Dreams of Wings…

So what do you do when you realise that…

  • your photography has become too difficult, your gear and process have become cumbersome and keep you from enjoying an intuitive and playful way of taking photos and creating images
  • setting up your 4×5 camera is just not the same “meditative dance” that you could dance with a camera in your hands
  • you no longer take your camera on hikes as it is too heavy and you would have to take a big bag (or two)
  • you no longer have the time to spend hours in the darkroom to develop film and then more hours behind the computer to get the film scanned and all those dust spots removed which you don’t seem to be able to avoid no matter how careful you are
  • you find yourself thinking…I wish I had taken that photo in colour…
  • you are getting afraid to take out some of your film gear because it might break and you would not be able to replace it
  • you would rather spend the time (outside) with your camera to get things right than afterwards developing and processing
  • you have developed (pun intended) an allergy/asthma against the fumes in your darkroom
  • your waste water disposal (septic tank) would require you to basically collect all the water and chemicals you use in the darkroom and dispose of them separately as they might otherwise end in your pond and kill your salamanders
  • you would rather save some money to travel instead of spending it on chemicals and film
  • it is actually not so much the look of a certain film or camera but rather the look of certain lenses (lens types) that you really love
  • being able to see the result of a shot esp. a multi-exposure or ICM or super close-up immediately on the back of your camera is really important for your more experimental photography to get it right and not waste time and money and more important opportunities
  • oh and there were also some expensive and unexpected dog-related bills that needed to be paid…

Every normal person would probably go and tackle the issues one by one, which also seems the most sensible and reasonable approach.

BUT what did I do instead?



I first looked at my guiding principle for 2019, not just reading it but feeling its meaning.

“Ma is the time and space for life and creativity to grow – an emptiness that is filled with feelings and energy”.

No time for the creative part of my photography, no time for experimentation with the camera in my hand – and for emptiness… that was filled with gear and films instead of energy and vegetables (film shooters will understand ;-)).

Second, I needed to silence that voice in my head that said that my work wasn’t anything special if it wasn’t done with film, film was the reason I had connected with so many people on Social Media…what was I worth without film. That voice was a lot tougher to silence than I had thought but in the end it yielded to my argument that my photography would surely not be special – especially not for myself which is most important – if I did not do it the way I wanted to and enjoyed it. So what if people will unfollow…does it really matter…no, because in the end for me they would have followed for the wrong reasons anyway. 😉

I don’t want to be put into the “oh, she is a film photographer box”, I am claustrophobic :-D.

Finally the decision was rather brutal but that is what I needed to free myself, to be able to move on.

I sold all my film cameras – yes also the Hasselblad and the 8×10 – all my darkroom equipment (except for Cyanotype) and most lenses and got myself a digital camera again which I am now using with my few remaining film lenses and some home-made lenses and filters that are still in the experimental phase.

I also simplified my digital processing. It is all done on my iPad using Lightroom CC Mobile and in specific cases Apps like Affinity or Procreate. Everything was selected to minimise processing time and maximise the time available to play and get things done in camera and to be able to work from everywhere, be it under a tree in the garden or while camping.

I will share more of the how and why of my current work in the future but for the next few posts I would rather take you back with me on a time-travel as I am cleaning up my archive & backlog of the last 7 years, selecting images and projects I want to put into the new gallery on this redesigned website. It is a bit like starting a journal with my memoirs – good combination? What do you think?

42 Comments

  1. John on July 9, 2019 at 20:47

    A beautifully written article and beautiful pictures.
    I like your writing because you pour your heart and feelings into it.
    I also like it because I feel you are finding a sense of inner peace and freedom of expression within your art :-)!

