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.