Denver: The Trip Home

  Life is about the journey, not the destination.  I have always believed this, but it's hard to apply when focused on academic or occupational success.  At many points in my life, I've been so focused on where I'm going, I forget to stop and smell the roses.  When I went on the Caribbean cruise with my sister, my perspective changed dramatically.  Yes, we went to Jamaica and Haiti, but the experience was just being on a boat with no cell phone and no computer.  No work to do, nowhere to go (unless you REALLY like to swim!)  So I learned to slow down, to breathe, and just to be.  What an amazing feeling that is!  To enjoy the moment, not worrying about the future.  If I wanted to be really cheesy, I'd bring up the quote I heard as a teenager.  Ok, ok, here it is.  "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift, that is why we call it the present."  In trying to live this principle, I decided to take the 14 hour train ride back home from Denver to Salt Lake.  Yes, an early morning and a later night with no where to go except the train car, the observation car, the dining car and the other train car... haha.



And I LOVED it.  I met so many interesting people.  An older woman who doesn't like to fly but travels the continent with her husband by motorcycle or train.  A man who had 24 hours before entering a monastery.  A man who sings for a band but hasn't had his big break yet, so he works in a restaurant until his musical career can take off.  A girl born on February 29th so her dad wanted to celebrate with a trip - she was technically turning 5 years old, even though she'd been alive for 20 years :)  A chef moving from Colorado to Washington to start at a new from-scratch kitchen.  And a National Geographic photographer.  Everyone traveling the same journey for a completely different reason.  Absolutely fascinating to me.  14 hours of talking, eating, looking out the window, and taking pictures.  I couldn't be happier!


And what amazing views we had!  One of the cars, called the observation car, had big windows everywhere so you could sit and enjoy the landscape (not like those little airplane windows!)



It wasn't easy to shoot through the windows, but after the plane shoot, I had become a pro! (ok, not really.  But I did have some practice.  It was a challenge.)



The seasons seemed to change as we traveled, too.  Started out in winter...  then spring, and finally ended in summer.  Then the sun went down and when I got off the train in Salt Lake there was a snow storm.







There were 5 or 6 stops along the way, but we had only 3-5 minutes at each stop.  While some people hopped off to take a smoke break, I usually took a couple seconds for a photo break!  On the left here is the other photographer I had the chance to shoot with.  Learned a lot from him!





aaand.... back to my favorite views from the train.  Last 30 minutes of sunlight.  The way the rock got so orange with the sun going down was gorgeous.







Garden of the Gods - Colorado Springs


I got the tour of Colorado Springs and saw Garden of the Gods.  It was step one in opening my eyes to learning landscape photography.  I've been shooting weddings for the last 3 years, and lanscapes are a totally different field!  but after figuratively working on watercolor for so long, I'm enjoying the challenge of learning oil painting!






On the left here is Brody Hall again.  Awesome to shoot with him, I love being able to meet other photographers because I can see a new perspective.











Denver Adventure: Part 3

  The Denver airport.  This building is a work of art.  It looks like  a whole bunch of tents lit up, but apparently it's made of a Teflon-coated fiberglass material that is as thin as a credit card.  So unique.  Because I drove into Denver, I wasn't reminded of the airport until we went to the parking structure to get photos of Shane in uniform.  I had a flood of memories come back from the last time I saw there.  It was about five years ago, I was traveling for a weekend of swing dancing, called the Denver Lindy Exchange.  There was a group of almost 10 of us flying on that plane because of the incredibly low rates of $30/flight, thank you Southwest Ding fares!  An amazing friend of mine came to pick me up and everyone loaded into her van.  Here's the funny part, though.  She got her wisdom teeth out that morning.  So she was... well, a little loopy.  And probably a lot less safe than most of us thought she was!  But it still makes for a good story and everyone ended up making it home ok.



So this was my second time to the airport, and seeing it right after sunset was absolutely beautiful.



For these shots, we used two speed lights for main and fill, and the car lights as backlight.









These shots were taken in the 10 minutes before pilot Shane actually had to report for his flight.  I didn't know if we were allowed to shoot in the airport because of security reasons.  I was honestly nervous someone would decide there was a law against it, but we didn't take any of the security screenings and one of the guards told us it was ok!  And we had Shane there to look official if anything went  wrong.  I think people are less likely to ask questions when you're in uniform!







Photos of Garden of the Gods from Colorado Springs on the blog tomorrow!








Denver Adventure: Part 2



I am not a morning person.  If you catch me in a good mood at 6am, most of of the time it's because I haven't gone to sleep yet.  But you should have seen the amount of energy I had the morning of this photo shoot.  I barely got 3 hours of sleep, I was so excited!  We met up with the other photographer, Brody Hall, around 7am and ate donuts to celebrate his birthday!  Now, I definitely have a sweet tooth, but as I finished that Crispy Creme donut, I had flashbacks of motion-sickness - swimming 100m at summer swim team age 10 and throwing up the donut at the end.  Uh oh... hope the plane ride wasn't going to be too bumpy!  Oh well.  :)  Happy birthday Brody.


