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. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Baby chick coop is DONE!

Craigslist has been very good to me.  My latest project has been to find materials for a new coop/kennel area for the new baby chickens.  I found the kennel frame (above) in Hubbardston (free on Craigslist!), the stone for drainage in Brookfield (free!), and the dog house turned coop also in Brookfield (also free!).  The chain link fencing was procured on Craigslist (not free), as were all of the posts and hardware.  Now the entire perimeter of the chicken area is considerably enlarged, the babies are safe from harm, and I am feeling pleased with the final results.  :)
The kennel frame finally assembled and placed on timber base.

Foundation leveled and blocked in to hold stone and sand for drainage.

Sand added and chain link up.

The baby chicks exploring the new area.  It's too cold to leave them in it at night, but for a few sunny hours today they can go out.

Overview of the two chicken areas...the big coop is for the 17 adult birds, and then the new addition for the babies.  The baby area is additionally fortified with a chicken wire "roof'" to keep hawks from getting them.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


When I lived here 20 years ago, the shared hall had this wallpaper and carpeting, which was ALREADY ancient and gross.  So when I moved back in last year, I shuddered and then shut my eyes.  I had the whole apartment to renovate, never mind a shared hall.  Now it's the following winter...and I need projects to work on, you know.  I am so close to done I can taste it.  Check out the series.

Wallpaper down, horsehair plaster and old repairs exposed.

Layer of mud applied, carpet getting removed.  I'd love to know when this was installed.

Sanded the stairs...just enough to get ready for more paint.

Primer almost done. First coat of wall paint applied.  Trim and rails painted white.

Starting to paint every other riser.  In less than 24 hours, despite human vigilance, 2 dogs and 1 cat have had their way with the wet paint.  I'm rubbing everything down with turpentine.  Well, everything but the actual animals.  :)

As of May 2, the floor has been sanded, primed, and started to get paint.  The paint needs to be applied in strips, because this hall is the only way upstairs for all of us.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Horse Health

This photo was taken Jan of the last days I was able to ride him.  He was a raving lunatic on the ride, I thought I was going to get killed in traffic.

The horse is unwell.  I'm not sure I can adequately convey how much this distresses me.  As an animal owner/guardian, you know that there could be problems to solve.  Wounds to heal.  You want the best for your animals, and you want them to be happy and healthy.  You will do whatever it takes to make sure that they are ok.

So, about a month or so ago when my horse started acting differently, I didn't realize the slippery slope I was about to slide down.  My other horses were always amazingly resilient and healthy.  Above and beyond an occasional hoof abscess, I have no recollection of any problems in 12 years. 

It all began with irritability.  He went from being a nice, easy going horse that only spooked at normal a horse that was trying to buck me off (or was objecting to easy commands) for no reason at all.  Well, no reason that I could see.  And I was scared.  He was going to get me killed at this rate, as 95% of my riding is on the road.

You know, with the cars.  And 18 wheelers.

He also objected to being brushed (which I did nightly as he munched hay in his stall) by pinning his ears and walking away.  He loves to be brushed!  What was this?

He started to get very picky about hay.  I had bought 50 bales, and was still working off of that batch...and suddenly he wasn't interested in it.  He'd eat EVERY single piece before.  I bought more hay from a different farm without really looking at it...bad idea...BAD hay.  Back to the original batch.  He picked at it.

Then he started favoring a hind leg.  He'd hold it up when standing around, and although I inspected the hoof, everything seemed fine.  Maybe some tenderness at the back, on the middle of the frog.

We were trying to piece it all together, and Phyllis told me about a day, a few days earlier, that she went to bring the horses in for dinner and Boze wouldn't budge from the far side of the pasture.  Usually he'd be at the gate as soon as he heard the barn door open.  She had to go out (across an ice patch) to get him.  Maybe he'd fallen on the ice earlier that day and was hurt from that in some small way??

With this thought, I asked a horse massage friend to come check him out.  She came twice, he loved his massages, but he wasn't any better and now I was noticing a tenderness (bordering on pain) in his flank, on both sides.   I guess this was going on all along, and first manifested itself when he was getting brushed and would walk away, I just didn't realize it yet.

Ok, now I'm really starting to worry.  I've gone from being pissed off/scared at his change in behavior, to concerned that he's got a bruise or something, to wondering if there's more to it.

His former owner told me that he had a history of becoming impacted.  Ok.  At the time, I didn't pay much attention to this, I just figured since he was eating, drinking, and pooping...all was well. 

Now he starts being really lame.  Holding his leg up, gimping as he walked, sloppy turns.  A recheck of the hoof showed signs of thrush.  Ok.  I can deal with thrush.  But a front hoof also showed signs of thrush...and he wasn't favoring THAT one at all.  What the heck?

Time to call the vet.  A lyme test (negative).  A thorough paring down of frog and treatment of thrush.  A check of his case it was dirty and that was causing belly pain reaction. was clean.  A complete check of body, pushing and prodding all muscles, bones, joints.  Nothing except a loose patella, which may (or may not) have been there before.  $450.

Keep treating the thrush.  That's looking better.  Belly pain getting worse.  NOW I'm really worried.  Now he's rolling daily, looking back at his belly, and pawing in the stall.  NOT GOOD.  Not good at ALL.

Call the vet again.  Rectal exam, negative.  Belly sounds, normal.  Heart rate, normal.  Given history of impaction we dose him with mineral oil anyway, and discuss why that may or may not help.  At this point, I start crying in the stall.  My horse is drugged, he's been in such pain, I've got $900 in vets bills to pay, and still no answers.

Where are we now?  Treating him for stomach ulcers that he may or may not have (10 pills three times a day.  I go over to the barn at midnight for the third dose), hoping to hell the thrush clears, his lameness dissipates, and the belly is pain free in a week or two.

My god.  I took horse health for granted before.  I feel like a fool.

FEB 23rd update: His lameness was an abscess that took its sweet time reaching a soft spot (coronary band above hoof)...the abdomen pain is gastric ulcers for sure...the medication (Ranitidine) worked wonders...and the thrush, well, we're dealing with it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ballroom Dancing Competition

These are photos from a job...but I'm going to throw them in the personal blog. I have been photographing dance lessons and competitions lately for WPI.  Interestingly, they have 500+ students that come for lessons, and then this competition brought students from 30 colleges together.  30!!  I'm amazed.   

Most of the photos were at 200 or 250th/sec to freeze the action.  For a few minutes, I switched to about a 30th/sec just to play.  I like it.

The couples on the floor were surrounded on all sides by judges.

How old are these kids?  Maybe 8 or 9?  They were incredible!!!

I love that she wore leopard print trimmed out in blue and turquoise.

Tails!  Nice.

Not exactly sure if it was an official part of the competition, but a few of the dances were for same sex couples.  They had a ball!