Still Focused Here: A 40 Year Pictorial History of Rochester, Minnesota
Written and Photographed by #1 International Bestselling Author & Illustrator Lisa Loucks Christenson
In 1978, Lisa Loucks at age 13 did something that changed the focus of her future: she bought her first SLR film camera, a Minolta SRT 201. With five years of photography already under her belt, shooting eight-packs of Polaroid® film (some of her favorite images), taking pictures with her first 110mm camera, her parents'126mm, and later, her Super 8mm and Super 8mm Sound movie cameras; she wouldn’t have understood, then, how important the timing of making her first major purchase of her life was, or how that God-timed decision become the actual seeds for this book—40 years later. Who can doubt God's timing?
Lisa didn’t know how F-stops and shutter speeds worked together. Her other cameras were all point and shoot. She barely understood lighting or how the slight or drastic changes to it, lack of it, shooting images in different weather, indoors or outdoors affected the outcome of her images. She couldn’t see, then, how florescent, tungsten, or incandescent light was any different than the ambient light inside or outside. To her, light was light, or it was almost light, almost dark, or there was no light and it was really dark. She bought filters to “correct” the lighting in her images, lighting that appeared perfectly fine as she observed things, but her images didn’t return or share that same experience. She didn’t understand her flash unit, she didn’t understand how fall-off worked, how bouncing light or adding more flash units changed shapes, offered hair lights, backlights, or even when to use a “fill” flash. She had barely figured out how taking longer or shorter exposures varied her results, according to the various lighting conditions, with or without the filters, flash.
Lisa was in training for something about to change her destiny, her vision. Shoot, sink or swim.
She did learn, however, the faster she could figure out “lighting” and how it worked with her cameras controls, her flash, filters, or how to pan and drag as she shot: would make the exact difference in well-exposed images or not, flash-frozen action or blurred images, how creating: orange, blue, purple, magenta, green, yellow, or red people was a choice of filters or flash, usually.
More importantly, she never forgot the emotional weight a pack of pictures had after she picked up her shots from the camera shop. The gut-wrenching lot of “not” was a tough lesson that clicked in her thoughts, and every time thereafter, when she pressed her shutter. That get-it-right the first time or pay for under or over-exposed images—out of whatever meager teenager wages there were left.
She couldn't understood, then, how those first two months with camera in hand, along with a heap of failed exposures had a divine purpose as training shots for her future. Pictures that carved unforgettable paths as records of her losses and in short, became the very education, a tuition of sorts, to the critical role those paid exposures, good and bad shots, that played in learning her craft. Paid in full.
Then, the tides turned--they always do, right? Lisa, armed with her trusty Minolta (as she referred to it), wasn’t afraid of the rising water, she was right there above it, beside it, shooting her first news images, what would become her first and most important historical images. This time, with confidence of her paid-training. She didn’t fumble. She knew how to shoot under the dull lighting, against the rapid flow of the Zumbro River––at least 23 feet above flood stage and right under her feet on the bridge. She knew how to expose the film to get images that, literally, flashed by. Images some Rochester residents will never forget — the 1978 flood.
A couple years later Lisa went on to win her first national photo contest earning Lisa her first national tear sheet that still hangs in her kitchen as a reminder of her first published shot that helped direct her life and offer her an evolving career path.
This book is the story of Lisa's journey -- a girl with a camera and pen who, at first, didn't understand the meaning of what words her dad left her with when he said, "There's no such word as can't." A word she still keeps close to her heart to redefine, daily. Her life with ever-changing tides and circumstances, health crises, and family deaths would break her, but strengthen her faith. Enough to sustain her, spiritually, help her raise her family, and lead her on to her wildlife documentaries, her publishing company, bookstore where she can share her life with visitors, encourage them to change the can't roadblocks in their lives to a you-can-do-it.
This collection of images of Rochester, Minnesota is a published collection of life Lisa witnesses, first shots from her eight-year-old self, and into her early-fifties. This is story of beginnings and endings, change and progression, life and death. This is Lisa’s photo memoir of and to her hometown.
Rochester, Minnesota feeds her soul and gives her room to roam with her camera –– and continually capture images her “Stories Picturing Daily Life”.