Jes Lee

Sneak peek: Sampson!

It is not every day that I get asked to do portraits of a horse, but I’m starting to wish that would happen more often!

Last Saturday I was up and out the door quite early for a photo shoot with this handsome guy:


Sampson (Sammie for short). He was sweet, and cooperative (with the promise of breakfast after). I learned a lot about horses and their behaviors and temperaments, boarding facilities, different ways to ride, and how much they love to eat grass. Sammie’s human, Tony, was very kind and willing to share his knowledge!

I sorted through photos from our session last night, and I am almost giddy to start working on them!

Best. Job. Ever.


Could this help?

I apologize, this post will be quite lengthy and rambling. But it needs to be said.

Maybe it was just a grumpy day on Twitter. I am not the type to argue on the Internet. It never does much good anyway. But something that happened today made me think. I retweeted a post from NPR picture show for a photo essay written about a festival in India honoring the Hindu deity, Ganesh (one of my favorite deities to study in college in my India Art History courses). The photos were colorful, bright, and of course make my desire to travel to India that much stronger. It showed people celebrating with exhuberance what this deity stands for: new beginnings. The essay talked about the photographer, his stay in Mumbai, making sense of India’s crowded, over stimulating streets through his camera lenses. He talked of taking photos with his cell phone, digital slr, and a medium format film camera. There was a note in the article that all of the photos for the essay were taken with his cell phone camera. So what, right? The best camera is the one you have with you at the time. The photos still captured a story, I still enjoyed looking at them, they still made me smile.

I checked back in to Twitter later in the day. I don’t ever expect any responses on things I post, or any discussions on things I retweet. But in reading through my timeline I saw that a few of the photographers I follow were picking apart that photo essay for the simple reason that the photos were taken with his cell phone camera. ‘Why not with his medium format camera he had mentioned? Why are journalists using cell phones?’ I wanted to scream. Why dismiss an entire essay, pick it apart, and practically spit on it because of the tool that was used to take the photos. Yes, I prefer film as well and I would honestly love to see more photos this photographer took while he was in India, the whole collection, and I will be looking for it. And yes, I am especially curious what he photographed with his medium format camera, and what kind of camera it is, because I have a special love for medium formats. But the best camera is the one you have with you. When did that stop being enough?

And why, I wondered, am I so upset by this? And what can I do? Admittedly, I have been in quite a funk lately, and am probably just more sensitive to things people say. (Please don’t worry, I am quite fine, quite far from doing anything rash, and constantly surrounded by friends and family and a husband who have all been wonderful and help me a ton and I know this huge funk is only temporary.) Admittedly, being the age of 30 has not been the easiest for many reasons that have everything to do with life and coincidence and nothing to do with the number. So is this reaction just part of my funk? Or is it adding to my funk?

I have decided it is time for a bit if experimenting. I have adored Twitter and the community there since I opened my account years ago, but like with any social media, the happiness degrades with time. Is it time to step away from Twitter? Maybe. But not completely yet, and here comes my experiment. For one week, I will not read to “catch up” on Twitter. I have various things that auto post there (Flickr photos, blog posts . . . except seemingly when I update my blog from my phone, which I find myself doing quite frequently, and Instagram photos. I will respond to messages friends send, but I will not read through and get into discussions in my timeline. And I am not replacing it with Facebook. I will remain on there as little as I already am. And in that week I will focus on my blog, and my artwork (particularly for my upcoming show!) and taking photos with any camera I have and posting them and see how I feel after that week.

Please don’t take this as me saying all of Twitter is bad or discouraging. It isn’t. I have made friends with some very wonderful people on there around the world who are always very positive and supportive. But the bad news and pessimism often speaks louder than the positive, and perhaps this is what I need to avoid right now for my own mental health.

I want to be the type of person that encourages everyone to take photos regardless of what camera they prefer to use. It is time for me to focus.


I will miss this little guy being around.

There are so many things I have thought of posting here about this, but I start typing and end up with nothing.

But if you could read what is in my head you would see a ton of happy memories, and a bunny that was with us a really long time! We bring animals into our life to keep us company and we get so attached and they stay as long as they can, but it is really not that long before they have to leave. It is one of the hardest and happiest cycles to live.

