Tag Archives: Diana

Spooky Fort Delaware

Fort Delaware, located on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, is a notoriously haunted area so when it was announced that my daughter’s fifth grade class was going there on a field trip (in the daytime, of course), I was the first one to sign up to chaperone.

This fortress, built in the early 1800’s, was designed by French military engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who was also responsible for much of the design of Washington D.C., the US capital city. Because it is situated in the northern part of the Delaware River it was an ideal spot for defending Philadelphia, PA.During the American Civil War, Fort Delaware was used to house Confederate prisoners of war and convicts. Most of the prisoners that were captured at the Battle of Gettysburg were imprisoned here. By the end of the war there were 33,000 prisoners held at the fort, 2,400 of who died during their stay.

Confederate re-enactor and his weapon

 Today Pea Patch Island and the fort are part of the Delaware State Parks system. The only way to get there is by taking a short ferry ride to a wooden pier. From there, a jitney takes you to the fort proper.

No prisoners were actually housed inside the walls of the fort (they were held in barracks located elsewhere on the island). You can find living quarters and offices, a kitchen and a mess hall. A large part of the fort is dedicated to the storage of munitions.

 Officer’s Bedroom

Re-enacting school life at the fort

Officer’s Kitchen

Of the many structures that were built to support life on the fort (at one point there were prison barracks, a hospital, school and even a couple of hotels to accommodate visiting family members) very few survive. The star-shaped fort, built first of wood and then of brick and stone, is surrounded by a moat. You won’t find any crocodiles here, instead the moat served as a sewage system as human waste was dumped into it. The bathroom in the fort has simple wooden holes on a bench that go directly to the moat, as in, there’s nothing between your butt and the water but air.

How would you like to get up in the middle of a cold winter’s night and have to sit on this?

Now, to the fun stuff! There are many ghost stories associated with Fort Delaware; in fact the popular US show “Ghost Hunters” filmed an investigation there a few years back. Local ghost hunters conduct paranormal investigations that are open to the public each fall and they’re often sold out long before the weather changes.

In preparation for their field trip the kids were told some of the ghost stories and were excited at the prospect of finding unusual things, as were most of the parents, who had either seen the “Ghost Hunters” show or heard the stories themselves.

One of the most haunted areas is the kitchen, where there is purportedly a very cold area by the kitchen stove, which is said to be the spirit of a slave woman who served as a cook. The staff who work at the fort tell stories of kitchen utensils and other tools in the area being moved around. During our trip the area was roped off but I got a long-exposure picture that doesn’t show much.

Haunted Kitchen

The mess hall is also said to be haunted and in it hangs an officer’s portrait, which the kids told me turned into a skull if you stared at it long enough. This was one of the first things that most of the children wanted to see. Given the high contrast of the blacks and whites and the shape of the man’s face, I can see why your eyes may play tricks on you and make it seem as though you’re seeing a skull, but we didn’t see anything unusual.

Mess Hall

The Infamous Skull Portrait

It is rumored that through out the parade grounds confederate spirits roam, still trying to escape from the fort. One of the most popular stories is of the attempted escape of a 9 year-old Confederate drummer boy. Legend has it he tried to fake his own death in order to be transported back across the river in a coffin. Waiting for him on the other side of the river were either sympathetic Union troops or fellow inmates, who were supposed to free him from the coffin. Unfortunately, a shift change swapped personnel and instead of being freed, the boy was buried alive (www.thecabinet.com). This story doesn’t appear to be rooted in historical facts, but it was one of the stories we were told by our tour guide.

Confederate Brigadier General James Archer’s spirit, a bearded man dressed in a gray uniform, is seen moving around the powder magazine and dungeon area. He was taken prisoner and arrived at Ft. Delaware very sick. He was thrown in the dungeon area as punishment for organizing a prisoner uprising (www.thecabinet.com). Archer died a few months later from the effects of his illness and imprisonment, after being freed in a prisoner exchange.

