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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

I’d like to shoot a photo for an album cover.

Jeremy asks what our favorite photo is. Very hard question. But I’d have to choose Disfarmer #41383.

Nick Carver is giving away 2 seats to his online light metering for film photography course for those that may not be able to afford it.

My first contact print

Contact print

Above is my first ever contact print. A contact print is when you lay a negative (film, paper, tin, glass) onto photo-sensitive paper and shine light onto it to expose the paper. You then develop that paper into a positive print (or what you’d think of as a normal photo).

This is a milestone in my film journey. I’ve been trying to build enlargers with household materials over the last few quarantined weeks without any real success. In fact, I might just give up on it altogether until I get my hands on a real enlarger (which I think I have one in my sights).

Here is how the story of the above photo began.

We are in quarantine. Are you? I bet you are. Well, we’ve been in quarantine now for over 2 months or so. And that has led me to do all sorts of at-home photography projects such as my bedroom camera obscura.

Last night I got the idea to finally try my hand at making a contact print from a paper negative. I didn’t want to use the negatives I had created with the camera obscura so I thought of creating many smaller sized negatives using some old cameras I have laying around.

So step 1 was to create some cardboard templates for the focal areas for the cameras I was going to use. In my case, I chose three cameras. A Baby Kodak Brownie, a Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash Edition, and a Canon 650 35mm film camera. I chose the Brownies because they’d give me a relatively large negative (about 48mm x 23mm) and I don’t have any film that can fit into them. I chose the Canon 650 because it is a fully manual film camera that wasn’t currently loaded with any film and I can control the shutter speed.

The Baby Brownie, Canon 650 and the cardboard templates.

Now for the hard part. Rather than wait until dark (I don’t have a darkroom yet unless I create one), I decided to cut the photo paper in my changing bag. This means that I had to cut the paper blind by feeling the templates. Doing anything blind is harder than it seems it would be.

My cuts weren’t very straight, but by putting the cameras into the dark bag I was able to load the cameras with their single-shot paper negatives.

I then ventured outside our apartment to quickly take advantage of the fading light.

First, I took a photo with the Baby Brownie which ended up coming out under exposed. The photo paper is rated at about ISO 12 from what I’ve read so I thought the relatively slower shutter speeds of the Brownies would be to my advantage – but I guess I needed them to be just a bit slower. My guess is that they come in at around 1/50 or 1/60 and I really need 1/15 for this. Here is the negative and photo I took with the Baby Brownie.

Under exposed Baby Brownie paper negative
Digital positive created from paper negative
The Baby Brownie and the paper negative

Black and white photography continues to amaze me at how much information is stored in even under or over exposed negatives. This tree was in full sunlight when I took the photo and yet it came out with a very moody feel.

Next, I shot the Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash Edition – a fun looking camera that I got from a friend.

Better exposed Brownie negative
Digital positive Brownie from paper negative
Brownie Holiday Flash Edition with paper negative

This one of the apartment building came out far better exposed – but still under exposed. Again, though, you can see a lot of information is retained in these negatives despite how hacked together they are. And also despite the fact that this is photo paper and not film.

Last is the paper negative, digital positive, and contact print I created using a photo I shot with the Canon 650. I was able to meter the subject using an iPhone app, control the shutter speed (unlike the Brownies) and so the result is far better. That is why I chose this negative to create a contact print from – even though the size of the negative is smaller at just 35mm.

Canon 650 paper negative
Digital positive from paper negative.
Contact print made from paper negative
Canon 650 with paper negative and positive contact print

For the photo nerds out there, this shot was taken at f/5.6, 1/15s, and the paper is ISO 12. I developed all of the paper using Kodak D76 in my bathtub all for roughly 2 minutes or so.

I made the contact print by laying the negative on top of a fresh piece of photo paper and using my iPhone’s flashlight for about 10seconds to expose the positive. I then developed the positive in the same solution for about 2 minutes. I think I can do much better next time by making a contact print at a much larger size – say, 5×7″.

I’m definitely going to be doing more of this. Perhaps directly from negatives. But almost certainly using larger paper negatives rather than these small ones.

Seeing photos become “real” right in front of your eyes is a real treat.

