The Amber Show

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travel

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Finding My Thin Places

I’ve been thinking recently about “thin places”, a concept described by New York Times writer Eric Weiner as “…locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, as I like to think of it, the Infinite Whatever.”

He also addresses the disappointment pilgrims have felt reaching a designated “holy space” and finding it is NOT thin after all for any number of reasons. I myself, as a secular person, don’t have a Mecca or Jerusalem to sojourn to, so – like all of the happiness I’ve gotten in 35 years – I’ve had to uncover them unexpectedly. It was nice to read this article (now five years old) for a bit of validation.

My thin places have been floating in the middle of the lake in a row boat with two friends, sprawled on a hot beach in the shade on the backside of a remote beach in Nicaragua, and this afternoon, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but not while looking at any of the art. My friend’s baby, passed to me to hold while she put her baby carrier onto her torso to go home, pressed his head to my cheek, and I was immediately and unexpectedly in a thin space for that moment of time. She laughed kindly at the sudden “spiritual awakening” brought on by her squirmy, drooling kiddo. It was there when I was picking blueberries at a Stu!’s parent’s house in Connecticut, and during the sunset off the coast of Barcelona in Mallorca, which I watched with my chin in the crook of Marley’s arm, and which my friend Amanda took a photo of, and which I am extremely grateful to have.

I’ve been to Paris three times, and it’s not there, at least for me, but it was fun watching other people experience it being thin. It was not in Dubai- fun but not thin – or in Bali, even though I expected it to be.

(In other news, I have a lot of blogging to catch up on.)

Where is thin for you? Have you been disappointed by expecting a place to be thin that wasn’t, or found a place that was unexpectedly? I’d love to hear.

 

 

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A Letter from a New Friend

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In November, Marley and I landed in Kuala Lumpur, planning to take a short connecting flight to Chiang Mai to begin a trip to the Elephant Nature Park. We missed that connecting flight and couldn’t fly out until the next morning.

Resigned, we checked into the Sama-Sama Hotel next to the airport. I immediately threw on my swimsuit and headed to the pool, where I met an older Australian woman traveling by herself. We had the most wonderful conversation, and after baths, we had wine and appetizers in the hotel lounge together, exchanged mailing addresses, and then parted ways the next morning, to go off to different parts of the world.

She sent me a letter, which arrived last week when I was in Mexico.

Isn’t this the loveliest?

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life list

Life List: Visit Joshua Tree – Check!

This year has been my year to just Be. I’m not getting married or divorced or buying or selling real estate or moving or dealing with my dog dying or running around trying to find my place in this world or working on losing weight or changing my name yet again or struggling to build a business or dealing with any sort of drama or… anything. For the first time in years. 2016 has been my year to just Be. I took that to mean “travel”, I guess; since the beginning of the year, we went to Maui, and then I went to Paris and Dubai, and Nicaragua, and we just got back from Palm Springs, and we’re going to Malaysia and Thailand in a few months, and I haven’t been blogging ANY of it, but oh man. I have some photos.

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Last week in Palm Springs was a photo workshop, and Marley joined me for five days after it ended. On our list for certain: Joshua Tree. After several years of going to Camp Mighty in Palm Springs and never making it the 20 miles or so over to the park, I finally did, and I was so glad I got to go with Marley for the first time.

On Sunday, we headed there just at the tail end of the sun being high in the sky. We drove for miles, stopping to get out of our car frequently to take pictures of the Joshua Tress and plants and rocks. We stayed to watch the sun sink and the heavenly bodies to emerge: first Mars, Saturn and Antares in the usual place just as soon as the sun dipped down, then five, then ten, then a million at once. There were meteors, too. I’ve never seen stars like this.

Shout out to the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs for loaning me the pool robe, which is perfect attire to see Joshua Tree in. Paired with their provided in-room walking stick and my own scarf-turned-headwrap, I was perfectly dressed to be a freckled, enthusiastic cult leader.

p.s. We made a playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/theambershow/playlist/32LOCNwQ45gbtfJSkJVryX

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Travel Snacks

When I was little, I promised myself that I would occasionally let myself go to the toy store as an adult and just get anything I wanted. The obvious flaw in this plan is that I don’t care about toys now, but I modified it based on something my friend Elizabeth Clayton does: when I fly, I let myself buy whatever snacks I want. Price and calories don’t count at all, and it is super fun when you’re in Terminal 5 (this terminal is part of the reason I’m such a devoted JetBlue customer).

In reality, I never spend more than twenty dollars, which is a pretty great price for something completely thrilling. Even more so, because we generally don’t keep snacks in the house.

