Monday, August 14, 2017

Being an Ally: My Week With Colage

I got the opportunity this week to photograph a camp run by an organization called Colage. The camp is for children ages 7-18 who have LGBTQ parents. They help to give the kids a safe space, a place to make new friends, and the tools to go out into the world and deal with bullying. Within just a few hours I could see how much this organization and all of the wonderful people who work for it do for these kids.

I first arrived in Provincetown, MA on August 1st. My first assignment was to go to Bas Relief Park to photograph the kids having fun and playing games. I was greeted with smiling faces and counselors that genuinely looked like they were having fun with the kids. There were water games, relay races, and arts & crafts activities. The first thing that I noticed was the diversity among the campers. There were children of many different races. There was a good even mix between boys and girls as well. All of the kids were running and laughing, playing together as they should, and not caring what their friends looked like on the outside. There was no teasing, no bullying, no insults. Just pure fun and joy. The counselors worked hard to include everyone that wanted to be a part of the games that they were playing and making sure all of the kids got a fair turn. If there was a child who seemed to be having a rough time they made sure to talk with them to see what was wrong and offer up some ways of how they could feel better.

When the parents came to pick the kids up I saw a great mix of families. There were families with two mothers, some with two fathers, some with transgender parents. Some of the children had parents of different races or nationalities. One thing that was similar with all of these families was that it was clear that these children were loved and respected by their parents, whether they were related by blood or adoption. If only all of those who are opposed to LGBTQ couples getting married and adopting children could see how much love there is in these families...

Later that evening I attended a beach party for the families. They got to run around and play on the beach, hang out with the campers, have dinner, and make s'mores in the fire pits that were built. Kids were splashing about in the water, hanging out with their friends. Some parents joined them and played games with them in the water. Some parents stayed on the beach and watched their kids play while they spoke with other parents. It was a great event and everyone left smiling.

Wednesday morning was what really opened my eyes to just how much this organization does for the campers. I photographed a workshop that was for the younger children who were all the age of 7. They played some games together until everyone got into the room. Some played off to the side with each other as they drew pictures or had conversations. After that everyone got into a circle and they played a game called "Love my Colager" where one person got to be in the center and said, "I love my Colager who..." and then followed it with a trait or activity that they liked. It became very clear to me just how in touch with our changing political climate these kids were. There was a little boy who I swear is going to make a great politician some day. His favorite thing to do was attend rallies and protests. He would chant, "Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!" and "Dump Trump!" He would get right into the center of the room and was very animated.

Now...I am sure that some of you are thinking that he is too young to really know what is going on and that this is just him copying his parents. But I could hear the conversations that some of these kids were having and you could tell that they are following what is going on. At the age of 7 they are watching the news and taking in everything that is happening in the world. They spoke about Russia, the election, North was crazy to me that they were so invested in this at such a young age, but that is kind of what we need right now isn't it? I don't like the term "woke" because I think it sounds strange, but these kids were just that. They were well aware of what was going on and how the current administration could possibly be threatening their families. Being in an LGTBQ family has introduced these kids to politics, the news, and human rights. Amazing, no?

The truly heartbreaking part of the day was hearing the stories from these kids about what people say to them about their family dynamic. Children would say that it was "weird" that they had two moms or two dads. They would ask the kids why they didn't have "normal" families. They would use derogatory terms to describe the Colagers' families which you could tell hurt the campers immensely. They love their families and wouldn't want them any other way but they still had to fight for what they felt is right. One thing that I did notice is that they were resilient as hell. The counselors taught them about ways to deal with bullying without being a bully themselves. They were taught to use positive words even in the face of negativity. Some of the lessons that they were taught are things that I took back with me and am trying to use myself to be a more positive influence.

On August 3rd a teen panel was held. A group of teens sat on a stage and answered questions from the audience. They spoke about how they deal with people telling them that their families weren't normal and how Colage has helped them deal with it. They were all so intelligent and positive. It was wonderful to hear how they have come so far in life and how they feel that their families are perfect the way they are. I had watched these teens helping the younger campers all week and it was so great to see how caring they were with the kids. You could see that they wanted more than anything else to make a difference and help give the campers the same positive experience that they had through the years.

In four days with the Colage crew I saw more love, more positivity, and more strength than I have seen in a long time. They were truly inspiring to be around and I loved every minute of it. I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to photograph Family Week. Thank you Colage for all you do for these wonderful kids.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shake and Splash for Cancer!

Hi everyone!

I am very excited as this weekend I will be photographing a fantastic event. From 11-5 I will be at the Shake & Splash Zumbathon which is being held at Liquid Planet in Candia. I will be photographing the instructors as well as the participants for this great event. The proceeds for this event are going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I will be selling prints from the event and the proceeds for that will also be going to this great cause. There is only so much we can do when someone gets cancer, but helping to fund a charity that does such great work to research these diseases and help those who are living with it already.

As many of you know, I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer in 2005. She was diagnosed late in 2004 and then passed away on March 18th, 2005. A few years later, my grandfather also passed away from pancreatic and liver cancer. My cousin recently underwent surgery to have her thyroid removed due to thyroid cancer. It is time that we fight back and beat cancer.