Flowers – May 2020

The above image is a digital positive created from a paper negative. It was handcut from Ilford photo paper, shot, developed by me last night. I also used it as the subject for my first contact print.

You can read the behind-the-scenes story here on my blog. Also More also on Instagram.

Photographing the same location over and over

I’ll likely touch on this topic in an upcoming pandemic powered Podcast episode.

Albert Dros, 2017:

Sometimes the area where you live would not be motivating to photograph because you see these things everyday. However, when I started photography I began to see the world (and my home area) in a different way. I started to look for compositions everywhere and I now have a bunch of spots that I’d like to revisit. I am always surprised that these spots almost never look the same.

Being in quarantine has certainly limited me in the area I can cover in my photography. But I’ve made more photographs that I’m proud of in the last few months than I had in the previous year combined. They will all slowly trickle out onto this blog in the coming months.

I am finding myself shooting the same location, like this tree, or the same subjects, like birds, over and over and over. But guess what? I’m getting better and more confident at it. In the last several weeks I haven’t missed a single exposure or messed up a frame entirely. I’m pushing the shutter with confidence and that has only happened due to repetition.

A few houseplants – April 2020

On Sunday morning I decided to quickly set up a photo shoot for my current houseplants. Here are just a few that I liked. The others didn’t come out the way I wanted due to a few limitations. So I’m hoping to do another photo shoot in the near future.

Mic & Nics

Photographing Mic & Nics – January 2020

Recorded January 15, 2020

You may recognize this building. I wrote about how I practiced my light metering with it. Well, I also recorded myself on a different day shooting it with very expired film.

The filmstrip

In this episode of the podcast I chat about using a shutter release with a film camera for the first time and my joy in finding compositions of a rather bland building.

I uploaded my first photo to Flickr in a very long time. I’m thinking of joining the community of film enthusiasts there. I chose this photo. So if you’d like to see a much larger size go here.

Instagram’s TOS

Allen Murabayashi, CEO of PhotoShelter, regarding Instagram’s TOS:

The language is typical of many photo sharing sites (including PhotoShelter), so in that sense it’s unremarkable. The company needs the ability to redisplay images, and wants to be able to have, for example, an image appear in the app, within an Instagram Story, and on the website without having to regain consent each time it comes up with a new feature.

The post I pulled this quote from does a good job framing the issue with Instagram’s TOS and the Mashable case.

I don’t know why it is ever surprising to anyone that if you upload content of any type to a free platform that you likely relinquish some or all of your rights to it. If you don’t like that, get a web site.

I don’t know what to feel or think about the I’m Back 35 digital sensor back for just about any 35mm SLR. But I think it is very cool.

Creating a bedroom camera obscura and making a paper negative

I’d been wanting to make my own camera for several months. Something simple like a shoe box pinhole camera. But then quarantine happened and I stumbled across Brendan Barry’s YouTube video about turning a room in your house into a camera obscura – and making a paper negative and positive print.

I thought with the quarantine and all that I had the time to figure this out on my own. So I decided to turn our bedroom into a camera obscura and, hopefully, make a paper negative from it. It turned out to be the most educational photographic experience I’ve had to date.

By blowing the scale of the camera up to a room-size, you learn how each individual piece of a camera plays its role. Reading or watching a YouTube video about how a camera works is not the same as making one yourself. Everything is exaggerated. The size of the lens, aperture, distance to the film, etc. This way, you can actually see how each of these things impacts the overall result.

Due to quarantine delaying some deliveries, and the lack of resources we have by not allowing much material to enter our home, it took me about a week from start-to-finish to get a paper negative that I thought of as “good enough” to move on from the project and give my wife our bedroom back. I could definitely see doing this project again, or at a smaller scale using a box.

Here are the steps I took and a few things I learned along the way. This is, by no means, a how-to blog post. For that I urge you to watch Barry’s video linked above.

I started by using a cardboard box to block the window in our bedroom. I was surprised at how difficult this turned out to be. Light is extremely good at finding its way into and around objects. This was in and of itself a lesson. If I were to do this again I’d start with a larger piece of cardboard that wouldn’t rest inside of the window frame but would, instead, rest upon it – covering the entire window. Ideally I’d also have black gaffer’s tape, some sort of foam seal that I could use in odd areas, and other materials. But, I was working within my constraints.

