Selfi(sh) Sticks

I don’t like selfie sticks.

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I maintain selfie sticks are a scourge. They’re dangerous and distracting in crowds, as well as being downright ridiculous to watch in use. Coast to coast, many amusement parks most museums and arenas like the LA Coliseum and Madison Square Garden have already moved to ban them.

 

My wife and I have been taking selfportraits, or more accurately self-two-shots, for about as long as we’ve been together. Often that’s meant propping a camera (or in recent years sometimes a phone) on a rock, or hat, or railing, and setting the timer. (These timers have existed on cameras for at least half a century that I’m aware of).

 

I’m not sure if I’ve ever asked a passerby to take our photo, and I’m certain no one has ever offered. Perhaps it’s that sense of confidence and known smiles we exude when capturing a moment. Perhaps not.

 

However, for some reason, I’ve long found pleasure in helping folks take that photo in front of a scenic vista or landmark.

 

Perhaps it’s my trustworthy face, or perhaps I just give off that photographer vibe, but, for many years I felt I was being singled out to take the photo. It got to the point I occasionally volunteered when I saw one member of a group was obliged to take the picture of the rest.  My actions were sincerely appreciated. I felt I’d touched others with a random act of kindness (and a well-composed photo).

 

But I’m aware that’s it’s happened less over the past year. Perhaps I need to get out more, or perhaps the opportunities are diminishing as more and more folks can be seen dueling with invisible foes, their phones extended on one of these goofy monopods.

 

In 2013, Apple declared “Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera.” Though the video has been erased from Youtube, the stats back up their claim.

 

I recall the company’s billboard alongside the promenade on my approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. Couldn’t find an image to share on line, but on a whim – discovered Apple sells a $50 selfie stick that includes a tripod feature. Ugh.

 

I’ve noticed the collapsible sticks have found their way into reality TV with the same dopes vying for fame and prizes required to document their insecurities and isolation by serving as their own camera operator.

 

Further blurring the lines between photographer and subject as I gather some news organizations are skipping the assignment of a videographer and assigning a selfie stick instead.

 

There’s a joke in there somewhere, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

 

And sure I’ve seen selfie sticks at weddings, but fortunately – not yet in the hands of a clergyman. This writer for the Knot.com at least urges folks to be respectful of the photographer, but I figure it’s only a matter of time before booze and selfie sticks combine to make the professional’s job more difficult. Hope I don’t run into them anytime soon in my capacity as a Hunter wedding photographer.

 

Though… with a number of officiants already presiding over ceremonies at their own for-profit facilities with an interest in the catering and homegrown floral arrangements, will it be too long? If it’s this year, you probably heard it here first.

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Will a future generation of Shopping Mall Santas wear a coin changer on their big black belt and carry a selfie stick accosting children in the common areas or outside on the street – as the traditional model of a shopping mall (and shopping mall Santas) struggle for relevance?

 

I remember visiting Niagara Falls in 2015 and shaking my head at all the selfie sticks on display. They made it that much harder for me to take my own shots of the falls – each selfie-sticker effectively taking up that much more space than without.

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The author and wife, some years ago at Niagara Falls. Sorta.

This shot could have been taken with a selfie-stick, but alas I DON’T OWN ONE. Of course, it wasn’t even taken with the Falls for a background. Instead, it was taken on an assembly line in front of a green screen – prior to (if memory serves) Jennifer and I boarding a ferry that took us into the mist.

I’m sure these things aren’t going away, in fact I’m certain they’ll become more pervasive. But I don’t have to like it.

Tacky.

I simply don’t like selfie sticks, though I admit these folks may take their feelings a bit too far with pruning shears (if it’s not a gag). The comments, on that link are worth a skim as well.

While researching this story, I did find these ridiculous sticks could be good for a laugh, when I happened on upon this site featuring movie stills (such as the one at the top of this post) in which the guns have been replaced with selfie sticks – and with some overlap this one.

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I also found this sign prohibiting their use at the Brisbane Museum on Wikipedia which made me want to get a sign of my own.

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Photo by Kerry Raymond.

 

 

Jonathan Ment is a writer, photographer, philosopher and consultant. Follow him on Twitter and share your thoughts on this story here.

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Getting the Shot: Part 2 No Two Snowflakes Are Alike

dscf1211_wmWith the election season behind us, thankfully, and only the uncertain future ahead many folks it seems have returned to talking about the weather. It’s cold, it’s hot, it’s raining. It’s not.

