Fresh Friday: Local Weddings are the Best

Last weekend was such a blast. Bill & Marie are the most wonderful couple, so very much in love, and I was so excited to share their wedding day. We began around noon with the girls getting ready together, the ceremony at a local Catholic church in the center of town, and a beautiful reception at Rocky Neck State Park. It was a gorgeous day, and everything was perfect. Congratulations guys!

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Fresh Friday: Marie + Bill

After taking a bit of a blog hiatus, I’m back to posting, however less frequently. I plan to post once weekly because my schedule is increasing in busyness! Such is the beginning of the school year =)

And now onto the fresh pics: A couple of weeks ago, Marie, Bill, and I had an engagement session in Downtown Mystic right around sunset. While the clouds covered the potentially colorful sky, we were able to experiment with soft, diffused lighting and have some street lights to play with. This was an incredibly giggly session, and these two are so in love. I’m so excited to have the honor of photographing this beautiful couple’s wedding tomorrow, and it’s going to be a gorgeous day. Looking forward to it!

Fresh Friday: Asian Inspired

Tonight I flexed my non-existent culinary muscles and re-worked some leftovers we had. I knew that we had a leftover hamburger, some wraps, and not much else, so I put an Asian spin on an American classic. I’m new to the food photography scene, but I thought I’d give it a try.

I began with the side for the meal, a cold ginger and soy noodle salad, which was really easy. My years of watching the Food Network have taught me great shortcuts. Confession #1: I used those Asian noodles you can find in the grocery store. You know the type – the ones you add water to? Yeah..BUT I did make it my own by adding a little grated ginger and soy sauce to the cooked noodles. I then tossed it all in a little bit of olive oil and sushi vinegar. I left it in the fridge for a few minutes to cool down while I started on the wrap.

I mixed up a sauce consisting of spicy red bean paste, soy sauce, finely grated onion & ginger, olive oil, a splash of sushi vinegar, spoonful of honey, and a few drops of toasted sesame oil (it can be pretty strong), and I finished it with some sesame seeds. Confession #2: I’m kind of in love with salt, so soy sauce is one of my favorite seasonings. I use it kind of like how ketchup fiends use ketchup.

I drizzled the sauce onto a roasted tomato wrap I found in the fridge, then heated up the leftover hamburger. I sprinkled the meat over the sauce, then topped it off with fresh iceberg lettuce. I added a tad more sauce to moisten everything before wrapping it all up to put in the panini press. A few minutes later, the wrap’s all nice and crispy, and we’re ready to eat! Confession #3: I fell in love with pressed wraps at my college pub; who knew college food could inspire a meal two years after graduating?

Yay! I love cooking something different to make life more interesting – it all makes me so happy.

Wordy Wednesday: The Lobster Players

Aside from photography, I also work at a church with youth, and we have this amazing musician who’s recently joined our staff; he plays almost every instrument you can think of. My immediate thought is to call him the organist, because that’s what we’ve always had as musicians in the church, but he’s so much more than that – from guitar to hammer dulcimer to cello, he’s so incredibly gifted. Richard passed his talent down to his children; Hannah Schenk is not only in a pretty awesome band (see: The Friendly Ghost), but she also works with her sister as the Artistic Director of the New London-based Lobster Players: a community of actors, writers, and directors ranging in age from 15 to 25. Marie Schenk is the Producer, and Founder Galen Danskin put this all together back in 2008. They’ve held an Annual 24 Hour Theatre Festival for the past three years (this year being the fourth), and I had the opportunity to spend some time with the cast and crew of the Festival. Life has a way of making connections through some pretty unexpected places, but I love when my two worlds of church and art collide into something much more beautiful than one or the other in isolation.