The window, boarded up, and mostly light leak free

I cut out a rather large aperture in the cardboard to begin with, like in Barry’s video, and for the life of me I was never able to find a focal length that worked with this set up. By large I mean a few inches in diameter. It might have been due to the fact that Barry was using a large magnifying glass as his lens and I wasn’t in the beginning. The moment I created a much smaller aperture, around 3/16″ or so – was when the world came into focus. It was still a little fuzzy, but it was in focus enough to be passable for a few digital captures.

A simple aperture projected directly onto a diffuser.
Black and white digital capture, flipped.

After playing with several different set ups and attempting many different apertures – I decided to grab a simple 2x lens filter from a 35mm camera and place it in front (on the subject’s side) of the aperture. Boom. It made an immediate and marked improvement in the focus. I believe it was at this point that it really dawned on me, I was actually building a camera. On a camera the order of elements is glass lens, aperture, some amount of distance, film or digital censor. I don’t know why it took my brain this long to lock into that concept but once I did things really began to speed up.

I employed several different types of “canvases” to project the image onto. I started with a light diffuser – which worked great to show the scale of the projected image. I could make the image as big as I wanted to. But then I eventually built a simple “stage” using a tripod and a white scanner bed cover. This too reinforced the notion that the surface upon which you project the light impacts the overall look of the image greatly. With the diffuser it was, well, diffused. But on the canvas it was much sharper.

The lens. Which sat in front of the 3/16″ aperture.
The canvas.
Using my iPhone, I captured the forward-facing side of the canvas
A digital capture, flipped horiz and vert.

With this set up; a 2x lens filter, 3/16″ aperture in cardboard, 8×10 white surface about 10″ from aperture – I was able to produce a sharp enough image for my liking. Now I all I needed was a way to capture the image without using digital (though, this was fun too as I created several exposures using my iPhone).

I have a bunch of film laying around and I almost considered throwing a few rolls of medium format 120 into my changing back and “building” a film surface to use. Perhaps by taping a few sheets together I could make a large enough negative. But I figured that’d be a huge waste of film. Even of the expired film I have. So instead I decided to follow Barry’s direction in his YouTube video and buy some Ilford Photo Paper (I used 5×7″, he used 8×10″) to create a paper negative. I thought it’d be fun to develop a paper negative since I had never done anything like that. So I picked up some paper, a few developing trays, and researched how to use the chemicals I already have (in my case, Kodak D76) to develop the photo paper immediately after exposing it using my bedroom camera obscura.

And that is exactly what I did. After 4 exposures on 2 separate days, here are the results.

First two: Day one, Second two: Day two.

I could go on and on about why the first two look the way they do and why the second two look the way they do. But rather than bore you, this is the short of it; on the first day I was using my iPhone’s flashlight option inside of a red transparent folder. It didn’t work. It exposed the entire paper so the whole exposure looks washed out. The second set I did completely blind. Which makes the composure not-so-great but the contrast much better.

The bedroom darkroom
Day one exposures hanging to dry
Day two exposures hanging to dry

Ironically, the exposure I did first – 4 seconds – was the very best shot I took. I just ruined it with the iPhone flashlight. Here is what a digital positive of that looks like.

A digital positive, made from a 5×7″ paper negative

The second-best exposure is this 3 second (it was much brighter day) exposure. It is blurry because I was hand-holding this in the dark. I should have been more patient. You can even see my finger marks from where I was holding the paper.

Blurry, due to motion.

This was a really, really fun project. I learned an awful lot. Thanks to Brendan Barry for helping me via Instagram Direct Messages to make tweaks to my set up.

My friend Carl, painting plein air oil, on 35mm

Seven Tubs in winter on 35mm

Recorded January 13 2020.

In spring 2018 Eliza and I walked Seven Tubs and I photographed the area on my Google Pixel 2 XL. On that visit I created a vivid, punchy set of photos that showcased the pop of color we saw that day.

Visiting Seven Tubs in winter, and shooting on expired film, results in a much more subdued set of images – but still very interesting.

I hope you enjoy this episode and these photos.

All images taken on expired Kodak Color Gold 400 on Canon Rebel G.

