Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Paths Less Traveled

Every once in awhile, I am lucky enough to go on a long walk in the woods with Jim.  Yesterday was one of those days.  He asked me to photograph some of the plots of land that have been purchased/given to the Sterling Land Trust.  It was about 4 hours of hiking, during which I recognized that I am badly in need of real hiking boots.  Next hike I will be prepared!

Beaver dam.

Had to throw Jim in a few for scale!

There's a great story about this man, stone, and land.  Charlie Allen had met with Jim several times, and as they stood on this spot he declared that when he died, he wanted to be buried there.  Well, darned if it didn't happen, and as I shot this photo I was standing on his grave.  They got permission from whatever environmental entity, and Charlie was brought up to this spot in a hay wagon for his burial.  Dressed in his flannel shirt and jeans, Charlie is at rest on the land that he tended to all his life.  He never married, and had no heirs to leave the place to.  His brother has the farm next door.

Jim taught me about Ant Lions.  We played with them for awhile.  I've never seen such things!

I learned something else, too.  See the circular indentations on many large stones?  There were holes on each side, and to pick up these stones for moving and setting in place, you'd pick them up with a large version of ice tongs.  The tool fit right at that spot, and up it went.  This canal was incredible.  It was of such significance, and simply beautiful.  I can imagine the many men it took to create this extensive canal, which led away from what used to be a reservoir.

There were more Trillium here than I've EVER seen in my whole life.  As far as the eye could see across the forest floor.  Stunning.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Planning a wedding? Things to consider...

When I was younger (lots younger), and before I was shooting weddings, I was engaged.  I had absolutely NO IDEA how to plan a wedding.  I didn't know how to make a timeline, plan for transitions, what order things should be in, or even what should be included.  What I remember most about it was how helpless I I was floundering around in a world I knew nothing about, and it cost a lot to have a wedding so it needed to be done right! 

Now, almost 20 years later, I've been to almost 300 weddings, most of them as a professional photographer.   At my first official (hired) wedding in 2001, I had NO CLUE what to do, or what even needed to be photographed.  These poor clients had to convince me for several months to shoot it.  And when I finally did photograph it, I was really excited about the shots!  They still stand as some of the best I've ever taken.  Eternal thanks to Annalisa and Peter Cranson for taking a chance on me.  (Photo below)

But as far as what to shoot...and when?  That took years to figure out.  Now that I HAVE it figured out, I have a few things to say.

CEREMONY:  There are so many ways to have a ceremony performed.  Some take 2 minutes, some take an hour and a half.  Some churches have strict rules about what I can and can't do.  I think the most important thing to consider is the length of time.  Many people choose a short ceremony because they don't want to be in the spotlight for very long.  Please reconsider!  The variety of images I can get in 2 minutes versus even 20 minutes is astounding.  I can get different angles, reaction shots, shots from a balcony, etc.  If it's short and sweet, I barely capture anything at all. 

SHOES:  Girls, girls, girls.  Forget the cute heels.  Wear something you can actually be comfortable in all night.  And as a plus, you won't sink into the grass during the ceremony, formals, etc.  It will really make a difference.  Along the same lines, I am always stunned to see that the shoes are brand new...never even been broken in!  C'mon girls.  If you're going to wear the shoes for 8 hours or more, do the work in advance and get used to them, even if it's while you're putzing around the house.

BRIDAL GOWNS:  Pick a dress that feels good, stays up, and doesn't get caught in your heels.  Any dress looks good when you're standing still in front of a bridal shop mirror.  The true test is what is does when you...move!  And you will move a lot.  You will need to stand, kneel, sit down, get in and out of vehicles, and hug people all day and night.  I have seen heels go though dresses more than once because they get caught as the bride is walking.  I have seen strapless dresses fall so low that the hems get stepped on and ruined.  I've seen a $10,000 dress's train knotted up in the back to keep it off the floor.  I've seen breasts fully exposed when (with a strapless dress) you reach your arms up during an exuberant dance.

