My First Ride of the Season

Before I start this posting, I just want to pause and take in how beautiful my bike is. I just love looking at it . . . Recently a friend asked me if I have a fancy carbon frame bike. It was painful to have to say, “No, I don’t.” I mean I totally would and after renting and riding one in Utah I was so ready to come home and buy one. But then I got home, and took one look at this baby and knew I couldn’t give it up. I’ll never forget the desperate phone call I made to Karlo from California many years ago. It went something like this, “Babe, we have a problem. I think I fell in love today.” Not the words Karlo wanted to hear as I called him from a business trip. But I walked into a bike shop (not sure how or why I was in a bike shop during a business trip, but it happens) and it was truly love at first sight. I had to have it! The feelings have not faded one bit and I’m as much in love with my baby today as I was back then. And yes, that goes for Karlo too in case you’re wondering 😉

And now the real post . . .

Saturday morning came sooner than I expected. I guess I am a little out of practice with sleeping in a tent because not much actual sleeping took place. Given the fact that sleeping is still uncomfortable for me with my neck issues and I forgot to bring my normal pillow, it was a rough and restless night. Then we crawled out of our tent to overcast skies and fellow campers discussing the not-so-promising weather forecast. I marveled at the fact that not riding never even crossed my mind. Under normal circumstances I may have opted for shopping, or wine tasting, if the weather was not going to cooperate. But this particular morning I was simply elated at the thought of pedaling and I couldn’t wait–rain or shine.

Since our route was among the shorter mileage routes we had about a 30 minute drive to get to the starting point. We arrived to the spot and tinkered for what felt like EVER in the parking lot until we finally got our bikes and gear just right for our maiden voyage. We have literally not ridden since our epic bike trip to Utah last March. My bike had a new handlebar setup and Karlo had a brand new bike. Needless to say, lots of adjustments were needed and I was growing more anxious by the minute.

No sooner did we complete our pre-flight and roll out of the parking lot, but the rain starts. I swear those clouds were watching us and just waiting to burst open. So there we were, pedaling down the road, soaked in the first 5 minutes and shivering . . . and still I’m thrilled to pieces to be on the bike. It would have taken nothing to turn around and give up, but there was no place else I would rather be.

I couldn’t believe how great it felt to pedal. The rain let up after about 15 or 20 minutes and the day turned pretty nice. The route was the flattest 40 mile stretch we ever experienced and it was pure joy. At one point I cruised up side by side to Karlo and asked him, “Can you feel it?” He knew exactly what I meant. He too could feel that dormant bug coming back to life. There is something about the bike, the road, the way your body feels when everything is just working right. You feel powerful, strong, and alive. God I love that feeling!

It made me think back to our last trip to the Fingers Lakes. I distinctly remember that trip also rekindling our biking flame. There just must be something about the air, or the roads in Upstate New York, and I think it should be a requirement that we start every biking season with a trip up there.

I also think it should be a requirement that ever ride ends here . . .

What could be better than alcoholic, guilt-free ice cream?

More Pictures from the Wedding

I'm ready to show off more photos from the wedding, but this time in a video slide show format. I've been working feverishly trying to process the ridiculous amount of photos that I took that day. I was planning on deleting all the bad photos and figured there would be plenty of those, but strangely enough, just about every photo came out nice. Now this is by no means a self-compliment of my own photography. The fact of the matter is that the bride is one of the most photogenic creatures on Earth. There is simply no such thing as a bad photo of her. In almost 1,000 pictures, she only blinked 4 times and never, not once, looked like anything less than a princess. I couldn't have asked for a better scenario to take on this challenge. If you would like to take a little peak into what the day was like (the full story, from beginning to end) then I invite you to hit the play button below.

A Taste of Vermont in the Fall (Part 2)

Day two was also fun, but Lord knows it came with some stress. It was a long day of hard work, trying to best capture all that we saw. We started off long before the sun came up, when the temperature was only 26 degrees. I was definitely not prepared for that! Even if I knew it would be that cold I still could have never prepared myself for that. As of yet I have not gotten a pair of gloves that 1) could keep my ice cube fingers warm, and 2) would allow me to operate a camera. It was a disaster!

I literally froze my fingers and butt off. My feet got so cold I had trouble walking and my fingers, well there are no words to describe that whole issue. It took two days for the sensitively to die down and now I’m just waiting for the “dots” to sprout. But as Karlo always says . . . I must really love this stuff . . . because I’m willing to do just about anything to get the pictures. And so I was as strong of a trooper as I could be.