The Lobster Players Cast, Crew, Directors, and Writers

The Lobster Players Cast, Crew, Directors, and Writers

This year’s Festival theme was an ode to Eugene O’Neill and his most famous (or one of his more famous) plays, Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Six writers came together and began their quest at 8 PM this past Saturday, writing furiously for the next twelve hours. The writers each wrote their own entry, six different ten-minute plays and had a few prompts to give them direction. The playwrights were required to include the line, “They kept going on about the fog.” A bonus line could be added as well: “Ah, wilderness!” The writers had to include at least one of the following props in their pieces, and most used more than one: a suitcase, a giant bow, a watering can, a stuffed dinosaur, and a hairdryer. The finished scripts were printed at 8 AM the next morning, and the actors and directors were called into action, reading through the pages of dialogue, rehearsing, blocking out the scenes, and costuming their characters. Technical rehearsal followed with lighting cues at 6:30 PM on Sunday, and by 8 PM, the curtain rose without a hitch.

The first play in the series was The Truth Is Out There, written by Mike Hinton and directed by Danielle McGuire. Based on sarcastic humor and the cosplay world, you might think that the piece wouldn’t be deeply emotional. But at the end of the first scene, elemental trust and expectation surface, and it becomes clear that a more serious issue is at hand.

Written by Darcy Bruce, Long Ago in the Deep Dark Woods was the next to follow, directed by Andrew Guay. As the title suggests, this piece is more shadowy and mysterious than most. The plot is murky, and I found myself coming to conclusions without fully knowing Bruce’s intentions. But this is what makes it interesting: the play becomes interactive for the viewer, and they can interpret the story line for themselves based on their past experiences and preconceived notions. Definitely one that’ll make you think.

The Most Important Lesson of All rounded out the first half of the show, written by Josh Kelly and directed by Noah Todd. This gorgeously written and directed play was my favorite of the night. A commentary on the writing process, this beautiful narrative of two fictional characters weaves around the writer’s attempt to keep them from falling in love. Just as the characters’ hearts intersect, the writer realizes just how awesome love can be, if we allow it. This piece was absolutely breathtaking. I’m in love.

Following a short intermission, Noah Bogdonoff’s Sprung was directed by Victor Chiburis. This tension-filled drama was crafted with precision by Chiburis and his incredible actors, Siobhan Reddy-Best and Alex Bone. Unfortunate circumstances bring two characters together at a police station, only to discover they’re there for the same reason. Sprung was about as real as it gets with its intense emotion and honest exploration of social issues.

Director Leah Doroski brought humor and sci-fi themes to Ben Leatham’s The Mystery of Cotton-Eye Joe. Two high school girls and a college-aged sister brainstorm a science fair project that quickly turns into a time-machine meltdown.

Director Zachary Scovish capped the show with Alfonso Giansanti’s Lucky Toss, a perfect piece to end the night. Four characters wait in awkward silence for a bus that never comes. Throughout the course of the play, we come to realize that the connections between the commuters exist for the purpose of bringing people together – one pair united purely by accident, the other by mistake.

This was such a beautiful day to spend with artists from all backgrounds, and these connections are so incredible. I’m looking forward to the many more great productions of The Lobster Players. For more information or to get involved, join their Facebook Group here.

Tutorial Tuesday: 8 Tips to Keep A Low Profile

We’ve all been to concerts, weddings, events, or shows where the photographer sometimes ends up being the center of unwanted attention. Whether they block your view or obnoxiously push you out of the way to get that “award-winning shot,” here are some tips to ensure we don’t become one of those photographers.

  1. Always ask permission. Assuming you’ve been hired by someone to photograph their event, this shouldn’t be an issue, especially if you use a contract. I highly recommend – no demand – that you use a contract! This ensures that you, the photographer, have all of the rights you deserve as an artist, and it would lay out what the clients can expect; it also covers your tail in case anything goes wrong. If you’re looking to keep the photos you take, include a model release in your contract – this is a basic statement that they’re giving you permission to use the photos in your personal portfolio or for other purposes. Here’s what my model release says:

    THE CLIENT(S) hereby assign(s) and grant(s) Fretless Photography and its legal representatives the irrevocable and unrestricted right to use and publish photographs of THE CLIENT(S) or in which THE CLIENT(S) may be included, for editorial, trade, advertising, or any other purpose and in any manner or medium; to alter the same without restriction; and to copyright the same. THE CLIENT(S) hereby release(s) Fretless Photography and its legal representatives and assigns from all claims and liability relating to said photographs. It is agreed that Fretless Photography may display and use the photographs taken for advertising, display, website and internet promotion, photographic contests, public display such as in malls, photography books, photography instructional books, store fronts, window displays, studio display, television advertising, magazine advertising, and any other purpose thought proper by Fretless Photography.