But I got all my nerves out the day before, so this morning, I'm not nervous at all - I'm just bouncing off the walls.  Literally running away in middle of a conversation because I see some cool photo on the wall over there...  Brody said I "pranced."  I did feel a little bit like a little girl, but at least I was having fun!






As the photographers, we had to work really hard with space (or lack thereof), the windows (shooting through them was difficult!) and the angles (trying to tell one pilot to fly higher or lower so we could see them).  I had my feet up against one wall and my back up against the other with my elbows on my knees to stabilize the lens - I've never had to shoot from such a fast and bumpy vehicle!  As I've been shooting weddings full time for the last year, this was a brand new experience for me and I was very grateful for Brody's suggestions.  I even got to shoot with his 300mm f/2.8 lens!  That thing was heavy!  But looking through the photos afterwards, I'm almost as excited as while I was flying.  It was a challenge, so unique, and I got what I wanted!


Say "hi" to Shane!




And the Denver skyline.

















A Denver Adventure: Part 1



What an amazing week!  A week of new experiences and perspectives, beautiful scenery, lots of people, places, and music.  Here's the beginning of the story:




I have never been in a small plane like a Cessna, and I've always wanted to.  (I rode in a private jet as a teenager with some very generous family friends, but that's just like a smaller commercial plane.)  And secretly, I'm an adrenaline junky.  That slightly unsettled feeling in my stomach before I'm about to do something dangerous is quite the thrill.  I think I get that from my mom.  She pretends to be cautious and careful, but she broke her tibia and fibia in half skiing, broke a rib Kite surfing, and I've even seen her start wake boarding from a dock, pulled into the water, then bring herself closer to the boat and continue wake surfing.  Adventure!


Anyway, when I was asked if I'd be interested to go to Denver for an aerial shoot, I was speechless from excitement.  Giddy, even.  There were not words to describe how I felt.  Maybe "wahooooo!" haha.


So part 1.  The drive from Salt Lake to Denver with two amazing people and some pretty incredible views.  I forgot to take pictures this day (I think it was because I was still wearing my pajamas, but I wouldn't have been in the photos anyway!)  Oh well.  The couple I was staying with for the weekend took us to a very tasty Korean restaurant.  Another first for me!  Then I had the pleasure of listening to the band In-2-Wishin.  These guys were really good!  Just one new thing after another.  Woke up the next morning and headed to the airport for the flight.  I was rather quiet all day because, well, as much as I hate to admit it, I was actually getting nervous.  The shoot was set up to have two pilots and a photographer in each plane shooting the other plane.  Both pilots have had their licenses for about 10 years, one flies commercially, and the other is an instructor with the flight school.  So I knew I was in good hands, but I was still getting a little nervous...


Here was our plane:



I was sitting in the airport awkwardly trying not to think about being nervous, so when people started taking pictures, I had to prove that I was excited.  Here's my "oh wow, I get to go on a plane" face:


Then things actually got scary.  We'd been sitting in the airport waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive and watching other planes take off and land.  And several of them were having some trouble. The wings were wobbling and a few of them couldn't land, so they went back up into the air.  Wind speeds were insane!!!  We walked out to the plane and watched the parked plane move left and right.  Ummmm.... yeah.  I'm very grateful everyone wanted to be safe, so after 3 hours or so of waiting for winds to slow, we postponed the shoot to day 2.  And of course, an hour later, the winds did drop.  So before we took the plane back to the hanger, we decided to take the plane up for a quick flight, not flying in formation, not for the shoot, just for the experience.  And what an experience it was.  There is no feeling in the world that matches what it feels like to fly.  I was singing and smiling and laughing and giggling... what a thrill!


I'm in awe of the mechanics of the plane itself and how far we as humans have developed to just hop in a metal thing with wings and take it up in the air.  And the skill it takes to fly it!  Shane (the pilot) had me do a flight simulator on the computer after the flight and as my fake plane landed in LAX, I almost crashed and it spun around in an amazing 180.  I didn't crash it, but I ended up on the grass.  The fake passengers walked away alive, but in their fake world I'm sure many of them would never get in a plane again...  Let's just say everyone was grateful I wasn't the one to land the real plane!


Here's Shane in full concentration, just after take off:


And a few other favorites from the short trip:






With the photo above I learned that every pilot needs two things to be identified as a pilot - aviators and an awesome watch.  Needless to say, I was feeling pretty cool with both of them...  There's also the pilot's hat, but that didn't show up until the next day.



So thank you Shane for making my day!  And for being safe when the winds were a little too crazy :)




Look for part 2 with the actual photo shoot tomorrow!