The Natural Portrait

My friend Helen Durfee always said that the fall season in Western Pa is just as nice as Vermont, just a little less dramatic. She grew up in the Laurel Highlands and lived the first part of her married life in Vermont. I agree that Vermont and New England are famous for “leaf peeping” but I have to say that this particular fall here in Western Pa. has been spectacular. img_1111

I have been treated to some amazing days of mountain biking and hiking this fall where I have taken the time to enjoy the color of the leaves. I have taken the time to “savor” the days like a fine steak or fresh seafood. I try to take little bites and enjoy the flavor. Like my commute to work on Squaw Run ┬áRoad. I don’t go the fastest route to work but rather the scenic roads to enjoy the changes in the leaves each day. This year the changes have been remarkable. img_1117

Another contributing factor to my enjoyment of Fall 2016 has been the app that was suggested to me by my friend Eric Durfee( Helen’s husband and native Vermonter). It is called ProHDX and can be downloaded on your I-Phone. This particular app allows you to shoot a photo and really get the focus and colors sharply so that the end result is an I-Phone photo that looks particularly good compared to most. I am not a real good photographer and the only camera I have is on my I-Phone. But I have really enjoyed using this app and the convenience of the I-Phone on a ride or a hike can yield some spectacularly sharp images. img_1106

The one nice thing about a hike or taking in the view from a mountain bike is that you can avoid all of the cars packed with “leaf peepers” and enjoy the quiet transformation of the season in the woods of Western Pennsylvania. Many past seasons have been rushed with race pace rides looking at nothing other than the persons backside in front of me. Games, practices, kid’s activities take a lot of time and effort for many of us. But as you age and the seasons of rushing to activities wane, it is a great practice to slow down, take in the seasons, and enjoy the flames of the maple leaves, the golden colors of the oak trees and even the pale shading of the ferns on the forest floor. In my old backpacking days, I did take the time to hike and enjoy the fall in the Laurel Highlands. But in the many years since, those times had been replaced by soccer games, basketball games and general activities with my wife and son. Now I have a college student who does his own thing, and my wife and I are trying to slow down and enjoy what God provides for us by way of a natural display of color. img_1108

So, I guess the message here is to savor your experiences. The yearly season change where the warm days try to hang on into Indian Summer, create some spectacular viewing if you take the time to enjoy the days. You don’t have to go to the mountains to enjoy the scene. Just look out your window, your windshield, or take a walk in the neighborhood. Smell that fall aroma of leaves. See the tannin of the leaves change the creek colors. Notice the difference. Slow down. Thanks for reading.

“Every Picture Tells a Story”

photophotophoto You have it in your head,right? Rocket Rod singing, “Every Picture Tells a Story,baby” Well maybe if you are a little older, but it rings in my head. Anyhow, check the picture above. This is one of my wife going to her favorite place in all the world…..the beach. I took this actually spontaneously while I was on my way to park the car. ( Yes, we were staying on the bay- had to drive over to the beach for all you beachfront snobs.) But we like the bay………..I digress. Janet loves the beach and this little snapshot in time tells the story of her love for the Jersey Shore. She worked there in high school, college and her aunt and uncle have a place in Ocean City,NJ. Just look at the body language….relaxed, prepared, and leisurely walking down the path. I happened to catch the moment in time on my I-Phone.

Years ago, my dad bought me a little Canon camera to take to Switzerland on my first trip to Europe as a senior in high school. I was wide eyed and couldn’t wait to develop the pictures at the local drug store when I got back home. This little camera was all that I had for years. I liked to take pictures but I never had the money or the inclination to buy better equipment like the big Nikon cameras and the wide angle lenses. I believe my sister has my dad’s Nikon equipment but to this day, the only camera I ever owned was the little clamshell Canon…….until the digital age came into play. When I discovered that I could take pictures on a Blackberry, I was enthralled. I could save them, erase them, send them instantly to my friends via the net. Quite an advanced step for a rube like me. Then I got the I- Phone and the quality became even better. But for me, photography is not about aperture, speed, wide angle lenses, professional quality action shots. Photography for me is capturing the moment. I see things like my wife here and it prompts me to snap. I don’t look at the angle of the sun, or other considerations that real photographers look at……I just snap. I try to get the moment in time.

There are many pictures that I have taken that probably don’t mean much to others. But to me, I know the story. As I get older, these stories bring back cherished memories, laughs, and tears. Life goes by so quickly that to get some of it in digital form is really valuable and important. A smile from your dad that you captured quickly, the baby’s first rollover, the look of bewilderment on the school bus when your child first boarded, the college freshman, the college graduate. If you take the time to really get the light right, the angle right, the right lens, you will miss the moment in time. That is why the digital cameras are so great and if the shot is good, or you think it is good, you share it on social media for instant comments from your friends. I can’t match a Mattias Fredrikson shot on the slopes with his professional lighting and professional models, but I can sure capture a shot of a great smile after one of my friends skis a really steep chute. I take it quickly and their family can see it instantly. The 58 year old kid that I am, is now reveling in this new technology that allows my spontaneity to take form by way of a quick snapshot.

Moments, my friends, are quickly appearing and quickly ending. At the risk of being obnoxious, I always am prepared to snap because it is so easy. Critics will tell us that I-Phone photography is not the quality of a true digital camera, but how often can you take professional equipment with you when you ride a bike, ski, hike? It is so easy with a piece of equipment that you always have with you. Capturing the moment. Take a look at the second picture above. This was taken at 5:45 AM with a full moon in view. The boat would soon be gone and the moment struck me. Snap!!!!!

One last thing from the guy who is not a photographer is to take the time to see the moment. So many of us rush through life and get to the next opportunity. If you look for the snap, it will allow you to savor moments that you might miss. Life flies by and if you can slow it down a little bit by looking and appreciating a moment in time, you can have it forever. I have a lot of mental snaps filed in my head. If I close my eyes, I can envision the Gore Range outside of Vail, Colorado. I can see El Cap at Yosemite. I can see the maple tree in North Park that always turns colors first in the fall. I can see my mom and dad dancing at my sister’s wedding showing me in the moment the most wonderful love story played out in their eyes in a photo that I took. These mental pictures can be captured by remembering a photo or by just taking the time to look at the scenery and enjoying the moment. Snap! Take it with your mind. When you are back in the mundane, or you are having a down day, you can close your eyes and let yourself go to the place of beauty in your mind’s eye.

The last snap above is of my dad and me at my first ball game. The pride of a father and the anticipation of a big event by the son. It shows the love of the father and the receipt of that love by the son who was waiting for the first pitch. How about that sport coat and tie? Who goes to games like that any more? Don’t be afraid to use that I-Phone even if your kid thinks you are a dork. Get the snap, get the mental snap, it slows our life down. Thanks for snapping….er a reading!!