born to die.

My public library has a huge collection of music cds, so I usually browse and pick up whatever catches my eye. Born to Die: The Paradise Edition was one of those curiosity grabs—since I had seen Lana Del Rey in a lot of magazines, but had no idea what she sounded like—and now I'm obsessed with it. Whenever I feel like listening to music, I find myself turning it on, and it takes me to my happy place.

La Sagrada Familia.

One of the things that was a must-do for us during our trip to Barcelona was to visit La Sagrada Familia. Construction on this uber-famous basilica, designed by Antoni Gaudi, began in 1882 and is projected to be completed in 2026. The ongoing construction was very evident—workers were hanging off the building—and added to the surreal atmosphere. Our tickets, which included the tower view, were expensive, but I hardly minded since the ticket sales fund the construction. How cool to contribute even a tiny bit to such an amazing building.

I'd read to buy the tickets online beforehand to avoid long lines, but the truth is if you don't buy them ahead of time you may not be able to get in not matter how long you are willing to wait. We thought we would buy them right before getting in the taxi to go over, but that whole afternoon was already sold out—and this was a non-weekend afternoon and wasn't the high tourist season. Thankfully, we had more free time and bought our tickets for the next day instead.

We got to La Sagrada Familia about an hour early, but couldn't enter until the time on our tickets, so we went to the gift shop first rather than on the way out. I bought a small guide book and was able to read it while we were waiting to go in. We also spent a lot of time just circling the outside and viewing La Sagrada Familia from all of the different angles. We had to pick ticket times for entry and for the tower separately, and it took a bit of research to figure it out what to do since it wasn't clear. We picked our tower time for 15 minutes after out entry time, which was perfect since—unlike several other famous churches I've visited—the tower is right inside the building. Our initial thought was to pick a tower time for when we thought we would be done inside the basilica (a couple of hours after entry?) or to plan to do to the tower first. I'm so glad we stopped and looked it up; if we had bought a time before the entry time, we wouldn't have been able to get in to access the tower!

The tower was a highlight of our visit, however, it is tight at times, especially with strangers crowded in front and behind you, so not recommended for the claustrophobic. It also wasn't very clear which way to go at one point, and everybody was sort of walking into each other and having to turn around. It's really, really high; there were a few spots jutting out that you could walk out onto, but there was no way I could and I'm generally not afraid of heights. It's pretty cool to look out of the tower at the city views, but also just to see the facade up close.

The inside was crazy breathtaking—the beauty of that stained glass, that ceiling, the colors and layers. Pictures can't capture it and words can't describe it, and I'm just so grateful to have been able to see it with my own eyes.

La Sagrada Familia is truly massive and there are just so many details—turtles, lizards, candy, magic numbers, and storm trooper helmets (Gaudi inspired their design) to name some of the oddest.

We spent a few hours looking around, and I don't even think we saw all of it that was open to the public. Whatever your religious beliefs, this building is a work of art—there is has never been and will never be one like it in history. I'm usually not a big see-the-sights person, but this was a truly extraordinary exception.

2nd roll (of 2016).

I got back my second roll of film (of 2016)!

These were all taken with my Nikon FA and Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 lens on Lomography Color Negative 400 film. I love the FA—although I've read that some people don't. I bought it a long time ago to take some beginner photography classes, and I don't know if it's just sentimentality and familiarity, but I think this camera is awesome. I was happy with the way these photos turned out, although I'm not crazy about the lomography film at all.. I'm hoping I like it better with a different camera, since I already bought six rolls of it.

I truly love having just a few prints in my hand, and not 500 files to sort through, delete, edit and decide whether to get printed. I hope that when I pick up my digital camera again, I can use it more like I do a 35mm camera. Maybe I should turn off the viewfinder? Or switch to manual focus?

