Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ruling Out a Career in Wedding Photography

On occasion I amuse myself in thinking what kind of photographer I might be if I quit my day job and focused on photography full time.

Wedding photography is particularly intriguing. After all you are capturing people in what are hopefully some of their happiest moments. But sometimes when I (the blissfully unencumbered wedding guest) see the photographer juggling three cameras and trying in vain to get all the happy, celebrating people organized into attractive and symmetrical arrangements, I wonder whether wedding photography is as lovely as it sounds, or as exhausting as it looks.

I think I would rather just sit back and enjoy the happy moments with the bride and groom and take it all in, as I did last weekend at the wedding of two dear friends. Though as you can see, I did take out the camera once or twice, just for a little practice. I couldn't help myself. The light was right, the children were adorable, and how often do you get to take pictures of your friends looking so fancy?

Monday, July 28, 2008

New Yorkers in the Wild

For me, the truest escape from the pressures of everyday life can often be found when I am the farthest removed from my everyday experience. And the watery wild of Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island is about as different from New York City as you can get. There is only one road that leads there. It winds through miles of mountains and woods, past pristine lakes and ancient growth forests. Even at peak season, there are few other cars on the road.

I actually got out of the car and stood in the middle of the road to photograph this scene. I took my time. Nobody was around to care.

In order to maximize our wilderness experience, we planned a day of kayaking in Toquart Bay (accompanied by a trained professional, naturally). The places we paddled were completely inaccessible except by water, untouched by roads, barely marred by a human footprint.

From the seats of our kayaks gliding through that wilderness we saw black bears coming down to the shore to fish, seals and sea lions frolicking in warm pools in the afternoon sun, and majestic bald eagles guarding their aeries. We saw the mountains, still snow-capped in July, and the Pacific Ocean stretching far as the eye could see. And we heard the absolute silence, broken only by the dipping of our paddles in the water. (And we thought to ourselves..."Why do we live in New York City when there is all this?")

Ash must have been quite inspired by all the wilderness and bears and whatnot because some basic human survival instinct seemed to take hold when we returned to land and he insisted that we must cook our dinner ourselves over a fire out on the beach. Being a city girl, I was somewhat hesitant, but I deferred to his boyhood Scout training and agreed to give it a shot. We picked up vegetables and a few basic tools, gathered together some driftwood and kindling, and set out for a beautiful beach (where, fortunately, fires were permitted by the Parks Department).

And would you believe? We had one of the best meals I've enjoyed in a long time. Fire-roasted corn, baked potatoes, buttery vegetables, and soup to wash it all down. And, to top off a perfect evening, toasted marshmallows. All cooked over a fire! Can you imagine? Just like people did it in olden times! I ended the evening feeling that, if push came to shove, these two New Yorkers could definitely survive in the wilderness, and eat well too!

As long as there is a supermarket nearby. And marshmallows of course.

Our evenings outdoors by the fire (because a person can't stop with just one evening of toasted marshmallows) inspired some interesting photography experiments too. This photo below was taken in the backyard of our bed and breakfast, where I opened up the shutter for a long exposure while Ash rustled the burning embers sending sparks flying into the night.

Yes, it was about as far from life in New York as I could get, and a perfect holiday.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Vacation State of Mind

Sometimes, following a particularly nice vacation, when I return to the real world I really just don't want to believe that the holiday is over. Consequently, as part of my vacation withdrawal, I avoid doing all the things that I ought to do upon my return like unpacking, listening to my voicemail messages, responding to unread email, checking my favorite blogs, sorting through my many photos, and tidying up the apartment, and instead I try to maintain my "vacation state of mind" (i.e. just doing nothing).

Inevitably this backfires, because by the time I am ready to face the world again, my backlog of things to do is just overwhelming. Basically, this is a lengthy way of apologizing to all the people to whom I owe email, phone calls, blog comments, and to whom I've promised I will post my photos online. I promise to get back in the groove shortly!

In the meantime, so you can understand why I'm trying to hold onto my vacation state of mind a little longer, a little visual from the western coast of Vancouver Island where we recently spent a few days. More pictures to come. Sooner or later.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Four Strangers

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that most of the photographs I take are of food or nature, with occasional other inanimate objects mixed in here and there. What you rarely see on this blog is photographs of people.

There are two reasons for that. First: I am not a parent and therefore do not have ready access to adorable children who can act as my subjects. Second (and undoubtedly the larger issue): taking pictures of real live people is quite stressful. I suspect my hesitation stems from my feeling that taking a person's photograph is something of an unwelcome intrusion into personal space, likely to be met with scowling, rolling of eyes, and irritated sighs.

Of course (so I'm told), not everyone feels that way. Some people are quite happy to be photographed. In fact, some people can't get enough of the camera.

With that reassuring thought in mind, and feeling quite inspired by the portraits of talented photographers like Ciao Chessa and nicolejoy1, I have been gathering my nerve for some time to take a plunge into people photography and participate in the 100 Strangers project. 100 Strangers is a website that challenges people to improve their street photography by taking pictures of 100 complete strangers. (And no photos on the sly; you actually have to get permission.)

Below are my first four strangers.

While walking in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden not too long ago my father pointed out these four people--three of them feverishly text-messaging on their cell phones, and one clearly just enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, and smell of the roses. It was an amusing scene and so I decided to go for it and ask the group if I could photograph them. The text-messagers happily assented, and told me that it was quite appropriate that I should want to photograph them because their mother (far left) is 105 years old.

A 105-year old woman enjoying a sunny June day in the gardens with her children is certainly worthy of photographic commemoration. As she gracefully shook my hand and approved the photograph, I felt quite confirmed in my decision to give this project a try.