Exploring my new camera: Provincetown

A few months back, I decided it was FINALLY time to invest in a real, actual camera. You know, the kind with lenses and a viewfinder that you actually look through and a button you press to take a picture.

Why, you ask? Well, it’s mostly because, and this is really kind of dumb, I like the tactile feel of a camera. I feel cool when I cradle it in my hand and bring it to my face. And because I need a project. I am surrounded by creative people all day and I’m a little jealous of their “artist” label. Because try as I might, I can’t make “arts marketer” into a legit artist label.

Back in my high school years, I learned photography with actual film. Mr. Swedberg, my teacher, taught me, and I loved the darkroom most of all: the chemicals and the magic of burning and dodging. Today we don’t have film and our darkrooms are our laptops. And too many people tell me I’m a “good photographer” for me to really be ok with it, considering that every picture I have taken in the last 8 years has likely been on an IPhone. That feels like cheating.

So, I saved up and decided to go for it.

I scoured blogs and asked advice from my social interwebbers, and eventually landed on my Canon Rebel EOS T5. And then, I took it out and shot some stuff, and it was fun and pretty and I was pleased with myself for photos like this:

Pink flower

Then, my former college roommate started sending me blog posts and challenging me to contests like #niftyfiftyfriday, and I realized how little I actually know about taking photographs from anything other than a “point the camera at something I like” standpoint. See, there’s MATH involved. Ugh. And on these newfangled cameras, more settings and buttons than you’d think you need to take a pretty picture. So I bought a prime lens, and set out to figure this stuff out.

Anyway, this has been a good exercise for me, to really dig into something I know nothing about, and to find that it’s really damn hard. I still don’t get a lot of it. The math seems unreasonably unintuitive. I still do a lot by instinct and gut. But I have noticed that, since I started thinking this way, I take fewer photos. I know that doesn’t make sense. But I’m spending less time clicking away on my IPhone and more time thinking what I’d need to do to capture a scene with my Canon. I find this intriguing, without really being able to ascribe meaning to it.

It’s also worth noting that most of the photos are lousy. This is also intriguing, part of that whole “you’ve gotta break stuff down before you can build it back up” cliche.

So, anyway, I thought it might be fun to share some of the not-as-lousy-as-others recent photos with you. I’m currently vacationing on Cape Cod (yeah, I know, doesn’t that sound so, well, New-Englandish?) and plan to spend hours photo-ing beaches and dunes tomorrow, so I thought I’d share a few less epic subjects here.

You will quickly discover that I love boats. You’ve been warned.

Photo of boat named Hindu

Sailing ship mast

What I wanted with this photo was the red boat in focus and everything else blurry. But I was using my 50mm lens and had no zoom and so I couldn’t figure it out. But I liked the reflection on the white boat on the left.

Red Boat

I should mention that all of these photos were taken in Provincetown, on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The whole harbor is such a mess of boats. I loved it. Lots of Boats

Keens seem to have a special place in my summer adventures. This one is for Jennifer and Lisa.

A row of colorful Keen sandals

While my travel buddy was chatting with a client, I went on a little binge and found some neat things to try to capture.

Part of a rusty ship's wheel


Flowers in pots on stairs

And it was on the last one that I had some magic happen – a tiny bird hopped onto the railing above the flowers I was shooting. I clicked as fast as I could without time to change the settings, and managed to get this little gem.

Bird perched on a railing near potted flowers

As the day came to an end, we wound up at a little bar overlooking the water, and I snapped some more boats. I think it’s fascinating that turning basically the same scene (just a few degrees counterclockwise from my perch) into black and white makes it look so much more ominous.

boats on the ocean with pretty sky

Photo of boat

So, as you can tell, I have a long way to go to learn to use this new tool, but I’m finding that I am more excited about the stories behind how I got the photos than I am by the technical details. That seems to jive with my life in general. 🙂 Thanks for coming along with me on this little journey through P-town.


Feel the light!

Enjoy this gem of a video from my new gig at From the Top here in Boston. This was shot at Fruitlands Museum, where you can see the beautiful landscape that is now my backyard. I love living in New England.

6 tips for working with marketing people

This post is for all of y’all out there who have the dubious distinction of working with marketing people. That is most of you, I realize, so listen up.

