Palo Duro Canyon

     A few weekends ago, I dragged my family 4 hours away from home into the middle of the Texas panhandle to go camping in Palo Duro Canyon, which is about 30-45 minutes south of Amarillo (depending on how lost you get).  The weather seemed like it would be perfect and there was only one campsite left for Saturday, so I snagged it on Thursday, we left after my husband got home from work on Friday, and we stayed that night at a hotel in Amarillo.  On Saturday morning, we headed down south to the canyon (which actually took us 1.5 hours to find because we got considerably lost).

     It was kind of funny to see such incredibly flat terrain, stretching for as far as the eye could see.  I'm actually agoraphobic, meaning that I have a fear of open spaces, so it took a lot of guts for me to take this shot.  The wind whipping through the grasses made it sound as if the prairie was alive and whispering all around me, and everywhere I turned, I saw nothing but flat land to the horizon.  Calming to some, disconcerting to others (cough ME cough cough), and I quickly hopped back in the safely confining van immediately after taking the shot.

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     So you're driving through this vast expanse of nothingness when suddenly the ground drops off in front of you and you're in front of a breathtaking canyon.  It's the second largest canyon in the United States actually.

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     We promptly made our way down through the only canyon road and I was in love.  Something about me that's kind of odd is that I'm an ocean girl at heart, but the desert landscape really does make my heart sing.  The striated colors of rusts and oranges and dusty yellows soothe me and I have a particular soft spot for all kinds of cacti (maybe because they're the only flora I've managed to not kill at home?).  The air is dry and crisp, the stars twinkle more brightly, and the sunrises are to die for.  After setting up our tent, we went out on some hikes and rock scrambling before settling into our hammock for a picnic dinner.

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     So as you can see from the above pictures, the weather looked rather clear, didn't it?  And it stayed clear until the sun set.  We checked the chance of rain one last time at 9 PM and it was still holding steady at "30% chance of a light drizzle at midnight."  We thought we would be fine, so we piled into the tent, told ghost stories, and began the long process of trying to fall asleep in 85 degree heat.  

     My husband and kids managed just fine, but I need it cold to sleep, so I was still tossing and turning until the midnight hour rolled around, along with low rumbles of thunder.  I didn't think much of it; I was just thankful for the suddenly cool breeze making its way into the tent.  Then I heard the soft patter of rain on the top of our tent and I thought, "Oh good, this should lull me right to sleep."  Yes, I'm a fool.

     About 10 minutes later, all hell broke loose.  The rumbling thunder turned into cracks of lightning, the light breeze whipped itself into 75 mph gusts (yes, I looked it up after we survived this storm), and the soothing drizzle morphed into a flash flood and mudslide.  The wind ripped off the rain fly and our poor children woke up to buckets of rain dumping on them, watching their father valiantly brace the tent with his body to keep it from collapsing on us as their mother used the flashes of lightning to search frantically for the car keys in a flooded tent, all the while having to scream to communicate over the now deafening thunder. 

     We knew we had to make a run for it before we got swept away and we sacrificed everything in the tent.  Of course, we had set up the tent as far from the van as we could so that we could get a "more realistic" camping experience.  So we open the tent and our eldest promptly runs in the wrong direction, screaming her head off.  I'm holding our youngest and I still have no idea how I didn't fall.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to navigate a mudslide?  Granted, it was only shin-deep at the time, but that didn't make your footing any less slippery.  The eldest daughter figured out she had gone the wrong way and went shooting past me, still screaming, only to pull the classic Charlie Brown football fall into the mud.  She scrambled to her feet, took about 5 steps, and then face planted.  Now thoroughly coated in mud, she gets back up and yells at the lightning streaked sky, "I am NOT having any fun!!!" before continuing our dash for the safety of the van.

     My husband and I literally throw the girls into the van before getting in ourselves.  Everyone is drenched and shivering (because of course, the temperature had dropped 20 degrees in 20 minutes due to the fact that this was a cold front moving through), and my husband and I look at our mud coated children and then at each other before we both just burst out into hysterics.  The youngest looks at us like we've lost our minds and the eldest glares before declaring that she'll "never go camping again."  We just chuckled at her and moved the van to higher ground.  Just in time, too, as the road washed out next to our camping loop and the rest of the campers were stuck until road crews could clear the mud the next morning.  So yeah, weather is not something you mess around with in a canyon.

     Anyways, below is the sunrise after the storm.  So tranquil and deceiving, isn't it?  Seriously though, what an adventure!  I'd do it again in a heartbeat so that I could have this story to tell to my grandkids one day.  And don't worry, our oldest daughter asked just this past weekend when we could go camping again, so I think it's safe to say she hasn't suffered any longterm psychological trauma.

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     And also, since we were so close to it, we stopped by Cadillac Ranch about 10 miles west of Amarillo.  It was definitely unique and worth a stop if you find yourself in the area, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it (unless you have spray paint...then by all means, follow your criminal fancy).

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The UK and Paris

When my husband and I first married, we had planned on a honeymoon to Thailand.  The dates and lodgings were picked out and the activities were eagerly anticipated; all we had to do was hope we could book a flight that wouldn't interfere with our upcoming move.  Unfortunately, the Air Force had other plans for our newlywed stage and threw us a curveball, giving us less than one week's notification to report to Oklahoma (and only 2 days before Thanksgiving to boot).  We spent our Turkey Day cramped in a tiny hotel room on base in the middle of America, lamenting our lot in life while trying desperately to cook an adequate meal on my favorite holiday.  It snowed that day though, so in my mind, all was absolved at the time and we promised each other we'd take a honeymoon one day.

     Fast forward 7 years and we've had two moves, two kids, and no honeymoon.  Not much of a shock really...life can get in the way sometimes.  With another imminent move on the horizon that will put us even farther away from both sets of grandparents, and with the girls finally being more independent/pleasant to be around, we realized that this would be the perfect year to go somewhere with just the two of us.  We talked it over with the grandparents and they readily agreed to watch the kids, so we booked a flight to London and held our breaths (no vacation is safe in the military, regardless of approved leave, until you set foot on a commercial flight, ha!).

     Now, I had very carefully selected our international flight.  It was a direct flight that left at 6 PM Eastern local time and arrived at 6:45 AM London time with 8.5 hours in the air.  I figured that would be perfect timing to take a sleeping pill as we got on the plane so that we could be knocked out for the duration of the flight and wake up refreshed, free of jet lag and ready to hit the ground running in England.  I'm sure you've already guessed that this is not the way it worked out.  

     As soon as the plane took off, a toddler began to scream.  Normal enough...most kids don't handle takeoff well, and I had ear plugs along with both Dramamine and Unisom in my system, so it shouldn't be a problem, I thought.  I felt pity for the mother who was traveling alone with him; I had been there, too, after all.  However, two hours into the flight, the kid still hadn't even slowed down.  Three hours in, my patience was beginning to wear thin, as was everyone else's.  Six hours in, the little one still hadn't figured out that we weren't all in the process of dying and his little lungs were holding remarkably strong.  I'm pretty sure I heard sobs coming from other parts of the cabin and I know that I wasn't the only one who had the "brilliant" plan of drugging themselves for an overnight flight.  Needless to say, a whole lot of zombies stumbled out of the plane and into the terminal after 8.5 hours of a cacophonous hell.  The little boy stopped screaming the moment the wheels hit the runway and happily scampered down the aisles.  You can imagine how many daggers were being thrown his way.

     Anyhow, we made it from Gatwick into London at some point midmorning (the memory is a bit foggy for some reason) and realized that we couldn't check into our AirBnB for another 4 hours.  We stumbled around the Hoxton area with all of our luggage, generally wreaking havoc on the sidewalks and stopping at every other cafe for another coffee, before we finally found a large, open field and dropped all of our stuff in the only bit of shade.  I promptly fell asleep with my backpack still on and ignored the footfalls by my head (we had managed to position ourselves on the curve of a makeshift track, but we too tired and out of it to move).     

     After a two hour nap out in public, we woke up and were happy to finally check in and shed our baggage before attempting to navigate the streets and underground.  I was immediately struck (figuratively and almost literally) at how different and slightly challenging it is to adapt to an alternate flow of traffic than one is used to.  Initially, I found myself inwardly cursing the people who, in my mind, were very clearly walking on the "wrong side" of the sidewalk and therefore continuously bumping into me.  I was just about to grumble something about the idiocy of Londoners when I stopped dead in my tracks, the cold wave of shame overcoming me as I finally figured out that I was the moron.  Head hung, I shuffled to the left side of the pavement and we proceeded to the nearest pub for our first pint of the vacation.

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     My embarrassment thoroughly drowned in ale, we left the pub and I chose to ignore the helpful pointers painted on the ground at each crosswalk, promptly stepping out in front of an iconic red, double decker.  So, a tip for traveling in London: heed the signs; the locals clearly don't want to be scraping tourists off the road on a daily basis and have taken extensive measures to keep you safe, but they can't help you if you deliberately choose to be drunk or illiterate.  Fight your traffic instincts and trust the Brits.

