mo mo mo mo mo MO!

The hypnotic chanting will play in my head for decades

The gaggle of girls chanted for what must have been an half an hour – parading little Mo back and forth across the green in a conga line of pastel skirts and freckles.


mo mo mo mo mo MO!
mo mo mo mo mo MO!
mo mo mo mo mo MO!

I’ll never look at images from this session without hearing it in my head (can you imagine 30 hours of that chanting while editing? Can you!?). Despite all that – how adorable is all this?

Mo had a beautiful, perfect, fair-weathered first birthday party. I’m so grateful I was there to capture the day for him.

Things I learned:

(Warning –  this gets technical and geeky)
  • Green. Everything single surface is green in the fields of Menotomy Rocks in the summer. Green color casts (tinted light bouncing off colored surfaces) means hours and hours and hours of color-correcting skin so everyone doesn’t look like a grass-monster. After enough hours painting skin back to normal, one starts to wonder “Wait – what does human skin look like again?” Without frequent breaks I would end up painting everyone orange, then have to go back and do it all over again.
  • Trying to capture a conga-line zagging in variable lighting conditions (back and forth between harsh sun and open shade) is not a job for elderly cameras.

It’s time, I guess, for another confession – this one was high up on my Weaknesses to Obliterate list. I like my equipment like a paleontologist likes her pets – old. (That sentence sounded so slick in my head but it looks dumb now, whatever, moving on.) All of my favorite cameras were made before I had learned how to stack blocks.

I had originally planned to get through the first year of business with my existing cameras. It turns out that plan was untenable.


I’m used to compensating for a lack of camera features through the use of pure willpower and  gymnastics.

My first camera was a Minolta XG-1 film camera. It was born three years before I was. It was dense, heavy, and the shutter crunch is, to date, my most favorite sound in the universe. I paired it with a single 50mm lens and water-stained teleconverter for special occasions.

If I needed to zoom in, I lunged forward. If I was shooting fast things in low light, I leapt to the side (I got a lot of bruises) so my subject wouldn’t become a blur.

When I started working as a sports photographer in college, I adopted another elderly camera – a Canon AE-1 and paired it with a 80-200mm macro zoom that I haaaated because it was so heavy and slow (but it was free…so.) Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the technical stuff…I had to manually focus, from a tripod, twilight soccer games with only two rolls of film (72 shots) per game. I was working with the lens wide open (I think it was a 4 or 5.6) at 200mm and shooting between 1/30 and 1/200 of a second. Sometimes, the department let me splurge on 1600 film.

In other words, a lot of my shots were blurry.

“Well…these are two pictures are OK. But can you get more of the good pictures?” – The Department of Sports Boss Guy Whose Name I Can’t Remember But Fills Me With A Quiet And Frustrating Rage.

I have shed many a tear over my inadequate (but free!) equipment while driving home after night games, dimly-lit gymnasium and dance class sessions and dreary theater dress rehearsals (no flash allowed).

Twelve years ago, I would have sold a kidney for a camera with auto-focus.

But hey. Two out of 72 shots! I am actually very proud of that, given those conditions. So I figured my fancy 2006 digital camera (21st century, hello future!) with fancy auto-focus lenses and unlimited digital shots would be more than adequate. I had been shooting with my 30D for nine years and I could focus on catching the perfect moments rather than fiddling with buttons, so long the light stayed the same and I kept moving.

And while running and panning and leaping and getting grass stains all over the place and ripping my pants, I did manage to get some great shots this summer (much more fun than yoga). But I also missed so many shots while swapping my shutter speed back and forth and back and forth while the line of little girls zigged and zagged on the line between the sun and shade placed directly at the edge of Mo’s picnic birthday.

So it was time for a new camera. My 30D has been relegated to backup gear, and now I’ve joined the masses, investing in a safe and functional Canon 5D Mark III. I feel like a caveman. So many menus. So many hours reading manuals and dry library spec books. So many sessions I had to turn down because I needed those hours to learn the new gear inside out and practice, practice, practice. But it’s been worth it. I’ve been shooting with the 5D for two months now, and I’m more comfortable with it than I was with my previous gear.

It’s OK, old camera. We’ll always have Mo’s party.