And now, a tangent:

I had a hard time composing my photos this time, I kept saying everything's so close. I don't remember ever feeling that way about this camera and lens, and I think it's because for the last few years I've exclusively used a Sony Cybershot RX100. The difference between the RX100's 28mm wide angle and a 55mm focal length is pretty significant and I definitely prefer the wider angle. So, I decided to get another lens for my FA. Man, prices have increased in the last decade! An FA body—in worse condition than mine—and the 55mm  f/2.8 lens I used for these pictures are now double what I paid for them—at the same used camera store! I didn't want to invest very much money into a new lens, so I bought the cheaper Nikon Series E from ebay. We'll see how that goes.

(In 2010, I bought an AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 lens for my Nikon D40 digital SLR in an attempt to like it more—I've never cared for that camera—but I didn't understand that because of the crop factor on DSLRs I was basically still getting a normal 50mm focal length. I still don't like that camera. I wish I had just bought an old-school Nikon 35mm lens back then, rather than the DX one, so that I could also use it on the FA now, but you know, hindsight...)

When I took photography classes back then, nothing made sense to me. I struggled just to understand and remember all the details—ISO, aperture, shutter speeds—and how they interconnect. This time around, all that information seems intuitive—I think it found a home and settled in over all these years—so now I can look up stuff like focal lenghts and have it make sense when it wouldn't have before.

1st roll (of 2016).

I got my first roll of film back! This was the first film that I shot with my vintage Canon Canonet 28 from Barcelona (the New Canonet 28, a 35 mm rangefinder that originally sold in 1971 for a bit more than $50, around $300 in 2016 dollars). I was so pleasantly surprised by these photographs. And—unbelievably from the state of those black seals—there were no light leaks.

The photos are a lovely blend of sharp and dreamy, and almost look like there's some hint of tilt-shift effect applied.  My husband even commented that the scenes don't look real. Of course, we're comparing them to what they looked like in real life, but you may be able to see it when compared to a digital pic from the same time and almost exactly the same angle:

The photo below was taken with the Canonet 28, the one under that with my digital camera, a Sony Cybershot RX100. Film is better, no?

I'm not sure if it's the film or the camera, or both, but I love it. I asked the guy at Nostalgic for a color film and Kodak ColorPlus 200 is what he sold me. He called it cheap but good, and I really wish I had bought more rolls from him since it appears to be discontinued. I hadn't used ColorPlus before, and I also hadn't used a speed under 400 for as long as I can remember, so I'm not sure how much the film and film speed contributed to the overall look. Anyway, this little camera was so easy to use—just point, focus, and shoot—and I'm in love with it! Let me be perfectly honest though, there were times when I just couldn't get the shot. There is a sweet spot, light-wise, for using the Canonet 28 and I'm still learning when I shouldn't even bother taking it with me.

Remembering that I knew nothing about this camera when I bought it—I originally had my heart set on an autofocus camera—and decided to completely trust the guy at Nostalgic, I'm even more thrilled. Why can't my local photography shop be more like that? I won't even get into my experience getting this film developed here at home, suffice to say I'm still looking for a good lab.  More information about the Canonet 28 can be found here.

the time traveller's wife.

This movie should have been so dumb—a rare genetic condition causes him skip around time, uncontrollably—and creepy—she's 6, he's...36. But I loved it. I cried like a baby. This movie is going right to the top of my list of best romance movies, non-comedic.

Barcelona Vertical by Soren Berenguer.

Photo from Barcelona Vertical.

I got a chance to flip through Barcelona Vertical, by Soren Berenguer, in the Lomography shop in Barcelona and instantly coveted it. If I hadn't just bought my vintage Canon, this book would have came home with me as my Barcelona souvenir. It was full of gorgeous black and white panaramic photographs of Barcelona sights, both recognizable and mundane, and taken from such a unique vertibal perspective. I'm still thinking about it... I really regret leaving it behind but thankfully I can actually pages in the book on the website. Such a beautiful book, and such a cool concept.

point and shoot.

