A photographer’s best friend turns 13

       Eleven years ago today, someone tied a Jack Russell Terrier to a light pole in the parking lot of the San Diego County shelter, and left him there in the middle of the night. The fine folk at Jack Russell Rescue of Southern California didn’t know what to call him. Since their last minute appointment saved the two year old dog from the needle, they named him Lucky.


       After completing a background check, I was allowed to adopt him. Since then, he’s accompanied me to Danish Days in Solvang, the Big Apple, the Windy City - where he’s a favorite at the Hotel Allegro - to Ben Silver in Charleston South Carolina, and small towns across America. He’s brought me much luck, and is always ready to help me finish a roll of Tri-X film. 


     His complete focus and his gratitude remain a good lesson for me and for my photography eleven years later - and constantly remind me to keep a camera handy and ready to capture the humor that is there if you put down your phone and make the time to look for it. Thank you my friend, Happy Birthday, and many more.


          All images made with a Leica M7 or M6TTL and 35mm 1.4 ASPH lens on Kodak Tri-X film: (c) Bob Soltys - All Rights Reserved


The future of film photography is in the magic of fiber-based printing

     For over 40 years, Kodak Tri-X film has always come through for me. At night, Ilford’s Delta 3200 never lets me down. 

    Back in the day, we exposed a roll of film, developed it, and waited for the contact print to magically appear in the tray of developer. Watching the image appear as the chemicals worked on the blank sheet of paper is still like opening a birthday present.

     Because you couldn’t be sure you had the image until you made prints, you kept your eye on the ball without chimping or emailing your shoot to friends or colleagues. Even today, this forced focus on what the eye is seeing helps the creative process.

    While film is just a tool, the amount of time required to make a good print on fiber-based paper makes the end product richer. As with fountain pens and slide rules, the analog process makes me slow down and think about what I’m doing.



    Better sensors make for better images than digital cameras could make five years ago. Last weekend, Adam Marelli showed those of us attending his one-day seminar some wonderful 16 x 20 prints that Digital Silver Imaging in Boston printed on fiber-based paper from images Adam made with his Leica Monochrome M.

    Like printing from film on fiber-based paper, Digital Silver’s technology uses the silver gelatin layer in the paper, providing the tonal range you get only in traditional silver based prints. For now, that requires sending your file out for printing. 

   For those who want to make their own magic, film photography and traditional wet darkroom printing reward craftsmanship with the finest prints of the art in the ordinary.


   Thanks to John Rehner for expertly matting and tastefully framing the fiber-based prints of these images and representing them in the United States, to Stephen Bartels of Stephen Bartels Gallery in London for giving them a home in Europe, and to John and Stephen for their selfless advice and encouragement.  





      All images (c) 2008 Bob Soltys All Rights Reserved:

Brasserie de ile St-Louis - Ilford Delta 3200 film

Lucky, my Jack Russell Terrier, Grinnell Iowa,Tri-X film

"City of Light," Tri-X.



Declare Independence from Compulsive Posts and Smartphone Alerts

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh teaches: "The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” 

On this Independence Day, let’s set ourselves free from smartphone alerts by silencing cellphone sounds except for those from our doctor, veterinarian, and immediate family. Do others really “need” to reach us at all times?

Let’s say no to the infobesity of compulsive multiple posts. As documentary legend Maggie Steber put it, “Curate Your Photographs.”Post only your best work.

What one image captured the essence of what you felt and saw?


"In the world to come we will be asked to give an accounting of all the good things that God put on this Earth that we refused to enjoy." - The Talmud

Go outside. Walk or ride a bike. Seek the bliss and wonder Dr. Zhivago experiences, eyes shining, in his garden of daffodils. 

Enjoy the summer weather, the birds, the fireflies that come out as twilight turns into darkness, the company of your family and friends, and the abundance we will find if we make the time to be aware of it. 


Maggie Steber’s 11 tips for photographers:


Dr. Zhivago in the garden:


Photo: Lilyann’s baptism, Tri-X film, Leica M6TTL, 35mm 1.4 ASPH lens

(c) 2011 Bob Soltys All Rights Reserved


The iPhone’s most valuable feature for photographers

Last week’s Paris trip was one of my most productive in years. Why? 


Except to email a fellow photographer there about meeting details, and to check in for my return flight, my phone remained in airplane mode.

How much more I saw. Sadly, many people were oblivious to the good things around them because they were face down in their devices. 

The May Black+White Photography magazine’s thought-provoking column by Tim Clinch repeated what he wrote a couple of months ago: the two most important words in photography are self-discipline.  

