Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The SmugMug Platform Upgrade First Look

Yesterday my website hosting company, SmugMug, announced a major platform upgrade that brought their website designs a big jump forward.  The look and feel is modern and engaging.  The user interface to customize the site is much, much easier.  In the past, you had to either know html and css programming or at least be a really good mimic of other people's code to enhance your site.  Now, the interface has a host of customization options built right in and the predefined templates are a big improvement too.

I started noodling with new options for website design and gallery layout and already I'm seeing some things that look really great.  I probably won't flip the site public for a while yet as I let my design decisions sink in, but I thought I'd share a little bit of what I'm seeing.

I love the new options available for gallery layout.  Particularly something called "landscape collage".  For example, here is my Events gallery today...

Pretty dull huh?  The text is small and hard to read and the previews aren't much to look at.  There is a lot of white space in this screen shot because the gallery doesn't stretch to fill the window.  You can have anything you want as long as it's in two columns!

And now for something completely different... here's my events gallery in configured using the New SmugMug options.

Pretty cool huh!??  Stay tuned.  I'll be tweaking the site over the next couple of days and will let you all know when the new look and feel goes live.  If you have any questions, give me a shout!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Future is Unwritten and Amazing

I have vague recollections of living next to my Grandfather on Madison Avenue in Berlin, NH, but I was very young. When I was four years old, my family moved to 554 Second Avenue.  It seemed like a big house in my childhood mind with three bedrooms and a wrap around porch on the front.  The property had an extra lot to explore even though the neighborhood was thickly settled.  As I got older, adventure expanded into the woods up the street as the house was just four blocks from the steep climb up Mt. Forist.

All the bedrooms were on the second floor, along with a claw foot bath.  No shower.  My parents had the largest room, but it was still small by today's standards.  I shared a room with my brother who's 12 years older than me.  Looking back, I really don't know how that worked.  Richard didn't seem to be around much... at least in my memory.  What stands out are lots of records in the room that were classic early 70's.... Chicago, Three Dog Night, Elton John.  I was particularly fascinated by the cover of Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy.  Who knows why.  It features a very cool photograph and maybe that's why I love photography so dearly.   Or, perhaps it's just that there were naked people on the cover.

My sister occupied the smallest room.  I mean small... a twin bed went from wall to wall on one side of the room.  The other side was usually chaos with an easel sticking up out of the mess featuring some half finished painting.  She spent a lot of time in her room.  In my memory, Laura was usually wearing a pair of overalls that were riddled with holes.  This, of course, was a source of constant complaints from my mother.

Like any family home, 554 Second Avenue dominates my childhood memory.  It's the scene of wave after wave of memories as I write this.  Amazing family times and bitter arguments.  Thoughts of Christmas past.  Wonderful cousins, uncles, aunts,  neighbors and friends all a gathering there.  Learning to catch a baseball bouncing off the porch roof and figuring out how to stand on skis in the back yard.  Blowout parties on the down low in high school.  It goes on and on...

When my mom passed away, it made sense for my sister to own the house and she lived there for many years before succumbing way to young to her own health problems last year.  The house has been for sale since.  On Monday, the house sold and the last name on the deed for 554 Second Avenue wasn't Viger for the first time over 40 years.

Cleaning the last things out of the house, I made this photo of the empty upstairs hallway.   

When I saw it, I immediately thought of a Nan Goldin quote I've always loved.

"I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough.
In fact, my pictures show me how much I've lost."

Those empty rooms tell the story of the loss of my parents and sister as well as the last connection to my home town.  

But it isn't all melancholy.  It can't be.  This is life.  There is constant change and, while memories can be bittersweet, they also are the foundation of our lives in the present.  They ground us and teach us what we need to know.  The future is unwritten and amazing.

And that brings me to another photograph I made at 554 Second Avenue last Monday.  My sons in my boyhood bedroom.  Brothers in a room once shared by brothers.

The photograph is black and white to spare you the overbearing shade of blue paint.  Who knew I'd be so blessed as to have such great kids.  The boys share a room just like I did in a home I'm lucky enough to call my own.  While photographs do show what I've lost, they also show how much I have and I'm grateful for that.  The future is unwritten and amazing indeed. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Inside the Start of the Men's US Mountain Running National Championships

One of the things I love about photographing Mountain Running is the mix of elite athletes and weekend warriors.  Last weekend I photographed the Cranmore Hill Climb in North Conway, NH.  The race served not only as a citizen race in the New England Mountain Running Series, but also as the US Mountain Running National Championships and the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association Championships (NACAC).  I made these images about 150 yards from the start of the men's race and thought combining them into this video might be an interesting way to show you what I mean.

I was hunkered down on an inside corner and the race thundered past for about a minute just a foot from my lens.  At the front, you see some of the best runners in the country... former US Mountain Running Team members Glenn Randall, Tommy Manning, race winner Joe Gray and 2011 World Champion Max King. The top 6 men selected the team that will represent the United States at the World Championships in Poland in the fall.  You'll also see members of the national teams of Mexico and Canada competing for the NACAC title.  As the race streams by, sponsored runners, regional standouts, local heroes and the guy next door are all part of the field.  All athletes are competing on the same course towards their personal goals... whether that is to be national champion, make the US Team, grab NACAC honors, beat a rival, set a personal best or just plain finish.  Pure sport with no pretension.

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