Confederate re-enactor teaching the kids to march

Some of the great stone staircases are said to have spirits that touch your arms and back and make noises, including footsteps and yelling. The Delaware Area Paranormal society, a local ghost-hunting group, took a picture of a sinister black shadow on the staircase (check it out at http://dapsdelaware.webs.com/fortdelaware.htm). A second picture, taken a second later, showed nothing (and for the record, they use digital cameras).

On top of the wall surrounding the fort

We only had a short period of time to explore on our own so we didn’t get to roam all over the fort (plus we had a couple of scardey-cats in our group) but I got some nice pictures with my Diana, including some of the re-enactors, who were very informative.

Information taken from:






Lo-fi Thinkers Unite

Katie King is a very busy woman. Not only does she run a successful photography business called A Sense of Place with her husband, she’s also a very active member in the Female Photographers of Etsy (fOE) community AND decided to start-up a magazine this year. And all this activity takes place on a little tropical island in the middle of the ocean.

I met Katie through the very active and creative fPOE group. Her idea for a magazine featuring works from the fPOE ladies was tossed out in December 2010 and by April 2011, the first issue of Method Press hit the stands (so to speak) and was offered for sale on magcloud.com. The theme of that issue was “A Blank Stare” and it featured a collection of photos related to the theme as well as interviews with some unconventional artists, poetry and essays. Instead of just a photography magazine, Katie and her fabulous team have put together a very well-rounded lo-fi centered publication.

The ladies are hard at work on issue two, but Katie was generous enough with her time to answer a few questions for me:

For those unfamiliar with Method Press, explain a little about the magazine

Method Press is an art filled idea-magazine celebrating low-fi thinkers. It was made by me and some very rad fPOE ladies last spring.

Just got my first issue of Method Press in the mail and I must say bravo! Very well done from the layout to the artwork to the choice of paper. My impression is that it’s not only a visual arts magazine but also a literary one. Was that the original intent?
Grazie! Yes it was. I wanted it to be a literary journal / idea book hybrid, but more accessible than an academic publication. I had such a great pool of talent to pull from with the fPOE individuals willing to help that it seemed both obvious & resourceful to include a visual arts emphasis.
You’re a very busy woman, no doubt and creating a magazine is a time-consuming and ambitious endeavor. What inspired you to create a magazine in this day and age when book and periodical sales are slumping?
 I don’t know-I’m insane. I just get these ideas and run with them. In 2009 it was to self publish a poetry book, in 2010 it was to create a one woman show. This year it was to start a magazine. 
I LOVE that I can get a physical copy of the magazine in my hands. There’s nothing like flipping through the pages, smelling the paper and (as your first magazine suggests) creating new things from its pages. Was it always the intent to offer it for print? It seems to go along with the lo-fi way of thinking.
Yes that was the original intent. I’ve always liked feeling things in print. Its easier on the eye. I also enjoy making notes-circling underlining, making shapes as I read along. It makes me feel more connected to the material.  

How do you see Method Press riding the current wave of nostalgia for things analogue into the future, when retro may not be so cool?

I’m not too into nostalgia, myself. It gets sticky. I’m not sure how MP will do in the future or how it will be received because we’re just getting started, but we’re into talking about what kind of art is being made right now.  What I mean to say is that Method Press isn’t aiming to ride any waves at the moment that I’m conscious of. We just want to creatively present the methods of how people work, what makes them tick, and what helps them do what they do.

Now, let’s learn about you. How did you get started in photography?

I’ve tried answering this question 4 times so far and nothing feels right. The most decent answer I can give you is “I don’t remember.” Somewhere a long the line my sister told me I had a talent.
I was a little put off, actually. I had been studying theater & music my whole life but people just kept talking about what good photos I took when I hadn’t studied a single thing about it.

Since Method Press is about lo-fidelity thinking, I’m curious, do you like to use lo-fi/analogue cameras? If so, which ones? If not, what’s in your camera bag?