    If you haven’t been hired by the venue or sponsor of the event, be sure to ask permission first. This might include going to upper management at a concert hall (most require press passes, which are notoriously hard to get), or speaking with the band directly (or through their manager). The last thing a staff member wants to deal with is a random photographer who no one knows; if they weren’t notified that you’d be there, you automatically become a distraction. So while it might be tempting to forgo asking and apologize later if an issue arises, it’s better to get permission before your camera is confiscated and you’re questioned Law & Order style blinded by a desk lamp. Bottom line: be courteous and respectful, even if the answer is “No.” Then simply enjoy the show, uninhibited by the camera in front of your face.

  2. Wear appropriate clothing & footwear. One of the easiest ways to blend into any environment is to wear dark solid colors without patterns. You might not want to wear that neon green sequin top you love so much – you’ll get all the wrong types of attention. I usually stick to a pair of black slacks and either a dark burgundy or deep blue top. I also keep jewelry to a minimum, especially if it makes noise. In fact, I leave all charm bracelets or bangles, bell anklets, and strands of necklaces at home – anything that has the possibility of drawing attention to myself I keep secure in my jewelry box. Also keep in mind that you’ll be on your feet for long periods of time; I wear shoes that are comfortable but professional and stay away from shoes that “clack.” Ladies, stick to flats with a pair of Dr. Scholl’s thrown in the bottom. Your feet will thank you.
  3. Be aware of your surroundings. This includes people (waiters with trays of champagne pyramids), holes in the ground (…guilty), and stairs you might miss (also a story I’d not like to tell). Keep your eyes open, not only for your safety, but also for different photographic possibilities. Scope out the venue beforehand. (If possible, schedule this with management so they can give you an official tour. This would be a great opportunity to introduce yourself and ask any questions you might have, as well as start a new networking connection.) When photographing an event with a live audience, stick to the sides of the venue. If you need to get across to the other side of the venue, never cross in front – look for side doors that might get you to the other side quicker (always making sure you know where they lead first!), or just walk around the back.
  4. Don’t, for the love of all things photography, use a flash unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. Using a flash during a theatre production or concert washes away the hours and days the lighting designer spent creating those visual effects. The resulting photos can be harsh with unwanted shadows. But most of all, it’s a huge distraction to the performers. All in all, it’s just a bad idea. As I mentioned before, try to see if you can visit the venue before the event. Not only will this allow you to brainstorm neat ideas, but it’ll give you a chance to check your exposure settings. If you find that you absolutely can’t photograph without a flash, use an external flash that you can bounce off the ceiling of the venue so you’re not blinding the artists or the audience.
  5. Keep an eye on your equipment. For the most part, I almost never use a tripod, but if you do, make sure that its legs aren’t too far out so as to trip someone coming down the isle (see: bride). I tend to carry up to three or four lenses, and I’ve developed my own little way of maintaining my glass safely without dropping anything. Come up with your own system so you’re not fumbling around. There’s a neat little invention I saw around Christmas this past year, and I’ve fallen in love. It’s called the Quikdraw – watch the video and be amazed. I’m a mix of a “stasher” and “bagger,” but once the Quikdraw hits the market, I’m on my way.
  6. Learn to be silent. I’m not known as a graceful person, but I’ve learned to tread lightly and carefully when I’m photographing a particularly sensitive scene in a play or a powerfully spiritual moment during a wedding. Be aware of what you’re watching, and take cues from the audience or guests. Refrain from photographing during extreme silence or tension, as a single shutter click could take the actors, audience, and guests from the scene before them. Also, please please turn off your cell phone. One of the most embarrassing distractions during an event could be John Williams’ Starwars Theme coming from your pocket. Even a single vibrate notification from that email you just received will send heads turning to see who it was. Don’t be that guy.
  7. Anticipate what’s next. If you’re hired by the venue or artist, ask if you can attend a rehearsal or sound check prior to the event. This will clue you in to any special surprises during the show. If a musician comes running down the isle with his guitar around his neck, pulling the drummer and his kit on a makeshift wagon, it’d be nice to know that before you get run over. How tragic that would be. And what a distraction to have to turn on the house lights and assess the damage. Even if you’re not able to know what’s coming next, sometimes the best thing to do is to just get out of the way, or in some cases, stand still. Exhibit A: I was once photographing a show in college where the actors were wearing three to five foot stilts. During a blackout, I didn’t realize that the now taller-than-two-of-me actors where all moving toward me with incredible speed, trying to get to their next mark before the lights went up. Unable to know where their destination was, and not wanting to move myself further into their path, I tucked my arms in and huddled around my camera as they flew past like ninjas. Lights went up. Nothing happened. I was very lucky. Don’t be me.
  8. Last but not least, stay healthy and listen to your body. A long day’s work can do a number, especially if you’re hauling around thirty pounds of equipment, and I’m pretty sure you’d be quite embarrassed if you passed out during the wedding ceremony, not from happiness, but from exhaustion or dehydration. I always carry water with me whenever I photograph an event; I prefer the type of bottle that has a carabiner that I can clip to my camera bag. Also take note of where the nearest restrooms are! Easily accessible snacks are a great idea too, especially if you know you won’t have time for a full meal. With all of the food allergies these days, I usually stick to non-nut-based protein bars, just in case there’s someone at the venue with a severe airborne allergy (it happens). Lastly, take a break every once in a while! If there’s a seat available (preferably not in an audience member’s lap or especially not onstage), breathe for a moment while you gather yourself for the next scene.

