Letting go

Yesterday at work I broke my $1000 pen.

The backstory:

Two years ago when Jasmine was sick, we made multiple visits to the emergency vet.  These usually involved an overnight stay and a scary bill.  Each time I signed, I kept the pen.  It was my own small rebellion against her illness.

Over time I accumulated a collection of cheap plastic pens in an assortment of colors with the vet clinic’s phone number on them.  They came to be known around the house as my $1000 pens.

Most have disappeared into the depths of desk drawers, but the light blue one became special.  It complemented my uniform nicely, and it became my spare pen for work.  It has spent most of the past year in my shirt pocket or my day bag.  Yesterday I broke it.

My instinctive reaction was sadness.  This was Jazzy’s pen.

I quickly realized I was looking at things the wrong way.  These pens are a symbol of the darkest time in her too-short life.  Keeping them around doesn’t preserve her memory.  It preserves the memory of her tragic illness and death.  While I want to remember and cherish her, these are not the memories I need.

I disassembled the pen tonight.  I salvaged the spring to use as a strain reliever on my phone charging cord.  She always was good at relieving my stress.  As I find the others, I will do the same with them.  I may have spent the cost of a good used car acquiring them, but it is time to let them go.

From the Archives:

A busy main street. The tiny house is sandwiched between larger neighbors; almost lost in a sea of red and blue flashing lights. I count two fire engines and what appears to be the entire on-duty police shift scattered around the block.

I thought this was a simple diabetic. . .

Preceptor/Partner laughs at me. “Haven’t you met him yet?”

A tiny old woman clatters about the kitchen as we enter. She turns to us, waves her hands, and utters one word: “Upstairs.”

Two companies of firemen and a heck of a lot of police officers crowd into the small bedroom. All are staring at a man; a large, muscular man sprawled on the floor in a classic crucifixtion pose. He lies unconscious with his arms straight out from the shoulders, palms up. We each take an arm and begin to look for an IV site.

And I have nothing. Brand new medic, first big diabetic, and I’ve got NOTHING. I’m mortified. P/P chuckles. “He never has anything in that arm. It’s OK, I’ve got one over here.”

I sit on his arm as P/P cannulates the other one. Suddenly I begin to rise off the floor. I top 200 lbs in full medic battle dress, yet this patient is curling me off the floor with no more effort than if he was lifting a beer can!

“Hey guys. . .?!” The blue crowd descends, and now I know why they have come. Lots of wrestling and shouting ensues as P/P calmly pushes Dextrose into the patient’s vein.

As suddenly as it began, the struggling stops. He relaxes, takes a deep breath, and utters one sentence.

“Sorry guys. You can let me up now.”

He opens his eyes and sits up.

Behind us the small old woman arrives with a large platter of sandwiches.

Situational Awareness

For a while now I have been endeavoring to teach Kiddo situational awareness.  This is largely centered around parking lots and traffic, things like “Don’t put yourself between a moving vehicle and a stationary object,” and “don’t walk behind any car which could back up.”  It will eventually extend to the things any young woman needs to know when walking alone at night.

Today we had a slightly different opportunity to emphasize awareness:

  • If you are driving on a snowy interstate highway with two clear lanes and two slushy ones, which lane should you use?
  • If you chose wrongly and roll your SUV over, you should remember to put it in park and stop the engine before you climb out.
  • And finally, if there are no serious injuries and someone has already called 911, this is not a safe place to be in your personal Volkswagen.

The first two points were graphically demonstrated.  I explained the third as we drove away from the now-smoking SUV and its embarrassed owner.

Why I Shoot Film

I bought a typewriter today.  This will become relevant shortly.

Defenders of film photography often focus on the technical aspects.  They expound about how they are forced to slow down and plan each exposure, or about how they can control the entire process from start to finish, or about the ‘feel’ of creating an image in the darkroom.

All of these are valid points, but they aren’t the biggest one.

I bought a typewriter today.  The seller posted it on Craigslist, and it is a model I have been seeking.  He had a garage full of items gleaned from estate sales, which he resells as a side business.  On the shelf next to my typewriter was this:

More accurately, there were eight trays of vintage slides, almost 1000 images, sitting there neglected.  This image is a random selection from the top tray.

I have no idea who the subjects are, but the slide is at least 50 years old.  It was abandoned and neglected, yet it cleans up wonderfully and remains fully functional.  You simply cannot say that about modern digital photography or inkjet prints.  I have already lost images to crashes, media failure, or simply poor organization. Backups are not foolproof.

