About Cheryl

My name is Cheryl Jacobs Nicolai. I’m a dinosaur, meaning I work entirely with B&W film and older (sometimes vintage) cameras.  I love Cocoa Puffs and red wine, not at the same time.  I am a terrible volleyball player, and I don’t wear anything pink.  Ever.  I split my time between photography and singing in my band; the two together keep me balanced, sort of.  I like grit in my music and grain in my photographs.  I am moderately deaf and ridiculously blind, which may explain my love for photographing textures.

I teach photographic workshops here, there, and everyone. I prefer to do independent workshops (avoiding sponsors) because I believe workshops should be about learning and growing—not being pressured into buying programs, gear, and props. For more information on my workshops, please visit my site.

Don’t be looking for me to blog every day. I’d rather wait until I have something worthwhile to say. If you happen to want to know what I’m doing at every moment, or, say, what I’m eating for lunch, you can follow me on Twitter @cjnicolai or on facebook as CJ Nicolai.

CJ as photographed by Shelly Rogers

photograph by Shelly Rogers


35 responses

28 05 2009
Ed Harrell

I first saw your work in B&W magazine and loved it. Your simple approach resonated with me. I’ve gotten caught up in equipment before and have done mostly digital lately. I’ve been unsatisfied with this approach and have been longing to get back in my darkroom again. Your work really inspires me and I know I will enjoy photography again soon. Your article on being a photographer struck a nerve as well. Thank you for sharing you thoughts and photos.

2 06 2009

Ed, thanks very much for the wonderful compliment. It’s very nice to “meet” you and congratulations on the decision to simplify. I’d love to see the results.

– CJ

21 10 2009

I found your blog via TOP and immediately my attention was caught by two things. First, your photography. Second, the reason I am writing this comments: “I work entirely with B&W film and older (sometimes vintage) cameras.” I’m not new to photography but never took it seriously. For the last year I devoted myself to it. I got some nice results but I felt limited buy the unlimited power of my digital camera. I said to myself I have to go back to manual film cameras and B&W to feel once again the pains of making photos. Your words give me confidence. As a matter of fact, I am literally minutes away from my just ordered Nikon FM2.

21 10 2009
Marc Rochkind

Wish you had an RSS feed… just heard about you on T.O.P. Loved your words of advice…

I have lots of very old cameras — see http://basepath.com/Photography/ — but don’t shoot with them. As you advise, no apologies for that. 😉

–Marc (in Boulder)

29 10 2009


I think all wp blogs have RSS feeds. Here it is hidden, lets say. Here is the feed: https://photodino.wordpress.com/feed/

22 10 2009

I agree with Marc.

I would be much more likely to catch your posts with an RSS feed. Kinda tough to read all the blogs I want to read by going to each one individually every day to check for newer posts.

Don’t deny us your wisdom !

– Kyle (SF, CA)

22 10 2009

Thanks for the feedback. I’m pretty clueless about RSS, so I’ll have to do a bit of studying to figure out how it works and what I need to do. Will definitely look into it.

– CJ

29 10 2009


You have RSS feed but it’s not shown. Here is the feed for your site: https://photodino.wordpress.com/feed/

If you need any help with making it visible, drop me a line by email and I will be more then glad to help you.


22 10 2009

Love your advice for aspiring photographers at TOP.

Regarding RSS feed, your site already as one. Just subscribed to it. No need for action on your site.

Thanks again for the inspiring words and works on your site. markus

22 10 2009
Mark Harris


The “Advice” post is right on. Despite that fact that I don’t make money at it and have a day job to support my art, I will proudly say “I am a photographer!” when asked.

I sometimes also feel like a dinosaur. When I go to shooting workshops I am usually the only one using film. People do, once they see the darkroom prints, see the difference. Recently I had a photographer on-line ask how I got such good B&W conversions. I think he was a bit embarassed when I pointed out I shoot B&W film.

Keep this terrific blog going. I’ll be following along.


22 10 2009
Kevin Charlie

Truly inspired by your work. long live film!

23 10 2009
Ben Ng

like your attitude, love your photos!

23 10 2009
Bob Keefer

Great blog. Wonderful essay on being a photographer. I look forward to reading more.

Bob Keefer

23 10 2009
harvey janis

I really enjoyed seeing your work. Very similar to what I did for 25 + years, fine art [mostly B&W] for my own pleasure and competition. I got sick in 3/05 and my family placed me in a pleasant retirement home near our home in Maui. [No more darkroom]. I now have a couple of pretty good panasonic digital cameras and a good hp touch smart pc but don’t shoot very often and can’t do much with photoshop. Being almost 78, I now accept that I am a voyeur in most of my life rather than being a doer. [It is tough getting old]…. Keep up the good B&W. I hope to view your new achievements [if I can find them as I am not real good with the computer either]
Aloha, Harvey Janis

23 10 2009
harvey janis

see above…..hsj

25 10 2009
Patti Hinton

I am indebted to TOP for posting your advice for aspiring photographers which led me to your work. I’m an serious amateur photographer, finding this love later in my life, initially via digital, but learning to shoot film now on my own. B&W film and genuine photos of people are my loves. When I read ‘the scoop’ on your site I laughed out loud. “Plastic surgery via PS” indeed! You’re my kind of photographer, exactly the mentor I’ve been searching for. Thank you so much. I look forward to learning a lot here and hope someday I’ll find you in Canada teaching one of your wonderful workshops.

