Tacoma Wedding

Last fall, I had the privilege of traveling to Washington to photograph my second cousin’s wedding in Tacoma. For me, shooting weddings is an intense but rewarding challenge. It is a full day (or two) of staying creative and energetic while adapting to constantly changing situations and sticking to a tight schedule. I don’t usually work with a second shooter so my attention is split between watching for fun moments and documenting details in the decor. I put pressure on myself to capture things during the day that the couple couldn’t experience, so they can find some surprises in the pictures later. In Tacoma, we were blessed with great weather and the venue was very fun to work in. I also got to re-introduce myself to some relatives from Minnesota and North Dakota who hadn’t seen me since I was about three feet tall.

Belated congratulations to Justine and Warren! I hope to see you both again soon.

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Abandoned

This past year I’ve found myself taking more photos just for fun. Although I loved working in the high-stress, fast-paced newsroom environment, I felt like I lost some of my style after a few years at the paper. I was too tired at the end of the day to go out and play around with photography like I used to. I never stopped enjoying shooting and I am proud of the work I did but it was definitely work. And I feel like there is some part of the art of the medium that I had lost touch with.

To stimulate new creativity, I’ve ended up in new places and tried out new styles. Lynchburg photographer @jeremykeesee and I have gone out a few times to explore and photograph abandoned structures around Central Virginia. I never know what we are going to find and each location has a completely different vibe. After just a few steps down an empty hallway, paint chips crunching underfoot and beautiful light pouring in from broken windows, it is hard to resist the urge to start shooting. Every room tells a new story and every tiny detail holds some clue about the space’s past. In an abandoned house, there is always the question of “what happened?” And the sense that we may be the first (and possibly the last) people to visit these places since they were left to fall apart.

With no real “moments” to look for, shooting in these spaces, for me, becomes all about light, composition, and color–the fundamental components of photography. Moving through an empty building and using these elements to convey a mood is a meditative exercise. Shooting with another photographer can feel competitive but I have grown to really appreciate collaborative photographic efforts. I like comparing my take with another to see what we were both drawn to and how we saw the same scene differently.

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There are some great shots on Instagram from @alexpenfornis and @trashhand, and thousands of photos tagged with #abandonedplaces#dilapidatedvisuals, and #discarded_butnot_forgotten if you want to see more.

 

Catch ‘Em All

Pokémon Go trainers have taken to the streets worldwide hunting down virtual monsters. I downloaded the game on the day it came out to see if it was worth all the pre-release buzz. And as soon as a cute little Pidgey hopped onto my desk a few minutes later, I was hooked. Mind you, I am not a gamer. I cannot tell you the current console versions or the last game I played with a controller. The only system I ever owned was a Sega Game Gear. I did play the original Pokémon (red?) but it was on a computer emulator years later. That said, this game is pretty special. Technology is actually forcing people to meet and interact with one another, and, in the wake of so many awful shootings and disturbing protests, players seem keen to keep in-game rivalries friendly; I’ve seen opponents share playing tips and noticed numerous “…but it’s just a game” remarks on Pokemon Go forums. It seems to be one of the few things in the news lately where people have found common ground.

Fad or not, Pokémon Go is a milestone for AR-style (augmented reality) games and the interactive app industry that will be talked about for decades. The unprecedented number of users (estimated at 20 million in the US) has developers scrambling to beef up servers to keep the game functioning. Yet even with the occasionally frustrating glitches and lags, the excitement of catching a not-yet-seen Pokémon keeps people out for hours, glued to their phones, telling themselves “just one more…”

While out filling my own Pokedex, I’ve been collecting photos of players in action. Already ridiculous, I can only imagine how these photos will look in 10, 20, 50 years.

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Rendezvous in the Woods

Over the weekend I attended my first Rivercane Rendezvous in Georgia. My friend David, whom I met while he was living in a wigwam in Virginia, told me about the week-long event several years ago but other obligations had always prevented me from going. He is a regular at several similar gatherings in the region and I was eager to not only see him again but also to get my hands dirty practicing some of the ancient skills that are central to these groups. Classes, taught by unlikely experts of all ages, range from bow and arrow-making to fire-starting and birdwatching

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As I do, I had my camera over my shoulder but I was intentionally not treating this as an assignment. I wanted to be an active, engaged member of the group to experience the things that brought this community together. They call themselves a family, and, as this was the 30th annual rendezvous, many of these people have literally known each other their entire lives. Although I only spent one full day in the camp, I felt immediately embraced by the community of conscientious, positive, free-spirited people from around the country. As I stopped by various lessons in progress, I inevitably I found myself in some special situations where I was able to make some photos; many, many more scenes ended up as mental snapshots. I thought, if only my school days had been more like this, where every class has a clear purpose, a tangible outcome, a passionate teacher and a warm breeze. (Class sizes were generally limited to 10, as well.)

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It’s always inspiring and humbling to learn about something you never knew existed, which happened frequently throughout my short stay. To me, any experience that offers a new perspective has value, especially one that does so in such a constructive and respectful way. If you are curious to learn more, there are earthskills gatherings around the country and they are always looking for new participants.
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True/False 2011

The sum of any collection of parts from this past weekend do not come close to adding up to the experience of True/False. I don’t want to sound pretentious or braggy but, like several of my friends, traveling to Columbia, Mo., for the True/False film festival has become a not-to-be-missed annual tradition. We had rain the first day, but despite colder than normal temps and overcast skies the thousands of pedestrians enjoyed walking downtown from theater to theater all weekend. This, I feel, plays a big part in my enjoyment of the event; I ran into several people I didn’t expect to see, and the friends I hoped to see and I crossed paths many times. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of the festival’s photo team for the last two years, allowing me access to all the events and workshops, plus a pass to see some docs (space permitting). Here a few of the shots that I hope capture some of the joy and excitement I witnessed and experienced. And if you have the means and interest, seriously consider attending or volunteering for T/F 2012. And say “Hi” to me when you’re there.

Serving Life

I covered a two-day capital murder trial at the Appomattox Circuit Court last week. Probably the closest I had ever been to a real courtroom was when I was called for jury duty a few years ago, during which I was never assigned to a case. I covered the trial with reporter Chris Dumond and we had reason to believe that the judge would allow cameras in for the trial. At the last minute, the defense attorney objected, leaving myself and a TV cameraman with only a couple minutes to shoot. I got about 20 photos, including this one of the defendant, Alphonso Destin. Ultimately convicted of first degree murder, Destin and a buddy killed an elderly man in his home in 2008 and stole about $30 to buy gas and beer.

Having seen so many trials on TV shows and in movies, I couldn’t help but imagine the whole event was scripted – lawyers yelling “objection!” and witnesses crying. However, one look at the defendant smashed that illusion, and the seriousness and finality of the proceedings hit me. I was also allowed to shoot for several minutes the next day when the jury returned with their sentence recommendation. I watched Destin’s face through a telephoto lens as he heard the jury recommend a sentence of three life terms, with no possibility of parole. After he was led away in shackles and an orange jumpsuit, I walked out of the courthouse and headed back to the newsroom, thankful for my countless liberties.