How My Camera Saves My Life

August 15, 2018

I’ve been depressed the past few days.

This is how my unique brand of disability works. I was in the bed for three days straight this week over the particular situation that has me upset. I realize that isn’t normal—- but that is the reason it is a disability– my body and brain don’t respond normally to situations like this.

So, I got the camera out for an afternoon. I am slowly getting back to the place where I really feel like the camera is a tool for dealing with my condition, rather than feeling like I have to push to be more or make more of my photography. I am taking more pictures for me, and it feels great.

spindles on steps
Yesterday was a better day and I am firmly convinced that part of that reason it was a better day is because I had used my camera the day before. It is hard to describe but visually seeing the photographs I take and the reality I am surrounded by in pictures that I have taken does something to flip a switch in my brain. It really does change the way I view my reality.

Yes, I happen to think that the pictures I take are not bad pictures. But that idea is separate from what this exercise does for my brain. The art itself is a separate issue from the therapeutic value of the camera. A photo doesn’t have to be anything to write home about in order to have a positive effect on my mental state.

My camera is a great tool for fighting my depression. When I look out at my surroundings, all the information my brain receives directly from my eyes is colored with whatever feelings I am consumed by as a result of my emotional state of the time. As a result, my feelings about my reality end up colored by mental illness at times. However, something about the act of taking a picture and looking at the photograph after the fact disconnects the first-hand emotion behind what my eyes saw when I took the photograph. It allows me to remember the beautiful around me without the lingering emotional residue of mental illness. Photography allows me to see what my eyes see without the emotional attachment of things that often have little to do with my direct reality.

I can’t explain why photography works this way but it’s magic and it has literally saved my life more than once. It’s miraculous. It’s why regardless of whatever I ever decide about photography as a business, I will always have a camera.

Remembering My Craft

July 12, 2018

Sometimes, being a photographer is like this for me. It can take weeks to recover from a wedding, where I don’t feel like picking up the camera at all. And then all of a sudden, I’m in a funk. And I don’t feel like picking up the camera, either. Uninspired, not at all remembering the joy behind just clicking the shutter button. Feeling like I see nothing of value worth documenting.

But that’s not true, is it? Because everything around me is special to me– the people around me are special to me– so everything is worth photographing. J also says my eye doesn’t see things the way his sees them, so that’s something that makes the photography worth it to him, too. So, this is evidence that the depression is lying to me.

I’m on my second morning of light therapy and today I’ve decided is a good day for reformatting all the memory cards and getting some good shots of the boys.

It sounds silly, but sometimes I’ll just sit with the camera in the living room and put it up to my eye and click whatever I see right in front of me. Just to remember that I am, indeed, a photographer. The scenes are ordinary, but they’re mine and sometimes this exercise leads to a spurt of creativity where something else comes out of just sitting there– where I get up and go outside, or get up and find something still-life to photograph. The exercise is a jumping off point. Not intentionally but almost always a jumping off point.

a new day

May 20, 2018

mood: content

I had a breakthrough.

I like new toys. And I am a photographer. This makes for an expensive endeavor sometimes.

Today, I decided I need no new camera gear for the foreseeable future. Like, maybe three or four years of no new gear purchases.

This is a breakthrough because the last four years or so have been a pretty constant back and forth of deciding which lenses were right, selling some, buying others.

I really was on the fence recently about whether I wanted a more compact camera than my smallest current one. I wanted nothing as far as new features, this decision was to be purely based on size.

I came to the realization a week or so ago that I really don’t want to be in a consumer mindset anymore; that I really want to be saving as much money as possible. And, that my current gear wasn’t just sufficient, it is superior to any other options.

And I decided today, after a minor mindset of wanting to spend again, that what I have is indeed sufficient. It’s more than sufficient, actually; it’s first-rate and I wouldn’t be satisfied with any potential purposes I might make.

So, spending anything on anything new would be silly and wasteful. My current setup fits in any purse I want it to fit in, anyway. I would accomplish nothing by buying new gear, except for yet another piece to just sit around.

This working it out myself to be content with what I have is new. I am working on spreading this idea to other belongings and working its implications into relationships, as well.

It feels like a new day for my mind. This is wonderful.

The Yashica Mat-124G

March 9, 2018

Came up on a thrift store find. A Yashica Mat-124G.

