Life Through My Lens

Observations, Musings, and Ramblings As I See It.

Be A "Noticer"

July 2, 2018

     Let’s talk about our gifts. Some are obvious: think Taylor Swift or Lebron James. Other gifts may not be so outwardly obvious. For me personally, anything that came naturally to me never really seemed like a gift. I tended to think if I could do something, then everyone must be able to do it as well. Later in life, I learned that some of those things are unique to me, therefore: Gifts!

     One gift that I overlooked for many years, but am especially grateful for, is the gift of Noticing. For a long time I just assumed everyone notices details like I do. As a child I could always remember where we parked the car. As an adult I could find my way back to places after just one visit. To my children it’s not always an appreciated great gift… like noticing the pimple on their face that needs to be popped. I’m also the person that will always notice a booger hanging out, or something in your teeth, but I will sound the alert so you don’t walk around like that all day and be embarrassed later (that’s just the kind of friend I am, thank me later). The older I get, I think that some people might experience stimulus overload if they noticed everything as much as a Noticer does. But as a photographer, the gift of Noticing is irreplaceable.

     Noticing is definitely a subjective gift.  What may be attractive to Noticers may not be attractive to others. Mix that with a love of photography, and you have a whole new perspective on the world. Perfect example, my mentor, friend, and sister/aunt Joy Ritenour. She is gifted beyond measure in many ways, and is an Expert Noticer. She is a fantastic photographer and artist, and notices things most would overlook completely. She can find beauty and art in the most overlooked things imaginable: Trash. Check out her Discarded Series here: I am nowhere near as gifted at this type of photography as she is, but I do enjoy connecting with her when I find something particularly interesting and message her with an obscure photo. I was beyond pleased when she once responded to me with the compliment that I, indeed, had “Trash Eye.”

     Trash and discarded items may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Noticing things is becoming a thing of the past. It is becoming more commonplace to see people looking down at their phones seeing only what the tiny screen reflects back at them rather than the world that actually IS around them. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, I admit, but I do make a conscious effort to Notice the things around me.

     My favorite little personal quest is finding hearts wherever I go. I think of the hearts I find as a little reminder that I’m loved all the time, even if I don’t feel like it. I think of it as God placing a little reminder in the most random places for Noticers like me to find. Whether it’s hearts, or trash, or something else entirely, if you think outside the box and look at things a little differently than usual, you may actually See something you hadn’t Seen before. And it might just be a little bit beautiful.

Lights, CAMERA, Action!

July 1, 2018

    I have always loved the theater. My mother used to direct my elementary school plays. She was fantastic at it. When I was in kindergarten I got my first part in the play “Peter and the Wolf.” I was cast as the little bird. If you are unfamiliar with the story, my part as the bird was to alert Peter that he needed to come and help get rid of the wolf. On opening night, I decided that was much too small a part, so I killed the wolf with Peter. Needless to say, my mother changed her casting methods and found more reliable children to fill the parts in later productions. But it makes for a good story, and firmed up my love of theater (particularly musical theater).

     Over the years I have encountered so many talented teachers and students who put on the most amazing productions in both school and community theater, particularly my dear friends Emily Cory and Andrew Lincoln, who fostered a love of theater in my own children in high school productions of Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors, and Les Miserables. My love and gratitude for these 2 individuals would take its own blog post, so I shall redirect myself back to the original intent of this one.

     For many years I have worked alongside a dear friend, Priscilla Smith, and her family. She runs the Annapolis Musical Theater and Voice Company. Through the years, my children have learned voice, acting, and dance from her, and I was able to assist in teaching musical theater at her previous school, The Art Space, in Annapolis. Now I am blessed to be a part of her productions as the photographer of her many amazing performances. This week I attended her summer camp production of “Oliver with a Twist” at St John’s College in Annapolis. In just 9 short days, children ranging in age from 5-17 put together a knock-your-socks-off condensed show, complete with casting, learning lines, choreography, and superior musical pieces. I. Was. Floored. Every year I am blown away by the level of professionalism and quality of the show, and every year it gets better. As a super kudos to Priscilla, she underwent surgery in the middle of the 2 week camp for kidney stones, and with the assistance of her amazing team of family members and friends, she still produced one of the best student productions I have ever seen. Bar none!

     But wait! There’s more! The love of all things theater has followed me to Fredericksburg as well. The Riverside Dinner Theater in Fredericksburg has served the region around Fredericksburg for 20 years now producing Broadway quality shows and children’s theater productions. In an effort to spread the love of theater to even more communities, The Riverside Foundation offers a 2 week camp free of charge to students who may otherwise not have access to theater camps or classes. Each year, professionally trained actors and actresses teach these young people musical theater as well as classical/Shakespearean type numbers and skits. The end of the 2 weeks culminates in a stellar showcase of a wide variety of theatrical gems. I am always thrilled to watch how much heart and soul these young people put into these fantastic productions. I enjoy giving to the theater community and supporting the Riverside’s outreach efforts by offering them photography and head shots for all the performers.

     I look forward to working with both of these groups for many years to come. Thank you to all who make the arts a priority in our society! But I do have to admit, I have a heart for all those little birds who decide to stay out and slay the wolf instead of obediently fluttering off stage, my hat tips to you with your crooked tutu and smudged stage makeup.

