Instax 90 Fuji Neo Classic

I have had a soft spot for polaroids for a long time yet never invested a lot into the art of shooting with them. Years back I shot around with an old clunker of a Polaroid Impulse on which I had to tape the flash off to keep it from mucking up too many photos. It worked well enough but what I always thought I would end up with was an old foldable SX-70. Once Polaroid closed up shop I gave up on the idea and moved on with other film cameras instead.

I tried using an old Polaroid Land Camera for a while and still shoot with it from time to time but it’s far too bulky to be practical most of the time. I eventually bought into a Hasselblad system which I really love and was excited to discover had polaroid backs available. I took it on its first big adventure when I traveled through India with it and a Voigtlander R3M. While traveling I often pulled the polaroid back out not only for fun but as a means to give something back to those who I was photographing. Many children or shop owners looked at me and my strange looking cameras with a confused sideways glance because I was unable to show them the photos immediately after shooting. The polaroid enabled me to not only share a photo with them but leave a copy of one as well so even at times when there was an obvious language barrier I was able to show my good intention by sharing something in return for their time.

I also took the chemical covered side of the pull apart instant film and made crude image transfers into the journal I was carrying with me on the trip. Looking back on these I found that even when the transfers were only partially successful I was still left with a fuzzy stamp of the moment I captured there in my journal so despite giving away the photo I was still left with a memento which, like the idea of memory itself, is a slightly distorted view of the original but plenty to remember the moment later on.

Some of you may recognize the idea of sharing polaroids like this from photographer favorite, Zach Arias who recently took along a Fuji Neo Classic 90 on a trip to Morocco and used it as a means to break the ice with people he would meet and photograph. I bring all this up because after holding out as long as I could manage, I finally went ahead and bought one of these handy little Instax cameras myself.

I avoided Fuji’s Instax cameras for a long time because I always thought they were too goofy looking and all to clunky to drag around with me in my camera bag. This conception quickly changed when I noticed the little Neo Classic 90 come onto the market. They did away with all the goofiness of their previous models and made something that would fit right in with my day to day shooting habits.


I was surprised to discover just how small the camera is. While I can’t shove it into my pants pocket, it easily slides into a jacket pocket or into the corner of a camera bag. While it is made from plastic the construction is sturdy in a way that you feel you can trust it. The design of the body seems well considered in that they included two shutter release buttons depending on how you want to shoot. The film itself lends itself to shooting a portrait composition but an additional button was added to make it easy to shoot landscaped as well.

While it is a fully automatic camera in regards to exposure there are a handful of shooting modes to help you get the most out of it including multiple exposure mode and one for bulb exposures. It also allows for basic exposure compensation by allowing you to choose one of four different settings, dark, standard, light, and extra light. I love this ability because while I love the bright annoying pop of a built in flash at times, it lets me have enough control over the exposure to shoot creatively without the flash getting in my way.

Sample One

Sample Two

The photos I have taken with it so far have been well balanced tonally and sharp though they do have that hazy instant film look which I realize not everyone is into. Having a collection of these little prints around is a charming way to look back through memories. There really is nothing quite like using real instant film in both the joy of watching it appear in front of you and having these singular prints around to enjoy. No amount of digital emulation will give you quite the same feeling as using actual film which by now most of us already know.

As long as interest holds strong I have hope that the cost of film won’t soar too much any time soon. At around $14USD for 20 exposures (or less depending on how much you buy at once) it’s more than reasonable unless you’re a particularly trigger happy kind of shooter.

I bought this for YoungDoo and I to share but its quickly becoming obvious that we will end up with two of these around because I am having way too much fun shooting with this joy of a camera. I can easily recommend one of these to just about anyone who enjoys making photographs, digitally or otherwise. If you have any questions about it I would be happy to answer them below.

Object No. 13

Object No. 13

Back just before digital music had been fully accepted by the masses a number of musicians and labels were looking for creative ways to assemble limited edition, physical releases to help encourage sales and push the boundaries in terms of creatively selling music. Easily my favorite entry into this pool was Ghostly Internationals release of a limited edition sculpture to accompany the digital release.

It’s called the Black City Totem and was released in tandem with Matthew Dears album, Black City. The sculpture was created as a physical representation of the music itself and the feeling it conveys. I love the stark simplicity of it and love having it around the house. Created as an edition of 100 I am pretty certain it is no longer available at this point there are still some available through Ghostly here, I do wish the idea had caught on. Now that vinyl has taken over as the defacto limited edition of most album releases there is not as much pressure to create objects such as this which I think is a shame.

