Experiments in Film: Portra, Motherhood & Fields of Light


As a mother I'm often told, "You've got your hands full!" At the grocery store, at the park. If I dare to venture to a small, quiet place that is not the library (note to self: never do this). And it's true. Full hands are occupied; I can't carry other things. Full hands are tired from a load. Awkward in life when the hands are needed - using a foot or an elbow instead. Vision obstructed by the fullness. Peering over what I carry while walking. You've got your hands full! A platitude that can even come off as an insult at times, but at it's best captures a beautiful reality. The opposite of loneliness. Like hands full of money, hands full of love letters. Hands full of film! I'm busy, I'm tired, I can't focus well; but I carry a burden of tremendous value.

Do you photograph well when traveling with your children? We booked an Airbnb in Flagstaff for our anniversary (eight years!) but the girls got sick. Like, no other human should deal with their snot at this stage type of sick. So we packed up their pea coats and brought them along, happy for the change of plans. Photographing them at home is easy; each of us in our familiar space and routine. But while traveling I find it difficult to enter either space with fullness - photographing and mothering. I find the modes totally opposed; mothering as an active, talkative, entertaining, need-meeting mode. And photographing as a silent, open, receptive and importantly solitary mode. As a remedy I take my camera out during specific intervals in which my husband has full command of the girls and their needs. It helps.

For this experiment I shot Portra 400 at one shutter speed (1/125) wide open, hoping again for an easier method than external metering. I rated this roll at 200. Approaching my kids space to take a reading is something I cannot get used to, having shot polaroid and digital for so long. The good news - it worked! The light was tremendous at this particular moment. Diffused by pines and brightly reflecting off the grass. Using one shutter speed enabled me to just shoot - focusing on composition and emotion more than mechanics.

This was Vivian's first time touching snow. Can you remember? I grew up with it in New York so I have a gamut of memories: numb fingers and toes, how it immediately turned to brown slosh, lumpy but respectable snowmen, the first snowfall blanketing the houses on my street. Watching it go by street lamps like a swarm of gnats in one direction. But then and now, how it looks was my favorite part. Vivian was thrilled to embody the things we've read about and watched over the years. Throwing snowballs, bravely making a snow angel and hearing it crunch beneath her feet.

These photographs were made in the swirl of chaos that is two little girls, colds notwithstanding. Whining and falling and running in opposite directions and my bag stuffed with other cameras being too heavy. Throwing a snowball directly at my lens (kid!) and needing noses wiped. Overall I'm pleased with how they turned out! It's hard to go wrong in dappled forest light. These pictures were taken on the Canon Elan that my mom got me at a garage sale for $10. 35mm continues to dazzle me with it's handling of light. The forced waiting of film is good for my body, brain and creativity. Waiting for the moment of intrigue, the leap, the laugh, the pinecone found.

These last few images mean so much to me since I have so few photographs of myself with the girls in comparison to the droves of them alone. I am cherishing this season we're in, especially since Eleanor dropped to one nap and we can actually leave the house for longer than a few hours. We have a new dynamic, the three of us. Not mama and Vivian and baby but now Mama and her girls. They play, they talk, Vivian feeds Eleanor cheerio by cheerio and says, "good job, little duckling." Being their mama can threaten to disintegrate my identity at times... it pushes to me to the limit of my physical endurance and then gives the final enthusiastic shove off the cliff. But I am getting used to it. To the tumbling and stretching; the painful yet fruitful work of nurturing these tiny image bearers to fruition.

Experiments in Film: Aperture Priority on Portra 400


Hello light lovers,

Let's talk about metering. The prospect of having to use a handheld meter kept me from shooting 35mm for a long time. Because the heart of my work is children in genuine motion I avoid interrupting them too much. But after this roll I can say that along with many aspects of shooting film, I get the results back and realize it's worth the cons, inconvenience and cost. Changing my shooting method feels intimidating, but I'm trying to lean into the discomfort and will do another roll soon metering all the way through. Photographers with more experience (bless you all, every last one) tell me that metering by the book is a season, and once you have experience you can usually guess based on your stored knowledge of lighting conditions and favored aperatures. Fingers crossed!


