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A Vermont Photographer's Thoughts

WAG Holiday Craft Market   September 12, 2011

WAG Holiday Craft Market

Just wanted to share a press release about a project I am involved in. It is the WAG Holiday Craft Market opening on October 12 in Williston. I will be selling my note cards and framed prints.
Here are the details.

Take a group of artists from Richmond and other parts of Chittenden County, put them in the former Williston Golf Range building next to Maple Tree Place, what do you have? You have the Women Artist’s Guild of Richmond Holiday Craft Market opening on Wednesday, October 12th.

The Holiday Craft Market is a temporary market opening for the holiday season. The Market will offer distinctive and creative items for everyone on your holiday gift list. It will also host several special events including Sunday teas, and opportunities for your shopping dollars to support the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund, Hunger Free Vermont, and Richmond and Williston Food Shelves.

The Market will feature the following artists; Alyson Chase Studio, floor cloths, handbags, wallets and note cards; Carol Maguire Home, table linens, pillows and quilts; Lori Yarrow of Copper Creations, copper, silver and brass jewelry; Janet Auman of Shiny Things, fused glass jewelry; Laura Hale of Found Beauty Studio, creations using recycled and repurposed items; Carroll Photos, photography. The market will also include works by other local artists.

The Market will be open through December. It is located east of Taft Corners on Rt. 2., across the street from the plaza that includes Rocky’s’ Pizza and Artist Medium. The Women Artist’s Guild (a.k.a. WAG) Holiday Craft Market hours will be

Tuesday – Thursday 11 – 6
Friday – Saturday 10 – 8
Sunday 12 – 4

WAG of Richmond is a group of women artists and crafters from Richmond and the surrounding area formed a year ago.

Irene in Richmond   September 9, 2011

Irene in Richmond

Rt looking toward Mobil and park and ride.

Nearly two weeks after Tropical Storm Irene most of Vermont has returned to a semi-normal routine. Those communities left isolated and severely damaged by the storm are still cleaning up and may never get back to life before Irene, but will create a new normal. I suspect all of us will never forget Irene or the lesson she taught us about the power of water.

I spent most of that rainy Sunday glued to my computer...looking at images and stories posted on Face Book about the early damage. I saw the early shots from Wilmington as the rains destroyed the roads accessing the town and rushed through Main St. My background noise through all this was the sound of my husband wet vacuuming our basement and the sound of the sump pump. We sit on top of a hill but tend to get the water running down from above us. Still I never really worried about us or Richmond.

That changed later Sunday when my husband brought back a shot of the Winooski River moving closer to the bottom of the bridge. Later there was a posting from a friend who lived near the river saying she and her husband and family were going to stay in Burlington. At that point I knew Richmond was in trouble.

Early Monday my husband headed down to the village with his video camera. He is chief photographer at Channel 3 and had brought his gear home for the weekend. Minutes after he left he called and suggested I come down to the town center. I grabbed my camera and walked down the hill with my son. Just before I left I received a boil water notice from the town by email. By the time I got down to the town center I understood why.

My son and I were greeted by the image of water lapping up against the side of our Town Center and houses between that building and the bridge seemingly floating in the water. In front of us lay a huge body of water reaching all the way to the bridge and I assume beyond. In the distance I could see Volunteer's Green and the playground covered in water with only a few feet of the equipment showing above the water. The concert shell..sitting on a hill near the river was the only thing visible. On the street nearest the river the water lapped about midway up the street sign. Pictures from earlier in the day showed it within inches of the bottom. I watched a home owner in waders make his way to dry land..the water then seemed to come over his knees. What was unseen to me was the water that had surrounded our water treatment plant and had creeped up to the far end of several streets near the center of the village.

There were many villagers standing in shock looking at the damage,snapping pictures. Someone directed me to the back of the town center where the post office sits. The back parking lot was underwater. The fire department was already pumping water out of the basement where our teen center was located. By then I heard that Rt 2 and the Mobil Station and Park and Ride were under water and in the other direction the road was flooded heading south toward Jonesville. I hitched a ride with a friend to both sites and was stunned with image. On the way we saw plastic covered hay bales floating in a field. About then I began to fathom the damage that had been done.