Above is what I got for my flight. (It was $30 because I got a sandwich.) It’s all vegan; I’m not even a vegetarian  but buying airport meat seems like such a fucking bad idea.

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Thoughts on Traveling

My trip to Europe was so amazing. I had no idea what to expect and was so nervous about trying to navigate three countries, three cities worth of sight-seeing, four flights, one international train ride, and two time zones, all with only one carry-on piece of luggage, and all in nine days. It worked out though.

London was because flights to Heathrow were relatively inexpensive, and I figured it was best to start exploring in a city where I spoke the language. I spent two days there adjusting to the time change and wandering around the northern part of the city which felt like Brooklyn. I ate in pubs mostly, and didn’t do any exotic dining. I also spent a lot of time in my impossibly tiny hotel room. It felt luxurious to lay in bed, five floors up, and listen to the street noise below.

Berlin was for fun. Two summers ago I had a brief-but-passionate fling with a musician who scuttled off to Berlin; it was nice to catch up now older, wiser, and less charmed by dashing but inappropriate lovers, even if they do play the saxophone. My favorite part was shopping up and down Kastanienstrasse and exploring the neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg where I rented a room from a gay guy almost my age – we gossiped about boys and his apartment was absolutely gorgeous. I promised to show him New York for his first visit.


Paris was for girlfriends. It was Esther’s 30th birthday, so four of us met in an apartment for four days, and there were fancy dinners with too many desserts, lots of girl talk, countless bottles of wine, and TONS of shopping, of course. We were also shameless flirts – after eating at the low-key, super delicious Au Passage one night, we sneaked into kitchen to thank the REALLY sexy Australian chef James Henry.

It’s me!

On her actual birthday, we took the train out to Versailles. The museum is closed on Mondays, so we explored the gardens on foot, via golf cart, and on bicycles. The weather was perfect, the bicycles were perfect, the light was perfect – it was magic. When I am looking over excellent days in 2014, this will for sure be in the top 10. Esther was radiant. You know how I feel about birthdays, and I got completely choked up after midnight when we began celebrating hers. Don’t laugh! Ok, laugh. I’m completely ridiculous.

Important lessons learned:

It’s not that hard to not speak the language. Lots of people I encountered spoke some English, I wrote addresses down when I needed to communicate to cab drivers, certain menu items are easy to spot using context clues, and by the end of four days in Berlin I was able to order coffee the way I wanted (side note: German seems not that hard to learn for English speakers, and I plan on trying). Pointing, trying to pronounce things as best as possible, and saying thank you  a lot got me pretty far as well. Also, most people are nice, which goes farther than anything.

Wandering is my favorite way to see cities. I did research on certain neighborhoods, as well as certain Tube/Métro/U-bahn stops (depending on if I was in London, Paris, or Berlin) and got off just to browse. It made me want to do this in New York, too.

Cheap airlines aren’t always worth it. Berlin to Paris was the worst. I left out of a crummy airport in Berlin far from where I was staying. My flight was early so I took a cab, and my carryon luggage was less than 1 cm too large, but they made me check it for a huge fee (meanwhile, my luggage was 1.5 kilos overweight on the oh-so-wonderful Virgin Atlantic, and they let it slide). In the end, I would have spent just as much flying out of the better, closer airport at a more decent time.

I want to go back to Paris next year, and now that it’s spring (kind of – it’s still so chilly here!) I want to go do more fun stuff in New York, too.

Asking flight attendants to make sure you don’t miss any snacks works! During both trans-Atlantics, I woke up every few hours to discover treats laid nicely on my tray table to eat at my leisure, and my seat mates and I exchanged dinner orders just in case.

Also, I do like traveling by myself, at least partially. I think if I were on a beach laying around I’d be bored, or if I traveled solo for weeks at a time I’d be lonely, but this was just about right. Staying in an Air BnB home with the host present was helpful, too.

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Travel For One

Boys’ feet in Berlin

Hello from Europe! I’m in Berlin now; before I was in London for two days where I just barely brushed paths with blog pal Sarah as she was coming into London and I was going out.

Solo travel is odd, and I’m not sure I like it. It has obvious perks like being solo navigator and doing whatever I want, and downsides like having to be solo navigator and constantly having to come up with new things to see and do instead of doing that thing where you’re traveling with someone else and they say “I really want to go here” and you say, “Yeah, sure, OK, I guess.” and go along with them, and it ends up being more fun than anything else you would have thought of.

