A Lot Can Happen In Five Years

Wedding Day - John Winchurch & Elizabeth HarperThis photograph was taken a few minutes before John and I married five years ago today and despite all that is happening in the background, it remains one of my favorites.

I use to moan about the car, and the way our family and friends are all doing their own thing in the background, particularly the two people right behind us. I even tried to edit the couple out with Photoshop, but it never looked right.

John hates feeling like he’s the center of attention so when he asked that we forgo a professional photographer, I agreed thinking if we had one decent photo of the day that would be enough for me.

I figured if a handful of folks were equipped with a camera we would surely have a few we would like from the collected effort. I wrote about the outcome of that decision in a post titled, Everyone’s a Wedding Photographer and there are loads of images there if you’d like to see more of our day.

Because I know how much a professional photographer can add to your wedding day memories, the photographer in me has been a bit wistful occasionally when looking back at the images we have especially the one above, but five years on I can see it from a different perspective and I don’t mind the activity in the background so much.

A lot can happen in five years and some of the people in the photo are no longer in our lives.

The couple that I tried to edit our photo who on that day seemed destined for a little wedding day happiness of their own, they got engaged a few years later, but decided to go separate ways a few months before their wedding.

The woman in purple with the white hair was our friend MIJ.  She died a year after this picture was taken from a reoccurrence of breast cancer after having been in remission for 20 years. She had no idea she was even ill until a few months before she died. I wrote about her several times in The Last Walk – Measured Steps, and Memories and Music in a Full House.

I’ve written a great many posts about John’s granddaughter always masking her identity with the name, Jersey Girl.  She’s the little four – year old girl you can see in the arms of John’s eldest daughter. JG has a little sister now who will be three not long before JG turns ten. Some of my favorite posts have involved fun times with Jersey Girl so click here to see a list of some you might enjoy.

I told John today that nothing has ever seemed as easy as the decision I made to marry him and while not all of the 620 posts at GOTJ are about us, there are more than a few that show why it was the right one.

Defining Moments – Giving Up The Gold

Defining Moments

Having found a box and bought packing supplies, I found it slightly ironic that when I began to pack up most of my photography equipment to send off to sell, ‘Defining Moments,’ were the words that came to mind.

Perhaps it was a subtle whisper from the ghost of Alfred Eisenstadet.

While not a picture perfect moment, it was a defining one for me. I’ve been holding on to an idea of who I am that no longer fits me. I wrote about this in detail a few weeks ago when I gave you a look at some of the images from weddings I’ve photographed in the past.

Wedding photography as a career no longer suits my lifestyle. That doesn’t mean leaving it behind is painless and it’s about more than the just the idea of losing money on expensive equipment.

I love the energy of a wedding day shoot and the private access it gives me to the stories of the people involved. There’s a thrill that comes from knowing you have an almost open invitation to discreetly document the moments they might not remember until later when they see your work.

I may miss the excitement of wedding day drama, but the business side of it leaves me cold and life passes too quickly to waste time doing things that don’t give back enough to support your passion. I always hated when potential clients wanted haggle over my fees as if we were at the corner market buying and selling fruit. It felt demeaning to us both.

As I was going through my camera gear making decisions about what needed to go, I had everything laid out on a low table in our living room and could see just how much I’d invested over the years. I mentally added up the cost of certain pieces as I picked up a camera with my favorite lens still attached, but it was the weighty feel of it in my hands rather than the money that made me pause as I considered how once it was gone, I was unlikely to ever hold one so substantial again.

I took off the lens cap and looked through the viewfinder and had a serious heart pang at the thought of letting it all go. It’s a lot of money I thought, maybe I should just hang on to this one camera and lens, maybe I could use it for …

After loads of internal dialogue, I replayed the logical reasons why I didn’t need this equipment if I wasn’t doing professional work, but it was the memory of a story I’d heard that reassured me that I was doing the right thing by selling it all now.

