We rented a car on Saturday and loaded it with Matty and Leeloo, then drove the hour plus up to Easton, Connecticut to pick blueberries at Stu!’s parent’s house. They live in an old farm house that her grandfather was born in, and in the back are a dozen enormous blueberry bushes that produce amazing organic fruit. Ages ago, her parents made these goofy/awesome coffee can holders with string that holds them around your neck for picking, and after dinner the four of us marched out to the bushes to get to work. As we picked, Matty, Leeloo, and Jack – her black lab, and my dogs’ oldest friend – wove themselves around our ankles, and Jack showed my two how to pick berries for themselves right off of the dog-height branches. Emily and Stu!, of course, are friends from high school, who knew me way before I was cool (stop laughing!) so it was fun to hang out with them and show Marley off to some of my old friends.
After we had our fill and added some wild raspberries to the mix, we caught fireflies in a jar and watched them light up the yard for a while until mosquitos got us, and then had some sort of invented dessert that I think was pretty close to blueberry shortcake, with blueberries from their yard from earlier in the season and homemade ice cream.
The whole evening felt like someone mending the sail of a sailboat, sewing small tears up in my soul. Between the root canal, lots of weddings, tons of places to be all the time all over the City and a scary medical procedure*, it was a long month, and it was so good to be still, and quiet. There is almost nothing more magic to me than late July in New England. Or friendship.
Thanks, Emily and Stu!
*Story forthcoming. Spoiler: I’m fine.
Yesterday, Marley and I slipped over to City Hall in Manhattan and registered as domestic partners. In New York there isn’t a tremendous amount of benefit to doing this, in fact, the one reason we went for it was that we initially thought I could go on his health insurance and stop paying for my Obamacare (which is wonderful), but it turns out that’s not the case with his company.
Still, by the time we found this out, we were so excited that we did it anyway, even though one of the sole benefits is that now if we rent a car with certain companies, we can add each other as a second driver without paying a fee. There are other (vastly more important) legal benefits, too, the most important being that if one of us is in the hospital, the other can visit as family.
It’s not marriage – I’m not ready to be married; I’ve just stopped reeling from the dissolution of the last one, and it doesn’t feel like marriage either. It’s mostly just a statement: I’ve got you, no matter what. That’s pretty excellent.
p.s. Can we have a conversation about the excellence of my hair in this photo?!
This week, Valerie has been staying with us. She’s pretty great; this is what it looks like when she smiles.
She has got to be one of the coolest people I know; she didn’t have a passport until age 25, and then decided to be a world traveler. Now she’s got almost 30 countries under her belt. My couch is her last stop in the US before she’s off to Machu Picchu.
I laid low this week. I’m not going quite as far as Val, but I’m gone all weekend photographing weddings in New England. I basically stayed within a few blocks of my apartment, got out of pajamas only when strictly necessary, and recovered from my root canal treatments… and I launched a company, like, no big deal.
Someone posted about this fantastic Washington DC company on my Facebook page, and I thought, “Brilliant. Exactly what I’ve wanted to do for ages.”
I immediately began planning to do something similar, and it spun off quickly into a wedding collective of vendors who can serve eloping couples. I’m excited to see what becomes of it, and will share the website soon. In the meantime, if you’d like to be a part of it, send me an email to amber at ambermarlow dot com.
For the past week I’ve been dealing with a wicked root canal. My sleep bruxism began in childhood and continues today, but I’ve only worn a mouthguard regularly for a small amount of time. The years-long unguarded grinding took its toll on one tooth in particular that sits a little lower and gets hit a little harder than the others, and I had to root canal it.
If you hear your children grinding at night, please get them a night guard.
The full story is boring, although it involves me standing in the dentist office after coming back from a wedding I photographed, still carrying my camera backpack, nearly screaming at them to do something to help me because I was in so much pain. (I feasted on a handful of Advil to get me through, and the photos ROCK because I AM A PRO AND I GET. IT. DONE.)
They ended up having to send me to a specialist that charged me more than my first car and left me with a swollen cheek so that, on one side, I look like a freckled Kanye West.
This weekend is going to be low key, and I think a massage is in order, right? Yes.
Happy 4th of July weekend!
S’mores are always on the summer list around here.
