We were standing outside the Uffizi Gallery, home to one of the largest and most impressive art collections in the world. I had just realized that I would neither be able to photograph inside the museum, nor even keep the backpack holding my equipment with me, and we were engaged in debating whether to trek back to our hotel to leave everything there or risk checking it at the coat/bag check in the museum. As I watched other travellers, equipment-free travellers, slide past us and into the gallery to soak in Botticelli and Lippi, I was struck again by the tension I often feel between my ability to capture the experience through my photography and simply be fully present in the experience itself.

I should clarify that this tension exists most for me when I’m traveling or engaged in experiences that are (a) personal, and (b) shared. Obviously, when I’m traveling in my capacity as a photographer, the priority is clear…I’m there to photograph, first and foremost. Likewise, when I’m traveling alone, I can adjust my approach to accommodate the time and focus required to both process my personal experience as well as photograph it in a compelling way.

But what about when Justin and I have saved our pennies for a trip that is for us? How much attention do I divert from our conversation to composing a shot? How much of our schedule should be determined by getting to a certain vantage point over the city during the golden hours? How much equipment do we bring, knowing that at best we will have to lug it around with us all day, and at worst we risk it having to be checked or even being stolen? Is it okay to simply take some snapshots of us having fun, or does every image need to be “blog-worthy”?

I honestly am not totally sure where that balance lies.

Here’s the thing. I love taking photos. I love it. It’s why I’m not making a six-figure salary as an attorney- I chose to make photography my full-time work instead. So the lines are blurry. If I were an attorney and Justin and I headed to Italy, I would likely not feel any compulsion to carry my briefs around Florence with me or lament their absence while staring in awe at the David.

But photography isn’t a 9-5 sort of job. It requires constant practice and education for me to feel  confident in my ability to capture not only what something looks like in a pleasing way, but the feel of the moment, the story I’m trying to tell. I’ve spent hours and hours focusing this attention and  practice on how to tell the story of love and weddings, but the story of a city, of a landscape, of travel…these are newer to me and come with new challenges.  And, of course, photography has a meaningful place in my personal life. Each year I promise myself, with incrementally increasing levels of success, that I will give as much energy and effort to capturing the story of our life as I do the lives of others. Sometimes that means snapshots with my iphone for an Instagram feed I refuse to take too seriously, sometimes that means lugging 20 pounds of camera equipment around on our travels. And sometimes, when amazed at the light streaming across the David, wrapping around each perfect curve, lending its illumination to the power of a masterpiece, I want to drink it in, unencumbered, in huge, noisy, gulps.

And when I’ve drunk my fill, I want to wield that light the way Michelangelo wielded his chisel. To use it not just to pause my own moment of rapture, but to somehow share it with anyone, everyone, whose life might be richer for it. And therein lies the rub.

I know I’m not supposed to say this {especially not on my, umm, photography blog}, but sometimes my own experience is richer for not putting a lens between me and the moments that knock the wind out of me. I think of all the weddings over the last several years where I see more and more people watching the first dance on the screen of the phones they’ve erected between themselves and the moment that is happening mere feet before them, and I know that I don’t want to witness my life through glass. I’m reminded of this little video that made its way around social media recently.

But sometimes it’s possible to have it both ways. The gift of photography is that it allows me to notice, really notice, the way the light filters through snowy trees, or how a coffee mug and half-eaten bagel on a plate can tell a story in still life. It adds color and shadow and light and detail to my life whether I actually shoot the images or not, and for that I am deeply grateful. Sometimes I leave the camera in my bag and make eye contact with Justin instead, reaching for his hand and basking in the unity of our shared moment. Sometimes I pull it out and the intersection of experience and capture bursts my heart wide open.

I don’t know what the balance is. With each bit of travel and each hike and each moment where the sunlight pours through the kitchen window and onto my yellow tea kettle, I will continue to use my judgment and keep searching for it.

In the meantime, here are few images from Italy…some are snapshots, some are photographs, and there are others that will only ever live in my cherished memories of a long weekend getaway that Justin and I once made to the magical city of Florence…