We marketing folks are strange. We somehow thought it would be fun to make a living at trying to convince over-stimulated and under-paid humans to do what we think they should do. We also thought it would be totally awesome to work in a field that is always short-changed in the budget cycle, where the metrics change daily if they ever existed at all, and where every single thing we do or say is up for interpretation or criticism.

Sounds fun, right?

It can be. Especially when you have great colleagues who understand these 6 things about working with marketing people:

6. More often than not, you’re the messenger. We get that.

We promise we won’t shoot you. Unless we’re jerks, and if we are, well, all bets are off. Give us hell.

5. We really do want your feedback. Really. Even if we start weeping into our desk when you give it.

True marketing people know that we don’t have all the answers. Consequently, neither do you, but more often than not, your feedback will make our work better. Even if it stings. So never, never hesitate to give it to us.

4. When we cry “WHY?????” after you say “This doesn’t work for me”, we really do want to know, and we are expecting you to give us real reasons. Even if it sounded like we’re begging a higher being for mercy. 

This is what’s happening in our heads, all in the space of about 3 seconds:

“Oh, God, they have the proof, they’re gonna say they love it. No, moron, they’re not. They’re gonna hate it. Quit it, loser, they will probably like some of it…oh god. They hate that line. They are SO WRONG. It’s perfect. Why can’t they see it’s perfect? They’re just being difficult. Damn it, why can’t I find a job where people understand my brilliance?”

2 seconds later: “Oh, Jeez. I’m useless. I’m terrible at this. How have I managed to fool everyone into thinking I know what I’m doing? Maybe I haven’t. Maybe they just humor me because they feel bad…”

1 second later: “Dammit, they’re probably right. It’s not right yet. Dammit. Now I have to try to figure out what’s missing and fix it.”

This will run on a repetitive cycle in our heads for a moment or two, so just move on to #3.

3. Don’t let our initial hostility to the feedback freak you out.

We try really, really hard to take all feedback with graciousness, but sometimes, after all our work and a lifetime of people saying “have you thought of this?”, it’s not possible. Today, I had a colleague tell me that the words I had AGONIZED over weren’t right. It hurt. It stung. This colleague was super-wonderful and said “Well, why don’t you think about it overnight?” and I snapped back, “I don’t want to think about it. It’s good enough as it is.” Luckily, this colleague is also my friend, is awesome, and she knew I was just being pissy (at least I hope she knew). She let me rant, and then we settled down to figuring out a better solution.

2. When we say “It’s good enough” – we don’t really mean it. 

It’s a blow to the ego when you put what you think is your best work into something and it’s not good enough. But if we are worth our salary, we will come around. We will brainstorm and nitpick and brainstorm some more and we’ll come up with another idea, another phrase, another concept. Granted, they all might not be good. They might be so bad that we start laughing and can’t stop, and that will make it all better. Eventually, we’ll sober up, put on our big girl panties, and get it done.

1. Even when we all think we’ve got it absolutely, totally, finally, at last, completely right, someone out there will give it a fleeting glance and tell us it’s wrong. 

Sometimes, we’ll start over. And sometimes, we’ll ask that you trust us.

And that, folks, is what it’s all about.

Carpe Diem

Whoo-eee, friends, has this blog post been a roller coaster. I started off with a gentle, wistful idea of trying to explain how I feel about Boston right this very moment, and then, before I could type one character, my facebook feed exploded in a mournful wail at the news that Robin Williams has left us.

It was a howl of grief from me and everyone in my generation, give or take a few decades. Some grew up on Mork & Mindy;  I don’t remember it, but my grandma loved it – she named the ducks that hung out at her house after it. For me, Robin Williams was the Genie; that dazzling, just-on-the-edge of sanity performance that defined animation in my time. He was Mr. Keating, blowing my mind with quotes from Whitman and the New England literary greats , teaching a generation of would-be poets like me to seize every. single. f-ing. day. He was my go to golf video (bad language alert). I loved Hook. And Good Will Hunting. And Mrs. Doubtire. And The Birdcage. And oh gosh, how could we forget Good Morning Vietnam!?

I got to see him live on Broadway.

