Tuesday, August 31, 2010

International Friends Profile-Nick from England

  Today I present the photos and story of my friend Nick from England.  England is a place I have been drawn to since I was a child and in 1996 I did finally make it there, specifically to London for a week in the winter. I have always been fascinated with the history, the castles, the accent :), Brit Pop music etc. I would very much like to go back again in the near future to see more of the countryside, get to know some locals and of course  photograph the heck out of it!
   Nick, as you will read has led a very interesting and full life and he says there was quite a bit that he left out!Nicks photo shoot took place in downtown St. Petersburg on a very warm day near the boats as sailing is one of his favorite past times. And now in his own words.....

                                                     Nicholas Lavelle  
  A major contrast for me, between the UK and the USA, is that I grew up surrounded by history dating back to ancient times. I was born in Abingdon (home of MG cars), near Oxford, England and grew up just South in Newbury http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newbury,_Berkshire  on the intersection of two old Roman roads, in the village of Speen, an old Roman encampment (Spinae). Speen was the site of Second Battle of Newbury in the Civil War, 1644. See link http://www.speen.gov.uk/vds/village.htm
  In England there are so many old ruins and buildings that are many hundreds, even thousands of years old. My younger sister was married in Speen church that dates back to Saxon times and is still used today. As a child I played on and around Donnington Castle built in 1389 and Stonehenge; no fences or guards back then. It just sat on the side of the road as it had done for thousands of years. Newbury is built on a site that was first settled in the Mesolithic period (pre 12,500 BC). It has two open markets each week, granted by rare Royal Charter. When I was a child there was also a cattle market which I used to ride my bicycle to see all the animals – it was safe back then for me to do so.

  I went to primary school (ages 5 to 11) in Speenhamland famous for Speenhamland System of 1795 and highwaymen. See link http://www.historyhome.co.uk/peel/poorlaw/speen.htm  My secondary school (ages 11 to 18)  was founded in 1466, St Bartholomew’s School for Boys. We wore school uniform with cap (boaters in summer), tie and blazer. I was the last boy to wear short pants at age 13. A public school in England is anything but public, being very expensive and private, and St Bart’s had been a public until the 1950’s when the local authority gradually transitioned it to a state school but retained established traditions. St Bart’s had a Cadet Corps of Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and ultimately, as the senior cadet in the Royal Navy, the senior service, I became the Senior Cadet of the Corps. I was the first (and maybe only) one ever to have completed the Royal Marines Corps, Commando cadet, green beret, training. I was two months shy of my sixteenth birthday.

  After 10 yrs in London I met and married a US girl who was bartending at a local pub in Europe to find herself. She found me instead. We moved to Chicago in 1986 so she could return to University of Chicago. We separated shortly after but I decided to stay and begin a new life. I have achieved and learned so much that cannot be quantified in objective terms, as a direct result of the opportunities that the USA has to offer. This not only includes my education or professional life, but importantly my personal evolution and in ways I believe would have been impossible for me had I remained in England. Not least of which is that I have been sober since Friday 13th of March, 1987. This truly is the land of opportunity (and second chances) unlike anywhere else in the world that I have seen. It is hard for people who grow up here to appreciate how precious this is, or what it is like in other countries, even in Europe let alone the Third World.

  I have always been an athlete and represented St Bart’s in every sport they had. I played soccer until I discovered rugby at age 8 yrs and played until at 29 I moved to the USA; playing for my schools, colleges and three clubs. I was even given the opportunity to play professional Rugby League but declined because of the strict non-professional policy then in force for my sport of Rugby Union. I played blind-side flanker in school (Nick the Neck) until a serious car accident at 17. Then at college and club levels I played “hooker” in the front of the scrum; its own little war within a war. I loved it and still do. I competed in the US Triathlon National Championships in Las Vegas, rowed competitively in UK and US. I love running, racquetball, yoga, martial arts (boxing, Tae Kwon Do, Shotokan, Tai Chi & others). I swam and played water polo competitively. I especially love sailing and raced in England and France before I came to the USA. I now have a number of sailboats, powerboats, fishing boats, windsurfer and a couple of older motor-homes. I plan on spending some time on the water and going to see the parks and natural beauty in Florida and US beyond.

  I delivered evening newspapers at age 10 then became a baker from age 13 to 18. I have always loved to work with my hands and have restored/remodeled cars and houses in England and the US and was even a race-mechanic for friends who raced cares in UK. I have degrees from English colleges in Business and Accountancy and an accounting degree from De Paul University in Chicago. As an accountant I was a Chief Financial Officer in my mid-twenties and an investigative/auditor (now called forensic accounting) and have done criminal investigation and litigation support. The most satisfying accounting work though, has been management accounting helping businesses understand their own cost and profit structures to maximize use of resources particularly in manufacturing and construction industries.

