a (moderately failed) attempt to make up for all of those terrible instagrams in the last post
July 5, 2012

Dave and I went to Smorgasburg, the all-food outpost of the Brooklyn Flea market, last weekend.

It was a bit of a spontaneous Saturday for us – not just because we jumped on the ferry to Dumbo on the fly – but also because, for the first time in, oh, forever, I brought my camera around on one of our little NYC escapades.

I’ve been kind of avoiding my camera like the plague since we moved here, which is a shame considering I spent so much money, so much time, so much effort on learning to use that big hulking dslr. I can’t be totally certain now, but I think I remember being giddily excited about picking it out at B&H, lovingly and only half jokingly referring to it as Dave and my first child, and feeling genuinely positive about the prospect of photography as a theory and/or practice. I remember snapping that shutter all across India, Ecuador, Philadelphia, Connecticut. And then I just…stopped?

This might sound silly, but have you ever felt like you’re actually getting worse at something, the longer you stick at it, the harder you try? You look back on the stuff you did when you were first starting out – that first blog post about your boyfriend’s brother’s perfect girlfriend, that first shot you got of a child batting around a giant yellow balloon in a garden in Delhi – and you think, man, that was actually decent. What happened to me? You search for proof your skills haven’t totally degraded and come up empty-handed. True or not, you start to psych yourself out.

That’s how I started feeling about photography. I got frustrated. I kind of gave up.

Looking at these photos, my first thought is, um, maybe you feel this way for good reason, Rach. The pictures kind of suck. They don’t  have the right composition, the right use of light, the right focus. They don’t pull me in, don’t make me recall how hot it actually was or how happy we were to be together in the city after so long or how good that pulled pork sandwich (and the DuMont slider and the bahn-mi style hot dog and the Blue Marble cones, not pictured because, um, we ate them too fast) actually tasted. They don’t capture how the long slats of the pier in North Williamsburg felt endless if you looked at them from a certain angle or the repetitive symmetry of the benches that line Brooklyn Bridge park or how cool the perspective shift of seeing the island of Manhattan for a ferry is.

My first thought is, this is not what photography is supposed to be. Give it up, girlfriend.

My second thought is, keep going. You always put yourself down for the count far too fast.

autumn Sunday
October 6, 2010

It’s been a bit of a crazy week around here – the beginning of which was (intentionally) spent in a black hole of couple-dom, as we tried to soak up our last few days before Dave’s imminent departure to California, and the latter part of which has been spent in partial damage-control mode, as we scrambled to rearrange our plans in the face of a family emergency that delayed said imminent departure.

But this weekend? That was much, much simpler — and sweeter, especially the part where we trekked out to Jersey for some apple and pumpkin picking.

So I say we forget about the complicated and the concerning and the crises for now, in favor of apple cider donuts and hay rides and rows and rows of Rome apple trees. In my opinion, it’s the best way to get to Friday.





Ecuador photographic
June 22, 2010

Unedited Ecuador pics, plus some gratuitous pictures of my parents’ elderly golden retriever, are up on flickr.

Sadly, Ecuador wasn’t the most photo-friendly place, seeing as we were actually doing shit, which is apparently new and different for me. I shot a bit in Quito, but was too scared to bring my camera to Banos, figuring it might not be secure in our $9.50 a night hostel, and that I wouldn’t be able to drag my gear along on our hiking/biking/bathing adventures anyway. I spent half the time regretting that decision (see: insane views of the valley that were just screaming for a high aperture) and half the time thanking my lucky stars I left the dslr safe and sound in Quito (see: water-clogged shots in midst of las cascadas)

Bottom line: photos in Quito are by me, on my Nikon, while photos from Banos are on Chels’ camera, taken either by her or me, who, unsurprisingly, felt the need to commandeer the point and shoot on a regular basis. In the end, I think it was good for me to get my eyes out from behind the lens for a few days. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget those waterfalls, despite my lack of dslr photographic evidence.

Unintended Consequences
April 6, 2010

A few weeks ago, fed up with the record-breaking snow and frigid temperatures (made that much more enjoyable by the lack of heat in our apartment), I decided I wanted to skip Spring.

At that point, most people were huddled around the idea, the myth of weather that was above freezing and didn’t involve mass amounts of stuff coming down from the sky. They wanted nothing more than a few days in the high 40s, some sunshine to peak through the clouds.

But I wasn’t having it. I wanted summer, stat. Sweltering heat, air conditioners that drip questionable liquids on you when you walk on the sidewalks, sweaty people on my regional rail line – I decided I would take all of it. I didn’t care. I just didn’t want to be cold anymore.

All of this is a really long way of saying: I’m pretty sure this record heat wave we’re having right now is my fault. Or it’s global warming. Take your pick, but be prepared to swear your allegiances to either the weathermen or the climatologists accordingly. (It’s all very West Side story, Jets versus Sharks, right?)

If this is my fault, I can’t say I actually regret it. Yeah, it’s a little toasty in our fourth floor apartment, especially sans our window air conditioner units.

But I had the most enjoyable, normal day today, maybe the best I’ve had since moving here. I finally made it to the new gym I’d been avoiding like the plague, cooked a real dinner and felt generous enough to spring for Dave’s favorite ice cream (birthday cake flavored) at the grocery store, even though I think it’s almost as gross as the nerd blizzards Bridget gets at DQ.

