Tag Archives: Russian

A Personal Tour of the Photo Palace Bus

“I smell a Smena 8”: those were the first words I heard from Anton Orlov as he emerged from the darkroom of The Photo Palace bus. Yes, THE Photo Palace bus of Kickstarter fame. You’ll recall, Anton and his former partner in this photographic adventure were raising money to take the bus around the country, putting on workshops and spreading the word that analogue photography is NOT dead. The Kickstarter project did not raise enough money and Anton’s original partner Ryan Kalem moved on, but the Photo Palace bus is touring the country, nonetheless.

My family was visiting Salem, MA, just like we do every year, as part of our annual summer vacation to New England. After a great lunch at Salem Beer Works, we turned a corner near the Peabody Essex Museum (which is currently hosting an Ansel Adams exhibit) and spotted the familiar shape and color of a school bus. It took me two seconds to realize it was the Photo Palace Bus and another minute to actually believe I was seeing it in person. I broke away from my family and explained it was a bit of photo geekery that I had to experience for myself. Fortunately, my oldest daughter Phoebe was just as excited.

After spying my Smena 8, Anton explained it was one of the first cameras he’d owned. After showing him my other camera, the Olympus XA4, I had to get a photo with the man who was responsible for this mobile monument to photography. It’s not the most flattering picture of my mid-section, especially considering I’m training for a triathlon, but I was so excited!

Anton had travelled from Maine, where a witch told him he needed to come to Salem. Check out his blog post about his Salem experience and you’ll see what a great adventure he had. Our personal tour of Gilli began in the darkroom, located in the rear. Anton covered the back windows with a very well-designed fabric and wood contraption that allows him to display pictures through the windows as well as block out all the light. Here is his printing area.

Three metal trays sit in a large plastic sink, supplied with water from 75 gallon tanks mounted beneath it all. Next, he busted out some insane glasses that were a cross between bifocals and a jeweler’s loupe. These he uses when hand coloring his prints.

Anton’s two enlargers are opposite the sink.

There’s also a door on the back right side of the bus, which is a good thing because it was HOT in that little room. Back in the main part of the bus it was revealed that a sink and stove were hidden beneath a table displaying old cameras and prints.

Near this area is a cabinet that holds a few batteries. There are others beneath the bus. They can’t be stowed in the main are because, in Anton’s words “they leak hydrogen”.

A little transistor radio perched atop a beautiful wooden table supplied some background music. The tabletop came from a guitar manufacturing place and the little Polaroid radio runs on the battery pack from the film cartridge.

My unexpected discovery of the Photo Palace bus was one of the highlights of my vacation. It was a thrill to meet Anton and see what he’s done to Gilli. Lots of folks visited the bus while I was there and to see them get excited about Polaroids and old film cameras was really cool.

Many people from the Peabody Essex were there as well. One man was giving out cards advertising a project called  “A Year of Photography”, in which you can participate via their website. It’s worth checking out.

Anton was so friendly and answered all my questions with enthusiasm. I’ll continue to follow his adventures and who knows? Maybe I’ll run into again in another part of the country.


Light Painting and Help The Photo Palace

Over the holidays I decided to try my hand at some light painting while walking along the streets of my town at night. For these shots I used my Smena 8 with Kodak Gold iso 400 film.

I was getting warmed up here. As you can see, it’s just a hand-held long-exposure shot, but I like the composition.

This one is zippy! I moved the camera in circles near a bare tree lit by LED lights.

The lights in this tree were further up in the sky. I must have used small, circular motions because the shapes made by the lights look like little snails.

These lights were at the top of a lamppost. They were the old-fashioned kind of lights with giant colored bulbs. You can really see the difference in color temperature between these and the LEDs.

I have more light painting shots on the way. I loaded my Canon 70’s film SLR with Fuji slide film (which I’m getting cross-processed) and am eager to see what I captured.

Remember the Photo Palace bus? Well I got this email from Anton, one of its creators:

Hi Friends,

Well with two weeks left in the funding campaign I really am hoping for a miracle. We are only 20% funded and somehow we are supposed to raise the rest in just 14 days.

