Snow is in the Eye of the Beholder

Here in Idaho, we rang in the New Year with a series of snow storms that brought 40+ inches to some areas in the mountains and even blanketed the ground here in town. As weather is often low hanging fruit for small talk, I was asked multiple times what I thought of the snow. “It’s awesome!” I’d say like a wide-eyed child getting his first peak of presents under the Christmas tree. Most often the questioner would respond with a look of confusion and disgust, sorry they had even brought it up. I quickly remember that not all have been enlightened by the joys of fresh snow and that my coveted flakey precipitation is not welcomed by all. 

It is not as if I don’t understand the costs that come with winter weather. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, snow storms were a mixed blessing. Winter systems meant the potential for canceled school and the chance for full days of hot laps on the sled hill. Before we were allowed to hit the hill though, there was another slope that had to be taken care of – the driveway. Our driveway was not a nice paved cul-de-sac square that took ten passes with the shovel. Rather this gravel drive curved uphill 120 yards from road to garage. In what seemed like hours by 10-year old standards, my brother and I would dutifully assist my father in clearing the driveway shovel load by shovel load. Chores done we’d return to the house for a quick pick me up of hot chocolate and then it was off to the sled races until the light got too low.

As is the case in other aspects of life something happens as we get older and we lose our childhood zest for falling flakes. It is as if we forget what it is like to have fun. Sure there are the down sides to snow – cleaning off cars, shoveling, sketchy road conditions, and extra layers of clothes. Yet there is a segment of the populous that not only accepts these realities, they wait for it year after year with bated breath. Stand at the base of any ski hill the morning after a big snow storm and you’d think world peace was achieved as complete strangers nod to each other with ear to ear smiles as hoots and hollers echo down the slopes. Show me a skier (or snowboarder) on a powder day and I’ll show you the fountain of youth.

I recently found myself in such a scenario after several systems brought much needed feet(s) to the mountains. As we drove closer and closer to the resort, the snow piled higher and higher. Parking the truck we joined our fellow visitors in the transition to ski mode, donning boots, extra layers, helmets and goggles. As we stood waiting for the shuttle, you could feel the anticipatory energy buzzing. With every second that ticketed by heads would turn wondering when the shuttle bus would arrive and whether the walk would really be that far. Not soon after we were boarded and talk switched to the days plans for where to go first. Unloading at the main base area we quickly grabbed tickets, buckled down the boots and headed to the lift. As we caught the first chair I thought I might need a seat belt to keep me from bouncing out I was so excited. My head darted left and right like a kid in toy store “I want to ski that line, and that one, AND THAT ONE!” I laughed and told Dana “Okay, I need to calm down, otherwise I’m going to hurt myself on this first run.” The snow whipped as we unloaded the chair, gathering our friends we skied down into the shelter of some trees. What laid before us was run upon run of deep beautiful snow. We shot each other a quick grin before bounding into the blowing snow. Almost instantly I was transported back in time, the snow and wind biting my grinning face as I picked up speed through the soft powdery snow. Almost uncontrollably I let out a “Yeeeeeeeeeoooooot!” as I carved a hard turn, my skis pulling me down the mountain like dogs after a squirrel. Stopping to catch my breath (and control) I turn to find my friends sliding up next to me, the looks on their faces in as much disbelieve as mine. Is it really this good? Yup, like the first spoonful of your favorite ice cream.   

Monday morning my walk into the office was a little bit slower, my quads still sore from a day of powder filled runs. As I fire up the computer and take a long sip from the coffee mug, I catch snippets of background conversations. As expected most revolve around morning commutes, weekends spent shoveling, and generally hunkering down in the house to avoid the winter weather. Through the morning fog one of my co-workers walking up to my cubical comes in to focus. “Man, how about that snow? What a headache that was!” I raise my head slowly from my coffee, a cheshire grin crosses my face while replays of the previous day’s laps swirl through my head. I know the response my co-worker is expecting, but I can’t oblige and simply reply “Yeh, it was awesome”.

Let’s Review

To say this is a business would be a liberal use of the word. If by business you mean passionate hobby that I like sharing with others, then yes, it’s a business of sorts. As a “business” I thought I’d share a Year-in-Review. The past few years I have written a year in review for my life as a whole. I find it to be a great time to reflect on the previous 12 months which usually pass at warp speed; to think about what I’ve accomplished, what I didn’t get to, and how I can be a better person. Year in reviews are a great way to set the stage for the coming year and I find them to be way less disappointing than New Year’s resolutions. So I figured now that Crescenti Imaging is a business, why not do a year-in-Review specifically for it! So grab a cup of coffee (you’ll need the caffeine), recline the Barcalounger, and let’s get started with the 2019 Crescenti Imaging Year in Review.

What Worked

2019 was actually a pretty exciting year photographically speaking. In the year(s) since finishing at Rocky Mountain School of Photography I had been considering and building towards starting a real estate photography business. Why real estate photography you might ask? Well, for one I have always been drawn to the design aspects of architectural photography. More importantly at the time of consideration, it was practical. I know what you are thinking, I have since had the same thought…and I’ll get there so bear with me. I was taking all the steps I thought I needed to –learning techniques, acquiring the necessary equipment, practicing, building a business model. As I plotted along Studio Boise, a local community photography studio held a photo contest that included a gallery showing and public voting. I submitted two landscape photographs that I had recently taken and was excited to hear they had been accepted. It is such a great feeling to see your work in print and hanging on a gallery wall is even better. The show was great and I was excited to have friends and strangers see my work. I did not win the contest, but to my surprise I sold both prints! Wait a minute, people will pay for what I am creating? It felt like in the cartoons when realization causes the characters brain to explode out their ear. 