Photographing an event and staying discrete doesn’t require camouflage and black paint under our eyes, but it does ask a bit of common sense from us. So don’t be that guy.

Wordy Wednesday: Lively Productions NYC

I have a friend from college who has been working in NYC with Lively Productions, and I had the chance to see one of their shows this weekend. Lively is an innovative theatre company that explores the connection of humanity and technology. Blogologues, their newest project established in 2011, dramatizes internet content shared through Twitter, Craigslist, Yahoo Questions, and many other sites. Since its inception, Blogologues has combed the web for material in their thirteen shows, ranging in topic from the seasonal (Rocktober Blogologues: It’s Freaking Fall) to internet memes (Blogologues Technoganza: Like a LOLcat Watching Itself on YouTube). They’ve been featured on Mashable, The Huffington Post, Time Out New York, and many other media outlets.

They’re currently running their fourteenth production, New York F#cking City (If I can tweet it there, I’ll tweet it anywhere). This hilarious production is a conglomerate of sixteen posts plus tweets sprinkled throughout, all reaffirming the existence of unique, interesting, and sometimes downright strange people that inhabit the City. Posts entitled “Is it Normal to Burn Cockroaches” and “Craigslist: For Men Making 500,000 or Over – A Question From a Real Woman” were among my favorites for Blogologues’ depth of character development. Because written content on the internet is often anonymous and faceless, the actors can create personalities that border on the extreme.

Physical comedy manifested itself through highly energetic characters and musical dance numbers (NYC is the home of Broadway, after all). This is an awesome show packed with humor, and throughout the hour-long production, I had to keep reminding myself that these posts are real. They are actually online, written by an actual person.

See, This is Why People Hate Vegans

Bagels For Babies

What Tourists Need to Know About NYC

You can try to act these out yourself, with your cat as an audience, or you could just go and see it for yourself! Tickets here for $15 or $20 at the door. Show runs through August 24th.