Maybe I am an odd one out but I love original art like this sold in reasonably limited editions. Not in an effort to make it more valuable in the future, but because of the added personal value it adds to those that do own these unique, limited objects. In that light, I am a proud owner of this beautifully modest little sculpture that represents a great album.

Object No. 13 v2

Let It In

Let It In

Because I have had such a busy week this post is all I can find time for. I asked everyone on Twitter whether they wanted something moody or something sunny and every single vote went to sunny so I set out to find something sunny to shoot today. At the last moment of sun out behind the building I work at I discovered this tiny instance of spring poking its head through into a new year.

I realize the post work is a little heavy, this is clearly because I heavily blew out the sky to capture the exposure needed in the plant, it was a compromise. Many professional photographers will not use images with blown out sections of an image, mostly due to the fact that the edges of the photo have no edge if its pure white. Imagine a photo of a model with a white, blown out sky on a white magazine page. It gives off an amateurish vibe that you can see right through if you are savvy to the mistake and is one of those little details that go a long way to making a design look clean and professional. Same goes for making a darkroom print. If the sky in a negative is blown out and you make a print with a white border the edge of the frame is lost and it gets sloppy looking unless you burn the edges or dodge your subject to compensate. The ideal solution, of course, is creatively use lighting or reflectors to balance your exposure.

I cheated here in knocking down the white to a shade of grey and tinting the highlights to match the closest color before the blown highlights. These days I do all I can to avoid this mistake either by framing the shot differently, exposing darker than I want to and hoping I can pull information from the shadows without too much loss in detail, or abandoning the shot altogether. While some knock Ansel’s Zone System I feel having at least an awareness of different intensities of light and how best to utilize available light to balance an image is vital to maturing as a photographer.

If I saw someone else’s photo using this editing technique I would probably think less of the photograph overall, a double standard, sure, but its true. I often avoid being so heavy handed with post work but when circumstances leave me with no choice I just go with the flow, do what I need to do to make a passable image to share, as do many of us. On days like today when I could only spare a couple of minutes to sneak out and take a photo, I let my guard down and make conscious compromises for the sake of capturing something rather than nothing.

Honesty in post work aside, I hope its not as distracting to you guys as it is to me and you enjoy the sunny new desktop!


Object No. 12

Object No. 12

Children’s toys were once so simple were they not? This is another object floating around in my collection that has no story, it just is. No battery, no screws, just a few holes drilled into sculpted wood. I enjoy having this around as a reminder of how simple things have the potential of being when reduced to their bare essentials.

Because Spring

Because Spring

While the weather can’t seem to make up its mind anymore I have finally started to see spring try to break its way through the cold, rain, ice, and snow that has lingered for the last couple of months. A little warm sun and time outside is something I have been looking forward to for a long while now. I’m sure this won’t be the last seasonal desktop on these pages, my camera is just as desperate as I am to get some sun.


Smart Watch Apathy

It’s amazing how a rumor from what feels like ages ago stating Apple may be making a “smart watch” caused such a dramatic ripple through the tech industry. The slow, predictable attempts to beat Apple to the punch are reminiscent of the swell of news about “slate” computers just before the launch of the iPad. Trouble with this approach of course is that Apple doesn’t really wear its heart on its sleeve, who knows what direction they will take its users in.

Whenever I think about smart watches I can not help but imagine a late night infomercial selling the idea complete with black and white disaster footage of mobile phones slipping out of hands and crashing to the ground as users helplessly try to pull them out of their pocket. Smart watches are a perfect example of a forced evolution of technology. While most technology progresses naturally, attempts such as this feel as though they were born out of a lack of fresh ideas and emanates a desperation to innovate before Apple makes it’s next move. The real question in this flood of reporting and opinions on the idea that I don’t see asked enough is do we really need another hardware platform right now? I have to give credit where its due, that Android Wear propaganda video sure does make you think we do.

The problem here is that the idea of a smart watch feels dated no matter how modern you try and make its interface look. In todays market the idea is an exercise in frivolity and tries to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Do you really think Dick Tracy would care about his watch if he had an iPhone in his pocket? Many seem to forget that much of what has defined changes in the consumer tech market over the years are simple claims of contradicting physical attributes among competitors. Bigger, smaller, thinner, longer, stronger, faster. It is a culture of gullibility and marketed desire. New for the sake of new.