 Some intersections even had crossing guards for us bumbling tourists.

Some intersections even had crossing guards for us bumbling tourists.

     We spent the rest of our time in London doing a few of the normal tourist things: high tea at Fortnum and Mason, ride on the top of a double decker, pay to pee at any toilet you come across, etc.  We were also sure to "mind the gap," celebrate the Queen's birthday, and eat plenty of fish and chips.  Here is a selection of a few favorite images from our time in this large city...

 Tower Bridge.  Yes, I jumped out in front of traffic.  No, my husband wasn't surprised.

Tower Bridge.  Yes, I jumped out in front of traffic.  No, my husband wasn't surprised.

 Early morning light in King's Cross Station.

Early morning light in King's Cross Station.

 Hyde Park in the morning...we were there later on 4/20 a little before 5 in the afternoon and were genuinely confused by the massive crowds and blue haze hanging over it.

Hyde Park in the morning...we were there later on 4/20 a little before 5 in the afternoon and were genuinely confused by the massive crowds and blue haze hanging over it.

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     After three days in London, we made our way to King's Cross to catch a train into Paris.  I'm a bit of francophile and couldn't stand the thought of being only a couple hours away and missing the infamous city of light.  We arrived in the early afternoon, checked into our AirBnB closet (seriously, I've seen closets larger than this "flat" we stayed in), and immediately ventured out in search of wine, cheese, and a baguette.  

     Making our way to the Eiffel Tower to catch the sunset and enjoy a picnic dinner, I couldn't help but be floored at just how stunning this city is.  The architecture is drop dead gorgeous, the flora is verdant and lush, and the sound of the French language is simply music to my ears. I love the European's appreciation of the simple things and how they can stroll to most places they need to get, and Paris really highlights that slower way of life.  Every meal we ate was spectacular, the weather couldn't have been better, and the locals were actually extremely tolerant of the tourists (I was expecting the quintessential "rude" Parisian, but encountered none).

     The highlights of this segment of our trip were simple: the picnic in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, walking along the Seine with some of the world's best ice cream (Berthillon, if you're interested), and climbing to the second highest point in Paris to take in the city from above.  Below are a few shots from this gorgeous city.

 Be still, my heart.

Be still, my heart.

 The Sacred Heart Basilica.  We had climbed to the top of the tower to get the above shot of the Eiffel Tower.

The Sacred Heart Basilica.  We had climbed to the top of the tower to get the above shot of the Eiffel Tower.

 When I live in Europe, I will have a candy apple red moped.

When I live in Europe, I will have a candy apple red moped.

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 I just found this hilarious.

I just found this hilarious.

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 Europeans love their dogs.  They are everywhere.

Europeans love their dogs.  They are everywhere.

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 You'll see a few "strange" shots like this.  I was experimenting with a film that turns green to purple.  I kind of fell in love with it.

You'll see a few "strange" shots like this.  I was experimenting with a film that turns green to purple.  I kind of fell in love with it.

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 The Eiffel Tower at night on that Lomo Purple film.

The Eiffel Tower at night on that Lomo Purple film.

     After Paris, we hopped back on another train to head north up to Edinburgh.  This was the part of the trip that I was most excited about.  While I enjoy exploring cities from time to time, it's rugged nature that I live for.  Our plan was to stay in Edinburgh for 2 days, then rent a car for the rest of our stay and venture into the countryside of Scotland.  On a quick side note, I absolutely love taking trains to get around.  It's so nice to be able to sit back and relax or read or simply watch the world go by outside your window without having to worry about navigating or traffic.  It's an aspect of Europe that I really wish had caught on in the United States.

     Once in Edinburgh, we encountered our first drizzle of the vacation as we made our way to an apartment in the historic Dean Village.  Our temporary residence was perfectly cozy and so much bigger than the two places we had stayed in prior so far (and it even had shampoo and toilet paper!), complete with a record player, a window seat, and tea.  My husband busted out laughing when he got out of the shower and found me curled up under a blanket in the window seat, wearing a French beret and sipping tea while watching the rain fall and listening to Bach on the record player.  He thought I had died and he had walked into my version of heaven.  He wasn't sure if he'd even be able to get me out of the flat, but eventually we both needed food and so we hit the streets.

     Now, while Scotland is technically a part of the United Kingdom, they definitely do things a bit differently up there.  For one, the Scots do not put helpful advice on their roads directing you which way to check for your impending death by automobile.  They take a far more "fock you, Sassenach," approach and let Darwinism run its course.  Where the English are polished and proper and all things refined, the Scots are a bit more down to earth and rough around the edges in the best way.  I loved them and their lax attitudes (although I did prefer the English accent...I had a hard time understanding the harsh, grating Scottish one at times).

     Unfortunately, we only got one solid day to explore the capital before I fell quite ill.  We had to cancel our castle tour and extend our stay in Edinburgh while I dealt with a high fever and terrible sore throat and migraine.  I insisted on at least walking a nearby path and am so glad that we did.  It was one of the most beautiful walks I've ever been on...old moss-covered stone walls, wild vines tumbling over the path, the sounds of a tumbling brook and birdsong.  It was so peaceful and wonderful.

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 So. Many. Stairs.

So. Many. Stairs.

     I didn't take a ton of shots around the city of Edinburgh...I think I was rather burnt out from shooting the streets of London and Paris quite honestly.  After recovering from the worst of my sickness, we attempted to rent a car in Edinburgh and failed spectacularly.  We ended up having to catch a train to Glasgow in order to rent a car for three days at an exorbitant cost.  So here's another "pro" tip: rent a car far in advance.  When I had checked on prices a couple months out, it was just over $100 for a week.  By the time we got there, we paid over $500 for 3 days.  I had gotten so bogged down with booking trains, lodgings, and things to do, that I completely forgot to confirm the car rental back in February and it cost us big time unfortunately.

     So moving on from our financial blunder, we hopped in (on opposite sides than we're used to) and promptly began to narrowly avoid hitting curbs and pedestrians, randomly screaming in fear as we navigated roundabouts and nearly got crushed between a lorry and a rock face.  It seems we can't travel anywhere internationally without having some near death experience in a rental car.  Anyways, we decided to make our way up to the Isle of Skye and thanks to a tip from a local in Edinburgh, we landed a bed and breakfast in the tiny town of Plocktown just outside of the famous isle.  The sunset when we got there was breathtaking and I stood at the window for an hour just watching the colors change over the mountains and bay.

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 These bramble berry bushes were in full bloom while we were in Scotland.  They were everywhere.

These bramble berry bushes were in full bloom while we were in Scotland.  They were everywhere.

 Plocktown.

Plocktown.

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 The water was surprisingly clear and turquoise.

The water was surprisingly clear and turquoise.

     The next day, we drove around the entire Isle of Skye.  This island is beautiful in a raw and windswept way, but I was actually surprised and sad to see the impact tourism is having on this fragile area.  It made me feel guilty being there, so we ended up not staying long at some areas (like the Faerie Glen) and skipping other areas entirely so as to avoid adding our erosion to already degrading paths and ecosystems (such as the Faerie Pools).  We did hike to Coral Beach on accident (we were looking for the lighthouse, but failed) whose turquoise waters shocked us, and we had to dodge some bulls and wave at seals along the way.  We also went into Dunvegan Castle, ate at the only pub in a tiny town, and marveled at all the sheep and Highland cows along the way.

 Just in case...

Just in case...

 A few brave souls.  Their dog had sense though and refused to enter the frigid water.

A few brave souls.  Their dog had sense though and refused to enter the frigid water.

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 The Faerie Glen

The Faerie Glen

 Dunvegan Castle.  The chief of the McLeod clan still lives there.

Dunvegan Castle.  The chief of the McLeod clan still lives there.

 Coral Beach

Coral Beach

 Highland cow

Highland cow

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 Moonrise over the Cuillin Mountains.  I had my husband stop at the top of a cliff road with no shoulder so that I could climb on top of the car to get this shot.  This was also my first time shooting slide film (which is really tricky), but glad I took the chance.

Moonrise over the Cuillin Mountains.  I had my husband stop at the top of a cliff road with no shoulder so that I could climb on top of the car to get this shot.  This was also my first time shooting slide film (which is really tricky), but glad I took the chance.

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     So there you have it...about a quarter of the shots I took and a rundown on the main points of interest in our travels.  If you made it this far, I salute you, as I know that I can be rather verbose.  While we were sad to leave, we were also more than ready to get home to our girls.  Of course, not even two weeks went by before I piled us back in the car and headed out to the second largest canyon in the U.S., Palo Duro.  I'll be getting all of those scans back next week, so check back then for some Southwestern photography and the full story of the camping trip that will go down in family history as the most exciting/terrifying one to date!

Winter Slump

     I've started this blog post at least half a dozen times over the past couple of months.  Something always comes up or the website crashes or I simply try to make it too detailed, so I end up throwing in the towel and trying again the next week (only to fail again...).  Anyways, I've decided to only post my favorites from the most recent two rolls I shot last week.  Maybe eventually I'll go back and fill in with my winter images (spoiler alert: there weren't a ton).