We went back to Jenne Farm for sunrise – us and about 3 dozen other hardy photographers. My instructors weren’t kidding when they said this place was famous for sunrises. So we weren’t the only nut jobs freezing our butts off. And just as promised, the scenery was spectacular under the early morning sun. It’s much easier for me to appreciate looking at the pictures than viewing it first hand because now it’s much less uncomfortable.

After the shoot we made a glorious pitstop at an idyllic Vermont country store to get some much needed hot tea and even much more needed fleece-lined wool mittens. I sucked down that tea, put the mittens on, and got back into the car where I sat on my hands until we arrived at the next location. (No, I wasn’t driving – thankfully!)  I think it took that long for me to thaw out.

Next on the agenda was to shoot the Gorham covered bridge. The bridge was nice but hard to shoot and I was left uninspired. As usual I was more drawn toward animals that were close by and I played with some artsy photos with the pretty horses in the background.

And of course the covered bridge was over a little river so I walked down to the banks and tried to captured some more cool artsy images of trees reflecting and leaves floating in the water.

We had one last shooting location for the day and that was at a stream in the woods. The good news was the stream was beautiful and I’m very much at home with bush-whacking through the woods. The bad news was that I was forced to use the dreaded tripod and there was no sun deep in these woods. There was a bit of grumbling and cursing coming out of me as I got colder and colder and struggled more and more with my nemesis tripod. We were there for nearly two hours and I worked really hard to get some cool long exposure rushing water shots.

From here we scooting back to the hotel for time to download our pictures before dinner. Everyone scattered back to their rooms with our homework assignment of editing 8 of our best pictures to show off on Sunday. Imagine my surprise when I slipped my memory card into the computer and discovered that ALL of my stream pictures (2  hours of hard work crawling on cold rocks) were GONE. My heart sunk and I wanted to cry.

I frantically tried everything and even with the help of the instructors, no dice. I could not recover them and I was sick to my stomach (but still managed to chow down at dinner). I went back to my room after dinner and realized that I never downloaded the pictures from my second camera. For sure I must have had some good pictures on that one, but to my dismay I couldn’t get those pictures to download to my software. It was hours of downloading software updates, reinstalling, and driving myself crazy with stress. Somewhere around midnight I finally threw in the towel and went to bed. How did my perfect little weekend take such a turn for the worse?

I awoke at 3am tossing and turning, unable to stop thinking about the lost pictures. It was killing me. Well, here I am 48 hours later and I did manage to recover them. I better publicly thank my buddy Scott (just in case he reads this) for his advice and help getting me through my traumatic experience. It took me several more hours of research, installing software, fixing issues, and recovering files . . . and after all that, I’m not even sure the darn pictures were worth the aggregation. But at least now I can sleep without wondering what they would have/could have looked like. Now I know. And here are a few of the culprits.

And if that wasn’t enough for you, even more photos can be viewed online here:

Thanks for letting me share my trip with you!

From the City to the Country

As much as I enjoyed my time in the city, my heart is still in the country. No sooner did I get home from NYC, but I took right back off to New York again. Without even unpacking one bag, I already had my next bag packed and ready to go. This time Karlo and I were on our way to the Finger Lakes region.

The drive was actually nice. It took us 6 hours, but we spent half of it listening to an audiobook about blogging that I loved. Then it was time to just enjoy the pretty scenery of the mountains, farms, horses, and amazing sky. It sure is a beautiful drive through that region of New York.

Our home for the weekend. It brought “roughing it” to a new level because I didn’t even have a cell signal.

We arrived at Watkins Glenn State Park (at the southern tip of Seneca Lake) with just enough time to pitch our tent and have dinner with the bicycle club. This “Tour of the Fingers Lakes” was organized by the Southern Tier Bicycle Club and this would be our second time doing it. We originally met many of these folks during one of our “500 Miles Across New York” trips and did this particular tour 5 years ago. It was so nice to see those same familiar faces and make some new friends along the way.

