breaking the lines

Lately I’ve been in the mood for some more focused learning and I’ve been following some online courses, some photography related, some not, and it has been an enjoyable experience. Every few years I make an effort and use some of the amazing resources that are available nowadays and it’s always been worthwhile. In case you’re looking for photography related courses: There is an excellent coursera course on Photography by MoMA that was really very very helpful and interesting. I did it some time ago and I felt that it was one of the best online courses I had ever taken, so I’d definitely recommend it. The one I’m following right now is called The Camera Never Lies and is actually a history meets photojournalism course which is also very detailed and interesting. I’m really amazed at all the stuff that you can learn online. You might know that I’ve been teaching myself all sorts of film photography related things over the years and I pretty much learned it all from free sources on the internet. Stand-development, developing and printing in Caffenol, C41 and E6 development, splitgrade printing, how to dry fibre prints with and without a print dryer, scanning, lately how to use large format cameras and so on. It’s pretty much all described in articles, videos and helpful comments in film photography related forums and groups. You just have to know how to use a search machine and you can find all sorts of great information. Once I even came up with a detailed syllabus that follows the progression of an art history degree with courses that are all available online for free. As long as you’re not dependent on the qualification, you can do the same thing for any degree and acquire all sorts of knowledge in self-study. The only requirement is that you have access to a good library or the money to buy the books.

And since we’re talking about books: Today I would like to recommend an excellent book to you called The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes. It’s a 700 page tome all dedicated to alternative printing and photography which compiles so much knowledge that it would probably take me years if I were to try to attempt every technique in the book. And the best thing: It’s actually an excellent book about the history of photography too and although I know quite a bit about the subject already there are always interesting details that I didn’t know about yet. Really, I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s just wonderful and full of inspiration for experiments! My latest experiments? I’ve been playing with my Diana F+ camera and the cable release bracket to take pinholes, since this is the first chapter in the alternative processes book. Not the sharpest pinhole design out there, but it definitely has a nice feel to it and doesn’t require any tinkering to get started.

The other thing that kept me busy this week was my pile of undeveloped rolls of film. Should I really admit that I still have 105 undeveloped rolls of film lying around? I’m not really pushing myself to develop them as quickly as possible, so it will probably still take a while until I’m finished with it. I might as well announce already that I will be a tad late with my New Year’s Post this time, since most of the rolls from this year haven’t been developed yet!

In any case, I better get to some pictures now since I’m also horribly behind on posting pictures. These pictures were actually taken in May 2016 during my low ISO challenge. At the time I was playing with my excellent Super Ikonta and these pictures remind me that I should really take it out for some more street shooting soon! The lens is simply superb!

Pictures taken with: Rolleicord V, Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 75mm f/3.5. Zeiss Super Ikonta C 530/2.

Starting with: Rollei / Rollei Retro 80s / Rodinal.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Twins.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

This was pretty much an accident, but I really like how the girl is perfectly framed!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Woof!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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I don’t. Or do I?

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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ISO 80 woes.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Teach them young!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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I was obsessed with dust that month.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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I love how everyone ignores what the little one is doing.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Say hello!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Love the light in this!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Did I mention recently that I love my Rollei? Well I do!

Ikonta / Retro 80s / HC-110.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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I walked into a random direction.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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He told me that he was a warrior.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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So, this is an 80 year old Zeiss lens. Isn’t it just amazing?

Retro 80s / Rodinal stand.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Just a moment too late. The Super Ikonta isn’t the most convenient camera to use.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Hiding.

Retro 80s / Rodinal.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Side street art.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Although I seriously love the Retro 80s, I had scratches on some rolls that were not caused by the camera.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Nose coincidence.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Action shot.

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Beach spectators.

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Strange dancing. Her hands!!

Pan F+ 50 / HC-110.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Disappointed love.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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I may have scanned this with the ANR glass upside down.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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So cute!

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Assistance!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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I love all the lines in this one.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Teddy doesn’t get any love either. Last one!

Joy

Sometimes life gets in the way of updating my blog and I certainly had a couple of busy and exciting months. My health has been improving a lot thanks to the new treatment and this gave me the opportunity to go to Paris for the first time. It was a great trip and I’m really looking forward to our next visit to the city! Then at the beginning of this month I actually participated in a wetplate workshop which was really cool and super interesting. The timing of it was perfect, since just a few days later I finally got the opportunity to get my hands on a large format camera I’ve been investigating for a couple of years, a Pacemaker Speed Graphic from 1950! Yes, you read that right, after mastering 35mm and medium format I’m now getting into the large formats, starting out with 4×5! Wait, a street photographer shooting large format and wet plate? That sounds crazy! Well, it is crazy and borderline impossible in fact. At ISO 1-3 wetplate is pretty much entirely useless for street also because you need to process each shot within a very short time after preparing the plate. I’d need an assistant and a big flash to pull that one off, so that’s not happening anytime soon – or at all. Large format street photography on film is much more viable but to be honest, at the moment I don’t think I even want to shoot street with it!

