Living in Manhattan - My Second Year

posted on: December 19, 2015

At the end of 2014, I was still settling into this big little urban island and wrote about a lot of the things that impacted me after living in NYC for a year.  However, after a second year of living here and getting used to all of the not-so-awesome parts, I've started to appreciate the benefits and bonuses that make this a really desirable place to stay beyond a short visit.  Here are a few of the ways that New York City, but particularly Manhattan, has spoiled me as a resident:

1. 24 Hour Delivery For Just About Anything
3am craving for ice cream and don't want to get out of your PJs?  Seamless Delivery.  Staying home sick and need someone to go grocery and toilet paper shopping for you?  Instacart Delivery.  Found a couch on craigslist but don't have a car?  Uship Delivery.  Don't feel like waking up early and standing in line for a cronut or SNL tickets?  TaskRabbit.  NYC is a city full of people who don't have cars and whose kitchens rarely do more than chill wine and leftovers- so delivery services are abundant for just about anything you need.

2. Top Chefs in Every Food Category
This city is a foodie's paradise.  From awesomely cheap street food to five star over-the-top meals, there's no shortage of amazing chefs and restaurants in this city.  People don't consider service jobs to be a career choice in other parts of the country or world, but here, you may get poached and recruited to be a star bartender or barista if you make a point of going above and beyond in your service.  I know bartenders whose salaries make people wish they'd never taken out a student loan.

3. Everyone Comes to NYC
If there's a major art exhibit, concert series, musical act, film, or international figure, they will find their way to NYC at some point.  When the Pope came to visit the United States, he came to NYC.  If there's an international traveling act and they only plan one show in the United States, it's probably happening in NYC.  It sounds a bit over-zealous to say EVERYONE comes here, but it's rare that an act will stop somewhere else and not come to NYC. All the entertainment you could want is just a subway or taxi ride away.

4. Independent Film & Music
One of the things that was hard to find in other cities I've lived in was a movie theatre that would host something other than a major film with a large financial backing and broad commercial appeal.  I used to drive an hour out of town to get to the closest movie house that would host a documentary that was traveling the festival circuit.  Now I have several movie theaters within a few blocks walk that host not only independent film and music, but also have really awesome director Q&A nights.  I've been able to speak with Ethan Hawke, Mike Meyers, and Kristin Wiig about their latest films simply because they were actually attending their own screening down the street from me.

5. Free Art & Culture Events
Free Summer Concert Series, Free Movies on the Piers, Free Festivals in the Park, Free Public Swimming Pools, Free Ferry Rides, Free Promotional Food Giveaways, Free Samples, Free Tickets to TV Shows, Free Museum Talks & Demonstrations... and the list goes on.  With so many free events that happen every day in this city, it's not a question of what's happening, it's a question of which happening to choose, and it kind of makes up for how expensive it can be to live here.

World Trade Inspired | Behind The Image

posted on: November 24, 2015

It's hard to think of interiors and architecture as having "moments", but this was one of those moments when several things aligned and made me geek out about an otherwise very plain image of office furniture.  

World Trade Inspired Office Furnishing Interior Photography

I knew I wanted a detail of the carpet, stools, filing cabinets, and desk, to highlight some of the designer's choices, but there were several of these to choose from throughout the office, so I kept looking until something inspired me. Then I noticed a set with the One World Trade building right outside the window- and that's when the "moment" of inspiration struck. Not only were the stools shaped like One World Trade as the edges angled upward toward a flat rounded top, but the carpet's hexagon design was a close relative of the octagon formed in the middle of the One World Trade building as its isosceles triangle facades aligned at even widths. Finally, my creative vision for making stools, carpet, and filing cabinets look more interesting.

The only problem was you couldn't tell exactly what building was out the window from the standing height normally appropriate for this desk. In a straight-on-view mid-height, the mirrored facade of OWT reflected the mid-height clouds in the sky and distorted some of the building shape.  So I squatted lower, and lower, and then even lower, until basically laying on the ground for a window perspective looking upward that allowed the crowning shape of OWT to be compared to the detail of the stools and carpet.  To give you a broader image of this scene, there were people working in this open layout office while I was there, just going about their regular office routines until spotting me essentially laying on the ground in the middle of their office to take a photo of some stools. It's probably good that I'm not embarrassed easily. When a "moment" of inspiration strikes, I'll do whatever it takes to make it work.

However, the work never stops at the capture of the image. This image wasn't actually possible in the camera itself, so if you'd like to know a little more about the technical process of creating it, read on...

First it required two different RAW exposures on site in order to get a proper exposure of the interior and a proper exposure of the exterior. From the settings below you can see these exposures are 3 stops apart (the only difference was changing the shutter speed from 1/10th of a second to 1/80th of a second). While RAW files can be pushed and pulled about 1 stop of light in over or under exposure without too many artifacts or distortions, anything beyond a full stop difference really needs to be a separate exposure.

Next was color correcting the interior image color to more accurately reflect the material and design colors without too much of the florescent orange light color cast and without too much natural blue light color cast. This is one of the most subjective parts of editing because it relies on the color sensitivity of our eyes both on site when photographing as well as our color memory when we're behind the computer.  The window exposure was already perfectly daylight balanced. If I tried to color correct after combining images, the window view would become an unnatural neon blue.

While many people think a grey card can solve the problem, it isn't very reliable under mixed lighting conditions and is highly likely that you'll still end up tweaking it in post-production to find something that balances better over the entire scene. Grey cards are great when you have consistent color across scenes as you do with studio lighting, but interiors are a messy blend of natural and artificial light, sometimes up to five different color tones of light across one space. If you're color blind, yes, use a grey card to get colors somewhere close to where they need to be. If you have great color sensitivity, you'll likely be doing the same amount of adjustments with or without a grey card.

Once my interior colors were as close as I could get to what I saw when I was on location when adjusting for various color reflections, the next step was to bring the window exposure detail into the interior exposure image using layers and masks in Photoshop. Sometimes it's possible to combine exposures with HDR software, but I've found that you end up losing a lot of latitude in highlights and colors when a software tries to average different images together.  

