Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of 2011: My Year in Pictures

I like to wrap up my year with a series of 12 pictures; the thought is one for every month of the year. I try my best to represent the entire year, although I'm sure not every month is pictured here. They also aren't arranged chronologically. For those that want to point out the obvious, there are nine pictures up there, I say to you, there are three more pictures below. Patience, people! These are not my favorite images of the year, I know, I know, I put best of in the title. I'm contrarian, ok? What all these pictures have in common are that they impacted me the most this year. I've learned something from all of them. They changed me in some way. As I put this collage together, my first thought was, "I need to take more horizontal pictures!" There are three pictures up there that I have better verticals for, but I went with an all horizontal layout.

Descriptions are below, left to right, top to bottom.

1.  The Video Game Orchestra at Berkley College of Music, Boston, MA. Many of you might think that my passion for concert photography was rekindled by the Eels shows, but that's not the case. In April, I drove to Massachusetts to go to a concert with friends. The first half of the show comprised of movie themes: Lord of the Rings, Back to the Future, Forrest Gump were some of the highlights for me. If you've never gone to a classical concert and feel a bit overwhelmed by it, try something like this. It's not as foreign as you think. It made me miss the days of concert band and seeing friends like Andrew perform at Juliard or John play interpretive tuba for his senior recital. The second half of the show was all video game songs performed by an orchestra. Pretty darn entertaining if you ask me. What stood out to me was the need to bring my camera along to a classical concert. I didn't take a ton of pictures, but I couldn't be there and not have my camera. I wouldn't have enjoyed it. The second thing I realized after this concert was how much I loved going on a road trip to see a show. I hadn't done that in so long. So a big thanks to George for the invite; I don't think I ever expressed how inspiring this experience was for me.

2. Snowy Sunrise, Milford, CT. This was a fantastic result of my failed photography experiment of taking a picture every day. Had I not challenged myself to do it, I wouldn't have had my camera on me that morning. That's a pretty powerful lesson and it's so easy to do.

3. Manhattan Bridge, NY. I went on an impromptu day trip to DUMBO to see a photography exhibit on concert photography. While I would have loved to have gone to the opening and met some of the photographers, it was on a Wednesday, a deadline day at the paper. What was important to me about this trip besides the exhibit was that it marked my first solo trip into New York from start to finish. That might not seem like a big deal, but for me, it was. I'm still getting used to navigating subways and usually have a friend with me or meet up with someone once I'm there. It's about time I learned.

4. James asking to take pictures. I adore my nephew and I love seeing him grow. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, right? Kids are great because they don't feel the need to BS; they're honest. If I can let James use an old digital camera that was collecting dust and inspire him to be creative, I feel like I've done something good. I really need to find a way to bring him along to shoots.

5. Grace and parents at Easter. This is my favorite picture of the year, and considering some of the amazing concert photos I took, that says a lot. I'm very much a documentary style photographer. I don't like to pose people, I just want to capture them as they are. I'm lucky enough to have an adorable niece that loves her parents and they don't care that I constantly take pictures of them. And holy crow, Grace without curls! I can't believe that was taken this year!

6. Aria. I can't believe how quickly my family has grown. This girl is going to be tough, with a big brother like James. She's always so calm and gives you the biggest smiles as soon as you look at her.

7. Showcase Cinema sign, Milford, CT. This was part of my return to film experiment. I have so many rolls of film from my camera shop days. I wanted to see if the film was still good, which it is, and I wanted to see what it would be like to shoot film again. It was a trip! I think I finally stopped checking the back of my camera for a view screen by the end of the second roll I shot. I encourage everyone to try this out. It helped me think about the way I shoot, made me slow down and look at the world again, and gave me that joy of picking up a roll of film. Does anybody remember that excitement in the digital age? It's nice to break away from instant gratification.

8. Sarah & Jeff's wedding at The Waterview, Monroe, CT. What a crazy day. What an amazingly calm couple. Sarah and Jeff had to change the venue of their entire wedding the day of their wedding because of a power outtage. I have never seen anyone take anything in stride as well as these two. Unflappable and adorable. Thanks for sharing your day with me. You guys rock!

9. Swing for Remedy at Kettlebell Daily, West Haven, CT. Vicki, who organizes this event every year asked me to get some cool pictures of her this year. It's fun and I like it, but that's not why this picture is important to me. Back in September, I dropped off the blog for a bit and only posted some random pictures without any explanation. One of my aunts had passed away and I tend to cope better with loss on my own. It was incredibly painful to have to be shooting only hours after finding out, but I had made the commitment months in advance. I'm proud of being able to find comfort in my art and do my job, even when something bad happened.

The final three images weren't going to fit into my fun collage set up, so I'm listing them individually.

10. I have a blog! I have a blog that has over 150 posts for this year! I think it's pretty incredible to see the growth over the year. Two posts in the month of January? How pathetic! I went from two posts the first month of this blog to only taking two days off in the last month. I remember how hard it was for me in the beginning to find the time for it and how long it took me to find my groove. Why, just this year, this Best of post took me several frustrating hours. This blog has helped me improve my design sense and develop a really strong work flow. I'm glad I stuck with it. I'm glad you're reading it.

11. My photographs are on the Eels website. My name is up there. My watermark even made it into a few of them. This was a HUGE moment for me this year, but it didn't happen right away. A lot of friends had to convince me to even contact the band, and even after that, I didn't hear from them. I felt so disappointed. Other concert photos were posted and I thought mine were just as good. (I'll be honest, I thought they were better.) I emailed them again, and included actual pictures this time instead of just a link to my blog post. Then my phone exploded with email alerts, which is an awesomely annoying sheep bleat. It sounded like there was a petting zoo in my cubicle; it was amazing. I can't express how validating this was for me. It inspires me to keep going. I don't exactly know where I'm going just yet, but it's little steps like this that are going to show me the way. I was pretty sure that nothing was going to top this moment this year, until...