Although I've already shot a test roll of Portra 400, shooting it on aperture priority at golden hour was on my list of experiments. This setup was on my list because I hoped (wished) it would enable me to leave the meter at home. But really, I just needed to confirm that a less invasive metering method wasn't a workable option. I know it's limitations in the digital world but want to try it out anyway. It performed as expected: okay but generally unreliable with a tendency to underexpose. I rated this roll at 200.


Thoughts on this roll: I'm learning how film acts when pointed into the sun. I'm learning to yield to perfection as with polaroid — how to press the shutter only when all elements align: story, light, composition. But when the consequence comes a week later (or two if black and white) instead of right away, I notice my heart gets a little unruly. I grasp — I see magic in my viewfinder and I panic. The digital trigger pace creeps back in. And I'm left with about 30% satisfaction with the roll. I'd prefer arond 99%. 

Although that high of a yield is unrealistic, I enjoy striving after it. The stringent, unrealistic self-discipline of art-making. God knows I rarely apply such a standard in my life! But having a tiny curated room where I can arrange every stick of furniture as I see fit and be as manic as I please... that's satisfying. Maybe a psychological maladaptation to a fallen world (a blogpost for another day, I have maladaptations galore) but satisfying nonetheless. And a close confidante throughout my life. I heard in the trailer for Annie Leibovitz's new Master Class, "Don't be afraid to get obsessed." Don't mind if I do. 


Thanks for reading, dear hearts. Where are you in your film journey? Seasoned vet? Scaredy cat? I'm smack dab in the middle of those two I think. Bringing 15 years of both experience and baggage to each roll. We get addicted to this feeling, don't we. The feeling of being a beginner. The pursuit, however mind-bending the learning curve. The voice inside keeps singing it's silent song and our fingers must put it to form. Film is the landing place for all of my deepest stories; I get a roll back and think how wondrous it is that there's this opera going on inside my head, with dramatic ups and down, and all I have to do to let it out is press a button.

How To Get Started With Super 8 Film


Welcome to your simplified guide to shooting Super 8 film. Like most quests, my film journey has had intense highs, low lows and the slow and steady grind between them. Of these highs is the connection film gives me to my senses, the amazing artists I've met so far, and the thrill of seeing my creative intent actualize before my eyes. The chiefest of the lows is the disorganized, frustrating process of getting information known as the learning curve

Part of me has to own that I am averse to the learning process in general. My photographic approach is rather neanderthal: me press button, me make magic now! The process of learning on the internet is disorganized: photographers, blogs, forums. Consider steering clear of the latter if you struggle with anger management, have little patience in general, hail from New York, are a millennial or are all of the above (me).

So! Here is the condensed version of how I got started with Super 8, intended to enable you to start shooting right away leaving the research phase as optional. Although my knowledge of this medium deepens as I go, I like to stay on a need-to-know basis. I learn by doing. You too?


Step 1. Buy this camera

Two options: invest in a new one like this one or this one. Pros: completely guaranteed to work and will not need servicing. Stellar quality. Cons: price! Or:

Buy an old one from this list. I got mine (Canon 518 Auto Zoom) for $40 on Craigslist. You will likely need to have it serviced although many still work well. I sent mine to  Marvin at Photo Center in LA. I believe I spent $90 on service and about $40 on shipping. 

Step 2. Buy this film kit

I found two main labs that sell and process Super 8 film, both in California. One had a stellar website: Pro8mm. That's the one I went with and have never looked back. They babied me in the beginning and answered all of my questions, bless them. Bonus: self-addressed stamped envelopes, people. Buy their Film Kit from their website or on Amazon, which includes everything you need: film cartridge, process, scan to cloud, return envelope and shipment of your negatives.

Step 3. Shoot and send

Note to self of the past: don't overthink the film kits. Use Bright Sun in bright sun, use Color in good light indoors or soft light outdoors, and Low Light in low light. It really is that easy! I only use auto exposure and tend to shoot in 5 second clips. Once you're done filming, send it to the lab and you'll get a link within a weekish. 

There you have it, the blog post I wish I had come across in the beginning. See a few examples of my work below and feel free to reach out with questions. Creating Super 8 films for families (mine and yours) is a passion I love to share. It captures the feeling, warmth and intimacy of family like no other film. I call it the medium of memory. Blessings to you on your journey and may the learning curve ever-bend in your favor. 

Experiments in Film: Tri-X with the Canon AE-1

Black and white!

