I never know…

Fabulous Friday Faces

You can find other F.F.F. blog posts here and my original gallery here.

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Bill, Ken, and Tom

I never know what I’ll see or who I’ll meet when I set out on a trail walk with my camera. I don’t actually plan these blog posts, they’re usually just centered around the things I see and the people I meet along the trail. While most of the posts in my blog are nature-related (you’ll see a lot of birds), I also like to post other subjects. If you have been following my blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed that one of my favorite subjects is taking informal portraits of people I meet in the park. When I first started trail walking (after I retired from teaching writing to middle school students), my main goal was to improve my photography by taking pictures of birds, deer, and landscapes. Simple things like that. I rarely engaged in conversation with strangers along the trail. Then, about three years ago, I had an epiphany. Chagrin River Park, the most popular park in Lake County, is filled with people (and their dogs), and because I was blindly walking past those people, never thinking to lift my camera to ask if I could take their pictures,  I was missing out on some wonderful photo opps.

That was the beginning of a project I call Fabulous Friday Faces. The picture at the top of this post is the most recent addition to my F.F.F. gallery. When I stopped to say hello, the three fishermen pictured, Bill, Ken, and Tom, told me that they are from the Cincinnati area and had spent the last three days fishing different rivers in northeast Ohio. I’m not sure how many fish they caught in those three days, but I’m pretty sure they had a great time. Their question to me was, “Where is a good place to get lunch (and a beer) in Willoughby?” Later in the day, when I was walking in the park with my husband and springer spaniel Gulliver, they were just packing up for the day and planning to head back to Cincinnati on Saturday morning.

A few minutes later, as I followed another man along the narrow trail, a young (and reckless) bike rider flew past. If either of us had stepped an inch or two to the left, things might have gotten messy. I think I am an easy-going person, but one of my pet peeves is bike riders and runners who come up from behind without giving any warning of their approach.  I don’t appreciate being surprised like that. The bike rider flew on down the trail, while the other walker and I paused to reflect on our close call. I learned that his name is Dan Just, and he was out for the exercise.

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Dan Just

We agreed that a pleasant walk in the park shouldn’t include the prospect of broken limbs or bloody bodies. Nevertheless, today’s encounter turned out to be a blessing for me. Not being one to pass up an opportunity to add another face to my Fabulous Friday Faces gallery I also asked this stranger if I could take his picture. Two pictures, four new faces for my gallery. I was having a good day!

As I have written on previous blog posts, creating the F.F.F. gallery was a turning point in my hobby as a photographer. Since then I have met many interesting people along the trail. I am no longer driven to “find a new face” every week, but when I meet someone new along the trail, I take that as an opportunity to say hello and ask them for a photo opp. I never know who I might encounter along the trail, but I’ve met many interesting people and have even made new friends that I see time and again along the trail. Asking strangers for a photo opp has definitely enriched my trail walks. Thanks to Dan, Bill, Ken, and Tom for enriching my trail walk today.

(Note: If you have been featured as a F.F.F. and would like a copy of your picture to print, you can contact me at cgl220@gmail.com.)

See you soon for more tales from the trail.
Trail Walker

 

 

How photography changed me

On a recent walk along the trail, I captured two new faces for my Fabulous Friday Faces gallery (Click the link to learn more about my F.F.F. Gallery).

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Ron
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Lynn

I ran into both Ron, and later Lynn, while I was standing near the split rail fence where I had stopped to photograph some birds on that snowy morning. It’s always a pleasure to encounter new people on the trail, and it’s even better if they are willing to pose for my Fabulous Friday Faces. When I first started taking pictures in the park, I rarely took pictures of people and definitely not pictures of people I had never met. I wouldn’t say I was shy,  but I wasn’t confident about my portrait-taking skills, and the idea of being rejected when I asked someone to pose made me reluctant to approach a stranger and ask for a photo opp. Each time I decided to try, I had to take a deep breath and give myself a pep talk (along the line of “Carolyn, you are able to do this,”) as I headed in their direction, camera in hand.