12. Hotel Lights reposted my blog. For those that don't know, Hotel Lights is one of my favorite bands. I was lucky enough to see them perform this year and of course took pictures. I sent them along to the band, just like I did with the Eels, and got a really cool thank you email from them. What's really incredible about that simple image above is that I didn't tell them about this blog post. I put it together to showcase my work for the year. (There is a larger goal here and you guys will find out soon enough.) How shocked/stunned/awed/excited/horrified was I by this repost? Hotel Lights is following my blog? My thought process was: "Holy crap, that's awesome! They like my pictures! They just sent a bunch of people over to my blog! Oh fuck, have they been looking at all the stupid ass shit I post about my cat??? And Valley Santa? HAHAHAHAHA" Seriously, that's where my brain went before I broke into a coughing fit of laughter. I'm still working on clearing up that upper respiratory infection. It's humbling and strange to know that people are reading my blog, in this case someone that I'm inspired by. Not only does that give me the motivation to keep doing this, it pushes me to do more. Seriously, Darren and/or Hotel Lights, this means so much to me. I'm truly touched.

Things like this don't happen every day. Everyone stop for a minute and consider that as we get ready for our New Year's Eve celebrations. Think of a kind word you can say to someone. Think of how it will impact them. Maybe you can encourage someone, support their passion, help them with something they don't even know they need help with.

I look forward to the adventures that await me next year. I'm going to do my best to continue to share them with you. Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings. Be safe out there tonight!

Happy New Year!

Bring it, 2012!

Last Caturday of the Year!

I love how this reminds me of a dreamy, old snap shot. I cherish family pictures, especially some of the really old ones my Grandmother kept. I had quite a fun time freeing those pictures from the magnetic photo albums she'd been housing them in for decades. Today, they are protected in an archival scrapbook and come out around the holidays.

There is one more Best of 2011 coming shortly!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011: Music

I threw together the album covers to the new music that came out in 2011 in order that I listened to them. (To the best of my knowledge.) In the future, I'm going to do album reviews as they come out. I want to point out that I do not think these are the best albums of the year, even though the title of the post says exactly that. I went with a theme this week of best of posts and I can't go back on it now. These are the albums that I listened to that came out this year. I have more extensive notes on certain albums than others. I've listened to some more than others. I love some. I don't like some.

I think I gravitate more to Indie Rock than anything else, but I really can't stand categorizing music. I listen to music that I like; why do we have to assign a title to it? Some days I'll want music that rocks other days I'll load up my iPod with Nintendo game music and be just as happy. Is there even a category of music for Nintendo game songs?

For this post, I really wanted to share music with you. I've created playlists through Grooveshark for all of this music just so you can listen to it. The titles are links that will take you to a playlist. You might find something new that you love. You might think I'm insane. Either way, 2011 was a great year for music. Enjoy!

Kiss Each Other Clean by Iron & Wine

I have a love/hate relationship with Iron & Wine. I think they are brilliant, don't get me wrong, and Sam Beam's beard is nearly as epic as E's. (I am a sucker for a good beard) I was listening to them when I was in my first car accident, leaving the set of the last Indiana Jones movie. It took me a long time to be able to listen to them after that. My niece was born with Iron & Wine playing in the background; what a way to come into this world.
Kiss Each Other Clean has so many layers to it, beautiful and varied instrumentation, amazing imagery and a good moving tempo throughout. I definitely want to see them play live next round of touring.

Take Care, Take Care Take Care by Explosions In The Sky

Every now and then I need instrumental music playing in the background to be able to get work done. I love reading and processing pictures to this album.

The King Is Dead by The Decemberists

I picked this album up in order to qualify for free shipping from Amazon. I liked a previous album and figured what the heck. Great album, great harmonies with a fun folky feel. Keeps your feet tapping and is good for just about any mood.

Codes And Keys by Death Cab For Cutie

I'm not a huge Death Cab fan. I thought this was ho hum. Not great, not horrible. I can listen to it, but I don't go out of my way to.

Love Notes/Letter Bombs by The Submarines

The Submarines aren't for everyone. They've got a little bit bubble gum happy about them, but I tell you what, every now and then, I enjoy that. What really drew me to them was their amazing performance opening for the Eels this summer. Opening bands really have a rough job and the ones that win me over with a passionate performance score massive points in my book. Blake was amazingly kind and you could really feel her sincerity. And she talked to the fans as she was packing up her gear which was awesome. I adore her voice and her outlook on life.

