enjoy the sun mural
Mary, Barbara and Gavin
Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil moneys on a bench
enjoy the sun mural
Dana, Mel and Walter
Nadia and Mel high fiving
Mel skipping rocks

At the DG+ team retreat in Portland, Maine last fall, we embarked on a fun creative project that would force some of us to see the world in a new way: through analog photography.

You might wonder why this might even be necessary when the digital age offers us endless photos to scroll through Instagram and instantaneous results with smartphone cameras. However, traditional film photography, which provides no immediate gratification, can push us to see and experience the world in new ways.

The creative exercise began with a single prompt: “energy around you.” This could of course be interpreted in different ways, and it reinforces the unique outcomes of the exercise. Here’s how the exercise worked:

Step 1: Distribute Film Cameras

The first step is pretty obvious. Each team member received a reusable film camera with a roll of film at the beginning of our retreat. We selected the Ilford Sprite 35-II reusable camera due to its good reviews, cool looks, and ease of use. The best part is that it is not a disposable camera and can be reloaded for future use.

A pleasant surprise during this step was seeing some of the team load film for the first time into an analog camera. It can certainly be daunting at first because you don’t want to ruin a roll of film. The good news is that all of our rolls developed without any issues!

Step 2: Take Photos

This is where it all happens. Everyone could bring their cameras wherever they wanted, whether that be a work session, out for a stroll, or to an activity. It was up to each person to interpret “energy” the way they see it through the 36 available exposures.

Step 3: Gather the Film

At the end of the retreat, everyone submitted their completed roll of film for processing. We did this in bulk to reduce development time and any potential hiccups to everyone going to a film developer independently. There aren’t so many ways to develop film like there were a few decades ago, so we had to choose wisely. We used Samy’s Camera, a local chain in the Los Angeles area.

Step 4: Review the Results

This is the step we had been waiting for since the beginning. In our case, we wouldn’t reconvene to review the results until a few months after the retreat. This is the best part of film photography. You experience the joy of putting yourself back in time, disappointment at not exposing or framing a shot how you wanted, and intrigue at how others interpreted the exercise. Moreover, you remind yourself that everyone was on an even playing field with the same camera, the same time, and the same challenges.

Without further adieu, let’s look at the results together. Each DG+ team member selected some of their favorites and added a caption to provide further context. It is important to note that all photos shown below are direct scans from film negatives without any cropping, color grading, or other editing. ENJOY!

David Ganske


This photo perfectly exemplifies being both an energy nerd and a photography geek. The DG+ team visited the 4.7-megawatt solar project completed by ReVision Energy for the City of South Portland on their municipal landfill. The ballasted ground mount system’s output is expected to offset 63% of the city’s municipal electrical load.

The whole DG+ team participated in a painting class on the first night of our retreat. The energy was palpable around the room, with Mary and Kathleen showing their excitement in this photo. We all created our own renditions of the teacher’s nightscape with trees, stars, and sun swirls. It seemed fitting for the occasion.

Completed way back in 1791, the Portland Head Light lighthouse is the oldest in Maine and originally used whale oil for illumination. Now, the tower uses electricity to power its “aerobeacon”, a light assembly for intense lighting over long distances. I thought it was cool to see the meter infrastructure on such an old building that predated the modern grid.

Dana Filek-Gibson

Communications Manager

There’s a long, winding trail that runs between the sections of this solar array, which is built on what used to be a landfill. On the day we visited, runners and cyclists whizzed past us as we stopped to take photos. The grass beneath the panels was thick, and tiny flowers were growing nearby. Jill from ReVision Energy, the local developer behind the project, was kind enough to show us around, explaining how they used locally sourced rocks to fortify one part of the installation, which cut down on the need for concrete — and the emissions that come with it. The result is not only a clean energy project that provides pollution-free power to the City of Portland but a green space for the community and a reminder that even the most forgotten spaces can still have value.