Hoarding Your Gold

Most of us have things like this in our lives, they hang around taking up space long after we’ve moved on. I told John that seeing the money-making tools my photography life laid out for me to touch felt a bit like the story of the miser who kept his gold under the floorboards of his house. I can’t remember the details, but what came to mind was the image of the miser up late at night when everyone was asleep, taking out his gold and counting it while admiring its beauty and imagining all the things he could buy with his fortune.

The problem was he never spent it, never shared it, and died with it still hidden under floor.

My camera equipment has been like that for a while … safely tucked away, but not being used. While it was here, there was room for ambiguity about the future, at least with regard to one area of my life. Giving up ‘my gold’ may seem like I’m closing a door on photography, but I’ve got another idea more suited to the life I’m constantly creating.

I’ve been using a camera for over forty years and that’s not going to change. I like shooting on the fly so my gear will likely stay small from now on. It’s funny to see echos of my current style in this playground snap taken when I was ten. It’s one of the few pictures I still have taken with my first camera.

I do love the action shot!

Speaking of action shots, I took this one a few minutes ago. With the exception of a few items, that’s my professional photo life all wrapped up tight and tidy in a box … next stop MPB Photographic. Here’s hoping someone out there finds a good use for my gear.

I’ve still got what I need for now.

“The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to SEE “

Ernst Haas

Ditching A Plan That No Longer Works

How many times have you made a decision and after investing time and serious money to support your plans, later changed your mind? Did you let go and move on with ease or was it a struggle?

I’ve been wrestling with one that I couldn’t seem to make. For more than three years, I’ve let my indecision suck energy from me and felt loads of remorse over my apathetic attitude towards what I once considered a perfect career.

When I lived in the US, this vision of my future fit well into my business plan for a creative life. I invested in equipment and training designed to cover both the technical and business aspects and paid for quality in both areas.

When I felt ready to deliver a good product, I put myself into situations to prove to myself that this was a good fit. I photographed weddings, PR events, family portraits, and even a red carpet event in Times Square while in New York.

And it was good, for a while.

After a weekend workshop with Denis Reggie, who the New York Times called ” A Storyteller with a Camera,” and who Oprah Winfrey said was ” The Best in the Business, ” I set up my Linked In account and identified myself as the owner of Elizabeth Harper Photographers.

Denis Reggie advised that by using the word photographers instead of photographer or photography, I would leave room to include other photographers who might shoot weddings with me.

During a workshop with Liana Lehman Hall that focused on the business of photography, we did a bit of writing as well and Liana told me that she could see me doing something similar to Jasmine Star, a photographer who incorporates words and story into her blog posts and client images. I knew then that I could write and that I was good at encouraging people to share their stories and after a look at Jasmine Star’s website, I thought it was indeed the kind of thing I had thought of doing to use both skills. The combination seemed as if it might satisfy my desire to write while earning a living as a wedding photographer.

This might have worked had I stayed in Georgia and not met John. Moving to the UK changed many things for me one of which was my desire to work as a wedding photographer. I still love weddings and I enjoy getting the shot that defines the day or a documents a special moment, I’ve just decided that I don’t want to do it for a living.

The rhythm of days spent writing has the strongest pull now and after worrying that I was throwing away money spent on training and camera equipment by not building a career in the UK as a photographer, I decided to end my ambiguity and sell my gear.

My decision to close the door on one career path is an opportunity for someone else who may have been dreaming of something as big as a new direction, or just adding more equipment to their camera bag.

Here are few images from some of the weddings I’ve photographed along with two of a mother and child.

    

 

 

Now that I’ve made peace with redefining how I see myself, I’ll be heading over to “Linked In” to change how the Linked In community sees me.

I’ve contacted a business in the UK that is well-regarded for buying and selling used photography equipment and they’ve given me a quote. As is the way with companies like this one, the price is a good bit lower than can be gained by selling it myself.