I went home and posted my pictures. Friends sent them to other friends and I received many comments of disbelieve of the destruction and appreciation of sharing and informing. They joined the many images showing Irene's destructive path that appeared on many social media sites.

The rest of the day and week passed in a blur of balancing work with helping with the clean up and letting others know how they could help. Two close friends including the one who evacuated early Sunday suffered major damage to their homes. Many homes were damaged some losing foundations. In Jonesville and on the other side of the river the story was the same. Several businesses and farms suffered damage.

I joined the large groups of volunteers in grubby clothes helping to dig out the muck from basements, cleaning off valuables and hauling mud covered possessions out of homes. I remember cleaning shoes and boots the first day when I saw a white platter covered in mud. I became obsessed with getting that piece sparkling white.
Didn't happen. The mud clung to little grooves in the dish. I remember standing in line as we moved possessions from a basement handing off the items to each other. I grabbed part of a stereo system covered in mud and put in a pile with other muck covered electronics. I remember cleaning valued old tools at a friends home with others when she placed a doll's face on the tarp and said this was all that remained of a doll her Mother had had. If you helped with clean up as I suppose most of you have you know important these family items are to those who have lost most of their possessions.

I never did pick up the camera again to record the aftermath of Irene. Couldn't bring myself to record everyone's possessions laid out on lawns or the crumbled pieces of walls and foundations. However I do appreciate those who did record Vermonters as they worked to recover from Irene. Those images will serve as a reminder of the power of nature and how easily our lives can be forever changed by it.

Jonesville...Rt 2

Jonesville...Rt 2

recording a life   August 23, 2011

recording a life

MC,Jim, and the often photographed..Devin

I don't know whether it was the picture of a friend's new baby on Facebook today or discussing senior portraits with a parent, or finally the arrival of my son in Vermont today after nearly a year in Scotland, but I feel compelled to write about pictures and children. Specifically how well documented my son's life has been.

As the only son of two photographers it is not surprising that his life from birth to his current life has been 'covered' completely. Not surprisingly we are not alone. Professional photographers like myself depend on a parent's and a grandparent's need to have photographic memories of their family. Indeed there are now photographers who specialize just in baby shots or children and some even specialize in pregnancy photos. I believe it is inherent in human nature to want record special moments or people in our lives. As I have often said in this blog...those images or more recently videos, provide comfort in the memories they bring back.

Devin's first pictures happened within minutes of his birth. My husband had his small 35mm film camera with him and once Devin was safely in my arms he began to take pictures. A nurse grabbed the camera an shot some pictures of the three of us...the new family. These days they would have been posted on FB within a few hours. But this was almost 25 years ago and the film my husband was using at the moment was black and white. Years later the contact sheet still exists but we haven't tracked down the negatives. Yet we do have photos of the grandparent visits and the first diaper change that we managed.;-) Later at home I picked up a camera and started photographing Devin with Dad and Devin sleeping, and Devin making faces etc.. I remember one of my favorite shots from those first 6 months is a shot of Devin with a big grin on his face as he discovered he could 'suck' his toes. There was also an early shot of infant Devin sound asleep on his Daddy's chest who was also asleep. Most of the shots of Devin and family were candid although I did get us into the studio around Christmas, and with the camera on self timer we did our first formal that was given to the grandparents and relatives at Christmas. The first of many 'self-timed formals'.

The first four or five years of his life were dutifully recorded and put in albums. Although we continued to take photos of our adventures and special moments...most of those are still sitting in boxes and files and packages. They haven't been scanned or framed. That is my dirty secret. I organize my clients images but my own personal work, especially film, is in disarray. I think I put together an album when he turned 13 and gathered class photos and candids from that time, but thats it. Wait! I did an album for his college graduation too. And some of these images did end up in frames to be given to our families. When both sets of grandparents died those pictures came back to us and now grace our home.