1. Get a drivers license. My Connecticut one expired on my birthday in March and because I don’t have a car, I never bothered to get a New York one. I *think* I can take off for a weekend upstate and take a drivers test in rural New York instead of trying to pass a test in NYC traffic – right? In which case, I have a dear friend in Rochester who I’m overdue to visit anyway.
2. Un-stick. I’m in a business slump, and I’m not quite sure how to fix it. Elopement inquiries are down this year, and I’m not working like I used to be. The clients that I have are lovely and amazing, but I wish I was shooting more. I’m also trying to Purple Cow a bit more. I read this book when it came out in 2003 and was so inspired, even though it would be years at that point until I started my business. Thankfully when I did start, I had these brilliant ideas internalized which made me much more fearless and daring that I would have been otherwise (if I get a chance, I’m going to hug Seth Godin so big!), and I’m re-reading it (on Kindle this time; my original copy has long since disintegrated).
3. Take the dogs swimming. We used to go to the lake when we lived in Connecticut, and I have so much guilt that I haven’t taken them since moving. They love it, especially Leeloo. Matty just likes to stand in the water for a little bit up to his “knees”.
4. A friendship bracelet party. I’ve done this two years running and still have loads of string left over, so I’ll be telling everyone to just bring a bottle of wine instead.
5. Go to the beach. There are tons of lovely beaches so close to the City, and I want to go swimming at them. Since moving here, I never have.
6. Stay put! I’m done with travel for now, unless it’s for a gig. I’m already planning an October trip to Palm Springs, though. There’s no Camp Mighty this year, but it just wouldn’t feel like fall without a trip to the Ace Hotel. Do you want to go, too? Email me, and we’ll coordinate. I’m finally going to Joshua Tree, too, and I can’t wait to show Marley where so many inspiring conversations happened for me.
7. Berry picking. My old friend Stu! has blueberry bushes in her backyard in the middle of the Connecticut woods. I’m going to pick them, and then I’m going to make a pie.
from Marley’s homewarming party in the backyard on Friday night
It’s a less of a mess in my apartment – our apartment; I’m not used to saying that yet – and it’s looking good and feeling homey. We’ve found places for most of our things, and pared down, and gotten rid of extra, and bought new things to fill in the gaps. Marley came with a king sized bed that technically fits in our tiny bedroom, but barely. We went back and forth for a bit, and ultimately couldn’t resist replacing my queen with it. It is glorious. I bought all new white bedding, and we’re doing the European “duvet cover and fitted only” thing, since Marley, otherwise extremely generous, steals top sheets in his sleep no matter how much I tuck. I am aggressive when it comes to defending my sense of “home peace” so instead of fighting it I switched the bedding, and now we sleep peacefully.
“Duvet only” was how I slept when I visited Berlin in April, but I was worried it would be weird permanently. However, after one night we agreed it was perfect,”Like sleeping under a meringue” he said.
Speaking of “home peace”, I also very quickly realized that we cannot share a tube of toothpaste. I have a neat, roll-and-binder clip method, and he does the “squish from the middle” thing. (Shudders! The horror!) Toothpaste, of all things, was sure as shit not going to turn into my hill to die on, so we just bought two tubes, done and done.
Sheet stealing and toothpaste squashing aside, it’s been fantastic. We’re settling in, and everything feels cozy and wonderful and exactly like it should, and I am happy.
Something unexpected happened to me this weekend: I shot a big wedding and fell in love. Although I am most noted as being an elopement photographer, there are a few larger weddings under my belt since 2011. I loved the photographic results from these larger parties, but the evenings after left me feeling drained and had me executing an end-of-day self-baptism into a very large glass of merlot. I gave them up.
Last Saturday, I second-shot for Kelly Prizel in New Haven, CT. Second-shooting is where there is one hired photographer, and that photographer selects a colleague to come along and shoot with them. We met up together right before the first look (where the couple sees each other all dressed up for the first time), and I stayed until the end of the reception.
Something clicked for me then. It was amazing and wonderful; by the end of the night I was tired to the bone in that fantastic way you only get after a job done well. I want to do more, with second shooters this time as a matter of course. The one I did do with a second shooter in 2012 was one of the best days of my career. It was a “big queer barn wedding” in Massachusets, and Leslie Fandric was with me. It was epic levels of fun and gorgeous, but at the time, I wasn’t ready to take on a large wedding business. (If you recall, 2012 was a bit challenging.)