The weather also bred a few photography epiphanies. Who knew all it would take was a dire need to crank up the fans to finally get me to understand shutter speed?

If all of this is to say that heat waves elicit good moods, good food and photographic genius,  then by all means, bring on the climate change.

March 29, 2010

“Nikon D5000: From Snapshots to Great Shots” by Jeff Revell

Most weekday evenings, my view looks like this:

I plop myself down on the cheap, robins egg blue rug that covers our living room floor and set up camp, my Nikon on one side, little pink Moleskin notebook turned photography journal (per my very official inscription in the front) on the other, post-it flags scattered somewhere within arm’s reach, photography bible straight under my chin.

The perch reminds me of working on the pink carpet in my childhood bedroom, where my main focus was illustrating the rainforest’s layers in a diaroma or creating a flip book about the state of Washington.

These days, my main focus in focus.

And aperature and shutter speed and ISO and white balance and, dear lord. Did you know photographers speak another language?

I’m trying to wrap my head around all of this, but I’ve got to say, it’s hard. The technical aspects of this art-turned-science boggle my mind. Three years sans midterms and essays have apparently left me incapable of memorizing simple rules, like large aperature = low f-stop number = large amount of light coming in the camera = small depth of field = small area of focus, lots of blur.

It’s not just me, right? That’s kind of complicated?

Some days, parts of it just click and I finally get it. Like, oh! That’s what aperature means.

Check out that depth of field! These are moments for celebration, even if they involve/require my boyfriend flicking me off.

And then, sometimes I feel like I’m right back at square one, taking pictures that are worse than anything I ever snapped with my first digital camera, circa 2000.

Seriously, it’s bad enough that this photo is blurry – but why the blue? Which setting did I fuck up this time?

I’m sticking with it though – mainly because I really, really want to get some good shots in Ecuador. If all goes according to plan – which, oh right, it never does in developing countries – we’ll get to see some awesome things, from hot springs to jungle villages to cobblestone streets. I want to be able to remember it all, since lord knows after this travel binge, it’s going to be a while before my passport sees any action. And I actually think I have a pretty good natural sense of composition and framing and color; it’s just so hard for me to translate what I see in my head and through the lens to something that looks sharp and multi-dimensional on a computer screen or in a frame.

Fortunately, my travel buddy and I have a long history of photographic excellence together, mainly through our obsessive use of Grey Gardens-esque dysfunctional family portraits, which date back to our sophomore year of college.

If all else fails, and the pictures of vocanoes and markets and monkeys remain blurry and blue and all around awful, we always have a solid tradition to fall back on. And it still makes me crack up every time.

(Photo by Uncle Parker.)

The hold up
January 30, 2010

Don’t think that I’m not working on a massive (3-part!) recap of my trip, because I totally am. It’s just taking me a little longer than usual because I’m trying out a free trial of Photoshop and WANT TO THROW MY COMPUTER ACROSS THE ROOM. Seriously, Evan, I think you need to move in – or at least move back to the East Coast. I need a techie on call 24/7. Or a shot of tequila. Either way, I’m confident I’ll have some edited (for better or worse) photos on flickr within a few days. Stay tuned.

Up and running
December 31, 2009

Follow my photographic progress (fingers crossed) on flickr! I’ll be featuring some pictures on the blog, but you can stalk me more thoroughly over here. Enjoy.

That thing worth photographing
December 30, 2009

Or: that time I blew all my savings on a hobby I know absolutely nothing about. Yet.

Yes, the rumors are true. I took the dSLR plunge.

For the record, this shot was taken in a bathroom with no flash and little natural light. By pressing one button. Because that’s all I know how to do right now.

Which is to say: is this a kick ass camera or what? I may be eating canned soup (and not the organic Trader Joe’s variety I’m accustomed to) until the spring, but I’ll have some awesome pictures to document my months of poverty.


Hm? What’s that? You don’t like my horribly framed, barely focused, can’t be corrected in Photoshop because I don’t yet have Photoshop works of art? Me neither.

I’m not going to lie, I kind of suck at this. And I’ve done enough research to know that a fancy camera does not a great photographer make. I need to learn about f-stops and shutter speed and invest in tripods and software and classes. It’s a little overwhelming – knowing that I have so very far to go before I can take pictures that even resemble those of the photographers I so admire. But it’s fun too. I feel kind of revived by it all, the idea that at 24 there’s finally something I can start from scratch but still make progress at. With so many other pursuits (see: Indian dance, singing Happy Birthday on key) I feel as though my chance to learn has already passed by. But I have this hunch that I found photography at just the right time.

The specifics: I’m shooting with the Nikon d5000 and the accompanying kit lens (18-55 mm.) Right now my very limited strategy is to avoid using the flash at all costs, get my hands dirty in search of cool angles and say a small prayer to the camera gods before every shot. It’s kind of working. I got a pretty good deal at B&H in Manhattan, but I have to warn you, when they say superstore, they mean superstore. That place is insane. I had to take a time-out in the middle (like, actually leave the building) just to catch my breath and remember what the outside world looks like. I went in there pretty intent on going with the Canon EOS Rebel Ti1 but Lou, my not so helpful sales person, gave me one piece of useful advice: go with the one that just feels better to you. While I so wanted to love the Canon (after having been pretty swayed by this review) the Nikon just felt much better in my hands. The $90 price difference and nifty live view screen didn’t hurt either. So, now, apparently I’m a Nikon girl! Bring. It. On.