I’m actually coming out of a bit of an artistic crisis right now. This year has been particularly tough for me and for quite a long time I’ve not really felt very inspired to take pictures at all. Part of it was of course my health, but beyond that I actually didn’t really feel like it. I’ve been shooting street for more than 3 years in this town and it’s a particularly challenging place. Always going to the same 5 street corners bores me to death and the range of behaviours in this place is really rather limited. I’ve been pushing really hard and I manage to get some shots out of this place despite these limitations, but my level of frustration is usually pretty high when I’m trying to wrestle pictures from this place.

Boredom is of course part of the artistic process, but I’m a person who tends to get bored even more easily than others. I tend to master a skill and then move on to the next thing, so it has always been challenging for me to stick to one thing over a long period of time. I always need to distract myself with other things to keep my long term pursuits fresh for me, especially if I have already mastered everything there is to know about it.

I can probably say that street photography won’t teach me any new tricks anymore. I’ve shot it in all sorts of lighting conditions, with digital and all sorts of film emulsions, in shutter priority mode with auto focus, with compact cameras, rangefinders and have settled on fully manual 35mm and medium format cameras. I have shot street during the day, at night, in many different big and small cities, in different countries and I can even wrestle pictures from really one-dimensional places too. The thing is though: I’m not actually bored with street photography itself. I’m bored with street photography here! In a bigger city I could just go to a different neighbourhood and I would find something worth photographing, a bit of visual variety, but around here most neighbourhoods are pretty much dead most of the time and everything depends entirely on timing. Figuring out the right timing for each neighbourhood is a tedious process that involves lots of disappointment, so I have been tackling one neighbourhood each year with limited success in some of them. And frankly I’m actually a little sick of having to fight so hard for each shot!

This is not to say that I will stop shooting street. The main reason why street photography is a genre flooded with bad pictures is not only because it’s challenging, but also because people tend to get bored and move on before they actually get really good at it. The road to mastery involves pushing through these challenges and continuing anyway, even if you’re bored or your feet are hurting from all the pointless hours of walking without results. I will continue! But then for my sanity I still need a bit of a distraction that depends less on serendipity, since it obviously isn’t very cooperative in small beach resorts full of boring rich people, their dogs and (grand)children! So, I will be playing with large format, as well as toy cameras, pinhole cameras and alternative processes like wetplates and salt prints!

I’ve been following the work of others with these kinds of tools and techniques for a long time – wetplate particulary – and have also been reading up on a lot of pinhole and toy cameras over the last couple of years. I got myself a Holga and a Diana F+, as well as an Agfa Clack and a bunch of cans that I will convert to pinhole cameras at some point. This alone couldn’t really get me started though, because it was just too far away from what I was doing before. I built a little matchbox pinhole camera and it was far from being a success, so this didn’t quite seem like a more cooperative distraction that would instantly make me happy. I can’t really see myself walking around with just a toy camera or pinhole hoping for good pictures when really the serendipity lies in a different part of the process with these kinds of tools. Yet, there is something there that I’d like to explore.

So, in the end I decided that large format would be the way to move forward for me. It was a bit of a risky move, since it was quite an investment for a camera that I won’t be using for street photography at all – the camera itself imported from the US, a barrel lens, the development tank, the film holders, a new tripod, the film -, but after the first 5 sheets I’m completely convinced that it was the right decision! I actually have two lenses for the Speed Graphic now, an Optar 135mm f/4.7, which is a pretty standard 4×5 lens, and a very funky Leica Hektor 150mm f/2.5 projection lens that doesn’t even have an aperture! The standard lens will be great for learning the limited movements of the camera and for some random large format landscape stuff. The Hektor lens is a completely different animal though. It has a very shallow depth of field and barely covers 4×5. Both the DOF and the lack of sharpness in the corners give it a really special character which fits very nicely with all the other experimental stuff I’m working on. At the same time it’s a lot more predictable in its nature to allow for successful shots without too much guesswork. I already see what I get on the ground glass, so there won’t be any disappointment involved at all, unless I mess up the shot somehow of course. And since toy and pinhole cameras tend to be light, I can just take one along while I’m out with the large format camera and the tripod anyway. After two outings like this I think I accidentally stumbled on the perfect workflow to keep experimenting and get predictable success at the same time. So, new, big things happening and eventually you’ll see some results trickle in on here too.

There has been more interesting stuff happening too. I’ve been printing in the darkroom and working more on my Progress through Demolition project, which has been very interesting – some pictures that I thought would be challenging to print in the darkroom actually turned out great! Still a lot to do, but it’s good to know that the project is finally progressing again. I’ve also been upgrading different bits and pieces of my gear – a plate / sheet film holder for the Rollei to shoot instax, a colour head for my enlarger, a better viewfinder magnifier for my Leica, a cable release bracket for the Diana, all the large format gear, some ND filters, and of course my shiny new tripod. And most excitingly, I even have a new photography related job! Well, let’s just say that not being in pain makes for exciting times!