Tutorial Tuesday: Darkroom-ed

I vividly remember the first time I stepped foot into a darkroom. The sharp smell of the chemicals and the damp chill was intimidating at first; I only had a printed set of instructions to guide me through what seemed like a very complex process. I stumbled through developing my first roll of film to find that, hey, it’s really not all that difficult. Still, I followed the directions to a T, and eventually became much more comfortable, probably because I had memorized the worn piece of paper. I’d spend hours there, neglecting (what might have been) more important homework, but the darkroom transformed from a cold cave into my personal sanctuary, turning my love for science into an art form. The darkroom experience was part of a basic film photography class, which helped me to get an understanding of creating exposures and shooting in manual mode, as well as developing my own film and printing using an enlarger. The following year, I grew more adventurous, designing my own directed study in experimental darkroom photography. I explored double exposures, overlays, montages, and negative blending, and the darkroom became my playground for new and different techniques. I realized that this wasn’t just a class. This was something awesome.

Jerry Uelsmann was my inspiration for this directed study, and his gorgeous works continue to take hold of me. His pieces of surrealism are all done in the darkroom; none of these are digitally altered. These mind-blowing prints are the result of days of shooting, developing, and exposing, standing at the enlarger and planning out the piece. You can check out some of his work on show at Lanoue Fine Art in Boston from September 14th to October 12th.

Jerry Uelsmann: Untitled, 1982

Jerry Uelsmann: Untitled, 1982

Jerry Uelsmann: Untitled, 1991

Jerry Uelsmann: Untitled, 1991

Jerry Uelsmann: Untitled, 2000

Jerry Uelsmann: Untitled, 2000

Jerry Uelsmann: Voyager, 2008

Jerry Uelsmann: Voyager, 2008

So how is this done? Here are four steps that can lead you there, but don’t be married to these directions. It’s art, after all – your spin is what makes it unique.

  1. Start with film. Begin shooting a roll of film with extreme compositions in mind, but think simple. For example, you might photograph an empty field featuring a single tree. Set the tree off to a far side of the frame. This creates an area for other elements to be “dropped in” once you begin altering the image. Think of empty space as an opportunity. If you’re photographing the human form, their bare shoulder or neck could be a place where you could add another element. You can also start “collecting” textures by photographing sand, stones/pebbles, water, tree bark, etc., which can be overlaid into an image, providing another dimension of interest. I prefer shooting in B&W because it offers the most simplicity, but you could certainly use color as well. I use true b&w film or color slide film, which means that the film can only be developed by traditional means. True b&w and color slide film tend to be closer to the actual exposure and often have a marginally higher grain to the image, which adds a bit of interest and character to the photo. I think the added texture makes it more alive. If you use C41 Process Film (what can be developed at local pharmacies and superstores), the contrast is often higher, the colors not as natural and the grain less apparent. The choice is yours, depending on what sort of look you’re going for.
  2. If you don’t have access to a darkroom, get the film developed at a local photo lab, even if you’re using C41 film (and support local business!). I prefer to not use a commercial superstore for developing my film because the quality and customer service is often a lot better at places that specialize in developing and printing. Request to have a contact sheet made – this is a great way to see all of the photos in one place as thumbnail images. It’ll help you to see how the photos can fit together, almost like a puzzle. If you’re going the digital route in editing your images, request a CD as well.
  3. Choose a few images and start playing! If you’re working in the darkroom, choose negatives and begin the printing process. Slip one (or more) negatives into the holder in the enlarger, and expose the paper. By burning (allowing certain sections to expose for longer periods of time) and dodging (covering portions of the projected image), you can make elements more apparent or “erase” areas of the photo. Remember to feather the edges of your burn or dodge so the change isn’t obvious. Then switch out the negative and replace it with a new one, dropping it into empty spaces or begin layering the images with texture. If you’re working in a digital format, it’s basically the same idea. Your layer blending mode will be a huge time saver; choose “multiply” and this will make your image almost transparent, allowing you to see what’s underneath. Or play around with blending modes, as each setting does something uniquely different.
  4. Last but not least, have fun! Try something new. Do a blind double exposure by shooting a roll of film and reloading it into your camera and shoot again. Or try blending your b&w negatives with color negatives. Mix digital and film. See how many layers you can add. Mess with perspective. Make a statement. Make it your own.

