I don’t shoot as much as I used to. Between working full time, owning a home and a dog, and striving to be a good partner to my incredible partner, there isn’t a whole lot of time left in the day to go out and take pictures. Even though photography is something I enjoy and want to do more of, once I’ve finally tackled all the things I need to do I’m rarely super motivated to drive around looking for subjects to photograph in the wee hours of the day.
When I started really getting hooked on photography in high school, I shot mostly sports because it was what I had easy access to. I didn’t have my own car, but there were plenty of athletic competitions at school that I could photograph and then catch a ride home after on the late bus or with a friend. I only started shooting nature and wildlife a lot when, halfway through college, I finally got my own wheels and more independence to get around and explore natural places on my own. Before then, I shot whatever was within walking or biking distance from home or school.
Now between working 40+ hours a week, spending at 5 hours a week commuting back and forth from work, doing things to maintain a home, caring for a pet, staying active, and being involved in my relationships and community, I don’t have that much extra time to do photography. I also don’t function as well on limited sleep as I used to and don’t really enjoy driving as much, so 3am wake-ups to drive two hours to the beach for sunrise have about as much appeal to me as picking up dog poop from the backyard. At work, I spend hours every day on a computer or sitting in meetings (even though I don’t have a traditional desk job) so I don’t really enjoy coming home and to edit photographs in my “free” time. Plus, adulting is expensive. Buying groceries and paying my utility bills is more of a priority to me than filling up my gas tank an extra time for a photo trip or buying new camera equipment and software. I used to dedicate days and weekends to shooting, and now I want to be able to take some photos for a few hours and then move on to something else.
So I’ve found myself coming full circle, shooting sports and taking photographs of nature that don’t involve long days and hours of travel. Fortunately there are plenty of opportunities to shoot close to home. I take photographs of student-athletes competing in sports events at work and go with my boyfriend to some of his mountain bike races, where I spend a large part of my time on the mountain photographing him and his teammates while cheering everyone on. I photograph our dog a lot, usually in our own backyard. I’ve started to make a point of going out to photograph the really pretty natural areas in my own town. Lately, the setting of most of my nature themed images has been just a bike ride away from my home.
It has been kind of fun to take this approach to photography. I feel less pressure to actually create stunning images, because I’m just shooting for fun. Since I’m not going too far out of my way or using up a whole lot of time, it doesn’t really matter whether I succeed at creating website worthy content or fail completely. Plus, I like the challenge of finding tucked away places and taking advantage of just a few free hours to do something I enjoy. Shooting nature close to home also helps me embrace and appreciate the beauty that is around me every day and reminds me how happy I am to live in a place where waterfalls, wildflowers, and wild animals are just a bike ride away.
I miss fall foliage pretty consistently. The season is usually pretty short, I’m often busy, and the colder temps and shorter days don’t motivate me to try to squeeze photography into my already packed schedule. Even though I live in one of the most beautiful spots in the whole country for fall color and landscapes are one of my main subjects, I’m good at making excuses why not to go shoot – the dog has been home alone all day and needs playtime, I’m carpooling, its too windy, too rainy, there isn’t a single cloud in the sky or the sky is completely overcast, the colors aren’t at peak, the colors are past peak, blah blah blah. I stare at the beautiful trees from my car and wish there were pull-offs near wetlands next to busy highways, but that’s often the extent of it.
Well tonight on my drive home from work I noticed some wispy clouds in the sky. It was a warm, perfectly still, perfectly blue day, and I almost went straight home, but I thought it was possible the clouds would do something so I drove to the only spot I could think of with a clear view of the sky, maple trees, and no hike. I got there minutes before sunset and… got skunked! The sun went down without much excitement, the clouds never lit up with color, and the light was cold and blue. I could have went home disappointed but I decided to shoot a little anyway and got some decent, different new shots. Not every photo needs to be dramatic or have killer light or perfect foliage to work. Sometimes just getting out there and making due with what you find is good enough.
I guess my motto for today is “It’s better to try and fail than to not try at all.” Sometimes, you make out okay.
When I moved to New Hampshire six years ago, I decided I wanted to decorate my first apartment with some of my own artwork. I had my image “Glowing Fern” printed and mounted 30×45 inch canvas gallery wrap and hung it above our $15 sofa bed in the living room, where my roommates and our guests could enjoy it.
One of my best friends from grad school took a liking to the image and asked her parents to buy it from me for her as a graduation gift. It ended up being the gift that gave twice – I got a nice sale and Molly got some great artwork for her own place.
Her first house after grad school was a quaint stone cottage in rural Pennsylvania, where the canvas not only looked perfect but accentuated the cottage atmosphere while adding a contemporary touch. Last year she moved into a house and brought her “Glowing Fern” canvas with her, this time hanging it in her dining room.