To demonstrate this, below is an example of the best possible detail after using HDR software on the left, versus masking in the window exposure manually on the right. The HDR software failed to pull in any of the blue sky outside, and yet decided to fill in a highlight on the filing cabinet with a blue color cast. You can also see how the HDR version reduces the amount of detail in the ceiling. Occasionally, when exposures are close enough, HDR software can be effective, but when the difference is this dramatic and selective, masking provides more control. I was also very careful not to allow the window scene to be bolder than the interior, because that would also be unnatural to the eye, and take the focus off of the interior design choices.

I believe that when an image is crafted well, you don't actually see all of the work that went into it. If it looks as natural on screen as it would to our eye in person, than I feel like I've done my job well to convey the design as clearly as the air that surrounds it.

Transitions Are Tricky - Gratitude Journal

posted on: November 17, 2015

Transitioning from one job, home, or place to another always involves some level of trickiness.  Whether it's figuring out airport information in a foreign language, re-establishing a new set of friends and support structures in a new neighborhood, or learning the ins and outs of a different working role, there are always a good amount of unknowns that come with transitions of any kind.  These unknowns throw us outside of our comfort zone, put everything we are familiar with into question, and force us to spend a certain amount of time navigating in the dark until we feel like we have enough understanding to operate in some sense of lightness again.

Kayaking at Sunset on Lake Cayuga

So far, I've been through....
16 Moves in 35 Years
14 Jobs over 20 Years (12 in the first 10 years to find one I loved)
16 Countries navigated in 10 Years

When I look at how many transitions I've gone through, it's amazing how much of my life has been spent simply trying to figure out where I am and what I'm doing.  Just as soon as I think I'm getting a good feel for things, something changes!

Through these changes, I kept wanting a feeling of being settled over and over again- to have a firm grounding and understanding of what it meant to be in one place for a considerable amount of time.  It took me over 30 years of transitions to finally realize it would be more useful to learn how to deal with change and transition, than to keep wishing and hoping things would settle down or remain the same.  Even something as old and sturdy as a mountain changes from year to year.  A couple years ago I officially said goodbye to seeking a feeling of being "settled" in order to better embrace "going with the flow."


I've seen a lot of people go through big transitions over the last year, and I recognize the feelings of difficulty and unease that come with the unknowns around the corner.  These unknowns stir a fight-or-flight stress response that we naturally use to create a sense of control over our environment, but that feeling also creates resistance when it comes to dealing with change productively.  As a basic form of protection, we naturally fear what we do not know.  It raises our blood pressure, heightens our anxiety, and keeps us on high alert.  Once you understand that these feelings are all very natural and expected parts of change, the mind can embrace them and work with them as part of the expected response to the situation, rather than worrying in anxiety about these natural stress responses.

While experiencing transitions, I've discovered things that can become anchors and satisfy that biological need for safety and control.  Even something as small and basic as self-care routines each day can become grounding rituals that help us feel more secure.  Making sure we get enough sleep, even if it means going to bed early or having ear plugs to drown out the sounds of a new environment.   Turning off our phone and computer by a set time to help our mind wind down away from news or events we do not have control over, so we can focus on the safety of our immediate environment instead.  Writing out a mind dump at the end of each day to help us clear our mind and be more organized the next day or meditation/prayer/deep breathing for relaxation.

Paso Robles Valley Sunset

If you find it easier to control your morning routine, start there instead.  My evenings may be less than predictable, but if I can start the day off right, than I feel more prepared to take on the uncertainties ahead.  Simply making sure that we always have breakfast on hand signals our body that we do not need to spend our time hunting for food all day- it also helps us be prepared even if we're unsure of when or if we'll be able to stop for lunch. We can make it easier by preparing our coffee the night before, or making sure we have the ingredients we need at night we don't try to start our day feeling unfulfilled.  Even when I couldn't count on anything else in my environment to be consistent, if I could just get up and have a cup of coffee or tea and something small to eat- I felt like I could handle whatever unexpected experience I was going to encounter the rest of the day.

By creating small routines that give us comfort and fulfillment at the start and end of each day, we create a grounding that allows us to handle heightened levels of uncertainty elsewhere in our lives and helps us stabilize more easily over quickly sifting sands.  When you can't count on anything in your environment to be the same from one day to the next, you can at least count on your ability to take control of how you start and end your day- and from there, so many more things are possible.

I'm grateful that all of the transitions in my life had led to so much adventure and fulfillment, even if they came with the stress of uncertainties.  I'm also grateful that part of experiencing so many transitions has taught me how to deal with change more gracefully.  Hopefully these experiences can benefit you as well!

{If you appreciated this post, please join me in my journey to have a greater positive impact on the world by writing YOUR OWN GRATITUDE JOURNAL and sharing it or a link to it in the comments below. I would love to read your moments of gratitude and share them with others!}

What Would You Attempt if You Knew You Could Not Fail?

This question has changed my life many times over, so when I was invited to prepare a TEDx Talk, my answer to the question was to inspire other people to explore the possibilities beyond resistance and to pursue big dreams.  If you know of someone who is struggling with finding their path or chasing a big dream, I hope you'll take a moment to share this with them....

If you're curious about what it was like to give a TEDx Talk, here are my other posts full of insights and experiences leading up to the event:

Behind the Scenes of my TEDx Talk - the obstacles I had to overcome just before the talk and how I really felt as I stood on the stage and afterward

An Invitation to Speak at TEDx - how a rejection to speak elsewhere, created space and preparation for this opportunity

Behind the Scenes of my TEDx Talk

posted on: November 3, 2015

This is my personal experience of giving a TEDx Talk, with all the behind-the-scenes stuff no one really talks about preparing for...

About 10 days before the date of the talk, I had a moment of panic brought on by an excruciating tooth pain and feared it might mean a need for oral surgery or something worse.  A visit to the dentist became 90 minutes of examination, 3 x-rays, several vitality tests, and multiple dentists tapping on my teeth with metal things only to end in an unsolved mystery about what was causing so much pain.  I got through the days that followed up to the talk with a LOT of ibuprofen.  My biggest concern no longer had anything to do with the execution of the talk, but that my jaw might swell up or that my symptoms would get worse and make it difficult to speak at all.

