02.24.11 - AMERICANA

I had two shoots in Aiken, SC for Practical Horseman and The Chronicle Connection early last week. I drove down on the 14th, shot the 15th drove to Wilmington, NC to meet Christy and the dogs and then home on the 16th. The drive is about 12 hours without stopping, but I am one of those people who can sleep anywhere, in any position. So when I start to feel drowsy I know I need to pull over and close my eyes, thus extending the length of the time in the car.

I have done trips down 95 annually for many years, and one of the most unique landmarks is South of the Border just at the NC/SC state line. This trip I needed gas, I needed to stretch my legs, and since it was just after sunset I wanted to shoot some HDR of the tourist trap.

Since Brody is always happy to get out of the car, and I was was toting a few $ in my D3, a number of lenses and my tripod, I snapped him to my belt loop and off we went. (I keep a carabiner on his leash for just this purpose.)

If you have never passed SoB, it is much "prettier" at night. But darkness also brings out the sketchiness of it. Needless to say I was glad to have my 80lb body guard watching my back.

021411.SOB.2

This shot below of the giant Pedro mascot was the first image I shot. My oh-so brave dog didn't notice it until we had been underneath it for about 5 minutes. And then he growled at it the entire time. :}

021411.SOB.1

This shot of the fireworks sign with the burnt out bulb is my favorite of the 30 minute quick shoot. I was starting to attract some attention that was making my little voice chatter, and I still had hours in the car. So we hit the road for Aiken.

021411.SOB.3

02.07.11 - TEARS OF JOY & TEARS OF SORROW

Winter is always a slow period for my business; the big equine competitions are all in the south, weddings and portrait sessions are fewer, commercial clients are beginning the new fiscal year. I use this time to catch up on the projects around the office, cleaning, organizing, backing-up.

One of my pending projects has always been reclaiming the images from disks I have burnt over the years, things that I cleared off drives. I am glad I have always burnt two copies of each disk, because CDs and DVDs are not as safe as we were told. I have made it through the majority of my stacks. My reader is a bit temperamental. Sometimes it needs a time-out to be think about why it is being a PITA. There are many disks that is has had issues reading one day, and no problems a few days later. I just keep trying.

One pair of disks that has been very hard to read, and very important to me to access were the few images I was able to shoot as my father was dying. It was a very traumatic time for our family, it was the week of my sister's wedding, he tripped on the sidewalk, was discharged from the ER with a fantastic bruise on his face, and 24 hours later he was headed in for emergency surgery for bleeding in his brain. He never woke up.

We had the wedding, my dear friend Charlie Mann came down and shot it for me in the POURING rain, we nearly got arrested (long story), had a second service at my dad's bedside in the ICU, and then had to make the decision to take him off life support. He hadn't attempted to breathe on his own for the week he was in the ICU, so we were prepared for him to go quickly. Alas, as soon as the tubes were pulled, he began breathing and his numbers were all near perfect. There was a little part of me that hoped he would spring up out of the bed, but I had seen the CAT scans and this was not going to happen. Interestingly, as we all held vigil around his bed, the only time his numbers dropped was when we began leaving the room for a meal, phone calls, and bathroom breaks. We all came hurrying back, and up they came again.

He lived four days on his own. He passed away in the middle of the night when we had all fallen asleep. These are some images of those last days; my mom and sister holding his hand, my mom and him alone, my sister through his ICU room doors me shaving his beard, his distinctive ridged thumbnail in my hand, my sister letting him sniff the cork of the wine we smuggled into his room and the last photo I have as I left the room after he was gone.

While it still brings tears to my eyes to look at these images, I am so grateful that my drive was in a good mood and copied every single one with no problems yesterday. There are now redundantly backed up and as safe as I can make them with current technology. That being said, I have kept the disk just in case. You can never be too careful.

02.07.11Dad

01.30.11 - WINTER PROJECTS

Over the years my archiving system has taken a number of forms. It began with burning two copies of each DVD, which was terribly time consuming. Then, as the prices of external hard drives came down (and I was shooting more and more larger files) I began a rats nest of cables and daisy chained drives. At this point in time I got very bad about making a backup of my files (yes I know, but it was always on the "to-do list).

This past fall I couldn't take it anymore, especially after inadvertently erasing a very important card of images during the World Equestrian Games before downloading it. I couldn't keep pushing my luck. After doing my research, a fortuitous meeting with Jesse at Springboard Media, I settled on a Drobo. 16TB of dual redundant storage! And a subscription with Backblaze which is constantly backing up my information.

So my winter project has been to reclaim all my images from the disks from over the years. The scary part of this is that many of them have file errors! (I miss film, you can always get an image out of a scratched negative.) Disk scratches, sun exposure, bad burner, it doesn't matter, losing files is a very scary thing. So far there are only a few disks in my "need to fight with" pile. And you can see how many I have gotten through (I will never need to buy a jewel case ever again), and I think these are the last of them sitting next to me. Fingers crossed that I haven't waited too long!

