first frost

The first real snow of the season is a little magical. I woke up the other morning, looked out the window and everything looked like it was covered with sugar. No matter how many times winter comes around, this is always a moment of wonder for me. I think of Christmas decorations, and sledding down hills and drinking absurd amounts of hot chocolate while looking out the window. Of course, eventually the streets will be a sludgy mess, and the snow will be a nuisance. I decided to capture the vibe before that happens.

I didn't have a great deal of time before work,  but that turned out totally fine. I grabbed the  Mamiya RB67, a good choice for a couple reasons. First, I didn't have a huge amount of time, and finishing a roll of 10 photos is much easier than finishing a roll of 24 or 36 as I would have to if I shot one of my 35mm cameras. Medium format images also have this special something that I can't properly describe. I wanted a very specific tone and texture for these shots. Kodak Portra 160 was my weapon of choice.  This might be my favorite film in the larger format. It gives me this dreamy sort of look, without looking overdone. It handles overexposure quite well. In fact, I prefer to shoot it this way intentionally. It gave the snow the pillowy soft look, while still preserving the texture of the leaves and trees perfectly.  It's also a lot easier to scan than some other color films (I'm looking at you Portra 400). 

Enough talking though. Enjoy this short moment in time, then go out and find your own and capture it.

Christopher ErickComment

Wordy Stuff:

Part exercise, part therapy. A little bit of experimentation. A little bit meditation. Science, and soul. Photography is a little bit of everything.

My mind is moving at a thousand miles per hour typically. Once I pick up the camera, that changes a bit. It's the one time where everything is working together. There's also this cool set of dichotomies that unravel in my mind. Wandering around, going to nowhere in particular gives me direction and purpose. Time is this thing that flows through your fingers like water, yet once that snap happens, I can capture a moment. It's present and past at the same time.  It makes me contemplate time, space, existence. Everything. 

In thinking of al those things, I'm forced to think about myself as much as I'm thinking about the world around me. I know this all sounds far more dramatic than just taking a photo, and I guess it is. The camera is more than the thing I use to occupy my time, or make a dollar or two. It's the thing that balances me out.  It's mirror and magnifying glass. The more I look out, the more I see in. 

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Nerd Stuff:

All these photos were taken with my (sadly deceased) Nikon L35AF and Ultrafine 100 film. I don't remember what I developed it in, but judging by the grain, it was likely Caffenol made with this recipe: 

It actually works far better than I anticipated at first, and now I use it fairly often. That could be the result of a combination of cheapness and laziness, but either way, it works. One thing to note: this is one shot developer. You use it once then toss it. I made the mistake of trying to re-use this after a week and the results were not pretty. I assume the potency wears off pretty quickly. Someone with more time and patience than me can test this out more extensively, as I know there are a million caffenol recipes out there. One of the many things I love about film photography is it encourages exploration and experimentation. The scientist in me approves. 


The replacement for the L35 was the fantastically compact Olympus XA2. It's a bit different in terms of feel, but definitely fills a need. Keep an eye out for it in a future post. A post I'm totally not guaranteeing I'll ever write.


Christopher Erick
alone in the rain

This was an absolutely miserable day. It was cold, rainy, windy and all around nasty.  On the photography side, those kinds of days can create a nice mood for your shots, provided you don't ruin your camera, or slip and fall on your ass.

I did in fact fall on my ass once, slipping down a hill trying to get one of these shots, but luckily for me, nobody was around anyway because of the rain. Thanks Mother Nature. 

These were shot on Kodak Portra 400 and my Nikon L35AF point and shoot.

This is quickly becoming my go-to for impromptu photo walks. The L35s lens produces some absolutely great visuals for it's size. It's both sharp and soft in just the right way. There's a texture to the images. Portra....well, it's Portra. Great in nearly any lighting situation, flexible in development, and it scans pretty well. What's not to like?

Enjoy this short walk along the shores of Lake Erie.

Christopher Erick

People wonder why I'd go out in the brutal elements to take photos. On one hand, the solitude is peaceful. I spend most of my work day talking to people. Just being able to wander around with my camera and nothing else makes me feel centered. At the same time, winter is a time where connecting with people is so important. It can feel isolating to go out and not see a soul.

This photo presents a duality. It's beautiful because it's serene and undisturbed. It's also lonely looking at the seats where people should be, in a place where LOTS of people would normally be if the weather wasn't so bad. The same things that bring you joy can make you a little melancholy too. I find that fascinating. 

Christopher Erick
winter walk

It was cold.

It was REALLY cold. Exceptionally cold. On any other day like this, I'd just sit in bed until it was time to get ready for work. Unfortunately, children don't tend to take themselves to school. At least not at this age. Single digit wind-chill or no, I needed to get up and get moving. I woke up a bit later than I usually would, so I was scatterbrained, and in a bit of a rush. I hurried to the kid ready for school, and called an Uber. Before we ran out the door, I grabbed my new Fuji X70. I'm a firm believer in the idea that the best camera is the one you have with you. I hadn't really planned on being out that long, but I figured I'd carry It along just in case.

School drop off went without a hitch, and I made my way to the post office to drop off some recently sold cameras, which seems to be a weekly ritual for me these days. It was about 8:35AM, and I figured I'd be home by 9, giving me 3 hours before I had to start work. That was three more hours to rest, play video games, watch YouTube videos about old film cameras. Anything but being out in the cold. After exiting the post office and crossing the street, I settled in at the bus stop and started to think about all the nothing I was going to do when I got home. 