Remember back in 2010 when I said I wanted to see every Brooklyn-like neighborhood in the world? For London, that’s Hampstead (among others, I’m sure), which I loved exploring. (I just took the tube to the Hampstead stop and began wandering, which worked out alright.) I found dogs, cute shops, and a pub that felt similar to my favorite bar in Brooklyn, which served me real English beer . Eventually I’ll come back and see the tourist things, I’m sure, but… I’ve seen them on TV, you know? Seeing Buckingham Palace this time around wasn’t my speed.

Now I’m in Berlin, staying in Prenzlauer Berg, which also feels like home.

Have you traveled alone? Did you like it? Any tips for Berlin, and Paris, which is next? (I’ll be with girlfriends there.)

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Honest Boudoir

honest boudoir

I struggled so hard naming my boudoir company, and thank you so much for your input. Kinky Peach was a strong contender for a while, and I hope someone uses it for something, but as it turned out, all of the naughty, sexy, cheeky words felt wrong.

I’m calling it Honest Boudoir. The name has less sizzle and kick than the other ideas, but speaks to the message I’m trying to send. It’s not airbrushed, or judgmental. You can show up with hairy armpits, or chubby thighs, or dressed as a boy – or actually be a boy. You can be a couple, too, or gay, a person of color, or a “masculine of center” woman, or covered in tattoos. You can be nine months pregnant, six weeks postpartum, or fifty years old, and there will be room for you to be whatever “sexy” looks like to you.

As I said, right now, it’s strictly an art project. I’m not taking any money for portraits, and I’m going to fit it in with my regular work schedule.

My goal is to shoot on location in people’s existing spaces, both to save money and because I like the idea of doing a boudoir session in your own space or fun hotel room you’ve picked out instead of a studio.

I’m obviously usually in New York, but I’m traveling to Europe a bit at the end of next month. I’m also going to go to Milwaukee, WI as soon as it gets warm, and I’ll likely be in LA soon, as well as San Francisco at some point sooner or later; they can’t keep me out of that town for long. In the meantime, if you have friends in London, Berlin or Paris that would like to take photos with me, send them to my website and ask them to get in touch. My dates are:

London from 28 – 31 March

Berlin from 1 – 4 April

Paris from 4 – 8 April

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Amber Marlow, Destination Wedding Photographer

nyc destination wedding packages

I spent the back half of last week in Rinòcn, Puerto Rico, where I photographed a wedding on Saturday. It was the first in my “no travel fees” destination wedding photography special I’m running in 2014 and it was AWESOME. I stayed in a cheap motel by the beach that was within walking distance of the private residence the couple had booked, so my “commute” was wandering up the sand for about 500 yards. I shot their wedding barefoot.

It was magic. The weather was flawless every day, the people were amazing, and the views… oh my goodness. Puerto Rico is shaped like a rectangle with a “nose” pointing out of the west side. Rincòn is right on the tip of that nose and is mountainous, so when you go up into the hills, you can see the sea in a 270 degree view, and because it’s on the west, the sunsets are glorious. Plus, there were pelicans, and watching them fish in the evening was exciting.

It feels lucky and amazing to call this my job. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know my background is that I come from a blue-collar family that discouraged dreaming big. My parents told me at one point that I should be a postal worker, and when I pointed out how boring I would find that, they said, “Who cares? You’ll always have a job.” So to travel by plane, even just three hours away, and photograph someone’s wedding on a beach is so huge for me.

Go dream big, friends.

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No Fee Destination Weddings

One of my goals for the coming year is to shoot more elopements and intimate weddings around the world. I’m daydreaming about Europe, Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean, romantic winter elopements in New England, rustic weddings in Colorado, and desert weddings in California. I have no idea how one gets started doing something like this, but honestly, I had no idea how someone gets a career like mine, and now I just… do it. So I’m just doing this, too.

I’ve driven and flown to other parts of the country to shoot weddings before and had my overnight accommodations/airfare/car rental comped, which is normal, but I haven’t traveled that much. So, to make hiring me for this a fantastic bargain – and to get a few destination weddings under my belt – I am waiving all travel fees for 2014. The only catch is that it has to be 200 miles outside of Brooklyn, and I’ll get myself there on my own. I have a few thousand dollars from the sale of my car sitting in a savings account, and this is what I’m going to do with it.

My accountant was like, “Whaaaat?”, but I’m really excited. I’ve got no idea if this is anything that I can actually pull off or not, but if I fall flat on my face, I’m fairly certain I’ll be ok.

Is this nuts?! Wait, don’t answer that.

If you know of someone getting married somewhere fun, feel free to send them my way. My professional website is here, and they can use the contact form to get in touch.

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