In addition to being inspired to do more larger weddings here is a nearly-complete list of all the things I learned:
Sock buns. I know Kelly’s hair is as long as mine – just past our shoulders – and curly like mine, too, so I was side-eying her perfect doughnut shape and wondering how she got it. She spilled the beans: there was a foam thing in there! I already ordered one for myself. It’s displayed in the photo above, and you can see a silhouette of it on Instagram.
Canon’s 70 – 200 mm lens. It’s a big, intimidating lens which I thought no place at a wedding. It’s the lens wildlife photographers use to get shots up animal’s nostrils without getting into “lion snack” territory. It would be almost totally out of place at an elopement. But at this wedding, for me, it made taking sneaky dance floor photos easy, and I snapped so many fun shots of people without having to shove my camera up close and making them self-conscious.
Veil swirling. Kelly had the bride play with her dress and veil, shamelessly having her twirl and “swoosh” it around. Of course it felt a little silly, which is why I tend to avoid asking people to do it, but then the results were SO worth it (and I only got to see back-of-camera on a tiny screen!). I’m going to start asking my brides with veils and slinky dresses to flounce them around a little. I was able to see how Kelly asked for this in a way that made it sound not-ridiculous, too, which was helpful. Plus, it was fun!
I’m not weird. There are two things I do when shooting a wedding that I always thought were odd. One is that I get so into posing people and thinking about the shot that my ability to form coherent English sentences leaves me for a few beats. At one point Kelly smiled at me and said, “I lose the ability to speak.” and I totally got what she meant. The other is that I get giddy over beautiful light. Kelly was “squee”ing at the sunset, and so was I.
“Sunseeet! Wooooahhh! Yeah!” We were both so goofy over it, and then laughing, because we totally understood how magical those last few golden moments of the daytime are. We got the bride and groom out into this magical light, and I can’t wait to see the results.
Anyway, I’m now shifting gears a little as I daydream about 2015. More big weddings for me! I want to build on my business the same way I always have: with authenticity, sincerity, and honesty. Now I have that little seed in my heart says I can, that I’m ready. It’s such a good feeling.
One of the best things I’ve bought for myself is this travel wallet from Kate Spade, which is currently on sale for $99.
Leaving your house when you live in NYC is like traveling: you’re completely self-contained until you get where you’re going and can put your stuff down again. In between point A and point B, everything has to stay in your hands and on your person, instead putting your cargo in the trunk, your purse on the front seat, and your iced coffee in the cup holder. It was a huge adjustment when I first moved here, but I got good at taking everything I need with me.
This wallet was the first major switch. It holds 17 credit cards, my passport, a pen, and has lots of room for different currency, receipts, and important pieces of paper. It also opens like a paperback, so I can unzip it as I run down the subway steps, hold it half-open with one hand like a book while I slide my MetroCard out, swipe through the turnstile with my other hand and glide through, and then tuck my MetroCard back in and zip as I step into the subway car. It’s one big, efficient movement I’ve managed to perfect, and I will shamelessly admit I feel super cool doing it.
After a year, the zipper came off. Biana pointed me the aforementioned Kate Spade sale and I was tempted, but brought it to my local shoe repair shop instead. In five minutes, and for the five dollars I insisted on paying him, he had it good as new. My grandmother will be proud.
“Do you know what it’s like to have everything look good on the outside, but feel wrong on the inside? To do be doing everything right, and still not feel satisfied?”
Uh, yeah. In these two sentences at the very beginning of her TEDx talk, Britt Reints manages to sum up what a lot of people walk around feeling at some point in their lives, myself included. Happiness is is a hot topic now, and she offers a refreshing, practical view of the pursuit of happiness that doesn’t feel preachy over overwhelming. The best part for me is that she offers up a way to build your OWN path instead of giving you a list of checkpoints.
She wrote a book about the topic, too: An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness. It’s a short, uplifting read mixed with a lot of humor that offers clear-cut steps for navigating your own path to happiness.
p.s. You can read Britt interviewing me here
Leslie Fandrich is a multidisciplinary artist, blogger, photographer, creative and interesting thinker, and fantastic friend of mine. Yesterday she posted an article about me on her blog, and it makes me sound smart! Thank you, Leslie!