RECEIVING LINE:  Many of my prospective brides don't know what a receiving line is. (And why should they?  This is the first time they're being presented with these things.)  As such, we stumble over it when discussing timelines.  The way it works is THIS: You have 2 choices after your ceremony is over.  You walk out of the church and then basically go HIDE...or you line up with close family members and create a receiving line.  As your guests exit the church, they have an opportunity to shake hands, hug, and congratulate everyone.   Usually this takes 20 to 25 minutes.  I don't care either way, but consider this...receiving lines take time.  Factor it into your timeline because it will cut into your "formal" photo time.  If you don't want a receiving line, then you need to hide or leave because your guests WON'T leave until they know what's expected of them.  If you hang around the front of the church but don't seem to be paying attention, they will all wander around like lost sheep.  (Believe me!  It happens ALL the time.)  Be clear.  Your guests will take their cue from YOU.

FIRST DANCE:  Usually done immediately after you're introduced into wedding reception.  DJ plays intro music, you get to dance floor, he switches over to your first dance song.  Everyone watches you for the entire dance, and you need to be ok with that.  Again, I get the best images if you stretch your song out.  Self conscious couples will often cut the song short OR ask the bridal party to join in.  If you cut it short, I don't get my images.  If you invite others onto the floor, they get IN MY WAY and you're effectively blocked.  I can't get visually get to you now.  Just melt into each others arms, whisper sweet nothings, and get lost in the moment.  Forget about all those other people!

RING EXCHANGE: In a traditional ceremony setup, the bride is on the left, groom on the right.  Wedding rings go on our left hand.  I can see the grooms left hand just fine...the brides left hand?   Not so much.  Try to make the ring exchange as clear as possible.  With rare exception, I can't get BEHIND the bride to get a clear shot at her left hand.  I also hate standing up in the middle/front aisle to shoot it.  The less the guests notice me, the better.  The less his hands block your ring finger, the better.  Just think about it.  If something's in my way, you won't be getting that shot...and it's rather symbolic.

FORMALS:  You have selected your ceremony and reception sites for your own reasons.  Among them may be the beauty of the architecture or scenery.  Keep in mind that on your wedding day, I will choose a spot for formal (read: IMPORTANT) images based on the light and background.  I will never, ever, place people in the direct sun.  Sun = bad shadows, squinting eyes, and sweat.  You will always be in "open shade", or the sun will be at your back (if there's no other option) and I use a fill light to light you separately.

DEPTH OF FIELD and FORMALS:  What?  What field?  No, no, no.  It's all about what's in focus and what's NOT.  Sometimes I incorporate this into formals photos...I will ask everyone to do what probably feels strange positioning.  But from where I works.   If I ask you and your bridal party to do something, just roll with it.  In the end, it may or may not make your top 10, but if I think it's worth trying, humor me!  :)

SLOW DOWN:  Bridesmaids, take note.  If you come down the aisle at a pace more suited for a marathon, I will not be getting any sort of complementary photo of you.  Keep a distance between you and the others, walk slowly, do NOT look at your feet, and smile.  Relax your shoulders, walk with grace, and all will be well with the world.

TAGS:  Take price tags off of dresses, shoes, veil, etc.  Why?  Because I can almost guarantee that when the day comes...and everyone's rushing around to dress, NO ONE will have scissors.  Then a panic will set in, and this is no good.  Cut out all tags and also consider cutting the insidious little straps inside dresses.  You know the ones?  For hanging the dress later?  Yeah...they will be popping out from under your arms within 30 seconds of being zipped up.  I promise.  Take 'em out.
TAN LINES:  It's awfully hard to cover up tan lines once they're there.  Pick a dress that works WITH your tan lines.  Please.

I'm sure I'll be inspired with more words of wisdom later, that's all for now!  Planning a wedding and coordinating how the day will go is tricky.  Ask me anything you want...I can probably help you figure out how something will work best, or how much time to allow for it.  :)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Woodstock Fair 2014

This little girl was reading to her calf.  :)

Always interested in the eggs, of course. 

The prize winning giant pumpkin and watermelon.

The ride Tracy's daughter insisted on's a complete circle and the cars just go round and both directions.  I was ill just looking at it.

There were 3 horse show rings, so lots of sexy horses to drool over.

