Friday, August 31, 2012

If You Say "Misquamicut" Three Times Fast, You Win a Pony Ride

Okay, maybe not a pony ride, but you might just get to go sailing!

Or you might find yourself on the beach ...

Or smelling the beach roses...

Or staring into the knowing eyes of a beluga whale.
You just never know.

For the record, these images were taken by Aurora and Sandy during their vacation. Nancy and I were home for a staycation (someone's gotta watch the pup!). 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What's Another Word for "Precious"?

These photos were taken during the first couple of years after meeting Nancy, while visiting her folks in Corning. For the past week I have been trying to find a way to write about the influence this time with them had on Aurora... and each time I go to write, I fail to find my words. Aurora started with two sets of grandparents, but before she turned four, she had four sets of grandparents. Time with each family was so incredibly different. The thing I find most remarkable is how these photos capture a very intimate time in Aurora's life. A time when she was so vulnerable, and yet very much a kid. Open eyed and ready to explore!

 Granny, Gramps and Aurora, getting ready for their parade. Wish I could have heard this conversation!

Gramps and Aurora, sharing the sunshine in the living room. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shining a Little Light

1/200 at f/10, ISO 200, with tungsten gel on sb700, off-camera, custom white balance.

Nancy and I have very few pictures of the two of us together. A handful. It is getting to be the season where I start thinking about family portraits for holiday cards. I know, it isn't even really fall yet, but the light is changing and the days are shortening. Today I wanted to play with an idea that I saw on the Strobist blog: overpowering the sun. I wanted to see just how much oomph I could get out of one of my little speedlights... so I gelled it with the kit tungsten filter, and dropped the ambient to near darkness. I love how that created such rich saturated colors. Then in Lightroom, I adjusted the white balance so that the tungsten filter was made neutral and that gave my image a very warm rich tone.

My plan is to do more family portraits this fall. I am sure that there will be some last minute senior portraits as soon as school gets into full swing next month. I am excited about the prospect of more portrait shooting as the weather cools off and as my health continues to improve. Very exciting time for me!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Woodfired Pots from Sarah Veak

Sarah Veak has been working and firing with our friend Renata Wadsworth for over a year now. In that time, they have fired Renata's big wood kiln a few times, and built a smaller fast-fire woodkiln. The newer smaller kiln has allowed for faster firings, faster turnaround, more glaze development and more FUN.

I have watched Sarah's work grow by leaps and bounds over the past few months. It was my pleasure to be asked to photograph her latest work. It is always so exciting to see what comes from a great woodfiring.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Over the Woods to the Grandparent's House

These shots were taken during the time Aurora spent with Nancy's parents in Corning, back when Aurora was just a wee thing. Certainly less than 5 yrs old. There is something so magical about this time. There was so much awakening happening. Blossoming. Real intense play. And having a crown on during dinner never hurt things either.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Her True Colors

Not much more than a toddler and already giving her dad the finger.... sheesh! Kidding. She didn't learn that hand gesture for at least another month or two.

This costume came from Nancy Burdick... and from the time she first put it on, until the day it no longer fit, it was her FAVORITE costume in the world!!

This is what Aurora looked like before we met Nancy. Her hair was always bedraggled and she was in chronic pain from near-constant ear infections. It didn't take long for the affection from Nancy and her folks to sink in to our life. To say that everything changed the minute I met Nancy would be a huge understatement.

The fun thing for me, is to be able to go back through these old images, as I am scanning them, and reflecting on what was happening in our life at the time. Gives me hope for things to come!

Friday, August 24, 2012


There is something unnerving about seeing images of Aurora doing things where she looks just like me. Watching her intense focus as she is out photographing things, or while she's working at the computer... very spooky.

and for the record... that dark wood table behind Aurora, has never been clean ever again, in all the years after this image was taken... it was my own personal federal disaster zone.

I never thought I would get caught along the roadside photographing cows. I mean, c'mon... cows are everywhere! But there we were. All three of us. Taking pictures of cows. And having fun too.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Unexpected Gift of Time

How much time do you have? In a rush to answer, most of us immediately think of what we have to do next. What is our itinerary? Who put that meeting on our schedule? That's not what I mean.

How much time do you have?

What I mean is: if I give you an hour, what will you do with it? If I give you a day, will you share it? What is a week worth if it is the last week you'll ever have?

