A day in the darkroom. With X-ray film.

October 31, 2013 Published by . Leave your thoughts

My photographer friend and neighbor Randy Moe just finished a huge and ridiculously awesome project: turning a large portion of his apartment into a giant darkroom.  Part mad-scientist, part photography historian and rescuer of film format equipment, he has amassed an enviable collection of cameras, enlargers, print washers, papers, and more film formats than I knew existed.  And because he’s awesome, he’s opened the doors to let me play.  It feels great to take a momentary break from digital photography to reconnect with its film roots every now and then.

This week we took a few hours to take and develop some photos of my dog.  With a process camera.  On X-ray film.  Yes, you read that correctly.  On X-ray film.  We used 8×10″ pieces of unexposed film typically used in X-ray machines for hospitals, but used it as regular camera film instead.  We loaded it into large format cartridges, took the photos, developed the film, and then used a contact printer to expose the paper and make direct 8×10″ prints.  Our first stab at it was rather successful: David Bowie the Dog sat still enough to take the photos, most of the photos were exposed properly, and they printed well.  We’ve got some tweaking to do since the contrast doesn’t seem quite right in the center of the photos; perhaps using an enlarger to make the prints and some filters to correct the contrast would do the trick.  We’ll have to find out when we go back into the lab for more experimenting…  *evil mad scientist laugh*

Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the steps:

Step 1: set temperature of water to exactly 68 degrees Fahrenheit and get negative development chemicals mixed.


Step 2: admire enlargers.  Drool.


Step 3: load X-ray film.  In safelights.


Step 4: put the dog on the table, focus the camera on the dog.


Step 5: set the aperture, connect the wireless strobe from a different century than the camera, hold doggie treat in front of lens, take photo of dog.


Step 6: develop negatives. Turn light back on during the rinse cycle to find dog in center of room asking for more treats.


Step 7: hang negatives to dry


Step 8: print contact prints in giant sandwich press.


Step 9: develop prints.


Step 10: dry prints.


Step 11: repeat.  *evil mad scientist laugh*

Guerrilla holiday photos

October 28, 2013 Published by . Leave your thoughts

This weekend I took some family portraits on the Kinzie Street bridge for holiday greeting cards.  That bridge has seen a lot of photo action over the years with such a great view of the city and such awesome-looking steel beams with rivets the size of sugarplums.  And to take advantage of the architecture I brought along my fish-eye lens.  Photos that look like big round Christmas ornaments, anyone?  Yes!

family photos

My awesome family subjects brought along about 18 feet of garland with ornaments to incorporate as props.  The hours of attaching all those ornaments by hand paid off- the holiday cheer just oozes off those branches and the reds and silvers pop right out of the images.

I considered dressing in bright orange so passersby would think we worked for the city and were decorating the bridge… so they wouldn’t call the cops.  Instead, we just went in there like a SWAT team.  Of ninjas.  We set up, took some photos, packed up, and were out of there within half an hour, which has to be a new record for holiday photos.  It was also still only about 40 degrees out and pretty windy so getting back into warm cars and drinking hot chocolate was also a great motivation for the morning…

family photos family photos


Headshots for a funeral?

October 25, 2013 Published by . Leave your thoughts

I’ve taken headshots and portraits for a variety of strange and interesting reasons over the years… billboards, political campaigns, book jackets, television appearances, dating websites, long-distance relationships, greeting cards, business cards, and even “to replace all those crappy photos of myself online so my ex-boyfriend can see how awesome I look and what he’s missing.”

But yesterday’s headshot was an absolute first for me: photos for a funeral. A funeral that hasn’t been scheduled yet for a living person showing no signs of dying. I took portraits for my make-up artist Megg‘s father Mike, a local deacon, in anticipation of his inevitable future funeral, so he can have good-looking, updated photos to print into posters, announcements and cards at his funeral. At 87, a WWII veteran, and serving as a deacon for a Lakeview church overseeing among other things, funerals, he understands that we all have an end to our lives and it’s best to plan for it while you’re around, to help your family tie up loose ends and celebrate your life. Having an updated headshot on hand to use in the funeral service announcements is only part of his planning.

Deacon headshot

He’s also got his cemetery plot picked out, two more for his dogs, and a coffin. (An import- he told me- a very nice imported model and quite comfortable.) Excluding vampires, a lot of people might think it’s a bit morbid to have your coffin already picked out and waiting for you in storage. But Mike fearlessly embraces his coffin and actually tried it out when it was delivered. He laid down in it, dressed in his alb, and had a friend take a picture of him in his coffin with a huge smile on his face. He sent this picture to his dentist and wrote on it, “it’s never too late for dental work!” I haven’t yet mentioned how much I absolutely LOVE this man. I freaking LOVE him.

Maybe it’s because he has everything in order for his future passing, or maybe it’s just his nature, but the man is the most relaxed, comfortable, happiest, and fun-loving 87 year old I’ve ever met. (His facebook page has photos of him doing jello shots with his son-in-law. Need I say more?) He talked about how much he loves taking his dogs for long walks twice a day, laundry, house plants, gardens, flooring maintenance, his crockpot chicken stew recipe, and of course, death and funerals. He helps all his friends plan for their future funerals and encourages families to talk about it way ahead of schedule so loved ones aren’t left with more questions than answers and the burden of putting together a quick funeral. Talking about his funeral was just as natural as talking about chicken stew.

I learned a lot from that photo session: live life like you’re going to die. Because you’re going to die. Enjoy everything there is out there to enjoy, and just relax.

And I hope we still have to wait a very, very long time to use those photos we took of Mike yesterday.



family portrait

family portrait

Office holiday photos

October 24, 2013 Published by . Leave your thoughts

It’s that time of year again- time for me to head downtown for company holiday photos, as marketing coordinators across the city are scrambling to get some great outdoor group photos for holiday greeting cards… before it gets so cold everyone in the photo will look like a tiny head peeking out of a huge parka.

group photo

Even though it’s already 35 degrees out, we’re still ridiculously excited for our group photos!

group photo

The studio assistant behind the scenes

October 16, 2013 Published by . Leave your thoughts

Last week a fitness instructor stopped by for some promo shots and casual headshots.  And my studio assistant did a wonderful job.  He has no thumbs, so his job is really to just stand there looking cute and fuzzy to put everyone in a good mood.

If you haven’t yet learned, my studio assistant is a dog.  Here’s David Bowie the Dog in action- standing guard next to my headshot client, making sure no one walks through the shot to ruin the photo.  And we also borrowed his big green ball to use as a prop for some shots.  And then he chased it around the room and frolicked a bit.Organic HeadshotsOrganic HeadshotsOrganic Headshots