FTn with the Zoom lens
Taken with the Nikon F Apollo version with the Photomic FTn metered head

The meter can sometimes be a hindrance when trying to get a shot set up quickly because you look through the viewfinder and turn the aperture ring on your lens or turn the speed dial on the top of the meter until it registers correctly inside your viewfinder. Then sometimes I have found myself feeling around and fumbling to find the shutter speed dial and the shutter button while holding your composition in sight through the viewfinder. Its a small issue and just takes a little getting used to.

Nikon F Apollo Version with Photomic FTn

I soon found that the Nikon F has a pretty loud and abrasive mirror compared to other 35mm SLR’s. This added to the shaking of my hands has been a challenge because I tend to take photos in the dim lighting of my backyard early in the morning. A lot of my shots end up blurry when I am using the heavy zoom lens. I have slowly improved my technique for this and I am still learning.

Nikon F Photomic FTn
Shot taken with the zoom lens in low light
Nikon F with the non-metered prism finder

I have very poor eyesight, even with my glasses on, so I tried several of the different types of magnifiers and special finders to see which one helped the best. First I tried the eyepiece magnifier, but that didn’t help me much in the type of photos I take. I also found the view to be too small.

Next I tried the right angle finder, but that wasn’t any help to my eyesight. I think I misunderstood its purpose. It did prove useful when I was doing still life photos on a tripod that was positioned below me.

Still life photo with the Nikon F on a tripod and using the Right Angle Finder with cable release

Finally, I purchased the Action Finder when I found one on Ebay for a very low price that I couldn’t pass up. This one is really nice to use. The viewfinder is very big and bright and allows you to look from 2 inches away from the actual viewfinder. I really enjoyed using this one. The only downside for me again was the non-metered part. I just really hate using a handheld meter when I am trying to get a quick shot of a bird flying through my yard.

Selfie Taken with the Action Finder
Nikon F with the Action Finder

Final Thoughts

The Nikon F has been the camera I have used the most in my entire life, and I will probably always have one. I am even studying an old technician course to learn to be able to repair these cameras and others so they can be around for a long time.

I highly recommend any photographer try out one of these cameras. They are beautiful, reliable, and it is a war veteran that deserves our respect. Okay enough of my gushing.

For more pictures that I have taken with my collection of Nikon F’s as well as many other camera’s, please follow me on Instagram or Facebook, or check out my portfolio website.

For more of my review on the Nikon F check out the companion video to this blog on my YouTube video and subscribe for much more to come.

The Bell & Howell/ Canon Dial 35

In 1963 Bell & Howell created the Dial 35 camera, and had them manufactured by their new partner Canon in Japan. It had several variations including the Dial 35-2 in 1969, which is the model I have.

Bell & Howell came into partnership with Canon in 1961. After many years of creating motion picture cameras they decided to start creating still cameras. The Dial 35 is one of these, and the many variations will have either of their names on the logo or both.

It was a camera that looked like a phone and worked like a clock. Most of you probably don’t know what a rotary phone is, but in the 19th century up into the late 20th phones had what was called a finger wheel. This was the dial on the phone laid out in a circle. You would hold down each number consecutively in the phone number you were dialing, and rotate the wheel around towards the finger stop.

The Dial 35 doesn’t have a rotating finger wheel. It is only cosmetically designed to look like a rotary phone. I am not exactly sure why they chose this design. I wasn’t able to find much info when researching this camera.

Rotary Phone
Rotary Phone
Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

The Ins and Outs

The Canon Dial 35 is a half frame camera that gives 72 pictures on 35mm film. It has automatic film advance from a clockwork spring motor located inside the grip of the camera. This grip gets wound up like a toy from that era. This allows you to keep taking pictures until it needs to be wound up once again after each set of 20 pictures. On the film counter the numbers 20 and 40 are set in red so you know it’s time to wind it up again. If the film stops advancing before you reach one of these numbers, it is till safe to rewind the motor if needed. There is even a screw mount located on the bottom of the grip for a tripod.

Picture from the Manual

The ISO numbers are laid out along the circle around the SE 28mm f2.8 Canon lens. The ISO numbers on the original Dial 35 ranges in sets of numbers from 8 to 500. The Dial 35-2 goes from 10-16 up to 640-1000.