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The famous Santa Maria del Fiore and its Duomo
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Climbing Brunelleschi’s dome!
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On the way down, we were able to get up close and personal with the dome’s interior fresco, a rendering of The Last Judgment by several artists including Vasari, Zuccari, and Cresti.
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We began day two with breakfast at the Mercato Centrale
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We ate our breakfast on the steps of the Basilica di San Lorenzo before wandering it’s galleried courtyard…
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Justin snuck this shot of me scribbling notes in my journal!
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From the top of the Campanile! I know everyone gets this shot, but it’s easy to see why!
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The Baptistry of Saint John…I fell in love with the amazing detail!
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We spent more than 20 min alone with Michelangelo’s unfinished Bandini Pieta (also called The Deposition) at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo…it was absolutely astonishing.
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Ghiberti’s famous bronze Gates of Paradise. They are even more exquisite in real life, if you can believe it!
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Santa Croce …
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We were surprised by a rainstorm that stopped as quickly as it began, and left this treat behind for us!
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The view from Piazzale Michelangelo
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From San Miniato al Monte (maybe my favorite cathedral on the trip…I found it so powerful)…
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We walked back down to Piazzale Michelangelo after San Miniato to catch the sunset over Florence!
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Santa Croce & Santa Maria del Fiore…
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The Ponte Vecchio…
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In hopes of catching the sunrise over Florence, we headed out in the wee hours on day three, but alas, the rain had other plans! I actually ended up in love with the shine of wet cobblestones and the rich color of saturated surfaces! And I always love the early mornings in a new place…there is something so intimate about being in a city as it wakes and begins its day.
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We had the Piazzale Michelangelo completely to ourselves!
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The Ponte Vecchio is a fascinating place….both when it’s teeming with tourists and glowing jewelry shops, as well as when the shops are closed up with their wooden shutters!
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We spent the day looking at art {where photography was prohibited}, but made it back to San Miniato for the evening Gregorian chant mass…beautiful.
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Our last morning in Florence…
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…and then onto Milan! The cathedral in Milan was full of scaffolding and equipment, and there were many places that were off limits unless you bought extra tickets, but it is a fascinating place nonetheless…the preserved remains of archbishops, gothic architecture, a sculpture of St. Bartholomew from 1562 that bears a certain resemblance to Lord Voldemort, saintly relics from centuries past…seriously fascinating. As our time was limited, we opted not to go up to the rooftop, but I would love to get up there if we ever returned when less construction/maintenance was underway!
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We wandered up Via Orefici to the Castello Sforzesco. The ancient castle is home to an amazing number of well-done museums, and we didn’t even scratch the surface before we reached closing time!
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We had another opportunity to spend an incredible amount of time alone with Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pieta…it’s extremely humbling to stand alone with work of this magnitude.

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Our final gelato of the trip…
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…and a few roasted chestnuts to wrap up the day!
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{My apologies for the late delivery on this post! Thanks so much for being patient!}

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  • JLFebruary 26, 2014 - 10:46 pm

    Great photos, I just got back from a trip through Italy (including Florence) – your pictures do it justice. Photography Tips / GalleryReplyCancel

  • AliFebruary 25, 2014 - 11:09 pm

    Great photos! Thanks for not leaving the camera at home, so the rest of us “back home” could share a little piece of Italy! Justin looks European in his page-boy hat… he fits right in! And you both look genuinely happy! Cant wait to hear all about it next time we catch up!ReplyCancel

…we were hand in hand, strolling Via Orefici toward Piazza del Duomo in Milan. My gelato fragola came with a tiny spoon and was nearly gone. Justin was attacking his pistachio and tiramisu double scoop in concentric circles, gradually making his way to the hand wrapped cone.

The pedestrian street was packed with people scurrying home from work, but there was no scurry to our step. We talked of our days  in Florence and this unexpected extra day in Milan.

We recalled dinners at Trattoria Guido’s with the house wine, dim light, and conversation unmarred by beeping phones or distraction. We marveled at art that, although seen in textbooks and prints time and again, struck a physical blow to witness in the flesh. A flash rainstorm that left a double rainbow over the Arno for the briefest of moments. The sound of monks in Gregorian chant.

As the indigo sky deepened, we listened to the lilt of l’italiano and whir of espresso machines competing with the passing cable car. We inhaled pungent porcini mushrooms and garlic and earthy red wine. With the cool February air against our cheeks and the creaminess of our gelato fresh on our tongues, we said our temporary arrivederci to lovely Italia, knowing we’d see her again.

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{I’ll be back on Friday with a few more images from our whirlwind trip and some thoughts on personal travel and photography!}

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  • aliFebruary 19, 2014 - 1:19 am

    I love that last photo of you and Justin! Can’t wait to catch upzReplyCancel

Hello, lovelies!

I will be out of the office until February 12th!

