The most half-assed Blood Moon photo ever. This one was taken with a D7100, ISO cranked way up, with a Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 and a Promaster 2x teleconverter and a garbage can for a tripod, by a photographer who’d been awake about thirty seconds and didn’t really have her heart in it. (This shot was at 200mm. She took like 20 at 70mm before she remembered she could zoom in. Like I said, awake 30 seconds.) I bet y’all can do better— anyone get a better shot?

The most half-assed Blood Moon photo ever. This one was taken with a D7100, ISO cranked way up, with a Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 and a Promaster 2x teleconverter and a garbage can for a tripod, by a photographer who’d been awake about thirty seconds and didn’t really have her heart in it. (This shot was at 200mm. She took like 20 at 70mm before she remembered she could zoom in. Like I said, awake 30 seconds.) I bet y’all can do better— anyone get a better shot?

Just shipped out our 100th sale from our Etsy shop

I put a glitter smiley face on the invoice. I like Etsy’s aesthetic. For our 40,000th sale on eBay, earlier this autumn (last month sometime), I didn’t do anything to the invoice because I figured the customer would think it was weird. 

Sometimes you just need to get yourself through the day by doing dramatic readings of the totally incoherent questions you get on eBay and Amazon.

One we printed out and taped to the wall reads: 

I already arrive the chamber, this perfect one, but the cable of charger, is miss. please, Is need know when would command, thanks.

Garth, that was a haiku.

Kodak Brownie 2A: 1920-24, in our Etsy store.

This camera was an early snapshot camera, designed to make photography accessible to the average person. The camera originally retailed for what would today be around $35. 

This one is notable because it still has most of the original box, and the original owner’s manual is intact. So I scanned it, paying particular attention to the stylish gent in the photo illustration. 

The page that talks about the flash you could use with the camera mentions lighting the flash with a match. Yes really. Think about how dramatic that would be. 

Anyway— this camera took 116 rollfilm, which is similar to today’s currently-available 120 film but on a differently-sized spool. 116 was discontinued decades ago, but some people do respool 120 onto old 116 spools so they can use these old cameras. 

We’ve been running  a trade-in/buyback event in the Buffalo stores for the last month or so, and we’ve had a lot of crazy stuff pass through here. This is today’s collection of old mostly-Kodak vest pocket cameras, two of which had film still in them. 

The color 120 roll we developed here, and it was blank, alas— it can’t have been that old, it was Kodachrome II, which is pre-1980 but had a plastic spool. The other one is a roll of 118 film, which was originally patented in the 1890s… I highly doubt anything will come of it but we’ve sent it to Joe at the Delaware store, since he’s the only one with the know-how to develop Verichrome. … Verichrome Pan was introduced in 1956. 118 film was discontinued in 1961. So… That film has to be pretty old, and latent images do not have *that* long a life. But they do survive much longer in black and white film than in color. So there’s still a slim chance something might come out from that roll. 

Very slim.

I’ll have these up for sale in our Etsy store next week. By then I’ll know if there was anything on that roll of 118!!



Museum of Natural History - First Ever Sleepover for Grownups - New York City

There are a few places in New York City that are almost more New York City than New York City itself.

The American Museum of Natural History is one of those places.

Say its name in certain late-night conversations and you are bound to encounter a wide spectrum of responses most of which are accompanied by a starry-eyed look usually reserved for times when people think back to beloved childhood memories.

Even visiting the museum on frequent school trips during my own childhood, the museum seemed to be a portal into an alternate New York City reality tinged by nostalgia.

The museum started having sleepovers for children and their parents around a decade ago. But it wasn’t until last week that the museum decided to host its first ever "sleepover for grownups".

The allure of an adults-only sleepover was strong, of course. The sleepover’s tickets sold out within the first three hours that they were up for sale.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the 150 adults who got to attend the sleepover. It was a fascinating night.

Here is some of what transpired…


Sleepover guests were greeted by live jazz music inside of the museum courtesy of the 12th Night Jazz Ensemble


The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life was the setting for the actual sleeping part of the sleepover. Guests were guided to the hall to pick a cot under the 94 foot blue whale or away from it (I met quite a few people over the course of the night who seemed to share a fear of having the giant whale fall on them in their sleep).


There was also a champagne reception followed by a three course meal where sleepover guests nervously contemplated how the evening’s adventures would unfold.


I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was happily surprised to find that there was an in-depth itinerary provided for us:


All 45 museum halls and the entire Rose Center for Earth and Space were open for free exploration. Some of the hallways were completely empty.


I took an empty elevator up to the 4th floor. I knew what I wanted to see most of all.

The dinosaurs, of course.


It was a stellar moment when I realized that the dinosaurs were lit up in a special way at night.

I had T-Rex all to myself for a good 10 minutes.

It was *spectacular*.