The Dial 35 Canon Lens and ISO dial
The ISO dial and Lens

The camera is shutter priority, so you can manually set your shutter speed, which is located on the outside of the lens barrel from 1/30th of a second up to 1/250th. The camera then chooses the aperture for you. It has a needle matching CdS meter with an electric eye located around the lens. The meter reading is in the viewfinder with a distance indicator on the lefthand side. It zone focuses so you would have to guess the distance of your subject and then match the needle up to a picture of a mountain indicating a far away object beyond 15 feet, a blue snapshot symbol for 8-15 feet, and an outline of a human head to indicate 2.5-5 feet away.

The bottom of the field-of-view frame has the aperture numbers laid out with the red zones on the left and right letting you know that you are going to over or under expose and need to adjust your shutter speed. The frame in the viewfinder also has parallax correction marks to use when taking pictures up close.

Dial 35 Viewfinder features from the manual
Picture from the manual

The aperture control can be overridden by pulling out and turning the aperture knob located underneath the viewfinder window. You would also pull this out to turn off the meter when the camera is not in use so as not to waste your battery.

The original battery used was the 1.3 volt mercury battery that would need to be replaced with a modern equivalent. I use the Wein Cell batteries on Amazon.

The inside of the Dial 35
The inside of the Dial 35

There is a hot shoe mount and a PC socket located on the right side of the camera. You could buy a flash cube adapter to use in low light with the meter knob pulled out. The camera syncs with the flash cubes at 1/30th of a second and electronic flash through all speeds.

dial 35 flash cube attachment
Picture from the manual

The left side has a rewind button labeled with the letter R in white. To rewind the film you would first fully wind the motor, push down and turn the button to line up the white dots holding it there, and then the motor would automatically rewind. When it stops, continue to hold down the R button as you manually continue to turn the motor and rewind the film yourself until the counter says S.

The case for the camera looks a little like a coffin, but is a fun design allowing the strap of the camera to hang out for easy carrying.

The Dial 35 camera inside its case
Dial 35 inside its case

My Experience

I first saw this camera on a vintage camera Facebook page many years ago and I loved the way it looked. I have an affinity for all things from the 1960’s, so the design of the camera appealed to me. Back then I wasn’t shooting with my collection of vintage cameras because film wasn’t as readily available as it is becoming today. I had intended to purchase one for display in my cabinet. For some reason that I can’t remember, it may have been price, I never bought one. Now that I am shooting film in my cameras I decided to revisit this camera.

I found one on Ebay for a very cheap price because the seller wasn’t sure if it would work or not. I took a risk because if it didn’t work I wouldn’t mind just having it on display. I was really happy when I got it and figured out how to make it work.

Upon first inspection, I was aggravated by the zone focusing. I have always hated these types of cameras ever since I had a horrible experience with a Kodak Pony 135. I will have to tell that story in another blog post. Surprisingly though, this camera is very easy to navigate and over time I have gotten better at guessing distances.

The lens is surprisingly sharp when you get the distance correct, and I was very happy to discover it takes nice pictures indoors without a flash.

Christmas 2019 This was from a project I was working on called They’re All Angels.

Holding the camera is easy because of the motorized grip. It has some weight to it. It isn’t plastic and cheap despite being an unconventional camera. The viewfinder is nice and bright. Pictures can be taken in landscape or portrait style by turning the camera sideways.

avocado tree
Picture taken in low light in a bathroom


This camera isn’t one you would use for serious photography. It is a fun camera used more for the experience than for the photos taken with it. Don’t get me wrong though, I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the photos I have been able to get with this camera. I would recommend giving it a try, and even trying it out with your kids. They would probably get a kick out of it as well.Let me know in the comments if you have ever used this camera and what you think of it.

I will continue to use this camera especially when I am stuck indoors and need a camera that can take handheld shots in lowlight. I had good experiences in this scenario using Lomography 800 film and other 400 speed films.

Be sure to check out my other vintage camera reviews, and if you’d like to see more of my photography, please follow my instagram or Facebook.