For this one, I sandwiched two negatives together in the same negative holder, and exposed both at the same time.

Negative Sandwich

Negative Sandwich

This one is just a single negative, but while the image exposed, I used a template made of heavy matte board to cover most of the image except for the squares. I exposed the main square for three seconds longer than the regular exposure for the image, then dropped the cutout square back into its hole while the other two shadow sections exposed for five additional seconds.

Altered with Burning

Altered with Burning

For this one, I used two negatives. I exposed the face first while dodging around the outside because I knew I wanted to use water as the background. Then I exposed the water, dodging around her face.

Dodging

Dodging

I exposed the flower first for 16 seconds, then added just a hint of texture by exposing the water for four seconds.

Using Textures

Using Textures

Give it a try. Maybe this could be the start of something awesome.

Fresh Friday: Still Life

I’ve never had much interest in photographing still life, but in using a tabletop studio, I’m intrigued by just how much I can do. It’s very exciting. Here’s some new work, just playing around with different backgrounds and lighting styles.

Glass and Pewter, lighting from both sides

Glass and Pewter, lighting from both sides

Pewter, lighting from both sides and underneath

Pewter, lighting from both sides and underneath

Horse Hair Vase, lighting from behind and underneath

Horse Hair Vase, lighting from behind and underneath

Horse Hair Vase, lighting from the left

Horse Hair Vase, lighting from the left

Wordy Wednesday: Froymovich’s End of the Good Life

Since graduating from college in 2011, I’ve been reading like I’ve never read before. For whatever reason, becoming free of required texts has brought me even deeper into the world of books. I’ll read just about anything, from non-fiction to psychologically rich novels, and yes, sometimes even chick lit. Let’s just say that I’m very glad the library is closer to my home than the bookstore; my wallet would be perpetually empty otherwise. Some people in my generation find themselves in the same predicament, only it’s not because they spent their money on all the books their hearts could desire. Rather, it’s an issue of economy. And Riva Froymovich delves into the reasons Generation Y is at risk in her book End of the Good Life: How the Financial Crisis Threatens a Lost Generation — and What We Can Do About It.

Froymovich begins with her own story, a story of success for her parents, but within it, there are questions for the vast majority of 20- and 30-somethings who are unable to find employment. We invest so much into our education, and we tirelessly search for something, anything. We don’t even care if it’s in our field anymore. And sometimes we take unpaid internships because we’ve bought into the idea that months and years of experience will get us somewhere, even if we can’t pay our bills. When will things turn around for us, for everyone who is unemployed and underemployed?

While the future sounds bleak for the US, Froymovich reminds us of our neighbors in other countries. Europe, in particular, is struggling more deeply than we are. Froymovich provides staggering recent statistics, which is what makes this book so relevant. Published in April of this year, we’re able to see things as they are, now. And globally, things are tough. It’s not just us.

Borrowing ideas from other countries that are actually excelling, Froymovich explains how we might just be able to dig ourselves out of the debt we didn’t plan to find on the other side of education. She suggests simple yet incredibly effective educational reforms, such as earlier career planning in public schools as well as a partnership program with local businesses. These businesses would be able to train high school students for their particular field, and apprenticeships would allow teens to get their hands dirty in a field they might want to pursue in the future. For those who have already passed through the school systems, Froymovich suggests that entrepreneurial training is a great way for us to create the jobs that just aren’t there.

This painfully beautiful book uncovers the truth about our economy; the honesty with which it’s written draws me in as though I’m talking with a mentor, telling it like it is. With every chapter, I feel validated; I’m not alone in this, and neither are my peers. We’re all struggling, unsure of job security and uncertainty of what will happen when we reach retirement age. But in End of the Good Life, Froymovich offers practical solutions for the future, solutions that need to include policy change. If Generation Y comes together, we’re loud enough. We just need to be heard.

You can purchase your copy here, or if you’re like me, just check out your local library 😉