Obviously these images serve as a record of our years together. When Devin left for college leaving his two parents staring at each other wondering where the time had gone, I was surprised at how much comfort I took from the framed images around our house. There is a profile shot of Devin at the age of four that sits by the couch where we often watch TV. Can't tell you often I look at the photo and remember the joy of hanging out with a bubbly,talkative, and giggling young boy. As Devin traveled further away and lived in other countries the photos of recent family gatherings and visits brought up pleasant memories of those special moments that parents hang onto as their children grow up. When I discovered Facebook, much to Devin's dismay, I found another source of photos...another way to stay connected...viewing pictures posted and shot by him and his friends. I suspect I am not seeing everything..and that is a good thing.

We, his parents, are not able to record his life as we used to. So we rely on his own records, his own story telling and visuals,to fill us in on his life. Meanwhile I will continue to record the lives of other children and other families. Hoping that I capture a moment or a gesture that provides comfort and happy memories for other parents in the future.

Note: As I said before those early images are not scanned and available for posting. It is probably a good thing because I am not how well Devin would tolerate seeing his baby pix on line. I will share my favorite and most recent shot of the 'family' together though.

Tyrell and his family   August 10, 2011

Tyrell and his family

Tyrell hanging out with Mom.

One of the Joys of my work is that I often get to work with children and their families. Since my son is grown and out of the house, photographing young children allows me to get my kid fix every once in a while. A few weeks ago I got to photograph a young man by the name of Tyrell before he was christened. Tyrell is a curly haired ten month old with a charming smile and a pretty laid back and cool attitude. He is the beloved grandson of a dear friend of mine.

Like so many sessions this was about capturing a moment in Tyrell's life with the ones who love him. After I photographed him with his Mom, he was handed over to his uncle who is also is godfather, then they were joined by his new godmother and cousin, and then his Mom joined the mix again, then we did grandma and grandpa separately...together and with the whole family. Through out it the star of the show, Tyrell stayed cool and calm and responded to his grandmother's crazy antics behind me. He soaked in the attention and love and behaved beautifully. It was so much fun to work with a responsive child in a relaxed settings.

Best part of the day...I got to hang out with Tyrell for a while before he headed off for the christening. Understand he didn't cry in church either. Tyrell just babbled at the priest and batted at the sleeve of his robe. Cool dude.

Not every child responds well to being handed about and working hard as the star of the shoot. It helped that everyone was relaxed and happy and made it fun. A perfect family shoot.

Grandma and Grandpa get to hang out and enjoy their grandson.

Grandma and Grandpa get to hang out and enjoy their grandson.

Scotland Views 2   July 18, 2011

Scotland Views 2

View from Calton Hill,one of the seven hills of Edinburgh.

Our visit in Scotland began in Edinburgh, not Scotland's largest city, but certainly the one with the most visual character. It is Scotland's capitol and home to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood (the Queen's formal Scottish home), the Royal Mile, and in August, the Fringe Festival- a month long celebration of the arts. It is called the Athens of the United Kingdom because of the hills that it sits on and probably because of the culture of the city.

My husband and I discovered the hills right away as we followed our tour guide, our son who is attending University of Edinburgh, on our daily explorations of the city. We were staying in a B&B in row of B&B's in gray stone buildings in the center of Edinburgh. Our days would begin with a hearty Scottish breakfast and then we would walk to our son's flat and plot our day. His flat was next door to the Meadows, a park that reminded me of Boston Commons. There are rugby and soccer games going on and folks playing with their dogs but unlike the commons, this park has a 30 hole pitch and putt golf course free to anyone with clubs. Needless to say you had watch carefully when walking otherwise you would risk being hit by an errant golf ball.

Our first day's visit began with a long walk up to Edinburgh Castle. This 800 + year old castle dominates the skyline of Edinburgh with its massive stone walls and its imposing siting on an old volcano. From the castle you can see the mix of modern and old and older that makes Edinburgh so charming. From the Castle most visitors walk down the Royal Mile, a mostly cobblestone road that takes you by kirks and closes, and ancient buildings and well as the frequent stores selling Scottish tartans and sweaters. The architecture ranges from the almost black stone of the dramatic spires of St. Giles Cathedral and the ornate details of Holyrood to the out of place modern lines of the new Scottish Parliament. In between lies the mostly gray stone buildings of various eras lined up together. Every once in a while you come across a close...a little square or open area behind the street buildings accessed by a narrow alley way.

