Abstraction Series

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Today I am unemployed for the first time since 2009, when I quit my job to spend a summer biking 4000+ miles across the United States. Before that, I worked all through college and before that, summers in high school. It feels like I’ve never not had a job, and I certainly have never owned a house before and not had a job. The uncertainty of my future is both exciting and terrifying. I can do anything, which is pretty incredible to think about. I can crash and burn, or I can fly.

There’s a song called “Dreams” by Life of Dillon, and there’s a line that goes: “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” Do you know how many dreams I’ve crammed into this head of mine, and how many of them scare the piss out of me? I guess now is the time to see what I can make of myself and those dreams I have. I only have to pick which one to go after.

I’m a big believer in the goodness of the world and in humanity. I believe that things always work out. I believe you need to take one day at a time. I believe that the things you struggle for and that challenge you are immensely more rewarding than those that come easy. I believe every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow. I believe in the power of people and ideas and hard work.

I am so lucky. So freaking lucky to have a good head on my shoulders and heart in my body. So lucky to have been raised by parents who taught me how to be a good person, how to live on my own and take care of myself. I am lucky to have a mom that supports me and believes in me. I am lucky that I grew up in a town with outstanding public schools, where I received a good education from caring and compassionate teachers, who pushed me, challenged me, and encouraged me, and gave me the tools I need to be successful in life. I am lucky to have incredible friends, who enable me to be the best version of myself possible. I am lucky to have supported myself by doing jobs that I love, that have inspired me and allowed me to build positive relationships and make a difference in my community.

Right now, I’m unemployed, but that doesn’t mean I’m useless or bored or even broke. I am rich with experiences, knowledge, and friendship, and I have plenty of things to keep myself busy while I look for new work. Being unemployed gives me the opportunity to reevaluate where I am and what I am doing and pursue whatever it is that will most bring me joy and fulfillment. So many people working dead end jobs just to make ends meet never get that chance.

So as bummed as I may be to have lost a job I really loved, I’m excited for the opportunity to do something even better. What that is remains to be seen, but there is time to figure that out. 😉

In the meantime, I’m playing with photos again. The series below, called Abstraction, is from a trip in 2013. I was scouting for possible photography workshop locations, and snapped these photos while driving around the backroads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (disclaimer: I was in the passenger seat, not the one driving). I really like how processing them in black and white allows the feeling of motion to come through, and it captures how being in the woods always makes me feel more free.

Abstraction1

Abstraction2

Abstraction3

Abstraction4

As always, you can shoot me an email if you wish to buy prints of any photo (I think Abstraction #4 would look amazing printed on metallic paper or screened on aluminum). Between posting on my blog, website, Facebook page, and stock site, sometimes I don’t always have a quick purchase link readily available, but am happy to work with potential customers on any photo purchase.

Posted in Philosophical, Photography | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Low Blow, High Spirits

On Tuesday, I was told that the position where I work was being eliminated and August 21st would be my last day of employment. While it saddens me to leave the many things I loved about my job (the many awesome people, great sense of community, working with incredible teens, and helping to connect members of our local climbing community) there are a few things I’m more than happy to leave in my rear view window. So it kinda sucks, but its also a chance for a new beginning, and frankly I’m feeling pretty darn optimistic about the whole thing.

If I wanted to focus my energy on the negative aspects of this whole situation there would be plenty of opportunity, but that’s not going to help me move on from this point, so I’ll choose to cast my worries elsewhere. I don’t post profanity online, but seriously, #$%& it. I’m good. Life is going to go on just fine.

I always have photography to fall back on. Or my writing skills. Or teaching. Or guiding. Or any number of things. Maybe I’ll be a greenhorn and make a ton of money catching crabs on the Bering Sea. Why not? I’m considering it.

Anyway, one exciting thing I do have coming up is the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Fall Photography Weekend at the Highland Center in Crawford Notch. Last year, my group had a great time, and I’m already excited about this year’s trip. It’s October 2-4, and the leaves are always gorgeous that time of year. For more information about the weekend, check out the AMC’s website and definitely go ahead and shoot me an email if you have any questions.