This post was edited a day after my original post at the recommendation that the things I had written could come back to bite me in the ass. So, consider it deleted.

Seeing as a way of Feeling

February 2009, coming back from celebrating her birthday at the movies.

I don't know what most kids want for their birthdays. Whenever asked what she wanted for her birthday, Aurora most often replied : time with you and Nancy. My question was always: doing what?  Anything. At the time, I didn't fully understand what she meant. Or why.

I always thought kids wanted stuff. Things they could play with, enjoy, break, fix and play with some more. I know that much of my childhood revolved around the birthday and christmas gift extravaganza. I remember being scolded once for asking my aunt: What did you bring me? Hmmm. Wonder where I learned that?

Aurora has always had a different take on gifts. She has always appreciated the handmade gifts we've made for each other. She never voiced any deep "need" for some random object the way I would expect most kids to. It has taken a while, but I think I am beginning to understand why.

September, 2008, out photographing cows on our photo-safari

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Few Months Apart, A Few Months Before

These shots were taken back in 2009. Just a few months before I would head into the hospital for my first surgery. Looking at Aurora's eyes in these shots, I see a different kid than the one I woke up to later that Fall. There is intensity, curiosity... but none of the fear, depression, shock and heartbreak that was so apparent only a few months after these images were made. (We'll come to those images later, maybe.)

At this point, she was still trying on teenager-hood, seeing how this new life fit her... wondering if her sarcasm and skepticism would carry her weight. I love seeing how her eyes tell the whole story. Skips right to the heart of the matter.

Collecting Images for my Pop

A few months ago, my dad commented that there are never enough pictures of Aurora to satisfy his grand-parental needs. So, to soothe the dadster, here are a few pictures I have dredged up from Aurora's vault o'images from the past four years or so. More to come. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Space In Between

Me at my high school graduation in Miami, FL. Such a kid!

Not all that long ago, I graduated from high school. Seems like a blink of an eye. Everything lay spread out in front of me.... college on the horizon, family at my back... by and large, not a care in the world. Hard to imagine knowing that level of certainty and peace given what I have been through in the intervening years.

On the night this was taken, my girlfriend Kharmen made sure that I wore my hair down. Usually I could be counted on having my hair pulled back tight into a ponytail, as it had been for two years at that point. A few months later, as my first winter at college in Massachusetts began, that hair got snipped very short. 

Aurora at about 9 months, in Logan, UT
Fast forward seven and a half years and half a continent of travel. Aurora was born out in UT at a time in my life when turmoil was my what I ate for breakfast. Even now, I struggle to really comprehend how much damage was done to me during that time. Suffice to say, my divorce was one of the best things that could have come from that time in my life. Aurora, however, was the best thing of all to emerge from that time in UT. I think she and Nancy and I need to take a trip out there, just to roam around, see places, do stuff that will provide new memories... in part so Aurora understands why I made the move out there (and why we moved back)... but also so that she can feel the things that still make me feel so fondly about the West.

In between the first image of me at graduation, and the second image of me with Aurora in my arms, entire worlds came together, shifted, stretched, broke, were remade again... over and over. I drove from FL to Maine, back to FL again (four times in 3 years), out to Washington State by bus and back (3 days, each way!)... finally pulling a car carrier with an ugly Ryder rental truck into Utah in 1995. Less than two years after our arrival in UT, Aurora entered the world.

In that space between leaving my family in FL and starting my family out West, so much changed. I went from being a gregarious, nurturing, extrovert, with charisma and intelligence to becoming someone not quite the opposite. Certainly broken... in hindsight that much is obvious.. but more to the point, I became more timid, less adventurous, more introverted, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I found it hard to be engaged with my peers in grad school. I was unable to find work in Logan UT due to my not being part of the LDS church. Not long after Aurora was born, I approached my professor and let him know I was considering dropping out of the program. He and I had not seen eye to eye for quite a while at that point. I felt like I was wasting my time in the program. Instead, he encouraged me to teach. Quite possibly one of his more insightful moments. Teaching helped bring me back to who I am. It gave me a stage from which to share. I had no idea how bad things would get not long after that.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Portrait of the Biologist as a Wet Dog

This has been an awesome summer for this kid. A year ago, she entered the summer with enough tumult and strife for a dozen kids. She started karate last fall... and every week since she has pushed herself harder and harder. She has poured all of herself into her love for Seido Karate. During the lake training, I expected to see her struggling with her gi in the waist deep water. Nope. Instead, there was this ear-to-ear, shit-eating grin. Non-stop. Even her kyoshis commented on it. She was totally in her element. 