 Not as much as I used to. I have a Minolta SR-T303, a Polaroid Land Camera, several other Polaroids & a Diana but I use my Canon Rebel T1i most often (thanks, Kickstarter backers!)

Could you share with us a few of your favorite photos and give us a little info about each one?

Usually I love other people’s photos more than mine but, since you asked… 

These photographs were both taken as a part of a film swap in 2010. There is something about that first one that just gets me. Who knew sheep could embody such purpose. The second one has a theatrically powerful quality. Most people think it’s a horse; it’s a donkey. 

This one just cracks me up. It was all his idea.

Now for some delightfully unconventional questions….

1.     What do you use as a camera bag and what do you absolutely have to have inside it (besides film and a camera)?

I’m lucky if I can find the camera on time. I’ve never really had a fully functioning camera bag.

2.     You’ve suddenly been declared King of the World…what are the first three things you would do?

Call my mom, tweet about it, then call my psychologist 

3.     Not only are you King of the World but you’ve suddenly acquired a time machine. Where would you go and what would you do?

I’d charge admission but not use it for myself. I think now is important. 

4.     The ubiquitous desert island question with a twist…what kind of an island would you like to be deserted on and which five things must you have with you?

A cold one. A windy island with snow-capped peaks.

1. excedrin migraine
2. a ballpoint pen
3. a blank notebook
4. a really comfy blanket. Maybe electric.
5. twix 

5.     Look around and give us the title of the book that’s closest to your hands

How to trust God even when life hurts. 

6.     Name four people, living or dead, that you’d like to hang by the grill, BBQ and drink beer with

Gosh. Someone that could cook really well because I sure can’t cook but I love to eat. I love kabobs. Maybe a famous kabob chef. But then I would feel so awkward. Just me and this random chef, you know? Add Casey Abrams. Yeah. Plus Meatwad. And….Jesus. Totally.

Now for some ‘this or that’ questions…

Color or black and white


1940’s or 1970’s


Cash or Credit


Beatles or Elvis

Yikes…that’s really tough. Elvis. 

Broccoli or Brussel Sprouts


Markers or Pencils


Dogs or Cats


Beer or Liquor

Liquor. Although I’m not much of a drinker. 

Goodbye or See Ya Later

See ya later 
“A Funny Story” is the theme for the magazine’s next issue and the crew is still accepting submissions so all you lo-fi writers, photographers and artists, pop on over to the Method Press blog and get all the details.
Here’s a list of links where you can find information on the magazine…..
Blog: http://meetmethodpress.blogspot.com/
FB: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Method-Press/164023166984403
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/groups/methodpress/

Slide Film Wars

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about or reviewed new film but while scanning my latest vacation pictures, I made an interesting observation worth blogging about.

I love slide film because of it’s saturated colors and cross-processing ability. The only type I’m really partial to is Fuji Velvia because it’s so much fun to cross process and see the world through rose-colored glasses

For negative color film Fuji is by far my preferred film as well. I love Porta and the rich, but not too saturated, natural tones is gives. Plus, there’s a nice greenish/bluish tone to it that I prefer over Kodak’s orangish/reddish cast.

Here are some good Portra examples

I’ve realized, however, that I now have a NEW preferred slide film and that is Agfa CT Presica. While scanning my shots the difference between Fuji and Agfa was very clear. The blues were bluer, reds were truer and the overall color a much more accurate representation of what I actually saw with my eyes.

This is Fuji

This is Agfa

You can really see the difference. Now, was my Fuji film expired? Possibly. I don’t even keep track of that stuff. But the camera was the same and the lighting was comparable. Here’s another example

Fuji Film


Those last two are among my favorite images from the trip and, again, were taken with the same camera (Vivitar UWS). The lighting was more harsh in the palm tree shot since I was looking up but I think the difference is still pretty clear.

The great debate over which film is best will certainly continue. I’m going to get some Agfa and Fuji (unexpired) and put them through some tests in the coming month. Hopefully the results will yield a clear winner…we’ll see!