And you know what less time stressed out at work means? More photography, more rock climbing, and more adventuring. Don’t worry about my bills. They always get paid. Adaptation is my game. I have two mottos, “Adversity builds character” and “Perfection is boring” (and “I’d rather be crazy than boring” but that’s kinda a spin on #2 and maybe not entirely relevant here). This is just an opportunity to embrace them both.

Life sometimes has a funny way of being awesome.

#keeponkeepingon

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Facebook is No Friend of Mine

I am the Facebook generation. Facebook became a thing my freshman year in college. That means I was one of the first to use the online social media platform. Since 2004, I have had a Facebook page and lived my life, or at least part of it, through an online profile.

I never had a MySpace profile because I found them too creepy. Facebook, in it’s infancy, was different. When I joined, Facebook was limited only to those with college or university email accounts. This automatically limited the audience of my profile to those similar in age and pursuing an advanced education degree – this exclusivity made it seem safer to me somehow. While my first connections were friends and classmates who I interacted with in person on a somewhat regular basis, today my Facebook friend network includes more than 1500 people, plus I am an administrator or contributor to at least a half dozen each different pages and groups. I also have accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest, and have tried three different online dating platforms at different times.

Facebook is by far the worst. Rarely does a day go by where Facebook is absent from my life. I connect to it constantly, even when I don’t mean to. Sometimes I just type “facebook” into my browser window without realizing it, or tap the app on my phone by default. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that I spend hours on Facebook more days than not. Some of it is useful – I get my news from Facebook and it reminds me of birthdays and upcoming events – but most of that time is a waste. While I appreciate Facebook’s convenience and how it has enabled me to stay in touch with or reconnect with friends from past chapters in my life, I often wonder how much more productive I would be – and how much better I would feel about myself – if I could quit Facebook.

I admire those without Facebook accounts – I really truly do. I suspect those people accomplish more with their day and feel more fulfilled in general. I think Facebook and the internet in general is a paradoxical wonder. Strange it seems that these platforms simultaneously connect and disconnect us from one another. Digital connectivity means that young people are spending more and more time “living” through media than being present in the real world. I think it’s sad.

Take the typical weekend night out for a single 20-something. Dinner with friends at a restaurant, followed by a trip to the bar/club. Just fifteen years ago, this would have been accomplished without much of a fuss, maybe a call or two to a friend to confirm a location and time, or to arrange a meet up with other friends later. Today, at a restaurant there is the obligatory check-in on Facebook, checking texts or likes during dinner, swiping left or right on Tinder en route to the bar, and at least a couple Snapchats posted while grabbing drinks or hitting the dance floor. Today, millennials and younger document their every move via social platforms. Post about it or it didn’t happen.

What we do and don’t post to social media paints a distorted picture of what our lives are really like. Everything on Facebook, like photos posted to Instagram, has a filter applied. The one I use most often is “happy.” I post mostly about things that make me smile and feel good. I don’t do it to try to make my life look better than anyone else’s (the not so subtle humblebrag), but I generally try to post positive things because that’s how I’d like to see myself – positive, upbeat, and generally hopeful, not whiny, complaining, or criticizing. Like everyone else I have good days and bad days, but I’m unlikely to share the negative ones on such a public forum. To me, those moments are more private and intimate, and ones I’d prefer to share with a select audience of friends and trusted souls.

My choice to share my finer moments is not a deliberate decision to overshadow others experiences or to disregard my own pain and sadness. I’m not competing, I’m just trying not to look like an a$$hole in public.

The truth is, despite all of the conveniences, I think social media is a burden. Which is why I want to quit Facebook. Unfortunately, social media has become so heavily ingrained into our society that quitting has become a great sacrifice. Not participating in social media is just not an option for many small businesses or organizations that rely on Facebook and other platforms for marketing and communication. So far the reason I haven’t managed to quit Facebook is because I use it for work and my photography business. Deactivating my account would leave me unable to post to those pages, and I don’t have an alternative solution for that.

What I do know is that Facebook causes me to sit at my computer more, which means I am less active and less engaged in my life outside of the digital world. I stare more at my computer screen than my garden and sometimes spend more time chatting with friends online than with friends in person. Chores that need to be done, such as sorting through moving boxes, mowing the lawn, making the next days meals, and cleaning, don’t get checked off my list in a timely manner. My workouts, which I depend on for my sanity and well being, get cut short and delayed because Facebook distracts me from being able to efficiently manage my time. I get headaches from staring at my screen for prolonged periods and also allow myself to get dehydrated from drinking too little water. I rarely get eight hours of sleep a night and often have trouble falling to sleep, no matter how tired, run down, and sometimes sad I feel.