Best Imitation of Myself by Ben Folds/Ben Folds Five

I've only included the three "new" songs performed by Ben Folds Five. It's a three disc retrospective covering the career of Ben Folds and all his musical incarnations. My oh my, I have mixed feelings about this album. I don't think it was done well. I would've liked a separate Greatest Hits CD and then a rarities/live album sold separately. I really don't need a new copy of songs I already own. That's just me. I don't think the live songs really captured Ben's personality as best they could.
There is an abundance of bootlegs out there of Ben and Ben Folds Five, so maybe I'm a little biased. I really felt like a live version of Underground should've been included. Each member of the band had an introduction that showcased their individuality, which is what I loved about them. How could you title your album after a song and only include a bad demo version of it on your retrospective? I've heard an amazing live acapella version of Best Imitation. There is a much better quality of Careless Whisper with Ben and Rufus Wainwright on the internet than what was included here. It's almost as though Ben didn't do his research on his own bootlegs, which is strange because he's so involved with his fans and has such a strong social media presence.
Out of the three "new" songs, only one of them is technically new. One was written by Robert years ago, newly recorded by all of them. One was written by Darren and released on his self titled Hotel Lights CD, and it was much better done by Darren. Sorry, Mr. Folds. I am happy that Ben, Robert and Darren reunited and have plans to record more music together. That's awesome, they are a great band. I just don't want this to distract from the amazing music Darren is producing on his own.
I have to say the packaging on this album is fantastic. Folds asked fans to send in memorabilia and he used a lot of it as the artwork. (Even though he didn't use any of mine, booooo! No hard feelings!) There are detailed explanations to the history of the songs or the recording and that is very much appreciated. I'm a huge fan of linear notes. Two big thumbs up there.

Lupercalia by Patrick Wolf

I was introduced to Patrick Wolf through the recommendation of a friend of a friend. I got together for a concert early this year with a group of really cool people. Afterwords, I asked for everyone's favorite band, which is a great way to find out about new music. I really enjoy his earlier work, but Lupercalia didn't impact me the same way. It's much prettier than his other albums, which is fine, I enjoy different sounds and themes from an artist. What I didn't like is that it feels like he lost his edge. Take a listen to Magic Position and tell me what you think.

The Road From Memphis by Booker T. Jones

The first purchase for my birthday, compliments of my awesome brother. Whenever you're in doubt for a present, get me music. The more obscure, the better. Home run with this pick. I was the manager for a cafe right out of college, and one of my favorite things about my job was my Wednesday night crew. We had live music every Wednesday, just a bass player and keyboardist, but I can totally get into that. Just listen to Crazy and try to tell me you didn't laugh. Keyboardists have this amazing talent of being virtual jukeboxes. It never ceases to amaze me. This whole album cracks me up.

Nothing Is Wrong by Dawes

Dawes, dear, sweet Dawes. I want to like you. I really, really tried. You encompass so many traits that I like about a band: great song writing, emotions and a distinct sound. You even have Benmont Tench on your album, which should make me immediately love you. (If you don't know who Benmont Tench is, I don't know if we can be friends anymore. Go look it up. He is one of my all time favorite musicians and happens to have a kick ass birthday.) But even Benmont Tench can't make me like this album. It's strange, I can listen to a few songs and if they come up on shuffle, I'm not turned off. But listening to this CD from start to finish is Such. A. Chore. The majority of it is so slllllloooooooowwwwww. It really drags on. I don't know why that bothers me so much, but I can't get through it in any single sitting, and I've tried multiple times now. Another birthday purchase, so my brother was one for two, but as I said, I should've liked this album, so I don't blame you at all. Keep buying me music, your choices last year were grand slams!

Girl Graffiti by Hotel Lights

Everyone has that one band they listen to that they want nothing more than for them to break through and become popular and famous. You've been there from the beginning, you can't believe how other people haven't heard their amazing music, you know the story. Hotel Lights is that band for me. Darren Jessee, former drummer for Ben Folds Five, weaves intricate, delicate lyrics with hauntingly beautiful music. Darren's style is a mix of Elliot Smith, Wilco and all other things good in this world. His third album, Girl Graffiti, introduces so many more instruments into his repertoire, which was a joy for me to hear. I love this album; it has not left my iPod since it came out in August. I don't think you'll hear anything more eerily beautiful this year than the song Girl Waiting. It still gives me chills at how tangible the longing is. Listen and tell your friends to listen.

Seeking Major Tom by William Shatner

Any year with a new William Shatner album is a good year. Did you know William Shatner has multiple albums? Oh, yes, he does, and I have them all. I'm not saying it's good. I'm not saying it's something I listen to every day. If you need a break from what you're used to, if you need a laugh, hit up some William Shatner. It's on the same level as Mrs. Miller. Don't know Mrs. Miller? Are we friends? Really?
Ok, so I love William Shatner. That being said, this DOUBLE album is hard to get through. There are some amazing high points: Space Truckin', She Blinded Me With Science, In A Little While. It's flat out silly and how great is it that he doesn't take himself seriously? But this is what happens when Shatner is left to his own devices. He tries to cover every type of musical genre ever invented. It's not cohesive, some of the songs go on too long with instrumental solos. Let's be honest. I came to listen to The Shat do some ridiculous spoken word. If I wanted to listen to music, I'd go somewhere else. This could've easily been a single album, if edited properly. It made me appreciate what Ben Folds did with his collaboration with William Shatner. (You need to listen to Has Been; Shatner wrote the lyrics, Folds wrote all the music, produced and brought in some amazing musicians to work on the album. It's incredible!)
I'll say it again, any year with a new William Shatner album is a good year. The man is 80!