So this is how it begins.

June 30, 2018

     Ok, concerning blogging. I’ve read the articles, listened to the podcasts, heard the encouragement from friends…. but still I’ve held back and postponed and procrastinated. I know it’s important. Yet, I was holding back and just could not bring myself to do it. Well, in all honesty, I have already done blog posts on my old website, and I liked them well enough… they showed my work, highlighted photos that I had taken in a session, and I spoke truly about my experience with these special people who had shared some of life moments with me, big and small. But I couldn’t keep it up. Not because I didn’t feel like what I did was important. Not because I didn’t truly love what I was doing. Not even because I was lazy…. well, maybe a little because I was lazy (??), but that was not the main reason.

     For me, writing is something I have always done. I feel like I have all these words just swirling around in my head, and I need to write them out just to make space for other stuff! But writing has always been an outlet for truth; an expression of beauty, anguish, or even fantasy. The thought of writing about each of my photography sessions in a way that may become redundant and cliche not only felt forced, but like an injustice to the people with whom I had formed a relationship (albeit for a brief period of time) as I recorded in still frame the fleeting moments of their lives. My experience as a photographer has been this: To get images that are truly meaningful and capture the true person (people), it is necessary in a small span of time to coax from that person their true personality. I need to catch a glimpse of their true inner self so that the photograph is more than just a quick capture of a smile looking at the camera. That smile without the twinkle in the eye that shows the happiness is true and not contrived is the difference between a “nice picture” and a “treasured moment”! Call it “Sm-eyes” (pronounced SMIZE) a smile that comes from the eyes. Like, you know, actual, real life happiness. Once that connection has been made with actual people, to report in some rote manner the minutiae of the angle of sun, the colors of the leaves, the smell in the air….. felt too contrived to fully appreciate the actual feelings of our hour(s) together. So to sum it up, I trashed it altogether.

     But I get it. Blogging is important!! I DO want people who are looking for a photographer and stumble upon me, to KNOW me and actually know what they are getting in to. So it occurred to me that I do not need to conform to what I’ve seen or heard, or have come to believe are the “rules” for blogging photography. As my dear friend reminded me last night, “You need to do YOU!” So here I am. This is me doing me. And in my future posts, you will find just that. Observations about life: the good, the bad, the nutty, and sometimes a little on the crazy side… but it’s me. It’s Life, Through My Lens. Thanks for jumping on board and pushing through to the end of the post. From this point forward, I promise to make it worth the trip.

Ten More Pounds and I’m Getting Family Photos, And Other Ways We Rob Ourselves of Memories

July 13, 2018

 I’m going to start this journal post with some disclaimers: 

1- I’m NOT saying this to guilt you!

2- I am the WORST and most guilty of this very thing

3- You do not need to call me and book a session for this…. iPhones catch memories all the time, I’m cool with that.

     About 2 years ago I lost a lot of weight. I lost 38 pounds and was so so so proud of myself! For the first time in years I was ready to get in front of the camera instead of hiding behind it. So I had one of my very talented daughters take some pictures of me for my profile pictures (I probably have at least one on this website???) I was so excited to look at them. I downloaded them and then thought: “Wow! When did my neck get so wrinkly??!!” Quickly followed by “When did I get so many wrinkles???? My fat actually pushed out and flattened my wrinkles!!” Trade off for chubbiness, noticing my age…. ugh. We all do this to ourselves on the daily. Why are we so mean to ourselves????

     I hear so frequently some version of: “I’m going to call you as soon as I lose some weight, we haven’t had family photos in YEARS!!” OR “Just 10 more pounds, and we are doing this!” OR “As soon as I fit back into my pre-baby clothes I am calling you for pictures with the new baby!” This makes me sad, and it has nothing to do with not getting new business. Because when we say these things about ourselves and avoid the camera when we are not where we want to be in the looks department, it diminishes what our families look at and love! My kids don’t come look at me and say, “Boy Mom, when you lose 10 pounds I’m going to love you so much more!” Nope. They love ME, the ME that is right before them today. They don’t look at my waistline, or my roots growing out needing a long past due dye job, or my facial topography… they see the mom who just loves them more than anything in the world. And you know what? They love me right back. Just Me. Even with all the junk and imperfections that scream at me from my own reflection, and mean nothing to anyone else.

     I don’t want to be too dark with this post, but I just want my friends and family (and anyone else who may happen to read this post) to consider some serious truth bombs I’m going to drop now. Over the past few years I have lost several people in my life to either tragic and sudden loss, or even just to the end of a long life but who are still just as missed. All we have left of these beloved people and their beautiful smiles and quirkiness is the photographs that have become beyond priceless. We have our memories, absolutely; but the legacy that we pass down to all the future loved ones who will not know them is photographs. Very few people look at photos of those who have gone before us and say, “Wow. I wish they had just lost 10 more pounds before they got those pictures taken.”

     So my PSA today is step out of that comfort zone of hiding in the shadows in pictures, or just blatantly refusing to get anywhere near the front end of a camera, and just jump in, warts and all. The people who love you most will thank you for it. They will love you for it. They won’t judge you for it all. They will just love you for you, and that’s a memory worth keeping forever.