I fell in love immediately. It is flawless and in working order except there is a tiny bit of fungus behind the bottom lens, behind the shutter, on the front of the taking lens. I intend to have it professionally cleaned a little after I figured out it was a job I just couldn’t do at home without botching majorly. However, I got my first batch of film back from it today. After a little haze clean up due to the fungus, I am in love with the results.




A Year with Primes Only

June 20, 2017

I’ve just finished up an unintentional experiment: From June of 2016 to last Thursday, I used primes only in my photography. It was a winding journey and I didn’t set out a goal of using primes only for a year. It just happened that way.

I learned a lot, though, during my year with only the 35mm f2, the 56mm f1.2, the 16mm f1.4, and the 90mm f2. I learned that the native fastest-aperture lens I could get (in this case the Fuji 56mm f1.2) was my most un-favorite lens ever. It was hard to nail focus even manually and it was notorious for hunting with autofocus. I have some great shots from my time owning that lens, but I had zero qualms in saying goodbye to it. I also learned, likewise, that the 16mm f1.4 which I bought for architecture and landscape photography, never came off my desk for use. I don’t shoot landscapes often.

I learned to love, love, love my 35mm f2 lens. That lens is the best value photography purchase I have made to date and I will never willingly part with it. Ninety-nine percent of my personal photo projects over the past year were shot with that lens. I love its portability, too…I can just throw it on the X-Pro2 and throw the whole setup into my purse. It’s that little. I would never have thought to purchase that lens if I’d been working with a zoom that covered its range.

I learned to work within the limits of fixed focal length lenses. I got un-lazy in my photography. I learned to move around to get the compositions I wanted. In retrospect, I will always be glad I did this unintentional experiment.

Last Thursday, realizing that limits were difficult to accept in wedding photography situations, I made the plunge and traded the 16mm f1.4 and the 56mm f1.2 for a used like-new 16-55mm f2.8, an almost even trade dollar-wise. I’d worked with this zoom before and I knew what I was getting into and using it at this past weekend’s wedding was like a photographic breath of fresh air.  And so ended the primes-only year.

As usual, KEH camera was awesome to work with. I love that we live so close and I never have to ship things to or from them. But it would be worth doing so even if we weren’t so close to their operations.

My Camera as Therapy

June 4, 2017

Way back in 2011, as I was recovering from what was 2010 for me, Jared suggested that I might like taking more pictures of anything and everything.

As usual, I should have known that he had done his research and that he was onto something that would be a therapeutic hobby for me. This brilliant husband of mine does nothing, suggests nothing, by happenstance.

I’m sitting here trying to think of what camera we had at the time. I think it might have still been the Sony Cybershot I impulse-bought when I came to see Jared in May of 2003, bought in Omaha or Lincoln. I remember my first shots with that camera were at the zoo. It was a newer model of the same camera Jared had purchased a couple of years before.

As usual, I took Jared’s suggestion of photography-as-hobby and got far too carried away with it without discussing it with him. I’d been lamenting not being able to take photos like my favorite blogger and she had such-and-such camera. He’d had in mind to get me a proper DSLR when we’d had time to research and save up for one.

Instead, I came home with a random Sony NEX-5N one night in November of 2011. It was a mirrorless camera… an impulse purchase one night when I was out shopping by myself. I knew nothing about the camera when I bought it. I am certain I was Sony’s dream market target that night. I likely wasn’t doing at my best, but this was also in the days before we became far more responsible, finance-wise.

I didn’t care about doing research. I loved that the camera was little and it’s output surpassed what I had seen on that blogger’s website, photo-wise. I was smitten from the start.

That little camera served as my documentary tool through years of recovery, through years of some rough and hard living. I learned that research was my friend when it came to photography, and I learned a little bit about the different lenses that were available. I learned my choices were limited with Sony, but that sure didn’t stop me from taking pictures with what I had.

I didn’t part with that little 5N until well into 2015. I’d moved into Fuji as my ecosystem, and I decided a good friend could use with a little of that 5N’s time.

This morning when I woke up, I felt that familiar itch. It was just time to click the shutter, no matter the subject.