Photography and Mental Health

A lot of people have asked the question, “Can getting into photography as a hobby help mental health issues?” The short answer: yes.

I have written before about my struggle with anxiety and depression as well as my constant fight with Crohn’s Disease, which all go hand in hand. I also mentioned how much film photography has helped me regarding my health issues. Check out those posts here.

My Story

My entire life I have suffered from severe anxiety. As a little girl, I would literally puke in school every morning. You can imagine I had no friends after that. Teachers didn’t seem to know what was wrong and they weren’t telling my parents this was happening. They only embarrassed and humiliated me in front of the class. Due to this ignorance, I wasn’t even aware of the name of what I was experiencing until I was an adult. The only name I could put to what I was feeling was nauseas, because my mom told me the feeling I was having before I threw up was nausea. So little five year old Aly usually just repeated “I’m nauseas” over and over to people through tears because I had no idea what was wrong with me.

Once I was an adult and in therapy, it was seemingly so simple. I had severe anxiety that comes with being from a broken home, among other things. I had many fears that grew from those years of untreated anxiety that still haunt me as an adult. It has come and gone through out my life, depending on what I am going through at the time.

The anxiety hit an all time high in 2010 when I was diagnosed with, what doctors called, a severe case of Fistulized Crohn’s Disease and Colitis. This rise in nervousness was mainly due to the horrific experiences I had leading up to my diagnosis and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that resulted from them.

I had a burst appendix for two weeks without realizing it. The doctors later told me they had no idea how I survived that. After two surgeries and a two month hospital stay, I returned home half the human I was when I went in, both physically and mentally. I weighed 120 pounds when I went in to the emergency room and came home a whopping 80 pounds. I didn’t recognize myself when I walked into my bathroom and looked in the mirror.

I quickly started having nightmares. I couldn’t sleep in my room anymore because it reminded me of the long nights spent laying sick and near death that lead up to my stay in the hospital.

I slept on the couch in the living room with pillows piled under me, because my body was so bony it was painful to sleep without cushions. I had to wear children’s clothing, and I ended up back in the hospital not long after.

Smells such as saline or rubbing alcohol still transport me back to the hospital bed and rough textured sheets remind me of the ones I slept on for two months in the hospital. These triggers got so bad at one point, that in 2017 I was going to physical therapy at a rehab located in a wing off the emergency room and the smells alone triggered me into panic so bad I couldn’t go back there. I even had to change hotel rooms on vacation one time, because the front door and lighting triggered my memory of that hospital stay.

Soon, these panic attacks culminated into a fear that I would have them anywhere, and I didn’t want to leave home. I still struggle with agoraphobia.

I have always actively sought out help from mental health facilities, but unfortunately when you are on the state funded insurance I have to be on with disability, access to quality healthcare, let alone mental healthcare, is non existent, at least where I live. I would sit in crowded offices for hours just to be yelled at and treated like an addict for needing anxiety meds. I was being judged by a juror before they even spent time enough to know anything about me.

Sitting in these tiny waiting rooms with so many people only made my panic attacks worse, and soon going to doctors appointments became another fear I couldn’t conquer.

On top of the horrible experiences with psychologists, the therapists I had to choose from left me at square one. They often would spend the appointment telling me their problems. Then I found a place that actually had therapists come to your home for sessions. I loved that but didn’t love that every single one I had would just disappear. They would all one day not show up for an appointment. Then I’d call the office and find out they quit and no one bothered to tell me. This happened four separate times. No wonder so many feel there is no where to turn sometimes.

I didn’t know what to do or where to turn for help. It was my own private hell waking up, and the first thing I’d think about was what doctors appointment I had to fear that day. Every night before bed I couldn’t sleep until exhaustion took over and I finally passed out. Even medication wasn’t helping. I tried self help books like Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway I used an app called Dare where a man with an accent spoke to me in a calm voice. These things helped for a minute, up until my next doctors appointment, or my next stint in a hospital.

It wasn’t until this last hospital stay in the summer of 2019 for a Crohn’s flare up that something positive finally came from all the suffering I have been experiencing.