Facebook is no friend of mine.

I wonder what life will be like without Facebook. Will my photography business suffer because my photographs won’t instantly pop-up on followers’ feeds? Will I miss out on important milestones in friends’ lives? Will I not get invited to parties or included in events because I cannot be invited to them with a single click? Will I never see the photos my friends take of me? My mom lives several hours away and we see each other for short periods of time only a few times a year when I go to visit her. She has never seen my house or met a single one of my friends who is active in my day to day life right now, but she has seen pictures on Facebook. I can’t text my mom photos because she doesn’t have a cell phone and the firewall on her computer at work email attachments and messages inconsistently, so Facebook is the easiest way for me to share pictures with her. In fact, the only reason my mom has Facebook is because I invited her so that I could show her photos (specifically, those taken of me but posted by others on Facebook and not shared publicly) – she never posts anything or “likes” or comments. I wonder how disconnecting from Facebook will affect my relationship with her. Will the distance feel farther without photographs for her to see?

Sometimes I long for the good old fashioned days of my childhood, when I entertained myself with balls and books and dirt instead of an internet connection. Even though I can disconnect my Facebook and turn off my computer, it will be hard to voluntarily remove myself from a world that others rely so heavily on. Just because I might choose not to use Facebook doesn’t mean that others won’t, and by removing myself from the social standard, will I, in a way, make myself obsolete? Will the peace of mind I gain from taking a break from Facebook and the computer outweigh the consequences of not posting for work and isolating my photography from the Facebook crowd? Will leaving Facebook help me feel less overwhelmed? Will my social life suffer or benefit? Will I be happier?

For a decade, my life has had a Facebook profile attached to it. My entire adult life has been documented, photographed, liked, and hashtagged. I’m not sure I want that anymore. I’m not sure I ever did, but back in 2004 I had no idea that the exclusive college networking site I was signing up for would become the monster that Facebook is today. If Facebook had been then what it is now, I might never have given it another look.

A world without Facebook seems foreign to me, in a romantic kind of way. I find myself drawn to the idea in the same way I am attracted to the old time-y rural setting of books like A Day No Pigs Would Die, The Yearling, and Copper Toed Boots, where boys go hunting and fishing in the woods and bond with animal friends. Times when everything seemed so much more simple, when there were fewer distractions and pleasure came from simple things. But like my other favorite genre of books, the dystopian novels of 1984 and A Brave New World, Facebook has created a society where everything we do is watched and recorded, where our “free” world seems strangely suffocating. On some level, when we opt to participate in Facebook we are plugging ourselves into what is essentially a soulless machine. Maybe Facebook is really just Big Brother by a different name.

I am starting to think that all of this digital technology makes the world too bright. There is beauty in the darkness that you just can’t see when you are blinded by LEDs. Much like light pollution from cities spoils our ability to observe the night sky and the stars in all of their glory, being constantly connected to Facebook means that we miss out on the beauty in the real world. The subtle things. The things that really matter, that really make a difference, that bring us joy and happiness.

They say, only in the dark can you see the light. For me, the time is near when I hope to turn technology off for a while. Not all of it, just the parts I can’t seem to manage while managing everything else, like Facebook.

I’m ready to go dark.

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Outdoor Ethics and Nature Photography

Today, I had an interesting online debate with a couple of peers of mine from grad school. As you may know, I’m an avid rock climber and have a graduate degree in environmental studies with a focus in environmental education. So while out for a run, I discovered a large glacial erratic big enough to climb on and posted an iPhone photo of the boulder on my personal Facebook page. In the caption, I mentioned that the boulder needed some cleaning, a term climbers use to describe removing debris and sometimes mosses and lichens from the surface of a rock to make it suitable for climbing. What ensued was a lengthy debate of the ethics of rock climbing and bouldering, where two of my grad school classmates (both environmental studies students with a concentration in conservation biology) argued that cleaning a boulder to climb on was selfish and destructive and that climbing in general was an activity detrimental to the environment. We went back and forth a bit, respectfully, and it’s possible that some feelings got hurt. The reason I bring this up is because in our discussion I noticed something very interesting. While my classmates were so quick to critique my mention of cleaning a boulder, they’ve never criticized, critiqued, or even questioned my other actions that take place in nature, and in the whole scheme of things, cleaning a single, easy to find boulder not far from a well used (and heavily impacted) pathway is really low on the scale of things I do with potentially destructive environmental impacts.

