Arlington MA

When author photos are for the birds...

Despite the breezy tone of my title, I have to say that new author, Neil Hayward, is one of the most charming gentlemen I've met! He recently contacted me as his new book -  "Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year" -  was coming out in May, and his editor sent him my way to create the imagery for his book jacket and his promotional material.

Neil Hayward, author, Arlington, MA

Hayward, a rather educated Oxford/Cambridge-educated scientist and consultant, decided to take a year off and attempt what’s known as a “big year” — seeing as many different kinds of birds as possible, traversing the continent to do so. He managed 749 which made him the North American bird spotting champion. And prompted him to write a book, as well.

When he came my way, what could I do but take him outside? We had a lovely day in terms of clarity, though it was brutally cold, which Neil took like a trouper, eventually becoming rather blue in the process, but certainly game to try new landscapes outside.

We also shot in the studio, playing with strobes and ambient light, to get some beautiful headshots. Though as much as I love my studio, I have to say that the field trip outdoors felt necessary and true in order to capture the spirit of Neil's big year.

Neil Hayward, author, Arlington, MA

A modern classical musician portrait session

Emily O'Brien is a recorder and traverso player who now hails from Boston after studying recorder and french horn at Boston University, and recorder and Baroque flute at the Hochschule für Musik in Karlsruhe, Germany. She performs both classical and historically informed music, and approached me to photograph her for an upcoming CD of music that features her performing on a modern tenor recorder.

Looking for images both elegant and interesting, Emily wanted photographs that conveyed the gravitas of classical musicianship as well as the warmth of her own personality. The photos needed to feature both Emily as well as the detail of her instrument.

Behind the scenes in the studio with Emily O'Brien playing the modern tenor recorder. Boston, MA.

It was a wonderful afternoon of music and and photography, and I hope to post images of Emily's upcoming CD soon!

Starting over for grownups

Rocky DiRico, a 10th degree black belt in Kenpo karate, started competing after age 35 and went on to over 700 first place finishes and 100 grand championship wins, making him the most awarded senior competitor in the history of sport karate. He, and my own joyful/humbling/frustrating/wonderful experience coming back to karate training as an adult learner, inspired this post. He is pictured here with his wife, Shihan Wendy DiRico.

Rocky DiRico, now a 10th degree black belt in Kenpo karate, started his karate training after age 35 and went on to over 700 first place finishes and 100 grand championship wins. He, and my own experience coming back to karate as an adult learner, inspired this post.

Rocky DiRico, now a 10th degree black belt in Kenpo karate, started his karate training after age 35 and went on to over 700 first place finishes and 100 grand championship wins. He, and my own experience coming back to karate as an adult learner, inspired this post.

 One of the things I most admire about children is that they're not afraid to fall down on their butts when they try something new.

They'll just keep trying new approaches, sometimes clever, sometimes awkward, to achieve what they want. No one expects children to be particularly good at anything. Figuring out how to pull life's strings is what childhood is all about, and kids, on the whole, think its really fun to learn new things. They grow creatively when they try to solve problems, and at least in the first few years, don't care how they are perceived while trying out new ideas.

Karate blog-9431
Karate blog-9431

Fast forward to adulthood and self-awareness and the need for basic competency in front of others. We've spent most of our formative years training to do something, whether it is singing, acting, or accountancy. Adults are proud of the skills we've gained and these are generally the ones we use in front of company (unless it's karaoke, and then, all bets are off as there's generally alcohol involved). Starting something new as an adult feels especially awkward, because our brains aren't as malleable, we're resistant to change, and don't want to look silly or incapable in front of others as we figure out our next new skill.

So what happens when we're forced to change and learn something new? Either because of circumstance, or because we're stifled and need to do something differently, the game changes and it's time to upgrade our skills. With the exception of some open-minded, driven, and adventurous souls, most adults react by feeling uncomfortable, perhaps even a bit scared. Some of us even get paralyzed, and don't know what to do next. So we sit and grind our wheels, using our energy to feel anxious, rather than harnessing the angst into something productive. We tend to cling to what we know, even though it is time to grow or change. Do any of these sound familiar?

- I want to start a new project that's different than my current work but I'm not sure where to start - I have an idea, but I just need motivation - I'm afraid I'm going to look like an idiot trying something new

So what should you do to kick yourself out of your paralysis? Shakespeare would say, "To thine own self be true." The ancient Greeks would say, "Know thyself". Francis Bacon would say, "Knowledge is power." And Nike would say, "Just do it."