This night was also the first night I got to use the Sony A7S which has insane low-light capability. You can basically shoot up to 50,000 ISO with little noise. For those who don’t know what ISO is, ISO is the measure of how sensitive your camera sensor is to light. For reference, my first DSLR could only ever really shoot up to around 800 ISO. Anything greater than that and the photos would be extremely noisy.

This next photo was taken at 25,600 ISO with the A7S. It’s straight out of camera. If you want to view it really large, here it is: T-Rex at 25,600 ISO


I can’t wait to take this camera out on the dark streets of New York City at night.

Back to the sleepover though.

There were a lot of events on the itinerary. I took a break from the dinosaurs to go and attend a presentation about toxicology in the Power of Poison exhibit.

The exhibit was fun to walk through. Here is a representation of the witches from Macbeth.


This is the table at the presentation with all sorts of ominous things like a giant cell display, a tea kettle, a skull, and Arsenic.


And here is the curator of the Power of Poison exhibit who is an author and one of the world’s top leech experts, Dr. Mark Siddall. He is demonstrating the effects of Arsenic. :)


Before the next event on the itinerary, I ran back to the 4th floor to gawk at the dinosaurs again for a few minutes. If this is what the kids at the sleepovers have been experiencing for years, I am supremely jealous. I love these exhibits even more at night.


I also took a little detour and visited a new exhibit called Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs. There is a simulation game where you can flap your arms to fly like a pterosaur on the screen in front of you. You can then fly over the ocean and try to catch fish, or fly through a forest and try to catch bugs. It is surprisingly (or not surprisingly) hard to catch fish or bugs while flying around with an enormous prehistoric wingspan.

This is another museum guest attempting to fly like a pterosaur.


My dinosaur visit was short-lived since I had to book it to get to the Live Animal presentation. No one really knew what live animals would be featured but the speculation was quite amusing over dinner. My dinner table guests nearly lost it when someone suggested that there would be sloths. Sloths!

Alas, there were no sloths. But that’s ok because there was an owl:


…and a lemur eating a banana.


There was also a bird of prey, an alligator who urinated all over the trainer and the stage, and a Burmese python.

Before the midnight showing of the current space show in the planetarium, I quickly made my way to the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda. When I was really little, it was one of my favorite places in all of New York City. It’s really hard to beat. Not too many other places can boast a trio of large dinosaurs in action poses.

I was surprised to find the room totally empty. If you have visited this museum, you will recognize this room as one of the main entrances. It’s usually full of people since it’s one of the places you can enter the museum and purchase tickets to the exhibits. To experience it empty was truly sublime.


I always thought that the dinosaurs looked a bit like they were dancing.


That tail…


The planetarium show ended somewhere between 1 am and 2 am. I had lofty goals of sleeping under the giant whale but I wanted to visit the Lunar Lounge first.

The Lunar Lounge was the name given to the adult-sleepover-decked-out Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth. It was a space for those adults who preferred to skip sleep. With non-stop films, electrical outlets to charge devices and dim lighting, it was a pretty cool place to hang out for a bit.


At around 3 am, I decided to make my way back to the whale.

Decked out in an oversized hoodie and leggings (the instructions were to bring comfortable clothes for sleeping in sleeping bags but no pajamas: one of the most puzzling requests related to the event), I marveled at how eerily beautiful the museum was at night.


And as I nestled into my sleeping bag under the giant whale, I knew this would be a night I would never forget.



Some notes about the sleepover:

1. Sleep was but a dream. As I mentioned, I had lofty expectations that I would be able to sleep. In truth, they remained lofty expectations. We were warned that the cots would be extremely uncomfortable. That was an understatement.

But it wasn’t the cot that did me in sleep-wise. And it wasn’t the noise or low-level of light in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. As a travel photographer, I travel with ear plugs and an eye mask and I had both in my possession for this sleepover.

It was the bone-chilling cold.

I guess something that you never really think about when you think of museums is how incredibly cold they get at night. While I had my comfy sleeping bag and I was wearing a hoodie and leggings, I was still uncomfortably freezing for the few futile hours that I attempted to sleep. In retrospect, I should have just kept roaming around the museum. If I were to do the sleepover again, I would actually bank on not sleeping at all.

2. The crowd. I was actually a bit surprised at how restrained the guests were throughout the night. I think I expected that there would be more…revelry. Everything was very, very subdued though which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I was shocked when I entered the sleeping hall at around 3:30 in the morning to find many people sleeping soundly (how did they sleep in that cold?!).

There seemed to be many couples and groups of friends. I was solo on this adventure and so perhaps I was just keenly aware of how paired-up everyone else seemed to be. It’s a great event to attend with someone special, that’s for sure.