    • Isabel on July 10, 2019 at 06:43

      Thank you very much, John. I am definitely feeling free again now, free to experiment, learn and just enjoy. I know you understand 🙂

  2. Malc Bernhard (saltireblue) on July 9, 2019 at 22:05

    A big step to take. A big decision to make. Not made without doubts and trepidation, I am sure. But also a decision not made without long hours of thought, debate with yourself and wondering if you are doing the right thing. Well, judging by the reasons you write of above, it certainly sounds like a decision made with both your head and your heart.
    With your head, for the reasons you have stated, and with your heart because I feel certain that this is not a step you could take if your heart wasn’t 100% in it as well.
    I wish you a very fulfilling time ahead of you.

    • Isabel on July 10, 2019 at 06:46

      Yes, that decision was very difficult and needed to grow over months, months where my head and heart seemed to be fighting more than once. But finally I found the solution that makes both happy 😉 – so to creativity and freedom! Cheers!

  3. Meredith Wilson on July 9, 2019 at 22:22

    I say good for you. It doesn’t really matter what I think or what anyone else thinks. We aren’t making the images. You are And you should use the tool(s) that work best for you and the vision you see inside your head. I think photography should make us excited. You can’t feel that if you feel weighed done by gear and processes and the BS argument that real photographers only use “…”
    Do your thing. I, for one, will be following along to see where your journey takes you next. Xx

    • Isabel on July 10, 2019 at 06:51

      It is true that in a way it does not matter what others think and that was the most difficult part to really feel and believe, not just say. But it is still nice to hear that you won’t stop following along. In a way you are all with me on that journey and I like that…”we’re off to see the wizard…” 😉 XXX

  4. Andreas Olesen on July 9, 2019 at 23:12

    Very well written, and of course it makes sense! Photography always comes first, and gear comes in second. Any way to make images which excites is the right way!

    • Isabel on July 10, 2019 at 06:52

      It feels so good to have that excitement back 🙂

  5. Lina on July 10, 2019 at 00:12

    Girl, you do you! I love your photography AND your art, and it doesn’t matter what medium you use, all that matters is you keep creating <3

    • Isabel on July 10, 2019 at 06:52

      That goes for both of us 🙂 Sisters in art!

  6. Curtis Hendricks on July 10, 2019 at 00:51

    You’re growing as an artist. The tools/methodology have to change as well. A lovely article, but don’t feel you have to justify your decision. I love the works you’ve posted here. You’re an artist. There’s no explaining it.

    I crossed the same line once upon a time. I realized I could never buy enough equipment to capture what I could create in my own head.

    Here’s to the adventure!

    • Isabel on July 10, 2019 at 07:03

      Thank you so much, Curtis. So it seems it was a good line to cross.
      I had come to a point where I took photos to suit my equipment and not use equipment to create what I envisioned. Now it feels right again and all it took was to let go, not only of lots of equipment I did not use or need but also of trying to fulfil expectations.
      To freedom and adventure!

  7. Adrian on July 10, 2019 at 02:34

    It sounds like you made the right decision. Sometimes we just need to break with the past and move on. Besides, they are just tools, what matters is what you make with them.

    I’m going through a similar process. I do not enjoy developing / scanning the film anymore, and I find digital much more flexible (and cheaper). Better for the environment too, probably. And yes, you get more time to spend outside or with your loved ones.

    No matter what you use to create I’ll still enjoy your art 🙂

    • Isabel on July 10, 2019 at 07:11

      Thank you, dear Adrian – I am sure I will enjoy your images no matter what!
      I wrote to another photography-friend recently that I feel that sometimes our past and especially “successes” in the past can actually prevent us from moving ahead. It is something I often noticed with writers or also musicians as their audience was following because they wrote this or played that style and so they stick with it to not disappoint or lose that audience and if they do change you can suddenly hear all the complaints – “but it wasn’t like…”or”it was too different” or “I excpected something else”… But you cannot keep that up forever because when you don’t enjoy what you do anymore it will show so a cheers to the change of doing things only the way you enjoy!

