I love photography. I took photography classes in high school, and in journalism school where I had the privileged of learning from Pulitzer Prize winning former New York Times photographer, Vincent Laforet. So I have some experience with a camera, but I take photos for fun. Its been years since I’ve been under any pressure to capture a well-composed, compelling image. So when I was asked to play photographer and take pictures at an event to celebrate a deserving Boston-area charity (more on that in a bit), I immediately accepted, but it took mere moments for that excitement to turn to panic. The charity would be counting on me, and the photos would be offered to journalists to include in their coverage, so they could end up in newspapers. So the pictures would have to be good.
That’s when I called on an expert: lifestyle and portrait photographer Jeff Allen. If you follow me on instagram, then you have likely seen Jeff at work; climbing ropes, getting dirty and kayaking. He’ll do almost anything to get the perfect shot. Jeff’s work is diverse: from BMX, to celebrities, to commercial campaigns. He has worked with the best in the business such as Ben Watts (Naomi’s brother) and has photographed the likes of the Kardashians and Adam Levine. He also gets to travel around the country and work with me, which is surely the best part of his job. Here’s a sample of his work:
On one of our recent trips Jeff offered me his expert advice on how to capture some great images under tricky conditions (five in the evening, both outside in the dark and potentially inside the adorable shops along Charles Street in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston). Jeff suggested I rent a more powerful lens for the project. I was taking pictures in the dark, he explained, and I would need a lens that has a wide aperture that would let more light in, while maintaining a fast shutter speed to avoid blurry images caused by my own body movements. His instruction sparked a flood of memories of the photography classes from my past. This made me even more nervous because in the last five years my Nikon SLR has been locked on its “auto” setting. What had I gotten myself into?
I rented the type of lens that Jeff recommended, a 17-50mm, and the night before the big event I set out in my neighborhood to practice under the same lighting conditions. Of course, Mother Nature was not cooperating with my photo cram session. It had snowed all day, and by 5:00 Boston was experiencing what meteorologist lovingly refer to as a “wintery mix”. So much for practicing in similar conditions.
On Sunday night, I arrived on Charles Street for Birthday Wishes Luminary Evening. Birthday Wishes is an amazing charity that throws birthday parties for homeless children. The organization believes that every child, regardless of living situation, deserves to celebrate their birthday joyfully. It’s an amazing charity. Many of the shops on Charles Street agreed to display candles outside their shops to celebrate Birthday Wishes’ tenth birthday.
As I approached the first shop that was displaying the Birthday Wishes illuminated installations, I thought W.W.J.D.: What Would Jeff Do! I moved all around the sidewalk in front of Upstairs Downstairs, looking through the viewfinder to find the best angle. I leaned against a lamp-post, stood on my tippy-toes, moved forward, moved back and crouched down low…there…I found the perfect angle.
I moved up and down Charles Street stopping at each of the stores that were participating, feeling more and more confident with each picture I took. I shot many more pictures than I needed (I learned that from Jeff as well), and I even felt comfortable enough to experiment with using the added flash that I rented. It turns out the lens was all I needed. I was having fun as my old photography skills came flooding back, and I was suddenly reminded why I have loved photography for so long. Here are a few of my favorites from the Birthday Wishes event:
I have to remember that when I take on these adventures I am usually learning from an expert in whatever field or activity I try. I need to have as much confidence in myself has they have in me. At the end if the night I felt great; I had done a good deed for a very good cause, and the pictures turned out really well. Best of all, my photos were included in the Boston Globe’s coverage of the event, so now I can say I am a published photographer! Not bad for a Sunday night. Anyone in need of a wedding photographer?
Thanks go out to the talented Jeff Allen. I would have been lost without his advice and guidance. I was not compensated in any way for this post