Cayambe

I like to write. Writing helps me express myself, and when I refer back to pieces I wrote long ago, it helps me remember the experiences I wrote about more vividly. Today while cleaning out some old files on my computer, I stumbled across this piece, written shortly after my trip to Ecuador in three years ago.

CAYAMBE

I tossed and turned. I rolled onto my stomach then back onto my side, and finally lay with my back against the thin mattress, head pointed to the sky, hands resting on my chest like a corpse. In this position I found I could not breathe. At 15,000 feet above sea level the air was too thin, and for some reason when lying on my back my chest felt weighted, as if a large dog had fancied itself a lap dog and placed itself there. So I turned back onto my side and looked at the watch on my wrist. I had by lying in bed for hours but had yet to gain one wink of sleep.

Every sound was amplified. Will, to my left, was restless too, and his every movement further condemned me to sleeplessness. I lay awake, eyes closed, trying to trick myself into falling asleep. The time crawled slowly, and by 10:50, I could take it no more and started to dress. Static sparks from my polyester long johns danced like miniature green fireworks as I pulled them over my legs. Soon, everyone else had joined in, dressing the the dark, pulling on warm layers of clothes.

We tiptoed downstairs to empty our bladders, top off our water bottles, and nibble on breakfast. Little conversation was had. We were too distracted by the unknown journey ahead and too tired to focus on much else.

At midnight, we left the hut and started our death march up the mountain. It was slow at first. The fifteen of us walked like ants, single file, following close behind one another over a trail of volcanic rock and loose gravel. Up and down we walked, although mostly up, until the sand beneath our feet grew hard and failed to give way as we stepped. Patches of black ice, decorated with trapped bubbles, occasionally appeared underfoot and soon we reached the frozen edge of the glacier. Here, we put on harnesses and crampons, added layers, and armed ourselves with ice axes for the climb. Rope teams formed, and each team of three or four tied into a long and sturdy rope, led by an experienced guide.

For hours, we climbed the glacier. We stopped infrequently to rest and when we did, it was only briefly. Our tired bodies grew increasingly fatigued, our bellies more hungry and nauseous, and our throats burned from want of water, aggravated by exertion and the cold, dry mountain air.

At one point the clouds gave way to stars. Looking up, one could see a thousand tiny diamonds glistening in the night sky. Behind us, the lights of the city glowed amber in the valley below. As the hours passed, gray-purple clouds moved in, flowing over the mountains, merging earth and sky, first framing, then consuming Quito’s urban landscape. It was beautiful.

We were tired beyond tired. As we climbed, the weather worsened. Soon, the wind took the stars and visibility was reduced to the glowing orb of our headlamps.

We marched onward and upward into the black night. Our progress was slow. The air was thin. We were tired beyond tired. Our feet dragged. We stumbled, our bodies swayed, and occasionally, some of us pitched and fell. When this happened, the guides would catch us, halting our failing bodies by tugging tight the rope that connected them to us. They half walked us, half dragged us by our leashes ever higher onto the mountain.

My mind was fuzzy. I felt drunk. My throat burned and the bits of cracker stuck in my teeth from the few I had nibbled on earlier tasted rotten and sour. Standing was hard, walking was harder. I was sure I had never felt closer to dying in my life, save for the one time at Christmas when I had a fever so high I could not stand at all and had to drag myself across the floor to the bathroom just so I could pass out on the cold tile floor. I thought of Cotopaxi, the even taller mountain we would attempt to climb in just a few days, and was not sure I would convince myself to endure this again. I wanted to lie down, to collapse onto my knees and then tip sideways into the snow, giving in to the exhaustion that I felt. But even my broken mind was too stubborn to let me, so I continued to plod forward, like a diseased and injured animal, possessed by the need for something. Each step seemed to require an extreme amount of effort, but I kept forcing myself to take them.

Dawn rose slowly. The black night softened as the hours passed, but the sun never came. Our world was blue and empty. Gray clouds and fog and windswept snow consumed us in every direction. The wind howled at us. Forward and backward looked exactly the same, yet we continued forward, following our leaders blindly.

At a point just shy of the summit, we stopped to rest, for maybe only the third time since midnight. The rope teams convened and the guides told us to drop our packs. “We are very close,” they said, “but the next part is very steep.” I stuffed my down jacket and sunglasses into the front of my rain jacket, and reluctantly left my camera and water behind. They told us the summit was just one hour away.

We plodded onward and were met with a vertical wall of blue ice. The structure must have stretched fifteen to twenty feet high, and had the texture of unfurling coiled rope, thin strands of ice interlaced and woven into a delicate pattern. The ice was aquamarine, like the color of the sea in the clearest most tropical oceans of the world, only bluer, softer, and more translucent. It had no snow on it to spoil its beauty. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and had I had any more clarity of mind, I might have stopped and pondered it more deeply. As we walked past it, the strong smell of sulfur permeated my nostrils, rising from the geothermic vents of the volcano upon which we stepped. I knew we had to be close.

The only way around the great wall involved a steep climb up an adjacent snow covered slope. Nico, our guide, punched holes into the ice with his feet, providing us with small steps to climb, and I smashed my way up the steep slope, thrusting the pick of my ice axe deep into the snow for purchase. Beneath the snow, the ice glowed blue. The new motions and effort required provided me with a brief moment of clarity, and despite being exhausted from the effort of punching and clawing my way towards the top, I urged myself forward.