      • Mark Forrest on July 10, 2019 at 10:38

        Hi Isabel. I think your recent ‘journey’ perfectly illustrates the ‘gear’ conundrum. I’ve never agreed that ‘gear doesn’t matter’ – your tools are important to allow you to achieve the image you want, and consistently. On the other hand, like many people, I’ve spent way too many hours looking at cameras/lenses etc rather than taking photographs. Getting the gear that’s right for you and your life is surely key to being productive and happy enough to forget about it once more. For a while, anyway… 😉

        • Isabel on July 10, 2019 at 14:21

          The only “photographers” for whom gear does not matter are either those that have already found the tools they need to create their visions or that do not have a vision so don’t need to find… Maybe too harsh – I don’t know 😉
          But gear should always come after vision, that I have learned. For now I have found what I needed and will enjoy it as long as it lasts 😉

          • Dan K on July 10, 2019 at 19:12

            No. I don’t agree.

            Like many know it all hobbyists, I take pride in being able to work with any multi thousand dollar camera system. The chosen gear simply does not matter.

            Pfffft haha, but it’s true. As you said, what really matters is the photographer needs to have an artistic eye and know what picture he or she wants to make and then it’s just a matter of using a tool to craft that image. You have the eye and the skills, but the process of making the kind of images you’re known for has become tedious for you. So choose another style that requires less gear dragging and less darkroom work.

            I’m neck deep in cameras and I’d be fed up too, except for me it was always all about the gear and the images were a byproduct. I’d not take pictures at all except people expect me to to justify all that gear in their minds.

            Anyway, I’ve often had hobbies where I’ve reached the same unhappy place you find yourself in. You don’t get out enough joy for the effort and expense you put in.

            This is a hobby for me, not a career or a family. I can move on, try new things, circle back at will.

            I bet the big thing you are afraid to miss is the relationships you’ve made with other photographers, but almost all creatives have tried other arts, other hobbies. You’re sure to have other things in common with us.

            If not, your true friends will still remain friends. 15 years ago I was big into blacksmithing and making ornate daggers and chip carving knives. Only last week, a friend from the old days reached out to me and he’s gotten into photography.

            Just find things to do to make yourself happy.



          • Isabel on July 11, 2019 at 12:06

            Yes, you are the exception to the rule 😉
            As a collector it might also be a really stupid idea to get rid of all the cameras you have 😀

            Yes, it is the relationships, the connections and the community support that I was afraid to kind of lose but I was amazed about all the positive feedback and what you say also makes so much sense. Thank you 🙂

            I am glad that I found joy again and can keep my online friends 😉



  8. Simon Forster on July 10, 2019 at 14:12

    Well I’m sorry to see you leave the film world especially as your appearance on the Sunny 16 Podcast was heavily influential in my return to film. You have to tread your own path for your own reasons. Thank you for the inspirations.

    • Isabel on July 10, 2019 at 14:16

      If I managed to help inspire you and make you find what you love, then I am really happy, and my job is actually done 😉
      Now you need to continue to inspire others who might find what they were looking for with film. Oh and my lenses are still “film” – does that count a little 😉

      • Simon Forster on July 10, 2019 at 14:40

        I do believe that point whooshed over my head! If you’re intending to use the characteristics of old lenses to aid your art, then I’m fully back on board…

        • Isabel on July 10, 2019 at 14:56

          You are still on board 😉 Yes, exactly that.

  9. Toby Van de Velde on July 10, 2019 at 15:14

    I applaud your decision making Isabel. The end of the argument has to be ‘You are a photographer’
    Film or digital, it’s image making.
    I am unashamedly a mixed media photographer, and use whatever camera I want in an attempt to achieve my vision.
    Keep on with your beautiful work, it’s always an inspiration.
    Plus, less time in front of your screen does give you more shooting time.
    And I have to ask!! What digital kit did you buy?

    • Isabel on July 10, 2019 at 15:54

      Yes, more shooting time that was a major requirement. I love shooting time, for me it is where I really create and put all my emotions into.