Unlike our previous tour, this time I just couldn’t physically do the same high mileages per day. But hey, I wasn’t about to complain. Right up to the minute I hopped on my bike to go for a test spin I was convinced there would be no way I could really bike further than out of the parking lot. But to my delight the nerve pain in my arm was manageable enough to go beyond the parking lot. I started to roll down the street and before I knew it I could feel my nerves settling down. The next thing I know I was about a mile away and grinning ear to ear. I must have caught 5 mosquitoes in my teeth during my little 10 minute Friday night test drive, but I was over the moon. That was it. Decision was made. The next morning I was going to ride!

The photo shown at the top of this blog was not taken by me. I borrowed it from Flickr.

A Disposable World

Sometimes it amazes me at what a disposable world we live in and I have to admit to being guilty of falling into the routine of accepting it as the way of the world. It doesn’t even phase me to jump at the opportunity to throw something away and rush out to get a replacement. In fact it sort of excites me to think about getting new stuff. I mean any little excuse to go shopping, right? My phone is a good example. It still works, but it doesn’t work as good as it should. Rather than investigating means of fixing it, I’m counting down the days until my next upgrade.

It makes me think about my father every time I get the urge to toss something in favor of a shinier, newer replacement. My father would never dream of such a thing. No matter what it was, he would find a way to fix it. Once that man made an investment in something, anything, that was it – he was keeping it for life. But today, no matter what you own, when it stops working or even starts to work less efficiently, it’s a goner.

When my iPod started to flake out and lose it’s battery life I went out of my way to make an appointment at the “Genius Bar” at the Apple store. And this was not at all convenient for me. At the time I was in Chicago and had to walk miles across the city, in the cold, and then fight the crowds in the store only to be told that “I should just buy a replacement device.” Really? These things are honestly made so that changing the battery is not even a viable option? Those buggers make the battery replacement ever so slightly less costly than just buying a brand new, better device.

So a few weeks ago when our fancy Keurig brewing device quit working, I was immediately ready to buy a new one. Yes, I was ever so annoyed that it only worked for a year, but we had two packages of Dunkin Donuts cups and, more importantly, a new box of Chai Latte cups that I didn’t want to waste. Before rushing out to the store (or in my case jumping online) to buy a new one, I decided to contact the company and inquire about servicing the appliance. We had to exchange a few emails and endure a painful phone call process of proving the thing was indeed broken, but in the end we got a brand new brewer shipped to us at no charge. Yes, we are still filling the landfill, but I’m quite pleased that we didn’t have to pay for the replacement this time. I found it to be quite generous of Keurig and was impressed by their customer service. Maybe this is a good lesson to me that perhaps it’s worth an email to the makers of the faulty devices. You never know what you may get by simply asking.

A Taste of Vermont in the Fall (Part 1)

As I mentioned in my last post, I snuck away this past weekend for three photography-filled days in Vermont. I try to make a point to put any sans-Karlo weekends to good use and since Karlo happens to be halfway around the world right now (in India), I did just that. I lucked out and found a photography workshop happening in New England on the exact weekend I wanted. It was a no-brainer to pack up and head to Vermont rather than sit around Eastford all by my lonesome self.

Going to photo workshops is the greatest little solo vacation get-away. It’s probably the only vacation-type trip I could imagine talking alone because I never really feel alone at these things. It’s easy to make instant friends with all the other workshop participants. Lord knows you could never run out of photography things to talk about. It was such a bonus to not only see the amazing sights and get 2 days to shoot, but to also make some great new friends.

By now are you thinking, “Ok, shut up Paula. Enough talking about photography . . . how about we see some pictures?” Well, I’m hoping that’s what your thinking because I just happen to have some to show.

The first day we went to an iconic Vermont farm named Jenne Farm in Redding. This place is best at sunrise, but we were there in the afternoon when the lighting conditions weren’t ideal. Instead of concentrating on the beautiful landscape under poor light, I focused on the ADORABLE cows.

I really couldn’t get enough of watching those creatures (especially the kissing cows) but I finally did manage to pry myself away to take a walk down the road where I captured some of the barn buildings. Since the lighting wasn’t great I turned these into B&Ws for a different effect.

Next it was off to an old barn with a cool silo. This is the traditional angle that everyone concentrated on shooting . . .

But I was much more intrigued by the backside.

Something about it just screamed still life to me, especially when I zoomed up.

There’s only so many pictures I can take of one building and I started to get bored and play with leaves . .

And then I was really stretching it for subject matter so I started to play with blurring the landscape to mimic a painting.

Thank goodness it was time to move on to get back to the hotel for dinner because I was running out of creative ideas.  Part 2 and more photos coming soon.