I remember reading an interview about him once, where the author alluded to the fact that Robin Williams was at his best, comedically, when he was at his most manic. I remember thinking that was awful, and wondering how long he could maintain such ups and downs. I guess we know the answer now.

So, in my usual “I can connect anything to anything” style, here’s how this fits with my thoughts on Boston.

I grew up in New England, and unlike most, my family worked our assess off in the summer at our tourist-driven business. I don’t remember really experiencing summer in New England. I remember having it, but mostly I remember waking at 6am to start a 6:30 shift and coming home smelling like the deli.  Maybe I’m getting older and more sentimental – I’m sure of that, actually – but this first Boston summer feels…precious somehow. Like all around me, everyone is squeezing every last drop of sunny, breezy, low-humidity goodness we can out of each day. I find myself lingering on the patio in the morning as I let the dog out, not wanting to go back inside; Sadie has to be cajoled to come back in the house. Everyone is picnicking, walking, running, beaching, and hiking as if time for such things is limited, and I suppose it is.

It wasn’t until I heard the news of Robin Williams that I realized it’s all about two words: Carpe Diem. Because life is short. Sometimes far, far too much so.

RIP, Mr. Williams. I hope that you made God laugh at the pearly gates. In fact, I’m sure you did. I hope every day up there is the equivalent of a beautiful Boston summer day.

Punched in the gut by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, pictured above with Louis Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (and shamelessly borrowed from the From the Top facebook page).


“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”  – Maya Angelou.

Seriously, y’all. Is that not the most incredible quote about music you’ve ever heard?

When my colleague shared the fresh-off-the-twitter presses news that Maya Angelou passed away, I actually let out a little whine…or maybe it was a moan. Regardless, it was a sound of dismay and instant belief that heaven, a place that, when I’m at my most rational, I’m not sure exists, had welcomed a new grand dame. And I was instantly seized by the most amazing imagined tableau.

My grandma has been on my mind lately, as, prompted by #YesAllWomen and other such discussion, I ponder this concept of “women” and how we should be working for change in this messed up and messy world. Maya has not been my mind.  Not until that very moment, at least, but she should have been. Anyway, I instantly pictured them, in matching rocking chairs, looking down on me. My Grandma would say to Maya, shaking her head with fond affection: “Good grief, when is that girl going to catch herself a man?” and Maya would say something like “You leave that girl be, Stella, she’s doing just fine.” – and they would debate my relative merits and lack thereof and end up hooting with laughter before too long.

This is a pretty detailed scenario for a psyche that hasn’t had Maya on the brain in a while, at least since she was supposed to make an appearance at the library in my former town. At the time, as I watched the drama of her appearance being announced, of tickets selling out in seconds, and the dark side of supposedly enlightened people coming out as the social webs exploded in outrage over the lack of tickets, I idly wondered why I felt such love for Maya when I wasn’t sure I’d read more than that one book we all read in 9th grade, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. For the record, Maya cancelled that appearance because of bad health and wrote probably the most amazing apology letter ever. With thanks to Sarah, you can read it here.

Full confession: I don’t remember much about that book. It didn’t rock my worldview and change how I saw myself. But Maya Angelou, the woman, the cultural icon…she is a fixture in my own memories of growing up. I couldn’t tell you anything else that she wrote; I know she read a poem at President Clinton’s inauguration (thanks again to Sarah’s post, I saw the video). But beyond that? Apparently she was just THERE, in my head, in more ways than I knew.

I know this because there are quotes popping up on facebook, and each time I read one, it feels like a physical blow, one that pushes my stomach muscles back toward my spine and forces the breath out of my lips in a reverent “puuff”. A little ache stabs my heart, because the quotes chastise me, or so perfectly capture how I feel that it hurts. Just a bit.

Not everyone loved Maya Angelou. It’s important to remember that. But she left us with issues to ponder, demons to wrestle with, and lots and lots of quotes to make our facebook feeds more inspiring.

So here one that is making the rounds that many of you have heard, but is pretty stunning in its truth:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And this one, which many of you probably haven’t heard, and which I feel might be the best piece of advice EVER for managers:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Sheesh. I might have to tattoo that one on to my shoulder or something. Thanks to Laurie for sharing it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find some Maya Angelou books to read.