Seeing the journey of this piece of art is pretty cool. I always ask customers to share photos of their artwork in their homes, but Molly is the only person to keep me updated on her canvas when she moves. It’s also incredible to see how well this particular piece has worked in different settings. One of the things I really like about canvas is that it’s super portable – stretched canvas wraps tend to be much lighter than prints framed in glass so they are easy to hang just about anywhere, even the bigger pieces. The lack of frame also allows the artwork to stand on its own, although I’ve had customers frame canvas as well and the right frame can really help the artwork stand out. It all depends on the individual piece.
This morning I woke up, looked out my bedroom window into the backyard, and noticed how beautiful the light was shining in the trees looked. I snapped a single quick photo with my iPhone to share to Instagram. I knew the light wouldn’t last. It was early and I still had to run with the dog, shower, and do breakfast before heading to work.
By the time I was dressed, the light had changed and the beautiful scene turned into something a little more ordinary. Pup and I went for a run like we always do, I showered, dressed, fed him and myself, and got ready. Sometime during that time, I looked out my front window and noticed some fog had rolled in. It was beautiful! I took a four iPhone snaps this time, trying to get a good composition without knocking over my TV trying to get the right angle. By the time I posted the photo I liked, the fog had burned off.
Photography is all about light – and timing. The beauty of nature is that these things tend to happen in ways we can’t control, unlike studio or fashion photography where every aspect of the shoot can be controlled and manipulated. With nature photography, you have to be ready. You have to be able to anticipate when the right light may come, or the precise moment when all of the elements of the photograph come together in perfect harmony. The right light or precise moment can be brief. Moments last minutes if you are lucky. Be ready to capture them!
PS: Also, take a photo when you feel like taking a photo. iPhone, DSLR, whatever. These two images are never going to end up printed huge and hanging on the wall, but I will still treasure them years from now, when looking back on the time spent living in my beautiful home. Had I started fiddling with DSLR camera to get the perfect settings for the perfect shot, I likely would have missed these photos entirely or at least been late to work, and I would never have been able to share and post them so quickly. Not every photo needs to be a prizewinner!
When I used to shoot professionally, amateur photographers would often come up to me and ask how they too could make a living off of photography. Traveling all over the world to visit and photograph exotic places and beautiful things sounds like a dream job and for some it is, but it wasn’t for me.
I love to explore. I love to travel, to see and experience new things. Working as a professional photographer allowed me to do that, but I was often alone, and my travel experiences were often limited to creating beautiful images. I didn’t go to fancy restaurants for dinner, because dinner was too close to sunset and good light. I never experienced the night life of cities I went to, because I always had plans to wake up early, before sunrise, to photograph each morning. The beautiful settings I visited and things I saw were shared with strangers or no one at all. My destinations revolved around photographic opportunities instead of cultural or spiritual ones, and I’d skip out on a visit to a monument or other attraction if photographs were better elsewhere. The whole point of photography is being able to “see” the world around you, and sometimes I found that being a professional photographer so focused on creating sellable images was like traveling with blinders on. I saw only what I could photograph well, and missed out because of it.
Last week, I went on vacation to Arizona, a place I have never before visited and one that is filled with natural beauty and wonder. I went with a person I care deeply for, and we went to have fun, to get away from New England’s stick season, work, and everyday normal things. I brought my DSLR, but ended up taking photos exclusively with my iPhone, many taken in bad light or from the window of a moving car. I demanded selfies. On the days I was awake for it, I watched the sun rise from bed wrapped in the comfort of warm sheets and loving arms.
Not taking photos allowed me to see and experience more than I would have if everything I did revolved around creating a new image for my gallery collection. We went on hikes, saw shooting stars, admired art, and ate delicious food. I ran a mile or more each day, usually with company, keeping my streak alive (I’ve been running at least a mile a day for the past 379 days and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon). We slept in and relaxed. I took photographs, but for the sake of capturing memories and moments, not creating art. It was a real vacation, and probably the first one I have taken in a long long time.
Photography is a wonderful thing, and I love that now photography has become so accessible to so many people. Most people have a smartphone with a built-in camera on them almost all the time providing unlimited chances to take photographs of spontaneous moments and everyday things. I’m very glad I had my iPhone with me to capture memories from my vacation, but there is a big difference between having the photographs you take dictated by your activities and having your activities dictated by the photos you want to take. I’m not anti-photo, not at all, but getting wrapped up in taking pictures or becoming obsessed with sharing them on social media is an easy way to miss out on actually living and experiencing life.