Ansco Rediflex, expired 35mm Fujicolor Superia 400

35mm film in a Medium Format camera

From the same roll as my 2020 avatar are these select exposures of 35mm film hacked into a medium format Ansco Rediflex.

What you’re looking at isn’t normal. The Ansco Rediflex is a medium format camera which, when invented in the 1930s, was to be loaded with 620 film stock. 620 film stock is no longer made but is very similar to 120 film stock save for the spool in which it is loaded onto and the length of the film sheet.

This particular Rediflex can be loaded with 120 film stock, albeit it needs to be literally jammed into it. (See the tree image in this post.) It is just a bit too small to accommodate the larger spools so to load it I’ve needed to sand down the spool widths and cut off the excess. Which creates some interesting affects.

But I stumbled across someone loading 35mm film into a medium format camera – vertically – which creates the exposures you see above. There are two characteristics about these photos that I ended up liking. First, the film is loaded vertically so it results is a much larger image than you’d normally get with 35mm film. In fact, the resulting exposure is more than double the surface area as a normal 35×24 mm shot. Second, the film doesn’t quite reach across the focal plane of the camera horizontally. This ends up exposing the full width of the “height” of the film – even over the “sprockets”. I think it looks super cool.

It took a few rolls before I got this to work properly. And there are a few scratches and light leaks that I need to tend to before I try this again. But I’ll be doing this again in the future for fun photo projects and perhaps some portraits.

My 2020 avatar

Shot on 35mm film retro fitted into an Ansco Rediflex

Quarantine has me trying all sorts of experiments. One of which is retro fitting 35mm film into an old Ansco Rediflex medium format camera. It produces some interesting results (I’ll post a few in the coming days).

But I’ve wanted my 2020 avatar to be on taken on film. Thanks to my wife Eliza for taking this photo with this crazy set up. Turned out pretty neat.

Canon Rebel G, expired Kodak Color Gold 400
Canon Rebel G, expired Kodak Color Gold 400

Talking gear and settings for shooting film – December 2019

Recorded December 24, 2019.

In this episode of the podcast I discuss the gear I took on this trip, why I have them, the settings I use, how I use my bag, etc. It is just a ramble really I wouldn’t listen if I were you.

Oh and I talk about scanning old negatives as well. Hope you enjoy it. I did.

Konica Autoreflex T, expired Kodak Pan X film

Truck @ 40mph – March 2020

Like all of my photos, there is a story behind this one. My boss gave me a camera as a gift. And I shot some really old expired film through it. This was one of my favorites from the roll. More on the podcast in the future.

I had no idea Kenny Rogers was a large format film photographer. Even in the Hall of Fame for it. Gorgeous work. Talented man.

Canon Rebel G, expired Kodak Color Gold 400
Canon Rebel G, expired Kodak Color Gold 400
Canon Rebel G, expired Kodak Color Gold 400

My first day shooting only film – December 2019

Recorded on December 23, 2019.

This episode is packed with nostalgia for me – even though it was only 3 months ago. It was my first day shooting film. I was using expired film so that I didn’t mind making mistakes. And I made a ton of them on this day.

I also developed this film myself. It was my very first roll of color film that I had developed on my own at home. In fact, up until this writing I have never sent any film out to be processed. I’ve done it all myself. At least so far. Once I start shooting more expensive films (which I’ve just received this week as of his writing) I may change my tune.

I’m satisfied with the photos. Knowing what I know today, I realize the film was definitely bad. The fact that it exposed at all is a miracle really. If these photos were taken with new film they would have been poppin. The silo image was metered properly, but I could have done a bit better on that one with the exposure. But I had a lot to learn at this point.

So many of the topics I covered in the episode show how new I was to this whole film photography journey. I still am. I’m looking forward to upcoming episodes to relive the moments I learned over the last 3 months of shooting only film. And I’m looking forward to looking back at these episodes in the years to come.

Here are a few photos taken with the point-and-shoot Kodak Snappy EL also using expired film from this same day.

Kodak Snappy EL, expired Kodak Color Gold 400
Kodak Snappy EL, expired Kodak Color Gold 400

The Snappy EL that I have is junk and is going in the garbage. I had to force it to forward the film by squeezing the case and that made it skip frames and be wholly unreliable.

