Mari and Alec

Mari was a referral from my friend Fumi who I also shot a wedding for.  It was another one of those perfect Hawaiian days where the sun was out.  They had their very small ceremony up at Chinaman’s Hat.  It’s a big park overlooking…you guessed it, Chinaman’s Hat.

 This was right around I got my Holga.  A 120mm medium format toy camera.  I fell in love with using the Holga especially after seeing the gorgeous photo it captured of Mari.  Soon after this I started using the Holga at other wedding as well.  Recently at Nikki and Rhey’s wedding I picked up a polaroid camera.  It’s okay to be a little artistic while shooting a wedding.  I had also bought a wide angel lens, and upgraded my camera to a Canon 50D.  I lovingly call her Bertha.

The wedding was a laid back classic Hawaiian wedding.  Kumu and all.  I remember sitting in the car shortly after the shoot uploading my photos directly to give to the bride.  It was some sort of arrangement that I had with her.  Then I took my originals back and started photo editing.  The real surprise was when I got the film processed and came up with this image.  It certainly was a great time to start to play around with toy camera’s while finding a way to incorporate them into weddings.  It was also a way to introduce new brides to a unique way to capture their moments.  The only problem was that you can’t control film, sadly this is the best one that ever came out.

 

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Girlie and Rommel

My co-worker asked me (several times over the years now) to shoot some photos of a couple from her church that was getting married.  This was wedding #2, and again I felt out of my element.  I can’t remember if I shot it for free, or if it was a very cheap rate.  It turned out to be a 12 hour day.  By the time I got home, I crashed on the couch for 24 hours.  Though like every photographer, I couldn’t wait to hop on the computer and start the editing process.

While I wasn’t thrilled with all of the photos that I took, I was happy to see some very lovely shots that came out.  I didn’t know the bride and groom, and had never met them before however, they took me in and treated me like family.

I started in the hotel room where Girlie was getting ready, then moved to the church for a very lovely ceremony.  Just like every wedding, I had no idea what to expect.  Because of my lack of experience, I was pushed aside several times by a woman who was shooting right next to me with her point and shoot.  I remember feeling very uncomfortable, and thought to myself “Maybe I should hang up my camera”.  What I didn’t realize is that I was able to bring joy yet once again to a happy couple that just wanted to some photographs to look back on when they get older.

I think it’s beautiful to think about my own wedding and how I love to look back on that magical day.  Even though I never really like our own wedding photographs (probably because I’m extremely awkward in front of the lens) they are moments thought that were captured on our special day.  Wedding are days to remember.  Isn’t it nice to have someone there to capture the love of one another?

Fumi and Mike

I met Fumi when my husband and I started getting into rock climbing.  Her fiancé (now husband) owned the local rock climbing store, Climb Aloha.  Sky and I frequently visited them up at their house to buy our gear.  One day I was surprised when she begged me to photograph their wedding.  I kept declining as I wanted her special day to be photographed by a professional.

She’s persistent though, and soon enough I agreed to shoot their wedding for free.  It was my first wedding, and I was an amateur photographer who at the time was only photographing flora and fauna.  The whole idea of photographing a wedding was intimidating.  I had NO idea what I was doing, and felt that I was way over my head.  Looking back on the wedding photos I see so many mistakes (like shooting mostly in Sepia).  They had hired another photographer too (I insisted on being the backup only).

It was soon apparent how pleased Fumi was with the photos.  I was stunned at the time, and I really hated them.  Again though, the bride’s special day is special to her, and having the right photos from their special day was enough to warrant me the courage to tackle more weddings.  The weddings came, and then my style.  By my third wedding I was able to see some of the results that I was looking for.  Thanks to Fumi for giving me the courage to push me out of my comfort zone, and giving me the courage I needed to keep photographing weddings.  It turns out that these photos are some of my favorite.

Fumi and I continued to shoot together.  The next photoshoot was her maternity photos (also very amateur) of her first born, then her other three boys.  Which reminds me, I should check in and say “hi” to my friend.  It’s been way too long.

Welcome To Our Crazy, Beautiful World

When my friend Sarah asked me to take pictures of her baby after she’s born, I knew that I wanted to take some maternity shots of her.  We only had half an hour before sunset, which means we were rushing around the park getting as many photos as we could.  Sarah has been a good friend of mine for the past couple of years.  It’s like we were cut from the same cloth.  I am honored to photograph her and her beautiful daughter Moira, and the little bundle of joy on her way into this crazy, beautiful world.