My attitude about photographing strangers changed a few years ago when I discovered another photographer, living in Scotland, who had started to photograph one stranger every day on the streets of his city. To this day, he is still posting them, and his gallery of photos is beyond amazing (See them here). At that point, I decided if he could post a stranger’s face every single day, I could  post at least one a week, so I started. To be honest, I haven’t been faithful about getting one every single week, and some weeks I post two, but every Fabulous Friday Face I have added to my gallery has help me advance as a photographer. Granted, I am only an enthusiastic, amateur photographer, not a well-trained professional toting a serious looking full-frame  camera and a tripod, but  I get out with my camera in all seasons; I constantly try to learn new photography and photo processing skills; and I challenge myself to improve, instead of settling for the status quo. I’m happy with that, and I think it’s a good (and healthy) place to be.

As I have written elsewhere in my blog, taking that first step, asking a stranger to pose for my camera, was both scary and life changing.  It was a giant step, but one that has challenged me to become a different person, and, I think, a better photographer.  When I first started, I was galaxies away from my comfort zone every time I approached a stranger to ask them to pose for my Fabulous Friday Faces Gallery. I am no longer reluctant to ask. What can they say other than “yes” or “no”?  In all this time I have only had one or two who refused to pose, and I have met many delightful people. My Friday Faces Gallery is a simple concept, but it has turned each walk along the trail into an adventure; taught me new skills; helped me become more outgoing; and proved that you can “teach an old dog new tricks.” I encourage other photographers to give it a go.

Thanks for visiting my blog today. I hope you will return for more photo walks along the trail and more Fabulous Friday Faces.

Trail Walker

Fabulous Friday Face: Bob

Bob: A fabulous Friday Face
Bob: October 22, 2015

I encountered this week’s Fabulous Friday Face when I made my fourth climb to the top of the Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum on Thursday. I should have posted it on Friday, so I am a day late. Where does the time go anyway? There’s always a volunteer on duty at the top of the Tower, and that’s where Bob was stationed this week. In our very short conversation, he listed four or five states where he has lived. Didn’t like Florida, not at all, but apparently would move back to Colorado at the drop of a pin. He would move there, if he only could, with his deceased wife. Then he would be living in his favorite place with the love of his life. Meanwhile, he is living in Ohio and  doing a terrific job of volunteering at the Arboretum, chatting up the visitors and taking photos of people who hand over their cameras to record the memorable moment. Well done, Bob. And thanks for being my Fabulous Friday Face.

Running behind, playing catch-up, and finally a Friday Face:Rae

I’m running behind again this week…still trying to catch up from my week of VBS (Vacation Bible School). There are some weeks when nothing much gets done except the foremost task of the week, and the week of July 12-17 was one of those. The day after VBS ended, I managed to post a blog about our community arts festival, but, after that, the little energy I had left evaporated. Pffsstt, and it was gone! That’s why i”m playing catch-up this week. On everything: my photowalks, blog posts, and even leaving comments on all your blogs. So playing catch-up is the mode of the week.

Unfortunately, starting tomorrow, my schedule turns demanding, frenzied even, again. What’s this all about anyway? I’m retired! My time should be my own. Shouldn’t it? Umm…? “No, you say!” What do you mean, it just doesn’t work that way? I always assumed when I retired I would be a lady of leisure, free to come and go as I please. Sleeping late, Long hours immersed in books by my favorite writers. No need to set the alarm clock. No need to wear a watch. No need to worry about my schedule! Okay, I admit there are some things I have committed to that need to be done on schedule, and this week I’m even behind on most of those. Like my Friday Face blog post for example. It should have been posted four days ago, and I’m just now getting around to it. Mea culpa, blogmates. It’s late, but here it is…on Tuesday evening.