Thanks for listening.

Ansco Speedex • Ilford HP5+ 400

Penn Yan, New York – March 2020

This is a frame from my very first roll of new black and white film. It was taken on Ilford HP5+ 120 film stock. This is very forgiving film from my newbie perspective.

Eliza and I enjoyed a sunny weekend in the Finger Lakes isolating ourselves to some degree from the outside world. It was so sunny, in fact, that the Ansco Speedex didn’t really have a quick enough shutter speed to keep up. I’m limited to 1/100 being the quickest speed on the camera.

I look forward to shooting more Ilford and hopefully in the 6×7 and 6×9 ratios as well.

What I saw somewhat recently #60: March 11, 2020

Here are some links I’ve found interesting lately. By the way, you can find the entire archives for this fits-and-starts series of posts.

  • Interview with Director of CIDRAP – If you’d like to have the straight facts (so far) regarding COVID-19 I cannot recommend this video enough.
  • Pluralistic – Cory Doctorow’s new daily link lists. Which spurred me to publish this post. I just subscribed, so I don’t have much of an opinion on it yet. /via Andy Baio.
  • Photo Stream – A simple, open source, Jekyll-based photography stream created by Tim Van Damme.
  • John Margolies’ Photo Archive – 11,700 photos. Self taught photographer to preserve amazing roadside art.
  • Gabe Rivera on Instagram – His Stories are works of art every day.
  • Comet Coma – A comet is generally smaller than 50 miles across. Its coma, or tail, can be much larger. Want to see how large? Read the second paragraph on Wikipedia.

The film photography journey continues.

Experiments in light metering

Update April 27, 2020 – I’ve now published a podcast episode related to these photos.

As a follow-up to my previous post regarding my journey to-date in film photography – here is an example of how I’ve approached learning the light metering of a scene.

Here are several exposures, taken fairly close in time to one another, using several different camera settings (and in the case of a few, a different lens) on the Canon AE-1 Program and an expired roll of Kodak Color Gold 400.

50mm f/22 1/125
50mm f/22 1/250
50mm f/22 1/500
50mm f/22 1/60
~80mm f/22 1/25
~80mm f/22 1/60
~80mm f/22 1/30 – metered for shadow

As you can see, the last image was taken after a fair amount of time had past and so likely could be excluded from this test. However, I’ve included it to show how metering for shadows really can blow out the hightlights on such a well-lit subject.

I’ve taken tons of photos for the express purpose of learning how they will come out first hand. I use Simplenote to write down all of my settings on the camera and a short description of the photo so that I can remember (because, unlike digital no EXIF information travels with the negative or digital file unless you write it yourself).

Why I’m shooting with film

Nearly a decade ago Eliza and I began to make our own wine and beer. We started out making quick batches in buckets, carboys, or other small containers. It allowed us to get more familiar with the process of fermenting fruit or barley into one of our favorite drinks.

Pressing grapes, 2013

Eventually we graduated to making a more serious batch of wine that started as grapes still on the vine that were shipped by boat from Chile and ending up as 80 gallons of a Cabernet Sauvignon / Carménère blend that – to this day – is the best wine we’ve ever made or had.

When we began to learn this process it gave us a deeper appreciation for other wines and beers we had. We started to understand what each ingredient, what each stage, the temperature, and many other factors played into the end result. We also honed our tastes in so far as to know, without ever having a sip, what beverages we liked and didn’t like.

The process of learning to make wine feels very similar to the process of learning film photography.

San Francisco, July 2007
One of the first photos I took with the original iPhone

I’ve been shooting digital images for many years. I’ve always had an interest in making photographs as memories of our experiences, as well as an outlet for my creativity. But it wasn’t until the iPhone debuted that I began to explore photography as an art medium. Or as a documentary medium for that matter. With the iPhone I would have a camera with me everywhere I went and I ended up taking tons of photographs with my mobile phone for the next decade. Which led to me taking photographs with other digital gadgets like GoPros and drones.

A few years ago though I began to study photography. Looking up its history, looking at examples from the last hundred or so years, and trying to learn different techniques. Prior to this time period I only had very surface knowledge of the photographic process – digital or film. I knew the basics of composition and how an image sensor worked. Apart from that I had no idea.