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The Do I? Or Don’t I? Shot

Well, my dream of my blog post last night failed to go viral.  *le sigh*.  BTW, I complain a lot and I can be a taaaddd dramatic at times.  My husband is a trooper, and just sort of rolls his eyes, takes a deep breath and walks out of the room.  So you can imagine how silent its been around the house since I’ve been sick.  In fact, he went camping for the weekend I’m pretty sure to run-a-way from me.  I’m just kidding, I pushed him out of the house so he wouldn’t hear me cry and have a pity-party for myself about twice a day.  I’m not kidding.  I have been that sick that I’ve been acting out like a five year old.

With that said, I wanted to talk about photography again and take my mind off of the fact that I haven’t stopped coughing in over a week.  I told you.  Complainer.  Actually, I want to talk about a subject that I’m not sure how to feel about.  When is it appropriate to take a photo, and when is it not? 5922_302599319875881_1447661970_nWhen we visited Peru in 2013, we were strolling through the streets of Cuzco, when a funeral parade came by.  Instantly my photographer instincts kicked in and I took this photo of a mourning daughter who just lost her dad.   Oh, sorry for the graininess, this photo has been through a few transfers.  Anyway, as the photo was snapped, I started to wonder if that was the pono (right) thing to do.  An answer so many photojournalists have to ask themselves every time that they are out on assignment.  How involved and emotional do they get? If need to step in to help, would they do that, or do they get the shot instead? It’s something that I struggle with every time that I go out to shoot.  Especially while traveling.

So my questions are these:

  • Where do you draw the line between spectator and photographer
  • If there is an emergency situation, would you help or photograph the person(s) being helped.  I can’t help think about 9/11.  The photos that were taken were necessary to bring us the images that will haunt us forever.  But what did the photographer do to help? Did he/ she?
  • Is it disrespectful to take a photo of someone’s grief?

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.  Also, this is a little sneaky way to get more people to respond to my posts.  Vanity.  Yeah.  I’m a catch.

Quite Being Judgemental, Judgey

Is anyone still up with me? I’ve been sick all week, and still am having a hard time not feeling 100% yet.  That makes it very difficult for me to actually fall asleep.  Even after two Melatonin, I toss and turn trying not to cough up a lung.  So here I sit, on my website, for the millionth time trying to get it perfect.  The problem with “perfect” for an artist is that there is no perfect.  Only perfectionism that seems to take control of our lives in the most untimely moments.  I have been working on this site now for the past two weeks to get it looking “perfect”.  Yet, I just can’t seem to make all of the pieces fit together just the way I want them too.  But I am contemplating of letting the stress of perfectionist dictate to me how perfect I should be.  I know that we all do it.  We put unreasonable goals in front of us that just make us fret over why we didn’t accomplish them.

I have a friend of mine who I absolutely look up to.  You can check out here site at: here.  She’s smart, funny, extremely open, and writes like a comic champ.  She also is so successful on her blog that she gets companies to send her free things so that she can do a write up on their products.  Plus she has a million followers (well, that’s not true, but she has A LOT).  Honestly, I have a little bit of blog envy.  And that perfection starts to come out, and a little bit of my competitive nature.  I wonder to myself as I try to fall asleep at night, ‘I wonder how many hits I have now? Should I go check?’.  It’s all a little maniacal.  Just by looking at Katie below you get a pretty good idea who she is; fresh, inspiring, courageous and self-admittedly a little judgemental.  Which is what makes her real.  How often do you find a friend like that? So I guess I shouldn’t want her dead then.  That would be wrong just because I’m a selfish, envious and self-judging, and also very judgemental woman.  I will let her live along with her fantastic blog site.  I mean, it’s amazing and you need to check it out.  Then like my posts.  Then follow me too.

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Katie the cutie camera (R), Your truly camera (L)

Disclaimer: By the way, this blog from time to time is going to divert away from photography.  Especially, when I have insomnia.  It takes me forever to write it because of the Melatonin, and often I’ll sit in silence for a few minutes trying to remember what I was going to say.  You could say that I’m a bit of….there it goes again.  Off like a unicorn farting to the stars.

With all of that said, I’m going to bid you au revoir (that’s French you know) 😛 and try again to get some zzz’s.  Night to anyone who has taken the time to read this long piece.  I have no idea what it’s about myself.  Good on you for making the effort!

New To The World

What is it about newborn babies that make just about every woman squeal with delight? Coming from a mother of zero, I can tell you what makes me squeal.  This may seem a bit harsh, but I like it when they’re asleep.  Now wait! You’re thinking what a horrible monster I am right? Why don’t you let me finish and I can explain myself (how many times have we all said that?).  I love it when they are asleep because they are in zen baby mode.  I think that they are having these wonderfully beautiful dreams that no adult can experience.  I think that they are dreaming of some far-a-way land where they came from and are eager to get back.  My theory is that is why they cry when they wake up.  Reality sinks in and they’re back to a strange new world with lots of outside noises.  I also really love sleeping babies because honestly, that’s the best time to photograph them.  When they are quiet and asleep, far away from this world.  Just look at Spencer below.  He is the sweetest angel which makes this one of my favorite photos I have taken.

