CAPTURING CALIFORNIA

I’ve been back from my US adventure a few weeks now and my goodness has it been an unrelenting crash back down to reality. I’ve found it really hard to adjust to being home in many ways, some of which I’m sure I’ll tackle in future posts, but there’s a few things that have offered some level of comfort.

One of the big things is editing through all the photo’s I took and waiting for films to get returned to me from Snappy Snaps. It’s kinda like when you book in your birthday party shindig a bit after the actual official day. It feels like your stretching out the celebrations, and therefore existing in that birthday (everything’s about me) zone longer. Although as someone who likes to ignore every passing year – that specific example sounds horrendous and ghastly – but being able to stretch out this wonderful holiday via reminiscing certainly hasn’t been. I’ve loved having lots of different mediums that allow me do it too. Daily after a stressful working day I try to relive some moments while editing a vlog, printing out new pictures or editing another location of the trip in Lightroom.

You’re used to my usual Lumix GM1 photographs, but I wanted to show you some different equipment that allowed me to try new things on this holiday.

I love a good gadget so I was very excited when Firebox sent me this Kiipix Instant Photo printer – I was sent the adorable Cherry Blossom version but it also comes in Jet Black and Sky Blue if they sound more appealing.

I absolutely love poloraid cameras, but they are rather cumbersome to carry aroud, particularly if you are on a holiday like we were and out and about trekking in the wilderness, in extreme weather, with a rucksuck already full of lots of bottled water, suncream, swimwear, bug repellant and other standard holiday fodder.

A KiiPix offers a genius solution if you want to create retro style printed shots without having to lug a hefty camera around that you might end up dropping off a cliff or losing in a lake. Instead you can take snapshots on the phone you will aleady have with you and print them out next time you’re reunited with the KiiPix – whether it be back at your hotel/Air bnb or even when you’re back at home. There’s no time limit this way, you can still create retro version of the amazing views in front of your eyes even if you’ve left the retro-maker at home

How do you use it??

Simply open the camera. Pull the template bit up so it balances on the top of the opened sides, place your smartphone on the top with the photo you’d like to print on screen, press the shutter button, rotate the dial and you’ve got a physical copy of your photo to keep forever! It really couldn’t be simpler.

While that’s the basic how-to. A few extra pointers from me before we move on. For ease place the Kiipix on a flat surface, and also somewhere away from any shafts of light, or any obvious light disturbances, just in case in interferes with the process. I had a couple of unidentifable duds come out when I rotated the dial, and those Instax’s aren’t cheap. I think it was because I was doing it by a window, as soon as I moved it somewhere else I had no issues.

Make sure your phone doesn’t have any notifications, alarms or anything popping up when you’re trying to do this or you’re image will have those on top of it, which I doubt you’d want unless you’re wanting to make a statment about the relentlessness of modern times or something. Also lock the screen so the image stays on there, and make sure your phone doesn’t go to sleep or require password mid-way through the process.

The bit of plastic you rest the phone on has a sticky bit to keep it in place, and it also has a guide to show you which way up is the right way. I ignored this a couple times purely because I wanted to big gap of white at the type (instead of the correct place at the bottom) to write a header on later. It also has a thoughtful little mirror so you can check the alignment of your image.

The best thing about this gadget is that aside from having to own a phone and buying the Mini FujiFilm Instax film to slot inside (I got mine at the airport and Target), there’s nothing else you need. No wifi requirments thank goodness-  I know all to well how difficult it can be to find strong signal in some US locations. No batterys to run out. No cables to get tangled and make you wanna throw your brand new Kiipix out the window.

Another great thing about this product is you can fool your friends into thinking you are a wizz at analogo or instant photo taking. How do you get such cool, clear and vibrant shots they’ll say? You can just say that you’re just naturally very talented or that you’ve tirelessly honed your craft to become this photog with prowess.

If honesty is your thing though, you can extend the joy of course, afterall it’s so easy to use you won’t be frightened about letting them have a go, and you might as well tell them all the tips while you’re in the mood for sharing.

With Instax prints you always get a distinctive retro feel to your images. However if you’d like to have some control over the results and manipulate the images so that the colours pack more or less of a punch, you can of course edit pictures either on your phone or computer (using apps like VSCO or Snapseed or software like lightroom) and export/email them so they’re in your camera roll ready for you to use. There’s no point doing things like Facetune on things like blemishes though, because the images aren’t HD enough make the effort worthwhile. But you can definitely have fun editing so that you can print out things on INSTAX that you’d never be able to create straight from a poloroid.

