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!

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