Political memes have given way to shots of snow covered back yards and decks, and it’s these shots that make me laugh.

It’s as though everyone is telling everyone else – look, it snowed. The proof is in the photo.

dscf1215_wmSo many of these shots include the snow-covered barbecue, patio table or deck rail.

Perhaps is unconscious.

Cabin fever expressed through a visual declaration of external in-hospitability?

“Look, there’s my deck. I could probably go out there, but I’d have to shovel.”

Perhaps, and more likely, it’s merely the slipper-clad-coffee-cup-wielding-cell phone-camera-clutching masses keeping warm and dry while commiserating.

Christmas wasn’t white, except on the ski slopes in our part of the Catskills. (Nor Chanukah!) My snow tires are barely getting a workout … so far … knock on wood … dare I mention it … glad I’m not superstitious … jinx buy me a — Pepsi! (Got ya!) But we have had a fair bit of winter precipitation of late. Flurries, what seems like most days, a few all-out snowstorms with measurable inches.

dscf1168_wmBut course nothing can save the snow from the repeated temperate afternoons, leaving most roads thankfully clear and snow lumps in a sad shrunken state.

The change comes quick. From winter wonderland wow to mud covered cleanup mode. Getting the shot means getting out there as soon as you know it might be waiting.

Now, I will confess to liking my Acorn slippers so much that they’re fairly worn out and due for replacement. And – I’ve taken my share of shots from the safety of the porch. But sometimes – the boots must go on.

Like after an ice storm, when every twig glistens within it’s shroud of frozen precipitation, I always admire the scenery when the snow clings just so. Rarely, however to I take off the lens cap and capture it.dscf1177_wm

Here are a few shots I did venture out for, earlier in this early part of winter.

Some I’ve taken before, meaning I’ve shot the same subject over and over before like a waterfall waiting for the shot.

Others are new to me-principally, such as the snow-covered branches for which I rarely get out in time to photograph.

There’s a narrow window of opportunity for these sorts of photos. Too early, and the snow is still flying. Too late and it’s melted away.

“Getting the Shot: Part 1″

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Several months ago a prospective client approached me with a few questions.

OK, that’s what I’m here for. Ask away.

“Do you do scenic photography?” he asked.

“Sure, what do you have mind,” I replied.

“Like nature photography,” he said, “Scenery.”

“Did you want a piece of property photographed? Or did you want me to accompany you on a hike through the woods.”

“We’d like a shot of the falls,” he said. “Like this one,” he added pointing to the image on a brochure.

Now, I wasn’t going to go too far down that path. It would probably have been pointless.

It had been a dry summer. There wasn’t much water trickling over the falls. The time of year was wrong. If there was water and the time of year was right, it would have been tough to duplicate the light.

“I think you can buy prints of that photograph. Or ones a lot like it,” I said.

Every photographer knows, you can return to the same spot at the same time of day, at the same time of year and ‘the shot’ will be different. You keep taking them, waiting for “the one.”

I’m reminded of butterflies on a ring bearer’s shoulders. Private moments willingly exposed to my camera, looks of surprise or exaltation on people’s faces and the combination of joy and pride in parent’s eyes.

Except perhaps in commercial photography, such as real estate and catalog work, the camera records. The photographer is there to decide what. But the ‘what’ is generally beyond our control.

When I’ve done product photography, I’ve been able to control every aspect from position and light to angle. At the high end, real estate is filmed or photographed with measures taken to control both artificial and natural light. But in live events, or nature, we are there to pick, point, prepare and press the button.

I was reminded of this last week when Associated Press Photographer Burhan Ozbilici captured those frightful images of a gunman’s assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov.

“I’m a journalist,” wrote Ozbilici in an essay for the AP. “I have to do my work. I could run away without making any photos, but I wouldn’t have a proper answer if people later asked me – why didn’t you take pictures?”

I disagree. Fear for one’s life would be answer. There are others.

But I admire the path he took. The photos are chilling. They look like stills from a movie set. The horror on the faces of onlookers is real.

Ironically, the Ankara art gallery in which the photos of the murder were taken, was exhibiting a collection of photographs, and Ozbilici was apparently in attendance as a spectator.

This speaks to another point.

Capturing ‘the shot,’ means being prepared. Presumably off duty, this AP photographer still had a camera at the ready. It’s why news photographers (and videographers) keep gear in the trunks of their cars – in case they happen upon the next big accident or fire close to the moment of impact, so to speak.

