Getting Caught Up by Alexandria Criner

When you first get started with photography or anything for that matter, there’s always that need to get “the best.”  By the best, I mean the best camera body, the best lenses, the best camera bag, the best film, the best developing paper, the best printing paper, and the list goes on and on. Sometimes, there’s a different fascination with getting “the rarest” or “the trendiest” cameras out there.

I myself have gotten caught up in the craze a few times. The first was when I thought I wanted to shoot digital. It was a short lived experience. I genuinely took only three sets of photos on my camera before sitting it on my desk without touching it for months on end, and the conclusion was always the same. If I had a better lens or a better camera body, I would use it and take better photos. I eventually did upgrade the camera body, and that camera set for about six months before I realized it wasn’t the camera.

Me and the FE2

When I started with manual film cameras my experience was different because I had the opportunity to try different types of cameras while learning how to take photographs. I started with the Pentax k1000, moved on to the Canon AE-1, the Minolta 300 or 500 series, and finally I tried the Nikon FE2. I fell in love with the FE2. It’s not the typical or popular camera, but it is the camera I jelled with the most. It was the easiest for me to use and the most comfortable in my hands.

I did get caught up much later with film cameras. I blame it on two things: YouTube and medium format cameras. I became obsessed with watching YouTube vlogers who did series on the types of cameras and film they use. One particular video tag that I watched a lot was the best quality cheapest film camera videos and the thrift store camera videos...I may have had minor Ebay obsession with the Olympus Muju II camera, like everyone else that drove the price up. I ultimately didn't get one...but I'm still checking every Goodwill I come across.

Dog Food

Medium format cameras had a different effect. My senior year of college, I shot on a Hasselblad. It changed my life forever. It was insane because shooting medium format film made the most ordinary things look extraordinary. For all of you film fanatics, you know the Hasselblad is one of the most coveted medium format film cameras out. From the moment I developed my first roll my plan was to get a medium format film camera, but I needed to find a good one on my budget. After reading tons of reviews and watching YouTube videos about the camera mechanics I had to stop. It was an unhealthy obsession.

Finding a new camera wasn’t a problem. The real problems was spending more time finding a camera than using the one that I have. I didn’t need a new camera or more popular camera to take a good photo. You take better photos by learning about your camera, figuring out how to take better shots, and then taking better photos. No lens or camera body is going to make you a better photographer if you don’t know how to take a good photo. Start with the skill, then you can get new toys.

The Perks Of Using A Film Camera by Alexandria Criner

Dark Room Work

When I first became interested in photography, it was because of the dark room. I don’t remember wanting to take pictures so much as wanting to develop them. I basically wanted to live forever in the dark room. Chalk it up to my fascination with chemicals or being a night owl, either way, I knew I wanted to develop my own images.

Of course, to develop, you need to take photos. It’s pretty simple, so I started in high school. I took a photojournalism course, and I remember they gave us point and shoot film cameras to practice with. We got lessons on opening film canisters, rolling with the metal wheels, and finally mixing and using developer. Being in the dark room was and still is one of my favorite experiences with using a film camera. It also led to the discovery of another experience, the beauty that is seeing your image for the first time.

Some people might say that this experience isn’t unique or new or anything that should really be reveled, but I would whole heartedly disagree. When you take a photo on a film camera, there’s no viewfinder that allows you to see the shot. You have to go on your gut and the camera to know if you’ve captured something wonderful. A lot of times, it’s what you think it is, especially if you’ve metered correctly, but there are sometimes when you find a true gem amongst the photos you’ve taken. Sometimes the light comes into the photo and illuminates the materials you’re photographing or the camera focuses on something you hadn’t quite planned on. These little surprises always give me a lot of joy. They often make for the best pictures as well.

These are just a few of my favorite parts about shooting on a film camera, the reasons I love to take pictures. Everyone got started some way...why did you?


Getting Lost In Boston by Alexandria Criner


There was one day where I wanted to accomplish a very specific thing: get lost in Boston with my camera. I don’t mean incredibly devastatingly lost. I mean lost with a GPS lost.

I set out with a plan. Walk until I feel uncomfortable taking pictures, then figure out where I was to get somewhere safe. I recognize that this sounds insane. I’m well aware. But I hadn’t been in Boston that long, so I wanted to explore the city further than my t stop. From my own experience, it’s easier to figure out a city on foot than it is driving, and even though it’s a big city, it’s easy to get from one end to the other on foot. Besides, I’ve found Boston to be incredibly safe. These are all things I told myself before setting out.

I started with a familiar place, Fenway. The good old Green Monster. I snapped pictures of almost every gate. I wanted to be sure to capture it’s essence because there’s something about that stadium that really fuels people in the city. I’ve felt it myself when I go to Sox games, and it’s more than just singing Sweet Caroline before the bottom of the eighth. It literally oozes Boston pride. It’s one of those places you definitely want to photograph during a home game.

From there I moved on, walking away from that area to a lovely community garden, or what I thought was a garden. It was impossible to tell because what was left was mostly broken up into little plots in a park, so I moved on.


I went on like this for a while, exploring the area and taking pictures of the more interesting things. Originally, I thought I was going to take pictures of mostly architecture because Boston has really rich and interesting building. I didn’t. That day the arches and doorways didn’t draw me in. I was more intrigued by the light bouncing off of the environment.

Eventually I got semi lost, although I always managed to find my way back to something I recognized. I found my way to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, I found my way to the Prudential, and I eventually found my way back to the Esplanade which lead me all the way back home. There really wasn’t anywhere I didn’t know where I was.

The funny thing was, the more I walked, the less I took photos. I was taking everything in with my senses. I wanted to experience things outside of the viewfinder...and also I ran out of film. Semi-Pro Tip: Remember, when you go out, always take a few extra rolls of film. Also, if you’re going to do this, please don’t go without a gps and game plan for phone battery charge!

Happy Phototravels!


Getting The Courage To Try Something New by Alexandria Criner

A lot of my photography style revolves around two very specific items, my Nikon FE2 and a roll of Ilford Black and White 400 film. This isn’t to say that I haven’t used any other materials or cameras, but the most consistent materials are a film camera and a roll of black and white film.

Last summer I got the bright idea to start experimenting with color film and different types of film isos. I had five rolls of Portra 400 and a roll of Portra 800. I was halfway through the first roll when my shutter got stuck. It wasn’t my best moment as a photographer. There were a few solid days of paranoia and excessively watching Youtube videos, but I managed to get the shutter unstuck without exposing all of my film to light. It was a win, win because some of those photos were beautiful, but I think that was the moment I realized I had to have a better understanding of my craft.

water on the rocks

Almost a year went by before I really had the courage to start shooting again, rather before I was inspired to shoot again. I had plenty of opportunity because I don’t travel anywhere without my camera, but it wasn’t until I went to Denver and the Rockies before I picked it up. It’s probably because that area is picturesque, but I learned something after the development. You don’t need to be inspired to take photographs, you just have to take your camera out. To be fair, there were some good quality photos in that bunch, but there was also a lot of boring pictures. The vibrancy wasn’t there. That gritty quality that only a black and white photo could give you wasn’t there. I again had another realization...figure out what you’re doing!

That process, figuring out what you’re doing, is easier said than done. I figured out I wanted to experiment with different types of film. Bought more film, done! I figured out I wanted to be a better photo editor...that’s going to take some time. There’s a lot more I figured out I wanted to do, but that comes with the territory of wanting to do anything in life.

The first step is always to begin. Sometimes things are going to be a little rough, but in the end, it’ll all turn out alright.