Five recent shoots provide opportunities to chronicle many different aspects of life
In last week’s essay, “The Curious Generalist,” I noted that my storytelling encompasses both photography and writing. Most of the work you see here is naturally the latter, although I will occasionally share interesting photos to illustrate the visual side.
I got my first camera as a high school graduation present and learned the basics. Writing for newspapers, a school district and a magazine, I saw the visual as a compliment to the words. It wasn’t until I actively started pursuing photography as a serious hobby/something more that I finally understood how stories could be told with imagery and minimal narrative.
Here are brief stories behind five recent shoots, four of which took place over the past week. Not in chronological order, they are a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery; studio promos for a dance performance; a high school senior at a horse barn; a concert featuring a rising Americana star; and photos from a walk around Georgetown.
Funeral at Arlington National Cemetery
On Thursday, I shot my third military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, always a special honor and privilege. The service was for Lt. Col. James E. Stapula, who died in December just a few weeks shy of his 100th birthday. Jim, as he was known, served in the Army for more than 40 years, with tours in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Jill and I have been friends with Jim’s son, Dan, and his wife, Priscilla, since shortly after we moved to Northern Virginia. Our kids took dance with the Stapula’s daughters — Lizzy and Gabi — and our families did a show together — “Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” that I helped stage manage in 2007. (Ironically, my dad passed away during that production.)
The Stapulas are among the kindest and most generous people you will ever meet, grounded and dedicated to service, and our lives have been greatly enriched by knowing them. Dan’s parents were at all their granddaughters’ shows, and we frequently exchanged hellos and brief updates. When we heard of the passing of Dan’s father, and plans for his service at Arlington, I volunteered to shoot it for the family.
Here are a few highlights. If you would like to see more photos, go to my Facebook album here. (You don’t have to be on Facebook to view the pictures.)
In Studio Promos
I’m not a studio photographer. Most of my work is done on location — shooting the things that catch my eye — and my lighting knowledge is limited. But three or four times a year, I go over to Union 206 Studio in Alexandria to take promos for Metropolitan School of the Arts.
After a two-year delay due to COVID, the studio is bringing back its “Company Project,” featuring performances by jazz and tap students who are part of the non-profit organization’s pre-professional groups. To promote the performance, I went to Union 206 recently to photograph Carleigh Jones, one of MSA’s dancers and a high school sophomore.
Like many MSA students, Carleigh was great to work with and easy to photograph. It was a joy to spend an hour and a half in the studio with her and Sara Hart, MSA’s co-executive director and one of three choreographers (with Charles Renuto and Roxanne King) of the show.
The image below features the promo released last week for the performance, plus other photos taken during the shoot.
To purchase tickets, which will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 13 at Ernst Community Cultural Center in Annandale, visit this link.
Senior Photo Shoot
Photo shoots with high school seniors are something I do, but usually by word of mouth rather than active advertising. While I enjoy portrait photography, it is not something I specialize in, so typically I’m not the first person people think of when they’re considering this type of shoot.
What I really enjoy is taking photos of seniors in his/her/their “element.” For seven years, for example, I’ve photographed all of the seniors at the Academy for MSA. These concept portraits, which started with the first graduating class, are a great deal of fun. (More on that in a future post.)
On Wednesday, I had the chance to take senior photos of Megan Pyle, who will graduate a year early this June from a local high school. When I spoke to her mom about the shoot, we discussed going out to a Fairfax Station stable where Megan rides and trains. At the time, I also proposed that she bring a cap and gown to see what we could get, rather than doing those photos in a separate location.
Fortunately, the weather cooperated. Here are three photos, including a cap and gown shot inside the barn where her horse resides:
In Concert: Morgan Wade
Morgan Wade had perhaps the best debut of 2021 with her album “Reckless,” which has just been expanded and re-released with six new tracks. I saw and photographed her show — she was the “special guest” (aka opener) of Ryan Hurd — Friday night at The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Md. It was the first show I’ve shot in the venue, and I wasn’t sure what I would get, having to learn the lighting while only having 12 minutes to take photos.
That’s what I enjoy, however, about shooting live events. You never know what you’re going to get and you have to think and react on the fly.
One of my favorite things to do is randomly take photos in new or not-so-familiar places. As someone with ADD, it’s wonderful to have something catch my eye and be able to focus on it, if only for a brief instant. Because, for some reason, I can remember where I took photos even years later, these often-impromptu jaunts also give me a sense of direction. In this case, photography literally helps me find my way.
Last weekend, while my wife was at a board meeting, I walked around Georgetown and parts of Washington, D.C. Here are some of the (decidedly non-touristy) things that I saw:
If you would like to see more photos from this shoot, go to my Facebook album here. (You don’t have to be on Facebook to view the pictures.)
Thank you for accompanying me on this “Visual Storytelling” journey. If you like this post, please click on the heart and/or leave a comment. Otherwise, enjoy your week!