Before I decide to sell it on Ebay or Amazon or make use of the company I contacted, I wanted to share it here. I am including a list of the items in case any of my readers wish to add to their gear.

Please consider forwarding this post on to anyone you know who might be interested in well cared for camera equipment.

(2) Nikon D200 Bodies
Nikon Lens ED AF-S VR-NIKKOr 70-200 2.8,
Nikon Lens AF 50 1.4,
Nikon DX AF-S NIKKOR 18-200 3.5-5.6 ED,
Nikon DX ED Fisheye,
Nikon DX AF-S 17-55 2.8 G ED
(2) Nikon Speedlights SB-600,
Nikon Speedlight SB-800
Manfrotto 3021BPRO
Manfrotto Head 3265
Quantum Turbo 2×2 Battery Pack,
4 camera batteries
1 Extreme IV Sandisk 8.0GB
1 Extreme IV Sandisk 4.0GB
(3) 4.0 Sandisk
(2) Sandisk Ultra II 1.0GB
(2) Sandisk 1.0 GB
1 Sandisk Ultra II 2.0 GB
Never Used
UV 77mm Crystal Optics Filter
C PL 77mm Crystal Optics Filter
DIgital Circular PLD 77mm
USED
Quantaray 72mm C-PL
Quantaray 77mm QMC-UV
FLD 77mm Crystal Optics

I’m happy to provide photos of the items and answer any questions. Thanks for helping me move on and I hope this ending is a new beginning for you or someone you know.   

Misunderstood

Photo by Hamish Mitchell of Hamish Mitchell Photography

Due to my American roots and accent, I am often misunderstood in conversation. This can lead to odd looks, strange responses, and hurried explanations of what I was really saying, not what someone thought they heard. I’ve written about a few times, but it’s nice to know that even Brits with their variety of distinct accents can find themselves in the same position.

Having seen a funny comment on Facebook posted by a friend of mine, I asked permission to share the story here. It seems that Hamish Mitchell, who does lovely work as a photographer in Cornwall, left a recorded message requesting tickets to the Chard Horse Show. Hamish does a variety of creative photography, but has a great reputation for his sports photography which includes events with horses.

So imagine what his wife and business partner Nicola thought when tickets arrived in the name of  “Henry Schnitzel” instead of Hamish Mitchell. She said the tears were rolling down her face as she imagined some poor person having to listen to the recording a few times before going with the most likely name that could be deciphered.

I noticed Hamish posted this late yesterday: “Hamish Mitchell will not be attending the Chard Show tomorrow – Henry Schnitzel has very kindly offered to take his place instead!”

Hamish does a good bit of wedding photography and we’ve chatted about business and blogging a few times. You can see more of his work here: http://www.hamishmitchellphotography.co.uk/ 

While I’ve photographed weddings in the past, my interest in wedding photography as a business went on a kind of hiatus after my move to Cornwall. I couldn’t say honestly that my head doesn’t still turn when I happen upon a wedding and since I usually have a camera of some sort with me, I have been known to step into the bushes slightly to snap a picture or two.

Our Cornish Village Church - From The Bushes - 2010

I had an opportunity to see and photograph Hamish while he was shooting a wedding not too long ago although it was from my tucked away place in the bushes and I was using one of John’s little point and shoot cameras that I had slipped in my pocket before going on my run. I say that to excuse the quality and I’m including a photo or two of my professional work with my good gear at the end of this post.

I’d love to offer my services to Hamish as a second shooter sometime just as long as I don’t have to wear trousers like the ones I saw him wear that day. Okay, you know I’m trying to make you smile here as the plaid of his trousers fit the wedding perfectly as there were many men in kilts. I wonder if I could get away with my standard basic black …

Photo By E.Harper (Hamish Mitchell Photographing Bride)

And just in case Hamish happens to stop by for a look to see if I might qualify as a second shooter, I’ll leave you with some of my wedding work especially since I could not lift any from his website to showcase. Please do click on the link above to see his lovely photography especially the horses. I love those!