 

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Baby Spencer off in Never Neverland

In general I just love kids.  They are fun, full of life, and never really have to think about the mundane things in life that we adults do.  Wouldn’t it be nice to travel back to the day’s of being a kid just for a week to experience the wonderment all over.  Maybe we wouldn’t take our lives so seriously then.  I digress.  Look at Aedan here, only about a week old when he got his first of several glamor shots.  Aedan, now seven years old, is one of the sweetest boys that you will ever meet.  And brave! He already surfs and skateboards with his grandpa.  Children are just beautiful angels, and while I don’t have any of my own, I make a really good aunt and baby sitter.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane

Recently, I broke down and finally bought a new camera.  I had been searching and thinking about it for over a year.  When I heard mirrorless cameras were the new “it” technology”, I figured I’d give it some time to see how it upholds on shoots and go from there.  One day I did a google search for the best travel cameras.  Upon our decision to go abroad again, I wanted to make sure that the camera I took with wasn’t a point-and-shoot with limited zoom range, or a big heavy professional camera that would give me a neck pain as well as a hunched back.  Then, as I was researching, a ghost of sorts came up from the mists and caught my eye.  The Fuji X T-10.  It took me by surprise because it was the exact one that I talk about in this blog about how I learned to shoot on my dad’s camera. I did research on the camera, and was impressed.  I even went down to Best Buy to take a look at it up close, and feel in love with it.  The features while impressive, was not the reason why I bought the camera, but to honor the legacy of my father.  I can’t tell you how happy and proud I am to own this camera.  Not out of vanity, or materialism, but because I feel that every time I go out on a shoot now, my dad is with me.  And that’s a pretty amazing feeling.

 

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My Dad’s 1980 Fujica camera right, and my Fujifilm X-T10 camera left.
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As you can see, Fujifilm revamped the retro style almost to a “T” minus the analog features.
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The back of the cameras side by side.
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I’m obsessed with this photo.  It’s the first one I took with my dad’s camera.  I know it’s a horrible photo.  But to me I think it’s the best one I’ve ever taken.

Welcome

I wanted to say thank you for stopping by my blog today.  In fact, if I could give each of you a high-five, I would.  Consider this your virtual high-five.  I wanted to introduce myself and my work to you, in hopes that we can get to know each other better over the course of our time together.  I’m going to leave out the boring part of the introduction, because I wrote about it here.  If you’re so inclined you can check it out.

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Sunshine.  My first photograph taken with my dad’s Fuji 35mm

I have been photographing since I was ten years old.  As I started to get older, I got more involved in media production, with an emphasis on photography.  As a matter of fact, I took a photography class in high school and received a certificate.  Back then we only had 35mm camera’s to shoot with, and I learned how to work in a dark room.  Here are some never seen before photos of my photography class in high school.

 

I should have taken that certificate and pursued my dream of becoming a photographer for National Geographic.  Instead, I wound up working in the corporate world, and put my photography aside.  Shameful, I know.  Instead of blossoming into a world renowned photographer, I was pushing escrow papers across my desk for ten years, and other as equally boring office jobs since then.  One day, I decided it was time to get back into photography.  I started small with a Canon Elf that my husband bought me, and took photos of the flora and fauna here in Hawaii.  I’d pack up my car and drive down to the local art fair to sell my photos.  Remarkably, people bought them.  I started to become impassioned yet again with my first love.  Soon after that my husband bought me my first DSLR.  Now I started shooting weddings, engagements, and family photos of my close friends without charge.  But it wasn’t too long after that I realized I could make a living off of something that I love almost as much as my pioneer and our cat.

 

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My dad’s Fujica on the left, my new Fujifilm on the right.  Practically identical.

Most of my photography when I first started, wasn’t really that great.  Average at best.  Let me tell you one thing, it’s not the camera brand, size, or whether it’s a point and shoot, or a professional camera; if you develop an eye you can shoot anything beautifully.  My husband has a great eye and shoots on his iPhone.  His pictures are amazing.  If anyone ever criticizes you, remember it’s them not you.  If you’re really passionate about photography, or anything for that matter, you can develop your skills just by making the effort to learn and to practice.  In fact, I’m going to recommend some books that really helped me in the beginning.  I still reference them, especially since I haven’t been shooting for awhile now.