Welcome to my first roll of Tri-X 400, shot at box speed with the Canon AE-1. This is likely the last time I will use this beauty of a camera because manual focus + electric little kids don't mix well. My major takeaway from this roll is how my art is dependent on auto-focus and even developed because of it. Being able to capture true motion without premeditation (on my part or my subjects) is my joy. I simply can't get my act together with a rangefinder. And I find the whole process a cumbersome step. Hashtag millennial? Hashtag sue me?

You can also sue me for wishing most of these were in color. While I passionately love the tones of SX-70 monochrome, these made me feel a pang of regret that they were shot on BW. I have found pangs of regret to come with the territory of film. Not only regret but a paper trail of your errors to boot. I believe this to be a good thing creatively. A deterrent and a motivator. To keep seeking after quality, to choose film and press the shutter with extreme care. Experimenting teaches me to be less precious. To shoot, to try, to know by doing. 

Experiments in Film: Charlotte and Beatrice in the Winter Window Light

It seems only yesterday I used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light.

If you cut me I could shine.

—Billy Collins


When you have golden light pouring into a window it barely matters what camera or film you're using. So I credit the sun with the magic of these. And the whispy, untamed hair of these sisters. My first roll of Portra 400, shot on aperture priority. Because the light was strong I could focus on composition with these. Wouldn't it be lovely if that were always the case? 

Art as Evidence

 Scenes from  Dad's photo box

Scenes from Dad's photo box

Sunday night. Sleep beckons and yet in the dark... a call to the page one last time. A final dump before the sleepy hormones agree to be released. So. What do you have to say for yourself, thoughts?


"I love being alive. The art is the evidence of that."


This is the quote percolating in the dark, said by Jim Carrey in the six-minute documentary I Needed Color. Tapping my shoulder like a tiny toddler hand at the side of my bed. My working definition of the artist's ambition over the years has been from Chaim Potok's novel and play My Name is Asher Lev: “Millions of people can draw. Art is whether there is a scream in you wanting to get out in a special way.”

A special scream. Lovely ain't it? But I have experienced a change since becoming a mother. Carrying and birthing two live, infinite souls. Since fighting for my marriage and losing my house and standing in front of the closed door of a relationship that will never open again. And banging on that door with the force of hell. Growing with a God who is both clearer and more obscure than when we met 10 years ago.

Art as evidence.

I am reminded of Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

Evidence. Indications. Words inscribed on every raindrop. Speaking, speaking, making God known. And us down here, Jim Carrey with a paint brush and canvas also taking mind to form - his voice going out. Showing forth the evidence. Opening his hands and giving what he has.

Matt has been singing Little Drummer Boy with Vivian every night, and because we are broken, failures of a man and wife with little to give we tear up every single time. 

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum, 
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, 
Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum, 
On my drum? 

No gift to bring, so he brings his art, his word, his song. The thing that flows from his being. Should I tell you how hard I am crying as I write these words? I guess this is the thought that wanted to get out before going to bed (and I have to borrow from Rumi to even get it out):

God is working everywhere his massive resurrection, and the art is the evidence of that.

addtoport 6a.jpg

God is working everywhere his massive Resurrection:

How can we pretend to act on our own?

In the hand of Love I am like a cat in a sack;

Sometimes love hoists me into the air,

Sometimes Love flings me to the ground.

Love swings me round and round his head;

I have no peace in this world or any other.

The Lovers of God have failed in a furious river;

They have surrendered themselves to Love’s commands.

Like mill wheels they turn, day and night, day and night,

Constantly turning and turning, and crying out. 

— Rumi

Make The Song Cry | Thoughts on the Artist's Calling


What drives me to create? One theory: it's an addiction. Not to the art-making process but to a specific feeling, a core theme (discussed in Sometimes Pure Light episode 1). While my substance is the feeling the fix is putting it into form. When I capture it in a photograph I get high. It! It! Elusive it! In the time it takes for a polaroid to develop, the high fades and I must pick up my camera again. Put me into form, put me in form says the feeling. 

When I don't, withdrawal looms. The feeling scratches at the door. I hear it while I'm making scrambled eggs and before I go to sleep. "Coming, coming..." I say. The scratch turns into a knock then a pound that breaks down the door. Sheesh. Many artists have described an adversarial relationship with their craft. Not the feeling itself (never) but the tension of the relationship. The demands. 