When you don't know where to start in a new endeavor (career, project, hobby), start with your interests and daydreams, perhaps even document your current problems. Did you daydream about being an astronaut as a kid? Take a night course in astronomy, create a beautiful portrait series of local astronomy professors in the moonlight, or get a second-hand telescope and start a basic blog about your own discoveries as a new star seeker.

What are your favorite holidays and celebrations? What is on your bucket list, and you always hoped to do someday? Combine those interests into a new project. For example, if you're a autumn-loving, adrenaline-seeking photographer feeling stale, do a skydiving shoot on Halloween with models in full costume at sunset - mix, match, see what happens. Juxtaposition is your friend; combine bits of who you are to create something no one has seen before.

But most important is the mental game of getting out of our own way. I have a few suggestions from back when I worked in vocational psychology, which I'll write in layperson's terms so you don't fall asleep at your computer.

1. Write a worry journal

The basis of cognitive psychology is, "You are what you think." I'd add, "If it's on paper, it's not in your noggin." Write down all your worst fears, then counter each fear with a more positive likely scenario. E.g.:

Negative thought I will never learn how to use off-camera lighting because I'm not technical

Rational thought I can learn how to use off-camera lighting by taking a workshop that is aimed at lighting for beginners

2. Talk to a friend

Sometimes you need a sympathetic friend to kindly listen to you, and then kick you in the behind once you've unloaded your concerns. Better yet, create an accountability partnership so you both have someone to check in with about your new ventures.

Karate blog-2368
Karate blog-2368

3. Find a mentor

For some people, it really helps to find an advisor who has more knowledge and experience. Some mentors are volunteer professional contacts, others are coaches, and another source of great advisors are mental health professionals, for when you're truly feeling stuck. I currently advise a few photographers looking for both technical advice, portfolio reviews, and accountability - it can be a useful tool in your professional arsenal to get unstuck. But for many, all that is needed is someone who they meet with on a regular basis who has more experience than they do.

4. Let go of perfect

It's better to do something, anything, and get it out there than to create the most perfect creation that never sees the light of day. This is when you bring out the Nike slogan!

5. Make a date

Mark in your calendar the date you are going to have accomplished your goal of a new skill. Tell your accountability buddy.

6. Reward yourself

Whether it's a big box of chocolate, a marathon tv-watching session, or a weekend trip, make sure you promise and deliver a big reward for getting out of your comfort zone.

Tango Noir shoot

In June, I partnered with Arlington's Orange Hanger Boutique and The Regent Theatre to create a fashion-based editorial shoot based on the Argentine Tango, specifically the Tango Nuevo movement (new Tango) and film noir. It was inspired by music by the amazing Gotan Project. The goal: to work with other Arlington businesses to create dramatic, sexy, and beautiful editorial work, and to pull from my own dance background to create photography that represents the movement of dance and the drama of film noir. This Milonga de amor video with a Gotan Project soundtrack was distributed to everyone participating in the shoot to help them gain a feel for the mood we were going to create at the Regent Theatre.

Emerson faculty member C.E. Courtney helped hugely with the lighting design and also documented the behind-the-scenes action.

Here I am teaching Manuel, one of our models (and an MIT graduate), how to do the Argentine Tango hold, instructing as to how close the faces of partners should lean together - reeeeally close. The beginning of the shoot involved having the models gain familiarity with both the dance and the embrace required to convey the emotion of the tango. I did not expect the models, most of whom are not dancers, to get the technique exactly right, but to approximate the mood and the hold, which they did splendidly. Image by C.E. Courtney.

 

Hair and makeup was by Jayne Riot and Maura Traniello of Scarlet Artist Management. Here's our model Elizabeth (another MIT graduate) getting pin-curled. Image by C.E. Courtney. As some of the five models waited for hair and make-up, others began getting into wardrobe and were subject to lighting tests by my assistant, Elizabeth M.

We began with portraits of the men, as the women finished with hair and make-up.

And as Elizabeth came out of make-up, the gentlemen were happy to bring her into the picture.

Introducing Elizabeth to some tango steps, image courtesy of C.E. Courtney.

And then the dance began.

 

And then they all danced together.

And then it was time, as they say, to powder the nose.

Many thanks to all the models: Elizabeth O, Greg, Jenn, Manuel, and Zach - you were all a blast to work with, beautiful inside and out. Thank you to Leland and Ryan from the Regent, and Natalie from the Orange Hanger - you made everything gorgeous! Huge thanks to C.E. and Elizabeth M for all your assistance lighting everything indoors, and schlepping everything in from the outdoors despite the pouring rain. I owe ya.