Choppin' in a Winter Wonderland

Yesterday the Northeast was treated to a beautiful snowfall that covered our streets and our trees with a fluffy blanket of snow. As a regular human, snow makes me want to stay in my jammies, curl up, drink hot beverages and read some soul-filling literature while listening to music.

Natural wetlands in the snow
birch trees in the snow

But the photographer shouts, "HELLO! Snow portraits!" I'm gonna be honest and tell you that the photographer doesn't always win because... seriously? PJ's and hot beverages are pretty serious contenders who don't just roll over and take no for an answer. However, yesterday, the PJ's lost to the beauty that beckoned. 

snow covered trees

But the thing is, I don't always want to just take pictures of nature. I love nature, don't get me wrong. But my hearbeat? It's portrait photography and for portrait photography, you need willing subjects. Once upon a time when I would get the hankering to shoot portraits just because, I had my adorable children as automatic subjects. Now they are in school (and school was not cancelled yesterday, only delayed) and even when they are home, they are not always thrilled with being in front of my camera.

This leaves only one alternative. And I have to say... he's a pretty dang attractive alternative. In fact... kids shmids. Husbands are where it's AT! HELLO!

Lumbersexual bearded man wielding an axe in the woods on a snowy day

I decided that the snow and the woods called for a Lumberjack styled theme. For transparency's sake, my husband is not a lumberjack. He is a pastor. He has cut down a tree or two in his time. But then so have I (TAWANDA!) and I'm no lumberjack. But he sports a fine beard, wears plaid well and doesn't look too shabby in a nice pair of jeans.

bearded man holding an axe in a snowy woodland photo near princeton new jersey

I knew I wanted him to wear red because snow demands that a man wears red plaid. End of story. The axe was a must and he grabbed the Coach lambswool gloves on the way out of the house which was a stroke of genius, I think. I made him tuck in his shirt and wear a belt because this is a gentlemanly lumberjack we are channeling here, folks. The kind that gently helps tiny old ladies across the street and then kills a bear with his bare hands two seconds later, right after chugging a Guinness in one gulp and chopping down some non-endangered variety of tree. (No actual trees were harmed in the making of these portraits.)

portrait of a man in the woods with an axe

My husband, brave, strong and strapping as he is, has about a 10 minute attention span for portrait sessions. You may or may not know a few guys like this. It's common enough. They like to be themselves and at ease, and being in front of the camera makes them feel a little nervous and like they don't know how to follow direction. A good photographer knows how to make them relax and appear as if they know exactly what they are doing and could do it all day with their beards tied behind their backs.

bearded man wearing plaid holding an axe in the snowy woods

Of course this guy is sort of used to me telling him to do things... I mean... asking him nicely to do things, like pick up his socks. Don't let the axe fool you. He's a bit of a softy.

bearded man carrying an axe in the woods on a snowy day photo

He's a great sport and I think these are his favorite portraits I've ever taken of him. Thanks for getting out there in the snow with me, hunkahunka. I love you!

bearded man carrying an axe in a snowy wooded area photo


Comfort Zones are for Wimps!

Comfort Zones are bubbles that are meant to be popped! I mean, my bed is probably my ultimate comfort zone. (Right? Raise your hand if you're with me? Three cheers for BEDS!) Some days, especially when the rain and drear threaten to chill me to the bone, I just want to stay in the warm comforting embrace of my bed and watch a whole entire BBC series without even getting up to pee, if that were possible. But, alas, that kind of inactivity must be reserved for sick days and hospital stays or maybe a nice cozy mountain retreat. And really, I like to live my life at a rather steady clip and such a life demands that I daily get up and in some way, shape or form break out of my comfort zones.

Nothing kills creativity and growth like firmly ensconcing yourself in a comfort zone of any kind. So I am always pushing myself to try new things, learn from others, grow from my mistakes (or as Bob Ross tenderly refers to them, happy accidents) and press outward against the walls of the seemingly impenetrable bubble of the beloved and simultaneously bemoaned comfort zone. A lot of times we are frightened of what is outside of that bubble simply because we are paralyzed by the potential of failure. That paralysis sometimes disguises itself as safety. 

In photography this could mean something as simple as shooting at a different time of day than you normally do if you are a golden hour addict, for example. Maybe your an introvert running a small business and know you need to do more person to person networking. Pushing against the walls of your comfort zone could mean as small a thing as going to the teller at the bank rather than the ATM! Perhaps you have been in the building phase of your small business for what seems like an eternity and the only thing holding you back from breaking into the next phase is fear of charging what you know you are worth because fear of rejection is the most terrifying idea of them all! Sometimes comfort zones can be our undoing.

Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone could mean setting up studio lighting in your tiny living room and using your family as photographic guinea pigs. Little forays into the different can open up new worlds. You may find a new comfort zone (that you will one day maybe need to break out of!)

Black and White Portraits in Princeton New Jersey Nan Doud Photography
Black and White portraiture by Nan Doud Photography near Princeton, New Jersey
Black and White High Contrast Photography

They are rather attractive guinea pigs, I must say...

Portrait design and wedding photography Nan Doud Photography, Hamilton Square, New Jersey
Black and White Photography by Nan Doud Photography near Princeton New Jersey

As I began editing these, in a style rather more dramatic than my norm, I felt they had a certain timeless quality to them. A friend said that they reminded her of Yousef Karsh. Quite the compliment, I must admit. Not there yet, I think, but certainly something to aspire to!

Another friend said they had a Norman Rockwell feel to them. This one above actually really struck me that way. Something about his facial expression and the depth of detail.

Black and White portrait photography New Jersey

So much darker and moodier than my comfort zone would normally dictate. But I like it! What about you?

What have you done lately to get out of your comfort zone, whatever it is?

Fine Art Portrait Photography

What is The Real Value of Photography?

The other day I went to an antique store with my husband and was admiring some old daguerreotype prints for sale. $75 for a little tiny wallet-sized photo of someone that no one really knows or remembers anymore. But yet there is clearly value in this tiny portrait. Who could imagine just throwing it away? Why? Because it's clear that by virtue of having been set, in this case, in metal, a certain kind of reverence for that person, that moment, that life represented, this person and hence their visage was a treasure. That captures the true essence of why I am a photographer.

I will tell you that in my early years as a mom I valued photography. I bought a quality SLR film camera after I had my first baby and I had a lot of film developed. I paid for beautiful portraits of him. But then digital photography came around, the harried pace of life with a lot of little ones took over and my other children have far fewer photos of themselves in print. A serious failing on my part! But life gets busy and overwhelming and before you know it, printing photos that old seems kind of strange (not to mention a lot of work!).... but we still feel the lack of them. The photos that I did trouble myself to order prints of are treasures because every day as I see them, my connection with that moment and that person in that time in life deepens. It accentuates our history together. It reminds me of how long I have loved these people, how dear they are to me. It's no surprise to me that studies have shown how psychologically beneficial it is to be surrounded in your home by tangible photographs of family

As an artist though, there are other reasons that I believe in delivering heirloom prints and albums. Design matters, not only with respect to my creative eye, which cannot be found anywhere else... it's unique to me, but in the caliber of people that I partner with to bring you the heirloom prints and products you are looking for. You are not paying me for the raw materials used to make a picture print, though quality most definitely matters. Just as when you go to a gourmet meal, you are not paying for the raw ingredients, but rather for the genius chef at the stove whose work it is to create something that you could not replicate on your own, a creative process and understanding of his craft that is unique to him. 

The creation process of each piece holds as much importance to the end result as the moment I frame a photo and hit that shutter release. For me to take myself out of the equation of the creative process once I have pressed the button would be a huge disservice to my clients. So seeing the whole photography process through from planning to creation to the selection process to hand delivery, is how I am able to ensure that you are getting the best that I can offer. All of those steps are not only a real service to my clients but they are integral parts of the creative process itself. I am, after all, presenting art to you. I am not providing you with a commodity or something you can recreate in a photo booth or at the mall. I am listening to you. The process, unlike a big box experience, is fluid and unique to you because we work together to create something truly beautiful to be treasured. 

Fine art photography is really all about the final product. It's about your end goal. It's not about sheer volume. After all, what is the point of hiring a skilled professional photographer if you are going to get your photos printed at Walmart or Walgreens? I believe the work I do demands better than what you can get from a big box store in terms of print quality and color accuracy, not to mention over all client experience. As the products that I deliver to you are going to express my work in greater detail and more permanently than any other medium, it is important to me that my artistic integrity is maintained by not leaving the results up to non-professionals and imprecise printing solutions with no way for me to ensure a quality result for my clients. I invest a great deal into my business and client relationships so to leave the results, for their sakes and for mine, to so many variables would be unwise. 

Just as when you reach a certain level of accomplishment in your performing arts, you invest more and more into those things and ways of showcasing it which are worthy of the level of skill achieved, so I have developed my own creativity, knowledge of photography, the printing process and client experience to a degree that demands I invest in the best representation of that skill possible.

That is what I offer to my clients. My best. It's not cheap, because my time and my work are valuable to me. Nor is it accessible to anyone who wants a photographer. But I gladly serve those who value the authenticity and bespoke nature of the creative process that is owned each step of the way by the creator as well as the provenance, uniqueness and exceptional quality of the end results which will be treasured for a lifetime.