When Life Delays Your Flight... Make Lemonade!


When life delays your flight... make lemonade.  I think that's how the saying goes, anyway, right?  Or maybe they say "go to New York City".  Let me think about that for a minute...




Today has been insane.  And I am full of energy and thrilled for the adventure.  It's quite a ride.  For the last week and a half, I've been here in upstate New York, in the Adirondacks - by Lake George.  It was the ultimate escape with no cell service, no worries, very little internet, hardly any people for miles.  Just lots and lots of nature.  What an experience!  And it drove me crazy to be that disconnected...  I have work to do!  People to call, photos to upload, and blog posts to write!  Well, I found a little bit of internet to check in from time to time and I went through all the withdrawal symptoms from the phone.  It was remote and beautiful.  I feel much more peaceful now.








Today, that visit came to an end when I rode the 3 hours with my little sister and her family to Albany airport, several hours early because they were on a different flight.


Their flight left at 1 and mine left at 5:15, so I located a great little place called Blu Stone Bistro on Yelp with internet so I could work, eat, drink, and experience something about Albany other than the airport.  Then I was going to walk the 2 miles with my 3 bags to the airport.  Sounded like an experience worth having.  Maybe even fun.  The address was wrong, my brother in law was running late, and when they finally found it and dropped me off, the bistro was closed.  I had 3 hours to kill, then I would have 30 minutes with the bistro open until I needed to start walking.  It's almost comical how everything went wrong.  So I went to the lobby of this beautiful hotel and awkwardly piled my luggage on the floor of their cafe - this cafe was also closed.  Aaaaand the internet required a password, so I edited photos and made my work to do list for the next 3 days while listening in on a job interview and an awkward family fight also in the lobby.  Then I got a call - my flight was delayed an hour and a half!  This means I have an extra hour to enjoy the Blu Stone Bistro while it was open! :)  I will miss my connecting flight in Chicago and I'll figure that out when I get there!  I grabbed my bags and walked along the rather busy highway to find something, anything with wifi until 3 pm.  I ended up at a Starbucks for a couple hours, then back to the bistro.  Now, I love days like this.  In one sense, everything goes wrong.  In another sense, it's an unexpected adventure where nothing goes as planned - which is perfect.  I thrive off of that energy.  And all the people on the highway in Albany, NY waving to the girl walking on the shoulder laughing to herself because there is nothing to do but laugh.


All of a sudden, I get an ingenious idea!  instead of going to Chicago and figuring it out, why don't I try to go somewhere awesome for the night?  I have always wanted to see the Tuesday night jazz club at Mona's in NYC.  And indeed, we have lemonade.  I actually get money back from the airline by hopping on a bus and flying out of New York tomorrow instead of sleeping in the Chicago airport and flying out there tomorrow... So here I am, on a bus on my way to New York City with more money in my pocket, drinking my figurative lemonade (from the lemons I was given) and watching the real sunset go down over the city.  I get to go dancing, listen to incredible jazz, meet up with some childhood friends, take photos, and feed off of the energy of this incredible city.





From one perfect escape in the middle of nowhere to the exact opposite with the rush of people and crazy everywhere - and also perfect.





Now, last time I was in New York City was 2012, on the way to and from Europe.  I photographed a beautiful wedding in Holland, and spent an month discovering NYC, Ireland, England, Spain, Holland, and NYC again.  A few of my photos from that trip here:







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Wish me luck!  And I'll see y'all again in Salt Lake in a couple days :)


A Beautiful Place to Rest




The power of a name, a title - this is a still a concept I'm working on.  Yet assigning a few simple words to a photo can amplify its impact.


This photo was in the middle of the night right after a rain storm, the bright moon was shining through the trees.  I lay on the hammock and look through a perfect opening in the leaves to watch the clouds pass in front of the moon.  Then I stepped back to take the photo then sleep in a real bed that night...  I've named the photo "A Beautiful Place to Rest" for now... What would you name this photo?




Upstate New York - Life as a photographer in the Adirondacks



I've got a week and a half in upstate New York.  I've been looking forward to this time, but I've also been nervous about it.  There are a few reasons:  being away from my computer (I have a beautiful iMac with a second monitor that I edit all my photos on.  I spend more time with my computer than anything else - it's a huge part of the life as a photographer!), being so off the grid with no cell service and minimal wifi, and a little stress about family dynamics.  I love my family and I love seeing them!  I get nervous because I often become the 14 year old Whitney when we get together and the progress in becoming who I am as an adult goes out the window.  It is interesting to step back and observe this!  I am now Whitney, a professional photographer, and someone who loves learning, people, nature, and arts.










