Ch-ch-ch-changes … and a Super-Duper Overhaul!

A sultry wood frog hangs out on the surface of our pond in Maine.
A sultry wood frog hangs out on the surface of our pond in Maine.

Wahoo!! Spring has really, truly, officially arrived in … Maine! How do I know? Our pond is full of hot, steamy frogs on the make (ew!) and they are broadcasting it to anyone who will listen! Yowza, it’s getting warm in here! (Now I know you’re thinking, but just not saying: Did she get footage of that? Let’s just say … heck yeah!)

Since last autumn, my hubby and I decided to change our traveling lifestyle from full-time RVing to part-time. We had an awesome year-and-a-half exploring the USA (40 States, wow!—check out our Trail Dust Blog for more about our adventures!) and we’ll continue to do so together, just in a more focused way. A home base seemed like the best choice for us, especially considering the huuuge projects we’ve been working on lately, and the amount of travel I’ve done. (Since October, my video production/photography projects have taken me to England, El Salvador, Los Angeles, and Cleveland, Ohio. More about those soon!)

We bought a place with about 15 acres, a pond, and an orchard in the northwoods of Maine just before the first blizzard hit in January (great timing, yikes!). We’ve been hunkered down in our farmhouse all winter (I was here most of the time, really!) and crikey, the fresh sights, sounds, and smells of spring are surely the finest things we’ve encountered since the new washer and dryer arrived. If you hung your hat out here in the Northeast this winter, you’ll get my drift … snow drift that is.

And now for the exciting news: I’m creating an online database of my images. Yahoo! Thousands and thousands of the rangy beasties (images) are going to be wrangled and dragged, kicking and screaming, and uploaded into the web-o-sphere for folks to peruse and soon, to purchase. This winter I spent an unhealthy amount of time researching different stock photo services (some would call that procrastination), and seriously considered the services of Photo Shelter, Zenfolio, SmugMug, and PhotoDeck. I’ve chosen PhotoDeck for reasons that will be detailed in a later post. I’ll let you know how I like it.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be overhauling my website and blog. Eventually my site (jennifersmithmayo.com/blog) will become the photo database and the blog will be an offshoot of the site. I’m testing a few galleries right now, you can check them out at: http://jennifersmithmayo.photodeck.com or click on the Photo Galleries tab at the top. I’ll be adding lots of images in the next few months … unless I get a gig in Argentina!

See you on the trail!
—JSM

GQ and the Hermit, Treasure Hunters, Fairy Houses, and a Roving Tiger …

GQ September 2014It’s a month of hot new releases and new adventures on the road! I’m so excited to announce that some of the photographs from various projects that I worked on last year are making their way into the marketplace. First up: GQ magazine and the elusive Maine hermit. “The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit,” Michael Finkel’s story for the September issue of GQ magazine, features a few of my exclusive, never-before published photos of the camp that Christopher Knight (aka, “The Hermit”) made in the Northwoods of Maine. I was one of two photojournalists who photographed Christopher Knight’s camp before it was taken down and removed by law enforcement officials. Many thanks to Michael for the GQ recommendation. And my deepest gratitude to my friend, writer Andrew Vietze, who invited me to cover the story with him.

Ahoy, matey, where’d ye say that treasure is buried?

Treasure Hunter's Handbook

Last summer I had the pleasure of working with author Liza Gardner Walsh on her new book, Treasure Hunter’s Handbook. Liza is a blast to work with—I was super psyched when we had the chance to work together again (the previous summer we collaborated on the Fairy Garden Handbook). Liza has a great sense of humor and tons of patience (which was really tested in locating the Camden Hills geocache, what a doozy!), she’s super creative, and she encourages kids of all ages to adventure out, explore, and appreciate the natural world. As an added bonus, while working on this book I had the opportunity to learn how to: pan for gold, geocache using a compass and/or iPhone, run a metal detector, crack a geode, mine for Maine tourmaline, and search for buried pirate treasure. If you’re interested in learning about treasure hunting, then this is the book for you!

Teeny houses for magical creatures—fairies!

2015 Fairy Houses CalendarAnother project I worked on last year was to photograph the 2015 Fairy Houses Calendar for Down East Books. What a fun challenge! Some of the houses I created and photographed at our former home in Northport, Maine. I had excellent help and received tons of fairy house-making tips from family and friends, especially from my husband, mom, mom-in-law, and the good folks at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (the 270 acres of gardens and tidal shore land are true paradise—and for fairy house lovers, check out the Shoreland Fairy House Village, you can create your own fairy house!). Many thanks to all of you! I hope the 2015 Fairy Houses calendar provides inspiration for building fairy houses, no matter what time of year!

A four-wheel drive … Tiger!

The Tiger at Lake Granby, Arapaho National Recreation Area, Granby, Colorado
The Tiger at Lake Granby, Arapaho National Recreation Area, Granby, Colorado

What’s got four tires, four-wheel drive, and an integrated custom-made hi-tech hipster camper attached to its body with 350 watts of solar power? Not any four-legged creature that I know of, yet! Ha! It’s a Tiger Adventure Vehicle!