Noel Gallgaher's High Flying Birds by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

FINALLY! I've been waiting for Noel Gallagher to release a solo album ever since Liam blew off the MTV Unplugged performance in the 90's. Noel always was the real talent and driving force behind Oasis. Some of you might be turned off by Oasis, but I want you to give this album a chance. Put aside the pompous attitude and the ridiculous bickering that's associated with Oasis and listen to the music. I feel like Noel finally put together his masterpiece with this album. Its soaring strings and choirs, driving drums, brass, backwards guitar licks, pedal steel, wine glasses, even some saw (although he needs to learn a thing or two from The Chet: Master of Saw) are like nothing Oasis would ever do. The man writes some amazing lyrics: "I hope I didn't speak too soon/My eyes have always followed you around the room/Cause you're the only god that I'll ever need/I'm holding on and waiting for the moment for my heart to be unbroken."
I hear more I like every time I listen to this album. Every song could be a single. My only complaint is that it goes by too quickly.
Packaging and marketing wise, I think Noel has some brilliant people working for him. The glossy photo book that accompanies this album is great. I love that he made a big deal about the photographer, Lawrence Watson. It's great that he listed the website for the designer of the pin that was photographed,  I was impressed with how efficiently they shipped out the album. In the past, I've shyed away from pre-ordering because you tend to get the product weeks later than the release date. Sadly, music stores have stopped carrying music. I want to have the album art for bands that I like, but I want to get a copy the day it comes out. Gallagher's website offered a digital download on the release date and their site did not crash so I was actually able to download it. And they overnighted the CD. From England. At no extra charge. Nice work, man.

Making Mirrors by Gotye

Hooray for stumbling onto amazing music by accident! I was channel surfing when I came across the video for Somebody That I Used To Know on NewNowNext Pop Lab. (I wanted to point this out because we all know MTV doesn't actually play music videos anymore) I cannot get enough of this album. I listen to it and I immediately want to play it again. I like listening to it with my headphones on, I love rocking out to it in the car. There are so many styles throughout this album, such fun instrumentation and synthy stuff going on, it engages me more than anything else I've heard in a long time. Wally De Backer is the man behind the music, an Aussie, go figure, and when he's at his best he has this amazing gutteral quality to him. It reminds me of good Peter Gabriel music, before he got too artsy fartsy. The layering of his voice on Somebody That I Used To Know literally sends chills down my spine every time I hear it. Save Me is another gripping anthem; it's one of those songs that you feel like you've always known even though it's the first time you've heard it. I can not wait to see him play live next year.

Towards The Sun by Alexi Murdoch

Another brilliant, sensitive songwriter. He sounds like Nick Drake.What's interesting about this album is that he recorded it while on tour. When he went back and listened to it, he thought it was great and decided to release it. It definitely has an organic feeling to it.

Wounded Rhymes by Lykke Li

I listened to this from because of Hank's glowing praise of the band. I always need more female musicians to listen to. I've only heard it once, but I liked it. Heavy on the percussion, which I liked; it reminded me of some of Andy Stochansky's early work. Good voice. Interesting.

El Camino by The Black Keys

Everyone's been talking about this album, so I thought I should give it a listen and I needed one more album cover to complete my fun collage up there. Again, I've only listened once, and that was at work which means I didn't give it my full attention. It sounds like a strong rock record, reminded me of some of the energy that Muse had behind them, but I'm not sure that it deserves all the hype it's getting for one of the best albums of the year. It didn't blow my mind in any way.

Phew! This is by no means all that I listened to this year. I was introduced to a lot of other music that was new to me, but came out years ago. I'd be thrilled to know what everyone thinks; please leave me some comments! What music are you looking forward to next year? Are there any bands that you haven't heard from in forever? I am hoping for some new Ben Folds Five and a tour would be incredible. I would love something new from any and all of these artists: Fleming & John, Andy Stochansky, Eels (It feels like it's been forever since we've heard from them even though the last of their trilogy came out in 2010. You get greedy fans when you release an album every six months!), Keane, Travis. Jon Brion is releasing a new soundtrack for the kids movie ParaNorman, which I have high expectations for. There will be a new Andrew Bird album in 2012. Noel Gallagher mentioned that he collaborated with another artist and that would be out this year. I'd die laughing if it turned out to be Adam Ant...

As always, I'm looking for new music to listen to. Suggest away readers!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of 2011: 11 New Things

Back in June, I posted about a list of things I wanted to accomplish this year. See the full post here. Here is the updated list:

1. Start a blog.

2. Tackle Photo Junction.
  • I never got around to this. I'm toying with the idea of buying layouts from another photographer and I'm also looking into outsourcing album design. I've really been dragging my feet with album design. There is a reason, but I'm not willing to explain myself. Yet.
3. Always carry a camera.
4. Read more.
5. Track spending.
6. Take a vacation where I leave the state.
7. Do a pull up.
  • I've been banned from the gym this week as I recover from my respiratory illness, but this goal wasn't going to happen this year. I've been consistently sick since October and I haven't been able to work out. I'm really going to focus on this next year.
8. Break up with my orthopedic surgeon.
9. Be craftier.
  • I did a couple craft projects, but nothing that I was really thrilled with. I have been collecting screen shots of things that inspire me. Eventually, I'll be inspired again.
10. Visit Andrew in DC.
  • I had a weekend set aside for this, but I had to cancel on Andrew at the last minute. I was feeling pretty worn out, so I stayed home and rested. The next weekend were the Eels concerts. I'm glad I didn't keep going as I tend to do so often and make myself sick because a lot of good things came from the next weekend.
11. Write in my journal again.
  • Didn't happen, but you know what? I ended up turning my blog into a platform for my thoughts and sometimes my feelings. I try to stay pretty positive on here, so it's not everything that's going on in my life, but I'm learning to share more. Who needs a stupid journal anyway?
I'm 6 for 11, although I feel like #11 is also a victory for me and seeing how this is my blog, I'm going to say I am 7 for 11. I plan on carrying over whatever I didn't accomplish into my list for 2012. I already know one of them will be crossed off!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011: Blog Stats

I decided to finally take a look at my blog statistics and I'm perplexed yet amused. Apparently, my readers are HUGE velociraptor fans. Hey, I'm not gonna judge. In fact, I'm thrilled that I was incredibly effective in spreading awareness.