Put me into form. Put me into form perfectly. Put me into form now. Put me into form and you will be satisfied. You will fly. Put me into form in a new way. Put me into form 1,000,000 wrong ways first and the right way will appear. Put me into form for the right reasons; for me and me alone. I am your audience, your client, your highest end. Don't put me into form until you have traveled and listened and received. Put me into form for no worldly benefit - money, recognition, praise. Put me into form even though you will be looked at by someone as a bad mom, a victim, self-obsessed, doing something unimportant and those thoughts will hurt you deeply. Put me into form instead of mopping the floors. 

Does this sound dramatic? Many have asked why artists and darkness almost always go together. Most recently I loved Yan Palmer's thoughtful post on the subject. Are depression and creativity necessarily connected? I'm not sure. What matters to me is the acknowledgement that the process necessarily beats your psyche like the ballerina's feet. At the end of the day, addiction is maladaptive. It is inconsistent with practical life, obligations, conventional behavior, linear thought. If I become a healthier person will I still create? Yes. But the process cuts, I bleed, and it leaves a scar. I strive for health, but the work itself is like the mortician's: it touches death and it affects me. 


Should I enter rehab? Therapy? Start a yoga practice? But I have beaten you there. Making art is my healing - but if and only if I am devoted. Putting feeling in form. Taking in, putting out. Making the unfelt felt, the unsaid said, the unknown known, the unstretched stretched. Like sweating out toxins and receiving the due endorphins as a prize. But unlike those methods (which artists should probably do in addition to their art, we need all the help we can get) we don't choose to make art. It is given, like the nurse's practicality and the philosopher's probing mind.

I recently watched an interview with Jay-Z by the New York Times where he discussed a song on his new album. The hook describes the artist's reality: I can't see 'em coming down my eyes, so I gotta make the song cry. Although he's describing his inability to cry (typically not a problem for artists - ha) the line was extraordinarily beautiful to me. I gotta. It's a necessity. The best description of talent I've heard is not the thing you love to do but the thing you can't not do. I gotta make the song cry.


In an attempt to truly show up for my marriage and kids, I have tried to put art to the side. Makes sense, right? Any way you slice it, my family is more important to me than my non-monetized, half-realized art. But the subjective reality cannot be turned off: put me into form, put me into form. It's not that I want to create more than function in my family, but rather making space for creating is what allows me to do so. Part of me believes that art and depression so often go together because the artist can't get there for various reasons. Can't get the caged bird to sing, can't get the song to cry. 

In a dark corner I have puzzled over the incompatibility of the artist's calling with motherhood. Asking the question already puts me outside the camp. Oh, no one else has a lifelong, interloping obsession that disrupts all relationships? Me either... asking for a friend! I had a conversation once with a mom I admire (hi Becky) whose talent is teaching. As a homeschooling educator she doesn't grapple with the question. Her callings are seamless. I guess my kids will have to deal with Mom Divided. But I learned something this year that is helping: devotion means consistency, passion, presence. Not exclusivity. Being 100% entranced 100% of the time isn't good for any area: children, marriage or calling.


When I was converting to Christianity in 2007, I heard two things that changed my life. First, that the identity of a woman is not primarily in her gender but in her capacity to use reason. In her being an image-bearer of God. And that each human life has a totally unique ability to make God known. I am first human, and I have a contribution to the human story that is mine alone to give. I'm more than a sexual object and my talents matter. Had my church not been so strong in these doctrines I likely would have continued on my path of scoffing at Jesus. I connected strongly with those ideas then, but they have faded as love, marriage, pregnancies, babies, suffering and the status quo have taken residence in my mind.

How did I manage to write this blog today? Because I have dutifully woken up at 5:00 a.m. every morning this week before the kids? No. Because I had an infected wisdom tooth extracted and am locked in my workspace with jello and prescriptions. I have been writing for five hours, finally putting into words these ideas that have been percolating for ten years. But morning devotion to my craft is my path forward. To approach the feeling that seeks me and invite it in for a (timed) visit. It doesn't stop it from sitting on my doorstep like a fed stray cat, but instead of scratching she lays in the sun, cleans her paws and purrs.


Photographs taken on a motherhood shoot with my dear friend Sarah and her daughters. 