The Friday Face for this week is Rae, a creative, energetic, and very personable vendor I met at the Arts Festival in Willoughby on Saturday morning. Two things attracted me to Rae: Her colorful hat was one. She designed it because that’s what she does in her basement workshop. She takes all sorts of items she has collected, gets a vision for one-of-a-kind-original creations, and turns them into amazing hats.  Then she sells them. The second thing that attracted me to Rae was her friendly smile. It spoke so loudly, Rae didn’t need to use words to get my attention, but she was good with words too, and I enjoyed meeting her and learning about her creativity. Thank you,Rae. You create much more than hats. You create fun, serendipitous experiences for people who are fortunate enough to meet you, and this time I was one of the lucky ones!

Rae is the latest addition to my Friday Faces gallery, which you can see here.

Carolyn aka Skip  

Friday Faces: Craig

Yesterday I walked a new trail in search of bobolinks, a bird rarely, if ever, seen in my neighborhood park. I found them, but I also found much more, including a new “Face” for my Friday Faces feature that I wrote about here.  I have been collecting Friday Faces, off and on, since December 2013, and it has been an enriching experience. I have met some interesting people, and now I can count Craig as one of them.

As I stood on the grassy hillside, hoping a bobolink would land nearby, I saw a man with a camera climbing up the hill. When he reached me, I asked if he came to this park often, and he replied, “No, it’s my first time here,” and went on to explain that he had spent the morning photographing at another location. Lunch time was approaching, and he decided some ice cream would taste pretty good, so he packed up his camera and headed for the ice cream store in Chagrin Falls. Our most migratory blackbird, the Bobolink makes a round-trip voyage of up to 9000 miles between northern North America and its wintering grounds in the pampas regions of Argentina and Brazil (Birds of Ohio). As he was driving past this little village park, a bobolink flew in front of his car and, momentarily at least, took his mind off ice cream. Swinging his car around, he pulled into the parking lot, and headed up the hill where he encountered me and my request for a “Friday Face” photo opp.

After a brief photo shoot, we both continued to wander the hillside, looking for bobolinks. I hope that Craig was successful and went home with the pictures he wanted on his memory card. I know I did. Thanks, Craig. You pointed out a Savannah sparrow, the first I have ever photographed in my 15 years walking the trails, believe it or not, and you were a good sport about the photo shoot. I’m glad that I met you on the hillside yesterday.

Notes:

  1. You can read more about the search for bobolinks here.
  2. Look on my SmugMug site if you want to see all of my Friday Faces.

Thanks for joining me “on the trail” today.
Carolyn aka Skip

Friday Faces: A weekly photo feature

Friday Faces: Roz
Friday Faces: Roz

Friday Faces is a weekly photo feature that I started in 2013. Because of the extremely cold and icy weather this past winter and early spring, I temporarily retired the feature, which I had been posting on my other blog. This summer seems like a good time to bring it out of retirement, so today I went for a photowalk in the park, and “captured” a Friday Face for this week. Today’s Friday Face is Roz, a fellow photographer I occasionally (although not regularly) encounter in the park. Roz has the same camera I have, a Nikon D7100, although with a better (longer) lens than mine. She is dedicated to producing excellent bird photographs, and spends many hours on the trail in one park or another in search of her quarry.

When I ran into Roz today, she was kind enough to show me the nest of a red-eyed vireo that she recently discovered.  If you are a bird photographer, you know how elusive the little critters can be when summer arrives and the trees are in full leaf.  We’re not talking about  eagles here, we’re talking about warblers and other small birds. If you are lucky, you will spot the bird flying into its nest, and that’s what happened with the red-eyed vireo. It’s tiny; it’s sweet; and it can be practically invisible when it sits on the nest. I never would have spotted it on my own, but, thanks to Roz, I got my first red-eyed vireo photo today.