My favorite photographs from Arizona are the ones where I’m next to this wonderful person and we are both smiling. We’re on vacation and happy and it shows. Maybe you can see the landscape behind us. Maybe not so much. But those are the ones most likely to end up printed, framed, and displayed somewhere where I can see them regularly, not so much the snapshots I took of red rock landscapes and desert flora.
I’m happier now that I don’t pay my bills with money I make from photography. If I sell a print I have some extra spending money, which I can put towards a fun trip or exciting adventure. I still enjoy teaching workshops and sharing photography techniques with others – teaching photography is one of photo gigs I get the most joy from – and when I get to do that it’s fun and rewarding. I admit it is hard not to feel pressure to go out and shoot on days with beautiful weather or ideal conditions, and I still feel guilty from time to time for not capturing peak seasons or making more of an effort to update my blog, website, and Facebook pages with recent work. But I know that my ideal career is not one of a professional photographer, and the only way for me to be passionate about photography is to let it happen at its own pace. So I’m trying to be patient with myself, and I hope you can be too.
I used to think that life got in the way of me taking pictures, but now I think it’s the other way around. So I’m out there, living and doing the things I love. Sometimes photography is a part of that, sometimes it’s not, and that’s okay with me.
Upcoming holidays + me cleaning my house = photo sales! I’ve got a handful of matted prints that need new homes, so I’m letting them go cheap!
All photographs posted below are available as 8×12 inch prints surrounded by a 12×16 inch white archival mat and foam core backing, shipped you to in a clear plastic sleeve. Cost is $35 for the first photo, $30 for each additional photo, and includes FREE shipping in the continental United States.
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.
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.
I’m slowly adding photographs to my website from recovered images I received back from my friend E.J. Peiker after I made the mistake of accidentally formatting my memory card while leading the AMC Fall Photography weekend at the beginning of the month. I’m really happy with some of the shots I got, even despite not getting the best weather that weekend.
This photograph from Artist’s Bluff was taken while scouting the day before the workshop began. I ran into my friend Jim Salge on the mountain and we got the slightest hint of color before the clouds thickened and all light from the sun disappeared. I’ll admit I got a little fanciful with the processing of this one, but I think it captures the beauty of this location more than the muted RAW file. Just imagine what a spectacular sunset would look like from this spot.
This is a location that Jim clued me in on after we shot at Artist’s Bluff, and I checked it out the next morning. It was one of the last scouting photographs I took before my participants arrived.
This is the path that leads to the pond above, and this photograph was taken on the very last day of the workshop. It had rained the entire day before and the trees were glistening with sparkly rain drops. This was a cropped handheld grab shot, as the participants were not taken very much by this spot and in a rush to get breakfast, check out of the Highland Center lodge, and move on to our next location.
On my way back from the White Mountains, I stopped in the Lakes Region to see how color was progressing. Things still looked pretty green there, but I managed to get this whimsical shot along one of the dirt roads leading to the shoreline of Squam Lake.
These are some of the images that jumped out at me most and I got around to processing first. I’ve been super busy (last week I picked up a rescue dog to foster for a bit and he’s kept me occupied), but have some others that I’m sure I’ll get around to editing, processing, and posting eventually. Stay tuned!
For me, one of the hardest parts of leading a workshop is the fear that I will disappoint my clients. Typically, I know very little about my participants until the moment I meet them and it is impossible to predict the diverse range of abilities, photographic and otherwise, belonging to those who sign up for any given workshop. Catering an experience to meet the needs of participants is challenging without knowing in advance what those needs are, so even the best planned workshops of mine are always largely improvised. Itineraries always change, and lessons and locations often get decided upon last minute. I’ve always gotten very positive feedback from the workshops I lead, so I’m not really sure why that fear of failure lurks still, but its definitely there.
One of my worries going into the AMC Fall Photography Weekend was that I really had no idea what the fall foliage was up to. I live about 2 1/2 hours south of the White Mountains and due to other commitments I had not had any opportunities to visit the area since a climbing event three weeks prior. Because of my new job and lack of accumulated vacation time, I couldn’t get up to the Whites any sooner to check out the foliage, so I ended up with just one day to scout – one day to figure out enough spots for three days of shooting in a variety of possible weather conditions I could not accurately predict.
So Thursday was all about scouting. Or at least it was supposed to be, but of course things are never really that simple.
While working on my programs the night before, my laptop screen went dead. Normally this would be annoying and mildly inconvenient because I use an external monitor at home, but two nights before a workshop and three hours from home is far less than ideal time to have a major component needed to deliver your instructional materials die. Because I didn’t have a backup monitor or computer with me, I spent a chunk of Thursday morning scavenging the Highland Center for an external monitor and then heading into North Conway midday to pick up extra adapters to connect the monitor and projector to my MacBook. To rub a little salt in the wound, I also managed to spill a bottle of water in my car and soak a couple of my guidebooks, one of which, ironically, was the White Mountains Waterfalls guidebook.