  • Scott Kelby: The Digital Photography Book volume 1
  • Scott Kelby: The Digital Photography Book volume 2
  • Scott Kelby: The Digital Photography Book volume 3

Scott is point on breaking down and simplifying how to shoot like a pro, even if you’re not.  His chapters are also very funny and easy to read.  I learned a lot of his techniques and have taken them out in the field on several occasions.  If you are interested in learning more about photography, I highly recommend this book series to anyone, from beginner to pro.

Boy, I have a tenancy to talk a lot don’t I? Let me conclude that you can do anything with your life.  If working in an office is your passion than God bless you.  If you want to pursue something different, you have to find your passion and go with it.  Too many years have a struggled with this small fact.  My dad taught me a lot, but he was very practical.  I worked in an office because I wanted to make him proud of me, even after he died.  I realized though a week ago, that the only person I need to prove anything to is myself.  You only live once, so make it worth it.

Fashion.

I have to admit.  I’ve always had an infinite attraction to fashion even though I have tried to conceal it from others.  As a teenager my girlfriends and I would cut out Swatch, oUnited Colors of Bennington, or Esprit ads (that should show you my age) and tape them to our wall bordering our bedrooms in glamor and chicness.  As I got into my twenties my attraction towards fashion turned to disdain as I embraced my free loving gypsy side.  My thirties consisted of traveling, exploring and rock climbing, so any clothing that wasn’t conducive to my lifestyle was dismissed as frivolous.  Certainly, that remains somewhat true today, but as I entered into my late thirties, my love of fashion returned.  The clothes! The shoes! The handbags! Even though I have a beer budget with champagne taste, I have always seemed to manage to pull of the best of discount fashion (a big thank you to TJ Maxx and Ross).  I even started designing my own clothing with acrylic paints and had my own designer brand: Omväg – simply meaning “detour” in Swedish.  To draw inspiration I hit the fall runway show here in Honolulu to capture images of some of the latest trends, and fell back in love with fashion.

So as I enter into the second half of my life, I’m excited to see where my entrepreneurial skills will lead me.  As a multi-potentialite, I have the opportunities to not do just one thing that I love, but all things that I love.  Which includes fashion.

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I’m in love with this necklace

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Thanksgiving in Hawaii

I live a very privileged life.  There’s no doubt in that.  My husband and I live in Honolulu, Hawaii and have been residents here for the past fourteen years.  We’ve been here so long in fact that we are now referred to “Auntie and Uncle” (a term of respect) from the young generation out here.  We live a quiet life for the most part in our modest one bedroom apartment.  My husband works in film and television by trade, and is an Eco Tour Guide by day.  I fluctuate from working in office’s when I feel a sense of responsibility, to the care free gypsy that lingers inside my soul.  We have a fourteen year old feline fur baby, Kasha, who was diagnosed with breast cancer this year.  We spend every day giving thanks to have her in our lives.  We don’t have any children, at least non that I’m aware of.  And we both grew up on the beautiful west coast of Michigan where we also lived very privileged lives.

My husband and I have always been gypsy’s.  His life started off on the road when he was born to hippie parents living in Canada.  He spent the first five years of his life living in a teepee and a converted milk truck to be his home.  I was born in Chicago, and moved to Sweden with my family when I was five.  We lived there, went to school, learned the language, met my mother’s side of the family (she’s an immigrant from Sweden), then moved back to the states a year later settling in about the same time that my husband and his family did.  We grew up about ten minutes away from each other in the small towns of Grand Haven and Spring Lake.  When we finally met it was like meeting my travel buddy for life.  Our first date was a road trip to Kentucky for a weekend exploring the caves, and natural beauty.

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Our travel bug never stopped after that.  We traveled over 35 U.S. states and Canada in the span of ten years.  Often times we’d be gone for three weeks.  We married in Hawaii in 1999 and got engaged in Hawaii the year before.  After our engagement we told each other that eventually we would move out to Hawaii and use it as our home, and the point to travel to foreign countries.  In 2009, after watching the movie UP and crying for two weeks straight afterwards, we decided to travel to Thailand.  It was perfect timing.  I had just been laid off from the financial industry just as the markets were crashing.  I collected unemployment, and pulled out my 401k.  We spent six weeks traveling on the road in Thailand and Cambodia.  It’s always a mixed bag of emotions when you come home.  You first feel elation and don’t take the small things for granted, like running hot water or paved streets.  Eventually though, that travel bug comes back and bites you harder than ever.  That year we also traveled to Utah and Arizona to hike Bryce Canyon, did some rock climbing in California and traveled back to Michigan to see our families.