01.30.11

01.29.11 - SURPRISE PARTY!!!

My absolutely wonderful friends pulled off a surprise birthday dinner for me the night after my 40th birthday. And they got me, though there was one little hint walking into the restaurant, my boss got a perfect parking space right in front of the door. He has press photographer plates, so his Jeep is easily recognizable. As I walked up the stairs to the table I figured it could go one of two ways as I came through the door, it was total coincidence or there was something brewing.

It was the later, and an amazing representation of my adult life, that being the years from college on! The two people from college that I have kept in my life, my boss and his wife, a co-worker, my Thursday night Quizzo group, my holiday family, my match makers (long story), the matriarch of Brody's home away from home, and friends of friends who have become friends, friends all!

So here's a little visual trip through the evening. It started at Angela and Matt's house with a chocolate martini and some Wii. The story was that they and Julia wanted to take me out for my birthday. At this point I am totally clueless, as you can tell because I am wearing a dress and trying to throw a cow. SUPPOSEDLY, a friend of Matt's band was playing (BIG LIE). So here the three of them plied me with alcohol, silly games (they are the only people I have ever met who have the same strange taste in Wii games as me, you can see how seriously they take the shooting plungers at rabbits) and time with Lola the crazy funny French bulldog.

01.29.11a

Then we headed off to The Half Moon, not wanting to go so late as to not get a good table for the band. (BIG LIE, and still I have no clue.) Angela (doesn't she look devious) may or may not have trash picked this scarf on our way in. You already know what happened between here and the top of the stairs, and sadly the room was too dark for my D3 and 1.4 lens, so the photos if you care to see them are on my FaceBook page from those with flashes. And Angela made double chocolate stout cupcakes with Bailey's frosting!

01.29.11b

Back at the house the three conspirators were worn out. But Lola and Wookie were happy for laps to sit in.

01.29.11c

It was an overwhelming night. I am so touched by all the lies everyone told to direct my day to this dinner. Those who had to work, those who had plans, those who didn't talk to me in case they gave up the surprise. You all did amazingly well! I have always wanted a surprise party, and you did it. I feel so loved, I am still smiling.

01.29.11d

01.28.11 pt.2 - AMY'S FAVORITE THINGS

AKDFavs1.28.11 One of my friends mentioned recently that they didn't feel like they knew me very well. I was a bit perplexed by that, but it got me thinking, there are those little things about a person that are not specifically conversation topics but make one who they are. So I have decided to help those who care to, in the words of Jon Lovitz, "GET TO KNOW ME." Today's theme, that which you can find in my yard. Which isn't much because of the snow.

1. Brody - my adopted Clumber Spaniel. I have wanted a Clumber since I was a kid. I showed our golden retriever, and since spaniels are part of the Sporting Group, I met my first one. Except that I thought they were called Cucumber Spaniels. I have had Brody since he was 1.5-years-old. He is three now, and the light of my life. I have had a dog in my life since I was 12, loved each of them, but I adore this dog. His personality grows every day, he makes fans everywhere he goes, and he has his own FaceBook page. He is The Booze Hound. This is not something I have trained him to do, but he loves to raid the recycling bin for bottles. He specifically likes beer, but I do have photos of him trying to pick up the jug of cooking sherry.

2. Dubarry Boots - Worth every penny! I got them to wander through the water jumps at Rolex Kentucky to set my remotes and shoot. (Spending the day hiking with wet feet is not on my list of favorite things.) They have become my daily foot wear in the snow. (See #3) Gore-Tex all the way to the top, soft leather, beautiful brown color that, come to think of it, matches Brody.

3. Snow - I love snow. I love driving in it. I love how it makes the landscape look. I love how quiet everything gets when it is snowing. I love how bright it makes the world at night. I don't ski or snowboard or snow shoe. I should get a pair of the later to add to my SUV to go exploring. I hate shoveling though. I do the front and side portions of the steps, and the walk to the street. But I very rarely do the parking area. Besides who needs to shovel when they have four wheel drive? And, I did mention I like driving in the stuff. Which brings us to...

4. FJ Cruiser - The worst thing I can say about my vehicle is that it has taken all the worry about driving out of winter. My biggest concern is other drivers, not if I will get stuck driving documenting the snow. No amount of drive will help you stop, and I have slid on the ice. But I do enjoy the little fish tailing I do pulling into the driveway.

01.28.11 - HAPPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

Forty years ago today my parents brought me into the world, induced two weeks early because of a impending snow storm and my eagerness to go some place new. This year I got the snow storm a day early, and am still eager to see new places. But the only child in my life is my nephew who I am very bad about getting to DC to see. So let's go back and revisit his first few hours on the outside. His first year has flown by, and I bet my mom feels the same about the 40 since she first saw me.