But then, you’re probably not here to listen to me rambling all day! Let’s get to some pictures of some rich people, their dogs and (grand)children then! These particular pictures were taken in May last year when I challenged myself to only shoot low ISO film. It was difficult, but very cool and I love the results I got from the Nokton 1.1 and Rollei Retro 80s. Difficult to print, but the tones, the delicious contrast and complete lack of grain are well worth it!

Pictures taken with: Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1. Mamiya C220, Mamiya Sekor 80 f/2.8 S, Zeiss Super Ikonta C 530/2.

Starting with M6 / Nokton 1.1 / Rollei Retro 80s / Rodinal.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Fixing the window?

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Pre-jump.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Flowery!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Pre-gun violence.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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He’s got three dogs, probably in a tiny flat.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Stylish!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Love the photobombing dog.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Got bored at the post office.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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These are not pipes.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Blurred out mobile phones are sort of acceptable.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Acrobatics.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Individuality is overrated.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Slight framing failure.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Last year’s trend.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Getting some love!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Look at that dangerous wolf!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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I think I was told never to run with lollipops.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Thirsty pup instalment 1.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Thirsty pup instalment 2.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Anonymous self-portrait.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Practicing to become a spy.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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I just love this one!

Mamiya C220 / Rollei Retro 80s / HC-110 stand.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Ah, that Mamiya lens is just awesome!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Weird stuff.

Ikonta / Pan F+ 50 / HC-110 stand.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

I was testing the Ikonta and stand-development in HC-110. Super nice! I need to repeat this one with some ND filter magic in 4×5!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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The Ikonta sometimes tricks me into accidental double exposures. This one I kinda liked though!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Retro 80s / Rodinal / orange filter.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Orange filter + Retro 80s is almost IR.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

That Zeiss lens is a stunner! Last one!

levitation for beginners

Not so long ago I switched back to my Zeiss lens and zone focussing for the summer. I didn’t realise how much I missed it to just be walking without looking through the viewfinder and caring too much about the framing, the focus. After half a year of shooting with only heavy lenses it is also quite liberating not to have that heavy weight around my neck. I’m really glad to have my wonderful fast lenses, but my Zeiss C-Biogon is still my favourite lens in the end. Maybe part of my frustration over the last few months was also that I always found it difficult to shoot freely with those heavy lenses.

The last few days have been incredibly hot and sunny. There was the first walk along the beach with the feet in the cool water, glaring sunshine, high temperatures and it will go on like that for a few days longer. Tomorrow we’ll be leaving for a short trip and I hope to shoot an awful lot for a couple of days. I definitely need some inspiration and some opportunity to recharge. And maybe I will finally feel like developing some film again when we return, which I haven’t done in months. I’m sure there are some interesting pictures waiting for me in the collected rolls in my drawer.

I’m still undecided about which film to shoot next. I’ve been going through some rolls of T-Max 100, Rollei Retro 400s and Neopan 400CN. I still have a fairly decent stash of different kinds of emulsions I could shoot, but I think I would like to continue with a simple and easy bout of ISO 400 film that I can just zone-focus without worrying much. I still have 10 more rolls of Ilford Pan 400 to get through and then I could shoot some more Bergger 400+ or some Fuji Neopan 400NC. I could also try some Bergger Pancro 400, JCH Streetpan or Orwo 400 film. Still some more emulsions to test!

Enough rambling, let’s get on with some pictures. This time I’m sharing some pictures taken in May last year after we returned from our trip to Buenos Aires. It took me a while to get back in the swing of things, but I used the time to play with a new camera, some slow emulsions and filters. In any case, grab an experimental drink and enjoy!

Pictures taken with: Zeiss Super Ikonta C. Mamiya C220 with Mamiya Sekor 80mm f/2.8S. Leica M6 with Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1.

Ikonta / HP5+ / HC-110.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Has to wait outside.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Street musician was posing for me.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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They were playing Pelota.

Ikonta / Rollei Retro 80s / Rodinal 1:25.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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My husband at the beach.

Pan F+ 50 / HC-110 stand.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

The place where I take new cameras for test shots.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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I was trying to fine tune the rangefinder alignment.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

So smooth! One definitely can’t complain about the looks of 6×9 and ISO 50.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Mamiya C220 / 80mm / Retro 80s / Hc-110 stand / orange filter.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Apparently I wasn’t in the mood for people.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

I didn’t mind some furry friends though.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Discarded Metropolis.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Self-portrait.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Another furry friend.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Eyes.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Trees.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Strange sculptures.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Rollei 80s with an orange filter almost shouts IR.

M6 / Nokton 1.1 / RPX 100 / HC-110.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Nevermind me, I’m just practicing my levitation skills.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Slave, tie my shoes.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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I suppose he wanted something too!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Hello there!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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I know, I know, slight obsession with dogs.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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You stepped on my foot!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Almost lying on the street.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Puppies.

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Make-up session!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Guarding a bookshop.

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Outdoor computing.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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They sure had some funny expressions.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Very patient dog.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

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Last one!