I am grateful for the time we had together. . .


Fall photo shoots are fun!

I am deep into finishing work for two large October shows, and getting work ready to sell at the holiday festivals that are rapidly approaching. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the photo sessions stop! Fall tends to be one of my busiest times, and this year seems to be no exception. I am not complaining at all!

Tomorrow I have a photo shoot scheduled that I am quite excited for (wait until you see the sneak peek photos from this one)! It will have me up and going quite early in the morning, but I will survive!

Next weekend I will be meeting up with a little family that I adore seeing every fall.

These are the times when I look forward to afternoons spent on the computer processing photos!

Today I am waitressing – my day job. There are a few errands this afternoon to get more supplies for artwork projects, and plenty of things to keep me busy. My mind is full of plans and details, but I think it is a good full today.

Not ready


I’m not ready.

I’m not ready for summer to end, not ready for the end of the color green outside, not ready for the smell of wet leaves on the ground, not ready for the end of days of swimming, not ready to feel sick from being outside, not ready to just watch from the window, not ready for an end of biking to work, not ready for the cold, not ready for dark mornings, not ready for deck nights and patio nights to be over. I’m not ready for fall.


Senior portraits

Last month I was asked to do a senior portrait shoot for two amazing young ladies! Jocelyn and Michele, best friends since 5th grade! We had a wonderful morning taking photos at a few of my very favorite locations and didn’t stop until afternoon!

These two were such a blast to work with! I wish them all the best as they pick colleges and finish their high school journey. I know they will both go far!












Test film and going back to night shots

I could gush about how cool the people who created and work at The Impossible Project are, and I could gush about how cool their film is, and how far they have come from the beginning, but I have done all of that before.

Today I am going to talk about a couple other points that makes me excited to be part of this community.

1. I am a Pioneer. No, really. When The Impossible Project started, if you were an early supporter and bought a number of their first packs of film, supported them from the beginning, you were considered a Pioneer member with certain membership benefits. I, of course, became a Pioneer member quite quickly. The biggest benefit right now of this membership is getting first run access to some of the newest films…test batches that haven’t been released to the general public yet, and being able to buy them at a significant discount. Cheap film to try out because it may be a bit unpredictable?? AWESOME!

2. There is a pretty large, supportive group of photographers on Twitter that has grown up around The Impossible Project and their films. In a discussion the other day about the latest test film, we approached the subject of posting our ‘failed’ shots online as well as our ‘successes’. It is a hard topic! It isn’t easy to admit that you have failed, come out with a less than perfect shot (even though WE ALL DO QUITE OFTEN!) it is much easier to just hide those in the closet at home and never show them online. But, what do we learn? We learn that the film is of course awesome and people can of course make awesome images with it, but we always know that. This film takes a lot of adjusting for and playing with, and if we don’t know the settings that failed, how will we ever understand the settings that are right?

So here goes. I am posting about my first pack of Px70V4b color test film from The Impossible Project here. All 7 photos (I took one in my house yesterday that was just totally black because it was much darker inside than I thought it was) that I had some results with. My successes and my fails. It isn’t easy, but I am doing this in hopes someone learns from it!

First, the background story to these images:

I admit it. I have a true love/hate relationship with the MN State Fair. I have friends who love it, and I have tried to! I have! The most fun I have had there in a long time was a couple of years ago when my husband and I were able to go with two friends, one who is also a photographer. We had a blast running all over, trying wine and beer and taking photos, and then spending loads of time that night after the sun set walking through the Mighty Midway taking night photos of all the lights. Night photography has always been one of my favorite things, and I have not gotten out to take night photos enough lately. So, fast forward to this year, two years later, when no one’s schedule is working so we can go together, again. I was determined that my husband and I would go anyway, and we would have fun, and I would take night photos at the Midway. Two years ago, I didn’t bring a tripod. The crowds were not that large, and there were extra benches placed around the Midway. It had been super easy to sit down on a bench, set my camera on the bench back, or the arm rest, and take a long, steady exposure. So, I did not bring a tripod this year.