Just in case something went wrong, I decided to make a recording that could be played in the event I couldn't speak.  It was probably the best version of the talk I ever gave, and I felt comfortable knowing that if those were the words that came out of my mouth, I'd be happy.  Thankfully the symptoms didn't elevate beyond the pain itself and the ibuprofen carried me through that week of work before traveling for the talk.  I decided that regardless of the physical pain I was experiencing, as long as things didn't get worse, I'd still show up and give the talk.  By all other measures, I felt fully prepared and ready.

There are always challenges that come up on the path to doing something bigger than we've done before, but it's how we handle them to continue moving forward that really matters.  I could have had a lot of moments of vanity prevent me from sharing my story.  Feeling like I should lose more weight before being videoed or getting on stage, versus accepting and honoring where I am right now and letting that be enough.  I could have felt like my teeth weren't white enough or straight enough for a close up camera shot.  I could have obsessed about not having an outfit that was flattering enough, or shoes that weren't nice enough.  I could have been distraught that I couldn't get an appointment to get my hair cut, colored, or done before the event- but those were all just vain wants that were about my ego and not about the actual story.  Too often we let these moments of vanity get in the way of showing up for big opportunities, but if we can accept that the opportunity came at THIS time with regard to who we are RIGHT now, than we can hopefully accept that who and where we are right now is actually part of the timing that makes the opportunity possible.

I also could have stood in my own way by feeling my talk wasn't good enough.  Of all the rehearsal talks I'd done in my living room or bedroom during the month before the talk, about half of them made me want to start over or change something, 40% were satisfactory enough to make it all the way through without stopping or getting completely off track, and 10% were rehearsals I actually thought were decent.  My hopes were that what would happen on stage would fall at the better end of that spectrum.

The day before the talk, I arrived in Michigan early for the TEDx walk-through.  We didn't practice our talks on stage, but we did practice getting on and off the stage, trying on the microphones, making sure our slides worked, getting to know the monitors, remotes, and stage cues, and getting acquainted with the size of the space as well as the layout of the audience.  We learned that the event had sold out and that total attendance might be around 1,000 people, which was double the initial numbers shared.  I tried not to get too worked up or excited about any of it.  Even though my talk was a personal story of my journey, at the end of the day it really wasn't about me at all.  I was just a messenger sharing a set of ideas and experiences I'd had in the hope that it might help someone else.

That evening, my voice started to get raspy and my throat was feeling swollen.  I hadn't even used my voice much, so I wasn't sure why it was feeling strained.  I didn't feel overly stressed or nervous and I didn't have a fever, so I figured my Michigan hay fever allergies may have been kicking in.  I had some echinacea tea and an antihistamine before bed in the hopes that it would help for the next day.

I woke up very early the morning of the talk, 4:44 am.  I've come to think of repeating numbers as a good luck sign, so at least the day was off to a good start.  While it was tempting to go back to sleep at that hour, I knew I wouldn't really sleep, so I moved forward with plenty of time to drive without traffic, and have some coffee and breakfast time before everything started.  My voice was still scratchy, but working, and surprisingly the tooth pain was now gone- so at least that was one less thing to deal with.  Even though my talk wasn't until the afternoon, I wanted to see everyone else's talks as well.  Aside from the inspiring or informative nature of the talks, I also wanted to observe things like how the cameras were capturing the speakers and how the lighting was falling on speakers as they moved around stage.  Note to self: don't step off the front edge of the red carpet.

Lunch was graciously provided to all attendees by Oakland University so we didn't have to leave the location.  Various TED videos were shown on screens during lunch, which had been selected by the event staff.  I knew that lunch was going to affect how I felt before my afternoon talk, and could have some adverse affects as well, so I went with an all veggie sandwich, a ton of water, skipped the chips that would make my face even more oily than it naturally is, and skipped the chocolate chip cookie that might give me red patches on my skin (because I sometimes have a mild reaction to chocolate.)  I'd indulge later that night instead.  I decided to take a long walk outside for some fresh air and to get some extra head space away from the crowd of people to clear my mind, practice a little, and enjoy the sunshine after being inside all morning.  I definitely felt more refreshed than if I'd stayed inside all day.

Everyone gave great talks, and I was cheering them on from the sidelines, and sharing how touching their stories were when they finished.  My favorite talks were the ones that had some personal or surprising elements to them.  Personal stories hit home a little harder and felt more approachable than purely research focused ones.  I noticed that the attendance in the room went in waves and while the seats never felt too packed or crowded, there was definitely a core group of people who stayed for the entire day.  I noticed a few of my former professors in the audience, one was also a speaker, and I mentioned how awkward it was to be giving a talk at my alma mater about how I basically did something completely different than what I went to school for.  It was also very freeing to know that they were still excited about what I'd done.

There were a few minor tech issues during a few of the talks, and I hope that the audio and video engineers will be able to edit through any of those issues for the people speakers who experienced them so that they can have a clean video edit.  A few times the wireless microphones acted up in different ways and one speaker had to stop in the middle of their talk to switch out a battery pack, but she was gracious about continuing after it happened.  While none of us hope any of that happens to us, we all have to roll with it, and everyone on stage and in the tech team handled it all very quickly and easily.  Some speakers ran a little longer than they'd planned, got a few warning signs that they were running over, but fortunately no one was removed from the stage- which we were told is a very real possibility due to the strict time limits to keep everyone on schedule.

I was getting a microphone put on backstage while the speaker before me was giving his talk.  I got a few hugs of support from friends and took a lot of deep breaths while waiting for the announcer to say my name and introduce me.  I actually had no idea what version of my bio he would be using to announce me, I'd written three different bios of different lengths and for different purposes, so I was surprised to see what version he used when I heard my introduction.  As I walked up to the stage very carefully not to trip, I pretty much asked God/Universe/Spirit to take over for me when I got on stage so that whatever message needed to be heard would be what came out of my mouth.