If you would like to join this great cause, there is still time! Please go to this link and then join us for a day of fun and exercise in the sun!! The weather is looking great!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Kindness in Unexpected Places: A Story of Profiling and Sheer Stupidity

I haven't updated in a while, and this has nothing to do with photography whatsoever, but I felt that it was an important story to share with everyone.

I was at Walmart in Hooksett today doing some shopping. As I left I noticed four guys crowded around the passenger window of the minivan that was parked next to me. They were sticking their hands in the window and I thought they had locked their keys inside and were trying to unlock the door. I excused myself because they were in the way of my driver's side door.

One of the guys looked at me and asked if I had any water. There was a desperation to his tone. Fortunately I did have a bottle of water that I had just bought. I started to hand it to him but he shook his head. He took his baseball cap off, turned it upside down, and asked me to pour the water in it. I thought it was a bit odd, but I used to do the same thing on really hot days. I started to pour the water into his cap when all of a sudden this giant tongue darted out of the very small crack in the window of the van. There was a dog inside. On a 97 degree day. A big dog, looked to be a Bull Mastiff or something of that variety. The dog was panting heavily. We tried to give him as much water as we could but he couldn't fit much of his enormous snout through the very small window opening that his careless owner had left.

I should mention this as it becomes important for what happened next. All four guys were dressed in baggy shorts, had chains around their necks and for their wallets, and all had baseball caps that were either backwards or sideways. Three were white, one was Hispanic.

The owner of the van finally came out of the store. We had been trying to give the dog water for ten minutes and according to the guy I was helping, they had been out there for at least another 20. They had gone inside the store and told customer service about the incident but no one came to the desk when their plate was announced over the speaker. Just as the owner was coming out one of the guys was getting his cell out to call the cops.

She notices all of us around her window and starts screaming at us. "What are you hoodlums doing? Are you trying to steal my van? Get the hell away from my car you lowlifes!" Other obscenities flew. One of the guys started yelling right back about how careless she was for leaving her poor dog in the car. A screaming match between the six of us ensued for a good five minutes, other customers gathered to watch. The woman got into her van, flipped us off, and sped off. We all just stood dumbfounded. One of the guys called the cops anyway and gave them her plate number.

It appeared that she had seen what these guys were wearing and decided that they were up to no good when she started screaming. She never looked at me. I was in a dress with Cody by my side. Profiling seemed to be what was happening. The guys thanked me for my help and we all went to our cars and took off.

I am sharing this story for a couple of reasons.

1. Don't judge people before you get to know them. You don't know who they are just by how they dress.
2. DON'T leave an animal or child in a hot car!
3. When you are in a parking lot, scan cars to make sure no one has left something in the car that they shouldn't have.

Even with all of the warnings on the news this week about not leaving children or pets in the car during the heat, this thoughtless woman still did it anyway. Fortunately for the dog, there were four extremely caring men who were willing to help him even though their owner was extremely rude.

Watch for kids and animals in cars, call the police if you see one.

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Love That Dirty Water

I haven't written in a while, life has taken me in so many different directions it seems that I don't know which way is up lately. But today, I write with a purpose.

I visited Boston today one week after the marathon bombings. It amazed me how in one instant a city that you are so familiar with no longer feels as safe as it once did. While the terrorist attacks on 9/11 resulted in more deaths and more terror, it didn't quite hit as close to home as the five days of terror we experienced in this last week.

I went to Boylston Street where the bombings happened and looked down the empty and barricaded street. A street that is usually teeming with people. Businesses were closed. There was not even so much as a piece of trash on the ground. It was stunningly eerie.

As I walked around the city with my son, sirens blared. Firetrucks went racing down the street with an ambulance in tow. My first thought? Oh my God, something happened again. I failed to remember we were in a large city where many things happen every day, but my first thought immediately went to that place of terror. I wasn't even there on the day of the bombings, I can't imagine how traumatized the people who were there must be.

We continued our journey and stopped along the way to take photos of the flowers and memorials that people had set up all along Boylston. At one point we came up to a group of police officers. My son pointed them out and I told him that they saved the city. He walks up to the officers and says "Thank you for saving the city" and high-fived them. One of my proudest moments as a mother. I cried. I saw many other people along our walk stopping to thank the officers who were standing guard. It was well-deserved to say the least.

We walked back to the main memorial and it was nice to see how many people were gathered. A moment of silence was held at 2:50pm in honor of those who had lost their lives and those who were injured. I have never seen such a large group stay so silent. Interestingly enough no sirens were blaring at this point. It was SILENT. After the moment of silence a number of people began to sing God Bless America and cheer. It was uplifting and heartfelt. We finally headed back to the train station.

As we sat on the train we were surrounded by a number of people. My first thought when I looked around on the train? Holy crap there are a lot of black backpacks on this train. This incident has turned me to paranoia! I was telling my father in-law this and telling him how there is nothing in those backpacks, but I was fearing them anyway. He brought up a good point that people in the crowds at the race thought they were just backpacks as well. How true. You just never know.