I was going to make a video update talking about the educational component of the venture, but with 30 minutes left at my job (which is where I edited the last video because my computer is not powerful enough) my Final Cut file crashed and the info got lost so there’s no time to start over…

In the update I was going to say how many wonderful things we will offer to the film community at large: art shows where people can see a gum print and a tintype and a bromoil print, workshops on pinhole cameras and cyanotypes for kids, more involved classes for adults, lectures on the history of film and how it affected the developments in photography, setting up community dark rooms all over the country…. there was a lot there, but now it’s all lost in the digital realm (if I was working with film this would not have happened…). In any case – imagine me looking rather desperate in my packed-up darkroom pleading for help 🙂 It was going to be a good movie…

I really hope that this goes through and we’ll be able to get on the road by summertime. PLEASE help us out by doing another wave of postings here and there and everywhere about this project with a link to it. If you tell the people – ‘hey, I support this!’ they may listen closer and support it as well, right?

Below is the photo of Rollov Film Center – the space where I taught about a dozen students for the past year. It’s all cleaned up and ready for my departure. Please help make this campaign a success 🙂


Yikes! Please help spread the word about this fantastic project and if you haven’t yet contributed to the fund, hop on over to their Kickstarter site and do so. It’s such a fantastic way to let people know that film is NOT obsolete and that there are lots of us who still love kickin’ it the lo-fi way. Besides, I really want to meet these two fellas when they come to my town!

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!

36 frames in 12 hours

Back in March my friend Andrew of fuzzyeyeballs threw out a challenge: shoot 36 frames of film in 12 hours (from 9 am to 9 pm) and give us an idea of what you do all day long. That particular day was cold and gloomy here in my part of the world so I was stuck inside all day. My roll turned out terribly: everything was hideously underexposed, so much so that my local drugstore didn’t even charge me for processing. However, I did learn a lot about my newest antique camera, the Canon AT-1, that particular day so the exercise wasn’t entirely futile.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one with technical difficulties that day. A second day of shooting 36 frames in 12 hours was set for April 23rd and this time, I got a great roll since I was on vacation in sunny Florida! It was a fun experiment (that drove my husband a little mad) and had me keeping my eyes open for a shot constantly. My camera of choice was my ever-trusty Smena 8. The more I use that camera the more I love it. It’s range of film speeds and apertures made it the perfect camera for such a wide span of time as I was able to get shots from the bright, sunny morning to the fireworks show that night.

April 23rd was the day we arrived at Disney World. We had just spent a day and a half with family in eastern Florida and the kids slept most of the ride to Orlando

Finally, we unpacked and began finding our way around the Polynesian, the place we’d call home for the next five days.

Cool double exposure shot of the porch

The monorail would shuttle us to most of the parks. If you’ve ever seen The Simpson’s episode featuring the Monorail Song, you’ll know why I couldn’t say the word monorail without thinking of the chanting citizens of Springfield. That day we decided to tackle Epcot so we hopped aboard and began our adventure.

As we walked around and visited each nation we saw….

Dinner that night was in Norway, land of the Vikings

A parade of princesses visited our table, which was very amusing to the four older members of the family as Elias, our 5 year-old son, got kisses on the cheek from each one. He was loving the ladies and joined the parade at the end of the meal which, if you’ve ever been to Disney, is something that occurs with alarming and irritating frequency as you’re trying to leave the restaurant.

Phoebe decided to give the giant Royal Chair a go in this picture…

Right after dinner we rode “Test Track” a zooming car ride in which you accelerate to 60mph. It was fun, even for our ride-shy little guy. While we were waiting I got some shots of the test track dummies that dotted the area

We headed back to the international area and enjoyed the sites at night

Then, I tried to catch some of the fireworks on film, but this was as good as it got

Exhausted and ready for bed, we all headed back to our room at the Polynesian.

36 in 12 was a fun project! Thanks to Andrew for suggesting the idea.

Florida Big and Wide

Before going on any trip the big question is which cameras and films to pack. Sometimes just getting out the door can take an extra 10 minutes as you mull over which tools are the right ones for the job. This was the dilemma I faced as we left for our trip to Florida. Do I bring a Polaroid, Holga, Diana, Vivitar UWS, Action Sampler…..you get the picture. I decided to throw a few small cameras in the bag, thinking I wouldn’t want to be carrying anything too heavy or bulky, so I took my Smena 8, Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim (UWS), Holga and my fabulous cardboard pinhole creation. It turned out to be the right combination!