     First ones were made with my Olympus XA on Portra400 rated at 800 and pushed a stop.  I love the Olympus because it's really easy and small.  It's a point and shoot that's perfect for daily life.

 I'm training for an open water swim in Lake Michigan at the end of summer, so this is my view twice a week until then.

I'm training for an open water swim in Lake Michigan at the end of summer, so this is my view twice a week until then.

 I had walked upstairs on this morning, arms full of cleaning supplies and trash bins so that we could conquer the wreck of their bedroom, but had to run back downstairs to grab my camera for this shot before I "ruined" it by straightening the room up.

I had walked upstairs on this morning, arms full of cleaning supplies and trash bins so that we could conquer the wreck of their bedroom, but had to run back downstairs to grab my camera for this shot before I "ruined" it by straightening the room up.

 We're in the process of building a treehouse in the back corner of our yard.  Excited to get it done!

We're in the process of building a treehouse in the back corner of our yard.  Excited to get it done!

 Daddy's little helper.  She was in charge of handing him the nails.

Daddy's little helper.  She was in charge of handing him the nails.

 Childhood in a nutshell.

Childhood in a nutshell.

 She's absolutely insane and drives me batty on a daily basis, but oh how I love her.

She's absolutely insane and drives me batty on a daily basis, but oh how I love her.

 I hung this tire swing by myself during my husband's last deployment and the girls play on it pretty much everyday, asking me to push them and chase them, acting like a lion.  This is what my view looks like before I get too dizzy and have to call it quits.

I hung this tire swing by myself during my husband's last deployment and the girls play on it pretty much everyday, asking me to push them and chase them, acting like a lion.  This is what my view looks like before I get too dizzy and have to call it quits.

 And when Mommy gets tired, sister fills in.  You can see how well loved this tire swing is by the immense patch of dirt beneath it.

And when Mommy gets tired, sister fills in.  You can see how well loved this tire swing is by the immense patch of dirt beneath it.

 Horsin' around.

Horsin' around.

 Selfies on film are always a trick.  Here we are on a rare date night.

Selfies on film are always a trick.  Here we are on a rare date night.

 I'd been dying to go to a local jazz club for years.

I'd been dying to go to a local jazz club for years.

 It was a jazz harpist...who knew such a thing existed?  It was awesome.

It was a jazz harpist...who knew such a thing existed?  It was awesome.

     The next images are only of my oldest daughter.  It's rare that I manage to get her to cooperate for the camera, so I'm very happy to have these.  These were shot on my Mamiya 645 1000s with Fuji 400H.  I rated the film at 200 and shot wide open at f1.9, so several of them were not tack sharp.  It doesn't bother me on most of them, although I was kind of bummed to discover that I preferred them converted to black and white.  I suppose I just prefer Portra for skin tones and Fuji for nature.

 This is her go-to face for pictures.  I have no idea why.

This is her go-to face for pictures.  I have no idea why.

 Here it is again, but softer and more nostalgic I think.

Here it is again, but softer and more nostalgic I think.

 I see this expression all the time.  She's not actually upset...it's her deep in thought look.  This kid is already pondering very deep stuff.  Just the other day, she said "Mommy, you know what I just realized?  That my world is different from everyone else's, just like yours is different from mine.  Because we're not the same person and we see different things."  My little philosopher-in-training.

I see this expression all the time.  She's not actually upset...it's her deep in thought look.  This kid is already pondering very deep stuff.  Just the other day, she said "Mommy, you know what I just realized?  That my world is different from everyone else's, just like yours is different from mine.  Because we're not the same person and we see different things."  My little philosopher-in-training.

 Strong, confident, and gabbing away.

Strong, confident, and gabbing away.

 Her favorite treat is a push pop, just like mine was at her age.  Like mother, like daughter!

Her favorite treat is a push pop, just like mine was at her age.  Like mother, like daughter!

     So that's it for now!  We're leaving in a few days to go overseas for a couple of weeks...England, France, and Scotland.  I should receive lots of (hopefully) beautiful scans in May from that adventure and will share them then.  Fingers crossed for good weather while we're gone!

How We Roll

     Anyone who has been keeping up with this site may have noticed by now that we're fans of spur-of-the-moment travels.  I just simply can't resist the siren call of exploration and if I find even the slightest reason to hop in the car, you can bet I'm all over it.  I'm fortunate to have my kids and husband be just as willing to venture forth with me whenever possible.  It seems they've caught the travel bug as well and get just as excited as I do while discovering different parts of the country.

     A couple of weeks ago, an opportunity/excuse presented itself in the form of a gallery opening over in Johnson City, TN.  A shot I took in Seattle about a year ago had been selected for display and I felt compelled to be there and meet some of my fellow film photographers in the flesh that I had been chatting and sharing with for months in our online platform.  I quickly mapped out a route, my husband put in for leave, and the girls hadn't started their Montessori program for the year yet, so no hoops to jump through there.  We loaded up and set off for St. Louis.

     I've spent the past year reminiscing to my husband about the awesomeness of the City Museum in St. Louis.  If you've never visited this place, it's very difficult to describe and probably harder to grasp just what exactly it is, but I'll try.  It's essentially a construction site that's also a playground filled with hidden tunnels and slides that are made out of iron or trees, you can crawl through the walls and under the floors and up in the ceiling, there's a 10 story cave system in the center of the warehouse (most of this place is contained inside of an old converted shoe factory), there's a carnival-type thing on the roof, and there are no rules and a million ways to hurt yourself.  It's a kid's and young-at-heart adult's dream come true.

     Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures this time around...I learned my lesson from the first visit and knew that my camera could/would be damaged and/or hold me back from all the fun, so it stayed in the hotel room.  The girls were thrilled to return and my husband spent the first hour in shock by the glory that is this place (he was deployed last year and had missed out), but he came to his senses eventually to slide and shimmy his way through all the fun.  If you ever find yourself in St. Louis, do NOT miss out on this experience!  Anyways, I took very few pictures on this stop since we had been here before, but here's an obligatory Arch shot:

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 Just after taking a picture of the Arch, my youngest announced that she had to go potty right away, so here we are hustling back to the restaurant we had picked out for dinner.

Just after taking a picture of the Arch, my youngest announced that she had to go potty right away, so here we are hustling back to the restaurant we had picked out for dinner.

     After St. Louis, we made our way to Columbus, OH for an overnight pit stop.  We were lucky our hotel had an indoor pool and the girls went for a quick dip before bed that night.  In the morning, we checked out and drove to the German Village for a coffee and a stroll around the neighborhood before our impending longest leg of the trip.  We chose a very authentic bakery that presented a German menu we could hardly interpret and were forced to point blindly at our choice (the employees did not speak much English either).  I was shocked to discover that I had managed to order a coffee with a chocolate cookie and heavy cream in it, but delighted in the sugar rush all the same.  We then walked around the cobblestone streets taking in the European architecture and smiling at the flower boxes gracing the windows.  It made me yearn for our next assignment and wish fervently that next year at this time, I'd be walking streets in Germany itself.

 

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 When you're a photographer and find a gorgeous pocket of setting sunlight, you pluck your kid out of whatever they were doing and stick them in that spot.  Here's my youngest, gazing longingly back at the pool she had just been enjoying.

When you're a photographer and find a gorgeous pocket of setting sunlight, you pluck your kid out of whatever they were doing and stick them in that spot.  Here's my youngest, gazing longingly back at the pool she had just been enjoying.

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     I had convinced my husband that it would be a good idea to tack on a couple of hours to our drive that day so we could explore the Amish countryside.  I had really hoped to find some covered bridges and go on a buggy ride, but I was thwarted on both accounts.  The buggy rides had been cancelled for the year due to construction and the covered bridges were about another hour out of the way.  We stopped for lunch at a bier garten and our pony-horse was fortunate that a dog's bakery was next door, so he got a special treat (and who are we kidding...he got some burger, too).

 Excuse my husband's expression...for some reason, he didn't trust what the girls were up to behind me.

Excuse my husband's expression...for some reason, he didn't trust what the girls were up to behind me.

     We finally got back on track and flew through Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland.  There is some absolutely gorgeous country in that region.  We drove through the Appalachians at sunset and it was simply breathtaking.  We were on a mission for D.C., however, so we couldn't stop to drink in the view.  Finally, after almost 12 hours on the road that day, we made it to our hotel in the dark and the rain, and sacked out.  The next day, we took on the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the Air and Space Museum, and the National Mall.

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 I have no idea what they're doing here.

I have no idea what they're doing here.

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     After spending a day in D.C., we drove along the coast down to Virginia Beach.  We stopped at Assateague National Seashore to look at the wild ponies and play at the beach.  This had the added benefit of tuckering the girls out, so we were able to drive straight through to Virginia Beach.  After checking in there, we raced down to the boardwalk to catch the sunset and see the epic (sorry, it's just the right word) statue of Neptune.  We then ate an extremely overpriced so-so dinner.  In hindsight, we should've saved that money and rented one of the quad bikes to ride around the boardwalk and settled for fast food afterwards.  Oh well.  Live and learn from our mistakes!