I've been struggling lately with the non-permanance of digital photography in the modern day. We take more photos than ever (1.1 trillion worldwide in 2016), and it seems like the point of it all has shifted from documentation and preservation for one's own self to showing off and making other people jealous (17 million selfies per week posted to social media in 2015). I watched my teenage stepsons taking lots of pictures with their iPhones during Spring Break, but when I asked them about how they back up or safeguard their photos in case something happens to their phones I got blank stares. They weren't at all interested in keeping those photos long-term. They don't even download them, they just delete them to make room for more as their phones fill up! As a teenager, I pretty much the only one who always had a camera out, and I paid for triple prints at the drugstore so that I would have a copy for myself and one to give to whoever was in the pictures. I still have those photographs, so I seriously don't understand this mindset of taking pictures to show people and then dispose of. If it's worth photographing, shouldn't it be worth keeping?

Now that I'm completely overwhelmed by digital photos, and in my longing for those simpler days, I decided to buy a 35mm film camera similar the one I would have used right before buying my first digital in 2002. I can't actually remember which 35mm camera I had then, although I remember paying almost $200 for it, a big investment for me at the time. It was a point and shoot, with not too much zoom, and small enough to always carry around in my purse. Nothing too fancy, nothing too manual. But I like those photos as much as the snapshots from my DSLR.

For $40, I picked up three cameras (representing three different decades of technological advances in photography!). I bought number one for $20 from etsy because it has a decent, fast lens and had great reviews (although the camera I bought was listed as a different camera, so the good reviews I read before buying were not applicable*). I bought camera number two, for $10 on ebay, because it has a wide angle lens (and was previously used by a police department!). And then I bought number three, also $10, also ebay, because it is exactly what I probably would have purchased in 2003 (hello pink accents). And then I had to make myself stop buying cameras.

There are just so many different cameras out there to buy, and so inexpensively. It literally costs more to buy the batteries to run some of these old cameras than to buy the cameras. At one point, my husband asked me if I was becoming a little more excited by the cameras (and film) themselves than by the prospect of, like, actually taking pictures.

#1 - Olympus Infinity Jr. (aka AF-10), 35mm, f/3.5 lens, circa 1987.*
In 1987, this camera sold for 39,300 yen, which was around $245.

#2 - Olympus SuperZoom 2800 (aka SuperZoom 80 Wide) QD, 28-80mm, f/4.5-7.8 lens, circa 1994.
In 1994, this camera sold for $420.

#3 - Canon Sure Shot 80u (aka Prima Zoom 80u) Date, 38-80mm, f/4.7-9.4 lens, circa 2003.
In 2003, this camera sold for $120.

I'm still waiting for two of the three to come in the mail, and have no real idea if they will even work, but I figured I might as well keep track of all of this, you know, for posterity.

*The buyer I bought my Infinity Jr. listed it as being an AF-10 Super. It isn't. From the research I did after buying mine, the Infinity Jr. comes in different models, the main difference being auto-flash only or flash control (auto, off, or fill-flash). Both styles are labeled Infinity Jr. without a distinction in the name, but the different models can also be labeled AF-10 (auto-flash only) or AF-10 Super (flash control). In other words, all AF-10 Supers are Infinity Jrs, but not all Infinity Jrs. are AF-10 Supers. I was a bit peeved that the etsy seller had mislabeled my camera, especially since he has a camera-selling business, rather than someone who came across an old camera in their parents' garage. And since I could have bought a real AF-10 Super for the same price. And now I feel like I need to buy a AF-10 Super.

Flytographer: Barcelona.

Our wedding day was wonderful, but I’ve always regretted not having a photographer there to capture it. I have a few very casual shots from the day that I treasure, but it’s not the same. I’ve always talked about doing a vow renewal with a professional photographer to get those missing shots. Our 10th anniversary (what?!) is coming around, and I knew if I didn’t do it now I never would. So, I started to try to plan a vow renewal. And that was basically the same as trying to plan a wedding ten years ago. I realized then that being married was all I really cared about, and I realized now that having those lovely-dovey couple photos was all I really cared about. So I told hubby he could book a trip wherever he wanted, as long as I could book a professional photo shoot during it. He chose Barcelona, a place he's been wanting to visit for some time. And I found Flytographer, which made the whole photographer thing so easy that we actually did it.