For years, my main source of income came from nature photography. To make that work, I spent countless hours in the field, interacting very closely, often intimately, with wildlife and natural landscapes. Yet rarely does anyone ever question the impact of me doing so. People don’t ask me if I trampled native plants or disturbed an animal to get a shot. They just ooooh and ahhh at the aesthetically pleasing results of my work and only rarely question the methods I use.

I know the general public is unaware of what goes into a nature photograph and potentially how much manipulation, impact, and destruction are a part of the photographic process. Issues like moving branches or rocks, using calls and sounds to mimic other animals in distress, stalking feeding or nesting areas, and attracting wildlife with bait probably don’t occur to most people. But most people probably think little of the impact rock climbers have either, so why should two educated, environmentally minded people worry about my relatively isolated and infrequent climbing impacts while ignoring my photographic ones.

On my Facebook page, I wrote:

[If] I shared a photograph of a loon (which I will at some point soon) I doubt you’d question whether I got too close to the loon and disturbed it, or if I sanitized my boat for milfoil and other organisms that could be transported between waterways and contaminate “pure” ecosystems before plopping my kayak in the water to take that picture. No one has ever asked if I baited the owl in that beautiful snowy owl shot I have that everyone loves (for the record, no I didn’t, but a lot of snowy owl photos you see are from animals that have been lured with the promise of a meal of pet shop feeder mice). You trust me enough to be a responsible and ethical nature photographer (or maybe you just never thought about it). Please trust me to be an ethical climber too.

The truth is I try to be responsible in everything I do in the outdoors. I’m not perfect, but I realize that my existence impacts the environment around me every day. When I am hands on in the environment, be it rock climbing or taking photographs, these impacts are more direct. I step on and crush plants! I startle and disturb animals! I make noise and track toxins and species from one location to another. My presence in the environment undoubtably changes it, but I do try to minimize my negative impacts as much as possible. So I look where I step and give wildlife its space when possible. I stick to well worn paths or wander off trail on surfaces that can best handle the pressure of my feet, avoiding the rare or intermittent plants in favor of rocks, bare ground, or hardier, more commonplace species. When photographing animals, I carefully watch their behavior and back off if I sense I am distressing them or making them upset. I leave a trace, but I try to leave as small of a trace as possible or otherwise ensure that the overall impact of my presence is a positive one instead of a negative one.

I am aware of my influence on others as well. As a rock climbing instructor and an important person in our local rock climbing community, I know that how I act and behave while climbing or in the outdoors sets an example for other climbers, particularly the young ones who first venture into outdoor climbing under my guidance. As a photographer who teaches photography and sells my work, I know that my actions model my values and tell others how it is acceptable to behave when photographing nature.

I feel it is important to bring awareness to this very issue. As nature photographers, we (and all outdoor enthusiasts) need to think about what we do, and how and why we are doing it. We do impact the environment, sometimes negatively, sometimes positively, usually both. We also influence each other. Do your actions reflect your beliefs and values? Are they what you hope others would do? When given the chance, are you educating and encouraging others to act responsibly and respectfully? I hope so.

As a photographer, I believe in full disclosure (of techniques, not so much of locations). For me a good rule of thumb is if I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling someone how I got a particular shot, then maybe I shouldn’t do it that way. In the past I’ve used bird calls to attract territorial birds during mating season and crossed over fences that clearly said to stay on trail. These days, I’m not so proud of those type of actions, so I avoid them and instead stick to more natural settings and following posted signs and warnings. I’m more aware of my actions now and the potential consequences of them. Occasionally, I mess up. I’m human and inherently flawed by nature, but I try to be virtuous and most importantly, I try to be honest. And I genuinely do care.

Call me old fashioned, but I still think there’s value in that.