Duke Ellington is a Kiev 88

Have you ever wondered what camera your favorite musician might use? OK, maybe I’m the only one. Since I love jazz I was thinking the other day about what kind of lo-fi camera some famous jazz musicians might use or which camera best captures the spirit of that person. Here we go…

Duke Ellington: Elegant, classic, sharp as a tack, refined, beautiful harmonies, smooth…..all the things I think of when I use my Kiev 88

Thelonius Monk: Crazy genius, marches to the beat of his own drummer, eccentric, always in motion. Kind of like my Spinner 360

Ethel Ennis: Smooth, elegant, vocalist with velvety voice, dreamy, soft. Born in one of my favorite cities, Baltimore, MD. I think she’s a Diana.

Dizzy Gillespie: energetic, Be-Bop trumpeter with crazy technique and great cheeks. I’ll give him an Action Sampler and see what he does with it.

Miles Davis: Can NOT forget one of the best musicians ever. His trumpet style ranges from frenetic be-bop to smooth, low, dreamy jazz. A true innovator always pushing the boundaries, always re-inventing himself, just like the Holga.

Tito Puente: Latin jazz master who plays some of my favorite percussion instruments (I played the marimba in high school….it rocks). Always on the beat but always trying new, crazy different things while staying within the confines of the tremendous genre known as Latin Jazz. I think a Lubitel is in order.

Joshua Redman: One of my favorite modern jazz artists, I went to see him when he first started touring. His style is unmistakable but not too crazy. Clean but innovative. His sound and his interpretations are unique and noticeable (to me, anyways) from afar. Polaroid SX-70, anyone?

These are just a few of my favorites….add to the list now, why don’t ya?

Holga Halos

Holy Holga Halos, Batman!

No, my camera hasn’t suddenly died. Those weird halos on my black and white snow storm pictures are the effect of my Holga Tele Lens. I’m not sure it was worth the $15.00, but I did get some interesting effects from it.

I was pretty excited about it when I first saw it. There are plenty of times when I’d like to get closer to my subject but not macro-lens close. I also really like the idea of being able to use a magnification lens for the Holga without all the measuring and preparing that goes into using my diopters.

Here are the stats:

Works with all types of Holga cameras (120 and 35mm series)
• Tele Lens zooms in 2.5x
• Includes a protective pouch, instruction manual, and lens cap

It’s pretty simple to use. Like any other Holga lens attachment just pop it on and start shooting. My first experience with Holga lens attachments was the fish eye lens. I used it twice and never achieved the cool, bendy fish-eye look to my shots, so it’s just collecting dust now. Maybe I got a dud? Who knows. I was hoping the tele lens would be different.

I was less than thrilled with the telephoto effect. It didn’t seem as if there was much magnification at all, however I do like the spacey selective focus look. It reminds me of a roll I shot with my Brownie camera’s lens flipped backwards. You get dreamy, fuzzy edges and a focus somewhere towards the middle of your subject. For that, I do like the tele lens. I’ll use it a few more times to make sure it’s not operator error, other than that, I’ll use it more the special effects it creates than anything else.

Unnecessary Roughness

My chemicals pulled a personal foul on me this weekend.

I was in the midst of developing my black and white rolls from the latest snowfall. The film was ready for the fixer when I realized, I’d forgotten to measure it out. It looked OK while it was pouring out of the bottle but after it settled out, I could see a layer of precipitate at the bottom of my container that looked like snow from a snow globe. Since it tested fine after the last time I used it, I decided to go ahead without making up a new batch. That’s where the rough part comes in.

After scanning my negatives I realized that the snow in my fixer had stuck to my negatives. Not all of them and not bad enough to wreck my images but you can see an extra layer of texture (that’s how I’m choosing to look at it) that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Considering that a lot of the pictures I was developing were taken of snowy winter scenes, it worked out pretty well and it reminded me that one of the beauties of film photography is the imperfections.