These little Instax print outs make for such lovely gifts too. If you’re thanking someone for inviting you to their party or wedding you could print out a picture from the day and put it in the Thank you card. Instead of gift tags you could use pictures of the person the present is for and attach to parcel, or slide under the ribbon. If you believe in cosmic ordering or witchcraft and wanna make some dreams a reality you could even print out a photoshopped picture of you and your dream guy/job/holiday destination and put it under your pillow, on your alter, or on a fire and hope it helps it to come true.

At £39.99 I think this is an incredible bargain and a great Christmas gift idea It’s so easy to use, gives great results, but is lightweight enough to take wherever you may want it. I have to admit to being a bit skeptical about how good the results were going to be due to how light, basic and uncomplicated it is, but I was so chuffed to be proved wrong.

www.firebox.com/KiiPix-Instant-Photo-Printer

This is my first time using underwater cameras. I’ve long thought about getting one of those protective cases for my expensive cameras, and while I’m sure they’re effective it does make me incredibly nervous to take the risk. Knowing my luck I’d get a faulty one or somehow rip it courtesy of my usual clumsiness, and I’m not in the position to be able to buy any new tech right now.

These offered up the ideal and affordable option to dip into the art of underwater photography. I say photography, yes there are pictures being taken, but I had no plans on this occasion to do anything particularly arty. I just wanted some sort of way to document our pool time, considering much of our time in Joshua Tree would be spent enjoying our cribs worthy Air bnb. You’re in the desert here, so having a pool is absolutely divine and made the extreme heat completely bareable. I wish I could have taken some shots in Malibu when we were standing on sand dunes admiring the leaping dolphins, but the waves were too big and intimidating for a weak swimmer like myself.

The lovely people at Firebox are the reason I had two of these underwater cameras (one blue, one pink) for our holiday. They are essentially a normal looking disposable camera but in a secure transluscent hard case that protects it from water. You can wind on and press the shoot button thanks to the coloured chunky buttons of the case that link up to the ones on the actual camera.

There’s also cord that allows you to have the camera secured round your wrist which is great for swimming, particularly in the ocean where being separated from it you’d likely lose it and your photos forever. Although the romantic in me would like to imagine that one day it’d get washed up, someone would develop the film,  fall in love with someone in one of the pictures and start a lengthy quest to reunite the camera with it’s original owner. The end of the story would of course be that they would ‘develop’ something very special together and then start document memories in their new couple status. Very Nicholas Sparks worthy.

I still have another film to develop, but I’m waiting till I’ve used every picture on the film , secretly hoping some brand may whisk me away to somewhere with a pool or ocean soon and I can use it then. Wishful thinking.

These are the most successful from the film I got developed from the first camera. I love the low-fi quality of them. Nostalgia is a feeling I revel in, I’m an unapologetically sentimental old thing. I love that the results makes me think back to uncomplicated holidays from my teens and childhood. The times when the photographs we took weren’t manipulated and choregraphed. I love that we even have ones that clearly expose my hormonal teenage strops as I stand with my arms crossed witha face that looks like the eyerool emoji. Back then perfection wasn’t the goal, it was merely about capturing a feeling, or a moment we thought that would be one we wanted to remember and provide a visual memory jog for.

There’s no vanity in these shots. There’s squinty underwater eyes, there’s bodies not positioned for the ultimate sexy silhouette, but to merely keep it below the surface, there’s hair dancing unflatteringly in the water, bubbles coming from noses , boobs trying to escape from costumes and very uncool thumbs ups. It’s brilliant, pure and carefree – exactly what holidays and times with friends should be about. Something about these lightweight plastic cameras makes people more prepared to hark back to those simpler times and be silly. Not having the opportunity to see the results immediately after the click helps I guess, because you don’t feel that urge attempt to retake until you get that nailed shot. You have one go and just hope for the best.

I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve always liked modern art and abstract paintings, or whether it’s because I often love to experiment with photography and use my own methods to create unpredictable weirdness in my shots, but I actually loved the ‘mistake’ shots we got from our pool in Joshua Tree. Happy accident shots are actually usually my favourites on any film – like this one on the top right, Rothko would be proud of that, look at that beautiful colour combo. Put a habitat label on it and suddenly someone will be prepared to buy it as a fairly expensive print for their pinterst worthy lounge.

