The Soldier and the Squirrel introduces children to the Purple Heart

through a loving story of a friendship between a newly wounded soldier

and Rocky the squirrel with his backyard friends. This story began as a

blog during my first year in bed after my incident. With much

encouragement, it is now a book and has been placed in the

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. Please watch the video

on the About page to learn for the Soldier & Rocky are changing children's






Glorious Rejoice Dots Glitter





Subscribe to the Fried Nerves and Jam Podcast!

« Finding Light in the Dark | Main | Destination Photographer 101 »

An Aloha to Film

Sitting with my father outside our hotel room, listening to the glub, glub of dolphins carousing in the lagoon, the Kahala has awakened memories unstirred. The leis draped on my bedpost resurrect images of stringing Plumeria in my yard as a child. Yet it's not only the scent of flowers that's brought back my childhood in Hawaii. It was a visit to Haleiwa today and a local photographic exhibit of black and white underwater images of turtles which yanked the chain of my inner child, when the photographer proclaimed he shot everything...on film...

The sweet putrid aroma of photographic chemicals wafts in my memory. Black and white photographs dangled on a string handcuffed by clothespins over the toilet. This was our darkroom. I was 10, dad loved photography, and the most logical place to conduct the transformation of images to paper was on a fold-down lab, which he ingeniously anchored like a Murphy bed above the porcelain god. It was where we worshipped possibilities, dipping and drenching the 8 x 10 sheets of magic into solutions witnessing images cross the middle realm to the harsh reality of our 1970’s orange painted bathroom. Mom had painted it orange to match the box of Tide. Why it was orange still perplexes me as the box of Tide never entered the bathroom. Hawaii in the 70’s, not much about style made sense to me, but one constant was the pursuit of the perfect photograph, and my father was the master hunter. He’d prepare for the capture with Praktika in hand and a crackling brown leather bag impregnated with filters and lenses for any possible scenario. Rolls of film marinated in every ASA, color, black and white, slide film. The real photographers of the day shot in slides. National Geographic only accepted slides, he would say. If you really knew what you were doing, you could shoot slide, because if you were a half stop off, there was nothing you could do. Slides scared me. The technical aspect of photography, the actual science of the capture, crouched in wait on my father’s tongue, anticipating that perfect moment to leap into my psyche and implant its infinite knowledge within my frontal lobe. This game of proverbial darts never quite hit the bullseye. I spent my childhood fascinated by the process of taking pictures and developing photographs, but it somehow seemed if I knew what I was doing, the magic would dissolve into the developing solution….

For years, my father sighed, all the while grateful we shared a common interest. His glossies reflecting the floral fauna of Mauna Loa, the Plumerias from our back yard, the rainbows over the Koolau Range, had a character about them that was uniquely my father. His exposures perfect, the colors birthed from the papers. All I knew was someday I would understand what those technical things were, like Aperture and Shutterspeed, bracketing and focal length...but not yet…I wasn’t ready to be a real photographer. I was having too much fun…

Then came the disposable camera. Creative botox for the budding photographer. It was too easy. One hour labs were the drug den of my adolescence. I’d hover outside the glass door peering in at the clock on the wall, the hands creeping around the face until time was up and I could visually scarf that yellow envelope of 36 glossies. Each  3x5 was a fossil from the day, a surreal activity in reliving moments gone. I didn’t even think of whether they were exposed properly. Unless there was a little sticker with a red exclamation point apologizing that my technical discressions were beyond reproach, I figured I was fine. To me, it was all about the moments. Pure unadulterated capture of that wild and untamed blip on the radar of history that will never be again. It was the ubiquitous urge to revisit the past which truly ebbed into an obsession akin to that of a shopoholic. I could not get enough of the fix. Some women bought shoes, I bought film, shot and conquered, without the tools to break down the perpetual barrier of competence. The guardian angel of photographers hunched above my kitchen table, her head in her hands waiting in the frustrated clench of a disapproving parent with unconditional love. Just as with any addict, it was up to the individual to admit they had a problem. You see, in the beginning, it was not about perfection. It was not about technique. It was about the process, the purchase of the yellow box with the black vile, the popping open of the cap and the threading of the film through the impossible crease in the cylindrical rubics cube that was my camera. It was a rite of passage to learn to thread film properly into the camera so that just enough of it backtracked onto the camera's belly. There was delicious anxiety in wondering if I had threaded too far in, and once the door was shut, the process could begin...the technical gymnastics unseen by the naked eye, until the trigger would freeze on that final frame announcing the end of that creative journey.

As my drug of choice has morphed into the virtual, and slightly perplexing form of digital, it was film which laid the foundation for all I know and love that is photography. Although I love my computer, I cannot smell the evolution of the image, nor massage the paper through the chemicals in the hard drive. Yet it is because of that Murphy bed of possibilities above the porceline god of Tide, that the essence of film development has been reincarnated in the method of all I do today. The tones, the levels, the highlights, must mimic that of film, gradiating throughout the image with the flow of a visual tide. What is now receding into the history of our medium, is not something to be seen as archaic, but as the foundation from which all creative imagery potential today...this is for me, the aloha of film...

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (1)

Great post! While I shot film for 25+ years, I have to admit, I was never in love with my darkroom. I think it's because I actually had to work in darkrooms for a living (over 40 hours a week and the romance faded pretty soon in my late teens, early 20's). I think I was sad when I "broke down" my darkroom but that's because I wasn't comfortable switching to digital at the time. Now, my "massaging" the image out comes from some digital dodge and burn but I'm able to free myself up a bit creatively now. I never thought I would turn my back on film but I am a digital photographer now. There is a nostalgia but not in a regretful kind of way!

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersharizellers

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>