Connecting that with what Steven Pressfield wrote about Resistance and consumer culture, and Chris Lowney on leadership in Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads (immersed in the world, but not ‘of’ the world … does not drift on a tide of texts, media stimulation, and phone calls), I continue to work at the self-discipline to leave my phone in airplane mode. 

"Errer est humain; flâneur est Parisien." - Victor Hugo

Next time you’re out photographing, be immersed in the world around you, instead of the world on your device.



Black+White Photography magazine on iTunes:


Painter: The Marais (c) 2008 Bob Soltys All Rights Reserved

Tri-X film, Leica M7, 35mm 1.4 ASPH lens


Do your pictures pop?

Reading Sam Horn’s Pop - Stand Out In Any Crowd made me think about why some photos work and others don’t. 

Two of my Paris images came to mind. While the one of the couple kissing is a classic image street photographers look for on a Paris trip, something’s missing. 


The second image is my best selling photo ever. It’s allowed me to give back via the Friends of Anton, Secours Populaire Français, and a variety of causes. 


The missing element? Snap. Why does one pop and the other doesn’t?

 The light. We photograph light, not objects. 

Thank you, Sam, for the reminder on how to stand out.


Photos (c) 2008 and 2009 Bob Soltys - All Rights Reserved


What we can do for Lent to help improve our focus

Lent begins in less than two weeks on Ash Wednesday, March 5. Tradition calls for those who observe Lent to give something up. Giving up needless smartphone checking and compulsive updating was the first thing that came to mind - after thrift. 

A priest in San Diego remarked that “It’s not enough to just give something up - you should do something more.” So in addition to leaving the smartphone in the pocket, how about focus and truly being in the moment - like the cowhands in Wyoming pictured below?


Our photography and our relationships can’t help but improve. 

Photo: Wyoming, 2008. Tri-X film in a Leica M7, 35mm lens.  (c) Bob Soltys All Rights Reserved


A time when we thought things through and knew how to make change

Before there were iPhones, personal computers, and calculators, students used slide rules.

As I looked at this image of the captain of my late father’s air ambulance flight showing the first officer how to use my Keuffel and Esser Jet Log Jr. slide rule, it brought back fond memories of a time when we figured things out for ourselves or looked it up in a book instead of going online or relying on the cash register to figure out how much change the customer has coming back.

Time to resurrect the analog antidote project - capturing those devoted to slide rules and fountain pens. 


Photo: (c) 1998 Bob Soltys All Rights Reserved

Leica M6, Ektachrome E100S film, 35mm 1.4 lens


What dogs can teach us about focus

Lucky the Jack Russell Terrier has taught me much, and the complete attention that he gives to everything is a daily reminder. 


His singular focus on the morsel that awaited him at Eddie’s in Geneva on the Lake, Ohio and in Lusk, Wyoming, demonstrates the attention that we too can give to our photography, to our driving and walking, to the person we are with, and to whatever else we do in life.


To paraphrase the Belgian photographer Gabriel Delobbe, every moment that you spend looking down at your smartphone is a moment that you are denying yourself the gifts of life that are waiting to be observed. 

What will you see today? 

Photos (c) 2012 and 2006 Bob Soltys All Rights Reserved

Thanks to John Rehner for expertly scanning the gelatin silver print 


What’s missing from this picture?

A couple of years ago as I waited for “la femme qui marche chat,” I saw these Parisians enjoying the remains of the day along Quai de Bourbon on île Saint-Louis. 


They’re enjoying a baguette, talking with each other and being in the moment, with not a smartphone in sight. 

Dan Milnor’s Smogranch blog post today about social media addiction mentioned taking evasive action to avoid compulsive status updaters.  

Last November, one of those compulsive status updaters felled me a half block from where I made the Paris photo.  Fortunately, neither glass nor bones were broken, although my “snob” LHSA M6TTL has a bit of new patina. 


The hospital bill was in today’s mail - yes, unlike in America, the French take care of you first instead of worrying about the almighty dollar.  And it was less than ten percent of what it would have been had I landed on my hands and knees in Les Etats-Unis. 

The letter from France nourished the seed of freedom from Facebook that I planted before last September’s London trip for Stephen Bartels Gallery’s joint exhibit with Leica Gallery Mayfair. Dan’s blog post allowed the seed of just say no to FaceBook to bloom into the final nail in the coffin of my social media addiction.  

As Jackson put it in The Leader Who Had No Title, “There have never been so many useless distractions available to human beings.” 

Lucky the Jack Russell Terrier, my photography, and the books I’m writing are my priorities and deserve my undivided attention. So, adieu to social media, except Twitter and this BlkWhiteFilmPix blog. To me, LinkedIn is a networking tool, not social media. 