The first thing that was different than I thought it would be, was that my first slide was supposed to be my name rather than my first question.  However, because they used a different slide for my first name, when I pressed the remote to get to what I thought would be my name again, it was actually a slide I wasn't planning to show until after my introduction.  Whoops.  Not a big deal, I'll just roll with it and act like it was supposed to be that way.

The introduction that I'd practiced a ridiculous number of times somehow flew out the window when I was on stage and that was the first moment that I became an observer of myself while I was speaking.  This is a dangerous move- to observe and critique yourself WHILE you're speaking.  My first set of thoughts were, [Where did THAT come from?  I never practiced that!]  The audience was in front of me, and I was responding to the actual people who I knew were in the room, not just the empty living room and bedroom I'd practiced in.  Then I observed myself being the observer, realized how dangerous it would be to keep doing that, and made an effort to get back to ground zero and just focus on the moment and important points at hand.

Then I noticed the second biggest difference between practicing at home and giving the talk on stage aside from the audience- hearing myself in the speakers on a very slight delay after the actual words came out of my mouth.  I'd given plenty of talks with microphones and speakers before, but because this was taking place in a large arena, the echo of my own voice coming back at me a fraction of a second later sometimes threw me off.  Of course, very few people would be able to recognize that this was slightly throwing me off, because it was all happening in my head and my brain was constantly trying to course correct and stay on the path despite having an experience of essentially feeling like I was talking over myself.

I felt like my pacing was good.  I got a little off-track about something in the middle, but recovered quickly, and when I looked at the clock about how much time I had left, I fell right in the middle of all my practice times- and that alone was something I could be proud of as a result of all my practicing, despite anything else that was different.  When I walked off stage, my friends and family who were there congratulated me, said it sounded great and that I gave a great talk.  Even if those were only words of support, they really helped me just relax afterward and not get caught up in all the mind distractions I'd had on stage.  After the event ended, another speaker and I would both confess to each other that we felt like our talks weren't the best versions we'd ever given, but were somewhere in the top 70-80%, which was OK.  We also acknowledged that we are our own biggest critics and that we can always find something to improve upon.

Later, we found out that the videos are released on TED's timing schedule, so we won't know when they'll be available publicly.  My husband and I discussed possibly periscoping during the talks, but in the end, decided it would be better to wait for the professionally produced version rather than whatever the audio results might be in the arena.  There's also a chance that the videos WON'T be uploaded as well, because it's completely up to the curatorial staff at TED.

If you asked me whether or not you should do a TED event, I'd say yes, absolutely.  However, don't do it for fame or recognition.  Do it for the ideas or experiences that you'd like to share.  Don't do it to promote yourself.  Do it to inspire others to try something new, to look at the world in new ways, or to think differently about their own experiences.  As speakers and staff celebrated together after the event, we thought about how fascinating and inspiring everyone's story could be if they had the courage to share it with others.

Update: View my TEDx Talk: "What Would You Attempt If You Knew You Could Not Fail"

Speaking at TEDxOU in Michigan

posted on: October 4, 2015

It's funny how life works out.  I started the year with a lot of different plans about where I'd be this October 23rd.  It was early spring when I submitted a speaking proposal to a brand new conference in Seattle, which didn't work out.  My new mantra for things not working out as planned has been,

If not this, then something better! 

Then I thought a great alternative would be getting a portfolio review at PhotoPlus here in NYC that weekend instead, but because the portfolio reviewers weren't fully listed yet, I didn't sign up right away.  Then an email from the lovely Christine arrived, asking if I'd accept a nomination to submit a proposal for TEDxOU on October 23rd!

I'd given talks on big stages before, but was I ready for a TEDx Talk?  I've always loved watching them- and because I'm a geek, I consider watching a stream of TEDx talks a great alternative to watching TV.  But THOSE people always seemed smarter than me, or that they'd achieved much BIGGER things than I had.  An invitation to do this is a gift and an honor. 

If I don't do it now, I may never get the chance again.  

The thought of potentially not getting another chance helps me leap over a lot of the other fears and insecurities about whether I'm ready or if I'll be good enough.  I never want to look back and say "What if?"  I'd much rather look back and say "I gave it my best."

Once I accepted the opportunity, I had to figure out what "ideas are worth spreading"?  Suddenly, talking about something photography-related seemed too limiting for such a broad audience.  Christine had mentioned how my journey itself has been inspiring, which resonated with my deep desire to see more people pursue their dreams, and was in line with what I had originally planned to speak about in the spring.

I believe that if everyone can make a living doing what they love, in a way that aligns with their soul, the world will be a more peaceful, empowered, and inspiring place to live.

Since the only story I'm qualified to tell is my own journey on the path toward pursuing dreams, I submitted the proposal based on my favorite big dream question: 

"What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?"  

The details were still a little fuzzy at that point, but I knew that several reflective questions had played a big part in helping me make pivots toward my dreams and finding the right path for me.  The proposal seemed easy to write, but once my proposal was accepted, saying yes to the actual invitation was harder because it meant I was truly committing to this message and sharing my personal story with hundreds and potentially thousands of people.  ACK!

As of today I've probably put in about 20 hours of thinking about, rehearsing, recording, and reviewing my talk.  This is where my former experience as an actress and musician come in handy- making the most of practice time.  The outline and stories were there immediately, now it's just refining my pace, tone, and fluidity.  I'm still tweaking it every single time, and probably will be until the very end, with the final acceptance that whatever happens on stage is what is meant to happen.

The article below gives a tiny intro to my talk, but if you happen to be in Michigan on October 23rd and have always wondered what it's like to attend a TEDx event live, I'd love to see you there and give you a big hug for being a part of this crazy journey with me!

Gates Hall | Morphosis Architects

posted on: September 11, 2015

Gates Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

While exploring the Cornell University Campus during a recent vacation, I had one of those drive-by, step-on-the-break moments when the lighting on a building was so perfect that I had to stop the car to get out and document it.  Never mind that the only thing I could take a photo with at the moment was my phone- when color and light align so perfectly on a structure, it's a rare treat and all that matters is freezing that moment in time because it may never happen again.