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 I find her posture hilarious in this...future blackmail.

I find her posture hilarious in this...future blackmail.

 There were horseshoe crab shells littering the beach.

There were horseshoe crab shells littering the beach.

 Wanted to make herself into a mermaid before we left.

Wanted to make herself into a mermaid before we left.

 I told you he was epic.

I told you he was epic.

 And huge.

And huge.

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 I also got to fulfill a childhood dream and visit Jamestown :-)

I also got to fulfill a childhood dream and visit Jamestown :-)

     That concluded our eastward trek and we started back west, driving through the Appalachians and into the Tri-City.  The morning before the gallery opening, we took the girls on a short hike to a waterfall and did some bouldering as well (the girls are surprisingly good at climbing).  We ate our packed picnic before heading into downtown Johnson City to meet and mingle with other film photographers.  It was so great to meet these people that up until this point I had only chatted with through a screen!  After that short visit, we started the slog back to Oklahoma.

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 P.S. This place is in Forrest City off of I-40 about an hour west of Memphis, and it's incredible.  We stop every time we visit my husband's family.

P.S. This place is in Forrest City off of I-40 about an hour west of Memphis, and it's incredible.  We stop every time we visit my husband's family.

     That concludes our most recent road trip.  I found myself a bit down after getting home because I realize it'll be a long time before we go anywhere again.  We may venture out for Christmas to New Mexico, however, and we're saving up for a big trip out to the West Coast in the late spring.  I also realized on this trip that I'm not shooting enough in general.  I saw so much that I wish I had taken a picture of, and I'm not sure why I didn't.  Maybe it's because we were a bit more rushed.  Anyways, I plan on shooting more this fall and updating again sooner rather than later!

Space City

     As I've mentioned before, my eldest daughter has decided she wants to be an astrophysicist or an astronaut when she grows up.  We had assumed this would just be a phase, but we're rounding 3 years of her proclaiming this (and she turns 5 next month...), so we're taking her seriously and encouraging her in any way we can.  Thus, we signed her up for the last space camp of the summer down in Houston and she was over the moon (hehe)!  She had an absolute blast and our youngest enjoyed the one-on-one time with her Mommy and Daddy.  I shot a wide combination of cameras and film, from HP5 in my new Holga, to Portra 400 and Color Implosion in my Leica, to expired Delta 400 in my Olympus XA.

 This was some Color Implosion that I was forced to expose in order to get it out of my camera...the film strip wasn't taped to the inside of the canister, so it literally was just loose in my camera and I had to open the back to pull it out.  Oh well!  Made for some interesting color shifts and it was supposed to look retro anyway.

This was some Color Implosion that I was forced to expose in order to get it out of my camera...the film strip wasn't taped to the inside of the canister, so it literally was just loose in my camera and I had to open the back to pull it out.  Oh well!  Made for some interesting color shifts and it was supposed to look retro anyway.

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 It's a miracle no one got pooped on...

It's a miracle no one got pooped on...

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 Seabrook Waffle Company has THE best waffles in the world.

Seabrook Waffle Company has THE best waffles in the world.

 It was National Roller Coaster Day while we were here, so we got to ride this wooden one for half price!

It was National Roller Coaster Day while we were here, so we got to ride this wooden one for half price!

 I had never seen these bushes before, and they stole my heart.

I had never seen these bushes before, and they stole my heart.

 YES.

YES.

 She liked it, too!

She liked it, too!

 She was as happy as a kid in a candy shoppe.

She was as happy as a kid in a candy shoppe.

 A new friend.

A new friend.

 Midair battle captured on a Holga.  You'll notice in these next few frames that there are some splotches.  That's due to the fact that I foolishly skipped Photoflo at the end and our hard water dried on the negatives.

Midair battle captured on a Holga.  You'll notice in these next few frames that there are some splotches.  That's due to the fact that I foolishly skipped Photoflo at the end and our hard water dried on the negatives.

 Double exposures are easy peasy on the Holga!

Double exposures are easy peasy on the Holga!

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 Switching now to the Olympus XA with expired Delta 400.

Switching now to the Olympus XA with expired Delta 400.

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 "I'm gonna win, I'm gonna win, I'm gonna win!"

"I'm gonna win, I'm gonna win, I'm gonna win!"

 He's the greatest dog in the world.  No, I'm not biased.

He's the greatest dog in the world.  No, I'm not biased.

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     Surprisingly, it took me almost 2 months to get through 15 shots on my medium format camera, so here a few images from Fourth of July in Florida and crystal digging in NW Oklahoma a few weeks ago!  It seems that I haven't given Ektar enough attention...these colors are so punchy and fun!

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     I've got another roll of Ektar loaded in the Mamiya, and even took a couple of frames on it while in Texas, so I'm determined to shoot through it faster this time.  We were thinking of going to Colorado for Labor Day weekend, but then remembered that we have the Air Force Ball a couple of weekends after that, so I'm not sure expenses will allow it :-(  I'm sure I'll find some stuff to shoot though, especially since it's finally supposed to cool down a bit!

Flops and Flips

     We've been taking it relatively easy since coming back from that long road trip, but we'll be on the road again this weekend!  In the meantime, I've been pushing myself to shoot and develop more black and white film.  I put my first roll of actual FRESH Tri-X through my Leica, but then managed to botch the processing.  I diluted the stock solution too much, I believe, and also let it develop for too long, so the results were quite grainy and uneven.  I also screwed up the fixer somehow, but don't ask me how.  I shot through this roll last weekend when we went around northwestern Oklahoma exploring a cave and canyon and digging up selenite crystals.  Here are some shots from that adventure...

 The girls have really taken to bike riding (yes!), but our youngest is still too tiny to pedal well on her own.  I asked my husband for his belt and came up with this fun little contraption.  He was not pleased, but she sure was and hey, it got us around the block before the sun completely set :-)

The girls have really taken to bike riding (yes!), but our youngest is still too tiny to pedal well on her own.  I asked my husband for his belt and came up with this fun little contraption.  He was not pleased, but she sure was and hey, it got us around the block before the sun completely set :-)

 They make these little "nests" all over the house to read.

They make these little "nests" all over the house to read.

 Last day of gymnastics.

Last day of gymnastics.

     After scanning in this roll and considering a resulting cry fest, I questioned why I even bother with developing black and white film.  Maybe I should just always shoot color and convert in post like my husband suggests.  It would save me a lot of heartache (and spare myself and family from the stench of chemicals).  Alas, I was forced to load up another roll in a last ditch attempt for a self portrait.  You see, one of my images has been selected for a gallery and the artist's picture is requested to accompany it.  I truly had no image that I felt would be adequate, so I loaded up my Olympus XA (since it's my only camera with a self-timer) with a roll of Delta 3200 that's been sitting in my fridge for months.  I haven't shot it because silly me let it go through the airport x-ray scanners THREE times (anything over ISO 800 shouldn't go through those things).  Therefore, I fully expected this to be a complete and utter disaster as well.

     The funny thing with the tiny Olympus is that you can't control the shutter speed.  All you can set is the ISO (which maxes out at 800) and the aperture.  For these shots, I set the camera up on a stool, clicked the aperture to f4 and maxed out the ISO, and saw that even then, I would only have a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second.  I decided to embrace the inevitable blur and let the girls have a dance party after we took a few serious shots.  Also to be noted, I tried a different style of photography for the ones with my girls; I wanted it to look serious, yet fun and caught on the fly by a stranger.  I think it worked and I want to try more like this.  First up though, was my self-portrait.

 I was shocked at how well it came out.  This camera is so tiny and plastic and the film was questionable at best.  I also thanked myself once again for painting our bedroom half black and half white :-p

I was shocked at how well it came out.  This camera is so tiny and plastic and the film was questionable at best.  I also thanked myself once again for painting our bedroom half black and half white :-p

 My yin and yang.

My yin and yang.

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     Naturally, after developing this roll (and successfully, woot woot!) and seeing the results after scanning in the negatives, I'm itching to shoot more black and white.  It felt good to just let go and burn through this roll in less than 10 minutes.  I wasn't expecting anything good to come out of it (and actually didn't even shoot the entire roll...), so these were a fun surprise.  My next batch of scans won't come in until the end of the month, so I'll be signing off until then!

2000+ Miles

     A few times each year, we make what we call the "grandparent circuit."  It usually consists of an 8 hour jaunt over to the Memphis area, then another 8 hours down to Pensacola.  This time, however, my in-laws were on a road trip of their own so we decided at the last minute to go down to Austin, TX and then over to Florida.  When I say "last minute," I mean that we didn't even know if we'd be able to leave Oklahoma for the 4th of July weekend until less than 24 hours before our departure.  My husband had a couple of highly critical flights to complete that neither of us thought would happen, yet lo and behold, they both came into fruition and he aced them (as usual ;-)).