For whatever reason, the desire to try film – like the desire to make our own wine – became stronger and stronger. I started to follow film photographers on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. People like Dan Rubin, Bijan Sabet and a few others were nearly daily reminders that I should give it a try. Which ate at me for over a year. Then, about 6 months ago or so, I stumbled across Nick Carver on YouTube. What he was doing with film photography was much different than Dan or Bijan – he was trying to create the highest quality digital file and print he could from a scene. This interested me greatly.

My current digital cameras are already over 10 years old (not counting my current iPhone 11 Pro Max). So my ability to create high quality images on digital is non-existent. Looking at film it appeared to me (knowing almost nothing) that I’d be able to get a much higher quality result without the budget needs of upgrading my digital cameras. It turns out I was only part right on this.

So, as you may have listened to in this episode of my podcast, I decided to pick up a few inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras to get my journey started in film. That was four months ago. I figured I’d buy a camera or two, fire a few rolls, see what the results were and learn. Little did I know the rabbit hole or the ride I’d be on over the next several months – and likely for the rest of my life.

One of my first exposures
Canon AE-1 Program, Kodak Tri-X expired in 1982

Since then I’ve purchased, or been gifted, well over a dozen cameras ranging from point-and-shoot 35mm film cameras to 100-year old medium format cameras that no longer have film compatible with them. I’ve read a few books on the history of photography as well as the complete photographic development process. I’ve shot dozens of rolls of film and developed them on my own, either in my kitchen sink or in my bathroom tub. In fact, I never sent away a single roll to be processed by someone else. I’ve even modified existing film stock to fit into that 100-year old camera.

I went a little off the deep end in an effort to give myself a crash course in film photography.

Radisson Station, Scranton PA
Canon Rebel G, Kodak Color Gold 400 expired in 1982
Lake Lanier Georgia
Canon AE-1 Program, Kodak Color Gold 400 expired in 1983, converted to mono
Garden fence, South Carolina
Canon AE-1 Program, brand-new Kodak Color Gold 400
Garden path, South Carolina
Canon AE-1 Program, brand-new Kodak Color Gold 400
Reedy River, Greenville, South Carolina
Canon AE-1 Program, brand-new Kodak Color Gold 400

I still have a long way to go and a lot more to learn. I still haven’t created a high quality result that I’d be happy with for, say, a fine art print like Carver’s work. But I haven’t tried yet either. Most of the film I’ve shot, with the exception of 3 brand-new rolls of inexpensive Kodak Color Gold 400 (or Ultra Max) that I purchased in an Atlanta camera shop, has been film that is well past its expiration date. In fact, some of it didn’t work at all. Also, the cameras I’ve been using all have their little quirks. One doesn’t have a battery (so I have to meter for light using my iPhone or just guess). It also has moisture in the viewfinder so I can’t focus the image so again I’m left guessing. And the rest has been downright bad film.

Why go through all of this? Because it has cost me almost no money so far. All in I’ve spent less than $500 to shoot film for 4 months on many different setups with different speed films and process them all on my own. I consider this a very inexpensive education so far.

Tree, medium format
Ansco Rediflex 1920s, Kodak Tri-X 120 400 expired in 1982
Warming up C-41 chemicals in my kitchen sink to develop color film
Ansco Rediflex
I had to modify 120 film to fit
Canon AE-1 Program, gift from my brother-in-law
At a great brewery in Virginia

But I’m about to level up. I’m ready to move onto the next phase in my education and that is to use the skills I’ve learned so far to create high quality images using both 35mm and medium format film. I need to buy a bunch of brand-new film, which I’ll likely ruin or mess up in some way, and I still need to track down the medium format camera (maybe a Rolleiflex?) that I want at a price I can afford. But all that I’ve learned these last months will hopefully help to cut down on the mistakes I’m about to make. I’m on a budget after all!

I’ll check back in here in a few months time to see if, like the wine Eliza and I made, I’m making photographs that are now my favorite I’ve ever taken.

I’ll be publishing a lot more photos here on my site that I’ve taken over the last few months as well.