  I have been massaging since I was a teenager and finally took the plunge to do so professionally in 1999 and have now been a professional massage therapist with my own practice ever since. I have developed my own modality of “intuitive, heart-centered bodywork”. The philosophy behind it is founded on the belief that “innate in every organism is the capacity to heal itself”. The very energy that created us will help us heal and we can help others to experience it and to heal.  Few people have ever experienced their own life force but it is within the capacity of all of us to do so - if we are willing to allow it. I am founding a teaching institute and developing a series of training programs to teach my method to other therapists and physicians. To the best of my knowledge I am the only person who works the way I do and I want to spend the rest of my life practicing and teaching what I have discovered.
  I have studied many different forms of healing from all over the world over the past 30 years from sport & clinical massage to many of the more esoteric forms of healing. I have studied with some very strange and wonderful people from China, India, Israel, New Zealand, Greece, Korea, Eastern Europe and parts of Africa as well as other countries along the way. They all have helped me develop a gift that is innate in me. I want to pass this on to as many people as I can for as long as I am able. My life has been so blessed with adversity and joy that I am so grateful to have had the experiences that have brought me to this point in my life.

  I grew up in a highly political family and the dining room was a debating chamber, if you had an opinion you had better be able to defend it because you would get jumped on to support your position, even as a small child. My parents believed vehemently in social justice and my father advocated a United Europe before most people in UK knew what it was.All of these ideas, religion, economics, politics, and philosophy were all fair game for the dinner table debating society.
  The USA is still a very young nation with a wonderful naivety and enthusiastic idealism. However it seems that often that which it espouses publicly is not necessarily what it practices privately. The USA is constantly growing and reinventing itself like no other nation can. It is the first nation others turn to for help and the USA is rarely slow or meager in its giving. I fear its citizens do not yet fully understand the tribal nature of the conflicts in which the USA gets involved and truly believe that other peoples will play by the same rules that the USA sees as just. They do not because blood is thicker than water and fear is the most powerful enemy of all. Love will ultimately prevail – eventually!

  When I first came to the USA it was much more of a culture shock than I expected or had experienced in other countries in Europe. I believe that this was in part because of the expectations created by a “common language” that in many respects is not so common after all. Many of these differences have been very amusing such as people listening to the way I was speaking rather than to anything I was saying. There have also been a few instances where I have been cruelly misheard.
  All my family still live in England and travel extensively. My brother is married to a Chinese Malaysian woman and has two children. My older sister has two children from a marriage to a Moroccan man. My younger sister married and an Englishman, also with two children. In the end, as a first generation immigrant, my fondness for the gentility of the country of my birth grows stronger. I miss being able to communicate with common childhood reference points that are not shared with those raised in the USA. I miss the British sense of humor and silliness about anything that may have a “naughty” innuendo or is just plain funny as life often is. After 24 years in another land I realize I will always be an Englishman and never truly belong here, though this is where I choose to stay. But I also understand that I can never truly go home because I am now so different and the place I left no longer exists. We have both changed and I don’t think I can ever successfully go back to live in England. . This was an interesting realization, one that I had not anticipated at all. France, on the other hand, now that is a different story.
  In all of this I find myself in the land of opportunity – a place where dreams can come true – where we can all fly or fall to earth according to own willingness to stretch our wings and take a leap of faith. I do wish at times that there were more of safety net to encourage those who want to learn to fly. The greater the risk however, the greater the reward, and a safety net would reduce the risk so one could never truly risk it all.

Thank you Nick for sharing your story with us!
To see larger version of these photos and a few more go to:

Friday, August 20, 2010

International Friends Profile-Tanya

     Today I am thrilled to post the first in a series of what I hope will be many 'International Friends' Profiles.
A few months ago I discovered this group of people through meetup.com.  I have already made many new friends attending their 'meetups' and am hopeful that through this project will get to make many more. The group is made up of people from throughout the world who are now living here in the Tampa area. I have discovered it is filled with a wide variety of interesting, spirited and kind people.  As I am interested in traveling and learning more about the world and other cultures with my camera, this project seems to be a good starting off point. The first profile, appropriately is of the woman who created this group Tanya. Here in her own words she tells you about herself and the group she created. Photos were taken at the beautiful Phillipe Park in Saftey Harbor, FL.


About International Friends:
'International Friends' of Tampa Bay is a friends network for foreign expats and American-born locals sharing international interests. Founded in July 2008, this group attracts foreign expats, as well as people with an interest in meeting new people, traveling abroad, experiencing new cultures, and speaking foreign languages! We have a few hundred active members and several social events per month. Most of our events have international flair, ie. foreign films, ethnic restaurants, cultural festivals, tea shops, dancing. The Tampa Bay Area is booming with foreign nationals, naturalized citizens, and admirers of various cultures; and International Friends is a microcosm. It's a great group for those wanting to meet friends from every corner of the earth. Check us out at meetup.com/InternationalFriends

                                     What Inspired Me to Start the Group...