At the price these cameras are, I see it as a bit of a no brainer. They’re a fun extra just to have by the side of the pool should anyone want to play around and take some focus free shots, but it’s not a big dent on the finances if they come back with a films full of fail. In terms of my stress levels and my natural tendancy to destory anything of expense that comes into contact with me, this is a great holiday choice. P.S don’t make the same mistake I did and leave the camera at the developers to dispose of, these are actually reusable cameras. You can load more film after you’ve finished the roll it comes with (it any takes 35mm film).

A few Christmas’ ago a lovely subscriber called Molly sent me a care package full of thoughtful goodies. Alongside some bath products and sugary goods, there was a disposable Ilford Harman Technology black and white camera (in green and white packaging if you’re shopping for it) – at the time I’d been posting about how I’d love to make photography more of a focus of my work.  I’ve always been extremely fond of black white film, from the crisp and constrasting films to the more grey, blemished and grainy results. I know a lot of people adore it for how flattering it can be on the human form as well as it’s timeless and classic charm, as do I, but I also love it’s more flawed results too.

Every so often I summon my mum to go and get all her old photo albums from the cluttered cupboard on the landing – the secret hell hole that only she is allowed to remove items from like some sort of artefact Jenga. I love that they all have dates and places scribbled with pen on the back, and sometimes even the front with little regard for neatness. I love that there’s no consistency throughout the albums – some pictures with borders, some in matt finish and others with a high shine, some with curved off corners, some folded over for reasons that leads to awkward changes of subjects or a reveal of some past family dramas.  I love that we have black and white, sepia and washed out poloroid, as well as the 80/90’s standard look developments.

I felt inspired coming back from this holiday with so many different mediums and style of pictures. I’ve always loved mixed media work and when I eventually have my own home I can’t wait to find interesting ways to bring them together to create a display of our epic road trip. I might even create a haphazard old fashioned album like the ones my mum and her parents created. I hope that one day my kids will be similarly charmed by my cluttered cupboards.

In the last decade some of of us have got a bit precious about activities like this. We’ve wanted uniform, perfection, regimine and order, and in turn it has, at times, all become a bit soul-less and manufactored in feel. But I’m definitely seeing, in the blogosphere at least, that more and more are returning to the unpredictability of things like film and poloroid to create their content. When you think about it, it feels in tune with content trends on YouTube too, with raw, basic and unpolished vlogs becoming just as popular than the highly produced stuff that appeared to be the goal a couple of years.

I personally think there’s room for the professional quality, highly glossy and perfected visuals as well as the more rough around the edge content. I just think you should go with what feels right for you at the time or what works best with the given subject or the vision you have for it . But it’s definitely comforting to know both forms are celebrated and enjoyed at the moment. I’m also boyed that people are accepting and appreciating content that is more achieveable on smaller budgets as well as the drone filled, pro camera created aftermovies. I feel inspired and less daunted to join the travel blogging community, and confident that I could be supported doing it my own makeshift way.

Just a quick few words of warning which probably won’t apply to those living in a major city. I had to go to a few places before I could find someone to print this black and white film. Eventually Snappy Snaps came through, but it did take two weeks as it had to be sent away to get done. Not the option for those that want quick results. However the brand do another similar camera that delivers black and white photos that can be developed in the same way as colour film, so try to hunt that one out.

Joshua Tree National Park

Noah Purifoy Foundation – Joshua Tree

Los Angeles

Venice Beach

Emerald Bay and South Lake Tahoe

Griffith Observatory

Well I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing California captured in this less polished form (as much as I’ve enjoyed having an excuse to relive the trip). I do still love my trusty and compact LUMIX GM1 and my Sony Vlogging camera, but I’ve so enjoyed experimenting, and have really embraced the limitations these products have. I think we forget how priveleged we have become with the technology we have access to today, and I think it’s been a healthy move for me to locate patience when it comes results again, and dedicate less holiday time striving for that ideal Instagram capture. I’m also grateful of the opportunity to show you that there are fun and fairly affordable ways to document your travels that can offer different, often less polished, but just as worthy results. We don’t always need perfect framing and focus to take our hearts back to special moments, sometimes it’s just essence we need, and boy do these grainy numbers have a lot of that.

A big THANK YOU to Firebox for collaborating on this post and gifting the Take Wetter Selfies Underwater cameras and the KiiPix.

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