     I therefore had to frantically pack, clean the house, book hotels, and plan out an itinerary for this impromptu excursion.  I had been looking for an excuse to visit Austin, and this seemed to fit the bill.  We left after my husband came home from work on a Friday and immediately drove right into grid lock traffic.  To top off getting stuck in rush hour, an emergency signal came on over the radio informing us that a tornado was forming due west of our position and we were directly in the path.  We got off onto some back country roads and raced through tiny towns, trying to outrun the wall of greenish clouds fast approaching.  Nothing like living in Oklahoma...

     We managed to successfully thwart death by twister and arrived at our hotel in Austin at midnight, which is way past our bedtime.  We all crashed and didn't wake up until after 8 the next morning.  I hadn't managed to come up with any rock solid plans for our day in Austin, so we ended up just driving to the main downtown area to park and explore.  The girls were actually quite difficult that day; complaining about walking, the heat, their imminent starvation, etc.  They're usually real troopers and far more determined than the average child to embark on questionable adventures with me, so it did kind of bother me.  I can't blame them though...it was stupid hot (even the locals were commenting on how bloody awful and unusual it was) and we were just kind of wandering with no clue as to where to go.  The biggest hits of the day were swimming in the hotel pool and eating ice cream for dinner :-)

 First pit stop of our walking/shuffling/sweating journey.

First pit stop of our walking/shuffling/sweating journey.

 This place served up the most amazing grilled cheese sandwiches.  The girls refused to eat them.  Like I said, they weren't themselves that day...

This place served up the most amazing grilled cheese sandwiches.  The girls refused to eat them.  Like I said, they weren't themselves that day...

 They decided they couldn't survive without pizza.

They decided they couldn't survive without pizza.

 So much graffiti in this town!

So much graffiti in this town!

 They were over the day by this point.

They were over the day by this point.

 I think he may have been every 80s kid's hero.

I think he may have been every 80s kid's hero.

 I don't know what that light spot is...it's on a number of my images unfortunately.

I don't know what that light spot is...it's on a number of my images unfortunately.

 I love the flora of the Midwest and Southwest.

I love the flora of the Midwest and Southwest.

 And I love cities that have easily accessible bike rentals!

And I love cities that have easily accessible bike rentals!

 Finally feeling like their usual silly selves.

Finally feeling like their usual silly selves.

     Our original plan after visiting Austin was to drive to New Orleans on Sunday, ride a trolley that afternoon, then snag some beignets on Monday morning before making the last short leg into Pensacola.  However, we were approaching New Orleans a bit after 3 on Sunday and my husband felt like he could make it the whole way.  Thus, I canceled our hotel reservation and we set a record for driving with the girls: 12 hours in one day.  Yeah, it was rough.  But we were determined to get to see my brother-in-law and his son before they left and let the cousins play on the beach and all go to dinner together.

     My husband got to spend the 4th of July with us for the first time in 4 years!  He's always been deployed or on some other kind of training/mission and considering this is his favorite holiday, it's been pretty rough on him.  I know he was relieved to finally eat some grilled out food, drink a couple of beers, and set things on fire.  We also went to a bigger downtown fireworks show, but the playground stole it for the girls.  It was a pretty awesome playground; tons of climbing stuff which is right up their alley.  

     There were a couple of blasts from my past on this particular visit.  The Blue Angels were having their annual beach show, so we went to their rehearsal.  The girls weren't that impressed...it was too loud for them, but they happily stayed and played in the sand while we all oohed and aahed at the jets.  I also got overly excited that my favorite goofy golf course had reopened the week before we got there.  So many happy childhood memories came from that place, so I was thrilled to be able to take the girls there.  They're pretty terrible at golf, but it runs in the family.

 With her cousin and grandmother in the Gulf...she's become quite a little fish.

With her cousin and grandmother in the Gulf...she's become quite a little fish.

 I love the Blues at least...

I love the Blues at least...

 No one is allowed in the water while the show is going on.

No one is allowed in the water while the show is going on.

 Making her point.

Making her point.

 I <3 pelicans!

I <3 pelicans!

 I even had the privilege of meeting up with my running coach from so long ago. &nbsp;This man trained me so well that I broke multiple state records and earned an All American title. &nbsp;He's still incredibly active and is such an inspiration to me!

I even had the privilege of meeting up with my running coach from so long ago.  This man trained me so well that I broke multiple state records and earned an All American title.  He's still incredibly active and is such an inspiration to me!

 21 strokes in, but she finally made it!

21 strokes in, but she finally made it!

 She missed...

She missed...

 Sparkler anxiety...I mean, fun.

Sparkler anxiety...I mean, fun.

 FIRE

FIRE

 They had their faces painted (for free!) downtown prior to the big fireworks show.

They had their faces painted (for free!) downtown prior to the big fireworks show.

 Pat the pony!

Pat the pony!

 They're big fans of NASA and snocones :-)

They're big fans of NASA and snocones :-)

 I love her.

I love her.

 This picture means so much to me. &nbsp;Here are my littlest loves, enjoying my favorite treat (petit fours) from my favorite childhood bakery, on the dock where we used to launch our boat when I was their age.

This picture means so much to me.  Here are my littlest loves, enjoying my favorite treat (petit fours) from my favorite childhood bakery, on the dock where we used to launch our boat when I was their age.

     Our stay was fairly brief and packed, but we got to see lots of family and friends, eat delicious grilled out foods, and enjoy some classic summer fun.  We topped off the vacation with 14.5 hours of driving straight home from Florida to Oklahoma.  Yeah, we're nuts.  Yet it was surprisingly easy.  Next up, down to Houston next month for a week so that my oldest can go to her first space camp!

A Few Shots I've Been Waiting For

     A couple of months ago, I put my first roll through an Olympus XA that my dad had given me earlier this year.  I wasn't too crazy over the results and was uninspired to pick it up again, but I woke up yesterday just itching to shoot AND develop.  I found one last roll of expired Tri-X pan 400 in the fridge and thought "oh, what the heck."  I popped it into the Olympus and decided to burn through the 24 exposures to see if I could come away with anything that would encourage me to pursue shooting more with this little clamshell camera.

     I remembered that I was out of fixer and also knew that I hadn't been completely pleased with how my Ilfotech HC developer was performing with the Tri-X films I had developed thus far, so I ran out to the camera store and picked up some Kodak D-76 developer and fixer powders.  I refused to spend $20 on two empty gallon containers they sold there, so I went home and dumpster dove in our own bin, only to discover that my husband apparently has a secret passion for crushing milk cartons with Hulk-like intensity.  I was therefore forced to finally utilize my heavy glass moonshine jug for something other than collecting dust and memories of the South and I dumped out hummingbird nectar to free up another bottle for my fixer (guess we'll be skipped on this year's migration...).

     Now that all the materials were acquired, I just had to shoot.  The girls had dressed themselves that day and they had actually done pretty well, so there was no need to change them.  I made it my mission to capture some frames that show who they are individually and as sisters.  I can't believe how much they've grown in these short 3-4 years; they're both officially out of the babyish looking stage and are really starting to resemble actual kids/mini-adults (there's a chance this happened earlier and my mommy goggles just refused to let me see it though).  I love these three shots because they embody their personalities so well: my sweet rose with her kind eyes and warmth, and my little bird with her quirks and intensity.  I'm sure these don't look like much to a stranger, but to me, these are images I'll cherish forever because they represent my children in the way that I'll always remember them at this stage in their life.

A Trek Through Quebec

     A month ago, I flew to Quebec to take some time for myself.  I do this about once a year so that I can focus on photography, writing, and generally outlining my future.  I always leave my husband and kids at home and spend every day thinking it's selfish, but I really do come back refreshed and with a better grasp of who I am.  This time was the hardest though; as your kids get older, they actually become far more interesting and fun to be around.  Between my oldest daughter now aspiring to be an astronaut or astrophysicist and my youngest beginning to express an interest, and talent, in constructing complex buildings out of pretty much anything you give her, I genuinely enjoy helping them grow and having actual conversations with them about their thoughts.

     So it was with a somewhat heavy heart, and tired eyes, that I left for Dallas at 5 in the morning and arrived at the airport almost 4 hours later.  My first flight did not go well.  I knew that I would be on a small commuter jet and was aware that those aircrafts are often short on carry-on luggage space, so I was listening the entire time prior to boarding whether they needed some people to check their bags (and was prepared to do so).  No such announcement was made, even though all the flights around us were asking for volunteers.

     As they started boarding, I chose to wait until the end of my zone's line slowly lurched forward before presenting my ticket.  It wasn't a full flight, so I thought everything would be fine.  Nevertheless, by the time I got on and found my seat, there were no more overhead bins available and while my luggage fit under the seat in front of me, my neighbor complained that it encroached upon his foot space by *literally* two inches.  The flight attendant gave me a nasty look and offered no aid or advice, so I had to go to the front of the plane and request that they reopen the hatch to check my bag.  No one was happy, and I learned that it is worth it to stand in line with all of your luggage prior to boarding.

     After landing in Montreal, I went through customs and was interrogated by a border patrol agent.  He was not impressed that I was traveling by myself with no purpose other than to write and take pictures, and he let me know that he thought I was foolish.  I pointed out that my final destination is considered one of the safest cities in the world, but he just glared at me for so long I was starting to get concerned that he may be able to prevent me from going further in my journey.  Finally, with a swish of his hand and a shake of his head, he sent me on my way.  By this point, I was starting to doubt my preconceived notion that Canadians were a friendly lot.