It was hot.  I think this rider actually fainted, because she had a nice calm horse that did...nothing.  All of the sudden the girl was on the ground and not moving.

IT'S A HORSE SHOW, FOLKS!  NOT A BEAUTY PAGEANT FOR 5 YEAR OLDS.  She had more eye shadow, lipstick, and rouge on than a Las Vegas dancer.

This child must have been miserable the whole time!  He made this face constantly.  Or perhaps he needed to go pee?

Nice saddle pad.

The EMT's and ambulance were called in waaay too many times to the horse arenas.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Health Care?

A couple of months ago, I was informed that I was being removed from my ex-husbands health care plan.  He'd had a "family plan" that included his 2 daughters and myself.  Since it didn't cost any extra to have me on it, he was happy to keep me there for many years.  Then his youngest daughter turned...26? and he was told that his plan automatically would revert to a single person plan.  I had a few months in which to find another plan on my own.

No big deal, right?  I went to the MA State website and filled out preliminary forms for eligibility.  Turns out that because I don't actually make any money shooting weddings, I qualified for free health care.  Hmmm.  Well, ok.

They gave me the run down over the phone, and as I recall there were about 4 different plan choices.  "What's the difference?" I asked.  The representative basically said it was the same PLAN, it's just the fringe benefits that a discount on a gym membership...a dental kit that consisted of a free toothbrush and toothpaste...those kinds of silly things.  So out of the 4, I randomly picked "CeltiCare", and thought nothing more about it. 

Problems started cropping up right away.  I had a pre-existing Primary Care Dr, and I was happy with her.  One day, I get a postcard from MassHealth informing me that my Dr had been switched.  Why?  I called and they switched it back, but I was annoyed.

Then I'd go for routine appointments and my Dr couldn't see me because my plan said something different when the checked it.  They would actually ask me to leave the offfice, call the plan, get it changed, and and maaaaybe I'd get back up in time for my appointment.  Grrrrr.  The annoyance is building.

One day, with weighty thoughts about life on my mind, I called a woman that had seen me for counseling off and on for many years.  She said she couldn't see me if I had CeltiCare, but she COULD see me if it were switched to Fallon (one of the other original choices).

Now I'm starting to get suspicious.  I thought they said all the plans were the same?  Regardless, I got on the phone yet again and asked to switch the plan.  Fine, they said, it will kick in on Aug 1st.

Yesterday was July 26th.  I have less than a week to go with CeltiCare.  Wouldn't you know it, this week I got sick.  REALLY sick.  And, knowing I had to shoot 2 weddings over the weekend, I simply put myself to bed on Tuesday, self medicated with cough syrup and aspirin, and waited for it to go away. 

It didn't.

Desperate for good health again, I decided to head to a walk-in clinic in Shrewsbury whose website stated that they accept MassHealth.  My Dr's office is closed, as it was now the weekend, and I felt I shouldn't wait until Monday.  The clinic told me they couldn't see me because I have CeltiCare. take MassHealth, I pointed out.  Yes, but not CeltiCare.  Try the clinic on Queen Street in Worcester.  Can I self-pay?  NO.

I am in no condition for this, but I shlep myself out the door and drive across the city to the Queen Street clinic.  They didn't check my insurance, but they did say I couldn't be seen until 4pm at the soonest (it was only 10am and I am feeling like crap).  Daunted, I headed out to another clinic on Plantation Street. 

The 3rd clinics sign-in info listed several plans that weren't accepted...CeltiCare was at the top of the list.  I went to the receptionist to ask about it, and offered to pay for the visit myself.  She said they couldn't let me do that, it was against the law.

I burst into tears.

Hacking, coughing, body aches, stuffy nose, exhaustion, and all that all took its toll.  My crying alarmed her so much that they took me aside, checked my vitals, and then apologized as they told me I had to go to the ER to be seen.

But my new insurance takes effect in a few days?!

Doesn't matter.  We can't see you here.

So, feeling incredibly stupid, I actually went to the Emergency Room.  They Xrayed my chest, gave me several prescriptions to help ease the racking coughs, and sent me home.  I found replacement photographers for my weddings, all is well.

But I am stymied about the insurance.  I feel I was misled when I signed up and I'm angry.