On a Personal Note

My partner in life is the reason I’m able to do everything I want to do professionally and then some. He has given everything for me, starting with endless encouragement and support—by which I don’t mean the monetary kind (we both work long hours in unforgiving fulltime jobs). Whenever I am discouraged, he catches me before I stumble too far into the abyss. If I’m overwrought by doubt, he quietly reassembles the pieces of my shattered self-esteem.

I grew up in a family where humility—bordering on trepidation—was stressed. On one hand, I excelled academically; on the other, I had to time leaving the house with our neighbors’ activities. It was like being stuck with a bowling ball in hand, always waiting for players in the flanking lanes to roll first. A cross look from a friend or random passerby could send me reeling for days: How did I offend them? Should I apologize? For what?

My husband is my pragmatic antithesis. He shrugs off the jabs carelessly lobbed by others just as fluidly as I reach for my paranoia pin. He never judges me—aloud, at least—even when I’m wearing a shirt backward and inside-out or continually buying boots online that ultimately don’t fit (runner’s calves!).

I have friends who too quickly dismiss everything from the movies in which I express interest, the cities in which I live, and to my unconventional career path. They’re the people who walk into your house, rap on your furniture, and ask, “Is this real wood?”

At first I thought I was being overly sensitive—entirely plausible—but the more I listened to the naysayers, the more I realized that some people simply enjoy looking down at the world from their mighty soapbox. Whereas I for one would rather spend my days looking up at the world, unfettered by the hard ground of negativity. Fortunately for me, my husband makes two.

A dazzling sunset over my former suburb


And We're Back

Golding Pearl Improved No. 11Knocking on woodAfter months of chipping away at unpacking, we finally faced the task of piecing together the cast-iron parts that comprise the Challenge cutter and Golding Pearl. Now the press flywheel is spinning, and the studio is back to work with several projects waiting to hit the press.

Needless to say, I couldn’t have put the pieces back together without my husband. I’m a big believer in gender equality, but when you’re up against a half-ton of metal, I’ll take all the muscles I can get no matter which box is checked on the Census form.

Left on the to-do list: Oil the gears, sort furniture, fit a new draw sheet, order some plates, mix some inks, and print!


The Shootout

I am a Nikon shooter while one of my dearest photographer-friends shoots Canon. While Nikon and Canon users often riff on each other on everything from lenses to color rendering to the crispness of the shutter click, the “joke” most of us understand is that the quality of images depends on the photographer, not the equipment.

Which is why, a couple weeks ago, my heart started pounding when my friend and I had an informal shootout at our mutual friends’ wedding. We both had as much gear as we dared carry to a wedding that we weren’t shooting. He sported his new 5D Mark III and what I’m guessing was an 85mm f/1.2L-series (showing my Canon ignorance here), while I clung onto my D700 and 50mm f/1.4.

We had several couples hungry to model for us outside the Grand Rapids Art Museum in Michigan. “Choose a spot,” he instructed to me as they scattered, waiting for further direction.

I surveyed my options: concrete building, concrete plaza, and strong, setting sun. My friend quickly staked out a spot at which he had taken a photo of my husband and me just minutes ago, where the light was soft, subjects backlit, and landscape verdant. I sighed and directed a couple in the opposite direction: a concrete wall with sunlight reflecting off the pavement—and spontaneity—as my only hope.

In the end, our images illustrated that we shot what we each knew best. He captured softly-lit images of couples standing in formal poses. I shot the couples in more risky lighting, semi-photojournalist style. The images aren’t my best work, but the experience helped me start thinking faster on my feet, decked out in a pair of 3-in. high heels.

 Aptly Noted wedding photograph  Aptly Noted wedding photograph


What Jasmine Star Didn’t Say

Like thousands of people, I’m a huge fan of Jasmine Star. Doubtless her photography is beautiful, but she even acknowledges other photographers can produce similar images. What does distinguish her is not her Cinderella tale of photography success or her social media empire. Rather it’s her authenticity, spirit, and ability to resolve, reveal, learn, and laugh at her own missteps and obstacles that cause clients and photographers of all backgrounds and interests to flock to her websites everyday.

Jasmine is beyond the popular girl; she’s the popular girl who’s savvy, passionate, modest, and hilarious. You can’t even talk smack about her to make you feel better. Instead, she’ll give you the tools herself to make you better—in photography, business, marketing, and your craft.

On Mar. 8, I attended her D.C. stop of her national tour, The Fix. The event combined networking with fabulous photographers from D.C. to to London, England (!), dishing out pointed business advice, and Dr. Phil-like sessions for audience members brave enough to reveal their ruts.

Many people have blogged about what they learned from The Fix; below I share nine takeaways that Jasmine Star didn’t say in words but through actions and attitude:

  1. Humility and humor are priceless; a self-deprecating joke can do wonders to warm up a reserved audience.
  2. Why be normal when it’s the outliers who stand out?
  3. Always challenge and question yourself; others will, so you will at least be prepared.
  4. Help others; the top is only fun with others around you.
  5. If you have great images—and great arms—show them off!
  6. We’d all be international photography stars if the road to success was smooth. Cling on to your camera straps.
  7. If the stage goes up in flames, the show can still go on when you have amazing support staff.
  8. Kindness begins with a smile.
  9. Photography is tiring and all consuming. You bet you’re worth $$$.

Jasmine Star--The Fix taken by Aptly NotedThe Fix in D.C., Mar. 8, 2012


Plunging in after years of wading

I’m guilty of having a placeholder website for more than two years now: the kind that is just one fixed page with no place to go. As our house and studio are literally packed around me (DC bound!) and with an upcoming fabulous photography networking event in the near horizon (J*The Fix in DC), I thought it was now or never.

Work has been my longstanding excuse. Since founding Aptly Noted, I’ve continued to work full time and freelance in communications and journalism. Stationery design is just one of my many dream jobs, which also include magazine editing (my current work) and photography, which I suspect is everyone’s dream at some point in their lives.

When you don’t put yourself out there, you don’t have the weight of failure on your shoulders. You can blame your lack of success on a crappy website or non-existent PR. But entrepreneurs must be willing to fail. Failure isn’t the worst thing in the world; not trying is worse.