I just love how perfectly the light filtered through the glass scales and reflected back again to highlight the simultaneous translucency and reflectivity of glass.  The brilliant gold ceiling creates the perfect color contrast to the deep blues that were present in a rare clear Ithaca twilight.  I'm trying not to beat myself up about wishing I'd had my other cameras with me... and just enjoying that I caught the light when I could with what I had.

Gates Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

To learn more about this building, check out:

Cornell Engineering: Gates Hall : A New Home for CIS

Cornell Blog: Explore Gates Hall

Archpaper: In Detail > Cornell University's Gates Hall

Archpaper: Crit > Bill & Melinda Gates Hall

Church of the Redeemer - A Decommissioned Sanctuary

posted on: July 29, 2015

When I received an inquiry about tracking down and photographing a few works of stained glass art that remained in a Brooklyn church, my heart skipped a beat.  A project I'd always been passionate about - preserving architectural artistry and history- coming to my inbox through a client commission.  Little did I know what work was ahead, or even if the stained glass art still existed.

I've always loved churches with big sanctuaries.  The atrium-like spaciousness of the high ceiling, the echo of the chamber that allows songs and chords to last a little longer, and the peaceful quality that people bring as they enter in humility, grace, gratitude, and gathering.  The sanctuary often built in stone as a symbol of safety and stability, but with delicate stained glass to bring in ethereal light.

In recent years, it seems like there's an increased frequency of these vast sanctuaries going into disrepair, many without enough congregational tithes to keep them maintained or even occupied. So many beautifully crafted buildings, adorned with donated artifacts and artistry, but difficult to maintain on volunteer efforts.  What will become of them all?

In the case of Church of the Redeemer, it will be torn down to become a mixed use building set on prime retail and residential real estate with the subway below, the neighborhood behind, and more shopping across the street.  But what will happen to the artifacts?  The Midmer/Gunzelman pipe organ, the stained glass windows, the wooden doors and pews?

For one stained glass artist, Jessie Van Brunt, who signed her own work before donating to the church, there is still hope that her works will be recovered and preserved.  Though Jessie died in 1947, one of her surviving relatives, Karen, has been on a mission to recover as many of her art works as possible and got in touch with me to help.  This hunt has led Karen to inquire about churches in places like Alaska and London, only to find that the churches have already been destroyed by fire or war, leaving little hope that Jessie's work would remain in a decommissioned church.

Even though the historic building was sold in 2012, I found it still standing on the corner of Pacific Ave & 4th Ave, giving direct reference to the subway tiles immediately below when I first arrived in April 2015.  Hardly any scaffolding had been put up yet and it seemed as though many of the original windows were still in tact.  It amazed me that this church hadn't been landmarked with such an iconic presence and location, but for whatever reason, this 1866 bluestone building never made it through the process.


I compared historic Smithsonian Archive photographs to see if I could first identify if the windows were still there.  While the windows were mostly covered from the outside, a few of the window shapes appeared to be similar enough, so I grabbed whatever reference photos I could get on my first visit in order to zoom in later and get a closer view for comparison.

Many of the windows on the building had similar shapes and similar visual themes, so it was only through getting as much detail as possible from all of the photographic records I could obtain on site and comparing them to the Smithsonian archives that allowed me to determine that yes, Jessie Van Brunt's stained glass windows were still in the church and still in an acceptable condition to photograph and to potentially remove for preservation.  However, gaining access to the interior proved to be an entirely different challenge that would take months to unfold, as the developer wasn't interested in providing access to the building.

A tip from the Brooklyn Historical Society helped me learn that The Demolition Depot was able to make arrangements with the developer to remove many of the artifacts that the community was concerned would be destroyed in the processing of tearing the building down.  Several of the items that I had been sent to photograph had already been removed from the building, but the windows that I could identify from the exterior of the building remained.  The challenge was then to create as much of a detailed archival record of the stained glass window as possible, so that if it suffered any damage during removal, it could be pieced together exactly as it has been created.  Unfortunately, one window was now completely obscured by construction scaffolding on the front of the building, which did not exist when I first requested access back in April.  Instead of focusing on obtaining the best color from the light no longer available through the covered window, I turned my focused to the texture and construction of the stained glass.  I also chose to provide enough context around the window in order to demonstrate its architectural placement and the space that had been carved for it in the building, which would be lost once the building was gone.

This church sat empty for 3 years before an architectural salvager was allowed access to remove the artifacts for preservation.  If access had been granted sooner, less damage would have been done and more materials could have been recycled or preserved before they were rusted, warped, or broken.  Some other decommissioned churches I've seen have been in much worse condition than this after just one year.  The damage is almost always a result of a leaking roof or broken windows that could easily be repaired with small fixes accomplished during regular observation.  The neglect and failure to act on minor problems until they become large problems are what create the most damage.

One of my hopes is that by sharing this story and these images, any future churches seeking to be decommissioned or sold will give time for family members, their congregation, and any historic groups an opportunity to find ways of preserving what is meaningful.  Quite a bit of the labor and artistry put into churches was done on a volunteer basis, or as a gift of gratitude.  It seems the least we can do is to give the craftsmanship of these artisans some consideration and opportunity to be saved, even if the structure itself cannot remain.

I'm grateful that I was given the chance to preserve what is left in imagery.  Even if further damage is done or if the artifacts end up in a private collection, what has been preserved in images now can be remembered and shared in clarity and colorful detail.  To see more images from my documentation of the Church of the Redeemer, visit:
Church of the Redeemer - Brooklyn, NY - 2015

POSITION CLOSED: NYC Architectural Photography Apprenticeship Available

posted on: July 13, 2015


Position Open as of June 25, 2015
Applications Accepted before July 25, 2015
Interviews Begin August 3, 2015

Who I Am:
An Architecture & Interior Design photographer based in Manhattan, New York City, NY, USA with 11 years of experience as a professional photographer in Michigan, Indiana, Massachusetts, Queensland, and New York.  I have an active travel and client schedule, and I'm looking to expand my team of help in order to better serve my existing clients as well as future clients while my client list continues to grow.