The Big Wedding Shoot

I survived my first big wedding shoot! I haven’t recovered yet, mind you, but I did survive it. The whole day was quite the grueling process. I spent months trying to prepare myself for it. I read wedding photography books, I watched professional instructional videos, I gathered shot ideas, I practiced with new equipment. I really thought I was ready to tackle this challenge, but even with all that preparation, I had no idea what was in store for me.

I learned a long time ago to force myself to never have expectations – for anything. Nothing ever lives up to my expectations and life just happens so much grander in my mind than it does in reality. So I had this idyllic idea of what this whole day would be like and right off the bat I was slapped with the cold harsh reality. I envisioned all the girls getting ready in one big beautiful room (hair, makeup, the works). I thought the mother of the bride would be there and I would capture all those lovely iconic images . . . you know, if front of a window with soft glowing light. Yeah well, that didn’t work out quite as planned. There were 7 bridesmaids and the hotel rooms were so small you could barely fit everyone all in one room. Every single room that I stepped into looked like a hurricane blew through with debris scattered about. To put it in a nutshell, it was complete and utter chaos. My heart sunk because this was merely the beginning of the day.

It didn’t take me long to realize that one person can not possible cover all the action on wedding day. I was counting my blessings that I had, not only one professional photographer to back me up, but TWO! I managed to snap a few pictures of the groom during all this chaos, but I mostly concentrated on the bride getting ready while my new best friend took care of the groom’s preparation photos.

We planned to leave the hotel early and stop by the reception to take the detail photos of the tables and flowers and such before any guests arrived . . . but that didn’t happen. As it turns out there was a road race happening that same day and the traffic was grid lock. Just what I needed to add a little more stress to the day.

Straight to the church it was and we arrived with plenty of time for me to go inside, check the lighting, and have a nervous breakdown. It was like a dark cave inside. I fiddled endlessly with my camera to make sure it would expose right in the dark, only to later find out that all the lights would come on for the ceremony. I was well covered for the church shots. I had one of the pros stationed on the balcony getting wide sweeping shots of the entire church and birdseye scenes of the bride and groom at the alter. My buddy Scott was there to get the angles that I could not get. After all, you can only be in one place at one time. It was a great combination of team work and I’m sure the entire day is going to be amazingly well documented. I was just so darn proud of myself to be at the right place at the right time to get some of the important ceremony things, like the rings and the first kiss.

The most dreaded part of the day for me was the formals. I knew I could handle all the “detail” shots because that is my specialty. I even felt confident with the “documentation” portion of the day. But when it comes to posing people . . . well, that I know nothing about. I was terrified to say the least, but I did manage to get some great shots of the bride and groom.

Boy was I looking forward to the first dance and cake cutting because I knew that after that I was off-duty and can start to have a little fun dancing – and that I did.

I haven’t yet seen the photos taken by the pros, but I wanted to gather and document just the photos that I took (as a mark of an accomplishment for me). I will have the full story uploaded within a week or two, but for now, if you are curious to see my own work, you can view the photos online here. And for a real treat, you can head over to Scott’s blog for a sneak peak at his amazing work. I can NOT wait to get his photos!!!

I Missed My Calling

I went to my first National Geographic photography workshop yesterday and it was great. I really enjoyed every minute of it and I learned a lot. Sadly, the biggest thing I learned was that I totally missed my calling. It was almost painful to sit there for 6 hours and listen to the stories of these photographers’ lives, on assignment, working for National Geographic. sigh.

I just can’t help but to imagine what life would be like in their shoes. I mean is there any job better? They travel all over the world on assignments that run from 2 weeks to a month with a goal of grabbing a half dozen great shots. Really??? Six pictures in two weeks? That doesn’t seem all that difficult to me, but they explain how very hard it can be. I’ll take that challenge any day.

The pictures that backed up all the stories were amazing and so inspiring. Aside from basic composition, lighting, etc, the biggest lesson they really tried to teach was the importance of building a relationship with your subject. They really drilled this home as the single most important thing you can do as a photographer. It was about halfway through the seminar when something occurred to me. Before the seminar started I was standing all alone in the hallway outside the meeting room. I was just standing there minding my own business when this guy walked by and said hello to me. When he saw me his face lit up like a Christmas tree. He looked so genuinely happy to see me and asked me how I was. I was convinced that he had completely mistaken me for somebody else. Why else would a complete stranger greet me with so much enthusiasm? Then I happened to notice his sparkly gold shoes and thought, “OK, maybe he’s just plain strange.” Come to find out he was one of the two photographers presenting the workshop and he just proved his point. He has an infectious personality and he truly makes everybody he meets feel special. Now that is a true talent that you just can’t learn from reading a book or attending workshops, and it was such an important lesson to understand how these great “people photographs” are made. Maybe it had something to do with him always wearing gold shoes. Perhaps I should get me a few pairs!