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Liven Up Your Walls with BIG Canvas

Every so often I make a pretty big print sale that gets me really excited. I love selling big art pieces for a few reasons: 1) it means someone really loves my work, 2) it means I get to donate to an awesome charity (5% of all sales is donated to a non-profit, usually a conservation or education organization), and 3) my photo gets to decorate and improve someone’s home (or office or other space), and I know what a difference art can make in making a space feel complete.

One of my absolute favorite ways to display and hang big photos is through a medium called a canvas gallery wrap. I love canvas for large pieces because it is lightweight, making it easier to hang and a much safer option for households with kids or pets, and gallery wraps look great frameless. Eliminating the glazing (glass or acrylic) and frame can make it possible to hang even really large photographs on walls with just a hammer, level, and some very basic hardware, without additional reinforcements or structural supports. Photographic prints, on the other hand, can get really heavy when finished with matting, frame, and glazing. Just replacing the broken glass on a large piece can cost several hundred dollars, and if you’ve ever shattered wingspan of glass overhead you can understand how dangerous and unsettling that can be.

Glowing Fern Canvas

Earlier this month I sold a fairly big piece, a five foot wide canvas gallery wrap of one of my most popular Florida shots. Because the image is so large, I’m having my printer ship directly to the customer and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I’m excited about the piece, because I have done some pretty large wraps before and I know how impressive they can be.

For example, I have a 2×9 foot triptych in my living room of sunset from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia, one of my favorite places, and just today my friend Molly sent me a picture of her “Glowing Fern” canvas wrap in her new living room. Molly and I became friends in grad school and her parents bought her the art piece as a graduation present. I’m thrilled with how great it looks and love that every time she looks at that photograph, from her home in Pennsylvania many miles away, it reminds her of me.

So if you are thinking “big art” try a canvas gallery wrap! They are easy to care for and display, a lightweight option for those who move frequently, and a safe alternative to heavy glass for families with young children or pets. Plus the presentation looks amazing and when you are hanging big art on your walls, isn’t that the point?

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Let These Roots Grow

Lupine Sunrise : Prints Available

Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) stretch across the hillside of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire as the sun rises over the nearby mountains. Each year Sugar Hill hosts a "Lupine Festival" celebrating the beautiful wildflowers.

Spring is my favorite season. You probably know that by now because I say it every year.

This time of year I open my windows for the first time in months and let in the fresh air. It smells of damp earth and later will carry the sweet scent of blooming flowers. The songs of birds float through my window on a warm, gentle breeze. You can actually feel the energy in the air as new life bursts out of its cold winter shell. Pretty soon there will be more colors than Crayola has names for painting the flowers and trees and little critters will be scurrying about in reverent joy. Right now it is still too early for the stinging and biting insects that plague summer so there is absolutely nothing to stop me from enjoying it all. Everything about the natural world is ripe for enjoyment in spring.

This will be my first entire spring in New Hampshire because this year I won’t be taking a two week trip to Baltimore and West Virginia like I have for the past five years. I will visit my mom in New Jersey for a couple weekends, but I’ll mostly be in New England and I’m so excited about it! By the end of May, which is only about six weeks away, I will officially have owned my home for a year and will have gone a whole year without boarding a plane. It may sound silly, but that milestone means so so much to me.

I didn’t grow up traveling. I grew up in a modest house in suburban New Jersey never going anywhere. My first time on a plane was when I was fourteen, and it wasn’t until late college that I began to travel and explore regularly. Just a few years ago, I spent nearly one third of my time on the road, in other countries and other states. I experienced and saw many amazing things on my travels, but eventually, I got to the point where I just wanted to be home again. I grew tired of missing things and saying goodbye to people constantly, so I traded in my travel bags for some house keys and gave myself some roots.

I quit being a self employed full time photographer and landed a normal full time job working with teens at a local non-profit. I LOVE my job, but its one of those jobs where 40 hours a week never quite cuts it and leaving work at work is impossible. So I take photographs far too infrequently because I’m tired often, and I’ve sort of made a habit of staying home and sleeping in on weekends because I actually really like my house and days off are only time I get to enjoy it.