We made it back home safely. The day was filled with so many different emotions that it is hard to comprehend. One thing I learned from this trip if nothing else is that the human spirit cannot be broken by two jerks with bombs. We are one. We are strong. We are Boston. We are Boston Strong.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Photos on Vacation!

So my son and I will be spending a week in Washington DC in April. I am excited for this for many reasons. He has never been there so it will be a great trip for him as everything will be new. It will be his first time on an airplane as well so that should be an interesting experience.

I have been planning the trip out, and viewing the spots where we will go. I have already come up with ideas of the kinds of shots I want to get in Arlington Cemetery, the White House, the reflecting pool with the Washington Monument behind it...the thought of all of the photos I am going to come back with is super exciting.

But here is my question...

Where do you draw the line between taking amazing photos and putting down the camera and enjoying vacation?

I have photo-brain. I am ALWAYS thinking of what shots I can get, no matter where I am. I could be in Walmart and see something to take a photo of. I am sad I know, but thus is the life of a photographer. I sometimes have trouble turning my photo-brain off and just enjoying the moment. I automatically think, if I don't get this picture I won't remember it, or I really need this shot so I can show everyone what I am up to.

The good thing is that Cody has his own camera and absolutely loves taking pictures as well, so maybe I can balance between having a fun vacation and making it a learning experience for my budding photographer. :)

When we went to NYC I managed to do a pretty good job of not taking too many photos (We were there for two full days and I only took around 150 photos, which for me is usually what I take per hour). DC is so much prettier than NYC though!! I am hoping the cherry blossoms will still be out when we are down there.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Water Droplet Tutorial!!

Hi all! I have spent the past few days playing with water droplet photos and think I have finally got it down, so I would like to share how to do it!

Things you need:

Container almost full of water (preferably something clear or black)
White paper for background or tie dye background
Camera (duh)
Paper bathroom cup or medicine dropper
Desk lamp (only needed if you are doing a tie dye background)

So you are going to take your container with water in it and put it in front of either your white background (great if you want black and white droplet photos), or your tie dye photos (great if you want some color. See examples below). Take the desk lamp, point it at the background to light it up if you are using a colored background.

White background:

Tie Dye background:

Set your camera about a foot from the container, and about 6 inches above so your lens in angled down to the container. This will give you a better angle to work with and will reduce the chance of getting the front lip of the container in the photo.

Set your camera to remote mode so that you can fire away but not have to be attached to the camera. This is important because you need a free hand to make the droplets.

If you are using a paper bathroom cup, poke a small hole in the bottom using a pen. Adjust the size to increase droplet frequency as you go. If you are using the dropper, put water in it and test it out by squeezing to a rhythm to see how much pressure you need for drops.

Settings for the camera:
ISO 100
Shutter 1/250
Fstop 9-11 (anywhere in this range usually works well)
Flash should be on low power 1/32 or 1/64 to catch the droplets in action

Now, stick a pen above the water where you intend for the drops to land. Put your camera on manual focus, look through the viewfinder, and focus on the pen above the water. Place the tip of the pen no more than half an inch above the surface.

Now you are ready to start snapping away! You can either pick a rhythm for the droplets, (press the button on the remote just as the drop falls from the dropper or cup to get the splash), or you can hold the button so the camera fires a few frames off if you are having trouble with the other method.

For a bigger splash and better shots, hold the dropper/cup about a foot above the water. This will make it a little harder to make the drop land where you want it to, but after a few tries, you will get it.

Have fun!

Don't be discouraged if you don't get a lot of shots in focus. I took over 200 the other day and got six that were good. It's a tough thing to do, but once you get used to it and makes tweaks as necessary, it will become easier.

Here are a few of the shots I got over the last few days:



Lochness monster!



If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment here or on my Facebook page:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Are You a Photo Junkie?

How many cameras do you own? How many do you have on you at all times? Are you ever without a camera?

For me, I own 3 cameras. One on my iPhone, a Panasonic Lumix for concerts and other opportunities where I cannot bring my DSLR in, and my Nikon D7000. I ALWAYS have at least one of these on me at all times. During warmer weather the Lumix remains locked in my glove compartment in case I run into an interesting situation on the street while out and about. This happened once last year.

I was out at a friend's house and all of a sudden saw black smoke rising in the sky. So me being me, I tracked that sucker down! I found the house that was on fire on Myrtle Street. While the photos I got were not as clear and sharp as I would have liked, it's the journalism and story of it all that counts.

Other times, I will bring my DSLR with me in anticipation of a photo outing. I look at everything as a photo op, but I want to make sure that I have my best camera if I know that I am going somewhere where photos will be plentiful.

I am a photo junkie, plain and simple. Even if I have one of my other cameras on me, I will still take pics with my phone, and then use the real camera. It's an obsession, but it's also a passion. I think it's healthy to have a passion, especially one that you can turn into a career as I am trying to do.

If you see something that you think is a photo op, it probably is, so whip out that camera and get snapping!