And Now Some Sample Pictures

Boy, that really was lame wasn't it? Talking about my great photography day without posting a single photo. I'm just having my usual time management problem. I can't seem to do all that it is I want, or need, to do so I'm shuffling through my days a little fragmented. I didn't have the pictures with me at home last night and now that I have the pictures with me, I still don't have time to 'edit' them, not that they really need much editing, but I'm sure the pros will take these up a few notches. Even if I ever gain the knowledge of how to do that, I will still always struggle with having the time to do it. So here are some of the samples from my big shoot, unedited and straight out of the camera.

This one is just straight lighting and the photographer referred to it as the “vanilla version.”

Then we moved on to some more creative lighting. The next two shots we played with adding some red highlights to the pieces.

Then we got more creative with the placement of the light.

My next lesson was in positioning the part and playing with different options and angles. Just laying the part on the table is not always the best way to view it.

And finally, I had a guest Art Director come down to supervise this next part. Since head porting and multiaxis machining is his specialty, who better to know which light to portray this piece? Karlo was very proud of the final result with the blue light representing the intake port (cool air) and the red light representing the exhaust port (hot air). Wasn't that creative?

So we will see if I ever get brave enough to show off the parts I shoot all by myself . . .

The Greatest Day of My Photography Career

I had a dream . . . (that should be spoken like Martin Luther King, please). And that dream was to some how learn commercial, product, studio (whatever you want to call it) photography. I didn’t think this would be such a hard task to accomplish, but after searching all over for some instruction for the past 2.5 years I was just about ready to give up. I looked all over for workshops and seminars, I’ve been to several Photoshop Worlds, I tried a couple of schools like Maine Media and a local photography school in CT, but nothing. Everything always seem to focus on portrait photography, which I have no interest in what-so-ever, not to mention the fact that it’s a totally different ballgame. I needed some real focused and detailed instruction on “product photography” – the sort of stuff you see in product brochures and advertising. The sort of stuff you have to pay big bucks to have taken. It seemed to be a very elusive skill that nobody was sharing.

I got pretty close to finding a class about a year ago. Some school in CT was offering what seemed like the perfect class, but I was traveling during the dates and the darn school went out of business before they ran another class. Just my luck.

I once got brave and struck up a conversation with a professional photographer at one of my Maine Media Workshops and his best advice to me was to find a local pro and just request to pay him for his time to teach me how to do it. That sounded great, but I never got the nerve to try it. I just found it rude to ask a professional to teach me his trade secrets. I was about ready to give up.

The next series of events is hard to describe. It was like a synchronistic chain of pay-it-forwards, good people doing good deeds for each other. One favor leading to another favor and before you know it, I have a new photography friend who offers to teach me his craft. It was like a dream come true. He offered to come to my office and teach me how to shoot my specific products, with my equipment, in my environment. This just seemed way too good to be true, but unlike every other instance in my life where things that seemed too good to be true usually were, this was indeed just plain ‘too good.’

So I spent the entire day yesterday with two professional photographers, learning all about the one segment of photography that has always baffled me. I was super excited, but also terrified at the same time. I felt so far out of my league that the whole idea of it was quite intimidating and I could feel myself slipping back into that identity crisis of mine, “Am I really a photographer?”

Well, it turned out to be the most amazing day. I was actually surprised at how much I liked it. It became like a game to try to figure out how to handle each individual product. And, as the pros pointed out, I was starting my lessons with the most difficult products on Earth to shoot – shiny metal objects. It’s like the equivalent of a pre-med student starting off with open heart surgery. But I did it. Well, it wasn’t too hard with the life jacket keeping me afloat. The real test will come when I’m alone in the studio, without my super heros there to guide me. But I’m thrilled and excited to give it a try. I just can’t thank these guys enough for the opportunity of a lifetime.

I know what you’re thinking at this point . . . so where are the pictures? I will post some soon. I promise.