     However, I was then ushered to another counter behind which was a jovial man eager to help me in whatever way he could.  I explained the carry-on-turned-checked-baggage situation and his face fell; he was convinced it was lost.  "I am so very sorry, Amanda Jean, but I don't see a record of your bag on this list."  All I could think was, "well at least I have my camera gear, journal, books, and a jacket."  Thankfully, one of his coworkers came to the rescue and pulled up a different roster...lo and behold, my bag had been transferred as expected!  By this point, I was so ready to get to my apartment and sleep that I hardly remember the last flight.

    Once I was in the unexpectedly small Quebec airport, I grabbed my bags and was funneled into a taxi line to drive me downtown.  It was at this point that I realized English is not particularly prevalent in the Quebec province.  Now, I studied French for 8 years and minored in it.  I pursued translation studies, was the top in my class in classical French pronunciation, and even passed the hardest class of my college years: Analyzing Medieval Tales in Middle French (it's essentially like trying to read Shakespeare in Olde English, but in your second language), in which no English was permitted throughout the semester.  But that "Quebecois" dialect is a whole other beast...the driver turned to me and spoke, and I caught not a word of it.

     Thankfully, my reading comprehension is intact and I inadvertently managed to fool a number of shopkeepers into believing that I was Parisienne.  It's always shocking to foreigners that an American can speak another language without sounding like a hick.  On my second full day there though, it took me awhile to figure out why the locals would immediately respond to me in English even when I had addressed them in French.  I finally caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and realized that I was wearing my NASA shirt.  Whoops.  The next day went back to normal and I could self-consciously converse in halting classical French again.

     The sun would rise very early there, and my biology has always woken me up with those first rays, regardless of where I am in the world.  So that first day, I was up before 5 AM and in desperate need of coffee.  I stumbled down to a Starbucks on the corner (very millennial American, I know...) to get my bearings and plan out my stay.  My loft did not have WIFI, so this became a morning ritual, although I switched up the coffee shops.  The first day was a bit drizzly and quite chilly, so I hung around the area where I was staying, St. Roch.  It was moreso a business district, but they still had some gems of architecture and delicious food.

     My place was also conveniently located right next door to the province's largest toy store, Benjo.  During one of the heavier drizzles of that first day, I ducked in to peruse the store.  It was filled with every childhood delight imaginable: building toys, candy, clothes, science kits, dolls, books, etc.  I spent close to an hour looking around trying to pick something out for the girls.  When the rain finally  let up and I was ready to head back out, I went to the back exit and promptly walked right into one of my most embarrassing moments in years...

     You see, I was walking towards an entrance/exit I hadn't used before, so I thought nothing of a ramp with guardrails that I found myself descending.  I remembered that our local Toys R Us store employed the same method, so I tried to inconspicuously duck out.  However, I noticed with growing concern that the door in front of me was far smaller than it had looked at the top of the ramp.  I knew by this point that this door was not intended for full-grown adults, but pride and mortification prevented me from backtracking to the snickers I could hear behind me.  So, I crawled out of the double, pint-sized doors, on all fours.  I thought the shame was over, but unfortunately for me, this lovely Benjo store has a frog as a mascot with a giant statue of him sitting out front of these doors, facing the street.  He happily croaked the news of my departure to a very busy sidewalk crowd, who then all turned to stare at this bumbling tourist still in cow position on the pavement.  Oh, and yes, there were two full-size doors, intended for adults, on either side of the children's entrance.

     The next morning found me in Vieux Quebec, and the architecture was just stunning.  I've always been enamored with Europe, so this city was the perfect choice for me to bathe in its influence while avoiding jet lag (and much greater expense).  I was not prepared for just how many stairs are in the city.  I know that sounds silly, but I truly was caught off guard.  I even took a number of wrong turns which led to innumerable unnecessary steps to climb.  Luckily I'm in decent shape, but I was averaging 8-10 miles per day with about half of that being uphill.  I was wiped out by the end of each day.  It was worth it though; I just took some breaks and strolled along.

     The pictures will hopefully do justice to the beauty of the town.  It was so fun to explore those hidden secrets that are found in all cities.  From tiny kittens peaking out of windows to old steeples jutting up into the sky, Quebec was gorgeous.  I was pleased to find that the locals are indeed quite friendly, and I tasted my first true macaron...I can sadly never go back to the ones found in the States.  I also sampled the famous local cuisine called "poutine" and I cannot recommend it.  It consisted of french fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds.  It was disgusting to me and I couldn't finish it, but I know that many people love it.

     So without further yammering, here's a sample of images that I love.  You can see that it was spring while I was there and I must've caught the blooms perfectly.  Everywhere I looked were these magnificent explosions of pinks and purples.  I took a total of only 138 frames, and 100 of them were "keepers."  By comparison, I took over 1,000 in Iceland with my digital camera and came away with about 100 good images; film just makes you slow down and nail a scene the first time.  These were all shot on Portra 400 with my Leica M6 or Fuji 400H with my Mamiya 645.  

A Day In The Life

     Last weekend, I decided to keep my camera on me and document our day.  I wanted to play with some expired Tri-X 400 from the 70s, so wasn't expecting much from the results.  It didn't help that while developing the film in the darkroom/bathroom, I realized that I could see far too well even though I had blocked the bottom of the door.  Turns out, the laundry room light had been left on and was coming through the connecting vent.  Thus, the film was exposed as can be seen in the images, and I lost about half of the roll.  I also didn't use my usual development method since I was in a hurry; I typically use a 1:31 solution and double the development time, but since I was pressed for time I had to do 1:15 and 5 minutes in accordance with the massive deviation chart for my film, and I did not like the amount of grain that resulted.  Oh well, next time.

    It was a Sunday when I decided to lug my camera around all day (it's actually tiny, so it's not a burden at all).  I made my favorite breakfast, Monkey Bread, and we ate out on our new deck before heading out to church.  While we are atheists, I insist that we be members of a Unitarian Universalist congregation so that the girls can get a religious education.  It is my firm belief that one can only truly accept and love another person of a different background if you understand them.  After church, we went to brunch where the girls behaved very poorly and therefore lost out on eating at the cupcake store next door, much to their chagrin.  We then visited their school garden, came home to play in the backyard and take pictures of each other, and then sacked out. It was a fairly typical weekend for us, full of relaxation and family time.

Air Show Fun

     We found ourselves, sans hearing protection, at an air show this past weekend.  I popped in some new-to-me Lomo F2 in my Leica and expired TMAX 400 in my Mamiya.  As usual, I had a number of people come up to me to admire/inquire about my gear...I do look like a youngish person toting around relics, I suppose.  I happily explained that film most certainly is not dead and that yes, there are in fact a number of local places that you can still turn in a roll of good old Kodak.  I developed and scanned the TMAX over the weekend (and discovered a light leak in the process), and then picked up the Lomo today from my local lab.  I was generally happy with the results overall.

     I absolutely love the way the blues were rendered on the Lomo film.  It had a slightly magenta cast in most lighting situations, but I do prefer magenta over green.  The sun was brutal and directly overhead so that did no favors for the images, but I still like the vast majority of the images I captured.  I have one more roll of Lomo and I think I'll save it either for golden hour, overcast conditions, or some indoor shots.

     I completely forgot to post a link to a featured artist interview I had last year with the founder of The Film Shooters Collective.  It addresses how I got into photography initially, my journey back to film, and what I look for when I'm out shooting.   So without further ado, here it is:

https://www.filmshooterscollective.com/analog-film-photography-blog/featured-photographer-march-mandy-thomascarey?rq=Mandy

A Study in Light, Form, and Films

     I've been on a roll (...get it?) recently with experimentation.  Sometimes I get bored with my regular work, and so I force myself into something new: new film, new camera, new lens, new subject, etc.  Last weekend, I loaded up an Olympus XA, a gift from my dad, for the first time.  As if shooting with a new camera wasn't a challenge enough, I also decided to use some Retrochrome (government surplus of Ektachrome that was discontinued years ago) that was graciously given to me by a fellow film enthusiast.  

     The intriguing thing about this film is that it can be C-41 or E-6 processed.  Supposedly the results are best with E-6, but that would've required a lot of waiting and I was feeling impatient, so I dropped it off with my local lab for C-41 instead.  The results were interesting and I feel confident in saying that I should put a roll of Portra 400 through the Olympus next, and a roll of Retrochrome through my Leica instead; combine new-with-familiar systems rather than new-with-new systems.  I put the film through every kind of lighting I could find and found that it performed best in open shade.  I also discovered that the Olympus viewfinder is pointless and I should just study the rangefinder to determine focus.  Here are a few from this combination.

 Most images came out extremely green/yellow. &nbsp;Here's some dappled lighting/end of the roll :-)

Most images came out extremely green/yellow.  Here's some dappled lighting/end of the roll :-)

 Indoor, artificial lighting.

Indoor, artificial lighting.