      Funny, you are the first one to actually ask what I got but does it really matter…? 😀
      Okay, okay, I got myself a Fuji GFX 50R. I knew that I loved the sensor as it is the same I had in my digital Hasselblad back which I used on lots of my favourite images and it is easy to use with my old Pentax and Mamiya lenses and it fulfilled also the other requirements I had.

  10. joe M on July 10, 2019 at 16:46

    i’ll save some bandwidth and just second what Curtis said. As i’m pretty old old all i can say is that the wheels of life constantly turn.
    Been away for a while did you find a home for your friend?
    Since you say your shedding things i’ll mention the request/offer i made.
    Huggs

    • Isabel on July 10, 2019 at 18:11

      Hi Joe, was missing you and I feel bad that I still have not replied to the wonderful emails with your images. I just feel that I want to reply properly and for that I am missing the time at the moment and also the words somehow – too much going on. No, not found a new home yet…we are still hoping. I sent you a birthday message on Facebook regarding the painting – it would be your birthday present if you send me your address via email or messenger 🙂

  11. Scott H on July 13, 2019 at 04:43

    Whew… didn’t know how much further I was going to have to go before being able to post. Obviously a great article.

    For me, this statement is really what it is all about

    “it is actually not so much the look of a certain film or camera but rather the look of certain lenses (lens types) that you really love”

    Or, replace lens with whatever someone feels does it for them. Although I have teased in the past about shooting film/digital; I do believe it is whatever is going to produce the results you are after.

    Isabel, you are going to create incredible work no matter what medium you use. And there does come a time where having just what we need on hand is the best way to go.

    I will always look forward to seeing your work no matter what it is done with.

    • Isabel on July 15, 2019 at 20:49

      I am so glad that you don’t mind – I was a bit worried 😉
      Thank you so much, dear Scott – what a huge compliment coming from you.
      I feel like I have what I need now and what will come…who knows 🙂

  12. Tim Andrews on July 13, 2019 at 08:37

    l love your work and when l first saw it l loved it not knowing how you took the photographs or with what equipment. lt is wonderful that you had that time
    but you clearly feel liberated by the decision you have made and I know that you will keep producing work that inspires and excites people but more importantly that expires and excites you. You are a supreme artist and that will always be the case whatever tools you use.

    • Isabel on July 15, 2019 at 20:42

      Awwww…thank you so very much, Tim – this means the world to me. I hope that I can now save up some money for travelling to the UK to take your photos, I have not forgotten 🙂

  13. joe M on July 13, 2019 at 16:50

    Thank you, will be in touch .

  14. No. 2 of 2 on July 15, 2019 at 14:57

    Gear and technology come and go; ways of doing things ebb and flow. Even, to a point, ideas disappear and come back again full circle. But you don’t – and YOU are the one constant in your creativity. Who gives a monkey’s if the tools you use now aren’t the tools you used previously? Who cares whether the beauty you see is painstakingly captured on a piece of emulsion or rendered instantly on a small piece of technology that you then progress as the fancy takes you? Only those that think that gear is what makes the difference. I think I could hand you a stick and a pile of gooey mud and you’d find a way of creating achingly beautiful, soulful ‘art’. It’s what you do that matters, not the tool you happen to do it with. Please don’t ever change what your heart feels and what your eyes see … just let whatever you use transcend it into something we can still marvel at. Anything else and my hamsters would be very unhappy peeps indeed 😀

    • Isabel on July 15, 2019 at 15:33

      You are so wise, No. 2 of 2 and you make me blush…and speechless. Thank you so much for your kind words.
      I am just thinking of the egg-challenge, do you remember 😀 ?

      • No. 2 of 2 on July 16, 2019 at 15:30

        LOL … nope, but then again I have regular brain farts these days and have the memory retention of a goldfish. However, I DO remember one of our initial conversations, stemming from one of your gorgeously dreamy images in the early days, about my hamsters and your moose 🙂 I think there was even mention of a sandwich in there somewhere, but don’t quote me on that one!