I’ve been here before, but I don’t feel like I’ve ever really SEEN it.  My goal in photography is to show people what a beautiful world is out there and how to open their eyes to it.  Well I’ve been here 3 times in the last 10 years and this week, I finally finally opened my eyes and saw it.  We drove in at 4 am and I was exhausted.  But I saw the room, the view of the lake, and the super moon that night, and I was so inspired that I couldn’t sleep, so I started hiking around with my camera.  This photo above is the very first photo I took here.  That's part of the magic in it for me.  I enjoy looking through 100 photos and finding the best ones (I have 500 photos from this night, and others that I think are prettier) but when it is the very first exposure, it feels different.  I often debate whether to post the photos that I connect most to or the photos I believe that you will connect most to.  Today, this one is impactful to me and I wanted to share.


I stayed out for 4 hours running around the lake, finding reflections, in awe of the fog, and taking photos the whole time.  It felt like a sacred space for me.  For miles and miles, I was the only one awake.  Except for a few animals - there were squirrels or chipmunks or something in the trees literally throwing pine cones at me.  The grass was wet from the dew, and the moon was so bright.  I lifted a beautiful old wooden canoe, much too heavy for one person, but somehow managed it and saw the sunrise from the water.  It’s a large lake with a couple little islands, but I was there in complete solitude.





I watched the sunrise from the middle of the lake on a beautiful old canoe with fog surrounding me.  Yes, I was brave and took my camera with me, just trusting that that the canoe wouldn’t tip. :)  And it was worth it -  The lake was golden, and I have never seen anything like it.





I feel I am finding a piece of myself out here.  The beauty, the connection with nature, the lack of connection to technology.  It's almost like a creative retreat.  I have much to be grateful for today.





The Lights of Las Vegas




I have not always loved Vegas.  I used to think it was tacky.  And my opinion of its tacky-ness has not exactly disappeared.  As a photographer, though, I've learned to see it in a new light each time I visit (and I've visited often since a couple years ago when I started shooting weddings in Southern California!  It's the halfway point, made my drive much easier.)  And now I love it.  So much art, music, and people watching!  Even nature, believe it or not.  The Vegas area has a lot to offer.





So much discovery and adventure - something new every time.  My last visit was no exception.  The highlight of my trip was definitely Valley of Fire!  But I will get to that later.



First, a selfie:









And now, the lights of the Las Vegas Strip.










One of my favorite things walking through all the Casinos is looking up.  The light fixtures, the textures, the colors, there's an unbelievable amount of details that most people never even see (like the photo above, at the Encore).












And this next photo has an interesting story behind it.  It was one of my... well...  less-than-graceful moments.


Here's the boring setup to the story:  An amazing night - dancing to a jazz trio at Tuscany Suites, then a peaceful hour walk (yes, I walked alone and accidentally had to cross I-15 on foot.  But it was peaceful, I promise!) to see a funk/soul band called Sante Fe and the Fat City Horns (there will be photos tomorrow).  I was at the concert with my friend Wyatt and he offered to give me a ride back to my hotel, but I just wanted to jump out at the corner on the strip so I could do more photography that night.  The city never sleeps, right?



Well, here's where it gets interesting:  There is a railing in between the sidewalk and the street.  For good reason.  Way too many drunk tourists would be happy to take their stilettos right into the road without thinking twice about the cars or, you know, potential death.  So, dozens of cars on the road, hundred of people on the sidewalk... I hop out of the car at a red light and say goodbye, then climb through the railing to get to the sidewalk.  Yes, you can probably see where this is going.  Sigh... I forgot about my photography backpacking backpack ON MY BACK (it's a fantastic backpack, by the way.  Every photographer should have one)  as I try to climb through the railing.  Yeah, that was an oops.   After a few seconds, there's a semi circle of drunk pedestrians on the sidewalk staring at me and wondering how to help get me out of the railing.  That was my assumption, at least, I have no clue what they were really thinking!  Maybe they were seeing three cherries in a row...  And I'm wondering which side would be the least embarrassing to roll towards - back to the cars still waiting at the red light or forward to the sidewalk of people?  Eventually, I shimmied my way through and did a little summersault onto the sidewalk.  It was the strangest thing, though, they were all standing there, still staring like deer in the headlights. It was as if they were waiting for me to say something before they had permission to move on.  So I said "Well, that was graceful!"  and apparently it was sufficient direction for the masses to move forward.



To hide my embarrassment and to redeem myself and the camera gear on my back, I pulled out a tripod, tried to look as official as possible, and started working.  This (below) is the photo that came from it:







They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, I got a story AND a photo out of that one!