No one will ever find an old laptop at a flea market and exclaim, “Look at these cool JPGs I found,” yet with proper storage the photos I create today should outlive me.  Hopefully they will bring joy to my family or even some random person who finds them in a dusty garage.

Week 87 – Ansco Clipper


It’s eight degrees and there is over 2 feet of snow on my flat roof with more expected tonight.  I really should be out shoveling.  Instead I’m catching up with my blogs.

For this week’s roll, I chose the Ansco Clipper.

I don’t remember where or when I got my Clipper.  It’s a folding box camera manufactured from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.  Pre-WWII versions were marketed as Agfa-Ansco, so I know my version dates from 1945 or later.  It features a simple lens and shutter mounted on a telescoping lens board.  There are no adjustments; one aperture, one shutter speed.  It is designed to use 116 film which is no longer available, but 120 film can be adapted to fit using a simple styrofoam packing peanut.

In use, the red window is no longer an accurate measure of film advance. I guessed at proper spacing which resulted in gaps between the images on the film.  I guess this is better than overlapping them.  120 film is smaller than 116, so part of the image is cropped.  It just means you need to frame accordingly.

I enjoyed shooting my Clipper.  It is a very solid feeling camera which folds to easily fit in a coat pocket.  You can see the results over at 52 Rolls.




There are lots available on eBay right now and they are cheap.  Don’t be scared by 116 film, pick one up and shoot 120 with it!


Red Light District

Almost a year ago now, the pdexposures crew began running a darkroom feature entitled Red Light District.  I keep intending to submit something. . .

Red light district

My darkroom is located in a basement utility room.  It shares space with the boiler and water heater as well as a tool chest and a large number of shelves. To the left of this panorama is my enlarger, a Besseler 45MXT with lenses and negative holders to print anything from 16mm to 4×5. I found it on Craigslist for $50. To the right, the workbench features enough space for four baths (developer, stop, fixer, and hypoclear) and a paper cutter.  The bench itself is a salvaged piece of kitchen counter supported by saw horses. The floor is lined with rubber mats retired from my daughter’s playroom.

Not visible behind the photographer is a slop sink equipped with a print washer and a temperature controlled faucet for color developing. A shelf next to the sink holds a set of powered computer speakers (for listening to podcasts while I work) and a dorm-sized film refrigerator. Finished prints hang on a clothesline to dry, while an air cleaner keeps the dust down.

Just visible along the ceiling are my LED safelights. I recently added a second strip to illuminate a dark corner, and now things are almost too bright. They run on 12VDC, so I think I may add a dimmer soon.

The biggest challenge with the space is keeping the other utility functions from overrunning it. You can see some of the shelves in evidence and a peg board above the workbench. I hope to print something every week this year and keep the clutter in check.

Week 86 – Minolta ac301

Kodak introduced its disc format film in 1982 as an advancement of the 110 Instamatic format.  15 8mm x 10.5mm exposures fit in each cartridge, which simply dropped into the back of the camera.

My first camera was a Kodak Disc 4100, which I saved my pennies to get. If memory serves, it cost $40 in the mid-1980s. It had fixed focus, automatic exposure, auto winding, and a built-in flash. It featured a permanent Lithium battery which “never” needed replacement.

It was a great, fun camera; and it took horrible photos. Poor grainy images would be its downfall, and I would replace it with a cheap Fuji 35mm in college.

Fast forward to Christmas 2013 when Mrs. Mack505 found this gem for my collection: the Minolta ac301!

Minolta disc 7/ac301Minolta disc 7/ac301Minolta’s Disc-7 model sported all of the common features of disc cameras: fixed focus, power winder, auto flash.  Minolta added a feature ahead of its time, however. The camera features a convex mirror on the front to facilitate self-portraits. It also has a self timer and a closeup mode.

The ac-301 was an interesting gimmick. Minolta partnered with the French fashion house André Courrèges to style a special version of the Disc-7. It features a white case with gold trim adorned with the Courrèges name and logo.  I have no idea how successful this version was, but it sure stands out among disc cameras today.

Disc film is no longer available. I have sourced some from eBay and some from friends. This week’s disc is among the freshest in my refrigerator.  We shall see.



eBay (all Minolta disc cameras)

random musings from the life of a firefighter, paramedic, train buff, photographer, family man