Beyond this, there were more gradual and steep ascents, winding in and out of icy obstacles in our way. I don’t remember much of it very well, as I am sure I would have found it disorienting even had I been in a clearer state of mind. I trudged along the flatter parts in a straight line as best I could and scrambled up the steep pitches in a maddening fashion, like a person possessed. My mind had locked onto its goal, and despite the pain and lunacy of continuing forward in such a shattered state, I continued to follow Nico, slowly advancing towards the summit.

At some point I fell. My legs gave way, and my body tumbled, pulled by gravity down the slope. Nico and my rope team members, Josh and Kelli, caught me, stretching the rope tight to stop my downward fall. My mind was so unraveled that I lay tangled and suspended in the rope for almost a minute before I found my footing and a good placement for my ice axe and managed to right myself.

The summit itself was rather anticlimactic. It was a small rise following a steep pitch, and had Nico not told us we had arrived we never would have known. There, Nico placed his ice axe into the ground, point end first so it stood tall, like a flag. The spot was unremarkable, and the clouds around us were so dense that we could not tell how much more there was to climb or in what direction in might possibly be in. But he placed his axe with such certainty that when he said “Congratulations!” and told us we had reached the summit, I doubted him for only a second. I was too exhausted to want to go any further, so even if I had been less convinced, I am not sure I would have objected to stopping there.

I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to cry, because the journey had been so trying, and we had reached the summit, but I couldn’t. I wanted to jump up and down or shout out with joy, but I didn’t have the energy. I was glad and relieved to have reached the summit, but the emotions weren’t as fast, as sudden, or as strong as I wanted them to be. I mostly just stood there, dazed. It was as if the reality of reaching the summit couldn’t find its way through the muddled mess of my brain.

Nico came over to me and gave me a long hug. His embrace was one of those that seems to fill you with life, as if the person hugging you is actually transferring energy from their body to yours. His hug was so comforting that I didn’t want him to let go, but when he did, I felt instantly better than I had before. Only then, could I start to comprehend what I had accomplished.

For Love or Money

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.

Matted Print Sale

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.

Waves Washing Over Rocks : Prints Available

Water laps at rocks on the shoreline of Lake Ontario along the border of New York.

Pratt's Falls : Prints Available

Pratt's Falls is one of many beautiful waterfalls that can be found in upstate New York.
iris, abstract

Iris Abstract : Prints Available

The nicest thing about photographing flower abstracts, is that I can do it in just a few minutes a day and the subjects are right outside my mom's house. They are one of the easiest nature subjects to fit into my busy schedule. The down side is I usually only have a few weeks to work with each subject, as most flowers, like this iris, have short peak seasons.

tree branches, hawaii, Waimea Valley aububon Center, Oahu, Hawaii

Twisted : Prints Available

Moss covered tree branches and leaves trace delicate interwoven patterns against the sky.
SOLD!!!

Mount Madison, Mount Adams, White Mountain National Forest, White Mountains, New Hampshire, Presidential Range

Madison at Sunset : Prints Available

A view of Mount Madison from Mount Adams as the sun sets late in the afternoon. Mount Madison and Mount Adams are part of the White Mountain National Forest's Presidential Range in New Hampshire.

snowy egret, egret, portrait, st. augustine alligator farm, alligator farm, florida

Snowy Portrait : Prints Available

A portrait of an adult Snowy Egret in breeding plumage hiding among the brush at the rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida.
SOLD!!!

northern gannet, gannet, morus bassanus, Delaware Bay

Northern Gannet in Flight : Prints Available

An adult northern gannet (Morus bassanus) flies in front of a cloud that perfectly halos the bird's wings.

More photographs are available for sale on my website as well. Photos make a GREAT holiday gift so be sure to check them out!

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.

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.

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?

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!

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.

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.

The Power of Place, Coming Soon!

After nearly two years of filming and post production, I’m excited to reveal that The Power of Place, the documentary about the Northern Pass that I had been helping Jerry Monkman create, is nearing completion and will be released to the public within the next couple of months. Jerry and I spent countless hours in the field gathering material for this film during the summer of 2013 and had hoped to release it much sooner, but Jerry was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer right around the time we wrapped up shooting so post production has taken much longer than we initially anticipated. Added to that Jerry and I live about two hours apart and once I started working full time last spring I wasn’t much help to him during the process, as it was challenging for me to find time to drive to the seacoast to work on the film. Jerry is now cancer free and the film is just about finished, and he is working on wrapping up the details of a contract for the film’s premiere sometime in the very near future.

Check out the documentary’s trailer here:

The Power of Place – Trailer from Jerry Monkman on Vimeo.

So stay tuned, especially if you happen to be one of the fortunate folks who live in the great state of New Hampshire. We will be announcing details of the film’s release and premiere very soon, and hope you will be able to join us for the big day if you can. Until then, expect to see a ton of TPOP related posts and pictures from me.

Big Dipper : Prints Available

This photograph of the Big Dipper in the night sky was captured while filming for The Power of Place, a documentary about the Northern Pass, in Coos County, New Hampshire.