TOB-09-1012-C5C1-154

TOB-09-1012-C5C2-080

TOB-09-1012-C5C1-065

10.12.09Tobya

01.19.11 - MY WHAT A BIG BONE YOU HAVE

I promise this blog is not just going to be a love fest of Brody. That being said, today he got his belated Christmas presents. So as I work on some album design coolness you will have to make due with more uber cute canine! Since he has destuffed all his stuffed toys, and has been shorted plastic bottles since I gave up soda, he has been wanting some things to sink his teeth into. (As made clear by the shredded pile of baby wipes I came home to the other day.) We are lucky to have some really good feed stores in the area, and I was passing Pickering Feed in my travels. I am always careful about buying American rawhide. Some of the imported hides have been treated with chemicals that are not exactly things you want to be ingesting. Did he need the two-foot long bone, no. But it promised funny images. I should have shot video, but the 10 minutes of him wandering around the house just carrying it with him and drooling wouldn't have been as funny as it was in person. 01.19.11

01.17.11 - LADIES THAT BRUNCH

I belong to a group of ladies that at one time all of us worked at the paper together. Some of us have stayed, some have moved on, some have moved on and come back. But we all have enough years together, have seen each other grow from fresh out of college to parents, beat reporters to editors, single to married. (I believe I am the only one who hasn't grown up at all. :} ) It is always a back-and-forth to find a date that works with all out schedules. (What did we do before FaceBook?) And up until now we have always done a night out. Back in the day we would actually go out, dinner and dancing in Philly. But as the years have gone by, and we don't see each daily, it has become a time to catch up around a table with wine and a potluck. This time we scheduled a brunch at Firecreek Resturant in Downingtown, PA. While not the most centralized location for all of us, those of us who had been there before recommended it, and the most savvy of us had a coupon! Sadly we were one short due to a death in the family. But we toasted her, laughed, told stories about crazy family get togethers, and made plans for the next time. Most importantly, by the end of the time together it is like we see each other every day. 01.16.11 Brunch

01.16.11 - CATCHING UP

While the list of things I have accomplished this weekend is not very long in number, a number of them have taken quite a bit of time. I have recently transferred the management of my web domain from a hosting service to my own control, which has meant a crash course in many things techie. It has taken about a week, but I finally have my e-mail set correctly! Now I have to play catch up on returning messages!

As I waited for the changes to propagate across the web, I have played catch up on a number of things. I caught up for brunch with the girls (photos to come), I continued with the process of putting my office back together after building the desk, I made some design changes to my website, and I finally got around to putting together some of the images from my whirlwind visit to Bethesda, MD to see my family.

My nephew is 14-months-old, and I have seen him only a few times. And he is only a couple hours away. Oops, bad Auntie Amy. It was also Toby's first experience with a dog face-to-face, and I will admit I was a bit nervous about Brody. He was a superstar. He left Toby to come to him, he was a little stiff when Toby first reached to pet him, but he relaxed and they accepted each other. Brody was so good, my mom let him on the couch, a big No No for all the past dogs!

01.02.11 - A 01.02.11 - B 01.02.11 - C 01.02.11 - D

Self Evaluation

As I near the end of the website redesign it is the images that are holding me up. You would think I would have a stable of portfolio ready images surging to be released on the public. But sadly, I am fighting myself to choose photos. I am my toughest critic, those that jump out weekly lose their luster as the effort to make the fades.

I used to remember every image, every assingment. Now they blend together. Perhaps it is because I have been in the same location for 14 years. Perhaps it is because I have developed a "style" of shooting, approach, lens selection. I need to break out of this an reinvent my eye. Change, challenge, grow, explore.

I want to have to fight with myself about what I need to remove from my portfolio.

Judging

For the past few years I have helped judge the adult photo contest at the Goshen Fair. Every year there are a few really stand out images. Composition, exposure, subject, tonal range. Some stand out for the lack of these elements. The ones that have it really jump out.

There are always some surprises. The winner of the "My Friends & Family" was a silhouette of four people sitting on a rock ledge in the woods. Overall it was a bit dark. But dark in a good way. It was exposed well. There was tonal range. There was a shaft of sunlight on one of the people. And there was a little rippled pool of water behind them reflecting them. Not the traditional idea for the category. But it was the best image.

What I come away with is a reminder that what I do does not come easily to everyone. And even though photography is so much more accessible with the advent of digital an a camera in nearly every phone, it has not made everyone a photographer. (Yeah, job security?...)

It also makes me how aware subjective photography is. I am very picky about entering any photo contest. In fact I haven't entered one in years. I have come to realize how much of a disservice I have been doing to myself. If I don't put my name out there I have less of a chance of being noticed.

Perhaps this is the problem, I don't enjoy tooting my own horn. I have known many people who will tell you they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. And the majority have the attitude to go with that. I am so tired of bad behavior being rewarded. (This being said in the interest of full disclosure, my guilty pleasure is The Real Housewives of...)

So my resolution from now on is to make my work available for more eyes to see. Those from outside my regular circle. Rejection be damned!