3. The itinerary. As I mentioned in the photo-set above, I was pleasantly surprised to find there was a planned itinerary with events and presentations. The presentations and events were pretty fantastic. The only thing I think could be improved would be to space the events out a bit more to allow for more free roaming of the museum. If you wanted to attend all of the events, you would have been left with only a little over an hour to explore the museum.

4. The price. The price was quite steep. At $375 per person, it definitely wasn’t a budget-friendly choice of an NYC outing. The price seemed to cover quite a bit in terms of events, food, and drink (unlimited wine at dinner, champagne reception). One quibble I had in regards to the food was that I felt that the breakfast could have been a lot more than muffins and juice for that price.

The children’s sleepover price is $145 per person. Of course, the children’s sleepovers don’t come with unlimited wine at dinner, a champagne reception and quite a bit of live music, I would assume. It will be interesting to see if the price stays at $375 per person for the adult sleepover in the future. The museum already indicated that they will try to host more of these adults-only type of events so time will tell.


I hope you enjoyed my museum sleepover recap!


Looking for these (and more) photos of the museum sleepover for adults to view larger? Here you go (click or tap on each photo to view larger):

Museum of Natural History - Sleepover for Grownups


P.S. - Information about my New York City photography book which is releasing in stores and online in the autumn of 2014 (including where to order it):

NY Through The Lens: A New York Coffee Table Book


View: My New York City photography portfolio, My Travel Blog, On G+,email me, or ask for help.

Photo labs are getting increasingly rare as film becomes more and more of a niche market. We still have a couple of locations with minilabs in them, and our business has remained fairly steady in that department since the initial dropoff as the masses switched to digital— as film labs become rarer and rarer, customers are coming from farther and farther afield to have their film developed at our labs. 

So we’ve finally put photofinishing services online, through our Etsy shop. It’s still something we’re working the kinks out of, logistics-wise, because we’ve never done processing through the mail. We do mail-order digital prints, sure (go to, you can order them there), but film is another animal entirely. 

At this time we’re just doing color (C-41 process) and black and white, 35mm and 120, as well as APS. (Not much of it around, but as long as our winding machine works, we’ll keep doing it!) 


color 35mm processing

black and white 35mm processing

color and black and white 120


If that’s something you’re in need of, or if you know someone who needs it, kindly pass this along? We like film and want to keep doing it as long as possible. 


A Seamless Way to Build Your Own Studio


Becky Hale is a staff photographer for National Geographic. She is also the mother of two children who often become her photographic subjects.

Most people don’t have a studio at their disposal, but shooting a head-to-toe portrait on white seamless is a lot simpler than you may imagine. It’s a great way to capture the character of your subject by isolating them on a clean, simple background and you don’t need a lot of gear.


Here’s what you’ll need:

1. Camera

2. Tripod

3. Roll of super-white background paper

4. Roll of heavy-duty tape

5. A flat surface (like a driveway) that’s in open shade

6. A tall friend or a ladder

7. A willing subject

Step 1: Location

You want to shoot this portrait in open shade, so finding the perfect spot is important. My small one-story garage casts a shadow on my driveway, but the rest of the driveway is in the sun. The light hitting the driveway (and houses across the street) fill my subject’s face with even, soft light. There is no direct light hitting my subject and my background paper is completely in the shade.

Step 2. Setup

Unroll your paper. The big roll end should remain on the ground. Pull the paper up as high as you can and tape it straight across a flat surface. In my case, I taped it to the top of my garage door. It doesn’t have to be pretty as it won’t be in shot. Roll the paper out a few feet, so that your subject has about two or three feet of paper to stand on.

Step 3. With your subject standing against the background and with their body completely in the shade, start shooting and expose for the white paper. This is really important as you want the paper to go white, not gray. If can be very easy - especially if you’re shooting outside - to be fooled by your camera display and accidentally underexpose this shot. Sometimes I’ll even zip inside to look at the image out of the bright sun to be sure my exposure is ok. You can always tweak exposure and contrast after-the-fact, but like all scenarios, you want your in-camera image to be really strong.


A few tips:

•  I use a 53” background like this. If you want to shoot more than one person, you’ll need something wider.

• I like using a tripod. It allows me to set up the shot and then step away from my camera a bit, make eye contact with my subject (especially if they’re my kids) and keep the shoot feeling fun and less formal. 

• If you’re shooting outside, keep your surroundings in mind. If your lawn is just beyond your subject, it could be casting green light onto their faces. It’s best to have a pretty neutral color reflecting into your paper.

• It’s fine to put your white balance on “Auto”!

 Happy shooting! 

On Product Photography

I have mastered the lighting, I have mastered the backdrops, but I also have learned this terrible truth about myself:

I am constitutionally incapable of holding the damn camera straight.

I have to rotate every photo at least four degrees counterclockwise when I crop it. Except the ones that I have to rotate clockwise. 

Another truth about myself: I do not know the difference between clockwise and counterclockwise until after I have clicked the button.