Manhattan Interior Design  Photographer

Who My Clients Are:
My clients are everything from solo interior designers with boutique businesses, to high end real estate agents featuring multi-million dollar properties, to architectural furniture and utility suppliers, to large architectural firms with multiple projects.  Clients come in large and small accounts, and are all equally important to serve with the best quality and care.

The Ideal Apprentice:
  • Has a passion for Architectural Photography and working with Architects and Designers.  
  • Has familiarity with using Lightroom and Photoshop to edit and retouch images, and is willing to learn more on their own time in order to create better results for clients.  
  • Strives toward a clean and natural color profile in their work and sees the difference between egg-shell white and coconut white while color-correcting a room with mixed lighting sources.  (If you aren't sure about your own ColorIQ, try this excellent visual color test:  
  • Is dedicated to constantly improving their personal skills along with their photography craft.  
  • Is flexible and can handle stressful situations or people with ease and calm.
  • Is willing to commit to a 12 month paid apprenticeship for a minimum 1 day per week in Manhattan, with additional opportunities to take on more independent projects as skills grow.
  • Already has DSLR camera experience, knowledge, and equipment.
  • Already owns their own computer and Lightroom and/or Photoshop software.
Apprenticeship Experiences May Include:
  • Post-production tasks such as selecting ideal images for editing, color-correction, lighting manipulation, retouching, and exporting for client usage.
  • On-site assisting during shoots that includes manipulating lighting set-ups, staging furnishings and accessories, operating lighting and camera remotes, equipment set-up and proper storage.
  • Submitting pricing proposals and creating warm-lead marketing proposals.
  • Client care and follow-up on projects and proposals.
  • Using various online services for billing, proofing, and asset delivery.
  • Organizing digital assets and maintaining back-ups of assets.
Additional Apprenticeship Benefits:
  • Access and use of professional camera and lighting equipment when needed for Anne Ruthmann Photography clients, and/or apprenticing projects.
  • Sales and marketing training 
  • Client management training
  • Freelance lifestyle mentoring
To Apply:
Please include the following in an email to: info (at) before July 25, 2015.
  1. Email Subject: Application for Architectural Photography Apprenticeship 
  2. Email Message: Introduce yourself and write about why you would like to apprentice as an architectural photographer.  Include what you're looking forward to learning as well as what experiences and skills you already have that you will immediately be able to use.
  3. Include: Resumé of previous working experiences, education, and any volunteer experiences you've had as well as your contact information with mailing address and phone number
  4. Include: Portfolio link or PDF that shows 10 Before & After photo examples that demonstrate your photography style straight from the camera as well as your post-production editing style.  Bonus points if they are interiors and architecture.  If you don't already have some, this is a great opportunity to go out and create some!

Caution: Drone Wedding Photos

posted on: July 6, 2015

After my Architecture Drone Photography experiment, I started seeing some photographers doing drone photography at weddings and I have to say it made me VERY uneasy.  Even if someone has registered their craft and received FAA authorization to fly a drone commercially, has special drone hazard insurance, and hundreds of hours of drone operation training, there are still several things which would make me extremely leery of having drone photography at a wedding:

1. WiFi, Radio, GPS Interference = Control Hazards

One of the greatest benefits of drone photography is also one of the biggest limitations of drone photography.  The wireless control systems used for drones can be easily interrupted by other WiFi networks or radio transmissions in a given area.  You've probably already experienced this when your phone's GPS puts you two blocks away from your actual location due to a signal reflection, or when your car radio suddenly switches over to another station and then back again as you're traveling, or when your WiFi keeps defaulting to a network you haven't selected- these same signal interruptions can happen with distances between drones and their controllers.

If you're in an open field in the country, you will have less interruptions than if you're in a densely populated area, but a wedding generally has a higher percentage of people with their cell phones emitting or collecting a WiFi  and GPS signal, along with wireless microphone and or lighting systems which can interrupt radio frequencies causing inconsistent drone operator's control of their device.

When the drone loses signal, they can act erratically, which could potentially cause a crash on a wedding cake or on grandma.  Even though they are fairly light aircrafts, when a forced landing occurs from a certain elevation, the blades become spinning weapons that can slice whatever they come into contact with.  Unfortunately Enrique Iglesias learned about drone blades in a very public and painful way.  Of course that's a fairly dramatic example, but it's better to know the potential dangers than to ignore them, especially when you have invited guests who haven't signed liability waivers to attend your event.

2.  Aerial Object Interference = Crash Hazards

Drones are not really created with "extra" propellors that will kick in when one fails.  In order to achieve the stability needed, they need all blades to be fully operational at all times.  If any single blade is interrupted by whatever random item a child can throw, tree can drop, or bird can carry, the  drone can crash instantly without any ability to control the landing speed, location, or direction in which the blades hit the object below.

The absolute worst example I've seen of this was someone trying to operate a drone over a dance floor where people had foam fingers they were putting in the air as the DJ was pressing the music to get everyone to jump higher and higher.  No way would I ever do that.  Perhaps you heard about the incident with a woman getting knocked out by a drone flying during a parade?  Not only is it just begging for a liability issue and endangering the guests below the drone, but the photo and video coverage won't be any different than what you can achieve by just sticking a GoPro camera on a mono pod!

Some drone uses are just excessive and irresponsible for the actual footage that is even possible in a given environment.  It really needs to be considered if there are safer ways to get desired shots in environments that involve crowds of people.  It's been done safely for years with cranes, lifts, and stands that can balance and control cameras which produce much higher quality images than the ones flying on most drones.  Just because someone has drone availability, doesn't mean it's the most appropriate tool for the job.

3. Usage Limitations = Is It Really Worth It?

Most people who have never flown a drone fail to understand how limited the flight time is and what areas are actually legal to operate a drone in.  Currently, one of the best photo drones on the market can only fly for about 20 minutes while capturing continuous footage.  This makes it an interesting use for random bits of unique footage, which can only be captured by drone, but it's not realistic to think that a drone is going to be capable of capturing an entire wedding ceremony, or an entire wedding day without interruption or increased hazards and complications.