One of the reasons the EV transition has been so successful, I suspect, is because we humans see ourselves in the story — we are literally in the driver’s seat. To inspire action — or even support for this new, more sustainable world we’re creating — we have to help people see themselves in the same frame as the technologies that help us get there. The most exciting scenes of the energy transition, to me, are also the most mundane: everyday people doing everyday things in the same space as wind turbines, solar arrays, EV chargers and electric stoves.

My spirits lift a little every time I see solar panels on the rooftop of a house. They’re not much of a novelty these days, but I still view them as a sign of progress. For so many people, though, the idea of owning a home is next to impossible, never mind taking control of where their energy comes from. These meters — on the side of what appears to be an apartment building — are a reminder that there’s still more work to do. Across the U.S., Americans are embracing clean energy with urgency — as we should — but in the race to a more sustainable world, we risk repeating the mistakes of the past if we fail to bring everyone into that brighter future.

Barbara Weber

Marketing Manager, Clean Energy

While I may talk and write about the latest and greatest in cleantech on a daily basis, when I was prompted to consider and observe the energy around me, the first thing I did was look down at my own two feet. What these two tiny things have allowed me to do and the places they’ve allowed me to see are incredible. The thing I loved most about our retreat was that it was located in a walkable city. When I moved to Los Angeles, a city notorious for its traffic congestion, lack of public transportation, and high gas prices, I found a walkable neighborhood in Santa Monica that allows me to significantly avoid turning on my car. When 3:00pm hits on any given afternoon and I need an energy boost after looking at my computer screen for too long, I put on my sneakers and take a long walk. To me, using my own two feet to do most things both gives me energy and saves it, and is one of the biggest ways I reduce my own carbon footprint. Pun absolutely intended.

When we visited one of ReVision Energy’s projects in Southern Portland during our retreat, I was moved to take this photo because of its symbolism. For too long, renewable energy, including access to solar power, has felt restricted and accessible only to those who have the key (ie. the means) to open the fence it hides behind. But as time progresses I’m seeing that change, as the growth of community solar and the progression of local and federal policies works to get it into the hands of those who need it most.

I think in a consumer culture like the US, there is a certain mindset of “Well, it’s recyclable, so it’s fine.” While that’s certainly better than the alternative (looking at you styrofoam), the reality is that many of these recyclable products require a lot of energy and the use of fossil fuels to be made in the first place. Not to mention only 32% of American waste is currently recycled or composted. That’s why I like to focus on the first two parts of the phrase you see above, more than anything else, and would like to see them become a broader part of the national conversation.

Gavin Chisholm

Associate, Market Research and Policy

An easy choice among the pictures I took on the DG+ Fall 2023 Retreat. In a space that is so up against the odds, so easy to despair in, it's the people that give me energy. Keeping in mind those I have around me keeps me focused and motivated to do my best at what I can. My coworkers - and friends - Mary (left) and Barbara (right) snapped this during a game of pool at a dive bar in Portland, ME.

I took this picture mostly for its composition and the expanse of its perspective, and less because I was thinking of our team's 'energy' prompt. Although, in looking through my photos, I guess I could say I draw a great deal of energy from switching up my perspective every once in a while. Constantly challenging the way I approach my day-to-day and reconsidering the direction I think my life might be heading has helped me find inspiration again and again. From small changes like spending days in different neighborhoods, to bigger shifts like surrounding myself with new people, reframing my patterns helps me reframe my life.

I was surprised to find, nestled on a dock between two lobster fishing boats in Portland, ME, a slab of the Berlin Wall. I took this photo because I think the story of the fall of the Berlin Wall speaks to the power (or 'energy') of collective action, of people reaching out for people, and what can happen when we open our ears to each other. Did you know it was a picnic that many consider the catalyst of the fall of the Berlin Wall? If our differences are the walls that divide us, breaking bread is what brings them down.

Julianne Waite

Director, Clean Energy Marketing

Sadly, many of my photos from Maine were a wash. Why? Lots of silly reasons, but mainly because I’m bad at remembering to document my life in real-time and also I completely forgot how these cameras work (not pictured here: photos of the inside of my purse). That said, the images I’ve selected here are not from Maine (or the inside of my purse) but from Venice Beach, California, where I finished my camera roll.

