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.

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  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.
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  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:
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  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.

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  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.

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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 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.

hawks
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.

vulture
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.

tractor
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
Hawk
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.

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.

Ilford Ortho Plus 80 with My Mamiya 645 Pro and Nikon F

120 film in my Mamiya 645 Pro

Last week we had a nice cool front come through here in Florida, and since I wait all year long for this weather, I just had to get outside. I went to Tradition, Florida, a small town nearby, to walk around and take some landscape pictures with the new Ilford Ortho Plus 80 film.

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I have been dealing with a lot of pain in my legs from a Crohn’s disease flare up and long hospital stay back in June. This cold front was a good opportunity to go out and walk, and try to strengthen them.

120 film in my Mamiya 645 Pro

About the Film

First off, the definition of Orthochromatic: sensitive to all visible light except red. Orthochromatic film can therefore be handled in red light in the darkroom but does not produce black-and-white tones that correspond very closely to the colors seen by the eye.

The Ilford Ortho Plus 80 film was recently released in the 120 and 35mm format. Previously it was only available in 4×5 sheet film. It was designed as a copy film, but works great for landscapes because it is Orthochromatic. It’s my understanding that this means it is more sensitive to greens and blues than traditional panchromatic films, and therefore it will expose those colors lighter. This also means it is not sensitive to reds, so they will render darker, especially if you use a red filter, you’ll end up with blank pictures. For more technical info on the film visit Ilford’s website here.

A Day in Tradition

Tradition Square
35mm film in the Nikon F
Note how dark the greens rendered

When preparing for this day I decided to use the 80mm lens on my Mamiya 645 Pro because I thought it would be a good focal length for landscapes, and I chose the 43-86mm Nikkor for my Nikon F with the Photomic FTn meter because I wanted to bring a zoom lens so I’d have the option to take wide landscapes and closer pics if I encountered any birds. I normally use my 35-200mm Nikkor, but it’s just too heavy and I already knew this was going to be very hard on my legs as it was.

After choosing my lenses, I loaded up the 120 film in my (new to me) Mamiya 645 Pro, and 35mm film in my Nikon F and set out for Tradition.

120 film in my Mamiya 645 Pro
35mm film in my Nikon F taken with the 43-86mm lens

The day was beautiful. The sky was very blue, and the sun was out in full force, so I knew my pictures were going to come out pretty contrasty. I was especially excited to test the film by taking pictures of the red brick bridges in town, fully expecting them to come out black. Instead, the red brick rendered nicely and the green foliage came out very dark. I am not sure why that is. I suspect it had something to do with the direction of the orange sunlight.

In one direction the bridge came out perfect.

120 film with the Mamiya 645 Pro

Then from the other direction the bridge rendered very dark. I suspect it had to do with the sunlight, but I could be wrong. This was my first time using an orthochromatic film so I am not very experienced.

35mm with the Nikon F

First, I walked around the town square where they had the Christmas decorations set up. It was a very busy day, and the traffic around the square was heavy, so I didn’t stick around there long.

35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
120 in the Mamiya 645 Pro
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm In the Nikon F
35 mm in the Nikon F
35mm Taken with the Nikon F

Next, I drove closer to the residential area where it was quiet and there were lakes. I figured that would be perfect for this film.

120 film in the Mamiya 645 Pro
120 in the Mamiya 645 Pro
120 in the Mamiya 645 Pro
An Osprey
120 in the Mamiya 645 Pro
35mm in the Nikon F
120 in the Mamiya 645 Pro

At this point, my legs were starting to hurt pretty bad, so I decided to head back to the town to finish up my rolls with the bridges I passed on the way in.

35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F

My Thoughts on the Film

Overall, I am very happy with how these pictures came out. I really love the contrast. The grain is so fine it’s almost non existent. The sharpness is great in my opinion. I’m really happy with this film. I find it to be in the middle of the lighter grays of Ilford XP2 or Ilford Delta 400 and the harsher blacks of Kodak Tmax.

