Lens Flares and Faerie Wings

Each time Sara talked about the shoot she wanted to do, it got more elaborate, eventually including makeup and costumes somewhere in the woods. Then one Saturday afternoon in November, when we were both stressed out about other things and in need of a break, we decided to scrap the plans and just go shoot. We didn’t even know where we were going when we started driving.

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Recent Faces

I’ve taken a ton of portraits this last year and I try to keep experimenting with different styles. Sometimes the location inspires the feel of the shot, other times I use my own light and try to create a mood. I enjoy the challenges with each shoot and I am always left wishing I had more time or equipment at my disposal. This is a very broad set and there might be a re-post or two here.

 

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International student move in day 2014

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Vita Abundantior

I recently realized that I haven’t yet posted any photos from my new job at Randolph College. Like the students I photograph every day, I have learned a lot in this semester back at school. I’ve felt drawn to this school since I moved here in 2010. The spired, stately, brick buildings overlook one of the main roads through Lynchburg and they always seem to glow in the sunlight; out the back there are incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Many of my first friends in Lynchburg were students or alums of Randolph. Which may not sound surprising until you consider that the school’s entire enrollment is under 700. Although I miss many things about the college life I see around me, I am very happy to be climbing my way out of the student debt hole rather than digging further in. I’ve kept busy on this 100-acre campus and enjoyed some different kinds of assignments for the school’s magazines and web sites. The title of this post is the school’s motto, which translates to “A Life More Abundant.” It is simple but really speaks to the heart of what, I think, secondary education can provide at its best (plus it makes you sound smart to use Latin words). This is a very random sample of photos from Randolph from the last year.

 

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Psychology Professor Rick Barnes for the Honor Roll 2014

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Fall convocation September 2, 2014

National Championship rings for Reynolds Martin and CHris Mitchess

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Megan Hines and Reynolds Martin for cover

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Dress rehearsal for Greek Play Oedipus October 2014

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2013 Honor Roll Calendar

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Pumpkin Parade September 27 2014

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Fire Truck Parade

Normally, a fleet of 30 fire trucks cruising down Main Street would be cause for alarm. This day, however, the trucks were met with smiles and waves. The annual Antique Fire Truck Parade in Bedford featured historical fire fighting equipment reaching as far back as a hose cart from 1888. Current and retired motorized vehicles came from neighboring counties as well.

Fields of Tie-dye

I spent two days and two nights at the inaugural Lockn’ Music Festival. There was no shortage of interesting things to photograph with 25,000 people camping, listening to music and opening their minds in the rolling hills of Central Virginia. Artists included Further, Black Crowes, Punch Brothers, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Zac Brown Band, Trey Anastasio Band and others. And all was groovy.

Angel Heart

On the afternoon of Halloween I was handed an assignment that at first I didn’t believe. And the more I learned about it, the more I realized how unbelievable it really was.

After photographing trick-or-treaters, I drove over to a hotel in Lynchburg and waited in the lobby with reporter Casey Gillis, her friend Jennifer and Jennifer’s friend Lindsay. Within a few minutes we would be meeting Derri Engstrom and her family, who had arrived from Minnesota that afternoon to complete an amazing journey that led to Lindsay.

Two years earlier, Lindsay gave birth to a little girl, Lillian, who seemed as healthy as any mother could hope. Not long after, however, Lil was diagnosed with a condition that required multiple surgeries on her lower intestine. At seven months old and on life support, doctors told Lindsay that there was nothing else they could do. There was, however, something else Lindsay could do: agree to donate the girl’s heart to another child in need. Lindsay and her boyfriend, Johnny, agreed to do it and had no idea where the heart went for over a year.

Five months earlier, in Minnesota, Derri Engstrom’s son Easten was born with a heart defect that left half of his heart almost useless. Enduring multiple surgeries as well, he was hospitalized and the Engstroms prepared for the worst. Then they got word that a heart was on its way and they prepped little Easten for his biggest surgery yet. The surgeon said it was the best fit he had ever seen. The Engstroms called it his “angel heart.” Derri said she always wondered where the heart had come from.

On the anniversary of the surgery, Derri sent a letter through the donor organization that eventually reached Lindsay, and they decided to talk on the phone. That led to emails and an eventual plan to meet in person. I didn’t learn of any of this until the Engstroms were already in Lynchburg, in their hotel room, getting ready to meet Lindsay in the lobby. I felt like I skipped right to the end of the story, reading the last page without knowing how it all came to be. Luckily, I got to spend a couple more days with them and discovered the depth of their connection and the improbability of the whole situation. They repeatedly described each other as “family” and the two moms treated each other like sisters. I couldn’t distinguish the tears of joy from the tears of grief that both mothers shed.

Here are the photos we published from that weekend, of brand new friends who had already been through more together than many people do in a lifetime. The News & Advance published Casey’s article on Thanksgiving, as Lindsay joined the Engstroms at their home in Minnesota so they could spend another holiday together.

Old Time Railroad

The Appomattox train station hadn’t seen a passenger arrive in over 20 years until earlier this month when nearly 1,000 visitors rode the railroad into town and spent the afternoon soaking up some history. I was let on the train while they were out and about. I walked through the train of extravagant old cars, a hodgepodge of carriages from rail systems across the country.