Most of the film I develop comes out imperfectly to say the least; droplet marks, streaking from squeezing too hard with rubber tongs, bent areas where I wrestled with the film a little too much when trying to spool it. These are all things that make a film photo truly one-of-a-kind. After reflecting on this ‘mistake’ for a day, I’m pretty pleased with the results. The fixer spots look like more snowfall. Like I said before, it’s another layer of texture and it’s pretty cool.

There’s a lot of dust on some of these pictures. I didn’t edit them yet so you can see where the fixer left it’s mark.

More about the halo-effect seen in some of these Holga shots at a later date.

The Ultimate Mood Inducer: Color Shade PX-70 by Impossible Project

First off, mad props to The Impossible Project for developing new instant film for classic Polaroid cameras. It’s gotta be difficult and expensive but those of us who love instant analogue photography are thrilled beyond words. I loved their Artistic-TZ release of old SX-70 film but I decided to take the plunge and purchase the Color Slide film when they offered it in a three pack at the beginning of the month.

TIP’s Color Shade film/First Flush is a great way to create dreamy, fuzzy and pastel-shaded shots. Everything about it is subtle, from the simple, white cardboard packaging to the finished image, which continues to change and evolve for a few days after the shot is projected from your camera. I decided to test out the limits of this film while on vacation in New England. The brilliant flower gardens, dark green ocean and blue, cloudless skies gave me plenty of worthy subjects.

Day 1: It was overcast and damp with occasional showers the first day of my experiment. With my first pack loaded and my light/dark dial turned down slightly to ‘the dark side’ I took some shots.

I wasn’t terribly impressed. The color was pretty bland and the whole thing seemed a bit washed out. I went back to the website to gain some insight into using this new product and learned that “the more light you are shooting in, the more colorful your pictures will get”. Cool, so I waited for a brilliant, sunny afternoon to continue experimenting and adjusted my light/dark meter.

Day 2: A lovely, sunny but humid day. I was ready to get some colorful images. My rainbow-striped Polaroid and I hit the beach with the kids. TIP explains that Color Slide film is sensitive to light and that “for up to two minutes” it is crucial to shield the film from light, but it is most important to protect it in the first ten seconds. Their suggested technique is to either shoot your pictures into an empty box or shield the photo with your hand as it comes out of the camera and leave it sitting upside down to develop. Clearly, I didn’t do such a hot job of protecting these shots from the light:

I wasn’t even shading these shots with my hand when they popped out of the camera because I wanted to get a clear idea of how much the sun would affect the film. That tell-tale pink light-leak tinge was all the proof I needed that the film shouldn’t see even the smallest amount of light while developing.

Okay TIP, I’ll follow the instructions now. Using the prescribed method I shot the next few pictures into an empty box and got some nice results:

They scanned really nicely but if you are looking at the actual picture the color is more washed out. Even after a few days of developing I didn’t get the vibrant color I was hoping for but the results are nice nonetheless.

Here are a couple more. These shots of the car got messed up when the film got stuck coming out of the camera because it got hung up on the empty box:

I kind of like that purplish/bluish clot of ink in the middle of the first shot. Since most of my pictures had a bluish cast to them, it made sense that the inks would contain lots of colors in that range. I ripped the white border off the second shot since I prefer to see the rough edges and lines beneath the paper. TIP’s website also features the work of an artist who has done some manipulations with Color Flush. I haven’t figured out how to do that well yet. This was my lousy attempt:

It wasn’t love at first blush for me with this film because I had some preconceptions of what kind of colors the film could produce based, of course, on the old films and inks. But the more I use it the more I like it. It’s moody and dreamy in a much more dramatic way than a toy camera or expired original Polaroid film. It’s the ultimate mood-inducer. You can attain dreamy and moody with a Diana or Holga but PX-70 Color Shade is the way to go for a true Alice-In-Wonderland or I’ve-only-gotten-2-hours-of-sleep kind of feeling. It’s great to have a new tool with which to create art. I look forward to later incarnations of Color Shade and can’t wait to see how far TIP will take this film.

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