For more on my day in Tradition, check out the video on my YouTube channel to compare how the film rendered the real life tones of these pictures.

Life, Loss, and Photography – A Photo Essay

Praying Planter. Belonged to my Aunt Frances. Rolleiflex Automat Kodak Professional T-Max 400

This year, 2019, has been a very trying year for me. It was a year of tremendous loss for my family and a lot of sickness for myself. Three of my family members lost their lives unexpectedly, and I am just doing my best to cope with it while trying to recover from a seemingly never ending flare up.

I was born into a certain religion, but didn’t start studying the Bible with them until I was 12 years old and at that point my father’s death and their message of resurrection was what drew me in to become a lifelong member. I was taught not to mourn dead loved ones because that showed a lack of faith. That left me feeling confused and even more depressed because I thought the feelings of loss I was having must’ve been wrong.

I stayed a member of the religion until I was about 22 years old. Up until then, I had made friends who were supposed to be my family. I went to their weddings, memorials, baby showers, births, and baptisms.

As I grew older and began to experience different levels of life, I had more questions and the more I asked the less I got in response. I just didn’t agree with the way things were being done, the judgement being passed on so many, and I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. This of course meant I lost every single one of those “family” members that I had grown up with. Some of whom I still see around town and I am ignored as if I am wearing the Scarlett letter on my shirt.

Now I am left wondering what I truly believe. What was true? Where do we go when we fall asleep in death? Now I am second guessing everything I was taught because I don’t trust the source.

I am still on a journey to find what I truly believe, and at one point I whole heartedly believed that religion and what I was taught. However, when the people who teach it are telling you that Jesus hates the world and those who are in it and that we should do the same, then on the other hand tell us we should go out and save those people, I just couldn’t be a part of that kind of contradiction for the rest of my life.

A Church
Nikon FTn Kodak Gold 200

I believe all religions are similar in some way or another and it is just a means to an end. That end being a strong need built within us to feel connected to a maker. The need to know that there is more to life than living and dying. There just has to be a purpose to all the suffering and sadness.

Even if we have to make something up, we as human beings will choose to believe anything if it’s comforting to us. Just look what Ron L. Hubbard created with Scientology.

Now I didn’t write this blog because I want to debate about religion, so please don’t get angry in the comments. I simply am a person, like so many others, who has experienced a lot of loss and trials, and I am searching for meaning and answers in my life. I am searching for a way to cope, and one of the ways I have found has been photography.

My father passed away in 1998 when I was 11 years old and as you’d imagine it altered my life forever. It is a loss I still feel 21 years later.

My memories of him are sadly fading as I get older. They’re not as clear as they once were, but I have always known how much he loved taking pictures and how he always had a camera hanging around his neck.

One way that I have stayed connected to him has been through photography. He is the reason I picked up my first camera. In fact, that is the way I have stayed connected to the memory of many of my lost loved ones. Pictures are like treasure to me.

My father. 1970s with his Fujica ST801.

After my father passed away, I became obsessed with death, particularly my own. I wanted to leave something behind. I didn’t want to die and never be heard of again. I wrote my life story down at 11 (that was a short story). I started tracing my ancestry. I also was deeply depressed and suicidal. I was lost.

My fathers pastel John Lennon drawing.
Fuji Discovery Zoom Date with Kodak Gold 200

My brother-in-law took his own life 4 days after my birthday in January. This is something I am still having a hard time processing. He was my father figure after my own father was gone. He was my hero. I don’t want to focus on the way his life came to an end, I just want to express what he meant to me while he was here.

My sister Susan and Mike with his sister and neice on their wedding day 1996

There have been only two people that I’ve trusted with my life, that was my father and Mike. I have a huge fear of bodies of water and he and my dad were the only two I ever trusted to carry me into the ocean or over it on a boat or bridge. I haven’t been able to do it since they’ve been gone.

I had a crush on him as a very little girl, as most of us do when we look up to someone when we are young, and that crush grew to respect as I got older.