We are at a point though where there is still so much to be explored and fine tuned within existing, established platforms. Unity of data and information among devices and multiple platforms is still far from being fully efficient or reliable. The idealistic vision of future technology that most of us picture in our minds is impossible without more of a mutual respect among competing platforms.

The only concept entering the market with any honest potential for wider adoption is the continued development of activity tracking wearables and it’s not at all surprising that Apple pundits are gently nudging readers toward the idea of Apple working on something other than a screen strapped to our wrist. Seems obvious enough considering their addition of an activity tracking chip in the 5s.

While competing players in the market are more savvy and persuasive than ever before, there is still plenty of room for them to sweep all these hyperbolical concepts under the rug and latch onto whatever the mass market decides to accept ignore. Never underestimate the tech industries ability to turn a blind eye to failures.

In a world where social media has groomed us to be comfortable sharing our lives loudly it seems inevitable that semi-intrusive technology will continue to grow and take advantage of this fact over time. I’m just not sold on the idea of  smart watches both currently on the market and waiting in line to be released, being the next big thing.

(The watches pictured above are made by Uniform Wares, YoungDoo and I bought them together to celebrate our wedding and I love them. Though they no longer make the model seen here they have plenty of other great watches to choose from.)

Blue Ridge Fog 5

Blue Ridge Fog

Rainy days don’t always have to ruin plans. This past weekend my brother and I wanted to head out to the mountains and shoot around so rather than let the rain get the best of us we pushed right into the thick of it and drove blindly on into the fog. A steady rain left us a bit damp by the days end but quiet landscapes and some fresh air made it all worth while.

At this point I have seen and taken enough fog photos for a lifetime, even with the most beautiful subject matter hiding in the middle I find using fog to capture a mood gets old after a while. Hard to deny its appeal though. It’s an instant fantasy land and the never ending curiosity and uncertainty of not knowing what is beyond your line of sight can be addicting.

We made a few random stops as we drove down a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway and managed to get a few nice photos in along the way despite them eventually closing off part of the parkway due to what I could only assume was fog to thick to safely navigate through, visibility at times was so low that car headlights of oncoming traffic crept almost out of nowhere at times and made for an unpredictable drive along the slow, winding roads of the parkway.

I went ahead and made six different images from the day into wallpapers to make a nice rounded pack of desktops for you guys. While some aren’t particularly perfect I think they came out nicely considering the nasty weather we had to work with. Enjoy!

Blue Ridge Fog 1

Blue Ridge Fog 2

Blue Ridge Fog 3

Blue Ridge Fog 4

Blue Ridge Fog 6

Object No. 11

Object No. 11

I can’t remember where I had first seen a Daruma doll but I have long since enjoyed the idea behind them. The most widely known use of the doll involves painting in one eye while making a commitment to accomplish a great task or goal. Close to making a wish but more grounded in realistic goals. The second eye is painted in when the goal has been achieved. There is a long history behind the legend of these paper-mache dolls and it’s an interesting read over on Wikipedia if your curious to learn more.

While I have never spent any real time exploring Japan, I have daydreamed and read enough to feel as though I have. The only time I have spent there was in an airport while passing through on a connecting flight in Tokyo and this is exactly when I came across this in a gift shop full of trinkets from the country. I still have hopes to eventually make my way to Japan to fulfill a long standing goal to explore the land of the rising sun. Until then, daydreams will have to do.



Most towns and cities around the world that I have spent a fair amount of time in have a few local spots that I find myself going back to for the sake of the reliable comfort they bring. A neighboring city in NC that I work in from time to time, Winston Salem, has a great local coffee shop called Krankies Coffee.

It is part coffee shop, part bar, part venue and even has a dedicated gallery inside for art unlike most coffee shops and their art above tables of laptop users. In the main room they also roast their own coffee so the place fills with the aroma of roasting beans on many visits. It’s a truly great spot I always stop through when I am in town. They have a satellite shop setup on the other side of town inside of an old retrofitted airstream camper which comes in handy at times.

The wheel in this photo is part of a home made bike rack outside of Krankies that is frequently full of bikes. Thought it would make a nice image for the bike lovers out there. The flecks of red paint on the spokes are what attracted me to take this shot, a detail that made all the difference in my mind. Enjoy.

To whom it may concern,



• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share with friends.
• Send me a quick mail if you are interested in using an image for commercial or personal use other than wallpaper.


• Post these elsewhere online.
• Share links directly to images.
• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics.
• Use them in commercial work.

If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J


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Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

-John Carey (curator, owner)