Glamor Cat

I know it’s a bit frivolous but I’ve had fun with our Pet of the Month portraits. For one, it’s liberating to say “Hey, stupid, stop walking away from me!” to a subject without any repercussions. For another, they never complain later that they weren’t accurately portrayed. Lastly, the animals are all from local Humane Society shelters and we have been told that the adoption rate for featured animals is almost 100%. Making a difference, saving lives. That’s what I do.

And thank you, Sarah, for the infinite inspiration in this vein.

  • Shane the cat shows off his blue eyes, hoping to woo a prospective adoptive family.

Silent Calling

Lorena Palma was born completely deaf. Growing up with her deaf brother in Mexico, her parents, also deaf, realized their children would fare better at schools in the United States so they relocated to Texas. As she finished high school, Lorena’s pastor recommended that she consider attending Liberty University in Lynchburg. After a brief visit, Lorena decided to apply. It was the only application she sent out. Lorena explained, “My friends said, ‘Why did you not apply to other colleges? What happened if Liberty turned you down? I just ignored them and just followed God’s leading and I got in.” Since overcoming a very difficult and lonely first year at Liberty, Lorena has hit her stride and is set to graduate in the spring of 2011 with a degree in graphic design. “There’s anxiety knowing that I’m about to go out into the real world. I can’t just go there and expect everything to happen…” Lorena said. “I know I have to be aggressive at finding work. That’s something I’m going to have to do.”

Working with a deaf subject was an interesting change, not necessarily more difficult, just different. We exchanged countless pages of notes when we were together, the only way we could communicate without an interpreter, clarifying some detail or just explaining what we were doing to each other. I asked her once if she tell when my shutter clicked and she said no, not at all. It was nice to finally take photos of someone without worrying about distracting them from their work. Our publication deadline was pushed back at least three times so I had over two months to follow Lorena through her semester. The accompanying article by Liz Barry turned out very well and the Richmond Times-Dispatch picked it up, running it on Christmas Day along with the fifth photo below.

Annie’s Restaurant

Something about mom and pop restaurants draws me in. I still don’t think I’m destined to own or manage one myself, but I appreciate the humanity and humility evident at places like Annie’s Restaurant. I think eating brings people together in a way that cannot be overstated. And Annie genuinely wants people to come in, relax and enjoy her food. She recently moved to Lynchburg and opened her doors after many years cooking for various venues in Atlanta.

  • Annie Burris, owner of Annie’s Restaurant in Lynchburg, still wears a smile while serving the dinner shift at the end of a long day.

Elf-Horse

I know it might seem a bit late for this one but I wanted to post anyway. Kim, Jill and I have kept an eye out for “Christmas-y” things to shoot and this was, I think, the most unusual holiday-related event we found. It was described to me as a horse-Christmas-costume contest and it turned out to be exactly what I expected (which was awesome).

  • Randolph College junior Tori Rooney admires Quimby the horse’s elf hat at the Randolph College riding facility.

Southern Snow

Yesterday they predicted we would get 3-8 inches of snow and the town went a bit crazy. I kind of smiled. This morning, my coworker Kim called me to give me tips for what roads to take and to stay off the hills and to “watch out because I just went sideways on Boonsboro.” I appreciate the concern but I think I’m over-qualified to work in these conditions.

In most cities, the first snowfall means a day of feature hunting for the local photojournalists. Between the three of us I’d say we covered all our bases. I liked this one, because it reminded me of how I’ve felt on countless afternoons (and mornings and evenings) back in Minnesota.

Ryland Gray Tuck pauses while shoveling the sidewalk outside his home on Fort Avenue where he has lived for 63 years.

Eyes Full of Flurries

When I’m shooting outside and it is overcast, people sometimes say “too bad there’s no sun today, bad day for pictures.” I usually just agree and go on my way. But the truth is I couldn’t be happier. A cloudy sky acts like a giant softbox and illuminates the world in perfect, smooth, shadowless light.

I was already excited to shoot the state semifinal football game on Saturday because it was scheduled for the afternoon, which meant I’d be able to bring the 500mm and shoot with a faster shutter speed. When I woke up that morning and saw total cloud coverage I got a little more excited. There was a good chance I’d get some eyes. Normally, under stadium lights, chunky football helmets and facemasks (and baseball hats, etc.) cast nasty shadows on the players’ faces and seeing their eyes is a rarity. Without those shadows I had a better chance of capturing some emotion.

And the snow that started falling in the second quarter made it feel like home.