Friday, March 27, 2009

Betty Lou Rockwell

(posted by Ryan)

Chace + Smith Photography is something I am passionate about, but my family will always take top priority.  Running a photography business in rural America has many difficult challenges, but the reward of being so close to family in such a beautiful area makes it all worth it.  There are many reasons I am grateful to have the opportunity to run my own business, but this week has once again reminded me that my business is not the most important thing in my life.

This morning at 3:20 am, Betty Lou Rockwell, my grandmother (Nan) died.

Nan was a dedicated wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who didn't take any shit.  She was full of one-liners and unique sayings that never failed to put a smile on someone's face.  Even as she lay in her hospital bed close to death she managed to make everyone laugh.  

A compassionate, caring and hard-working woman, Betty Lou always made sure I had enough to eat.  Sunday evenings at Nan & Pap's were always filled with kids playing on the floor, 60 Minutes on the television, talking and laughter in the kitchen, and lots and lots of food.  Nan always made sure to bake a cake or a pie to accompany the wide variety of other snacks spread out on the kitchen table.  As soon as you walked in the door, Nan would greet you with "What can I get ya?  How about a piece of apple pie?  A ham sandwich?  Iced Tea?"

I don't believe there is anything Nan loved more than making sure everyone was well fed.  Every time I would bring a friend or a girlfriend to Nan & Pap's I made sure to tell them to come hungry, because when Nan gives you a piece of pie it's not an ordinary piece of pie . . . it's a Nan size piece of pie.  Which, on occasion would nearly be a 1/4 section of the entire pie.  Top that off with some vanilla ice cream and watch Nan smile with satisfaction.

It was hard to watch her go but I'm thankful for the time I had with her.  I am thankful of the lessons I've learned from her and for all the fond memories I will carry with me.  She leaves behind a husband of 64 years, 4 children, 8 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and an uncountable number of memories.

Here is Nan & Pap on the their 60th anniversary.  

What is important in your life?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

PDN Faces Contest - please vote!

Hello friends,
If you would be so kind, please follow this link to vote for our entry in PDN's Faces Contest!

Many kind thanks!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Problem Solving with The Hello Strangers

(posted by Ryan)

I have learned over the years that being a photographer is not just about taking pretty pictures, but more importantly is about solving problems. It could be said that I am not really a photographer, but a problem solver who figures out the necessary steps to complete a photograph. Some photos come easily, while others may involve various equations that must first be interpreted before the image can be captured.

I’m not talking about calculus here . . . I’m talking about problems like how I am going to get power out to the middle of a field, or what type of light I am going to create that will best tell the story I want to tell.

Larissa and her sister have a band called The Hello Strangers. They are an alternative country band and have a very distinct sound combining beautiful harmonies, fantastic melodies, and, often-times, haunting lyrics. You may think I am biased because Larissa is my wife, but I have a feeling if you listen to their music or see them live you won’t be able to disagree with me.

Last weekend, weeks of brainstorming and planning came together for a few hours of creativity and photography for The Hello Strangers. Brechyn, Larissa’s sister, arrived at 4 p.m. with makeup done and wardrobe in hand. Earlier in the day I had picked up the retro chair from her apartment and borrowed a 5000 watt generator from my Dad. While Larissa and Brechyn finished getting ready I loaded up the camera, strobes, light stands, sandbags, chair, generator, ladder, props and beer into my trusty old Nissan Pathfinder.

As soon as they were ready, we loaded up three very special dogs and the remaining props and caravanned back the lane and into the field about 1/2 a mile from the house. Nestled in the middle of a tall patch of grass, we started by creating our set. Once we had the chair and small table in position, Larissa and Brechyn stepped in. We shot for about 15 minutes with natural light before setting up the strobes. A front moved in just as we were beginning the shoot, and a cold, damp wind blew across the set, causing Larissa and Brechyn to tense up and look very cold in the photos. They warmed up in the car with some beer while I set up my preconceived light formation and cranked up the generator. After a few tests, I was ready to go and they took their positions on set while the 3 dogs were busy working on finding something to eat.

Having the dogs along creates a fun, but slightly chaotic obstacle
Larissa and Brechyn try to tame the chaos

We shot quickly because the temperature was dropping, the wind was picking up, a few sprinkles were beginning to fall, and one of the dogs disappeared. Not the best circumstances to shoot in, but we knew we wanted a cold winter feeling to the images so it worked perfectly.

I knew we had the shot so we quickly packed all the equipment back into the vehicles as the rain came down. Once we were back at the house and had located the missing canine, we began to setup for the second half of our shoot. Although I am primarily a location shooter, I love shooting in a controlled studio environment from time to time. Brechyn had the idea of doing a shot of their boots lined up in a row with the two of them on each end. We wanted this to be a square format for the possibility of being the cover of their next record so we had to exclude a few pair of boots. I played with the light until I had the look we wanted and then took a series of shots with boots in different positions and the girls in different colored skirts. Once we had the shot, we decided to improvise a little and shoot close-ups of the instruments and some details of the Hohner Accordion that is featured occasionally in the band's repertoire.

The total production time for the day came out to be about 7 hours and in this time we were able to capture some fantastic images. These are the kind of shoots that I absolutely love to do. Not only do I get to photograph and collaborate with two beautiful, talented women, I also get to fully exercise my problem solving abilities to create intriguing, polished images.

Below are a few shots from the The Hello Strangers photo shoot. These were originally intended to be in color, but after some thought, I decided to see what they looked like in black and white.

Here's where you come in: What’s your opinion? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about the images in general, as well as which versions, either color or black and white, you like better.

Happy Problem Solving!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Late Winter Fields

(posted by Larissa)

It is 60 + degrees here today, so we are suddenly completely "over" winter. But just a few short weeks ago, we were still relishing in its beauty and charm. The fields behind our house are old farm fields, relinquished by our landlord to the wills of nature. They are, thus, remnants of human industry, but now wear the cloak of nature's influence. They are framed by tree lines, and bear the imprint of deer beds and paths. Tall grasses and reeds shimmer in the winds. Field mice and voles scuttle around under the brush. Our dog pounces and sniffs around, occasionally coming face to face with a groundhog. The fields are serenely beautiful in their barren winter state; every shade of brown imaginable juxtaposes with the blue sky and sunsets blazing beyond the trees. Ryan's photos capture their essence beautifully, I think.

Enjoy these last few weeks of the season!