The funny thing is, even though I seem to be doing far less photography than I used to, I like being a photographer in New England so much more than being a photographer anywhere else. New England photographers are pretty cool! For the most part the nature photographers I’ve met in New England are humble, ethical, friendly, and make pleasant company. They generally know a lot about the subjects they photograph and treat those subjects with respect. They are polite and kind to other photographers, even going so far as to encourage and help each other. They know how to create incredible images in challenging conditions, and work with lesser known icons with a craftsmanship that rivals the work of well known photographers who travel to and photograph in exotic locations. They tend to stick closer to home and develop an intimate connection with the landscape and wildlife that they photograph and because of all of this they inspire me in a way that other photographers can’t.

So even though I’m shooting less than ever before, I’m proud to call New Hampshire home and be able to shoot with the likes of Jerry Monkman, Jim Salge, Jeff Newcomer, Adam Woodworth, and so many others when I do actually pull out my camera. I hope I’ll get to meet some of those New England photographers I haven’t met yet, like Mark Picard, who is so passionate and knowledgeable about his favorite subjects – moose and Baxter State Park – that his photos of them are unrivaled. New England is a magnificent region with is no shortage of inspiring subjects and even after five years here there is so much more I want to see, explore, discover, and photograph.

So hopefully this spring I’ll get a moment or two to enjoy the place I call home and maybe even take a picture or two to share. Being busy with other things does have its downsides, but at least it keeps me home and there’s no place I’d rather be.

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Spring!

Spring is here! Well that’s the rumor anyway. It’s hard to tell because right now it’s snowing.

This winter has been a brutal one. Boston recorded the most snowfall in a single season ever on record in the city’s long history. My home, which you may recall I just bought last May, became victim to a giant ice dam on my roof resulting in several thousand dollars worth of water damage. Instead of getting out to enjoy our snowy winter, I’ve spend most of it mitigating damage and digging myself out from under feet of snow.

This pair of Ring-necked Ducks was photographed on March 19th, five years ago, at Ringwood State Park in New Jersey. Spring in New Hampshire always seems a bit delayed, but I'm oh so happy when it finally arrives!

But spring is here, finally, and spring, as you may know, is my FAVORITE season. Spring just seems so hopeful with its brilliantly colored flowers, mild temperatures, longer days, sunshine, and the start of new life. Birds sing, animals come out of hiding, and suddenly everything is happy, green, and so… alive.

Because of the challenging winter we are coming out of, I feel extra excited for spring to come this year. I cannot wait for the first flowers! Until then, I’ll keep working on my house and checking things off my list, so that hopefully when spring weather finally arrives, I’ll be ready and have time to go out and play!

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The Power of Place, People, and Photography

TPOP-Cover3

On Wednesday, The Power of Place became a reality. After two years of filming, editing, and tinkering, the documentary about the Northern Pass and its effect on the people and places of New Hampshire finally was brought to life in front of a sold out audience at Red River Theatres in Concord, NH. To be fair, I only helped, and the documentary producer, Jerry Monkman, did a tremendous amount of work on this incredible film. While I put many hours into shooting and assisted with interviews, edits, and other aspects of production, my time was only a fraction of what was needed to pull together this project. I feel lucky to have been a part of the process and to have had the opportunity to work so closely with Jerry. Given the opportunity to do it again, I would in a heartbeat.

In the film, emphasis is put on the places that would be changed forever if the Northern Pass came to life. Places like the White Mountain National Forest and Appalachian Trail would be permanently scarred and a number of state parks and private lands would be impacted as well. The story is told by the people who love these places, who live and recreate along the proposed power line route. In the film we meet people who have built their lives, their homes, their families, and their businesses around these locations. Their words, along with powerful visuals of the landscape, startling facts about the project, and testimony from experts, tells a compelling story as to why the Northern Pass is not needed and the New Hampshire landscape should be preserved.

The Power of Place is a film about place, but also about people and photography too. Photography is what helps us connect to this story and the people and places represented. Without good visuals and relatable characters, the whole issue of the Northern Pass would seem distant. Photography, combined with personal stories, bring this issue to life.

tpop poster

For me, the film and its premiere was a solid reminder of the power of place, people, and photography. I love New Hampshire, and reliving those moments spent out in the field while watching the footage we captured there on a big screen, reminded me how much so. The people, in the film and at the premiere showing their support, served as an important reminder that many kind souls and loving hearts surround me each and every day. From new faces to old friends, the people I have met along this journey, one that really started five years ago when I moved to New Hampshire, have reaffirmed my connection here. And photography of course. A film like this cannot exist without compelling visuals, and photography is really is backbone of it all. Without photography, my life would be so different. I would have traveled less, and not met as many of the wonderful people I now know and call friends. Without photography, I would not know Jerry, and this film would not exist. Without photography and this film, dozens of compelling stories would have gone unshared.