I would HIGHLY recommend taking the Vivitar UWS (or any camera that has the ability to catch wide shots) if you’re planning on going someplace larger-than-life, like Disney World. I got some GREAT shots! The only drawback is the fact that you must use the camera in bright sunlight however, our week was filled with PLENTY of sunny, beautiful days. Here are some of my favorites so far…

Not really sure what happened in this picture or the next one, but I like the swirly effects!

Another great reason to bring an ultra light, ultra wide camera with you? It’s very easy to use on roller coasters!! I got this shot of my family while riding Thunder Mountain. It’s a little under exposed but I still like it.

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?

Thank God for the Arts

It’s been one hell of a week, but yesterday really set me over the edge. I’m going to give you the dirty details and it might be TMI so be warned.

Thursday evening, as I was in the middle of my second twelve-hour shift in two days, my husband calls to inform me our middle daughter has lice for the second time in one year. Last summer after horse camp, a funky riding helmet was the source of our first experience and I really wasn’t looking forward to all the laundry, hair-washings and comb outs we were going to have to endure over the next few days.

After my irate husband called me to inform me that our doctor’s office had given us the run around (the front office there is more inefficient than the MVA, I swear to God), I had to go to my sources in the Emergency Room to get a prescription for the ‘nuclear option’ of lice shampoo (big fat thanks to my girl Kerri in the ED!!!!!). After treating both of my daughters with this stuff (that smells like Pine-Sol on acid) we stripped their beds and threw anything soft and cozy into the dryer to kill the bugs & eggs.

Yesterday—I went to get more prescription stuff and it’s OUT of STOCK. May have to wait until Monday to get what we need to get the job done. Meanwhile, I spent four, count ’em FOUR hours (240 minutes) inspecting two heads of very thick and long hair. My shoulders are sore and my patience is very thin.

I decided the girls needed their hair cut before the next medicinal bomb; no dice. No one will (understandably) touch them because of the lice. Screw that dude, I took matters into my own hands and cut their hair by my own damn self, something I haven’t done since my children were less than a year old. I have to say, my hair styling skills aren’t the best, but they’re not half bad.

Now I KNOW we’ve all had similar unmentionable things happen to us and I’m going to mention them now because it’s about time someone said them out loud (maybe it’ll break the curse, you know?) Here comes the TMI part…. in the past two years we’ve dealt with bed bugs (Thanks, NYC for the gift that kept on giving!), fleas (courtesy of the ‘cat that came with the house’) ants, which never really go away but just kind of hibernate in the winter (Terro Ant traps work really well) and lice. I’m sick and effin’ tired of critters. Really. We never had to deal with this crap in Baltimore. Sure there were the occasional alley cats, punk-ass kids and my favorite, Mr. Glass-Pack Motorcycle who LOVED to rev his louder-than-Fenway-Park-during-the- 2004-Series bike at 2:30 am, but they didn’t require any real investment of personal time to get rid of. No, they just were.

We finally get to the crux of this post. I am tired and stressed out. The house is a fucking mess. There’s crap everywhere, dishes in the sink, laundry on the sofa and to top it off I wasted a phenomenally gorgeous day inside. That really pisses me off. I wanted to run outside. I wanted to go to the beach. I wanted to take some photos. I did NOT want to spend the day inside. So, how does a girl bust this stress? The arts.

If you’ve read my bio you’ll know I’m a musician. It’s been something that’s been an important part of my life since I was itty-bitty. I remember going to sleep to classical music when I was just a wee girl. I started playing the flute when I was nine and have always dealt with stressful things by listening to a great piece of music, really loudly, over and over and over again, or going to the practice studio and pouring myself into the latest piece I’ve been trying to master. I was able to play the piano last night to get the stress out and it felt great. My hands are a little sore this morning (I always seem to play much more than my muscles will allow) but mentally, I am more balanced.

I love to improvise. It takes me to another place, just like finding a beautiful object to photograph or meditating on the ocean can get me out of myself. I really needed that last night and I am thankful to all the other musicians and artists who came before me. Thank you musical cosmos, thank you photographic cosmos. My day is better and my life is better because of you.

I promise a more photo-centric post next week 🙂

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