Equipment casualties aside, Thursday was a great day. I drove down 302 and Bear Notch Road, downtown and along the Kanc, and up I-93 and Route 3. I stopped at dozens of places, including rest stops I had never visited before and places that had many memories attached to them. Unlike most other times I explored the area, I was alone and had the freedom to explore as I pleased but also a clear mission: to hit as many potential spots as possible in a day. I usually visited a spot only briefly – long enough to assess the foliage, accessibility, and under what conditions the light and photography would be best – before moving on. I trotted along trails and snapped iPhone shots of everything.
My first visit to New Hampshire was in February 2009, and on that trip I saw Mount Washington and the White Mountains for the first time. Since then, I relocated to the state and have done my fair share of hiking, camping, climbing, and exploring in these magnificent mountains. My connection to this land is very tangible – I remember my first visits to many places and I remember the people who introduced them to me. Revisiting familiar places while scouting became a trip down memory lane. I fondly recalled bringing my mom to The Basin, camping with Camp Dudley’s Boys Camping Society at Covered Bridge Campground, hiking up the Hancocks with my friend Brett and his dog Pemi who was named after the Pemigewasset Wilderness, and stopping at highway pull-offs with various groups of friends, from the folks at Brooklyn Outfitters who brought me up Mount Washington in the winter for the first time to my friend Lisa from New Jersey, one of only three people from that area that have come to visit me since I moved to New Hampshire four years ago, to my ice climbing buddies.
Many of the places I visited were recommendations from my friend Jerry Monkman, a fantastic photographer based out of Portsmouth, NH. Jerry’s images partially inspired me to move to New Hampshire, and at this point he is a good friend of mine – I know his family, pets included, and we spent all of last summer working on a documentary together. Jerry has authored numerous books about photography and exploration in New England, several of which were published by the Appalachian Mountain Club, and he even used to lead the AMC Photo Weekends. That was until last year, when a cancer diagnosis left him too ill to do so, and Jerry kindly suggested to the AMC that I take his place. Thanks to Jerry, I have had many amazing photo opportunities since relocating here. So it was only fitting that, as I scoured the land in search of photo spots to take my group, Jerry should be the one guiding me.
The last place I stopped on Thursday was a location called Artist’s Bluff, which overlooks the highway intersections at Franconia Notch and provides a great view of Echo Lake and the surrounding mountains. I found my way to the top, taking the long route, and snapped a few photos as the sky grew dark with clouds. Thinking there would be no sunset and I was going to miss dinner if I didn’t make it back to the Highland Center by six, I turned and headed down the mountain only to run into another photographer on his way up – my friend Jim Salge! He chided me on heading down before sunset, and I immediately turned around and hiked back up to the bluff with him, where we waited together for color that never came.
Here’s where the story gets really cool – my very first visit to New Hampshire, back in 2009, was largely because of the efforts of Jim. At the time, I was dating another photographer and the NH trip was a Christmas present. My boyfriend had stumbled across Jim online and sent him an email, and Jim ended up giving him a ton of advice as to where we could go and shoot. Our whole vacation itinerary was based on the recommendations of Jim Salge! I never met Jim on that trip, but later, when I moved to NH back in 2010, we went on an overnight hut trip in the Whites and have been friends ever since. Even cooler, Jim is a New Jersey native like me. He moved to NH after college at Rutgers University to work as a meteorologist in the Mount Washington Observatory, and loved it and stayed. His story is not too dissimilar from mine, so you can imagine how awesome it was to run into him on the mountain.
After shooting, we headed back to the Highland Center, where Jim filled me in on a couple other spots near Crawford Notch where I could bring my group. Jim was headed in another direction – he’s the blogger behind Yankee Magazine’s Fall Foliage Reports, so he has a lot of ground to cover and a short window in which to capture and assess foliage throughout the region. I ended up scouting the two locations the following morning – just hours before my participants arrived – and they ended up being some of the most popular spots on our trip.
So in just 24 hours of scouting, I was reminded of how wonderful the photography community we have here in New England is. In no other place have I met photographers so consistently kind, open, and friendly, and willing to share awesome locations with others. Territoriality doesn’t seem all that common here and that’s kind of nice. In New England, photography, like many other aspects of our culture, is a collaborative process not a competitive one. Thanks to friends like Jerry and Jim, I have become even more familiar with the land I love, and every time I visit the places they have shown me I am reminded of our friendship in a beautiful way.
This is Part 2 of a multi-post series on my Appalachian Mountain Club Fall Photography Weekend workshop. Read Part 1 here and stay tuned for the next post in this series, coming soon! (Click here for the third and final installment.)