Wednesday night was Jerry’s night, and it truly deserved to be. He has worked so hard and overcome so much to bring The Power of Place to life. But I think all of us who had something to do with the film shared in the limelight in our own way. Jerry ran the show, and his years of hard work were finally realized. Jerry’s family, always incredibly supportive of him and his work, could not have been more proud I am sure. For those featured in the film, it had to have been powerful to hear their own voice and get to share their stories with a greater audience. Those curious about the Northern Pass probably found the film enlightening, and maybe even felt compelled to action and inspired because of it. Fellow photographers and filmmakers in the audience likely enjoyed seeing the success of one of their peers and excited about the depth and potential of a project completed in their own backyard.

As for me, I felt happy. Watching The Power of Place on the big screen was for me a dream realized and reaffirmed. I felt connected to New Hampshire’s landscape and people, passionate about photography and the environment in a way I hadn’t felt in a while, and comforted to be surrounded by a community and culture where I feel like I belong. The Power of Place was truly powerful in ways I didn’t know until I saw the premiere, and I’m thankful for being a part of it.

Note: You can learn more about The Power of Place by visiting the website where you can watch the trailer, purchase a DVD or digital download of the film, and view a list of upcoming screenings. Also check out our page on Facebook.

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Remembering Daddy

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On this day, seven years ago, the first man I ever loved slipped into darkness. I remember the day well. It was raining in New Jersey. I called my mom a couple times that morning, saw my first robin of the year, and drove home from college for the weekend. When I got to my house, there were cop cars, the front doors were wide open, and I knew, right away, that something bad had happened to my dad.

Seven years later, and this day still haunts me. It always will. His birthday, my parent’s anniversary, and the holidays are all also difficult. I doubt that will ever change.

Every year, on the anniversary of my dad’s death, I change my Facebook profile picture and cover photo to one of me with my dad. In a small way, it helps me cherish his memory and cope with his passing.

The photos are ones taken mostly by my mother, when I was a little girl. My family lived a pretty simple life – a comfortable house, modestly furnished, two cars. We never went on family vacations or went out to dinner and rarely participated in particularly momentous occasions. Yet my mom prioritized capturing everyday memories of my childhood. She had a little 35mm Kodak point-and-shoot camera – it was a very basic model, with no zoom, and when I got older it started to break periodically. Every time it broke, my dad found a way to fix it. Our photos were developed at Kmart, and my mom put them in albums.

As I got older and more independent, my mom less often took a part in my every day adventures, and as a result there were less photos of me, of my dad, and of our family in general. The photos I have from my middle school and teenage years rarely depict my family, and long gaps exist between captured memories.

Every year on this day, I find myself looking at the same photographs of my dad and I. In the majority of them, I range in age from toddler to middle school. There are ones of us on the Fourth of July, at Halloween, mowing the lawn and raking the leaves. In one, I am on his shoulders behind the old Grand Union and Kmart. In another I am sitting with him on the back of my uncle’s motorcycle. Of all the photos, I think there is only one of us anytime after I hit puberty – my dad and I are wrestling the cork out of a wine bottle and neither of our faces are visible. It was taken one Thanksgiving while I was in college.

I am so grateful to my mother for being an engaged and active parent. I cannot thank her enough for photographing my childhood as frequently and often as she did. Growing up, I know we didn’t have a lot of money, but my mom made sure that some of that went to buying and developing film, so she could capture those fleeting memories. Now, as the years pass and the memories become less vivid, I rely on those photos more and more. They help keep my dad alive in my heart and soul, even if he is no longer here with us in the way we all wish he still was.

If and when I ever have kids, I will photograph them often. I will capture their smiles and laughter on the most ordinary of days. I will photograph them with messy hair, stained shirts, and mouths full of food. I will photograph them with their father, their grandparents, their friends, and their pets. I will take selfies with my kids, and I’ll encourage them to use the camera and capture their world from their perspective. I will let them photograph what is important to them and take their photo when they ask me too, even if I feel too busy or too tired.