Black and white film photography, real paper books, fountain pens, and slide rules remain my refuge from the tyranny of technology. 

The Cleveland area is a winter wonderland in the wake of seven inches of snow today, and so I’m off to make a few pictures before the light is gone.

Happy Birthday Dan, and thanks for the encouragement!



Black and white photo:

Along the Banks of the Seine (c) 2011 Bob Soltys All Rights Reserved


Will You Embrace Greatness in 2014?


As the New Year approaches, many of us resolve to be better. To achieve this, we must set specific goals and put a deadline on them.

What specific goals might we set? What do we want to be? To get started, we could work toward being:

Focused - Captain Sullenberger’s extraordinary concentration on getting Flight 1549 down safely remains the gold standard for attention to the task at hand. 


Attentive - as in the undivided attention Bill Clinton gives everyone. He doesn’t look at his watch or his iPhone when he’s talking with you. Give that kind of focus to your photography, your work, your clients, and everyone you meet and work with, and you’ll be far ahead of the rest of the pack. 


“The biggest obstacle to productivity is connectivity” - Tova Payne



Thanks to John Rehner for encouraging me to leave my phone off, and to and to Lucky [the Jack Russell Terrier] for always reminding me it’s time to disconnect.


Paying attention to what’s around you (instead of a smartphone screen) will enrich your life as well as the lives of those you encounter. 

Positive - if, like Robin Sharma, we look at bumps in the road of life as opportunities to rise to a challenge and improve ourselves and the process, we’ll remain on track while achieving greatness whatever we do.



By looking on the bright side of what life hands us, we can turn a negative into a positive, as Josef Koudelka said about why he loves black and white photography. 

 Inspiring - St. Francis said “Preach often, occasionally with words.”

Pope Francis’ life of humility inspires everyone because he’s down to earth and focuses on what’s really important while ignoring the chaff.

Nelson Mandela invited his jailers to his inauguration. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King stood by their principles of nonviolence. During the Depression, FDR taught that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

When President Ford was asked during his first days in office if he would make new ethics rules in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation, he replied, “The standard will be the example I set.” 

Others like Jack Canfield inspire us with great stories and with their obvious enthusiasm that makes us want to be better. 



Photographer Bill Allard pointed out that as photographers, we’re always taking pictures. One of his photos was so powerful that it inspired National Geographic’s readers to send money to replace a flock of sheep killed by a speeding car in Peru. 


To paraphrase Mother Teresa, we can inspire others by doing small things with great attention and love. 

Relating - relating well to others, and relating what happens to us with photographs or words makes us pay attention while sharing the greatness that is there if we make time to see it. 

One of the most inspiring photographers I know, David Hume Kennerly, continues to make pictures that tell great stories while inspiring us to go out, make great photographs showing what the world wants to see, thereby making it a better place. 

For more words of inspiration, Dr. Mollie Marti’s Walking With Justice tells how Judge Max Rosenn’s life inspired everyone around him. Judge Rosenn is no longer with us, but thanks to Dr. Mollie (as her friends call this gifted psychologist, lawyer and servant leader) his gifts of grace and gratitude live on to teach us. 


What have you noticed that you want to share?

Grateful - Being grateful for all that you have is the prime ingredient of your greatness cake. If you appreciate what you have, more will come your way. One way to be grateful is to give back. Giving back isn’t about money - it can be time or things. 

Giving Thanks, the Art of Tithing, explains how giving back empowers you as well as those with whom you share, and makes room for more. (A tip o’ the pin - ala Zippy - to Dr. Mollie Marti for sharing this wonderful resource with me last year).



Trustworthy - you know what you’re talking about, you speak the truth, and you act with integrity by doing what you say.  This is the mark of a mensch. To paraphrase Gandhi, your life is your message. 

With just a few words, Cow boss Gerry Endicott’s thundering velvet hand* reminded the crew it was time to get to work: “Guys, we’re wastin’ daylight!” 

* hat tip to the late great Dan Fogelberg’s tribute to his father, Leader of the Band.


Start right, end right: Instead of picking up your phone and checking texts or email, begin the day by making time for an “hour of power” - 20 minutes of reading or listening to inspirational books, 20 minutes of exercise or yoga, and 20 minutes of meditation or prayer. Continue the flow as you work with attention to detail (note to self - on framing), honesty, integrity, and a positive outlook based on gratitude, for a great day, every day. End the day with thanks for the things that went right, and look forward to a better tomorrow.

Or would you rather be wastin’ daylight and wishing on a star?


Photo “Cow boss”  (c) 2008 Bob Soltys, All Rights Reserved

Tri-X film in a Leica M7, 35mm 1.4 ASPH lens, Bondurant, Wyoming May 2008