With that big shot of enthusiasm and excitement I pushed aside the idea of real estate photography from the proverbial desk and laid out a new map.  What I have always been drawn to and really wanted to shoot is landscape and outdoor photography. So why hadn’t I? Why did I go with practical? Well for one it’s in my nature, but that is a story for another day. I saw outdoor and landscape photography as an overcrowded space with little or no hope for my work to get recognition. I would say that is still the case, but for some reason the gallery showing and print sale made me realize it didn’t have to be this big perfect amazing business, it just had to be my passion project. Thus in 2019 Crescenti Imaging was born.

What Didn’t Work

To me, an important part of creating meaningful photographs (and art as a whole) is to be able to identify your voice. As one of my favorite photography teachers David Duchemin describes “voice is what you say and how you say it. It is how you make a photograph that is not just better, but yours”. To me your photographic voice is what gives you direction and focus in your work. I know, this is getting a little heavy, but it’s true. Without a photographic voice you end up selling random over-saturated HDR prints at the craft fair or make the same bird-eating-out-of-your-hand-under-the-Milkyway shot in Iceland that everyone else on Instagram has. So did I find mine? Not exactly. Turns out this artistic omphaloskepsis journey takes time and really can’t be rushed. I suspect in a Mr. Miyagi lesson sort of way it comes to you after hours and days of cleaning windows and painting fences.

As part of the voice finding process, I have begun to identify the types of images that I want to make. When I look through some of my favorite photographer’s work and those that have been most impactful on me, it is ones that tell a compelling story. Which leads us to the second part of what didn’t work. You see storytelling requires characters and while characters can be implied or in canine form they by and large are people. For me, people means interaction, which means anxiety. Not so much the personal interaction, but more the interaction of taking photographs of people. This requires me to overcome a heavy dose of imposter syndrome, which is apparently harder than it sounds. It’s pretty silly when I think about it. What is the worst that could happen? Pretty much nothing, yet it is still a struggle for me. Unfortunately, that means I missed out on a lot of story ideas and making photographs I really want to be making.

New Year New Ideas

What excites me the most as I continue on this photographic journey is creating images that tell stories. This might be one image or several in a series, but all of them connected by a common storyline. If you are reading this (Anyone? Bueller?) I’ve tried to generate about one blog post a week on a variety of random topics. Usually the posts I wrote were paired with existing photographs that I had in the catalog or were written in response to images I had recently create. Next year I will pair these posts back, probably about one a month in an effort to be more intentional and to give myself enough space and time to craft stories that marry together the words and images. Certainly not the best approach from a business perspective, but to me it feels way more authentic to the images I want to create than optimizing my SEO for Instagram.

One of the biggest thrills for me this past year has been seeing my images in print. While the digital medium is convenient in many ways, prints just have a way of bringing a photograph to life that even the highest resolution monitor cannot. The selection of paper, image size, and mounting or framing are all elements that can further enhance a photograph. So this next year I want to print more images and find more ways to share those final prints; whether it is the local coffee shop or a private showing in the basement with the dogs.

Finally, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts I’ve recently returned to exploring the world of film. The film medium requires so much more thought and energy than the AR-15 shooting style that can be accomplished with digital, but the reward of a final image created with film photography (printed of course) is so much greater. I’m not going full on bespoke with my photography, but I do intend to reconnect more with the medium of film photography.

So there you have it, the Crescenti Imaging 2019 Year in Review. If you are still conscious, thanks for reading and can’t wait to show you what 2020 brings!

Cyclical Sanity

Another cyclocross season in the books – thank God. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By that definition I would say racing cyclocross is certifiable. For those of you not familiar with this niche sport, allow me to provide a brief overview. Cyclocross is a form of racing in which you ride what looks like a rode bike around a variable terrain course that include dirt, mud, grass, sand, steep climbs, steep descents, stairs, lots of turns, and the occasional barrier or two. The objective is to complete as many laps as possible in a timed window- usually 40-60 minutes in length while jostling with other riders. The sport originated in Europe (See: Way pre-mountain bike era) as a way for road racers to train in the off season, is most popular in waffle-consuming countries, and takes place in the fall/winter timeframe. 

For those who have never raced cyclocross before the experience is, well…unique. Essentially you red-line for 45 minutes while trying to keep your eyes uncrossed so that you can finesse your bike around that off-camber sandtrap and keep it rubber side down. Once you look up and realize you made it all the way around the course, you get to do it again! And again, and again, and again, until you hear the sweet sound of the last lap bell. 

My description of course is somewhat embellished (not really) and there are many riders that have a much different experience – namely those who are actually fit and ride their bikes year round. You see cyclocross attracts a lot of road racers and cross-country mountain bike racers, both of whom prioritize training miles way more than I do. While I do mountain bike, I opt out of the heart-rate monitors and hardtails. Jealous? Yes, because these guys finish a lot faster than I do, which means they don’t have to suffer as long. I always make it a goal to finish on the lead lap, I have to admit that when I’m deep into lap five or six a small part of me hopes that the leaders come whizzing by so I can stop my free fall into the pain-cave.

It is the suffering that binds us together though, we racers of the insanity. Whether you are racing Cat 1s or stopping for beer hand-ups, cyclocross is a sport that forces you to find your limit. It is what is commonly known as type-II fun. The kind of fun you have during the post-race beer with friends laughing about the fifth time you fell or that hill you started to roll backwards on. It’s the type of fun where later you go through in your head and think about how you could have taken that turn better or how you ended up with course tape wrapped around your cassette (Most likely the turn you didn’t make). Cyclocross is the type of maddening fun that you not only do voluntarily, but decide its worth doing the next week and next season. 

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