I had my Sx-70 loaded up with new Px70V4b film, and also my Yashica 635 medium format camera loaded up with black and white film. After a few hours of walking around, meeting up with some family that was there for the day as well, and not really enjoying it a ton (it wasn’t the worst day! We just ran out of things we were interested in), with the sun finally almost gone, we headed to the Midway. I decided that this would be a wonderful place to finally get back into night photography, try some night photography with my Sx-70, and test out the colors of this new film.

Problem 1: there were significantly fewer benches to set my camera on this year.

Problem 2: there were record crowds this year, and everyone had the same idea to go to the Midway at the same time.

I snapped my first photo, bracing myself against a pole to hold my camera steady.

I turned my dial two notches dark like everyone had suggested and took the photo. I realized my shutter did not stay open nearly long enough. In fact, I started confirming my suspicions right then that the long shutter speeds are not working on my Sx-70. :( But, it was night, and this film doesn’t have to be shielded if there isn’t bright sunlight around, so I stood there for the first time watching it develop. I started to see the faint lines of light from the swing ride, and was so excited! We continued on and I carried my image, no longer worried about stuffing it in my camera bag right away.

We went by the ferris wheel, and I took a photo after making sure my wheel was still turned 2 notches towards dark. I started worrying a bit about my shutter speed, and thinking the scene I was photographing was not at all going to be bright enough. But I had no tripod, and the benches they had out two years ago were non existent. Normally, I would have just plopped right down on the ground, braced my camera on ground by my feet and taken a photo, but with all the people I would have been stepped on.

So, I tried the next logical thing, using my husband’s shoulder as a tripod.

This shot I had the wheel at neutral because I knew it wouldn’t matter. I braced the camera on his shoulder, with one had pushed the shutter button, and with the other popped the film door open to lock the shutter open. I counted to 3, and closed the film door, then pushed the shutter once more to eject the image.  Honestly, I love how bright this one is! It will make a lovely layer in one of my compilation images.

I was so excited that the film door trick had worked so I tried it again!

This time with my camera propped against something other than my husband’s shoulder, though I can’t remember what I had found. It didn’t work. I didn’t get the film door open fast enough before the shot was ejected.

I tried once more towards the back of the park at a ride that was really quite bright and had a recycling bin by it that I could brace my camera against.

The film door trick still didn’t work. The dial was at neutral. I do love how the stars came through though!

So I tried one last time with this particular ride.

This time though, I turned the wheel two notches toward light and clicked the shutter without trying to open the film door.

I was getting sick of the crowds, so we headed back towards the entrance. I saw one last light sign I had to take a photo of:

This was a SUPER bright sign and I was standing quite close to it. I was still thinking that having the wheel two notches dark was the best exposure, especially for something this bright. I set that and took the photo. (This is my favorite!)

It was then that I was in a clear enough spot to look at the photos I had taken already that I had just been carrying around. There were faint traces of light on a few of them, but hardly anything! I was heart broken! I thought I had just blown 7 shots of a test pack of film on the silly idea that I could take night exposures with it! I shoved my camera and the photos in my camera bag (so I wouldn’t drop them) consoled myself with the fact that I still had one shot left in that pack and 3 packs left at home, and we made our way to the front gate.

I was so grateful to get on the shuttle ride back to our car. I just wanted to be home. Once again, the fair had disappointed.

We finally made it home, and I started unloading my camera bag. When I pulled out these photos, I was amazed!! There were colors on them!!! And not everything was horrible! I couldn’t believe it! I quickly wrote notes on the back of the images about exposures and where the dial was before I could forget.

So, there you go. My first pack, fails and all. Pack #2 I will be testing in the daylight though ;)

8 exposures

What an exciting morning!

I found out that I am featured on The Impossible Project 8 Exposures Blog! Please go check it out, leave a comment if you feel so inclined, and please read a few other 8 Exposures posts while you are there! The community that has formed around instant film and The Impossible Project is so full of talent and so many inspiring photographers!

Big thanks to The Impossible Project for featuring me and asking me to participate! <3