 

I will be:

-Taking in the stunning art & architecture of Florence

-Tasting every possible bit of Italian scrumptiousness that comes my way

-Holding the hand of that cutie pie I married and having one uninterrupted conversation after another

-Focusing on each moment as it comes and soaking in the here and now without distraction

-Writing in cafes in the early mornings over strong Italian coffee

-Photographing the famous Tuscan light

-Going with ebb and flow of each day as it moves, and stepping into that movement with my full attention

 

I will NOT be:

-Checking email

-Turning on my phone

-Taking my computer

-Looking for wifi

-Tweeting/Instagramming/Facebooking

 

Please forgive my disconnect and know that I will give you my full attention upon my return!! Have a wonderful week and I look forward to sharing our Italian getaway with you when we come back to reality!

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{Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest, Hungary}

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Did you know that today is World Cancer Day? It’s a day dedicated to “debunking the myths” associated with cancer and cancer care and there are a ton of informative articles, links, and resources on the World Cancer Day website…take a moment today to take a look and to pause for a moment and reflect on the impact, direct or indirect, that cancer has had on your life.

My own life came into crashing contact with cancer when I was 22 years old. I was diagnosed with uteran cancer and suddenly had to face not only my own very real mortality, but also figure out how to navigate a system that basically said, “If you are uninsured, then we can’t help you.” I was terrified on levels that had previously been unfathomable to me and was utterly overwhelmed by how to figure out how to survive. As I’ve mentioned before, a series of events unfolded culminating in an amazing anonymous individual paying out of pocket for the care that I required then as well as every bit I’ve needed since, including a later diagnosis of ovarian cancer and all of the scans and secondary issues that follow treatment. This person saved my life. More than once. Saved me not because I was famous or smart or athletic or special in any way, but simply because I was a human life and needed help and he or she had the ability to provide it.

That is a truly magnificent thing.

A truly magnificent thing that I am more deeply grateful for on a daily basis than I will ever have the words to fully articulate. And I feel a debt in that gratitude that I will never be able to fully assuage, a debt to “pay it forward” in whatever way I can, big or small. A debt to not only share what I am with others, but also to bring a small bit of meaning to this life that someone so generously gave back to me.

Since I began this business back in 2008, I’ve donated a percentage of every session and wedding to CancerCare {if you didn’t realize that, you can read a little more about it here!}. It’s been so exciting over the years to watch the grand total of donated dollars reach from the hundreds to the thousands and awesome to see how many of you have taken it one step further and matched my donation!

Last year I decided to take Cuppa’s role in giving to a new level. I had a small dream that we could reach a few more people, touch a few more lives, by actively engaging in some tangible enterprise and thus the inaugural 2013 Team Cuppa for the Dempsey Challenge was born {read more about it here!}. Not only did we have a BLAST at the event (check out more of the photos and details here!), but our team raised more than $5000!!

That bears repeating. More than $5000!! A seriously impressive first go!!

So we’re back. We’re going to do it again and maybe even see if we can outdo last year’s success!

I’ve just created the 2014 Team Cuppa and you can visit our team page here if you’d like to join or donate!

A few things to keep in mind:

(1) You don’t have to attend the event to join the team! You can join as a “virtual participant” and support our efforts from afar!

(2) Cuppa clients: I will match you DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR in product credit for every dollar that you raise. Want a $3000 wedding album? Start hounding everyone you know to donate to this amazing cancer center that provides resources, education, and integrative medicine absolutely free to anyone affected by cancer in any way…hound them in to donating $3000 and you not only get that album, but you’ll have contributed to supporting the Center as well as brought awareness to the needs being fulfilled by it. Win-win!!

(3) Cuppa clients: in order for the above to happen, you must actually JOIN the team and raise the money. I will look at how much you actually raised and apply that credit to your account. If you’d prefer to simply donate to the team, we will DEFINITELY appreciate it, but it won’t be matched with credit. Part of what you are being rewarded for is helping spread the awareness to a larger community and helping to involve as much of that community as possible in the effort!

(4) If you have committed to another charity or cause that has meaning to you and have focused your fundraising efforts there, I am more than happy to discuss extending the product credit match to your efforts there. Reach out and let me know what you are doing!

For more information on the phenomenal Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing, visit their website here!

 

Thank you all so much for enabling this small dream of mine to become such a powerful reality. You are an incredible group of people. Now head on over and join the team!!!

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I feel like I’ve been on a lucky streak lately! After years of failing to convince clients that having a photo shoot in the snow is not only fun, but makes for incredible photos, I’ve been inundated with adventurous folks ready for some Maine weather!

The Goodrich family is not only adventurous, but also mindful, connected, and utterly joyful! I just had SO much fun getting to know everyone (furry members included!) and we had an absolute ball playing both inside and out!

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Thank you guys so much for spending your afternoon with me!! You are awesome!!!!

 

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