By the time the year had ended, we had traveled probably close to 12,000 miles.  It wasn’t too long after that though that we both started getting restless again.  In 2011 my husband surprised me when he said he wanted to take me back to Sweden to see my family.  It had been twenty-two years since the last time that I was “home”.  My parents still lived in Michigan, but my aunt, uncle, cousins and cousin’s cousins still live there.  We spent four weeks reconnecting with my family and traveling to southern Sweden to explore Ystad and Malmos, stopping by to visit Ales Stenar (Sweden’s Stone Hedge), and a Viking Village eventually to my home town of Göteborg.  Being home also brought back many mixed emotions from that trip.  My family, my once home, and still a longing to explore.  Maybe it’s my Viking blood, but I just can’t seem to stay in one place for too long.

With December 23rd, 2012 around the corner, and the impending doom of the world, we thought it would be fun to go to the heart of the doomsday prophecy to Peru.  We decided to wait though until May when the weather would be a little bit more favorable for us.  We spent four weeks traveling around Peru visiting Machu Picchu, Nazca Lines, Lima, Cuzco, Areuipa, and so much more.  No stone went left unturned on that trip.  We stayed in beautiful Urabumba where we were greeted with cacao tea to help us acclimated to the high elevation.  We traveled by bus, boat, train, planes and automobiles.  I brushed up on my Spanish and got us out of some very tricky situations.  Most notably, catching our bus to head up to Machu Picchu when we were already late.  We even found a Swedish Embassy while in Peru that brought joy to my heart.  Ironically, the rumor in my family is that my great-uncle went to Peru and found gold in the mountains.  When he got back to Sweden, he bought my families summer home on Styrsö.  Who knows, there may be a long lost relative somewhere in Peru.

Since we got back from our Peru trip, there hasn’t been any international traveling.  Unfortunately, that same year we were on the road my grandmother passed away.  Then a few months later my grandfather died, then my dad.  It was a wonderful trip that was overshadowed by the awful year of losing so many people that we loved.  These past few years I have been trying to find myself again.  I was self-employed for most of that time.  This past year re-entering the workforce and realizing that I have really outgrown living forty hours of my life trapped in a cubicle.

There are certain things in my life though that I always come back to:

  • Photography
  • Writing
  • Traveling

I had had a pretty successful business when I was a wedding and engagement photographer from 2009-2011.  But living in Hawaii and working in that field almost makes it impossible to compete with another more seasoned photographer.  Then digital photography came along and was accessible to everyone, and instead of hiring photographers, brides and grooms would ask their Aunt Edna to take their photos for them.  I felt defeated, and left photography to do tarot readings.  Which in itself is also a very bizarre “business”.  I think that’s why I finally decided to go back to office work.  It was safe.  A steady paycheck, health insurance, a 401k.  The perks of working in an office job seemed that it would be worth having a peace of mind knowing that there would be some sort of long lasting reward when we finally retired.

1743442_660532360749240_175205335371236923_nBut that fantasy of being a grown-up quickly disappeared as I settled more and more into a life that no longer suited me.  I am not the type of person to dress up for work everyday.  I like taking naps at 2pm, so working until 5pm really sucks.  Only getting the weekends off is a drag.  I  rather have a couple of quiet days off during the week and working weekends than the other way around.  Most notably though, is only getting two weeks off paid vacation after working one year.  Typically you won’t get three weeks off until you put in at least five years at the same company.  Every time you go somewhere else, you have to start all over again.  I’ve been mulling it over and over again in my head what it is that I want.  I’ve tried everything from starting up an NPO to tarot readings, to writing, to photography, to working in dead-end jobs.  I felt lost and a little hopeless.  Until the reality sunk in a few day’s ago.  I am a photographer.  Period.  That is who I am, how I see the world.  I think about all of the shoots that I have done over the years, and never once on a shoot I thought about how much I hated my career.  I loved it.  I loved everything about it.  I loved the creativity, working my own hours, photo editing, meeting people from around the world with their own stories to tell.  You lose that when you don’t have the exposure anymore.

So here I am, not even a year after I started back in the world of the office, that I’m ready to leave corporate for good.  We’re planning out our next trip (stay tuned to find out where), and I’ll be saying Hejdå once again to my partitioned office.

In the meantime, I’ll be updating my blog with information from Thailand, Cambodia, Sweden, Peru, and the U.S.  Luckily, I’ve also keep journals with me all of these years, so I have many good travel hints for those currently looking for more information.

So Happy Thanksgiving my friends.  I hope that you will enjoy the journey with me as my new life as a travel writer/ photographer commences.