After two weeks of extremely high doses of steroids, the doctors were beginning to really worry that they weren’t going to be able to get this flare under control. It really scared me. I had many different Gastroenterologists on my case, and none of them were communicating with each other, so they were all giving me differing opinions on my state and what I should do about it. As always I had to take my health into my own hands and make my own decisions.

Eventually, the steroids started working and I went home, but not before it took its toll on my body and my mind. I have mentioned in past blogs that when I came home I quickly found out my legs were weakened significantly by the strong steroids and the two weeks straight that I spent in that hospital bed. The pain I had any time I tried to walk, even to the bathroom, was so intense that I had to get a commode to put by my bed, and I couldn’t walk to the kitchen without needing help getting back.

A Turning Point

As I lay in my bed during those days I worried I’d never walk again. Doctors couldn’t give me any real answers, and still haven’t, as to what is really going on with my body. Could it be the Crohn’s, the steroids, or both? I only get the look of uncertainty from every doctor I’ve seen. You can imagine the amount of anxiety this uncertainty gives me.

In the beginning, the prednisone kept me up until late into the night and woke me up at sunrise every morning. I decided to start taking advantage of the energy it gave me by getting up and walking at first just out the front door, and take pictures of the sunrise with my digital camera.

As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time on social media during my time in bed. I joined a vintage camera collectors page on Facebook and everyday the pictures posted on there of the cameras cheered me up and kept my mind preoccupied. I decided to start looking at my collection again, and see if there were any I could shoot film with.

First, I purchased an Argus C3 because it was one I had always wanted to have in my collection. I even learned how to take it apart and clean it up. I decided to make a video of it and even started a YouTube channel. I never thought I would ever do this, but I really want to help people the way this hobby had been helping me. Two friends of mine Tabbie and Vicky, encouraged me to start the channel and I am glad they did. I can still remember how happy I felt after I finished that first video. It felt like an accomplishment. I was so weak and tired and in pain at the time, that I collapsed in bed afterwards, but it started something for me that I will continue to do as long as it continues to help myself and others.

My Argus C3 Matchmatic

Then I saw IT. The camera that would start it all. On the Vintage Camera Facebook page I started seeing many posts about the beautiful Nikon F modular system of cameras. It was love at first sight. If you go back to July of 2019 on my Instagram pictures, you will see this love unfolding when I got my first Nikon F camera from eBay. My arms were still very weak from the hospital, especially my right arm that had the IV’s in them for two weeks keeping my arm immovable at times. So it was difficult to even lift the camera to my eye, but I didn’t care.

You can see in those pictures that I lay in bed just playing with the camera and reading about it online. I started to drown myself in film photography and cameras and it gave me something to live for. It gave me a reason to get up and push my legs and push through the pain. I was still so anxious, but this time it was a good anxiety. I was anxious to get outside and shoot some film with my, new to me, vintage camera.

Pic I took of my first Nikon F while stuck in bed

At first, I would have Kelsey walk me out the front door where I’d take two or three pictures of the flowers there before my shins would tighten up and the pain would become unbearable, and she’d have to help me back to my bed.

I looked forward to these two minutes every morning.
The rest of the day I spent researching more about film and different cameras while I lay in bed waiting for doctors to get back to me about what to do next. I had no idea if I should be forcing myself to walk through the pain. At this point, they weren’t sure if I had necrosis in my hip or shin splints because of my symptoms. I started having horrendous spasms in my hips and knees so bad that my doctor’s medical assistant told me to go to the ER. I couldn’t bare the thought of going back there though, so I dealt with the pain until I could get in to see my doctor using a wheelchair, and had some tests done to rule out anything serious that could be happening.

Once those tests were done, and serious things were ruled out, the doctor put in for physical therapy. My insurance gave me a very hard time, but months later I did recently get approved. In the meantime, I continued to get up every morning and go out in my yard to take pictures. Little by little, it strengthened my arms and my legs enough to where I can at least walk without assistance around the house. I talk more about this in my video about the Canon TX. I still need a wheel chair in some instances when a lot of walking is involved, but progress is progress.

I started bringing a camera with me anytime I left the house. It has been like having a support animal. My mind is occupied on what pictures I can take from the car window on the way to my appointments. Check out my article on how I shoot street photography from my car. This has helped me tremendously with my anxiety leading up to appointments and even during them.