I founded the group "International Friends" to meet interesting people in the Tampa Bay Area! I have always appreciated all things international. I've studied various foreign languages and hold Associates and Bachelors degrees in International Studies. I speak and write French, Spanish, and Serbo-Croatian. I know very little Arabic and would like to learn more, as well as American Sign Language. I've tried learning American Sign Language in a group setting and found it rather difficult. Just like anything else, it takes practice!

                                                     My Background...

I am bi-national and come from an international upbringing. My father is a Kabyle who emigrated from Algeria on a scholarship. He worked as an Electrical Engineer and instilled in us strong family values. Kabyles are a Berber people of northern Algeria inhabiting the Atlas Mountains on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. They are the original, indigenous people to inhabit the Maghreb. Their native language is Kabyle, which has its own unique sound. My mother's side has deep American roots, mainly Swiss, German, Dutch, and English. Originally from Virginia, she was a splendid mother with an affinity for international things; tremendous language skills, a true citizen of the world. I am a product of those two unlikely worlds colliding! :)

I was born in Connecticut and raised in northern New Jersey.  I'm a dual citizen of the USA and Algeria and have been to Algeria, Tunisia, Canada, France, Cozumel (Mexico) and Serbia/Yugoslavia. I would love to do more traveling to just about anywhere! But I'd really like to go on an African Safari in Tanzania/Kenya to see elephants and lions enjoy their natural habitat, as well as Costa Rica, Australia, the US Virgin Islands, Peru, England, Trinidad, Morocco, Egypt, Romania, Turkey, Argentina, and the Dead Sea...to name a few! LOL

                                           My Interests, My Passions...

Other interests include card games, magic tricks, classical piano, running, Salsa dancing, kayaking, coffee shops, helping animals, and ethnic foods. My favorite food overall is Vietnamese and Thai! Seafood is the only meat that I consume and Vietnamese/ Thai food just seems to offer the greatest amount of delicious and healthy options!
I love ALL animals, but these hold a special place in my heart: Bears, raccoons, opossums, tigers, elephants, feral cats, and Chow Chows! As an animal advocate, I am against any animal exploitation, ie. circuses, fur trade, rodeos, hunting, etc! I am also passionate about women and children's rights around the world and putting an end to human trafficking.

                                    What I Like Most About International Friends...

I have met so many wonderful people since the inception of International Friends. The members are what make it such a great group. I'll admit I did put a lot of effort into this group, but the rewards have paid off in spades!

Thank you Tanya for helping me to kick off this project! You are beautiful and very kind!
Joining this group has helped me in ways I would never have predicted. It is very inspiring to experience people
from such diverse backgrounds having a good time . If only the whole world could be this way!
Stay tuned each week for a new International Profile.
To view more (and larger) photos from this session please go to my SmugMug site:
Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!
Stephanie :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Personal-Finding my Way

It has been a long journey for me, one that is of course still unfinished but I am astounded by the progress I have made. Moving to Tampa from Maryland after a very difficult time in my life, pursuing my degree in Digital Photography, and conquering some demons I never thought I could conquer. And yet the last 2 years have also gone so fast! Yes on September 15th I will have been living in Tampa for 2 years!
Since finishing school and starting up my business a few months ago, I have been struggling to figure out exactly what kind of photographer I want to be. My website and business cards describe me as a Portrait/Pet/Wedding/Event photographer but somehow this rather generic description has not sat well with me nor do I find it very inspiring. I am not a fan of the generic. Our culture/landscape is now permeated buy strip malls which contain the same stores wherever you go. Most restaurants are chains, you have to hunt for unique, quality food. Then there are the chain photo studios-don't get me started on them. The media-enough said!
Yes I very much want to photograph people, and also animals, and especially people, animals and nature in unique places, many of which I have not yet traveled to. I want to connect with the people I photograph and present their stories and dreams (or sometimes let them tell these in their own words) here along with their photos. This in itself is amazing as for a very long time I was very shy about meeting and talking to people. There was no rational reason for this, it was simply 'the way I was' and I accepted this even though it made me miserable. I guess I needed something drastic to happen to pry me out of my shell and it finally happened! I will not say I am all the way out but I am getting there!
Before moving here I mostly photographed animals and nature because they did not make me nervous. It amazes me how few photos I have of some of even my oldest friends and the ones I do have are snapshots, nothing original really. So now when I look at the portraits I have taken in just the last 9-12 months I am astounded by how far I have come. I cant take enough photographs of people now and I feel I get better with each session I do. It is amazing how much the human face can change, due to expression or emotion in just a few seconds.
There is a lot of doom and gloom out there, the media seems to enjoy focusing on the worst people and events in the world. However there are many unique interesting people out there, people who are doing well now, or are pursuing dreams like I am and will do well in the future. There are amazing people places and things all over our world, many of which are never covered on the travel channel. I would like to seek out these people and places, focus on the positive good people and things in our world.
So where do I start. This brings me to the announcement of a project I am starting this week. Recently I discovered the website meetup.com. If you haven't heard of it, it is a site where you can find groups of people with various things in common who 'meet up' I highly suggest it to anyone looking for a way to get out and meet people and really wish I had known about it when I first moved here(FYI it is a nationwide site). Anyway after joining some photography related groups I searched under 'travel' as that is something I am interested in and found a group called 'International Friends' it is a group made up of people who have moved to the Tampa area from all over the world and the U.S. as well. I have never met so many new friends so fast in my life! It is so wonderful to see so many people from so many different places get along so well. Belonging to this group has inspired me to want to photograph and interview a different member each week the results to be published here on my blog. The first person I will be featuring is the beautiful Tanya, who came up with the idea for International Friends. I hope to have her photos and story up tomorrow. I had no idea when I signed up to join this group how much fun it would be or the positive impact it would have on my life. Despite the way it seems sometimes there are a lot of good people out there, it is better to get out and try to meet some of them then to sit around doing nothing! Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Engagement-Stacey and Greg