He came into my sister’s life when I was only two and a half years old so I don’t remember a time without him. He was funny, smart, and brave. He loved cars and I watched him while he built a truck in his garage.

I don’t think he knew his worth.

Mikes Tool Belt
Yashica Electro 35

I have been struggling to find a way to express all the loss I have experienced recently, and for me it has to be in a creative way. I’ve been working on a photo project to express these feelings. Among these losses were also my Grandfather Barney in 2015, my Aunt Maria’s death in August of 2018 and my cousin Netty that September. Three people that were very special to me.

For as long as I knew her, my Aunt Maria was very ill from Multiple Sclerosis. That disease is merciless and can slowly overtake your body as it did with my aunt, but she was brave. She stayed true to her faith, and I envy that. I envy people who can keep their faith no matter what, and are just so sure that what they believe is true. Her laugh was infectious and she was more than just my aunt, she was a good friend. I hope I can find a way to flesh that out in my project.

When I lost my uncle Dallas this August I found a camera of his and immediately started using it to feel connected to him. The same with my Aunt Frances who I just lost this November. I have been using her Polaroid Spectra she gave to me shortly before she passed. I have been taking it with me when I go out to take pictures because it makes me feel like she is with me. You can watch one of my adventures with her Spectra here or read about it here. You can also learn about my Uncle and his camera here.

My Uncle after our visit to Ground Zero in NYC.
Taken with my Canon EOS Rebel G
Imagine Stone. Belonged to my Uncle Dallas
Nikon FTn Kodak Tri-X

There’s just something about being outside in the solitude of nature and in the quiet that gives me room to think of them, and through the act of taking photos for even just a few minutes I feel as if I’m with them.

When I found out my Aunt Frances was going to die, I went out in my yard with my Nikon F and feverishly shot photos through my tears. As dramatic as that sounds, it really was just a way for me to dispense my feelings in a way that I understood.

Jesus Planter belonged to my Uncle Joe. Music men belonged to my Uncle Dallas.
Nikon F Kodak Gold 200
A young Aunt Fran

My Great Aunt Frances was a very special woman. She was strong, and tac sharp. I was blessed enough to get to know her these past few years and get close to her. She would call me to cheer me up when I was in pain even though she was in a lot of pain herself. I still hear her voice in my head saying, “Hello Lissy! Have courage soon we will be doing the Tarantella together.”

She always loved my writing and that is one of the reasons I started this blog. She would say, “Oh, what that girl does with words! She needs to be a writer.” She was my biggest fan.

I can’t imagine what it is like knowing you are going to die. We all are dying but when you are facing it head on the way my aunt was, you start to really question where you will be going after you fall asleep, and what you have done with the life you’ve had.

My aunt Fran and I on the left years ago and on the right shortly before she passed.

I experienced a little bit of this back in 2009 when I was in the hospital for two months after emergency surgery. I had a burst appendix and perforated colon. My body was septic and I had drain tubes everywhere. I wasn’t yet diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and the doctors just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better. I needed a second surgery and I remember making a will with my mother the night before my surgery. At 22 years old that can be a little bit scarring.

I do still deal with PTSD from that entire experience, including nightmares. I remember thinking about the life I’d lived up until then, and I remember wanting to know so badly where I would go if I didn’t wake up from my surgery.

That’s what my Aunt Frances wanted to know. She believed in heaven, and she’d call out for her parents, and her husband to come take her from her suffering, but there is always that thought of uncertainty even in the most faithful person.

Local Cemetery
Nikon FTn Fujifilm Superia Xtra 400
Local Cemetary
Nikon FTn Fujifilm Superia Xtra 400

I think all of these things I have experienced in my life can be seen through my photography style and what I choose to photograph.

I will keep searching for my faith because I believe it is important, but until I find the answers to my questions, I’ll just keep seeing the truth through the lens of my camera. The only truth I know for sure is what I see right in front of me.

Here’s to a better year in 2020.