Taken outside of the doctors office

Turn Your Broken Heart into Art

The UK based website NoPanic.org says, “Taking up a hobby is a great way to ease anxiety or stress. It gives you something enjoyable to focus on, at the same time taking your mind off anything negative that you may be experiencing. Pleasurable pastimes can be a good way to calm down an overactive mind, alleviate anxiety and lower panic symptoms.”

I totally agree with this. Of course, there is so much more to staying mentally healthy, and I am not a doctor, but this has proven to be one tool that has helped me immensely when all other things had been failing. I highly recommend if you are thinking about getting into photography as a way to help your anxiety and depression, give it a try. Start small and do not put a lot of pressure on yourself. Especially being on social media like instagram, it can start to get overwhelming when you jump into the film photography community; it can be overwhelming for someone who is already suffering from anxiety. Wanting to be noticed on there and feelings of inadequacy can creep in, but there is also a great many people who are going through the same things and who understand, because they’re most likely using photography as some sort of an outlet as well.

Me with my Canon TX

Use your camera as a mask, a buffer to look through when you’re scared of a situation. It can feel like a protection in some instances. In the end, photography is a welcome distraction from all the thoughts that inevitably race through the mind of an anxious person.

Carrie Fisher, well known in a galaxy far, far away as well as for her fight with depression and bipolar disorder, once said, “take your broken heart and turn it into art.” Really, any creative outlet can serve this purpose. In the past, I have used drawing as a way to express myself. That is why the arts are so important. Find one that feels like an outlet for you and do it everyday.

My Drawing of a Mandalorian from Star Wars. The colors and strokes I used with the pastels show that I was feeling something and releasing something when I drew it.
My drawing of a lion in 2016. You can tell by the strokes I used in his mane that I was feeling something when I drew this.

So why film photography? With a digital camera you get that instant gratification. You see the picture right away, but then that’s it. It’s like taking a drug for pain. It numbs you for a short period of time, but then you’re usually right back where you started, with the same pain you began with. For someone with an exhausted, anxious mind, having to stop and think about your metering, your film choice, and making each shot count is, in my opinion, much more valuable. The distraction lasts all the way through the process of waiting for your film to come back and going through your scans. It can even go further with editing and posting to social media, all while you start over and do it again shooting another roll in the meantime.

Film isn’t for everyone. If there is something else you enjoy doing, do it. I lost my brother in law last year when he took his own life. The one year anniversary is in two days. I remember when he was so ensconced in his hobby of building his truck and racing at a local track. It kept him going until he hurt his hand and couldn’t do it anymore. The medical system failed him. The stigma put on mental health failed him. Of course, when you’re grieving you can find a myriad of things to blame. In the end, it’s never just one thing. Depression and anxiety are complicated. They are serious. Never forget they are common, and they are manageable. You just have to invest in yourself. You are worth the investment. Invest time to talk to someone, to journal, to pick up a camera and forget about everything else for a few hours.

I know it’s exhausting. I know when you’re anxious or depressed it feels like a dark cloud following you overhead, putting pressure on your shoulders zapping you of all your energy, but you are worth the energy.

Check out the Too Tired Project on Instagram. They offer a place for those suffering with depression to submit your work and to express yourself creatively.

Let me know in the comments how you express yourself creatively to release some of your anxious thoughts and deal with your depression and anxiety. I am always looking for ways to cope.

If you are feeling hopeless or need someone to talk to please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline. YOU ARE WORTH THE ENERGY. You never know how many lives would be affected if you weren’t in them.

My Top 19 of 2019 – End of Year Blog

This year has been a tough one. It’s been full of very big ups and very big downs for me. I can’t say I am too sad for it to end. I lost three very special family members in death. I spent two weeks in the hospital with a flare up so severe doctors could not get it under control. I then came home to find out I couldn’t walk.

It may have been one of the most challenging years of my life, but from pain and struggle, you can bet there will almost always be a blessing in disguise. From pain and sickness I often tend to express myself artistically because I just don’t know how else to process everything I am going through. In this case, this year I have been processing a lot of sickness and death. As the year draws to a close, and I go through my photos from the year, I have discovered that I have expressed these struggles through my photos.

