Hudson Valley Portrait of Sandy Saunders, Gentleman Farmer in Garrison, NY
Hudson Valley Portrait Photographer
I logged into my Facebook yesterday and the above photo popped up in my memories. It is my first professional photo as a Hudson Valley portrait photographer. It is one of my all-time most favorite photos. Seeing this photo again got me thinking about other photos that I cherish and my varied career as a Hudson Valley portrait photographer.
Most people may know me as a Hudson Valley wedding photographer but my work is not inclusive of weddings. Over the past seven years as a professional Hudson Valley portrait photographer, I have photographed tens of thousands of people. I have done fashion photography, farm photography, school photography, charity event photography, bar mitzvah photography, corporate conference photography, headshots, aerial photography, children photography, street photography, documentary photography, food photography, editorial photography, commercial photography, family photography, studio photography, on-location photography and of course many weddings.
My diverse range of photos has been featured in three books and in the pages and on the covers and in the pages of various magazines. I like all types of photography. Really.
I find challenge and merit in everything I photograph – whether it is a magazine cover or a child’s school portrait.
The photo above is a portrait of a local gentleman farmer, Sandy Saunders, in his field and on his antique tractor. I adore this photo. This portrait represents many firsts for me. Not only was it my first portrait as a Hudson Valley portrait photographer but it was the first time I used artificial lighting on my own. This photo was also the first of many portraits I made for the Hudson Highlands Land Trust book, “Connecting: Celebrating the People and Places of the Hudson Highlands.” I adore this photo. I think it perfectly depicts Sandy. Also, everything just seemed to come together in the frame – even the clouds cooperated. I cherish this photo. It hangs in my living room.
However, my most favorite portrait was taken a few years before I became a professional photographer (below). The photo depicts a friend’s niece at her Communion party. This was my very first intentional portrait. This was the first time I assessed the light and asked a subject to move. I love the light in this photo. I love the girl’s stare and the way her hands are folded. I love the monochrome colors and the balance. Yep, there is something a little deadpan about this photo. Yep, some viewers will forever hate this photo. It throws some people off a bit. I adore it. It is my MOST favorite. This also hangs in my living room.
COMMUNION DAY PORTRAIT
As a student at the International Center for Photography, my submission for my first class assignment was the below portrait of my friend, Fredrika. This photo was taken at The Garrison, a local Golf Course, and event venue. I had run into Fredrika at a fundraiser the night before and was floored by her spectacular appearance. So, I asked her if I could do a portrait of her in this same outfit later in the week. I am so happy she agreed. I love the wallpaper print behind her and the light from the large window.
At the International Center of Photography, I also started a long term project photographing couples eloping via justice of the peace at various city halls across the country. This was a terrific documentary portraiture project. It very much changed me in many ways. This photo project placed third in an international photo contest. You can read and see more about this project here: City Hall Weddings
A LONG TERM PHOTO PROJECT DOCUMENTING COUPLES ELOPING AT CITY HALLS ACROSS THE US
While photographing at a horse farm for the Hudson Highlands Land Trust book, I discovered the below outtake of Lily and her horse. I sent the photo to Chronogram magazine on a lark. I was floored when they asked to put it on their coveted cover, April 2015, and featured me in a short video.
APRIL 2015 CHRONOGRAM MAGAZINE COVER
My career as a Hudson Valley portrait photographer then turned towards freelance editorial photography work for regional magazines. I adored doing the photos for Chronogram Magazine’s Community Pages featuring a different city each month. It was great wandering the Hudson Valley in search of photos for each community’s feature. Going out in the world exploring new places with my camera is what I cherish the most as a photographer. My work with Edible Hudson Valley magazine was also very satisfying as it connected me with many Hudson Valley farms and farmers. The best was when I rolled up to a meeting with a wedding couple smelling like cow dung having just left Edible Hudson Valley shoot. Luckily the couple understood and still hired me to photograph their wedding.
CHURCHTOWN DAIRY, FOR EDIBLE HUDSON VALLEY MAGAZINE
One of my Edible Hudson Valley assignments led to a second book featuring my photos, Raising Pastured Rabbits for Meat, published by Chelsea Green press and authored by co-owner and farmer, Nichki Carangelo, at Letterbox Farm in Hudson, NY. It was an honor to help this hard-working farmer out and spend time on their farm again.
LETTERBOX FARM, HUDSON, NY
I do enjoy long term photo projects. This past year I was particularly grateful to be commissioned to photograph, 13 gardeners in their gardens across the US for the national not for profit, Garden Conservancy. My portraits alongside another photographer, Brian Jones, fill the resulting large format softcover book, “OpenDays25: A Quarter Century of America’s Gardeners and Their Gardens,” that was published in June 2020. This book celebrates the 25th anniversary of Garden Conservancy’s beloved Open Days program. This project was a hoot to be a part of. I wrote a blog detailing my experience with this photo project. Gardeners and Landscape designers are really cool gracious people and it was a treat to be in their worlds for a bit.
A PAGE FROM THE BOOK “OpenDays25: A Quarter Century of America’s Gardeners and Their Gardens,”
In 2019, I turned my attention to family photography for the first time. I was never fully satisfied with the few family sessions I have done and kept family photography at bay. However, something finally clicked when I starting approaching my family session as I would a wedding – naturally and loosely guided. Quite unexpectedly, I find that my outdoor family photographing is jiving with many folks and has really taken on a momentum of its own. I am so grateful for this in the time of COVID when almost all my 2020 weddings have moved to 2021.
FAMILY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
Weddings are by far the most challenging photography I do. I immensely enjoy being a part of such significant moments in people’s lives. I also love swirling in the chaos of a wedding day. However, the challenge is in the rigor, intensity, and pressure of being ready to photograph anything, in constantly changing scenarios for hours – while remaining technically sound and also creative. Also, being hyper-aware of the vibe at all times. It is intense. However, I find the challenges of wedding photography deeply satisfying and my wedding work has no doubt enhanced me as a Hudson Valley Portrait photographer.
Above all else, no matter what I am photographing, I always start with a base of good light. I hunt for light, then simply put my subjects in it and then work from there. Light from me is the difference in all great photos.
Yes, my knowledge of photography and especially light has grown tremendously over the years but I still get anxious before every session. I see a blank frame that I have to fill with light, composition, and connection – and wonder how I will make something out of nothing? I don’t think these anxieties will ever go away fully. Fuck. Being a photographer is intense. However, today I want to acknowledge that I did it anyway. I remember crossing the Brooklyn bridge in 2010 after photographing at the Brooklyn City Hall and the Avet Brother’s Song, “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”, popped on the radio. It chimed, “Decide what to be and go be it”. That lyric just made sense. I knew what I wanted to be, and I just had to go be it… and well, I did. I am grateful to be a Hudson Valley portrait photographer.
ELOPEMENT IN COLD SPRING, NY
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