Check back tomorrow for photos of the concert with Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns.







On the Road Again - More National and State Parks


A couple weeks ago, I committed to visit and photograph all 47 National Parks in the 48 contiguous states in America by 2020.  I also have several state parks and such on my "to visit" list.  This week, I'm on the road again - in Vegas!








I am so excited for the photoshoot here.  Valley of Fire!  My brother in law Ryan sent me a link to photos of Valley of Fire a couple months ago and I've been dying to get down there to take more night photography shots.  This trip, I'm lucky to have Kristen, one of my interns from back in 2011, go with me.  Looking forward to catching up, and lots of photos of stars, rocks, and light painting.



Dan and Whitney's Excellent Adventure - Day 4 (Arches National Park)



Soo... Something strange happened when we left Lake Las Vegas and tried to go to the Grand Canyon.  Siri didn't know how to get there.  Really.  I had no information about the Grand Canyon and it was the middle of the night.  The internet wasn't helping much with direction either!  We twiddled our thumbs for a bit, then I said "I've never been to Arches, want to try that?"  And Dan, being the perfect travel companion, said "Yes.  Let's!"  A midnight stop at Walmart to try and find camping gear failed... and we got on the road anyway.  7 hours later, we showed up at the park.  We drove the loop, hiked around a bit, tried to sleep in the car without much luck, I took a nap in this arch:







Drove into Moab when I realized 30 minutes asleep in the arch was picturesque, but not particularly restful and I got a hotel to nap through the afternoon.  A 6 o' clock wake up call (pm... 6pm wakeup!),  I threw on both lightweight jackets and whatever I could scrounge up for a hike, then headed back into Arches for the beautiful evening light and (once again!) night shots.






The destination: Delicate Arch.


The discovery of an Arches virgin:  Here's the deal.  I thought for photo purposes, we would want the lower or the upper view.  We walked to the lower view, then hiked to the upper view, and soon realized there wasn't much possibility for variety from either perspective.  Which trail to hike?  Yes, apparently a photographer must actually hike TO the arch to get a view worth shooting.


The Challenge: 20 minutes to make it to the top by sunset.  (We had wasted some time doing lower and upper views and the sun was on its way down!)  I had a shoulder bag, bad shoes, a tripod, two lightweight jackets, a couple handwarmers.  I was completely ill-equipped for hiking to Delicate Arch.   Most people were already up there, but I was going to try it.





Now, apparently Moab in March is, uh, well, cold.  At least much colder than Vegas and California (for which our wardrobes were catered...).  While Dan wrapped himself up in a huge blanket and looked like a homeless guy walking up, I was determined to get there by sunset!  Aaaaand, I discovered just how out of shape I was.  My thighs started spasming, I almost threw up... And (here's the best reason to carry a camera when you hike) sometimes I would stop and pretend to take a photo just so people wouldn't judge me for having to stop.  But I was found out.  A little 7 year old girl stopped me and said "you're going to want to take a lot of pictures at the top.  It's really pretty up there."  A 4 year old boy saw me having a tough time and threw out a "you're almost there!"  I'm still not sure if it was encouraging or humiliating, but either way, I MADE IT.  Yes, I made it to the top... about 5 minutes after the sun went down.  I finally turned the corner and saw this:




I found a spot on the rock next to a few other photographers and I almost cried (commitment to self: I am working out enough and will be in shape enough to make any photography hike I want this summer even with all the gear!)  But a few breathtaking photos and everything was worth it.







(yes, Dan made it to the top too!)





One of the most interesting parts of Delicate Arch was the culture of photographers hanging out and practicing techniques together.  If one person uses lights, it will affect everyone else there, so we work together.  This photo was painting with light - a huge flashlight!





This is with no lights (just the glow of the moon on one side):

  Then everyone cleared out except one other photographer and we took turned playing with speedlights Strobist style.  Here's the winner of the night:




Yup.  Arches is a 5 star photography resort in Whitney's book.  I will DEFINITELY be back this summer.


We grabbed breakfast at a delightful diner and drove back in the morning!  An inspiring trip, I'm excited for all the photography adventures coming up in the next couple months.  We live in a beautiful world, don't we?






See the other blog posts from this Road Trip:

Day 1: Las Vegas

Day 2: Red Rock Conservation Area

Day 3: Lake Las Vegas







Dan and Whitney's Excellent Adventure: Day 3 (Lake Las Vegas)


A whirlwind morning!! - I worked out, swam laps, then visited the Container Park in old downtown Vegas.  There was some crazy dirt bike convention where they blocked off several blocks and I experience a culture of people I had never experienced before! But the Container Park was pretty cool. It reminded me of a shopping center I visited in Christchurch New Zealand in 2012.  They set up the shopping area with brightly-colored containers while they were rebuilding the city from the earthquake.  A little stage in the middle with live music, an oasis in the midst of all the destruction.  Apparently the container thing has become a trend!