The next highest read was my post on Maple Story music. Really? Yeah, it's incredible and all, and I feel like less of a loser that so many people read it, but...just...huh??? Maybe you guys are overly excited by exclamation marks. That MUST be it!

The next six make sense. Those are all posts that I shared with fellow bloggers. It's good to share! Thanks for the love, y'all. I'm especially tickled that Jon Brion fans went so far as to check out the companion post to his concert, which had nothing to do with Brion, except that they were both awesome.

Blogging is a strange beast. You throw all this information out there into the world and have no idea how many people are really reading it. It's hard when you don't get a lot of feed back, but the numbers show that people are looking. 4,540 times as of today.

A big thanks to all of you for checking out what I have to share. And be prepared for lots of unnecessary punctuation next year. Hey, I just want to give people what they want!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Pics

Above, another May family tradition of Christmas cookies. How did everyone survive the holiday? I had a rough time with a nasty cough that's been plaguing me for a couple of weeks. I finally broke down and went to the doctor and ended up with an upper respiratory infection AND bronchitis. That's right, I don't mess around. I've got some fancy pants meds and an inhaler, so I'm ready to rock the rest of the week. Unfortunately, I have to take it easy and not work out, which means another failed goal of mine. (Which is good because I planned on doing a post about that later this week!)

Until then, here are a few pictures of the family from Christmases this year. We had a couple because the New York Napolitanos were spending Christmas with the other side of the family.

Aria showed off her ability to sit up and took the best lighting spot of the house, so there were a lot of pictures of her.

Grace loved her toy phone, compliments of Think Geek. She's seen here with her best Hulk Hogan impersonation...

But the best reaction to a present has to go to James, who once again shows why he's my favorite. Don't read this aloud to Grace or Aria, brothers! He opened my present first and when I asked him to pose with the giant Lego storing head, he made the same face! What a riot!

I would like to point out the music player over to the right. I completely forgot to include Let's Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas in my Christmas playlist. Shame on me.

The Best of Week will continue tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011: Concerts

Puffing my chest out, proudly, Not a bad set of images, if you ask me. Not bad at all.

I've been planning this post for a while and it went through a lot of edits. I have to say, it was HARD selecting shots, and that's a good thing! It's funny; when I started this blog, I didn't have a specific direction. I'm a photographer, I want to share my work, maybe grow my business. I never thought I would rediscover my love of concert photography, but I certainly have. Looking to the year ahead, I want to develop this. I get excited when I look at the pictures up there. I'm excited for the concerts I'm going to next year (more on that soon) I'm excited to take chances, I'm excited for the relationships I've built. Make sure I don't chicken out, readers!

Images Left to Right, Top To Bottom:

• PBoo, Tiny Al, Knuckles, E from the Eels @ Music Hall of Williamsburg: There are so many great pictures from these concerts, but this is easily a standout for me. This is my favorite group shot of the year.

• Noel Gallagher @ The Beacon: I like how this could easily be any musician at any concert. I like the connection between the musician and the audience. I like how he was only in this position for a heartbeat (I have a ton of pictures that don't work because his head isn't the shot, too much of his body isn't being hit with light, etc) It was a quick moment that I was ready for and one that wouldn't have been captured anywhere else than from my vantage point.

• Jon Brion @ Le Poisson Rouge: I've talked about the intensity of this shot before and how much I admire Jon Brion. Even though I didn't like my position at this venue, no one else got this shot. Patience and persistence.

• Noel Gallagher @ The Beacon: I did not expect Noel to show this amount of energy. Personally, I think he makes a good front man and hope that he settles into that role over the next couple years.

• E from the Eels @ Music Hall of Williamsburg: There is a direct connection between this picture and the silhouette shot of Noel Gallagher. I'm in the position of the fans in the shot above. I don't know what it is that gets me every time I see a well done silhouette shot. Maybe it's all the hours I spent watching Mystery Science Theater 3000...

• Darren Jessee from Hotel Lights @ The Rock Shop: I might be most proud of this picture. The light, or should I say lack thereof, in the Rock Shop was a challenge. Darren is such a quiet, contemplative musician and I feel like I captured that.

• The Kingston Trio @ Bridgeport Cabaret: I love that three guys with acoustic guitars and grey hair rock just as hard as any of the other musicians in this collage.

• The Chet, E from the Eels @ Music Hall of Williamsburg: This picture has such a Herb Ritts quality to it. (Think Chris Isaak's video for Wicked Games) It looked fine in color, but it spoke so much more to me in black and white. I'm tickled this picture is on the Eels website. I wonder if The Chet has seen how bad ass I made him look.

All in all, I feel like I'm able to see that moment of passion and intensity in any situation and capture that. For me, that's what makes a great photographer. Be it a family portrait, wedding, landscape or concert.

I want to thank all of my friends that went with me to a show this year. I know I can get into a zone and I might not say all that much, but I assure you, I'm having a blast. I really enjoy sharing what I love with you guys.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Happy

I hope you're enjoying your day with friends and family!

Happy Birthday Jesus and Jimmy Buffett!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Caturday: Santa Cletus!

On Christmas Eve, if you've been verrrrrry good, Santa Cletus will visit you.

He's much more jolly in person.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Valley Santa Part 3 of 3

Are you mentally prepared for the epic conclusion of Valley Santa?

Are you sure?

Want to give yourself a minute?

All right, you asked for it...

The faces of the innocent have been protected.

Of course we cropped this photo to be less...inappropriate...molesty...questionable.

Oh, Valley Santa, I wonder where you are today...