Simple & Meaningful Photo Gift in Three Steps

The idea for these simple & meaningful photo gifts began when I saw the way @amandajanejones used family photos at her Thanksgiving table this year. I printed a few for that purpose, but then a few turned into several, and what started as table settings became collections for both grandparents and the three aunts as a way to thank them for their huge love this year. I enjoyed watching their faces as they unwrapped the string and discovered the contents within — their beloved babies, my kids.


My process here used both Photoshop and a paper trimmer, but a straightforward method is printing through Artifact Uprising instead, who offers both a standard border and the 3x25.4x25 size. The reason I opted for typical photo paper here was because my local Walmart just installed Fujifilm instant print kiosks whose quality is surprisingly stellar! I wanted these photos to have a specific look (some are 35mm, some digital) reminiscent of the tones found in my Dad's photo box. I thought family members could hang some at work, some on the fridge, put some in frames or like Grammy said: carry them around with her wherever she goes. 

Simple & meaningful photo gift in three steps:

Step 1. Print photos in monochrome with white border

Step 2. Stuff into string enclosure envelope with a note

Step 3. Date stamp front + gift 

These envelopes are made by American Crafts and can be purchased on Amazon, Hobby Lobby or similar stores.

I got my date stamp from Amazon and really, if you don't have one -- now is the time. It's just a thrill everyone needs in their life: date-stamping envelopes, letters, photographs, the kids' art, etc.! If you decide to make a gift like this, I would love to see! Shoot me an e-mail or DM. Check out the video below to see the photos I used.

Happy memory-making, picture-taking and photograph-making, my friends.




Goodrich Family on Super 8

Will you be the one to unravel me
Put me back together again?
All I got is this tangled heart,
Oh my God where do we begin?
We've come such a long, long way
I am not gonna stop what we started
But I saw it in your eyes today
A little tired and a little discarded
But honey, honey, honey
Hold me, hold me, hold me tight
Till the morning, morning, morning
And it's fine
I think that we'll be fine
I think that we'll be fine
We're not getting younger
I can count the years on your skin
Trailing the lines of the tears you cried
Look who we are still smiling
If we wish things were different now
We all know that we'd be lying
But honey, honey, honey
Hold me tight till the morning, morning, morning
And it's fine
I think that we'll be fine
I think that we'll be fine
Oh Honey, honey, honey hold me tight
Till the morning, morning, morning
And it's fine
Oh Honey, honey, honey hold me tight
Till the morning, morning, morning
And it's fine
I think that we'll be fine
I think that we'll be fine
I think that we'll be fine

October Memories

Picture a TV. On that screen place an image from a scene in your life where you felt your highest level of rage. Now pixelate that image. And destroy the TV. Take a baseball bat to it. Drop it off the Grand Canyon. Immediately I see my childhood set. A retro, Jetson’s-looking thing with bulbous front and antenna. I ask the image angrily: Why won’t you love me? I don’t want to pixelate you. I want to yell while I have you trapped here. But seeing the scene this way makes the face a stranger. I squint and look closer; it's in pain. 

A bat? That doesn’t seem right. The Grand Canyon? I launch it but it dissolves mid-throw. I am scared of the height, nauseas. I shake my head. I would never launch you pixelated and disarmed into a cavernous hole. I pick you up tenderly like Gollum and march you home. It’s spring, pleasant. I hear the hose deep watering the orange trees. Standing at the door, I know what I will do. I don’t linger; I pick you up and place you on the curb for the trash to collect. You must go, but my instinct to hurt you is gone, gone, gone. 

The most important thing I read this year was a post from @amanda_booth: 

"Being in a relationship with any person, married or not, for many years, isn’t easy. Don’t let the embellishment of other people in their perfectly posed instagram stories make you feel like anything from a rough patch, to pure devastation isn’t normal. Love is a choice so much of the time, and you gotta fight for it. "

I’ve started making capsule envelopes to put into my photo boxes. This one holds our trip to Mortimer Farms, a poem by my husband and some pressed carnation petals. Date-stamped to remember this day and  our season of learning to fight for love. The exercise described above taught me an important lesson about grief: it is tactile. It craves the structure of physicality like laying flowers on a grave or getting a tattoo or hearing the ground crunch beneath two hiking feet. I take photographs and memory-keep as a container; to put boundaries on the lessons I learn, to stamp them with a date. The click-click brings a small closure; wrapping string around this envelope and tucking it warmly, safely away.