The one place I always go when I visit Vegas is The Beat Coffeehouse.  They have an entire building of rooms turned into an art gallery.  Each artist has a room and each room in a different style.  I never know quite what I'll find when I walk through.  My favorite this time, was a jewelry guy.  Through our conversation, he shared that after having a stroke last year, his whole life has been about family.  He quit his job and joined his wife in their jewelry making business, they sell the daughter's art on the walls also.  I love those conversations - why people do what they do.  The perspective that comes from our experiences.





And then Lake Las Vegas.  A deserted shopping area, almost a ghost town with all the buildings empty and "for lease" in the window.  But beautiful.  Simply beautiful.  We got there for sunset and went on a stroll.  No hurry, just some photos, some relaxing, and a few moments to take it all in.







  I spent an hour sitting under this bridge.  I wrote, I sang, I meditated, took pictures, and watched people walk by.  The acoustics were magical!  And I love the ripples from the ducks in the water.  It was nice to slow down, no pressure to take certain photos, not running around doing, but instead, just to be.





Sooooo.... I'm getting pretty good at these selfies!  Except no awkward arm out in front of my face.  I set the camera up, focus on the spot intend to sit, then a self timer and 9 photos in a row with 2 seconds in between.  Yes, yes, I know.  I feel a little vain and little ridiculous.  But even photographers need new profile pictures for Facebook!  Or memories.  Oh yes, that's right.  Photos are for memories, not just Facebook :)






And the amazing Dan McBride...










See the other blog posts from this Road Trip:

Day 1: Las Vegas

Day 2: Red Rock Conservation Area

Day 3: Lake Las Vegas

Day 4: Arches National Park











Dan and Whitney's Excellent Adventure: Day 2 (Red Rocks Conservation Area)


Day 2: Las Vegas



Early morning wake up call to do a video interview.  Dan was behind the camera, and I just sat and talked to this amazing artist for a few hours.  We laughed, we cried, we talked about stories, purpose, and art.  I could have stayed there all day talking to her!  Quite inspiring.






Then we met up with one of my past interns, Kristen, and went shooting (with cameras, not guns).  Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area - it's my second time here, the first time I had driven up in the middle of the night on my own intending to camp but had to sleep in the car in a Costco parking lot because the gate was locked... it was a crazy story, but in the morning I saw the sunrise in a peaceful, peaceful park.  Only 4 of us in the entire area.  It was beautiful.  This trip, however, we got to see it for sunset!





These next two photos were taken within minutes of each other - it was only the camera settings that makes one look like day and one look like night.  Kind of fun to compare them side by side.






And for these next two, Dan was driving, and I was shooting out the window!  I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so I'll take any chance for a small thrill :)  He specifically wanted a photo of the one on the left because it looked like a different world, one to write stories or films about.  I love traveling and doing photography with different people because I have the opportunity to see the world through another set of eyes, another perspective.  Some say walk in their shoes, I think I prefer the analogy of seeing the world through someone else's lens.






Oh!  I forgot.  Before Red Rock Conservation Area, we got a notification that the artist in LA wouldn't be able to do the interview.  So that left 3 days with particular destination in mind.  At the beginning of the trip, Dan's said "aside from work, my one request is to go to a beach.  We'll have plenty of options in LA, so that will be awesome."  (We decided it may not be worth it to go all the way to California for a beach and instead we'd... go to the Grand Canyon - I'VE NEVER BEEN, can you believe it?)   But like magic, a sandy beach appeared at Red Rocks.  I put my toes in to say we checked that one off the list.







Dan on the left, Kristen and Trevor on the right.  Red Rocks and the Vegas lights in the background.





Well, we stayed WAY past closing time and I kept looking over my shoulder scared a ranger would show up and chastise us.  I can be rebellious, but I'm still scared of getting caught!  We saw headlights coming around the bend and leapt into the car.  This was our "high speed car chase" for the trip.  You know, where you have to drive just fast enough to get away from the guy chasing you, but not too fast in case he's a cop and will pull you over.  Ah, the joys that sleep deprivation bring.  Take a normal evening and turn it into a dramatic story!