The following are my personal favorite 19 film photos of 2019. This first photo is of my cat Midnight taken with my Canon TX on Fujicolor Superia Xtra 400 back in September. I can remember how happy I felt when this roll came back from the lab and I actually got the exposures correct.

This next picture is of my other cat Jasmine. Now this pic may seem simple if you don’t know the context, but for me it is special because at this point in October, I was stuck in my bed and you can faintly see the legs of my commode behind her. It is an embarrassing reality that for a while my legs were so bad I couldn’t even make it to my bathroom.

I took this picture while lying in my bed holding my Canon TX wishing I could be outside taking pictures like everyone else. I was so happy when it came back clear and exposed correctly. I was making progress in my photography despite my limitations.

This succulent plant is another one I shot a lot of since being confined to my house. Looking back at all the shots Ive taken of this plant, I can clearly see the progression in my knowledge of exposure.

If you follow me on instagram or Facebook, you have probably seen the many photos I have taken of these Pine trees. When I first started taking film photos again, I was confined to the yard and these trees in the distance were my favorite subjects to practice on. Each morning I would get up early (the prednisone I am on often didn’t let me sleep late), and I would go right outside to see what bird was up on top of the pine that day.

This picture was taken on my first outing since coming home from the hospital. I was in my wheelchair at a vinyl records store. I was just so happy to be out, and I can remember that feeling when I look at this picture.

These next two pictures taken again with my Canon TX on Kodak Gold 200 (my favorite combo then), are special to me because they were taken the first time I was able to walk down the block since coming home and discovering I could barely walk. My insurance gave me a very hard time about getting physical therapy for months. I only just recently was approved. Until then I had taken it into my own hands and slowly made progress walking around taking pictures in my house, then my yard, then finally in my neighborhood.

When I first came home I couldn’t even walk out of my front door and stand for more than a couple minutes before I had to go back in the bed because of the pain. Slowly I made progress and was able to go down the block where I took these pictures in my neighbors yard.

I took this picture after a doctors appointment, and it was the first time I had ever taken a camera with me to the doc. I suffer from severe anxiety from PTSD, especially before appointments. I realized bringing my camera with me was almost like having a support animal. I look forward to the pictures I will take afterwards and it has helped me get through these tough times.

I soon started to notice I like taking pictures of cemeteries and churches which I’ve found stems from the deaths I’m dealing with and the recent detachment from a religion and former beliefs I have been struggling with. It was all coming out in the photos I was taking.

As I kept progressing I started to find more places around my doctors offices that I never noticed before.

Fujica ST801
Rolleiflex Automat

Making videos for my YouTube channel also became a motivation. These two pictures I took recently in Tradition, Florida. You can see more from that day in my blog here and my videos here. I got to use cameras I never thought I would ever use. A medium format Mamiya 645 Pro, an Argus Argoflex Seventy-Five, and a Nikon F.

Nikon F Ildord Ortho Plus 80
Nikon F Ildord Ortho Plus 80
Argus Argoflex Seventy Five
Kodak Portra 400
Argus Argoflex Seventy-Five
Ilford XP2 400

This photo is one of my favorites. There isn’t any sentimental reason behind it. It was taken on my first roll of Fujicolor 400H, and I just love the colors.

The final picture of my 19 of 2019 is one I took of this ornament that I got to represent the memory of my Aunt Frances this Christmas. I had hoped she would make it to the holidays so we could celebrate them together, but she grew tired and she let go just before thanksgiving.

Thats my favorite 19 of 2019. I still have a long way to go with my health. I am not entirely away from my wheelchair yet, and I am still in a lot of pain. There are still a lot of variables with the new medication I am on and hoping it will finally put me into remission. Until then, I have found something to keep me going, and keep me fighting.

As this year comes to an end, I want to thank you all for your continuous support of this blog. I hope I have inspired someone to push their limitations, and I hope I can keep doing so in 2020. I have a lot more planned for this blog and for my YouTube channel. If you haven’t yet, please head over there and subscribe so you will know when I post my videos. Until next year, I wish you all a happy and healthy year to come.