 This photo LOOKS cold.

This photo LOOKS cold.

After a little bit, a bus rolls up, and I gladly hop on, and out of the freezing elements. Only AFTER stepping on, did I realize the bus said 39F instead of the 39 I'd usually take. That one little letter meant I'd gotten on the express bus to downtown Cleveland rather than the usual one that would drop me a block from my house. There are basically no stops in between where I'd gotten on, and the final destination, so basically I was stuck.

I was tired, achy, cold. Because of my absent minded mistake II'd probably waste a good part of my limited pre-work time just trying to get my ass back home. About halfway to Downtown, I figured there was no point in being grumpy for the rest of the day. I was going to spend 8 hours at my desk anyway, so maybe a little bit of outside time would be good for me, even with the cold. Perhaps I'd also get a few good shots while I was out. Maybe things weren't so bad after all.

A couple hours, hundreds of steps, and a series of shots later, what started out as a horrible, no good, terrible morning ended with smiles and satisfaction. An unfortunate bit of misfortune had actually forced me into a fun morning. 

I've lived in Cleveland for 26 of my 34 years and it's still a thrill to find a new way to see things I've seen thousands of time. Also, the X70 was the perfect dance partner. It's tiny enough to fit in a jacket pocket, unobtrusive and the image quality is outstanding. It's absolutely perfect for a walkabout camera.  I wasn't worried about what the pictures would look like. Having shot the Fuji X cameras for a while, I knew the colors, sharpness and dynamic range would be spot on. Still, I was impressed with what the little camera was able to do it's first time out of the house. I had a fantastic time putting my new toy through it's paces.

Looking at these photos brings me to this point: some of the best moments in life occur during those unexpected detours. You plot a course and you get knocked off, and it seems like everything is against you, but even when you aren't where you meant to go, you can end up exactly where you should be. 

Christopher Erick
old is new again
 Kodak Porta 400 on Nikon L35AF

Kodak Porta 400 on Nikon L35AF

Taking photos? I'm pretty good at that. Blogging? Terrible apparently. 

I have a million thoughts running around in this head, and very little time or inclination  to wrangle them all on most days, but here I am. 

So here's the story of how I shot old dusty film cameras for the last few months, and absolutely loved it. On a whim, I traded my Sony and Nikon gear for a Fuji X-Pro1 and eventually an XT-1. Fuji has a pretty loyal and vocal following online. I'd read about how the Fuji system felt about as close to old film cameras as you could get. Aside from the retro-styled body and controls, the images themselves definitely evoke a feel similar to the film I've shot before. I absolutely love Fuji cameras. You can tell they are made by people that know and love photography. As much fun as I had, a question popped into my mind. I loved the Fuji system in part because it evokes the feeling of film, why wasn't I shooting film in the first place?

So off I went. 

 Fuji Superia 400 on Nikon F100 

Fuji Superia 400 on Nikon F100 

Coming from digital, shooting film can be a jarring experience initially. I am not exactly a photography "purist" but I do think digital can prop you up a bit. Having the LCD screen there at all times kind of takes away the consequences of shooting with poor technique. Don't like your shot? Shoot it again. And again. And again. Adjust every option under the sun because you're really only limited by two things: battery life and the space on your SD card. When's the last time you ran out of space on a card? Exactly.  It takes away a lot of the gravity and weight of capturing  right thing, at the right moment. I'm a believer that limitations actually create better artists.

With film, there is SO much to think about before you even fire a shot. There is so much to think about before you even take the camera out of the house.  What are you shooting? Is it fast moving, or stationary? Would it look better in black and white, or color? Do you prefer images with grain, or without?  What kind of feel should the images have? HIgh contrast, or low? Will you shoot the film as intended or will you try to manipulate it during development? These are all decisions made when you decide which film to put in your camera, and it's immutable.  With digital, you're constantly carrying a Swiss army knife. No matter what you do, the camera has a setting for that. Film locks you into your decisions, and every one has a real, concrete consequence. That sounds somewhat intimidating, but it's actually invigorating in a sense. It feels much more like carefully crafting a visual.

 Kodak Portra 400 on Nikon 35AF

Kodak Portra 400 on Nikon 35AF

 Fuji Superia 400 on Nikon L35AF

Fuji Superia 400 on Nikon L35AF

 Kodak Portra on Nikon F100

Kodak Portra on Nikon F100

It's also a joy to not worry about supplying power to the camera. Lots of old mechanical cameras, operate with no battery at all. In the ones that require batteries, they last forever since they don't have to worry about powering LCD screens and processing engines. It allows me to just go shoot.  I'm not checking my battery meter to see how many shots I have left or if I need to adjust something to conserve power. As long as I have film, I can wander as I see fit, fully immersed in whatever is around me. Earlier I talked about how shooting film can be a bit more involved at first, but during the actual shooting process, it's distilled down to the simplest experience. 

Rediscovering film has definitely added a fun element to my photographic toolbox. It got me out of a bit of a creative rut as well. Now, when I shoot, I grab my F100 or even the L35AF point and shoot before anything else. I'm having a great time exploring the possibilities of a format that isn't remotely as popular as it once was, but remains as beautiful as it ever was. 

Christopher Erick