Life in the Box: Photography Snapshot

We had a darkroom in our basement when I was a kid. The bathroom door would shut and keep out light, and there was room for a card table where we set up the enlarger to print photos of our puppy, Tina. The developer chemicals were smelly, but it was fun for us kids. We didn’t think it was odd, although come to think of it, I don’t know of any other family that did this.



In high school, my chemistry teacher taught a photography class. It was great! All kinds of assignments included taking portraits of each other and using a light from different angles to make scary shadows. We’d go outside and take pictures with a pin-hole camera made in an oatmeal box. We also learned to develop negatives and “dodge and burn” while making prints. I didn’t think this was odd, but really, how many schools had a class like this?

Asked what I wanted as a graduation present, I immediately knew I wanted a brand-new “automatic” film camera from the Kmart film department. The “automatic” part was in its infancy, and since I have always had confusion about F-stops, apertures and shutter speeds, this was important to me.

At that time, you had to decide what kind of film to buy, and you were stuck with the whole role of 24 or 36 pictures at the same sensitivity setting. One was for outdoors sunshine; one for inside; one for darker settings. I took a lot of photos, but on my limited budget, I had to be stingy. A couple of shots here, a couple of shots there. Sending film out for developing took a week or so, and there were so many disappointments. My sky shots were too light. My shade shots were blurry. My idea of what I was shooting and what ended up coming back (often months later) were nothing alike. It was disappointing.

My photography background was fortunate. I’ve always wanted to capture the beauty around me. But it hasn’t been until recently that what I think I’m going to capture actually turns out.

Automatic settings are much better than they used to be, and with digital cameras, I can see instantly if my settings are right or not. I can also take endless shots with a variety of settings (which I do), without much added cost. And, when I get home, I can develop the photos and finesse to an endless degree, all in a comfortable, well-lit, non-smelly room.

I have been learning about taking the pictures, and also about polishing them. Recently I’ve been pushing further into the realm of fantasy or at least painterly images. For you other enthusiasts out there, I use Adobe Photoshop (and its amazing tool, Camera Raw), Topaz Labs, and Viveza from the Nik Collection for most of my putzing.

Photography has always been a great hobby. For me, the digital age has made photography way more satisfying. Here are some examples of what I’m doing for fun. 


After: (Subtle changes to balance sky and trees.)


Stitching together multiple phone shots…


During: (Filled in the gaps with “stamp” tool) 

After: (color changes with layers of filters) 




After: (cropped and brightened dark parts) 


Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, narrating and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process and life issues, both inside and outside the box. Her opinions are her own, and are not necessarily those of this web site.



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