        • Isabel on July 18, 2019 at 06:53

          Definitely hamsters and mooses and you could be right about the sandwich or was it cookies 😉 😀

  15. joe M on July 16, 2019 at 09:07

    No 2 of 2 your post is very interesting and to the point. Perhaps if you would care to share i’d be interested, you seem like an interesting person. Ms I knows the way.
    Isabel, it’s been a crazy month a dear friend has been staying with us and now she’s on her way home. Just before she left i did a couple of quick portrait shots with the new beast, 11 X 14 contacts are incredible. Not your thing i know and portraits are not normally mine either but my, the images are something else.
    j

    • Isabel on July 18, 2019 at 06:52

      Just because I don’t shoot film anymore or have not done portraits for a while I still appreciate and admire the work others do 😉
      It is good to keep some variety in our work – I will most likely do a portrait shoot end of this month or next month so… 😉

      Big hug!
      Your Isabel

  16. Luca on July 17, 2019 at 06:42

    Hi isabel
    I had some week ago a photography workshop with a ccreative..
    He asked me to photograph sounds and smells, he said I must show my feelings, but i don’t agee. Is a subject question. Who is the subject?
    1) the subject it’ s me. And I’ll show you what I feel, my happiness, my sadness, my doubts… and you, the wiewer,is passive, he like my photos or not, but soon he’Ll be bored. I’m a macro photographer, but ‘i’ve seen thousands of perfect insects on a flower, stop please!
    2) the subjecr are you, I’m like Virgilio abd you Dante, in the divine comedy, I,ll be your guide, in my hands you’ll become very small and you’ll see the field with a small creature eyes,

    I don’t show you my feelings, I,ll create emotions you’will experience. You’ll be happy, or sad, or afraid through my photos. That’s the goal.
    The gear, digital or analogic isn’t important,..

    Bye isabel.

    • Isabel on July 18, 2019 at 06:50

      Thank you so verz much for sharing this with me, Luca – and of course for your kind words. Yes, we cannot avoid to put ourselves and our feelings into our images and that is exactly how it should be. When I am sad I will never be able to produce “happy images”, I use my photography to help me deal with whatever I feel.

      Big hug!
      Isabel

  17. Todd Reed on July 17, 2019 at 23:55

    As I watched you pull away from photography, I would say I felt it as a loss. Missing the ethereal, dreamy images, which inspired many, and nudged a few.

    As we experiment with our craft, finding these sources of inspiration is a life line. A heart beat that keeps us moving. But I also appreciate the effort to purge and refocus.

    Last August I did the same thing, but stayed in photography, and narrowed my focus to one film format. I sold the beloved Crown Graphic 4×5 and my trusty Canon A1 after owning them over 30 years! I also let go of a newly acquired Bessa 1, a beautiful 6×9 folder. To refocus I kept my 25 year old Pentax 645 (for personal and vacations), and added a 40 year old Mamiya RB67 for my landscape work. So I now shoot only 120 film, either fully manual, or fully automatic.

    I am down to a single workflow, and have refocused on medium format film photography. And I sense a resurgence of energy, as I explore a limited and very focused medium. The RB67 demands a slow and deliberate style, and the results are near 4×5 quality, but much easier to process, scan and edit.

    Best of luck on your journey, and I pray that we all enjoy the God given creativity that is instilled in each of us. And I look forward to new and exciting blog posts as you re-invent yourself and your craft.

    • Isabel on July 18, 2019 at 06:59

      Dear Todd, thank you very much for sharing this with me – it means a lot. It is funny to hear how many of us go through times like these and how often we come out stronger as we let our creativity lead us not the beauty of some gear. I definitely feel my passion for photography returning and the combination with painting is just what I need at the moment as times are rough. It helps me to express my emotions in a way that goes deeper than words.
      If I had stayed with film it would also have been Medium Format as I think it gave me most flexibility.
      I will be looking forward to more conversations about our creative journeys. 🙂
      All the best
      Isabel 🙂

  18. joe M on July 18, 2019 at 07:35

    When you have a chance please check your email.

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