This past week, I have been in Raleigh, NC attending East Coast School. It has been a great opportunity for me to learn from some incredible masters in photography and visit with fellow photogs. After day three’s class taught by Jamie Hayes and Mary Fisk-Taylor (by the way….AWESOME!) my head was swimming from an idea-packed class on marketing and lighting. I was really hoping this photo walk would clear my mind and give me an opportunity to creatively apply some of the techniques discussed.
Sporting my newly purchased backpack (LOVE IT!), I ventured out to whatever the downtown streets of Raleigh would give me. I knew that my speedlight, neatly tucked into the side of my backpack, would be no match for the super charged strobes we had used earlier that day, but is all I had. And truthfully, all that I wanted to carry. So, I decided to turn my little adventure into a personal challenge. What can I do at night with one SB 800? GAME ON!
As I walked, I looked for gripping textures, dramatic light, notable buildings and interesting people. My first shots were of the side of a federal building, lots of lines, tons of tan, not too interesting…time to move on. Then, I saw some dog walkers and joggers. Ehh… I wasn’t feeling it. Then, as I turned the corner, I saw George sitting atop a row of newspaper stands. I don’t know if it was the row of color or his “chillax’in” slouch that caught my attention, but the more I looked at the scene, the more I wanted to photograph it. I walked around a bit contemplating the safety of approaching a stranger, sitting atop a row of newspaper stands, on a corner of a street in downtown Raleigh. I quickly went through the scenarios in my mind and decided to go for it. I met George. Fortunately, George seemed content to sit and watch the cars go by as I ran back and forth across the street to adjust the flash. Luckily, there was a street sign post on his side of the street. I used this post to rig my speedlight and pocket wizard. Here are some images from that meeting.
I bit tired from running back and forth with George, I thought I would slow it down a bit with some more controlled portrait lighting techniques taught by Jamie. By this time it was completely dark, so this was going to take some thinking to accomplish with only a speedlight. I needed to find another existing light source. I found an overhead sconce projecting light down the side of a cream colored wall. Perfect! That reminded me of Jamie’s set up on the backdrop. Now, all I needed was someone to photograph. That’s when I met Ben and Eric. They had just finished skateboarding and were so nice to pose for me. Here are some images of these summer skaters.
I ended the night on a good note when I ran into Austin playing his saxophone. Unfortunately, for this shot, I had to secure my flash to the nearby trash can. I wasn’t too thrilled about that, but it worked. As I write this, I realize I could have used my pop up flash for some extra fill. I think that may have helped, considering how dark it was. Austin mentioned he likes playing to his shadow, so I tried to get that perspective too as he played some sweet melodies!
Everything is BIGGER in TEXAS!!! I just LOVED this early morning in Seguin, TX.So glad I got my sleepy head out of bed!!!!
Inspiration is a GOOD THING! This is a painting done from an image taken at one of my engagement sessions. It was created by the bride’s sister as a wedding gift! HOW SWEET IS THAT?!!? Even though I am not the painter or the recipient, I can appreciate each stroke of love that went into this canvas – each decision of color, brush and technique.
It got me thinking… What inspires me to grab my camera and go? What makes me switch lenses, angles, lighting, composition, etc?Many things come to mind, I love color and I love perspective. However, the strongest influence on how I choose to photograph comes down to A RELATIONSHIP! I know that may sound weird, but that is what I think about.
Ultimately, I am not the creator of the image before me. I did not create the beautiful little baby being cradled in her mother’s arms, I didn’t perform the fantastic slam dunk at the game and I certainly didn’t paint the marvelous sunset at the beach! Quickly, I am reminded about where I stand in RELATIONSHIP to my lens. Between me and the image is something greater…the LORD! Understanding this relationship, here is what goes through my head when photographing, “How do I capture this GOD made moment? What would honor Him?” “God is soooo COOL!” Only by His Grace! All for His Glory!
What’s your Inspiration?
It was the iridescent tassels that first caught my attention …. shimmering pink and blue against the breeze of Ann’s cadence. Shortly, I would realize that the bike tassels were just the beginning of a much-needed distraction from my morning run on the Muddy Creek Greenway. Anything to keep my mind off of running another mile!
The tassels took me back to my childhood, with thoughts of my first bicycle. In first grade, I received a yellow one with a banana seat and it’s very own yellow and white tassels. I liked how they would whip back and forth with every up and down pedal of my little feet. However, this morning, the tasseled handlebars were not that of a child’s bike, but rather they belonged to Ann, my soon-to-be first bird watcher friend.