If the additional cost of a drone only ends up adding 2 minutes of final edited video to your final wedding coverage or only 2 special images to your wedding album, is it worth it?  Is the final result worth the hazards, the insurance, the potential FAA violations?  I'm just not convinced it's worth it, even if the coverage is free experimental coverage by a friend.

For a special portrait session, in which the only hazard is the drone falling into the ocean and being irreversibly damaged or recovered in order to achieve an impossible shot by all other measures?  Maybe it's truly worth it in a spectacular location.  But if that drone is potentially flying over people you love and care about?  Not worth it in my opinion.  Whatever you end up deciding for your wedding, make sure you've consulted the FAA Authorization Site for Unmanned Aircraft Systems to confirm you're hiring an authorized commercial drone operator in order to ensure the highest quality experience and safety measures are being considered.

Now that I've given you a disclaimer, here's a sample of what most people's first few drone flights end up looking like before they have sufficient experience controlling a drone... some wins and a lot of fails until people figure out how to watch the drone location and the image capture simultaneously.  Remember that people have paid hundreds for these drones, and they aren't intentionally choosing these results...

3 Keys for Photography Success: Brand • Business • Well-being

posted on: May 22, 2015

If you've been following my personal and business adventures on my blog the last 10 years, you've seen the ups and downs I've shared, but you've also seen how my last few years in business have been absolutely amazing.  I've solved so many of the big problems that used to hold me back from being successful and now my business continues to grow while also having more time to enjoy my life outside of my client obligations.  It wasn't always this way, and it took a lot of problem solving and overcoming failure to get here, but now that I'm here and I know what's possible on the other side of all that struggle, I absolutely want to help other photographers reach this point too!  I finally feel like business is easy, clients are perfectly aligned with my talents and what I love, and I have healthy working and life habits that keep my energy high and allow me to take time out for family and friends.

In order to help more photographers reach this point in their business, I'm collaborating on a Full Day Workshop, June 17th 2015 9:30am - 5:30pm, in New York City along with Editors-Edge and The Healthy Photographer to address the 3 Keys for Photography Success: Brand, Business, and Well-being.

Photography Brand, Photo Business, Photographer Well-being
Brand is all about knowing what makes your work unique and what work will attract your ideal clients.  Without knowing what makes you unique or who your ideal clients are, you're just throwing darts at a wall without having a target to focus on.  Once you solve that problem, your business becomes laser focused on the who and why of what you create and how you create your work.

Business is all about taking the brand you've established for yourself and applying it to the products and pricing that you offer.  Offering products or pricing that don't align with your ideal client or your unique work often creates frustration for you and your client because you're in different places about what you need to create good work together.  Once you've aligned these things with your brand, bookings become easier, negotiations are super smooth, and clients actually want to invest even more in what you have to offer.

Well-being is the capstone of success as a creative professional.  You can have a successful brand and a successful business, but still feel entirely unsuccessful in life because you haven't taken the time to establish healthy habits as a small business owner or freelancer.  In my business, I learned that no amount of six figure years in revenue made me happy until I had taken the time to work on my well-being as a creative business owner.  Once I solved those problems- I was really, truly, able to feel success in all areas of my life.

You may know that I've been doing private consultations for photographers now for several years.  I've helped hundreds of people privately and in group workshops with pricing, packaging, products, relocation, and workflow management as part of the Smarter Business Workshop as well as thousands of photographers by regularly sharing free tips, advice, and free webinars on PhotoLovecat over the years.  I've always wanted to be able to help more people than is possible privately in one-on-one consultations, but one thing that has frustrated me about traditional conferences and group workshops- is that the format often encourages attendees to be passive observers to a speaker rather than active participants in co-creating their future.  I've also been unimpressed with the rockstar mentality of "you should do it the way I do it" which is just not practical or applicable across the board, since everyone has unique life situations and different goals for being in business.  So, I wanted to create a full day experience where people can actually be actively engaged in applying information to their own businesses and lives, with regard to their unique situation and how it all fits in to what they need.

The Brand • Business • Well-being: A Photographers Workshop is designed to give you a ton of personalized feedback specifically on your brand, your business, and your wellbeing as a creative professional.  This isn't about doing things just like we do them, it's about identifying what makes you and your business unique and uniquely valuable to your clients.  It's about finding what pricing and products will actually make your life easier rather than harder.  And it's about figuring out how to implement healthy changes in small and measurable ways so that you can actually take action and not just take notes.

If you've been feeling stuck in your business and the path ahead seems unclear, it's most likely time that you got some outside perspective on what you've been doing and offering.  You could just hire one or all of us as coaches to help you discover the path ahead.  To work with each of us individually as consultants and coaches, you'd pay up to three times the cost of this workshop, but by creating a group environment on a set date, we can combine all of our services together in order to make it much more affordable for those who need our help.  If you think that this workshop is just what you need to move into a new realm of success as a photographer and creative business owner, head over to the eventbrite link below to register, and save $50 by registering before May 31st:

CLOSED POSITION: Part-Time Virtual & On-Site Office Assistant (Greenwich Village / SoHo / Manhattan)