Today my cameras are the Fuji X-T2 and X-Pro2, which are stellar and wonderful and I love them far more than I should love any piece of hardware. I came to choose Fuji as my photo ecosystem after months of discussion with Jared and months and months of research and internal debate. I love the fact that my cameras are water-resistant (as are three of my four current lenses). I love the electronic viewfinder– the optical viewfinder of DSLRs always left me feeling unsure as to how the shot would ultimately look out of the camera, though I love the fact that with the X-Pro2 I have an optical finder with an electronic overlay if I am in the mood for an analog-hipster experience. I love the fact that I have been with a system long enough (since December 2014, with the X-T1), that the menu system is second-nature to me. Even though I am not hard on my gear, I love that I can bang around the cameras and I don’t have to worry. And I won’t lie. I love the retro-look of the cameras. Best of all, I love that it has a stellar JPEG engine and if I so choose, especially on personal projects, I don’t have to do any post-processing to get the result I want. I am in love with the ACROS film simulation in my cameras. If I shoot color, I still want to use RAW, for now, since I can’t decide on which color film simulation I like.

Enough droning on about my Fuji’s.

It looks like rain today and it has already rained some this morning, but that fact doesn’t matter if I take out either of those cameras and all but one of my lenses. So, after church, it will be time to explore the yard and figure out what kinds of artsy things I see outside today.

No matter the current model I use, my camera is for sure a therapy tool. I can look at the world and in my mind’s eye, everything can be gray and dull. But then I can pick up the camera, take a few shots of the world as I see it even through that gray and dull mind’s eye, and what comes out of the camera portrays an entirely different kind of feeling to the feeling I experienced as I took the shot.

The clicking of the shutter is important, too…seeing the world still-frame by still-frame reminds me of the fleeting beauty of the world. It changes my mood, too. Seeing the world in still fragments reminds me not to take my life quite so seriously as I tend to do most of the time.

But, back to the finished product… there is something about a decent shot that literally changes the way I remember feeling in whatever mood I was in when I took the shot. When that happens, something shifts in whatever mood trajectory I have been on. It can change, under the right circumstances, my energy level. It doesn’t matter if the picture is in black and white or color. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. If I judge the photo to be a keeper, it gives me an endorphin/ adrenaline-like rush that can literally change the course of my day, mood-wise.

My Jared helped me find my life’s favorite pastime. I am forever grateful to him for our life together and for so many things, but this one… Jared may very well have saved my life with that gentle shove toward photography. That is not an exaggerated statement.

An Ode to my Photo Gear

March 20, 2017

I love my photography gear. In late 2014, I picked up my first Fuji camera, the X-T1. My first lens was the 18-135mm, as I wanted as much versatility as possible at the time.

I’ve been lucky to have J’s support in acquiring the gear that I wanted. I’ve tried many different lenses at this point but I have settled now on my much-loved X-Pro2 with the 16mm f1.4, the 35mm f2, and the 56mm f1.2 lenses. The entire set-up can fit in my favorite purse when the need calls for it, and most days I carry my camera with me. I enjoy having the 16mm and the 56mm for days when I want them, but the 35mm lens lives on my camera more often than not.

Occasionally I take photos for friends upon request. When I do my own work, though, I prefer to shoot monochrome. Black and white photography is so flexible and I find myself concentrating on the textures in the picture– I find color to be too distracting in my own photos. I love the ACROS film simulation in the X-Pro2 so much that I use the jpegs straight from the camera more often than not these days, with minimal edits. I have the camera set to record both RAW and jpegs, since it has two SD card slots, but the RAW’s usually end up going the way of the trash. They’re there for emergency backup, these days.

Why Fuji? I love having the controls at my fingertips via a dial or a button, just like old-school cameras. There’s just something about the tactile experience of shooting with the Fuji. It does not feel like taking pictures with a computer. I toyed with Nikon on two separate occasions and while there was nothing wrong with the images, I wasn’t nearly as satisfied with the tactile experience of photography with that gear. And I nearly traded the X-T1 for a Canon 6D at one point and decided that the Fuji colors really did make that much of a difference. And I don’t feel like I sacrifice anything using Fuji’s APS-C sensor instead of something else full-frame. The Fuji lenses are that good.

This post may be fluff, and photography is not about the gear…it is about producing images. But I do happen to love my gear, so it seemed fitting to write about it for once.


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