But after we barely escaped our attacker (yes, some sarcasm included... it turned out to be another late night visitor casually exiting the park and completely unaware of us)... just outside the gate we stopped for another hour of photos after the sun went down.  It was so rewarding to see Dan's face light up as he discovered the joys of night photography.  Tripod, long exposures, lights - and STARS!   I love teaching and watching that lightbulb go on, so it inspired a plan to set up a workshop later this summer for Las Vegas Photography at Night.  Leave a comment or shoot me an email if you'd like details when we get it all set up!  We're thinking Red Rocks, Lake Las Vegas, The Strip, and Valley of Fire.



That night included a Latin band and me learning how to Salsa and other dances that I don't know the names of.  Bachata or something?  A lovely Cuban lady introduced me to everyone and got me on the dance floor every song with a new partner.  And before the Latin band, we stopped by a jazz trio - THIS was one of the highlights of the trip.  Dan wouldn't dance, so I danced alone for a few minutes, then felt awkward and sat down.  At the end of the song, the guitar player pointed to me and said "we're going to dedicate the next song to you, because we can tell you want to dance!"  (Now, it is true that one of the masks I wear is a dancer.  I learned traditional jazz dancing back in 2006.  Lindy hop, charleston, blues, and I still dance about once a week!  But it still made me a little bit uncomfortable because I didn't know what to do!)  It only took a couple moment, as if it were rehearsed, everyone cleared the dance floor for "my" song, and I walked up, closed my eyes, and let the music move me.  Wow.  It was such a surreal and emotional experience.  I traded back and forth with the saxophone player - he'd play a phrase holding eye contact with me, then I would imitate the sound through dance in the next phrase.  It was solo dance, all improv, expressing whatever I happened to feel in that moment.  And the music was great!  Afterwards, I snapped back to reality as people came over to talk with me about the dancing and give compliments.  I'm still a little speechless and overwhelmed when I think back to it.  Such an art-filled day with the painter, interview, video, photos, then music and dance.  I love the exposure to so many creative expressions!




And of course, my self portrait for my "life as a photographer" gallery.  With the look on my face here, I feel like I should be wearing a "life is good" shirt.






See the other blog posts from this Road Trip:

Day 1: Las Vegas

Day 2: Red Rock Conservation Area

Day 3: Lake Las Vegas

Day 4: Arches National Park







Dan and Whitney's Excellent Adventure: Day 1 (drive to Vegas)


Dan and Whitney's Excellent Adventure



Partners in crime: Videographer Dan McBride and Photographer Whitney Lewis

Purpose for the  trip: Video interviewing artists for FantasyCon (in Las Vegas and Los Angeles), stock photography, meeting strangers and telling their stories through photo and video, and lastly - finding inspiration for the love of the art.  Nature, people, the beautiful world we live in.




Day 1: Road trip from Salt Lake to Vegas


I love road trips.  Listening to music, telling life stories, asking strange questions, getting sentimental about all the memories from past trips along these roads, and of course stopping along the way for photos.





Here was the first sunset of the trip, just on the side of the freeway.  I left Dan at the car and took a walk down the path:









Above and below, the photos on the left were taken from the car, the photos on the right were taken... well, at a certain fast food restaurant with a big yellow M.  I am not generally a patron of this establishment, but when you have to pee...  sometimes a McDonalds will have to do.  Also, they have an awesome playground!!!  I am almost ashamed of how proud I am that I waited in line behind half a dozen children to go climb through the tubes.  What I really wanted was a ball pit!!  But alas, I shouldn't be picky.  After all, we walked in, used a restroom, played on the playground, took photos, and left without buying anything.  Thank you McDonalds!









Every time I drive over the hill on I-15 and see the lights of Las Vegas emerge, I always think "I should stop and take a take a picture" but fear stops me.  Parking on the side of the freeway in low visibility is something I do frequently for photos, but it's not exactly safe.  The danger of our trip began here and I finally took the photo I've been dreaming about.  (slight exaggeration on the importance of this photo, but it set a great tone for the trip to stop anytime the voice in my head tells me to pull out my camera...)







Checked into the hotel, and wandered Fremont Street.  I stopped and danced Charleston with a street drummer.  Hugged a few strangers...  It's a fun place, full of interesting people, activities, music.  I think my favorite was the electric cellos.







And it was St Patricks Day weekend, so we got festive with the tacky green sequins! Awesomeness.







And this photo I love.  There are locks and names and all kind of things attached to this sculpture of a  heart.  It sounds cliche, but I still feel strongly about it - Wouldn't the world be an incredible place if we all just loved each other?  I am ready to live in a world of unconditional love.  I appreciate and admire artists who use their talent to remind us to love the people in our lives.  I will strive to do the same.






See the other blog posts from this Road Trip:

Day 2: Red Rock Conservation Area

Day 3: Lake Las Vegas

Day 4: Arches National Park