Be sure to check out the song for this blog post. For some reason, I imagine Valley Santa to have a singing voice comparable to Tom Waits. 

I'm preparing for Christmas Eve. Every year, my friends have a Fondue/Fondon't party. It started out as a normal gathering with a fondue and by the end of the night, we were dipping everything we could think of in the cheese. The next year it evolved into a challenge to find the best and the worst thing you could dip in a fondue. Sometimes, you make a discovery where the thing you thought would be a don't is an amazing do! FYI, fruitcake is definitely a don't. I eagerly called out Pretzel Time pretzels as my do this year. Clearly, I was not thinking at the time. The only place where you can get these pretzels is the mall. So yeah, I signed myself up for going to the mall on Christmas Eve. Oi!

Then I decided to think of it as a photo assignment. Imagine the chaos I can take pictures of! I only have my point and shoot, as the SLR is being repaired right now, but I'm pretty sure I can still get the pictures that I want.  Wish me luck.

If this is the last blog post you see, you'll know what happened to me. And hey, if I'm going to go out, what better way than to go out sharing Valley Santa with the world!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sunrise Series: Part Four

I was really glad I had my camera on me this morning. I practically flew down to the water to be able to capture this shot. Again, no color manipulation.

Oh, and so far, all of these sunrise pictures were taken with my point and shoot camera. I realized I wasn't going to lug my SLR with me every single day and this exercise really forced me to get to know that little camera.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sunrise Series: Part Three

By the time these swans got with the program, the sun was pretty much up.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Valley Santa Part 1 of 3

As Christmas looms in the very near future, I thought it was time to bring you the creepiest Santa of them all.

I give you Valley Santa. This jolly fellow ran in the paper a few years back. Be sure to check back later in the week to see this picture unfold.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


This is what Addy looks like at 4 in the morning when she wants food. Check out those big eyes!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Kettlebell Photos

Trainer Steve and I did a fun little shoot this morning to illustrate exercises. The above image has this eerie heroic realistic quality to it, which totally works. My art history teachers would be proud. Need a prompt?

I love when I'm subconsciously influenced by art.

It's always fun to shoot for someone that you've known forever because you get goofy faces like this as you set up shots...

To be able to get that as a final result.

Don't forget the rest period at the end of your workout. It kinda looks like the kettlebell killed him, doesn't it? Hmmm...

Sunrise Series: Part One

I mentioned that I started 2010 with the lofty goal of taking a picture every single day. A lot of those pictures ended up being some really nice sunrise shots on my way to the gym. None of my sunrise pictures have been edited to enhance or change colors. 

Sometimes I forget how much I love living on the shoreline.


And for the people listening to the playlist over there, one of my favorites from my childhood: Macho Duck. Everybody was putting out a disco album, including Micky Mouse and Sesame Street. We have both on vinyl. The lyrics are pretty hysterical.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Playlist

I like to limit my Christmas exposure until 10 days before the actual holiday. I feel like it helps me from going into overload. I started this mix last year, did some minor tweaking and presto! I described this playlist to a friend as some kick ass songs you won't hear anywhere else, certainly not on the radio. I hope you enjoy!

1. Christmas Is Coming by Vince Guaraldi
2. Lonely Christmas Eve by Ben Folds
From The Grinch soundtrack. I love me some jazzy piano and the reference to Morgan Davis that only hardcore Folds fans will get.

3. Winter Wonderland by Fleming & John
I cannot tell you how much this husband and wife team rock. They haven't released an album since 1998, but they often collaborate with Ben Folds and John is a great producer.

4. Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas by the Eels
I went with the acoustic version of this song as opposed to the version released on Useless Trinkets. I feel like E has more emotion in it and I'm a sucker for toy piano.

5. Sleigh Ride by Squirrel Nut Zippers
Man, how I haaaaaaaated playing this song in concert band. Four years of holiday concerts and I still couldn't get the incidentals right. Je Widenhouse, the trumpet play for SNZ, makes me love this song again and I almost forgive his son for stomping on my broken toe the first time I saw him play live. Almost...

6. What Can You Get A Wookie For Christmas from Christmas In The Stars

Ok, stop what you are doing. If you do not know about this album, go find a copy. It is by far, my all time favorite Christmas album. It's not Christmas until I've listened to R2D2 and C3PO sing carols. I'm dead serious. Unbelievable.

7. Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer by Barenaked Ladies
I took a lot of instrumentals from their album as breathers.

8. Run Rudolph Run by Jimmy Buffett
Jimmy's birthday is Christmas, so I always like to give him some love. This is my favorite track from his holiday album. It showcases the talent of Peter Mayer, Greg "Fingers" Taylor and Michael Utley and Jimmy totally rocks. Happy birthday to you, Bubba.

9. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer by Elmo & Patsy
I've always had an irrational love of this song, even as a child. I think it's the bass "Merry Christmas!" at the end of the song...

10. Hot Christmas by Squirrel Nut Zippers
Another jazzy track.

11. Baby, It's Cold Outside by Ben Folds & Sara Bareillis
From the Holiday edition of the Sing Off. Great Collaboration! So much so that I actually purchased it from iTunes for this mix!

12. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Barenaked Ladies
The Barenaked Ladies stole this version from me. I swear to god. Back in 1994, I started playing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen all jazzy in concert band. Mr. Marino, our band director, would yell at me every time. Lisa, Mario, Andrew, Mecca, Brian(s): back me up here!

13. Carol Of The Bells by Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks
This makes me think of those crazy Quiznos commercials and cracks me up every single time I hear it.