Want to give Friday Faces a try? Here are the rules. If you enjoy photographing people, or perhaps would like to stretch your wings :P, give Friday Faces a try. There are just a few rules for this photo feature, which I will list below, but rules are meant to be broken when it comes to photography. Read the rules, but feel free to break them if that’s what it takes to capture the “face” you want. (I broke rules  #2 and 3 with Roz. She is not a stranger.) So go on, break the rules if you need to. Here they are…

  1. Always carry your camera.
  2. Smile and be friendly when you meet strangers along the trail (or wherever you meet them).
  3. Choose someone who smiles back, stop, say hello and engage them in conversation.
  4. Remember to be a good listener and give them your full attention. (See this recent blog post).
  5. After you’ve talked for a few minutes, explain about Friday Faces and invite them to help you with your project (Most people will agree, but if they don’t, thank them anyway).
  6. After you take the picture, offer to email it to them, or (and this is what I prefer) hand them a business card with your name and the website where they can find the picture.

That’s all there is to it. Let me know if you give it a try, and have fun.

Skip aka Carolyn

PS Look here and here for other posts I have written about Friday Faces.

Another Friday Face: Bob

The first day of May, a Friday, was the day we had waited for all winter. Sunny blue skies, warm air, and soft breezes drew lots of visitors to Chagrin River Park. I was one of the visitors, carrying my camera with two goals for the morning’s photo walk:

  1. The first goal was to find another park visitor, a stranger to me, who would be willing to let me take his or her picture for my Friday Faces gallery. I was standing near the bluebird nesting boxes, hoping to see a pair of bluebirds, when I noticed a man standing nearby who seemed to be just as interested in the bluebirds as I was. After awhile he began to ask questions about them. He said he used to pay no attention to the birds but recently has discovered that they are fascinating to watch. That started a conversation and allowed me to ask him if I could take his picture for my Friday Faces project. With no hesitation and only a slightly surprised look on his face, he replied, “Sure!” So here’s Bob! Thanks, Bob, for the photo opp. I hope you like your picture.

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2. My second goal was to get a good picture of a bluebird. In all my walks to the park in April, I hadn’t even spotted one, let alone taken a good picture of it, but today, I was in luck on both of my quests. I found a great new Friday Face for my gallery, and the bluebirds were out and about. Here’s one that posed especially nicely for his picture:

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For the Record

  • Weather-As I said above, it was a gorgeous morning, a great day to be in the park, a great day to meet an interesting new person, and a great day for bluebirds.
  • Exercise-I had time for a long walk, but have lost the little slip that said how many steps I walked. I know for certain that I didn’t reach my goal of 7200. I’ve got a long way to go to achieve that goal.Today I will have to be satisfied with achieving two of my three goals.
  • Thanks for visiting. If you want to leave a comment, please do. I look forward to connecting with other bloggers, and if you like bluebirds, that’s a bonus!

My Nikon is my mentor

It was in December 2013 that I initiated my Friday Faces project. I don’t post one every Friday, and I took quite a few weeks off this past winter, but since this first Friday Face and the two I posted today, April 17, 2015, I have posted the faces of 38 different people. Each time I gather the gumption to approach a stranger and request a  photo opp, I have taken a step forward. Photographically, I have learned from my mistakes. Although I now know that I am never going to open a portrait studio, I have learned how to approach strangers, put them at ease, produce a reasonably good photo of them, and enjoy the process. And I think my victims models enjoy it too. Most are surprised to be asked to pose for a photo shoot, but only two people have turned me down, and while some are self-conscious, others are very natural in front of the camera. When I started the project, I printed out each person’a portrait and gave them the print, but these days I just explain the project and hand them the business card I have printed up with my name and the address of the blog where I post their picture. That seems to work well for them and for me too. One man told me that his picture is sitting on top of their TV and another proudly reported sending his portrait out to all his family members that live far away. I felt pretty honored by that! The best part of this project is the way it has changed me from a solitary introverted walker focused (pun intended) on taking pictures of the birds I see on the park trails into an open, outgoing individual able to initiate interactions with an amazing variety of people. Best of all, I have a lot of new friends. I owe it all to my camera, which is why I can claim my Nikon is my mentor.