Ann, an extremely youthful 58, frequently visits the greenway with her husband, Chester, an even younger 73, and their friend Bert, the youngest of all at 79! My momentary flashback had now grown into an unrelenting curiosity of this senior group of greenway bikers. Who were these three amigos, complete with binoculars, backpacks, cameras, water bottles, bike helmets, legwarmers, a cane, AND fancy bike tassels? What was their story?
As it turns out, Ann, Chester and Bert love birding. Members of the local Audubon and Blue Ridge Birders group, Ann and Chester became hooked on bird watching after attending the 2nd Saturday Birdwalk in Historic Bethabara with Audubon Society of Forsyth County (ASFC) members, Marilyn and Mike. Bert, another ASFC friend, meets up with Chester every Thursday for their weekly outing at Muddy Creek.
If I had to pick a true ambassador of the group it would be Chester. His birding hobby began immediately upon retiring from the Forsyth County Emergency Medical Service in 1997. Notably, he was one of the first EMT Paramedics in North Carolina. He also had a part-time job driving one of the vans at Baptist Hospital. Ann tells me, “he was a much beloved van driver, since he is good with people and was always willing to listen to their stories.” I couldn’t agree more! There is much to “belove” about Chester, not the least of which is his witty personality and adventurous smile!
The amazing thing about Chester is that he is able to ride a bike at all! He currently needs a cane to steady his walking, but has no problems with keeping his balance on a bicycle. In May of 2009, he had a “total medical meltdown”. What began as a bad cold, progressed into both bladder and kidney failure was topped off with a heart attack and a surgery to implant a cardiac stent. Chester now has permanent atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. The good news for Chester is that he avoided open-heart surgery and he is able to do what he has always loved to do, be outdoors.
Following Chester’s heart attack, he and Ann decided to find some flatter bike paths. They used to ride the full loop (and plus some) around Salem Lake. One loop is 8 miles of unpaved, hilly terrain. It is not a smooth ride. In fact, one of Ann’s chipped tassels is a reminder of a big crash at Salem Lake. That is why they find the Muddy Creek trail to be near perfect. It is a place where Chester and Bert can “experience relative freedom of movement, ride more than 10 miles and have fun doing it.”
FUN is definitely what I see when Chester and Bert hop off their bikes to get a closer look at a bird, butterfly or even an unusual plane that might fly over. If Chester is the outgoing bird ambassador of the group, then Bert (a quite soul) is secretly the most expert birder of the three. Ann confesses that Bert is willing listen to them blather on about birds and still kind enough not to correct them when they are wrong. Additionally, Bert is a retired high school biology and anatomy teacher who also flies RC planes at Hobby Park. His years of teaching at Reynolds High School certainly did keep him young. I was stunned to learn that he is 79 years old. I’m so glad he didn’t challenge me to a race!
Bluebird, is Ann’s nickname. I love that! She is a clinic coordinator at Wake Forest University School of Law. Her dragonfly earrings, Blue Ridge Parkway backpack, handy camera and thermos give her away as a real nature lover! Although her job limits her to fewer rides than the men, when she is able, she also provides the ears for Chester and Bert. There are quite a few varieties of birds that can’t readily be seen, but can be heard along the greenway. Thanks to Ann’s keen ears on this morning, we were repeatedly aware of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. By the way, did you know that from spring to mid-summer a more uncommon bird that can occasionally be spotted (or heard) along the Muddy Creek Greenway is the Yellow-breasted Chat?Check out this link for more info on these birds:Info on Yellow-billed CuckcooInfo on Yellow-breasted Chat
In closing, I think that my encounters with Ann, Chester and Bert left me reminded that none of us know exactly what tomorrow will bring. Will I even be able to ride at bike at 79? Will I pick up a hobby, a passion of which today I have not even considered? Will I ever hear another Yellow-billed Cuckoo? Will I enjoy just sitting on a bench with good friends as much as these three? I sure hope so!Upon completing my story on this wonderful group, I have found several greenway regulars who know exactly who I am describing! No doubt the tassels, legwarmers, and binoculars are hard to miss, but neither is their enthusiasm for life! Chester, Bert and sometimes Ann can be found on the Muddy Creek Greenway most Thursday mornings. If you see them, be sure to say hello!
NOTES / COMMENTS: Ann and Chester ride mountain crossover comfort bikes that have a soft cushioned seat with wider tires for stability.I found it so encouraging following them on the trail. The picture of the three of them riding along with ground behind them and ground ahead of them was a sentimental moment for me.
This photo was taken last summer at the beach. My daughter loves to dance! This particular morning she and was creating a dance through the water. I love how the sun “peeks” through her “pique” (yes, this was meant to be a pun)!