If you’ve ever watched the nightly news and wondered why the reporter is still standing outside the yellow police tape for the 11 o’clock report, ask yourself if they’re overcompensating for not getting ‘the shot’ of the flames ripping through the roof earlier in the day.

It’s like a shot of the scorched earth where the conflagration occurred, or a splatter of blood where the ambassador’s body previously laid. Those both tell a story, but not in the way being there in the moment does.

Personally, enjoy photographing the occasional waterfall. But I’m pretty sure, if it’s that shot the guy wanted, prints are available – and the photographer selling them deserves to the sale.

 

Rustic Catskills Wedding Tannersville NY Hunter NY Katy Trent Sneak Peek New York Wedding Photography

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Katy and Trent’s wedding was intense! Looking forward to sharing more photos from this weekend.

Reflecting on the opportunity to photograph Katy and Trent at the old Stone Church above Tannersville and the Mountain Brook down below, one of the fun and challenging aspects  was a language barrier. Katy’s mum handmade the dress. It was amazing, and I had to compliment her on it – through an interpreter. Brother Simon who had flown in that morning from the Dominican Republic helped me out. Perhaps a third of the guests spoke little or no English. Polite hand signals and gestures were the order of the day during the more formal portrait shoots.

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Mixed In or Mixed Up

Early this week, Weddingwired-dot-com, an everything wedding website clearing house hosted “Happy Hour Albany,” a mixer for industry professionals.

I’ve taken advantage of a free listing offered by this site for several years. To be fair, I’ve gotten what I’ve paid for: nothing. Until now. At this swanky soiree I enjoyed a few chicken wings some guacamole, and a seltzer, all complimentary. Congratulations to the company for not holding attendees hostage to some elaborate sales pitch. I think its reputation speaks for itself, and paying for enhanced promotional opportunity makes sense for some folks via this channel.

Also, this evening at the Hall of the Pines in Saratoga Springs, I met a number of possibly like-minded wedding service providers. One has been at it for quite a while. The other is new to the, ahem … business.

Reverend Ronald Hunt travels within about a sixty mile radius of Rotterdam, a town I know fairly well. But he also ventures farther – nearer to http://www.catskillsphotographer.com home base as Windham, and points farther north than Saratoga.

It seems to me that an officiant, or ‘celebrant,’ as he describes himself might be selected late in the game. But I know I’ve booked at least one ‘rescheduled’ wedding in recent years because while I was committed on the original date I was available on the new date when the pastor of choice could conduct the ceremony. Rev. Hunt said he has presided over weddings on as little as two days notice but typically books for the following year as he likes to get to know the couples before the big day.

I liked this guy. I could tell he was the sort of down-to-Earth soul who would bring a joyful and respectful tone to virtually any ceremony. I hope we get the chance to work ‘together.’ I’ve worked a bit in Saratoga, and would love to return because there are so many beautiful backdrops there. Hunt has covered the region far more extensively than I so one never knows.

Afloat in this sea of photographers (many of whom seemed to know one another) and DJs, (likewise), was another relative newcomer to the WeddingWire mixer scene; Barbara LeFleur. A musician, who recently was invited to play at a wedding that stumbled upon her (if I got the story straight), LeFleur enjoyed it so much she has decided to pursue it. I commend her, and support her.

While I’ve never heard Hunt or LeFleur in action, but it is without trepidation that I say I’d be comfortable around either. I can be very focused, easy-going guy and I suspect they are both similarly focused and easy-going. My thanks to each for striking up the conversations on Monday.

I also spoke briefly with a disc jocky, who said he keeps busy with approximately 30 weddings and 30 bar or bat mitzvahs annually. AND he increases his take from many event by offering a self-built ‘photobooth.’ Photobooths are popular north of Albany. They’re typically actual booths like you find in malls these days, or were common in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Several companies specialize in them. This is the first time I’ve heard of the DJ running the franchise (so-to-speak) but kudos to him for showing the creativity, initiative and ambition.

As a photographer, it might seem kind of funny to compete with my own images by enabling guests to take their own with my equipment. BUT covering the basis would also make sense. Perhaps I could create my own non-booth booth, wire up a spare digital camera, computer and printer and see what happens. Then I could worry that this “Rube Goldberg” was running correctly, while I did my job. Of course I’d need to include the cost of an attendant in whatever I charged, find a reliable and available someone, and convince clients they can’t live without offering these party favors to their guests.

Back to reality.

DJ Dancin’ David seemed like a nice enough fellow. But I wondered how he felt about the DJ laying the musical backdrop for this mixer.