October 2nd I will be phtographing Stacey and Greg's wedding. This past weekend I took engagement photos of them, some of which will be used in their guest sign in book along with some old photos of them growing up.

Stacey and Greg have been together for five years. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met and I am really looking forward to their wedding. For these photos we traveled to Lake Seminole Park in Seminole, FL. We have some really nice parks here. This one has not just one but at least 3 lakes. I saw at least as there are parts of the park I have not yet seen. Even though I have now lived here almost 2
years I am not yet tired of seeing palm trees everywhere. I loved the reflection they threw onto the lake on this summer evening.

I love mixing things up when I edit at shoot and doing some black and whites, somehow it gives this wonder moment a more timeless and classic feel.

I also love cool little bridges like this little on going over a stream. Just something fun and romantic about them. The Spanish moss hanging from many of the trees doesnt hurt either.

Love this!

We started to lose light fast but still got in a few more fun photos.

Suddenly we looked over and saw how completely amazing the sky looked over the big lake. Yes these are the real colors of that sky! This, one of the last photos we captured before having to get out of the closing park is my absolute favorite. I love silos and this is just so classic!
Congradulations Stacey and Greg. The wedding will be here before you know it!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Practice Shoot Fred Howard Park

Last night I traveled to Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs to join a modeling/photography group I belong to to shoot some models. I always have a good time at these sessions they really make you think on your feet as you dont have a lot of time. This seemed especially true last night as we started at our usual 7 o'clock time and it is now getting dark a little earlier.
I had the opportunity to photograph two different Models. I had an assistant and fellow photographer Javier to assist me with some off camera flash. I am looking to kick things up a notch using off camera flash in on the never ending ladder I am climbing to improve my work. Given the small amount of time and the fact I met these ladies right there for the first time I am happy with the results.

My first model was Angela. There was a giant bank of clouds blocking the about to set sun, so much so I could not reflec some of the nice golden light into her face the way I wanted, still I like these shots. On the one directly about I played around with an antique light preset in lightroom adding a big more vibrance and saturation to the dress. I really like this photo as it seems to have an air of mystery about it.

This next shot Angela is sharing a beautiful natural smile. I have become addicted to photographing people as it is amazing how different we all look moment to moment. The variety of moods and emotions that can be captured with in moments sometimes is simply amazing.

Before I knew it we were told to switch models. My second model was Nayana, originally from Thailand. Fortunately around this time some of the clouds moved away and I had a more attractive sky to work with.

I saw the flowers in the foreground here and knew I would be able to do somthing fun. It was pretty breezy this evening which is good and bad hair-wise! I love Fred Howard Park. One part is wooded with beatuful old trees and dripping moss then this area is a little beaching island you reach by causeway.

Here you have a beach, some rock formations and a beautiful sunset to watch. Here is where we really started to utilize the off camera flash. I really look forward to mastering this!

The above photo is my favorite for the evening. Somtimes when the sun is setting you can feel blinded by the brightness but last night you could look right at the sun which appeared very small surrounded by beautiful light.

Hope you have enjoyed these photos! There are going to be a lot of changes coming to my blog very soon in look and content. I have been doing a lot of thinking on what exact direction to go with my photography and an answer is slowly starting to emerge. For now I will say it is going to have a little more of a photojournalistic bent to it. Details coming in the next few days. Tomorrow I am doing an engagement shoot for Stacey and Greg, whoose wedding I will be shooting in October. Hope to have my favorites from that session up Sunday or Monday. Hope everyone has a great weekend!