The photos in Flickr’s Best of 2019 are incredible. Especially that one of the Pacu Jawi by Andrew JK Tan.

Snow dusted culm piles – 50mm • f/11 • 1/320s

Discussing film photography – December 2019

In this episode of Photowalking with Colin I discuss my interest in film photography over the years and that I’m finally taking the plunge into that world.

On the day it was recorded I purchased my first point-and-shoot cameras, took a few photos (some of which I’ve shared here as well), and began my exploration of the world of film photography.

The point-and-shoot cameras I ramble on about are the Canon Snappy EL Macro, Olympus SuperZoom 2800, Olympus Stylus, Vivtar 700 24mm, Kodak pocket Instamatic 10 24mm (which I call magic).

Some of the episode has some audio popping issues. Please stick with it.

Tom Elenbaas in Iceland shot on Google Pixel 2 XL

Tom Elenbaas at Gjáin in Iceland, September 2018

In September 2018, when we visited Iceland, we ran into photographer Tom Elenbaas ankle deep in the waters of Gjáin in the south. I took the above photo of him with my Google Pixel 2 XL.

I hadn’t revisited his site in a while but I stopped by today to see the photo he shot while in these waters.

We had a nice short chat after I took this photo and I ended up emailing it to him a few days later. Be sure to check out his fantastic work on his web site.

55mm f/4 1/1250
Fresh Coyote track
Beaver evidence

A snowy photowalk – December 2019

Another episode that is simply a walk in the snow where I don’t talk about too much but I wanted to publish it anyway. A few tidbits to pull out of this episode are some of the advantages of fresh snow, how snow changes your photography, and making the best of the situation at hand.

Be sure to subscribe to future episodes.

Downy woodpecker – November 2019

In this episode of the podcast I cover the fact that photo gear really does matter. That doesn’t mean that you can’t start learning photography with any gear you have on hand. It simply means that in certain situations gear can mean getting the shot or not.

I found the above woodpecker picking off the last few berries of this bush just before a snowfall. I included this photo in this post as well.

I’m glad I published this episode to perhaps unjam the backlog I have in podcast episodes. Stay tuned for more!

The Best of 2019 as told by me

At the end of the year I like to sit down and make a rather random list of the “best” things I’ve seen that year. I do this almost entirely from memory but I also peruse my browser history and look through my Unmark archive in order to uncover some of the things I appreciated throughout the year.

You can review previous years: 2008, 2009, 2017, 2018.

At the tail end of December I sat down and made this list and since then I’ve taken some time to cull through it and make the list you’re reading now.

Best Blog: Gurney Journey by James Gurney

James Gurney, who I interviewed for The Watercolor Gallery, has kept a blog for a very long time. This past year wasn’t necessarily a stand-out year for his blog – it has always been very good – but I believe his blog and his YouTube channel deserve recognition this year.

Runners up: Waxy’s links, Kottke as always.

Best (new to me) Blog: AOWS

Since I’ve really been going all-in on my photography this year I’ve stumbled across a lot of photographers. In fact, I’m well over 100 photographers on my private Photography Twitter list (I’m @cdevroe there). I’m very glad to have found AOWS. See also the Instagram account.

Runner up: Chris Sale.

Best place: Kentucky

Jim Beam Distillery

Last year I said that we’d likely return to Kentucky and we did – that must say something about it. We enjoy the entire state, the distilleries, horse farms, and rolling hills. See posts.

Runner up: Cape Cod – This was our first trip to Cape Cod and I enjoyed the whole feeling there. Likely because so many people are either retired or on vacation. I’d like to go back and make more photographs in the future.

Best book: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

I didn’t read nearly as many books as I’d like this year. But I’m trying not to beat myself up when I miss self assigned goals like number of books to read. I did a lot of fishing, photography, and even started a podcast this year. So I need not read books.

Dark Matter was a nice change of pace from other things I’d read this year. I always like a book that has time jumping. And this book sort of did.

Best service: OneDrive

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but OneDrive – for the most part – holds up very well for my needs. I have nearly half of a terabyte stored there and it isn’t skipping a beat. I use it mostly as a cloud-based backup of all my photos and videos. I also use it to transfer things to/from my computer and phone which worked well when I was on so many different platforms; Android, Windows 10, iOS, and Airdrop wasn’t possible.

