They say a picture says a thousand words. Maybe that’s true. There are certainly a few stories behind mine. Photography is one of my passions. I love it. Confucius tells us that everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. How true. I’ll be sharing some of my work, and the tales behind them, from time to time. These will be the first three in that series.
Before we begin, I need to confess: I got into photography accidentally. I work seven days per week most weeks, so I have very little free time at home. Because of this, I try to take advantage of every minute I have to play with my kids. My lawn is ALWAYS in need of a good mow, and I should be vacuuming the living room right now, but my kids know who I am. Still, I felt like I was missing too much. It’s hard to keep track of three of them; and they’re gorgeous. I decided to splurge on a Nikon DSLR and give myself a fighting chance in keeping up with them.
This is Justus, the Wonder Dog. Jake’s service animal. Every year we participate in the Autism Society of Maine’s walk for autism. It’s their biggest fundraiser of the year, and we’re honored to be a part of it. In Bangor, ME, where we walk, Jake’s Team (as we call ourselves) was the first team to wear matching t-shirts with pictures of our Jake on the front and our names on the back. This particular year we wore bright green t-shirts. That’s Beth’s aunt Cynthia in the back with her green shirt under a blue/purple fleece. After the walk, it’s tradition to grab a picnic lunch and go the park afterwards. The walk’s usually at the end of April, which is Autism Awareness Month, so it’s nice to feel the warm sun on our skin. This year we went to the park adjacent to Mansfield Stadium in Bangor. I took Justus’ harness off and tethered him to a picnic table. I had only owned my camera for about two weeks, and I was shooting anything that would hold still. I had my long lens (55-200mm), which provides pretty shallow depth of field (f3.5). I was on my belly in the dirt about 20′ from Justus and he was just looking so happy. I got off about 4 shots, but this one really captured the emotion of that day. There’s a 20×24 print of this on the wall of my office at work.
This photo was shot during our first big family camping trip. What a nightmare. Like I’ve said before, we tend to go pretty big. Instead of an easy car-accessible site, I had picked a secluded beach at the long end of Passamagamet Lake. It was a brief 35 minute car trip from home; down a steep embankment where I put the boat in, then a leisurely half-hour boat ride to the site. For backup, I brought with me two of my teenage nephews. I figured it would be easier with some muscle and a few extra heads, should something go wrong. With just the seven of us plus the dog, it took four trips in my little twelve-foot boat to get the enormous amounts of gear we needed to the campsite. We were all afternoon getting loaded in and set up. On top of that, the wind at the end of the lake was so fierce, I started to wonder if we were ever going to get the tent up. We had to pull the boat onto the beach and turn it on its side as a windshield, or we’d have never gotten a fire started to cook dinner. Anyway, well into the evening, the wind finally died down. Beth, Deven, Drake and I were chilling around the fire when I stole away for a bathroom break. Once away from the light of the fire, I was able to appreciate the beauty of the environment. I set the camera to “flash-off,” set it on a stump (no tripod), and it took the shot with about a 5 second shutter speed. The result is obvious. Calm, peaceful, relaxing. The exact OPPOSITE of our camping trip.
I love this shot. About a week after Thanksgiving every year, Bangor has a huge parade that culminates with Santa Claus himself arriving on the back of an 18-wheeler. For years, my mother had an apartment on the third floor of a building right in the thick of things. What could be better than a third-floor vantage point for a kid like Jake? We could be inside where it was warm, behind a nice safe pane of glass. Awesome! I’ve decided that it’s darn-near impossible to get a great shot of that kind of venue in a traditional sense. It’s too dark for the shadows, everything is variably lit, and the whole thing is moving. A photographic conundrum. What if I used an exceptionally slow shutter speed? Could get interesting. As luck would have it, Mom had a fire escape. I had a tripod by now, and was ready to get creative. I set the ISO to 100, dropped the aperture to 8, and set the shutter speed to 30 seconds. Everything in motion got a nice blur, and everything still came out nice and sharp. The lightbox in the center was the judges’ trailer. Every float stopped for a minute to be judged before moving on and turning left up the hill. See it? My favorite aspect of the whole thing are the reflections of the Christmas trees around the corner that got captured in the windows of the building across the street. The result is pretty cool, if I do say so.
So, there we have it. The first three in what I hope will be lots of shots I can share with you in the future. Three different shots; three different lighting situations; three different setups. Have a favorite? Leave me a comment and let me know.