Travel

Autumn at the Arboretum

Imagine perfect autumnal weather—cool and crisp, with just enough sunshine to bring out the orange of a thousand pumpkins either tucked among bales of hay or affixed to delightfully imaginative playhouses. That was the scene the day my sweet friends invited me to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens this last week, prompting me to gleefully dive into my closet to find my box of flannel shirts, transforming myself once more into the awkward lumberjack I become anytime I wear plaid.

After a week of relentless, chilled rain and the resulting case of severe cabin fever, this was the kind of morning I’d been dreaming of.

I took my camera just for fun, and savored a little creative outlet. As an editorial photo editor and photographer, I never alter the grading of images beyond what the scene looked look like in reality. I’m learning, however, that for creative images, it’s ok to make the photos look more like the way I felt that day—which, in this case, was cozy and light.

So, if you’re in Dallas before November 21 and like pumpkins, definitely check it out: https://www.dallasarboretum.org/visit/seasonal-festivals-events/autumn-at-the-arboretum

Silvertone and Space

My good friend Guy Rhodes (yep, the one with mad lighting skills) was in town this last weekend, and he wanted to visit Space Center Houston. Not one to pass up the chance to be a nerd, I obliged.

I'd just updated my iPhone, which I mostly regret, but the one thing I found that isn't terrible is the photo filter called Silvertone. I discovered it while standing in the shadow of the 747 customized to shuttle shuttles across the country. Now parked at Independence Plaza with a shuttle replica perpetually piggybacking, the plane is my favorite part of the museum, with Saturn V and its three-acre garage running a very close second. 

I had been to the space center recently, so while Guy made SLR magic with his camera, I tried to make something interesting with my phone. I wound up shooting mostly vertical frames, which admittedly, was borne of my planning to only post to my Instagram story. Less-than-noble inspiration aside, this made me think about composition a bit differently than my landscape-mode mind typically does.

Olympics: First Days in Rio

Now that I've settled in a bit, it's time for a quick update before the Games get underway. 

My Road to Rio

Between a nonstop flight, Global Entry, and my excellent parents, travel was a breeze for this trip. I'd even splurged on an extra-legroom seat, because I learned the hard way in Sochi that a regular airplane seat on a 10-hour flight doesn't pair well with long legs.

What's more, my fellow passengers included Olympic athletes and personnel, including the Canadian fencing team, who were the most gracious bunch of folks I've run into in a long time.

As we were making our initial descent, I grabbed my camera to get some photos of what I anticipated would be a stunning view of Rio.

The clouds had other plans, however, and only cleared just above the runway.

Bummer.

Anyway, after deplaning, I made my way to customs and accreditation at the airport to collect the required stamps and lanyard. Once I passed all those hurdles, I headed for the airport shuttle that would take me to the media housing in Barra. The airport was festooned with Rio welcome signs, and media were waiting behind barricades for athlete arrivals. I'd made it!

Getting to the Media Village

The shuttle ride to Barra took us through several favelas—stacks of shacks in various stages of disrepair that an estimated 24% of Rio's people call home. I spent the majority of the ride trying to wrap my mind around that fact. As we rode by, I noticed people looking and pointing at our bus from their balconies. Throughout the trip, I couldn't get over the juxtaposition of an event like the Olympics and neighborhoods like favelas.

Home and Office

Lucas Paz and me after our War Eagle moment.

Lucas Paz and me after our War Eagle moment.

Arriving at Barra Village 2, or BV2, we were greeted by a crew of guys who helped us with our luggage and logistics. The best part about this was that the first person I saw off the bus asked me where I was from.

"Alabama," I said, knowing there was a minimal chance he'd know where it was.

"Oh, what part of Alabama?" he asked. 

"Auburn; it's where Auburn University is," I replied, not sure if he really knew about Alabama or was being polite.

"War Eagle!" he said, and just like that—my first War Eagle moment in Rio.

I didn't have much time to get settled into my digs, so I grabbed a couple of photos and made my way to the Main Press Center (MPC), which is the heart of media operations for the Olympics. 

Entrance to the MPC.

The MPC is the best place in the world for people-watching people from around the world, and as someone who loves to experience new cultures, this is one of my favorite elements of working the Olympics. It's also been a blast getting to cover press conferences and hear journalists from the biggest agencies in the world asking questions. The thing that got me hooked on working in media was being able to see the behind-the-scenes, how-does-it-work glimpse of operations. Even in the short time I've been here, I've been hit by waves of gratitude for the opportunity to be here. It's easy to get distracted—it is a work trip, after all—but I make a daily effort to remember how fortunate I am.

Yesterday, we spent the majority of the day planning for tonight. It was great to have everybody in the same room before the photographers are spread out among the venues to create the amazing imagery they always do. It felt like being back at school after a long "summer" between now and the last Olympics in Sochi.

I'd been anxious leading up to my flight over here, but now that I'm on the ground, there is a comfort and confidence that comes with having been in this position before. We have a couple of editors who are working the Games for the first time, and it's been nice to be able to help with a lot of the same challenges I'd faced a couple years ago. It's also a strong reminder that I have, in fact, learned quite a lot since then. There will still be hurdles to jump, of course, but I'm more than ready to take them on with experience under my belt and my fantastic colleagues by my side.

Opening ceremony begins soon, so I've got to run. Let the Games begin!