Thirty years ago I made my first trip to Europe and my first trip to Edinburgh and discovered a beautiful little close a block or two or way from the Castle. I was so excited when my husband took us down this little alley way and I found myself in the same little close with the same gaslight I had photographed so long ago and the Writers Museum that I had explored back then.
Half an hour later I found three red phone boxes that I had photographed back then as well on the Royal Mile.

Near the end of the mile lies Canongate Kirk, a 17th century church where one can find the grave of the famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns, and many other graves of famous Scottsmen. The stones marking the graves are dark and broken many with beautiful text. The crypts are massive and on a hill slightly above the Kirk the crypts seem to recall the architecture of Athens. The Palace of Holyrood House lies at the end of Mile, built in the 1500's it looks on the outside and feels inside like what one would imagine a palace should be. Massive and ornate inside and out. Beautiful in its own way but what grabbed my attention was the ruined abbey attached to the building. The simple ruins overwhelmed us with a sense of its history and beauty.

Later walks through the neighborhoods of Edinburgh brought the same sense of awe at the history that surrounded us. To put it in perspective, Edinburgh's New Town neighborhood was built in a period from the mid 1700's to the mid 1800's..just when our young country was beginning.

The Writers Museum in Lady Stairs Close.

The Writers Museum in Lady Stairs Close.

Phone boxes on the Royal Mile.

Phone boxes on the Royal Mile.

The abbey at Holyrood Palace, with Arthurs Seat behind it.

The abbey at Holyrood Palace, with Arthurs Seat behind it.

The Royal Mile just below Edinburgh Castle.

The Royal Mile just below Edinburgh Castle.

Scotland Views, Part 1   July 12, 2011

Scotland Views, Part 1

Cloud passing over somewhere before we crossed over to Skye.

We are blessed with amazing views in Vermont. The mountains, the fields, the rivers and lakes provide beautiful views for photographers and painters to capture. Look at any craft show, any card rack or look at local magazines and you will find Vermont captured in classic landscape photography. I love that I can step outside or take a short drive and find things I need to capture with my camera.

Yet as glorious as Vermont is, it is always nice to get a change of view, an opportunity to see something completely different.

In May my husband and I took off for Scotland to visit our son in Edinburgh. Edinburgh was a great city to walk in and explore, and I will share some images and impressions from that part of the trip in a later post. It was an area northwest of Edinburgh that captured my imagination. The Highlands.

At my son's suggestion we boarded a bus from Edinburgh to Inverness, a city from where we would base some of our explorations of the Highlands. The bus ride was a three hour trip though landscape that reminded me of Vermont's rolling hills...yet it had a feeling of being older more worn. Inverness itself was a city of old and new and split down the middle by the river Ness. We stayed in a lovely B&B where the landlady fed us a great breakfast and sent us off on our adventures with a bag of oatmeal cookies.

One of those adventures was a bus tour to Isle of Skye. It was a full day trip..leaving at 8:30 and getting us back to Inverness 12 hours later. You have to understand that the three of us are pretty independent group and like to do our own thing. Yet we decided this was the easiest way to get a sense of the Isle of Skye and surrounding landscape. We ended up in a small bus with about 13 people and an articulate and knowledgeable bus driver/guide. As we headed northwest out of Inverness we saw green hills and fields full of sheep. It felt familiar. The driver warned that we would be seeing some dramatic changes after the first hour. I was enjoying gazing out the window and watching the scenery drift thinking that maybe this wasn't a bad way to see things. To my left a young man had his point and shoot pressed against his window grabbing images as fast as he could.

The guide droned on when suddenly I noticed a change. There were mountains ahead with snow
on the peaks! These didn't seem like the forested mountains of Vermont I was used to, although they were similar in size. With the exception of some hills with tree plantations on them, what I saw were steep, bare mountains with heather and other vegetation growing from the base but it was brown and rocky at the top. Somehow these mountains looked more dramatic than ours. But some looked like they would be great to hike. Indeed our guide said that trail hiking hut to hut was popular there.