Photo By Elizabeth Harper - Like A Modern Day Jane Austin Scene

Photo By Elizabeth Harper - Looking Toward The Future

Seeing Things From A Different Side

w

Arriving only a short while before the rehearsal on the day before the wedding, I didn’t have time to look for any special places away from the wedding location for additional photographs. As the wedding day began, I asked John to check an area near the bridge you see above. Viewing it from the car as we drove over it, the bridge above looked fairly plain and unremarkable, but on closer inspection he discovered a beautiful site for several photo opportunities by walking down a small hill towards the River Avon.

This photograph was taken just a few minutes after the wedding. Seeing it now, I am reminded of the change I witnessed that day with Alycia and Mark as their nervous and excited energy before the ceremony was replaced almost at once with a more relaxed and grounded sense of peace and happiness. A recent bride myself, it’s easy to recognize the shift in perspective when you feel it too. 

Like any couple wishing to have a successful union, they will need to find ways to have a shared vision at times …to see the person they love from a different side rather than the one that looks the easiest to recognize. The rewards though that come with taking a second look often reveal a sweet surprise just as this bridge did when viewed from a different side.  

Sheep Encounters

Sheepish E - Elizabeth HarperNormally, which really translates into always … I carry a camera of some sort. When I’m out on a run, I take my iPhone because I can listen to music, make a call if necessary, (As in I’m lost somewhere in England … help!) and most importantly take a picture when a perfect opportunity presents itself.

Fuji -Elizabeth Harper

When on a hike or just traveling around, I carry my little Fuji Finepix Z100, a great little point and shoot I bought after I got here and found my larger camera to big to haul up and down the coast path.

Rock Climbing Cornwall

When I need more power and picture quality as in when I’m shooting a wedding or doing some portrait work I use one of my Nikon D200’s.

Dancing - Elizabeth Harper

A couple of days ago, I went out without my camera and I missed a perfect photo opportunity while in the homeward stretch of my run. I was running down the very narrow lane in the picture below while listening to music on my iPod, not my iPhone when all of a sudden there were 20 or 30 sheep racing down the lane in my direction. Notice how narrow the lane is in the picture below. Lanes are roads wide enough for one car or one woman, or twenty or thirty sheep, but not all at the same time.

Reaching - Elizabeth Harper

If you notice all the green on the hedges of the sides of the lane … you should know that there is a sticky (ouch!) plant called a nettle which lives in the hedges that look deceptively beautiful.

Nettles

If you touch it even slightly, it causes a lingering stinging sensation that will still be sore the next day. It feels a bit like a burn. Notice the spiky things sticking up on the under side … avoid those spikes!

Toothy Sheep

We saw each other about the same time … at least the first few sheep noticed me and slammed to a halt causing the sheep running behind them to bump in to the ones in front. For half a second we just eyeballed each other uncertain how to respond. I was thinking, “ Why didn’t I bring my camera?” I’m not sure what the sheep were thinking.

E Hedge

All of sudden a white dog looking a bit like a wolf comes tearing down the lane behind sheep heading straight up the side of the lane where I’m standing. The sheep begin to run in my direction and as they race my way, I fling myself into the hedge not even remembering the stinging nettles in an effort not to be run over by the wooly mass coming towards me.

Sheep

The white dog shoots past me and runs around to the front of the escaping sheep and goes down on his front paws into a position that the sheep understand as turn around, ” Boys … we are going the wrong way! ”  In one quick motion the sheep turn and run back up the lane, through the gate, and into the field where the farmer stands waiting.

Seeing the sheep are safe, I pull myself out of the hedge and go off in search of some dock leaves to rub on my nettle stings to reduce the ouchy side effect of my sheep encounter.

Dock Leaves

Dock leaves, nettle stings, sheep encounters, every day is a new adventure … does it get any better than this?

 

Reposted from original GOTJ