 Indoor natural, directional light.

Indoor natural, directional light.

 Full, almost direct sun.

Full, almost direct sun.

 Open shade.

Open shade.

 More open shade.

More open shade.

 Backlighting :-p

Backlighting :-p

 Side lighting.

Side lighting.

     So that was take 1 of really investigating obscure film.  I've got 15 more rolls of off-name emulsions to shoot through, so definitely more fun on the way.  Surprisingly, this wasn't enough to scratch my creative itch and I was excited to find an expired roll of T-Max 400 in the fridge that came from my dad years ago.  I've really only shot with HP5 for B&W work, so I was curious how this would perform.  

     I've long wanted to get into fine art nudes but could never find any willing friends, for some strange reason...so I took matters into my own hands.  Now, when someone thinks of film photography, they tend to think of light and airy outdoor shots, oozing with glowing happiness and lush reds, peaches, and greens.  I, however, consider myself the melancholic philosopher type (albeit with a healthy dose of optimism!) that is more drawn to dark and moody images, even better if they're shot indoors.  The trick?  It's HARD to pull this look off on film, but I was determined to try.

     Even though the film was long expired, I still rated it at its box speed, 400.  I figured since it's medium format, I'd be able to deal with any grain that may result regardless, so I chose not to overexpose in camera (I was right...I'm still shocked at how little grain was present).  I then set up my Mamiya on top of my scanner since my tripod couldn't get low enough of an angle.  Half of our bedroom walls are painted black, so that was the perfect backdrop, and then I opened up the curtains only about 10 inches to let in a small stream of overcast light.  I meticulously metered off of my leg to get my settings just right, 1/30 and f4, and was finally ready to shoot.  Here is a handful of results:

     I had to set up a mirror behind the camera to study the light and shadows on myself before setting the self-timer, but I was unable to see that the top of my hair would be cut off in the frames.  Oh well, still pleased with the results and honestly absolutely shocked at the detail T-Max provides.  The fogging in some of the shots was due to a processing error on my part, but it doesn't kill the images for me.  I screwed up the amount of fixer I needed since I've only developed 35mm film up until this point (120 film on the reel in the tank is wider, so the chemicals didn't reach all of the emulsion unfortunately).  I'll do better next time, and hopefully track down some fresher T-Max!

     

Read the Instructions...

     A few days ago, I processed my third roll of film at home and gave myself a second attempt at scanning it as well.  I'm getting more proficient with the developing part and I actually look forward to it.  There's something immensely satisfying about donning gloves, mixing chemicals, taking temperature readings, and then operating in total darkness to produce images that will be seen by you before anyone else on the planet.  It's like holding a secret in your hand.  

     I typically dread scanning (and I still do), but I decided some research was in order before I threw in the towel, swearing under my breath.  As it turns out, reading some instructions and helpful tips totally changed my approach and attitude!  Who would've thought?  Here are some of my favorite images from this roll of HP5:

 We're big supporters of science in this family, so here's my daughter patiently waiting to have an atom painted on her face.

We're big supporters of science in this family, so here's my daughter patiently waiting to have an atom painted on her face.

 Approximately 5,000 showed up to support science at our local march in Oklahoma City. &nbsp;It was all but ignored by the local media, naturally.

Approximately 5,000 showed up to support science at our local march in Oklahoma City.  It was all but ignored by the local media, naturally.

 Oklahoma has such beautiful land, but so much of it is inaccessible. &nbsp;This shot sums up my feelings of being so close, yet so far from being one with nature. &nbsp;Can you tell I'm a quasi-hippie?

Oklahoma has such beautiful land, but so much of it is inaccessible.  This shot sums up my feelings of being so close, yet so far from being one with nature.  Can you tell I'm a quasi-hippie?

 I've driven Route 66 and its offshoots dozens of times in order to get my girls to sleep. &nbsp;They gave up naps at home when they were 18 months old and the only way to get them some shut eye is on the road.

I've driven Route 66 and its offshoots dozens of times in order to get my girls to sleep.  They gave up naps at home when they were 18 months old and the only way to get them some shut eye is on the road.

 My mom visited for a couple of weeks and we went to our wonderful zoo on one of those days. &nbsp;My youngest is OBSESSED with carousels.

My mom visited for a couple of weeks and we went to our wonderful zoo on one of those days.  My youngest is OBSESSED with carousels.

 My eldest happily tags along with her for the ride.

My eldest happily tags along with her for the ride.

 For Cinco de Mayo, I dragged my husband downtown for some free salsa dancing lessons. &nbsp;It seems I wasn't the only wife with this idea...there were many, many men just thrilled to find themselves there on a Friday night. &nbsp;Here's my husband in mid sentence telling me I better not be taking a picture :-p

For Cinco de Mayo, I dragged my husband downtown for some free salsa dancing lessons.  It seems I wasn't the only wife with this idea...there were many, many men just thrilled to find themselves there on a Friday night.  Here's my husband in mid sentence telling me I better not be taking a picture :-p

 To add insult to injury, I then begged him to play pool with me. &nbsp;It's one of my favorite past times that I just don't get to do enough of now that we have kids. &nbsp;See all those white specks and lines? That would be dust and fibers that I forgot to take out when scanning.

To add insult to injury, I then begged him to play pool with me.  It's one of my favorite past times that I just don't get to do enough of now that we have kids.  See all those white specks and lines? That would be dust and fibers that I forgot to take out when scanning.

     I also managed to put another roll of film through my Mamiya, and it did not go well.  I literally burned through the grain due to massive overexposure.  I'm perplexed as to how it got SO blown out because I synced the settings to my Leica's in-camera meter and the Leica's exposures were spot on.  The lab guy suggested a possible shutter lag...hope that's not the case because I'll be going to Quebec at the end of the month and I want to bring the medium format system with me.  Here's a combination of images from Clickin' Walk 2017 shot on my Mamiya, Leica, and Polaroid SX-70...

 See all those weird amoeba looking things? &nbsp;Yeah, that's where I burned through the silver halides in the film emulsion...whoops.

See all those weird amoeba looking things?  Yeah, that's where I burned through the silver halides in the film emulsion...whoops.

 Polaroid goodness. &nbsp;Figures that the shot I had the least control over is the one I like the most.

Polaroid goodness.  Figures that the shot I had the least control over is the one I like the most.

     I realized during this walk that I have definitively become an analog photographer at heart because I simply took very few shots.  Film gives you the ability to look at a scene and decide whether or not you truly care to press the shutter.  As a result, I had to run through the rest of the film when I got home/the next morning.  I decided to capture some quotidian of course.

 We're in the process of building a deck out back, so we've had 2x4s stacked out front for the past week that the girls love to play on.

We're in the process of building a deck out back, so we've had 2x4s stacked out front for the past week that the girls love to play on.

 Ready to move on from Oklahoma, but this will always be their first home.

Ready to move on from Oklahoma, but this will always be their first home.

 Oldest: "I have a stinkbug friend."  Youngest: "I have to go potty!!!"

Oldest: "I have a stinkbug friend."

Youngest: "I have to go potty!!!"

     I've accomplished pretty much both goals for May within a week, so I guess now I definitely have to put another roll through the Mamiya and hope there are no functionality issues there.  I'm also on a mission to find someone I know who has been to Quebec City and can recommend places to go.  It's my annual "Mommy Vacation" and I desperately need a European/French fix, so Canada it was!  Can't wait :-)

Learning Curves

     I've slowed down shooting a bit since returning from Costa Rica, but have shot a couple of rolls on my new Mamiya 645 1000s.  My first roll was almost a total loss...I didn't realize that the waist level finder had a magnifier, so most of my shots came out blurry.  After a bit of research and consultation though, I found the magnifier and my "keeper rate" raised dramatically (well, as much as it can for a roll with only 15 frames available).  Here's a sampling from those test rolls:

     I did give the girls a disposable camera, so that was fun to see what they came up with!  Here are some of those images...

     And I also received a Polaroid SX-70 that is both a treat and a trick to use.  This camera only comes out for very selective shots.

     My goals for the month of May are to self-develop the roll of HP5 that's currently in my Leica and put 2 more rolls of medium format through my Mamiya system.  Wish me luck, especially with the development process!

Costa Rica Adventures

     About a month ago, my family and I went on a wonderful vacation to Costa Rica.  We actually ended up driving three days from Oklahoma to Orlando, FL.  Why would we do such a crazy thing, you ask?  Well, my oldest daughter wants to be an astronaut when she grows up, but a few months ago she was convinced she'd have to be a boy in order to fulfill her dreams.  This obviously shook me up, so I researched astronaut meet and greets and lo and behold, the Kennedy Space Center would be hosting Wendy Lawrence for the week prior to our planned vacation.  It was settled, so I booked our tickets out of Orlando.  Here are some shots from our day there.  Beware, Orlando has this uncanny ability to steal all of your money and sanity...

 Here she is meeting "a real girl astronaut!" &nbsp;Poor thing was so excited she could hardly speak...

Here she is meeting "a real girl astronaut!"  Poor thing was so excited she could hardly speak...