I recently read a list of things that could be ironed out ahead of time or ways a DJ hoped he and any Photographer he was teamed with at a wedding could work together. I’ve been meaning to write a similar list from a Photographers perspective.

The best DJs I’ve worked with have that team approach. We’re there to provide a service to the couple and the guests, and working together can help move an event past uncomfortable lulls or unexpected rough spots.

I’ve found that some DJs do what they do no matter the venue or audience. Somewhere they read that volume and BPM should be increased as time passes.

If getting guests to move on the dance floor is their goal, they might pursue that and never notice that the entrée is being served. If setting the scene for dinner conversation is the aim then, wait, oh right I haven’t encountered too many DJs yet that understood the subtleties of volume and mood.

Of course most of the cliques at this mixer were packed in tight around the DJ so I guess ease of chat wasn’t the goal. To be fair, further, I liked the mix of music and speculate that perhaps the volume was intended to minimize crowds in proximity to the open bar. Sorry, feeling cynical.

(The worst DJ I ever worked with pushed a couple through their first dance because he wanted to get the “business” portion of the evening over with. What a ma-roon. Rivaled perhaps by the one who came pushing through the buffet ahead of the couple.)

Basically I was confused at this mixer in Saratoga. Not sure it was worth the trip. Not sure it wasn’t. Glad I went, but also wonder what I could have been doing instead.

Rather than mixing in, I left feeling mixed up.

Thanks as always, for reading.

~ Jonathan Ment, Photographer

Bridge Construction

A stroll with a buddy today brought me to the site of some bridge construction I’ve been trying to ignore. It’s resulted in a fair bit of traffic past my quiet country home, along with the threat of more traffic to come.

Nameplate from the 105-year old bridge destroyed during Hurricane Irene
Nameplate from the 105-year old bridge destroyed during Hurricane Irene

Of course, once this bridge is rebuilt – having been washed away during Hurricaine Irene, those drivers that follow their GPS down this now dead-end road and then out again will be able to complete the promoted course.  Ultimately I estimate there will be less traffic rather than more.

Fine old bridge
Fine old bridge

I’ve taken quite a few photographs along this road, including some of the old bridge before its demise. But as often as I walk it, I rarely bring a camera along – or there would be many more photos.

Did however bring the camera today, and found that once I started looking a few things did catch the photographer’s eye.

Don't know what these are, but I think they were made in America.
Don’t know what these are, but I think they were made in America.

We’ll file these under ‘texture’ or ‘construction,’ for lack of a better idea.

I’ve long been interested in construction – big and small. It’s what prompted me to buy the fixer-upper we call home, and what keeps me tuned in to remodeling and renovation shows on the tube.  I always notice construction cranes along the road, in the distance or in the city, where they’re hardest to capture in pictures (no helicopter).

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I’m know I played with toy trucks when I was a wee one, but this didn’t carry over into an adult desire to run ‘em.

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So while I still have this fascination with construction vehicles, I think it’s born of something other than a boyish love of big trucks.rebar_new

Where does all of this lead me? I’m not sure, but I wanted to share these few photos from today.  Perhaps this will motivate me to share the photos I completed about a month ago at a bigger construction site in nearby Cairo, NY.

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Happy New Year – Ka Boom!

A stock image borrowed from my inbox
A stock image borrowed from my inbox

This image arrived in my inbox this morning, on 1/3/13, it was one of several such greetings still trickling in and it prompted two main thoughts, mainly the message I’ve been meaning to share with all the brides and grooms I’ve photographed recently.

But first, I think it is doctored. There’s no way the fireworks could spell “Happy New Year” that sharply. But who knows. The past few years I’ve seen more small-town displays, than big budget blow outs – but seriously, this has to be fake? Right?

Second., I think it’s not too late to wish all of my newlyweds a Happy New Year too. You’ve just spent your first holiday season as husband and wife and welcomed the New Year in as a married couple. No doubt along with the

festivities came planning for the future, reflections on the past and somewhere in the mix, perhaps, thoughts of your wedding day I’m excited for all of you.

Reflecting on the past year, my thoughts also move toward those who marked their first anniversaries, Happy Anniversary! What did the first year deliver? What promises did it fulfill? What voids did it fill? What has begun.

It was not just a pleasure to be the one who ‘officially’ captured your big day. It was also an honor. Thank you.

You’re all always in my thoughts, you make me part of who I am. Your smiles, your joy, your tears and your excitement make each New Year special for me.

Thank you, and Happy 2013!

Sincerely,
Jonathan Ment, Photographer.