Runner up: Disney+ just for The Mandalorian.

Best song for working: Morning of – Colin Stetson

According to Spotify I listened to this song, and the album it comes from, a lot while I was writing code.

Best album: Benton County Relic – Cedric Burnside

Love the old style jazzy/bluesy feel of this album.

Best company: Disney

I wrote a bit about what they’ve done with Lucasfilm since they acquired the company. But, when you look at the scope of Disney – and watch some of their documentaries about how it all came together – they really deserve a round of applause this year.

Runners up: Microsoft is still killing it and I think 2020 looks interesting for them. Apple for finally fixing their laptops.

Best hardware: Canon 400D

Me w/ 400D, recording my podcast

I shot nearly as many photos on this camera as I did on my phones (Pixel 2 XL until October and then iPhone 11 Pro Max) and the camera is 13 years old. It is rugged, has a lot more features than I ever knew it did, and I’m satisfied with the results I’ve been getting.

I have the feeling that next year a film camera may win this category and I’m very excited about that.

Runners up: iPhone 11 Pro Max – the battery life alone deserves an award, iPad Pro – I still use this every single day, in fact I’m writing this post on it right now and I’d say I do greater than 75% of my photo editing on the iPad.

Best desktop app: Firefox

Rather than keeping Firefox in just the browser category, I’m going to give it the best desktop app award. I really, really like Firefox and it has improved greatly this year in terms of speed, privacy, feature set. I simply cannot live without Containers at this point.

Runner up: Lightroom CC.

Best mobile app: Anchor

If it weren’t for how relatively easy it is to create a podcast using Anchor I don’t think I would have done it. Though I am looking forward to my podcast getting a bit better with some desktop-based editing apps. If you have an idea for a podcast I suggest at least giving it a look.

Runners up: VSCO, Twitter, Pocket Casts, Cash.

Best tool: Photoshop CC

Adobe has made very big updates to the entire CC suite of apps. I feel like they deserve a nod as a result of that.

Best podcast: BirdNote

The podcast is just so simple. I love it.

Runners up: ATP. I go back and forth on whether or not I should listen to ATP. Very good information, they were even nice enough to answer one of my questions, but the constant hypercritical (see what I did there?) take on things can sometimes be draining, and so I take long breaks from listening. But that is the entire point of the podcast so I don’t begrudge them of the style. I just always try to look at things positively is all. Also Cal’s Week in Review.

Best YouTube channel: Nick Carver

Nick has easily has the largest impact on my approach to photography this year. His channel is also very entertaining even when he’s discussing very nerdy photography topics.

Special second place: Joe Rogan Experience – I have to cherry pick episodes that I’m interested in, mostly with scientists and outdoorsy people, but the interviews and long form style are refreshing compared to the bit-sized bits we get through TV these days.

I watch a lot of YouTube. Probably too much. Not probably. Actually too much. It is how I learn, am entertained, waste time, etc. In fact, I watch a lot less TV because of YouTube. So this isn’t an easy category to choose.

Runners up: Morten Hilmer, Jack Black, MKBHD, Kevin Nealon, Rainfall Projects, The Lion Whisperer, Zimri Mayfield.

Best Twitter account: Todd Vaziri

Behind-the-scenes and background information on special effects in TV and movies. Fascinating stuff. The amount of work for just a few seconds of video is amazing.

Runner up: Adam Savage.

Best Instagram account: Luke Beard

Luke shares a ton of photos via Stories from his town of Atlanta. It is inspiring the number of photos he’s able to take, process, and publish and has really gained a following in that area. He’s also super gracious in his responses whenever I’ve asked him how he did something.

Special second place: captain.solo – I can always appreciate when someone creates their own style and sticks to it – it isn’t easy to do either of those things. This account has.

You can also follow @cdevroe on Instagram where I frequently share accounts and photos I like via Stories.

Runners up: Dan Rubin, PPP Repairs, Clyde Butcher, Brad Baldwin.

I hope you enjoyed this year’s list. Whenever I sit down to make the list I always under estimate the amount of time it takes to create it. But I’m always glad that I do so that I can look back on it in the future. So this post is more for me than for you.