Street Photography…from my car

I am new to the photography community, and especially the street photography community, but not to photography. When I was a in my early 20’s I’d go out and take pictures around my neighborhood by myself. I never knew anyone else who was into what I was into. I have always felt I didn’t fit in anywhere. Especially because my hobbies tend to be male dominated, I haven’t always been readily welcomed in some circles.

On the opposite side of the negativity I have encountered, there has also been some really nice people I’ve met in the community online. I really got a surge of inspiration after I got out of the hospital in June. I tend to be my most creative when I am going through a flare up. A professor of mine once said I do my best work when I am sickest. Not sure of why that is. Maybe there’s somthing about doctors telling you they dont know how to help you that really makes you think about life and death, and that in turn makes me just want to express myself. I want so badly to get out and photograph. There’s only one problem. Neuropathy.

I’ve mentioned before I suffer from a particularly nasty case of Crohn’s Disease, and back in June I was in the hospital with a bad flare up for two weeks that scared even the doctors. They had to use a high dose of steroids to get it under control, and unfortunately when I came home, I found out it had given me neuropathy and put me in a wheelchair. They suspect it will go away with physical therapy, and once I am off the steroids, but until then I am in a lot of pain and cant walk or stand for more than 10 minutes at a time, not to mention my face is swollen which makes me want to retreat even more. So what do you do when everything seems to be working against you? Take things into your own hands.

I can’t stand being stuck in my bed so every morning I eat breakfast, then I shoot film, and digital around my house just to practice and to scratch that itch I get to take photos. That way I can fit it in before the pain and fatigue get too bad. Photography is my rehab. I’ve been trying since June to get Physical Therapy, but with all the red tape of insurance, doctors, etc. It’s not going to happen anytime soon. So just as I’ve been doing since I was diagnosed 10 years ago, I take care of myself. Still, I can’t help but feel down, wanting so badly to get out and shoot like everyone else.

Street Photos From My Car

Before my doctors appointment last week, I decided to bring my digital camera and one of my Nikon F’s with me. I wasn’t sure how I would feel afterwards, I usually feel very drained and in pain after an appointment, but I brought them just in case.

Surprisingly, even after my doctor said he is learning about my disease along with me, (just what I want to hear from the man who holds my life in his hands) all I felt through my appointment was excitement and anxiety to leave and go take pictures. Normally I feel extreme anxiety at these appointments, but I just want to escape sometimes and photography is that escape for me.

After we left, I decided to try and shoot from the car window since I cant get out and stand right now.

I took this from inside the car with my Canon EOS T6i outside my doctors building.
Nikon FTn Apollo Kodak ColorPlus 200
In the parking lot
Nikon FTn Apollo Kodak ColorPlus 200

I still had some energy so I thought I’d do some street photography from the car. I wasn’t driving obviously, so I took pictures of things as we drove by and surprisingly I got some nice shots with my digital camera. I didn’t risk wasting film during this part.

Abandoned building
Canon EOS T6i
Still boarded up for the hurricane season
Canon EOS T6i
Church
Canon EOS T6i
Canon EOS T6i
Fishermen
Canon EOS T6i
Colonel Sanders Wants You to Eat Chicken
Canon EOS T6i
Canon EOS T6i
Under the Bridge
Canon EOS T6i
Mural outside the Police Department
Canon EOS T6i
Canon EOS T6i
Canon EOS T6i

Every time I go to my doctor I pass this tree and say “I really want to take pictures of that tree one day.” I finally did. It’s this really huge, wild tree in front of a building that has just taken over the area. I always wonder how long it’s been there. It has wild branches growing in every direction and it’s leaves form a giant canopy overhead like a glass ceiling. I love it and plan on taking pictures of it again after my next doctors appointment, probably trying a different camera and lens each time.

I shot with my canon EOS T6i and traded off with my Nikon F Apollo with the FTn meter. I used Kodak Color Plus 200 film and my Nikkor 105mm lens. I wasn’t too thrilled with my lens choice for these shots so I’ll try a different one next time.

