Give Your Gift

I firmly believe that each of us are talented in our own special ways.  It may be the gift of an artists touch or the ability to carry a tune or an eye for composition. I also believe that each of us should share our talents in ways that help out others.  Recently, I had the privilege of sharing my photographic talents with a special group of young ladies in the Annapolis area.

In the spirit of the project created last year called Help Portrait, myself and two good (and talented) friends Guy Stephens and Matt Rath connected with a group called the Eastport Girls Club.  First, a bit about the Girls Club – they’re a grassroots mentoring program for girls in grades 5-12 who are living in public housing communities in Annapolis, MD.  Their mission statement reads:

To provide young women facing challenging issues within our community with enriching experiences and mentoring relationships that promote self-awareness, the attainment of individual goals, respect towards self and others, and a willingness to explore and serve the world around them.

Our goal with the project was simple – to shoot portraits of each of the girls, get them printed, framed and have them ready to present to their Mothers / Grandmothers / Guardians for Mother’s Day.  More than that, it was to make each girl feel as special and beautiful as they really are for a day.  This video that Matt produced from the shoot explains the effort much better than I can in words:

So, in February we scheduled the shoot and showed up with a heaping pile of lighting equipment, a bit of a simple plan and a lot of hope for a fun time. I must admit that I went into the shoot with some trepidation, not knowing how a group of 5th to 9th graders would react to getting their photos taken by a couple of strangers. Any fears I had were quickly erased by the smiles and laughs of each of these special young ladies. Before long, we had them mugging for the camera like a bunch of seasoned models.

In early April, I had the young ladies pick the photos they liked and had them printed and framed.  Shortly after at a Mother’s Day dinner, each girl presented their framed photo to their loved one. 

Smiles equal success in my book. Find your special talent and share it with others. It benefits everyone involved.

24-May-2010 | Photo News & IssuesPhoto Shoots | 0



I have to admit that hearing the alarm go off for an early morning shoot isn’t always easy, even when you know that you’ll be rewarded by the solitude of a world just waking up. Almost every early rise is worth the effort, but some provide that little cherry on top that life throws your way every so often.  Last Wednesday was one of those mornings for me.

I dragged myself out of bed at 5:45 am, on vacation no less, to make an early morning visit to Botany Bay, a 4,700 acre refuge on Edisto Island in South Carolina where two plantations once stood. In the pre-dawn glow, I made my way down the long dirt road to the entrance through tunnels of live oaks and spanish moss.

After about ten minutes of winding and weaving though maritime forests and marshes, intermixed with fields of summer corn, I made it to the parking area for the beach walk just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. I parked, lathered myself up with bug spray and sunscreen and began down the path to the beach crossing some of the most expansive marsh I’ve ever seen. Imagine miles and miles of vibrant green marsh grasses bisected by tidal guts filled with scurrying fiddler crabs and oysters exposed by a low tide.

I continued down the path into a small section of forest so thick and lush that I could have just as easily been in a Hawaiian tropical rainforest instead of South Carolina. I observed a great egret perched high up on the branch of a tree, preening itself. Off to each side of the trail and overhead were spiderwebs with golden-silk spiders. Eventually, I emerged onto a undeveloped, wide white sand beach covered with thousands and thousands of shells. This was reward enough for getting out of bed early, right? Things got better.

As I started hiking up the coastline, I noticed a group of people just up ahead occupied by something on the sand. As I got closer, I began to realize that I was about to observe one of nature’s rare gifts - sea turtle hatchlings making the trek from their nest out into the ocean. Five small loggerhead turtles slowly inched down the beach towards the surf. Typically, this journey can be full of many dangers from predators such as shorebirds, foxes and racoons who are looking for an easy meal to impediments such as deep trenches from tire tracks. These five turtles were lucky to have a group of guardians to watch over them.


Eventually, the turtles made it to the surf and slipped away one by one into the sea. I wish them the very best on their continued journey. With a lot of luck, some will make it back to Botany Bay one day to lay eggs. The odds are heavily stacked against them. Seeing their struggle, which only begins with this perilous beach crossing, made me appreciate just how easy we (humans) have it. Getting up early? Well, it’s really no hardship after all.

Note: many kudos to the legions of folks, mostly volunteers, that get up early morning after morning to check on nests and help these little guys safely make their way to the ocean.

16-August-2009 | Photo ShootsTechniques & Tips


Smith Island

Smith Island

In October, I finally had a chance to arrange a trip to Smith Island for a quick overnight stay. For those who aren’t from the Bay region, Smith Island is a collection of three small barrier islands just over 10 miles off the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, near the town of Crisfield. One of the most storied places in the entire region, Smith Island is known for its people, who have been living on the island and working the waters of the Chesapeake, generation after generation, for over 300 years.

I’ve been curious to visit Smith for a long time, both for the scenery, which includes one of the greatest collections of working Bay boats in the entire region, as well as the people, who are as uniquely Chesapeake Bay as steamed blue crabs and Old Bay seasoning. Although visiting Smith Island today is different that it was even ten years ago, given the influx of "come here’s" who seek a taste of small town America, the island still retains the flavor that has been described in many books and documentaries, including Tom Horton’s An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake.

Perhaps the most intriguing (and famous) characteristic of the people of Smith is their dialect. It’s been compared to dialects such as Elizabethan, Tidewater English and even Ocracoke Brogue, each of which I know nothing about. All I can say is that it adds a mystique to the island and makes it one of America’s most unique places. My one evening on the island, I sat quietly eating dinner while soaking up the conversations going on around me and enjoying every second.

If you’re thinking of visiting Smith I highly recommend bringing a kayak. I brought mine along and was able to circumnavigate the island, exploring the many marshes and harbors around the island, as well as making a quick trip up to Martin National Wildlife Refuge at the north side of the island. I also suggest bringing a GPS unit of some variety if you’re traveling by boat. The islands that make up Smith are a maze of tidal creeks and wetlands that can be quite easy to get lost in, provided you make a wrong turn here or there.

From the ferry trip over to Smith on the Captain Jason II, which only cost $30 roundtrip (including transporting my kayak) to the accommodations at the Ewell Tide Inn (whose proprietor Wayne made me feel right at home), my trip exceeded every expectation.

For a sampling of many of the photos I took while at Smith, visit my Smith Island section.

15-January-2007 | Photo Shoots