After looking at Flytographer's Barcelona photographers, we narrowed our choices to Orlando and Martina. We booked Orlando, and then I started freaking out whether we he was the right choice, and so we also booked Martina. Modeling did not come easy for us, to say the least, and both photographers did a great job with what they had to work with.

Orlando took great photographs, very artsy and dramatic, but I'm not sure I whether I would book him again because of a few things: He was 20 minutes late. (Without even notifying us. We literally stood in front of our hotel door for 20 minutes all dressed up and getting very anxious, watching the clock. He showed up right when we had finally decided that he wasn’t coming.) He said he would text information about a few restaurants he liked in the area, but he never did. (I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but Flytographer touts the local, insider tips as a plus to their services, so to not follow through wasn't cool.) He handed us a business card with the information for his personal photography business. (I’m pretty sure this is shady as Flytographer assigns their own person, a shoot concierge, as a go-between to handle all the details between their photographer and client. I'm absolutely sure they would want us to book him again through their website for future needs, and not directly.) But then I look at his photos, and I’m so glad we have them. 

Top photo and photos above by Orlando in Barcelona for Flytographer.

Martina was beyond nice and friendly, and I would highly recommend her. Her photographs were exactly what I had hoped for when booking through Flytographer - romantic and beautiful and still really cool. She was obviously a perfectionist and I can’t believe what she crammed into such a short amount of time. She was also just a pleasure to be around. In contrast to our first shoot, she was right on time (even though we met at 6:50 am on a rainy morning) and we got a text recapping her favorite coffee shops and restaurants within minutes of her leaving (she must have sent it before she even got out of our building). She talked a lot about how much she loves Flytographer, and how well they treat their clients and photographers.

Photos above by Martina in Barcelona for Flytographer.

Overall, our experience with Flytographer was great. The hardest part was choosing the photographer. It’s very hard to choose from the online portfolios, which I’m not convinced are an accurate portrayal to the style you will get back. I think they would be better off showing one whole shoot instead of a small selection from a bunch of different ones. For example, from the samples in this post it’s hard for me to tell who I prefer, but in real life Orlando had several photographs that were absolutely loved, and then a bunch that were ok and a few that we didn’t care for. Martina had a bunch that were really great, but the rest were still good and she didn’t take any that we disliked. In order words, Orlando's highs may have been a smidgen higher but Martina's photos were more consistently good across the board. I would recommend booking two shorter shoots like we did, instead of one long one, to sort of hedge your bets if you have any doubts. The second hardest part was deciding what to wear.

Barcelona on film.

We went to Barcelona a few weeks ago and it was maybe my favorite vacation of all time. But we came back from our trip with 1,200 digital pictures—not counting the ones taken on iPhones and during our first ever professional photo shoot. We had more than 200 pictures of La Sagrada Familia alone. This isn’t exactly usual, considering it was a special trip—10th anniversary!—but it’s not all that that un-usual either.

Coincidentally, my big souvenir from our trip to Barcelona was the vintage camera hanging off my shoulder in the picture below. Until Barcelona, I hadn’t touched film since my darkroom days in 2007 (wow, was it really that long ago?). With a film camera, I take one or two photos and move on. But with a digital camera I take 100 or 200 photos before I move on—is it possible that these digital files are just not as special because they don’t "cost" me anything?

Anyway, my new camera is the cutest. I bought it from Nostalgic and basically asked the guy working there which was his favorite in the store (he was so helpful, even with the language barrier) and bought it knowing nothing else. It’s a Canon Canonet 28, a 35mm rangefinder made in the early '70s. It’s got a 40mm f/2.8 lens. (I really didn’t know how accustomed I’ve become to my digital camera and its 28mm lens until I started looking through my old film cameras again and everything looked so close.)

The camera seems to be in great condition except for the light seals which are completely disintegrated, and using a mercury battery that's not available anymore which may or may not affect the exposure. I shot one roll of film with it in Barcelona and I’m really curious how it turns out. In the meantime, I did a few passes of my digital Barcelona photographs and have them edited down from 1,200 to 824 photos, but I still haven’t downloaded the iPhone pictures.