I visited Panama for a week with my mother last year. In addition to my fancy DSLR camera, I also picked up and packed a disposable, waterproof film camera on a whim. I carried the disposable camera around me for a bit most days and just took quick pictures of anything I found interesting. It was fun and relaxing to not be constantly adjusting the camera and lens settings or checking the screen to see if I got the shot. Not every photo came out the way I had envisioned it – going back to a set ASA (ISO) and static focal length forces you to put your photography knowledge to work – but the ones that did have that special quality to them that digital photography just can’t replicate.
Getting my film developed was quite the process. First I had to find a shop/store that would do it. I settled on the Shopper’s Drug Mart across town (the only one that offered the service) after my mom assured me that the Shopper’s she works for, in a different town, does good work. I could have taken the film to a fancy camera shop but I figured I would keep the cheap train rolling and get my disposable camera developed on the cheap. This was probably a mistake. Once I finally found a store that would do it and found the convenient reason to drive across town, I was met by a young person who didn’t know what I was asking for. After showing him my camera and asking for my film to be developed, he continued to ask me if I wanted my passport photo taken. After my 6’4″ burly bearded husband stepped in, we discovered that this youth did not know what film was. Eventually, another employee came to help and knew exactly what we wanted and how to do it. My film was successfully sent away! I go home and eagerly await the phone call to tell me I can come pick it up. Two weeks pass and I get nervous. A month passes and I start to fear the worse. After several more weeks of preparing myself for the inevitability that my precious vacation photos are lost and trying to find another convenient time to drive across town, I go to inquire about my film. Luckily they have it! It is one of two packages waiting to be picked up. The same helpful employee who came to my rescue last time apologizes for the lack of a phone call and assures me that they usually call.
Even after the ordeal of getting my photos back, shooting several days of my vacation on film was worth it. There is something special that happens when you return to the old technology. Even a year after my vacation, I remember the days I carried only my little disposable camera around so vividly. I was present in the moment and committing every sight, sound, smell and feeling to memory because I couldn’t rely on my camera to do it for me. The days I carried my DSLR are a little fuzzier, even though the photos are so much clearer. I spent more time looking down at the camera or through the lens, perfectly lining and timing my shots than I did experiencing the beauty around me. This was definitely a fun little experiment worth making a tradition out of. Maybe next time I’ll get a roll or two of film for my old camera and really test myself.
All photos by me, shot on a Fujifilm QuickSnap Waterproof Single Use Camera (ASA 800, 32mm, f/10).
In the spirit of Earth Day, I want to present Panama City as it really is.
I could have easily cropped out all of the construction workers, squatters and scaffolding, but that isn’t want this picturesque city of contrast looks like. In Casco Viejo, the old French Quarter of the Panama City, every third building is undergoing massive renovations as they try to reclaim this twice torched part of their history.
Some buildings have been restored to their former grandeur and breathtaking beauty while others sit as empty shells, waiting for their turn to be reclaimed. The city has strict rules about not altering the exteriors of these buildings. Leading by example, the city repaved the old roads of the neighbourhood with authentic, old style brick to bury all the modern power and communication cables.
When you walk through the neighbourhood, gazing up at the terraced buildings and catching glimpses of skyscrapers and ocean down its narrow streets, you really do feel as if you’ve been transported to a different time and place, separate from the modern city and modern world. But as beautiful as this city and its people’s efforts to restore these scorched and crumbling blocks are, they aren’t out of the woods yet. Climate change, El Niño and drought have joined the long list of threats to the people and the landscape of Panama.
There are brush fires – some controlled and contained, some wild and ferocious – burning in the hills and along the highways. There are villages without drinking water. Many homes and businesses collect rainwater during the wet season to be used to flush toilets in the dry summers. We are nearly one month into the wet season now without a single drop of rain so many of these toilets are no longer working. Last year, when the rains didn’t come until November, severe water restrictions and an air conditioning ban were put into place. The airports, malls, hotels and office buildings of Panama City were not permitted to run air conditioners during the day. The water levels in the lakes and rivers that feed the Panama Canal are devastatingly low. If the rains don’t come soon, restrictions will have to be placed on the size of ships that can enter the Panama Canal – the largest Panamax ships are built to have only 24 inches of clearance in the locks. If this happens, the price of almost everything will increase around the globe.
As you scroll through the pictures of this beautiful city, country and world today, consider all of the things you may take for granted and all of the things you can do to minimize your impact on this incredible environment we all share.
All photos by me.
For the past three years, the hubs and I have been spending Thanksgiving weekend at the cottage with our closest friends. For this reason, it has since become my favourite holiday.
The tradition started when the hubs and I were newly married and facing the annual decision to stay home and do a small fancier-than-usual dinner for two, or travel back home to be interlopers at the homes and developing traditions of cousins who had become the keystones of new family units, aunts who had become the new matriarchs of their families, or a step-relations who hadn’t formally invited us. Neither of us really enjoyed Thanksgiving that much growing up and we didn’t have many memories of the holiday so we decided to change that by doing what we really wanted to for the holiday. We agreed that the people we wanted to spend the day with were our friends and the place we wanted to spend it at was our beloved cottage.
Photo by Mitch Hanna.
We invited a large selection of friends the first year, hoping to find at least one or two people who would also be spending the holiday alone. Two people is exactly how many we found. We spent the long weekend, Saturday to Monday, together in my husband’s grandmother’s cottage next door because the cottage we usually stay in (and are currently trying to buy) is much more rustic and not yet insulated against the cold October nights. We cooked a modest meal, played board games and learned that we shouldn’t do puzzles together.
News and pictures from our first real adult Thanksgiving spread and the next year more friends were looking to give up their childhood obligations of gathering around an overcooked turkey with people they only talk to when they have to in favour of what we had now started calling Friendsgiving. In the second year, we added two more friends – one being my brother – and an extra day. On the last evening, my mother-in-law and her husband joined us to have their own Thanksgiving during the week.
Photo by Brett Didemus.
This year, we had one regular attendee who couldn’t make it and gained a new first-timer. My in-laws enjoyed being part of our celebration so much that they decided to overlap with us again this year. The hubs and I have recently taken up a regular hiking hobby so we choose one of the many trails surrounding the small town nearest the cottage and invited our guests to join us. Surprisingly, everyone took us up on the invitation, the whole time saying, “we’ve got to do this again next year”.
Photo by Matt Harrison.
Photo by Mitch Hanna.
All others by me.