This week we stumbled onto an article discussing the speech behavior issues surrounding dolphin research. Could it be possible to have two way communication? A shared language? Aurora ate it up like it was Nutella. The next step is so close and it will carry her so far from here. Seeing these changes lift her up out of where she was a year ago gladdens my heart. I have spent so many years worried sick for her. In her most vulnerable moment, she lamented the loss of her childhood. I see her grabbing her teen years by the shoulders and giving them a good shaking-down. Sure does make me smile.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It wasn't that long ago

I promised my dad that I would post some of the images of Aurora from years ago. Won't post too many tonight, but expect more in the next couple days. Heck, I might even share some stories.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Photo Safari with Nancy - More Chrome Dreams

A few weeks ago, Nancy and I stopped at our local grocery store's parking lot while a low-key car show was happening. Nancy loves just about anything that predates the 1970's. Cars and trucks, chrome and turquoise, hot rods and low riders... Nancy loves all the storied history behind these gorgeous cars. 

When we go on photo safaris Nancy and I try to pick a theme, a place or subject. Sometimes it just grabs us. Sometimes the light is perfect (regardless of what we're shooting)... and other times, we get skunked. This spring, we didn't find any really amazing, compelling stuff on any of our photo safaris. Nancy, Aurora and I have a very synergistic way of working on our photo shoots. Nancy has an amazing eye for composition and detail. She can capture the essence of her subject in an instant. 

At the same time, she has no desire whatsoever to know any of the technical aspects of her camera. So she'll hand her camera over, I'll set it as I would want it set for me... and then I hand it back and watch. Nancy recently started using my 55-200mm Nikon zoom that came with the Nikon D80. A simple kit lens, but still a very nice lens when stopped down to f/8 or so. The VR function helps with any hand-shake that might otherwise happen when racked out to the max on the zoom. 

Nancy's eye for detail is so graphic in nature. You can see the advertisements and posters in her style. She doesn't see a snap shot. She sees the whole composition. One of the things we've talked about recently is the idea of adding a "pinup" type model to these sorts of antique cars shots. Might be a very fun proposition. Sort of a modern-retro style. Could be fun!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lake Training with Cayuga Lake Seido Karate

Last fall, Aurora joined Cayuga Lake Seido Karate, first through her high school as a phys.ed. credit, and then later as an additional class two nights a week. Her participation has only continued to grow. Back in July, Aurora joined CLSK for their summer camp at Camp Comstock on Cayuga Lake. From the images that came back, everyone had a fantastic time. I wasn't able to swing time to photograph the summer camp experience (but you can be sure I will next year!)... so when I was invited to photograph this summer's "lake training", I knew it would be something unforgettable. 

This past weekend, CLSK held their annual "lake training" event and potluck. The morning started off with an ominous drizzle which we assumed would turn into a torrential downpour. Instead, once everyone was fully immersed in the intense workout in the lake, the rain let up! Everyone stretched, meditated, did punching and kicking drills, self-defense and katas in the water. In some cases, this looked more like drowning than karate, but that was the fun part! After working up a massive appetite,  the sun came out as we chowed our way through the amazing potluck lunch. Games followed afterwards, culminating in a water balloon toss that was a total blast!

When time allows, I love photographing athletes in their element. Back when Aurora played hockey, there was something so exciting about trying to capture the moment of a great play on the ice and translate that into an image. Karate is so much harder than photographing hockey. Granted, you don't have to worry about taking a puck to the head while tottering on the player's bench... but the movement in karate is so insanely fast! Trying to capture the grace and speed is incredibly demanding.

My goal with this event was to try to capture the spirit of "lake training". I was willing to trade some of my usual intimate portrait style for more of a group feeling... something that conveys the excitement, speed and FUN of trying to perform kata and self-defense in the lake, in full gi, in the summertime.

Kyoshi Robin giving a fierce kiai! What I love is that you can almost see the smiles on the kids' faces.

Kyoshi Gail...helping a brown belt cool down in the morning heat. Look at those smiles!