Secret Window
Nikon FTn Apollo Kodak ColorPlus 200
Canon EOS T6i
Nikon FTn Apollo Kodak ColorPlus 200
Canon EOS T6i
Nikon FTn Apollo Kodak ColorPlus 200
Canon EOS T6i
Canon EOS T6i

So that was my day shooting street photography from my car. You can say it was my day of therapy. It felt really good mentally to be able to get out and feel some sense of normalcy and to get to do what everyone else does… somewhat. I went home and was in pain the whole next day but it was worth it.

I hope that if you’re reading this and you have any limitations from an illness or disability, and a love for photography or anything really, don’t give up. Come up with different ways to live your passion. Life is very short and the time to live is now.

The Argus C3 Matchmatic and a new beginning

If you can’t accept my flaws, you don’t deserve my magic. — Bob Ross

Every vintage camera is going to have flaws, some many, but with some appreciation and ingenuity you can get a lot of magic despite those flaws.

For my first post I am sharing with you my first video on my YouTube channel that is just a step by step on a quick cleaning of an Argus C3 Matchmatic. On this particular camera the main cosmetic flaw was a very hazy view in the rangefinder.

A quick cleaning of an Argus C3 Matchmatic

A Cleaning of an Argus C3 Matchmatic
Argus C3 – Aly’s Vintage Camera Alley Youtube Channel

A Little Awareness

In the video you may be able to notice my hands shake and I do mention the arthritis in them. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. A disease that causes inflammation of the entire digestive system from the mouth down. For some it can be mild and can be controlled by diet and stress reduction while for others like me it can be severe with many complications. In response to the inflammation the body gets a host of other issues and diseases along with the chemo-like medications that cause even more problems.

I was recently in the hospital for two weeks straight with a very bad flare up and high doses of steroids to stabilize me. When I finally went home I quickly found I couldn’t walk and was having horrible pain in my legs. After tests the doctor concluded it was caused by the steroids, which also has caused my face to swell up like a moon (it’s called moon Face) and has continuously woken me up every morning at 3 and 4am.

Now you may be asking what does this have to do with an Argus C3?

So I woke up and watched the sun rise with the birds, and I decided to get my cameras out and start drowning myself so to speak in vintage cameras (and sometimes my Digital Canon t6i) and the photos I could take with them.

img_6703-1
Sunrise

Sunrise in the Clouds

I began to feel frustrated because my hands cramped when I tried to hold the cameras. My legs tightened and hurt so bad after I stood for more than five minutes while trying to get a shot. I kept finding myself back in my bed just holding my cameras and looking at them.

I decided I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

I needed this.

So I started practicing with my cameras from my bed. Just silly pictures around my room. Then I made it a point every morning after breakfast to get up and take pictures around the house for as long as I could stand.

Taken with 35mm Canon TX

Then I made it out into the front and backyard.

Taken with digital Canon t6i

It invigorated me and kept me going. I joined camera and photography pages on Facebook and was inspired to buy an Argus C3 “the brick” as it’s called. It was a bit of a nightmare. It hurt my hands and was difficult for me to get the hang of because it’s completely manual, and a rangefinder, which I had never practiced with before. But I liked the challenge. It turned out to have a lot of “flaws” which I’ll address in another post.

Then I received as a gift the Argus C3 Matchmatic. This one had flaws as well but I decided to take them on myself and that’s when I came up with the video and this blog in hopes I could help others the way I’ve been helped by all the YouTube videos and blogs about cameras these past months.

I decided to make my first video about something simple like cleaning the rangefinder glass. I hope it helps someone and I hope anyone reading this that has a limitation or illness that often keeps them from what they love, I hope you’ll be inspired to keep doing it as best you can.

Please tell me in the comments below any limitations you overcome everyday to do what you love, and please visit my Facebook page and subscribe to my YouTube channel. I would love to hear from you and what videos you’d like to see in the future.