    We then realized we had made a very unfortunate decision months prior to our departure in that we thought a 6 AM takeoff was a wonderful idea.  That means we had to wake the girls up at 2:45 in the morning to make it to the airport in time.  Mind you, this was only a couple of days after the time change and we had crossed time zones as well, so we just kind of bumbled around through airports and airplanes in a sleep deprived stupor and somehow found ourselves in San Jose less than 12 hours later.

     San Jose roads and traffic quickly tested every last mental faculty in our possession combined and we managed to drive around in grid-like circles for three hours, alternating between tears and screaming.  It would've helped if the capital city felt like naming their roads, but apparently that doesn't go along with the "pura vida" mindset.  Finally, we passed a tourist bus and I said, "you know, I bet they have Wi-Fi on that bus.  Maybe we can get our GPS to work finally."  Bingo!  We were finally in business and made it to our first AirBnB stay only 5 hours late.

 That's a guy walking his goats on a leash across a busy interstate in San Jose.

That's a guy walking his goats on a leash across a busy interstate in San Jose.

     Our first and last nights in Costa Rica were spent at "el Barco" in Esterillos on the Pacific coast, just a few minutes south of bustling, tourist-ridden Jaco.  I've stayed in Esterillos twice before on previous visits to Costa Rica and it still remains one of my favorite places in the country.  It's just a tiny town on the coast with beautiful black sand beaches, tidal pools, and a delicious restaurant.  It was so fun to see the girls play in the same sand and water that I used to run across and surf in.

     After our first Esterillos stay, we continued down the coast to the Osa Peninsula.  As I mentioned before, I've visited Costa Rica a number of times before this trip and always frequented the Jaco and Tamarindo areas.  This was before Costa Rica became a big tourist destination, so the cities weren't built up and I hold fond memories of their raw beauty in my heart.  I couldn't stand the thought of returning to these towns and seeing them overrun by gawking tourists and innumerable "tourist trap tees" stores.  So I took my family down south.  Way down.  Down to where the country is still wild and relatively untouched.  I'm glad I did.

     Our first stop was Finca Kobo, a chocolate farm close to the Golfo Dulce coast.  I can't say enough about how sweet all of the staff, and chocolate, were at this farm!  They treated our children as if they were some of their own, greeted us with freshly picked star fruit upon our arrival, and had some amazing grounds to explore.  We saw tons of pineapple, scarlet macaws, and what most certainly must've been a tree of death (see picture below).  Our beds were in a bunk-style house that was screened in, so you could hear the sounds of the jungle at all times.

     We stayed only one night at Finca Kobo and after checking out the next morning, we ventured all the way around the southern tip of the peninsula and up to the edge of Corcovado National Park, dubbed as the most biologically intense place on the planet.  We stopped in Puerto Jimenez to pick up some lunch stuff before journeying deep into the rainforest, but did not pick up enough to last us long.  There are no restaurants where we went (with the exception of one that only serves at very specific times of the day and primarily to their own cabina guests).  Alas, hunger and thirst forced us to leave a bit earlier than we would have liked.  Don't be like us.  Buy enough food and water.

 I never saw anyone with this horse and his cart full of palm nuts...

I never saw anyone with this horse and his cart full of palm nuts...

 Sea turtles had recently hatched on Carate Beach.

Sea turtles had recently hatched on Carate Beach.

 We had to ford a number of rivers. &nbsp;My husband underestimated one and let's just say we ended up with some water in the car. &nbsp;Don't tell the rental agency ;-)

We had to ford a number of rivers.  My husband underestimated one and let's just say we ended up with some water in the car.  Don't tell the rental agency ;-)

 Yet another self-disciplined horse.

Yet another self-disciplined horse.

 This restaurant must make a killing considering it's the only one around.

This restaurant must make a killing considering it's the only one around.

 It came complete with friendly local dog.

It came complete with friendly local dog.

     After this day of adventure and starvation, we went to our next stop nestled in the crook of the peninsula.  This was to be our most authentic Costa Rican stay of our vacation.  We arrived at our brightly colored cabin, Finca de Nada, for a two night stay.  The grounds were just beautiful, tucked away on the edge of the gulf with a beautiful view.  We had plenty of coconuts at our disposal, and little did we know at the time that this would be our main source of food over the next 18 hours, along with half cooked black beans.  

     You see, when we arrived at our cabin, there was a mix-up with the booking so the place was locked.  After some broken Spanglish with the neighbors, we got someone over who was able to let us in.  Let's just say that I was a bit shocked by the place.  It was moreso a shack, complete with open rafters and cracks between each and every board and a tin roof.  Within minutes of checking in, a torrential downpour started and continued until almost midnight.  The girls were delighted and ran out to play in the rain, while my husband and I huddled together and tried to figure out what we would eat.

     After taking stock of all food options, we came up with a crushed granola bar, a sole coconut, half a bag of dried black beans, and a half cup of mosh (Costa Rican oatmeal).  We decided to save the mosh and coconut for a meager breakfast and then promptly threw the beans into water and placed it hopefully over the tiny flame of the tin stove.  We each got a quarter of the granola bar crumbs.  After three hours of boiling, the beans were still crunchy.  The storm had let up some and it was 8:30, and we remembered passing a single restaurant about a half mile up the road that served dinner supposedly.  We gathered up all the spare change we had (that amounted to only $12 because we hadn't found a bank yet...) and I sent my husband out into the dark, cold rain to search for food.  Our plans were that if he wasn't back in half an hour, I was to carry on without him.  Thankfully, he returned in 20 minutes but unfortunately, he was empty handed.  The restaurant had closed early due to the rain.  We all went to bed hungry that night.  Oh, and we were accompanied by bats that came in through the open rafters.

 At least we had mosquito nets to keep the bats out.

At least we had mosquito nets to keep the bats out.

 A serving of mosh served up in a coconut.

A serving of mosh served up in a coconut.

     Honestly, those two nights were the most memorable of the trip and I'm sure we'll laugh about them for years to come!  We had to move on eventually though and so found ourselves driving up an extremely steep and bumpy road into the dense rainforest of the southern half of the country.  I thought the girls would get a kick out of staying in a tree house for three nights, and they certainly seemed to have a wonderful time.  I selected one of the tree houses that was situated on a river, so the girls spent most of their days splashing in the refreshing water under the jungle canopy.  It was a relaxing three days filled with delicious food, fun explorations, and relaxing to the sounds of the rainforest.  My husband and oldest daughter even got to go zip lining, see a Fer de Lance snake, and red poison dart frogs!

 We all had to wear these giant boots because of snakes...

We all had to wear these giant boots because of snakes...

So there you have it!  We had quite a wonderful time and within 3 days of being home, my girls were asking to go on another road trip.  It seems that I have successfully imparted my wanderlust upon them...

Baby Chase and Co.

     One of my friends had a brand spankin' new baby boy at the beginning of this year, so I was VERY happy to get my squishy, adorable newborn fix recently!  There's nothing quite like holding a new life, especially when they're so peaceful and calm, oblivious to the chaos of the world surrounding them.  While I was super excited to shoot this session, I was also very nervous because I had sold my 24mm 1.4 Nikon lens along with my Nikon D750 a few months ago.  All I had to work with was my Leica M6 with a 35mm f2 to work with for the indoor shots, but I was pleasantly surprised when I got the scans back.  Here are a few of my favorite images from the time spent with my friend and her loves :-)

 

To The Sea

     The girls and I have been fortunate enough to spend the past four weeks staying in a townhouse on Pensacola beach, enjoying the sun, sand, and surf.  My husband has been attending a training school up in Alabama and spends the weekends down here with us to soak in life.  We've had wonderful weather almost the entire time we've been here and have created so many fun and lasting memories.  We got my oldest daughter her first big girl bike and she rides it around the beach roads every day.  My youngest daughter has discovered a passion for feathers and will spend upwards of an hour creating feathery forts in the sand.  I've enjoyed walking on the shore at sunrise, either drinking in the first rays of of the day or letting my thoughts drift into the shrouds of fog over the waves.  We'll be returning to Oklahoma this weekend, but the ocean never leaves my blood.

Winter Thus Far

Here are a few snapshots of our month of December from a couple rolls of film I got back last week.  The girls especially loved ice skating, drinking hot cocoa, and riding around in their Jeep.  Oh, and we FINALLY got some snow!! We've been staying in Florida for the past 2 weeks and have another 2 weeks to look forward to before returning to Oklahoma.  Call me weird, but I actually enjoy the cold and hope that some winter will be left for us to enjoy after going home!

16 Film Favorites of 2016

     I've culled through my film images from this past year to dig up my 16 favorites.  I'm so happy with where I am now in my film (and photography) journey and cannot wait to see what 2017 has in store for me!  We've got a trip to Costa Rica booked, a *potential* wedding in Australia over the summer, and I'm toying with the idea of taking a workshop in wet plate collodion photography in upstate New York and teaching at a conference for the first time.  I'm also hoping to delve into boudoir on film and book a few in-home family and engagement sessions.  If only half of those things happen, it'll be a good year :-)

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