14. My Evergreen by Squirrel Nut Zippers
Oh, Mr. Tom Maxwell, my love for SNZ left when you quit the band.

15. Merry Christmas Everybody by Noel Gallagher
Not the best quality on this one, sorry. Interesting side note: Noel hates Christmas. With a passion.

16. Christmas Carol by Nerissa Nields
Originally, I had Merry Christmas, Darling by The Carpenters here in the mix. That song always makes me think of my mother. I let her listen to a preview of this playlist and she scoffed, "Why do you have THIS song?" It turns out, she doesn't really like it at all, even though she'll play it every year. So much for being sentimental! The Nields get the point across better, anyway.

17. What Child Is This by Vince Guaraldi
18. O Holy Night by Barenaked Ladies
19. Merry, Merry Christmas from Christmas In The Stars
The conclusion to the Wookie song. It was hard not to include the entire album, especially R2D2 whistling Sleigh Ride. Have I convinced you to listen to it yet?

20. Christmas Is Going To The Dogs by the Eels
This is not one of my favorites, but I paired it up with the next track and it makes me giggle. Oh, and a Christmas song with Chamberlin in it? You're welcome!

21. Jinge Bells by Barking Dogs
You know the one.

22. Mrs. Claus by Bob Ricci **
This is a parody of Stacey's Mom by Weezer by my friend. Parody music is at its best when the song almost goes too far. I'm still waiting for the day for Bob to get famous and launch my career into stardom as well. (Get with it, Bob!)

23. Letter To Santa by John C. Reilly & Jon Brion **
An amazing find. I don't want to spoil it for you, just take a listen. Warning: there are some swears.

24. Here Comes Santa Claus by Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks
I was bummed out that Dan played a Christmas show in November in Fairfield. I would've loved to have seen him, but that was way too early for me to be listening to holiday music.

25. Santa Claus by Squirrel Nut Zippers **
Ironically, this track is not on their holiday album, Christmas Caravan. It was a hidden track that I liberated from an EP called Sold Out. I can't tell you how much I hate hidden tracks...

26. I Saw Three Ships by Barenaked Ladies
27. Carol Of The Bells by Fleming & John
I was slightly concerned about putting the same song on here, but this version is so radically different, I went with it. Doesn't Fleming have an amazing voice backed by John's harmonies? Record a new album already!!!

28. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Vince Guaraldi
Go ahead, tilt your head back and sing along.

29. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) by John & Yoko

30. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Jon Brion
How much do I want Jon Brion to play at a holiday party I'm attending? I'm willing to give you my entire life savings, sir, in order to make that happen. I can't stop myself from tapping along to the music when he breaks it down at the end. So talented. So incredible. Why are you not listening to him?

31. Twas The Night Before Christmas by William Shatner
Even I don't know where I found this version. I want to credit Audio Galaxy and my crazy William Shatner phase of the early 00's. I downloaded everything I could find by him and then some. This would be the 'then some'. I can think of no better way to end this mix with a beatnik version by the Shat, who can rock the term "Unlax" any time of the day.

** = Not safe for the kiddies

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Best Artwork EVER

I've been having a horrible week at work then this artwork appears in an ad. Now everything is right in the world.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Recollecting and Reconnecting

An old black and white film shot of the quad at the University of Rhode Island.

I jumped at the opportunity to catch up with some old friends of mine this weekend. It's strange, I'd been doing a lot of thinking about this period of my life lately. After the Avon Breast Cancer Walk, the Kaplans gave me a ride home and I talked about how I had come to work for the newspaper with their daughter. It wasn't planned, that's for sure. I recalled that I spent a couple years at URI without much direction then decided that school wasn't the right place for me. I came back to Connecticut and spent another four years in college. I wanted to get a degree in graphic design, but fell in love with art history in the process of filling in my requirements to take a graphic design class. I started working at the newspaper as a sales representative, which I was not cut out for then transferred over to the art department as a proof reader, eventually landing in, lo and behold, graphic design. Rachel's father commented, "Wow, Audra, it sounds like you really perservered." I never would have thought of it like that, in fact, I viewed that time of my life as a series of mistakes and blunders.

I screwed up at URI, not liking the size of the school or my classes and lost my academic scholarship. I came back home not even wanting to continue with school. I wanted to work. I got a job at Milford Camera shop, but my parents told me if I wanted to stay in their house, I'd have to go to school or pay rent. I went back to school; part time at first, until I figured out what I was going to do.

Not everything about URI was bad. I originally intended on trying out for the softball team and studying to become a marine biologist. I even had a video tape made up by my softball coaches. It was all professionally edited and everything. Part of the reason I originally chose URI was that it had the major I was interested in, division 1 sports and a great marching band. I was really ambitious and thought I could do it all. I moved in a week before the other freshman for band camp. (Go ahead, get the laughter out, I know, band camp.) But the people I met that week were so amazing, I completely changed my plans. I never tried out for softball. I was hooked on band.

Being part of a massive marching band was awesome, my high school only had 30 members, and pep band was incredible. I knew Lamar Odom way before whatever Kardashian he married did.  As much fun as I had with these people, it wasn't the right fit for me. I don't think 12 hours of lab time a week on top of your regular course load is right for anyone. I also don't think having a lab TA that could barely speak English is conducive for learning chemistry. Even at the young age of 19, I knew that cheating my way through multiple choice exams wasn't going to get me anywhere in life, so I decided to leave.

Still, I viewed it as a failure and didn't think about that time of my life. I've never regretted the decision I made to come back home. If I hadn't left URI, I wouldn't have worked at the camera shop, I wouldn't have fallen in love with photography, I wouldn't have reconnected with old high school friends and I wouldn't be working at the paper. My photography would never have grown without the experiences I've had here. I think it's just another part of accepting where I am in life and appreciating it. I did however, regret the friendships I turned my back on for 12 years. It wasn't anything personal, I just wanted to focus on where I was going.