So often I focus on photography from a creative, technical, and artistic perspective. But rarely do I focus on photography’s most distinctive and unique quality: the ability of a photograph to capture a fleeting moment, a memory, and help that split second last forever. It’s magic.

If my mom hadn’t taught me that lesson long ago, today would feel a lot more empty.

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Venting Again

There’s a saying that goes like this: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

This is largely why my photography blog has been silent for a while. But alas I need to vent and writing is often how I vent. You’ve been warned: get ready for some hot air.

Let’s start with this truth: I believe that people are innately good. In general, people are well intentioned, but they can also be selfish, proud, and ignorant. This is relevant because, when it comes to nature photography, people are largely both why I love and hate it.

I tend to be a social person, even though I definitely enjoy my alone time too. I love the company of good friends, and great moments shared with others always seem to trump the great moments I have alone. Photography for me has always been a personal and private pursuit. I love sharing my knowledge and passion for photography with others, but that is often very separate from the act of me actually creating photographs. So photography as a full-time career choice didn’t work for me because it was too lonely – too much time spent alone or only interacting with others from behind a computer. Now I’m finding that a good number of the people in this industry are so rotten to deal with that I’d rather be alone than have to deal with them with any sort of regularity anyway.

In all fairness, when it comes to nature photography, I have met far more wonderful folks than rotten ones. Online, the ratio seems a bit more skewed towards jerks because just like in the real world, bullies are often the loudest, boldest, and most obnoxious, and they are compelled to be even more so in virtual space. Just having to tolerate a handful of them consistently is enough to leave a sour taste in my mouth. With so much of the photography world online, those self-centered, egotistical, and ignorant personalities are emboldened by the lack of real face-to-face interaction and seem to have popped up in greater numbers recently. And while it’s far easier to throw around hateful words and slanderous opinions from behind the shield of a keyboard, it doesn’t make dealing with it on the receiving end any less painful.

When I go out into nature to take photos, I often find peace there. I love it. When I’m at home, marketing my work, sharing my photos online, or otherwise existing virtually, I discover validation is often mixed with poison. Is it worth it? Sometimes I’m not sure.

Let’s get this straight: online friends are not real friends. No one who randomly friended me through Facebook* or started following me on Instagram is going to run into a burning building to drag me out of it, but I sure have real friends that would. I am as disposable to photography colleagues online as the next photographer and you are too. To them I am not a real person, and therefore it is perfectly acceptable to send harassing messages or leave hurtful and inconsiderate comments when some click of a keystroke that I make offends their sense of entitlement. Online, ignoring someone you know, stalking someone you don’t know, or picking a fight is perfectly normal behavior. Sadly, I have found that this happens more often with photographers than with any other industry I have ever been connected to. Lately, these unpleasant interactions seem to be more prevalent than usual, so I’ve just shied away from posting much because most of what I feel about nature photography is unfortunately pretty negative at the moment.

Fortunately for me, my current job is fulfilling and surrounds me with amazing people every day. I work in an environment that inspires me and motivates me to become a better person and the best version of myself possible. I see people every day, and every day I smile and laugh. It’s long hours and sometimes hard work, but I have fun, and I enjoy what I do and who I work with. If I get a nasty email I counter it with a positive one, and then someone I love is there to make the sting of angry words go away. People get angry, upset, and frustrated from time to time, but every day I work is filled with kindness and joy. I miss spending time out in nature, going on adventures, watching sunrises and sunsets, and framing the beauty of those moments in photographs, but don’t mind having left the photography industry behind.

*I no longer accept friend requests from people I do not personally know in real life. When I worked for NatureScapes, I felt obligated to accept requests from random nature photographers because I felt it was a commonly accepted professional networking courtesy, even though it was never asked of me. At this time, I am connected via Facebook to only a handful of individuals who I have never met in person and these individuals are only those whom with I have maintained a positive, professional, and mutually beneficial virtual friendship with for years. Now if I receive a friend request from a person whose name I do not recognize with no message or prior communication, it is declined automatically, regardless of the number of photographer friends we have in common, and I periodically cull and unfriend photographers who I do not know that may be left over from that time period. This is not personal, but a way of protecting my privacy and respecting my own network of real life friends.

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