Pictured here is The Venice Flying Carousel under construction in late 2023. Now complete, this human-powered, hand-carved attraction on Caroll Canal in Venice Beach looks a lot less creepy than this photo suggests. Today, the interactive kinetic sculpture is enjoyed by 15 children at a time with one person at the helm manually controlling the speed. I was inspired to take this photograph because it nods to a rich history of energy in amusements. Carousels were originally operated by hand or horse and eventually transitioned to steam power. Today, most carousels run on electricity.

The canals of Venice Beach, California are an infrastructure wonder. Not because they serve a wonderful purpose, but because it is a true head-scratcher that they exist at all. In 1905, Abbot Kinney dug miles of trenches to fulfill his dreams of a European-inspired SoCal beach town. By 1924, many of the canals were paved over when it was determined that prioritizing street traffic over gondola traffic was a no-brainer. Today, the mossy, water-logged canoes covered in bird droppings are a testament to the impracticality of a water-based transit system in Los Angeles. Even so, the remaining canals pull their weight in cuteness and by encouraging tourist traffic and an exorbitant cost of living.

Seen here are two American-made automobiles coexisting peacefully despite their drastically different approaches to fueling up. For better or for worse, cars have played a critical role in developing American infrastructure and lifestyles. With roots as deep as those of American car culture, it is understandable that change can strike fear or even anger in some. The truth is, no matter how excited you may be about an all-EV future or how dearly you cling to gas-powered engines, both are here to stay for the foreseeable future. So please play nice with others.

Mary Duncan-Sain

Visual Designer

Light bulbs from a tall hotel lobby lamp. This photo emphasizes the electricity usage from the lightbulbs under the lamp shade. The light from the lightbulbs surrounds the inside of the lampshade and shows a behind the scenes perspective of how electricity is being used by the lamp.

Coworkers in an authentic setting. This photo not only shows a group of people seated together, but also the assortment of personal belongings surrounding them. These items are the tools they chose and need to work efficiently in a public space. This photo represents energy usage from the personal items of each person.

Behind the bar counter. This photo shows the state of an ice station and counter from behind a bar. The focal point of this image is the empty bottle in the ice cooler. This photo represents the energy usage from the ice cooler which keeps the ice cold and prevents melting.

Walter James

Associate, Market Research and Policy

Tesla batteries. That indispensable ingredient in renewables deployment and building electrification. Without this innocuous box on the wall in the office building of ReVision Energy, the electricity from the building’s rooftop solar panels will have to be used immediately or be sent into the grid. With it, that energy can be saved for later, to power the computers, lights, equipment, and the coffee machines.

If you listen carefully, there’s a voice in your head that wants you to ditch your gas-guzzling vehicle and switch to a cleaner alternative. If you squint, you can see DG+Design’s Gavin pointing at you with an electric vehicle charger plug. He wants YOU to go all in on EVs!

Even a single light bulb can dramatically improve people’s quality of life around the world. It spells the difference between having to collect wood for fire or lighting candles and being able to study or work after the sun goes down. That light bulb’s impact is magnified if the electricity flowing through it comes from the sun. May everyone enjoy clean electricity.

Mel Phillips

Sr. Marketing Associate, Clean Energy

This is a snapshot of pure creative energy! The Paint & Sip class instructor’s infectious enthusiasm had the whole room feeling like budding Picassos. His passion made the experience particularly enjoyable — even for the non-artistic among us!

This picture of Mary taking a picture of a solar array is meant to symbolize that we all need to take a step back, zoom out, and take a third-person view of the clean energy transition challenges. When we get too close to any problem, they get overwhelming, but seeing solutions through other people’s eyes — like this solar array — can spark hope.

This photo of collective energy. The DSD/DG+ client team gathers for a photo after a joyous lunch. Mary, Meghan, and Barbara all look at a camera to my right, whereas David is caught in a conversation to my left. The world of energy is incredibly busy, there’s always a lot of information begging for our immediate attention. Solving the energy crisis means approaching this problem from all possible angles at the same time, like the group in this photo, we need to be ready for anything!

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