Written in response to the Mentor Me prompt on the Daily Post

Here is another post on the Friday Faces topic.

Carolyn aka Skip

Here’s what happens when I ask strangers for a photo opp

When I walk the trail in the park, I frequently encounter a person I’ve never met. This was one of those days. Sometimes when that happens the thought runs through my mind, “This person would be a great addition to my Friday Faces gallery,” and I will take a deep breath, engage them in conversation (it helps if they have a dog), and eventually get to the point. Explaining about my Friday Faces gallery, I say, “Would it be okay if I take your picture?” Believe it or not, most people quickly recover from the shock of being approached by a complete stranger, and nine out of ten will say “Yes,” or “Where do you want me to sit,” or some variation of that question, and the photoshoot begins.


2015_04_13_Chagrin River Park_068This time it didn’t happen that way. Here’s what actually happened. I was photographing this yellow-bellied sapsucker, when two people came down the trail and stopped before they got close to me. Sometimes thoughtful people will do that so they don’t scare off the bird, and this couple was that thoughtful. They didn’t seem to be in any hurry, and when the bird eventually flew away we started to chat, and to my delight, the gentleman said,“Why don’t you take my picture? You won’t get too many opportunities to take the picture of a World War II vet. There aren’t that many of us left.” I’m really not sure of his exact words, but I do know that I quickly exclaimed, “I would love to take your picture!” The photo shoot was on, and he was great!

It’s always a good idea to chat with your subject to make them feel at ease, and that’s one of my favorite parts of these photo opps; however, making this fellow feel at ease was absolutely not necessary. He told me his name and made sure I spelled it right: Lud Lekson. He wanted me to know that he was 92 years old and had served in the Merchant Marines during WWII, entering the service when he was only 20 years old. As I clicked away, frame after frame, I learned that he was one of five brothers who served, four in the Second World War and one in the Korean War. To my comment that it must have been very hard for his family to send four sons to war, he replied, “That’s the way it was. That’s what everyone was doing then.”

When I asked where Lud fell in that family of five, he wanted me to guess, but then quickly told me he was the middle son…”The one in the middle always gets passed over, you know.” He was especially proud that his oldest brother was a highly decorated paratrooper and an officer. Once, while Lud was stationed in the Philippines, he discovered that his brother was in the same area, just one island over, and they got permission to spend some time together.

2015_04_13_Chagrin River Park_098When we finished our photo session, I walked with Lud over to where his wife Helen was patiently waiting on a park bench. Even though I had come to the park intending to get some much needed exercise and take a few pictures, I wasn’t in any hurry to end this encounter.  I was enjoying this unexpected blessing. Lud Lekson is a charming man. The twinkle in his eye and his ready chuckle only add to his charm, but when I told him he was quite the charmer, he replied, “I have a lot of BS. Do you know what that means?” I assured him I do, and I suspect there is more than a little truth to his claim, but the twinkle in his eye in no way belies the absolute sincerity and pride in his voice as he recounted his experiences during those long ago war years. When we parted, Helen and Lud headed down the trail one way and I went the other, knowing I had been honored to listen to his story and learn a little of the history of one great American who, along with four brothers, served his country well.

Thank you, Lud and Helen, for taking the time for today’s photo shoot and some very special conversation. I am delighted to add your pictures to my Friday Faces. Click here to see the gallery.

For the record

  • Weather: Partly cloudy with a high temperature of 57 degrees. Not as nice as yesterday, but it was still a great day for a photo walk…and it didn’t rain.
  • Distance walked: 3,825 steps or almost 2 miles (1.8 to be exact).

That’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed the experience.

Carolyn aka Skip

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