 Oozeball picture circa 1999

Oozeball is essentially volleyball played in about three feet of mud. It's a brutal sport held in early spring so not only are you covered in mud, you also freeze your butt off. I still can't believe I tore my ACL playing basketball indoors and not by diving to hit the volleyball while my shoes stuck in the mud. Go figure...

Recreation from last weekend.

Besides my friends not recognizing me until I spoke, and I really don't blame you, I look totally different now and don't have a picture of myself as my facebook icon, we hit it off. It was absolutely hysterical to recall stories I hadn't thought about in over a decade. Like the many times I tried to steal Amy's boogie board and surf down the hill outside our dorm room. Or when I made Rob a paddle for the fictitious Epsilon Delta Tau, Mu Epsilon chapter. (Go ahead, look up the Greek letters, I'll wait.) Or when I snuck off with John's wallette and ordered him a hula dancer doll. And although we hadn't seen in each other in twelve years, any time any one of them drove through Milford, they thought, "Hey, there's a duck pond in Milford!" (It's part of a Milford theme song I would incessantly sing, which everyone in Milford knows.)

Myself, freshman year of college, riding the school mascot outside the student center.

We had a lot of fun back then, and although it took us a long time to reconnect, I can't tell you how glad I am that we did. It was a great way to start off the holiday season and I sincerely plan on keeping in touch this time around.

 URI Marching Band Trumpetresses

Thanks to all of you, especially Lisa and John for hosting! If any of my readers have an old friend that they haven't spoken to in many years, I urge you to reach out. It might just make their day. And thanks to the Kaplans for being such amazing people and making me think more positively!

Oh, and somebody wasn't very happy that I got home late...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Um...I have your picture?

To the family seen above:

I have your photo. I'm not supposed to, but Staples put it in with my print order and I'm too lazy to bring it back right now. I just thought you might like to know.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Caturday: Guest Edition

Meet Addy's cousin, Sebastian. I took this picture early on in the year, as part of my failed 'Take a picture every day' experiment. There are quite a few good shots from that experiment that I'll be posting over the remainder of the year.

I'm off on a last minute Christmas party invite. Normally, I can't swing last minute things, but I'm fortunate enough to be free this weekend. I'm very excited to visit with my old college roommate and big brother (I was in the co-ed band fraternity) Lisa, who I haven't seen in ten years. I can't wait to hang out with some marching band peeps!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

31 Years

I can't find my favorite picture of John Lennon. It's an old black and white of him and Paul McCartney where Paul is holding his Hofner like a violin and is pretending to teach John. It's a great, silly moment. Somewhere in storage, I have a copy of this picture, but the internet does not. Go figure. Enjoy the music off to the side, or if you prefer the Lennon playlist separately, go here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ben Folds is the best thing on television

I don't watch a whole lot of reality TV, but I've been a fan of The Sing Off since their first season. Why? Ben Folds. He's one of my all time favorite musicians, and he's amazingly insightful as a judge. It's refreshing to hear constructive criticism in a competition show. I know an acapella singing competition isn't for everyone, but maybe it should be. Instead of snide remarks and entire episodes dedicated to some of the worst singers you've ever heard just to get a laugh, The Sing Off showcases some real talent and growth.

Last week was the finale, where the judges sing with the final contestants. The first year, Folds played the piano. In an acapella singing show. It was horrible. It made no sense because he's a proponent of acapella music and often times includes his entire audience in a sing along. This year, the powers that be got it right. Ben conducted the audience along to Not the Same. It brought me back to some great concert memories with Folds jumping on his baby grand piano. I even remember a time when he smashed drum cymbals with his microphone from atop his piano back in they days of Ben Folds Five. During the TV performance, Folds hopped onto the judges table in excitement, with his big ol' toothy grin and waved his arms in crescendos. It was a great moment; I'm totally jealous of the picture.

I bet no other judge on a reality show competition is going to do that.

Tonight, The Sing Off is airing a Christmas Special with contestants from past seasons and some more collaborations with the judges. I'm fully expecting another fun, cheeky performance from Mr. Folds. I encourage y'all to check it out at 8:00 PM on NBC.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Santa visits Bigelow Tea, James steals the show

Not every shoot is as glamorous as a concert, but these are the ones that help pay the bills. There's something innately bizarre about your father dressing up as Santa. At least he's not as creepy as Valley Santa. Oh, some of you don't know about Valley Santa? Just you wait!

My family got together to meet Santa at Bigelow's headquarters in Fairfield. There was a magician before and cookies after and lots of kids that had their picture taken with the jolly man. I won't bore you with all the posed pictures. Instead, I'll stick to the ones that really showcase the personalities in my family. James pretty much dominated the day.

 James strolls in cool as a cucumber

 Grace was not a fan of Santa. She preferred the safety of Dad's arms.

 Aria was indifferent towards the man in red

When Santa walked in, James was thrilled.  But when he got closer, I don't think he was as excited...
I love this moment so much, I can't tell you. The utter joy on the face of the boy on the right 
contrasted by James' balled up fists and stare at Santa's hand = hilarious!

He got over it pretty quickly and posed with Grandma for a really nice shot! To his credit, he realized, "Pappy is disguised as Santa!"

And then proceeded to photo bomb me. Thanks James!

I'm working on a Christmas music playlist that covers my wide taste in music, but I'm starting off with my new favorite by Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks. Be sure to check it out!