The Sand Mandala

In 1997, I fell in love with the Nikon FM2.   It had been a friend of mine for a while, but I didn’t really love it until I got to know it better.   I took it with me on a month long art project where I watched a Buddhist monk build a sand mandala.

My beautiful picture

This is Losang Samten and he spent every day for a month finely choosing grains of sand to place in perfect order fora Wheel of Life mandala at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada.   It was a special delight to simply sit and watch this master at work.   So, I came back every day or two to get a new photo and watch.    It was a metaphor for learning how to use a fully manual film camera.   The FM2 is a master of Nikon’s building and is both complicated and simple at the same time.   Using film is much more deliberate than the digital cameras we use now.   You have to focus more clearly, understanding the light and shutter speed.   Of course, you could burn through enough film to get that “one” shot.   But, it is much more rewarding to patiently wait for the right moment and get that image.

I was just learning so these photos are not perfect.   I do enjoy them just the same and hope you do, too.

After the mandala was completed, there was a ceremony where the monk swept all of the sand together into an urn and then the sand was returned to the earth.    For this mandala, a large gathering was held, with much pomp and circumstance.  The sands were swept and then a procession led to the Truckee River, a few blocks away, and simply poured into the water.    Sands of time … washed away in an instant.


Scanning 35mm Film

I bought myself a little present.   A 35mm film scanner.   It’s not the fanciest thing or the most expensive but it will do the trick.   And, most importantly, it will bring some of my 35mm projects of the past to the light of day in the digital world.

Here’s a look at it:


It is a DBTech 35mm film slide and negative scanner, 10 mega pixel.   I grabbed it on Amazon for $69.99 and am pretty happy with the results from my first scans.   It is super easy to use and has a digital screen so you can see what you are doing.   Bonus, you don’t have to be hooked up to the computer and you can add memory to it.    No additional software, it’s just a simple camera and save.  Then, you use a UBS to save it to your computer and can edit it however you want.   I like simple.  Two thumbs up for this one!

Of course, I scanned one of my most favorite sets of film.   I will do a full blog post about these images but wanted to focus on just the scanner for today.    And, why I think it is important to save your film to digital.

I love the “vintage” look  and I’m all about filters that do that trick on Instagram.   So, seeing this pictures is fun.   But, there are scratches and fading that happen over time.    So, get to preserving people!   It doesn’t take long.   These photos were taken in 1997.

Starting the mandala work

I took the photos with my Nikon FM2.   All manual, no fancy nothing.   I love that camera.    My skills have changed since 1997 but I still love this set.   It was a great experience at the museum to watch this monk build a sand mandala and it was a great experience learning that camera.   The focus isn’t perfect and there were some challenges for lighting in the museum but I think the scanning came out pretty good.   Stay tuned for another post with the rest of the pictures and more information about the sand mandala process.

3/4 sand mandala

closer to palace

Do you have any old film that you need to get scanned?

Disney’s World of Color

After spending a week at Disneyland and California Adventure, one of my favorite memories is the World of Color show.    There are so many fun things in both parks, but this was pretty spectacular.   And, for my family, it was a nice end to a great day.    We had dinner in Carthay Circle, which was fantastic, and walked for a bit before the show started.   Then, we enjoyed a reserved viewing area that came with our dinner package.   I was truly impressed with the magic of Disney, the lights, the music and how they managed to figure out that they could project images on the spraying fountains.    If you like the water fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, you will enjoy the World of Color.

World of Color

rainbow beams

pirate lady and the tramp dumbo dory buzz bambi ariel


yellow and blue woc1 red rainbow skittles


All of these photos were taken with a Nikon CoolPix AW100 and captured as stills from the HD video.   I’m still pretty impressed with myself for getting it all to work out right for the photos and, when photographing a nighttime show, I found this to be an easier way to get to enjoy the event with my family rather than fiddling with a bigger DSLR to get the longer exposure shots.    And, I haven’t had the best luck with long exposure shots so this was much less frustrating for me.    Let me know what you think of the results.   And, if you have any tips on night shots or fireworks-type shows, please comment with your suggestions.   Thanks.

My full video from the show is almost thirty minutes and can be found HERE on my Youtube page.