26 10 2009
Robert Benson

It took me 20 minutes of detective work to find out the name of the person behind this blog. Unless you are doing some kind of creative anonymous type of blog, you should at least put your name or a link to your site in the about section please.

26 10 2009

wonderful stuff — i’m big on dinosaurs and the smell of emulsion…

thanks for starting your blog — it’s inspiring…

26 10 2009

Robert, funny how it never occurred to me that my name wasn’t on my blog — probably because I built it and linked it as a page on my website, which obviously doesn’t help if you happen upon the blog first.

Will fix.

– CJ

28 10 2009
Cosa dovrebbe sapere ogni aspirante fotografo | adolfo.trinca.name

[…] questo interessante articolo o come lo chiama lui avviso ed ho pensato bene di riportare quello che Cheryl Jacobs Nicolai ha sentito il bisogno di dire a quelli che stanno "decidendo" di diventare fotografi […]

2 11 2009

Hi Cheryl

I’ve just been looking at your website and had a quick look at your blog and I just wanted to say I love your work! In an age where most photographers tend to be getting themselves bogged down with a ton of equipment its great to see I’m not alone when it comes to “chasing the natural light!” and trying to capture the beauty of people as themselves, I must confess that as a wedding photographer I do have to set some photos up but my passion is grabbing those priceless moments that you just couldn’t fake!

Keep up the great work


10 12 2009
Jon Liu


I really enjoy reading this blog. I have read the Chinese version of “Advice to Aspiring Photographers” last month, which was translated not quite well in my view. (I suppose it was automatic translation.) Therefore, I tried to translate it again last month. Since then, I’ve been reading this blog. I think there are some more things I wanted to let my friends know, while they don’t really comperhend English very well. Therefore, I want to ask your permission to translate more of your articles and publish them on my blog. I am a senior student majoring English literature, and I’ve took the translation course for more than 2 semsters, so it will also be a chance for me to practice as well. The final result will be like this: http://jonndhu.pixnet.net/blog/post/25375767


11 12 2009

Jon, thanks for the great feedback. Please do feel free to translate as you see fit, and I’ll change the link to the Chinese translation in my blogroll.

– CJ

11 12 2009
Ed Hamlin

Isn’t B&W wonderful? I love it, it’s what I grew up on and you capture like Ansel, nuff said.

12 12 2009

Hi Cheryl, I just had to leave a note after coming across your blog this morning. Your stories and images are wonderful and inspiring and I am looking forward to later today, when I can find some time to fully explore it all. Thank you!

14 12 2009
Peter Silvia

Dear Cheryl,
I have been a working photographer for over 30 years now. I discovered your blog from a post on The Online Photographer. Whenever I need a “reality” check,
I read your latest posting and it always strikes home. You constantly remind me that it’s about the “seeing and feeling” and not about the latest equipment or technology. Hey BTW, your songs and the way you sing them are also real. Keep on rocking…

18 01 2010

Dear Cheryl,
As a Photography teacher – Phantastic Job! Yea You! Keep up the Film, I teach both!

Make More Pages! this one is too Long, and scrolling is boring!
Your Photos should not be missed! Will have my classes look at them.

25 01 2010

Cheryl, You are one cool Lady. Your talent is amazing, and inspiring. Your photography is a joy to look at and the connection you have with your subjects is evident in your work. I am also enjoying your blog and the style of writing you present. Thank you for sharing your work.


11 02 2010
North For Short

Hi Cheryl,

I used to view your pics on the APUG website and always felt that you were a cut everyone else. I don’t get a lot of time to do B & W pics of late so I was given a DSLR (boo hiss darkside etc….) and it has given me a new lease of life and a purpose taking photos for fun. I am still critical of what is good and what isn’t but the costs are a lot more down.
Thank you for being a inpiration and helping me through my college work (even though you didn’t know it) and look forward to visiting your site in the near future

2 04 2010
Tom K.

I have tremendous admiration for your talent. Your pictures are brimming with life.

11 01 2011

Hi Cheryl this is inspiring! Thank you.

23 04 2011

I’m not a commenter, usually. But I just have to say that your portraits are incredible. The lighting and the eyes, all the commotion, the regular stuff that happens, you put it on film beautifully. You have inspired me to try using my film camera again. Let’s just hope I have all the parts for it.

Someday you will get a request for a critique from me. But until then, I will just practice and keep an eye out for more great photos on your blog.


P.S. Please have a workshop in Minnesota. Pretty please.

2 05 2011
Paul Eckert

CJ: I’ve just finished looking through your entire website. You, and your photography, not to mention your singing, have me completely captivated. You are AWESOME!

22 06 2011

Just found your site through a friend who posted a link to it on Facebook. All I can say is Wow. Awesome work and fantastic writing. THANK YOU.

14 02 2012
al gepte

just seen your blog and your pictures are great… to tell you here in my locality it seems that they are into black and white photography and i find it difficult to further enhance my technique since im still new…. anyway hope you can share or anyone here would love to share theyre knowledge about black and white photography….http://www.facebook.com/pages/Al-Gepte-Photography/284533391608736 thanks

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