posted on: May 11, 2015

****** Updated***** This post is no longer active.  Thank you to all who applied!

Looking for an awesome virtual assistant and occasional in-office assistant (Greenwich Village/SoHo) for 4 - 8hrs a week at $20/hr.  If you have design or photoshop skills, I may have even more work for you at an even better rate.  My primary concerns are that you love to take care of my clients and make sure they have everything they need when they need it, and you love to make life easier for me by doing things even better than I can do them on my own.  No photography experience needed, but if you have an eye for organization, design, and constantly strive toward greater efficiency, I will go above and beyond to keep you hired and working with me.  Here are the basics of what you'll do:
  • Be punctual, keep your word, and show up when needed or make arrangements for someone else to take your place.  I realize this seems basic, but you'd be amazed how many people can't do just this one simple thing with consistency.
  • Be able to work from my Greenwich Village / SoHo office a few times a month and on your own from a great internet connection otherwise
  • Use these programs (if you don't already know them- you should be a self-learner who is comfortable learning new software on your own and have confidence that you'll figure it out from tutorials and youtube videos online without my help): 17Hats, PayPal, Pictage, Dropbox, Gmail, MacMail, iCal, Mac Address Book, Mac Remote Desktop, Lightroom, Skype, Google Hangout, iChat, Eventbrite, Facebook Pages, Instagram, Twitter, Blogger
  • Create new contracts from established templates and occasionally draft a new contract
  • Have impeccable grammatical and spelling skillz (and be annoyed by the fact I used a z and be able to point out my other faux pas)
  • Talk to me on the phone to get quote or proposal details which you clearly and beautifully compose into an email or 17Hats proposal for clients
  • Handle email and phone communications on my behalf when I'm traveling or working intensively on location and can't be in touch with clients directly
  • Email clients with project updates, links to images, billing reminders if needed
  • Schedule appointments and shoots into my calendar using my super awesome system full of functional details I can access offline in the subway when needed
  • Organize client info online based on a system I already have and be innovative about finding ways to make it even better or more streamlined
  • Maintain digital asset organization (images, videos, contracts, proposals, PDFs, client info)
  • Learn easily, aren't afraid to take charge when needed, and like to finish every project you start even if it takes extra time or means asking for help
  • Have a sense of humor, not take things personally, be flexible, and roll with the craziness while still getting things taken care of when a huge project comes in at the last minute

If this isn't you, but someone you know, I thank you for sharing this post with them!  If this is you, please send an email to before June 1, 2015 with:
  1. 3 dates and times that you can do a Skype video interview online
  2. A link to one article I've written online and a paragraph sharing what you think about it
  3. Your resume 
  4. 3 References I can call

Photography Internship Review: Brian's Feedback

posted on: May 8, 2015

Whenever I have an intern, I give a LOT of feedback to them as we're working together about their approach, their skills, their zone of genius, their talents, and where I see them being most profitable as a photographer. I get to see how they work, where they struggle, what their walls are, what their hesitations are, and I also get to share resources that I think will help them improve. Because of all the support I provide, I also like to receive feedback on myself as a mentor, what I offered, and what I provided to make sure that the internships I offer are of the highest value.  


Brian and I had an interesting journey because when he started, my direction was aimed heavily at portraits and weddings, but shortly after taking stock of my own business as it was unfolding in NYC, I realized that my own opportunity for growth here was actually going to be in architectures & interiors, and part of the work that he was brought on to work on ended up being different than either of us had anticipated up front. He was good at going with the flow and I found ways to help him get the experiences he really needed with other people who were focusing more on Wedding work than I was. However, don't take my word for it, here's what Brian has to say about working with me as an intern:

1. What was it like to intern with Anne?
Brian: Working with Anne has been one of the most rewarding experiences during my years as a photographer.  Not only did I get to meet and be mentored by a fantastic photographer I also made a lifelong friendship and to me, that is priceless!  It was like working with my incredibly talented younger sister!  From the very start Anne was grateful for my help and made me feel like family, we joked, we teased, we cried, we laughed and most importantly ate delicious food all over Manhattan! =) 
(Anne says: I'm actually older than Brian, and being taken out for lunch around Manhattan is part of the intern "payment" plan.)

(Brian was awesome and never complained about how much gear I made him carry. ;-)

2.  How would you describe Anne as a mentor?
Brian: Her mentoring style can be summed up as Hands-on and very involved, I loved her style.  She created an expectation of "I know you can do it- so just do it!"  It was her expectations and mentoring style that made it so easy to not be afraid of beings pushed past my comfort zone.  She seemed to care about my success and photography as much as I did.  She would send me text messages at we hours of the morning telling me that I need to do this and to get this in order with my business.  I've never met anyone as involved and committed as Anne.


3. What do you feel you learned by working with Anne that you wouldn't have learned on your own?
Brian: Anne pushed me to think and go outside my comfort zone.  Within the first week she already knew where my comfort zone ended.  She made me cold call individuals and ask them specific questions about their business and to see if they could use any of my services knowing that cold calling and trying to sell my business scared the living crap out of me!  Anne pushing me to this has helped me immensely, I don't think I would have been able to push my self to do that if I was on my own.  

4.  What did you learn about yourself in the process of the internship?
Brian: I learned what I'm worth as a photographer which is key when you have to run your own business with a profit.  After each day I interned Anne would create a journal entry, in those entries she would write what we did, what we have planned with our next visit and what she observed in me as a photographer.  By the time the internship was over she had  broke it down for me through her observations and directed me in a more clear path of what I needed to do as a photographer.  Finding that worth was and is priceless for me!


5.  What do you wish you'd learned, but didn't?
Brian: I would have loved to see more of the wedding photography client interaction side of the business, meeting them, showing them the album options, etc.  I was however able to experience a lot of the back and forth email communication with clients which was fabulous.

6.  What do I think a intern should bring with them before they intern for Anne Ruthmann Photography?   
Brian: Have a business plan. If you go into the internship with a clear plan of where you want your business to go you will be able to implement all the information you will receive in a more efficient way.  Set goals, more specifically set goals of where you want to be in the next 6 months to a year with your photography, that will help Anne guide you to achieve those goals.  Lastly go into internship with a strong willingness to learn from such a gifted and talented photographer.


7.  Anything else you'd like to share?
Brian: This internship was so much more than I expected it to be.  Being with Anne for those 6 months was a great experience.  She gave me so much advice on what I need to know to have a healthy business as a photographer in NYC!  Its now up to me to take that advice and run with it to make my photography thrive!

Thank you Brian, for sharing your thoughts and allowing me to share them on my blog!! Follow Brian to see where he goes next!!

NOTE: I am not accepting any new interns at this time, but I'm always accepting new consulting clients over on the Smarter Business Workshop Facebook Page where you can sign up to be notified of free and paid upcoming workshops online or in your area, as well as getting regular tips, asking questions, and getting advice to help you tackle different aspects of your creative business life!  If you don't need one-on-one help, feel free to browse all of the free articles I've already written over at Photo Lovecat.

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