As I was adjusting visually to the hills we came upon the lochs and fjords. Beautiful and wild..especially the day we saw them...they stretched on endlessly into the distance surrounded by mountains and hills. The guide stopped at plenty of vistas and gave us opportunity to shoot to our hearts content. Often amidst flurry of shooting I had to force myself to slowdown and actually look. It was so easy to get caught up in the sense that if I didn't take lots of pictures now I would miss something. The three of us soaked up this dramatic scenery like a sponge and when the bus stopped for lunch at the first landfall on Skye we opted to find a quick take away lunch and explore the town we were in. It was a beautiful seaside town that reminded us of some New England coastal cities except for the hulking mountains on either side.

It was after an hour on a single track road that we found the most visually stunning scenery. Unfortunately the weather was changing so we viewed the jagged peaks of northern Skye and cliffs of the little village of Eigol in the mist with a few rays of sunshine peaking through. It felt like we had reached the end of the world...actually we did reach the end of after an hour gazing and taking pictures we turned around and had to cope with seeing the same views all over again. Such suffering. ;-)

It turned out to be an amazing tour. We never expected to see such dramatic or spectacular scenery. For us it was a a movie short. Now we want to go back and explore all of the island. . Still it was nice to come home to the quiet beauty of Vermont hills. And I have no problem finding plenty to photograph.

A view from the cliffs near Eigol on Isle of the end of the road.

A view from the cliffs near Eigol on Isle of the end of the road.

One of the few I shot through a window.  I believe it is  Loch Carron, but I am not sure.  Need to remember to take better notes next time.

One of the few I shot through a window. I believe it is Loch Carron, but I am not sure. Need to remember to take better notes next time.

Social Media Warning – Posting Vacation News Can Trigger Burglary (from Green Mt. Access)   July 6, 2011

A couple of months ago before my husband and I left for Scotland he suggested I not post anything specific about our trip on Facebook. His fear was that someone would see the posting and realize our house was vacant and ripe for burglary. I thought he was being paranoid since I like to assume only my friends see my postings. However I did what he suggested and did not post anything about when we were leaving or how long we would be gone. Today I got a newsletter from Green Mt. Access, my internet provider. There I found a tutorial and warning about vacation news. I am including the whole piece in this blog and hope all my clients and social media friends take heed. Here it is…….

Social Media Warning – Posting Vacation News Can Trigger Burglary

Cybercriminals are increasingly using social media to search out burglary opportunities. These thieves watch for information about upcoming or current vacations and time their crimes for when homes will be empty. When users of Facebook, Twitter, foursquare, and other social media sites post when they will be (or are) out of town, they run the risk of unknowingly making their homes prime targets for burglary.

Thieves get this information in several ways:

• Facebook: Say your status reads, “Can’t wait for Monday, starting week-long trip to the Caribbean.” If you haven’t adjusted your privacy settings, this information can be seen by all of your Facebook friends. Even if your privacy settings are secure, people who can see it may decide to “share” or pass on the information to others who might be disreputable.

• Twitter: On Twitter, anyone can “follow” you without your permission so you have no control over “who sees what” as you do on Facebook. A tweet like, “Stopping in Omaha on our long drive to Denver” lets everyone know you are not at home.

• foursquare: This application is meant to let people know where you are. If you live in Boise and you have checked in at a restaurant in San Francisco, that’s a huge tip-off to anyone who wants to get into your home without you there. And foursquare is doubly dangerous because you have the option of sharing your activity on Facebook or Twitter.

To protect yourself, post as little as possible about your vacation plans, and ask others not to talk about trips before they happen or while in progress. Remember, you can tell everyone about your vacation when you return. If you’re simply too excited to not post your plans on Facebook, be sure your privacy settings are secure. To do this, in the upper right-hand corner of your Facebook home page, click Account and select Privacy Settings. Then click the Customize Settings link, which will take you to a page where you can specify what others see.

Windsor   June 27, 2011


The warmer months tend to increase my work load. Although I don’t do weddings…spring in Vermont means it time for outdoor portraits, annual reports and family gatherings.

Recently I have been shooting images for an annual report for Housing Vermont. Housing Vermont is a non profit development organization that develops permanent rental housing units. What I love about them is their focus on the rehabilitation of older buildings and homes.

They have taken a number of abandoned industrial buildings and turned them into apartments. Every year about this time I travel around the state photographing their current or finished projects. This year the projects ranged from rehabbing the former Windsor prison apartments, rebuilding the Springfield Movie theater to brand new housing in Rutland

What is fun about these projects is that I am given an opportunity to shoot a broad range of images. Not only do I take a ‘beauty’ shot of a building I often will look for visual details in a project or interesting angles. I find the report designers tend to use these shots more than the straightforward images.

The former Windsor prison gave me plenty of opportunity for interesting images. This is an imposing brick and wood frame building that has been an apartment house for several years but if you look carefully you can find a few prison cells still left in the basement. The challenge the day I shot was that there was a lot of construction still going on and much of the window framing and interior work still needed to be done.

I just spent my time there wandering around the site and taking pictures. I even got a chance to photograph one of the tenants who had lived there for years. I found beautiful old doors, gardens by stone walls,brick against stone, guys fixing the roof.

It is such a wonderful experience as a photographer to just shoot what your eye is attracted too and to stretch your brain enough to see beauty in the most mundane or seemingly ugly.

Mentoring Views   February 25, 2011

A few months ago I began mentoring a senior high school student in the southern part of the state. It happened in the way so many things happen in this small state. A friend’s partner teaches at this young women’s school and knew she was looking for someone to mentor her for her senior project. Over the years I have worked with various middle school and high school kids while they shadowed me or did some special project. I love sharing my passion for photography with others…especially those equally crazed. My friend asked…I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

Hannah and I began our mentor/mentee connection tentatively at first. We sent a series of emails back and forth with info about each other. Hannah said she was doing a project for her senior year that was a slide show of images shot during the past year. She also has to write about her experience and what she is learning. She started to send me images and I started to send her links to favorite photographers and exhibits. I would comment about her work and make general statements about composition and stuff. Hannah has a great eye and I loved seeing her fresh take on things. She talked about loving nature photography but what grabbed my attention were her shots of buildings…particularly some cityscapes she shot of Boston and Montreal. The images were strong and graphic. Somewhat sophisticated for someone her age.

I was enjoying our connection and found looking at her work and suggesting and sharing gave a little kick to my own work. I have been making a concerted effort for the last two years to throw away a lot of my ‘shoulds’ and ‘self-restrictions’ about what works and what doesn’t. It is not easy after 25 years. I have been soaking up a lot of other photographer’s work to expand my vision. Working with Hannah I reminded about the joy of photography.

A couple of weeks ago Hannah and I met in Montpelier for the first time. We seem to hit it off immediately. We went to a quiet cafe and she showed me her book of images. Mostly we talked though. About photography, about school, about her family, about her dreams….we never stopped. Again I was taken by her architecture shots. Maybe it comes from the fact that her Dad studied architecture and passed the love of buildings down to her. Maybe it is the work she has been doing in art class or her own interest in maybe making architecture a career. Whatever it is these are clearly the strong images. I also noticed that she an interesting way of composing images with people in them. Most of the images were strong compositionally…and she looks at things straight on.

I decided that we should just go take pictures. So we spent a little time photographing around the Statehouse, looking at the building and then we discovered this ice sculpture. It looked as though someone had carved some winged goddess. We both shot images and then it was time to go. We made a date for a studio visit so that we could work on some technical stuff and said goodbye.

I left Montpelier flying high. It was such fun to spend a few hours with someone who clearly loves to take pictures and create art. So much fun to share the passion. I look forward to our next meeting, and to sitting through Hannah’s senior presentation in May. I am happy to be reminded that sometimes we learn from the most surprising teachers.


mc's version of the ice angel

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