In early May, my husband, Matthew, and I sold our beloved Airstream (Ducky) and Ford F250 (Big T) and purchased a self-contained adventure mobile: a Tiger Bengal TX from Provan Industries in Columbia, South Carolina. We loved the Airstream, but ultimately we wanted to go places where we couldn’t take her—or didn’t dare to because she was too beautiful to get banged up! We named our Tiger “Snowbird” (Snowy for short) and in the short time we’ve had her, she has taken us to some incredible places such as Smoky Mountain National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Bighorn National Forest, the Beartooth Mountains, Yellowstone National Park, Gallatin National Forest, and more! To read about our latest adventures, check out our travel blog, Trail Dust, which is run off our publishing company’s website, Gritty Press.

Wagons Ho!

Ducky in San Angelo, TexasWhoosh—was that summer? Thanksgiving is this coming week?

Wow, it’s been way too long since I posted an update. Sorry about that. It’s been a wild ride since my last post (our visit to Vegas in June). Since then: We sold our house in Maine and about 97% of our stuff, wrapped up a pile ‘o work projects, bought a big Ford F-250 pickup truck (“Big T” to you and me) and an Airstream Flying Cloud (“Ducky”), and we’ve rambled our way to Arizona. We’re in our second month of full-time roving and we are having a grand time!

Why in the world would we sell a house on the ocean in Maine and most of our stuff? Find out at our Trail Dust Blog at GrittyPress.com.

(Gritty Press is a small publishing empire that Matt and I operate, and we’ve got big plans for the coming year!)

‘Til my next post, best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Cheers,
Jen

What Happens in Vegas …

The strip, Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Camera gear? Check. Watched Vegas Vacation? Yep. Got buckets o’ pocket change? Oh yeah. Wahoo–let’s go!

We’re looking forward to the next couple of weeks as we hit the road and travel to Las Vegas to attend the Western Writers of America’s 2013 Convention. Before the convention we’ll be doing a wee bit of traveling, taking in the dry air and hot sun (a couple of things Maine has sorely missed during the past few weeks, just ask my basil plants!), and visiting some of our country’s beautiful national and state parks (can’t imagine there will be any photo ops out there….).

Many congratulations to my hubby, Matthew P. Mayo, who won the Spur Award for Best Short Western Novel for Tucker’s Reckoning. On the final night of the convention, Matthew will receive his Spur Award during the Spur Awards Dinner. I’m so proud of him! (And many congrats to our pal Larry Sweazy who won the Spur for Best Original Mass Market Paperback, The Coyote Tracker.)

See y’all soon!

Upcoming Digi-Photo Workshops in Surprise, Arizona!

Gambel's Quail female, Sun Village, Surprise, Arizona
Gambel’s Quail female, Sun Village, Surprise, Arizona

In March, 2013 I am offering four Digi-Photo Workshops for the residents of Sun Village, in Surprise, Arizona: Digi-Photo I, Digi-Photo II, iPad/iPhone/iPad Photo Workshop, and Photography in the Park (White Tank Mountain Regional Park!). For specific details about the workshops, click here.

As an instructor, I specialize in working with Senior students and enjoy sharing experiences from 25-plus years as a photographer (National Geographic, New York Times, numerous books, and more). My classes are hands-on, interactive workshops—we dive right in and improve our picture-making skills right away. We move along at a reasonable pace and questions are encouraged. Class sizes are limited so that students get plenty of hands-on attention. My workshops often sell-out quickly and student evaluations consistently rank them as two thumbs-up.

I really look forward to these upcoming workshops, meeting and working with the Sun Village residents, and exploring the beautiful, sunny Southwest. We’ll have a great time and learn loads about photography from each other!

Fresh from the Oven: Maine Home Cooking

Maine Home Cooking
Maine Home Cooking, written by Sandra Oliver, photographed by Jennifer

In the summer of 2011, I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph Sandra L. Oliver’s book, Maine Home Cooking: 175 Recipes from Down East Kitchens. Working with Sandy (and the Down East Books crew) and photographing on Islesboro island was a rare treat. The food was amazing, sumptuous, and beautiful; the laughter contagious; and the surroundings a dream to photograph.

Maine Home Cooking is not only a terrific book to draw culinary inspiration from, it also captures Sandy’s humorous voice and character. She relates entertaining stories about the recipes, shares her passion for food history, gives sound and helpful advice, and connects us to local foods (from her own bountiful gardens to Maine’s local growers).

I know I am slightly biased, but the imagery in the book offers a sense of place on many levels: We explore inside the farmhouse, outside in the gardens, around the island. From the depths of the cellar we spy canning jars residing on shelves; in the garden one of Sandy’s cats is on the prowl; along the shoreline a cairn rises above the stony beach; we bid adieu and depart on the ferry to head back to the mainland.

This delightful book celebrates recipes from the past and new ones from the present. As an avid cook and person interested in learning about the history of food, I find Maine Home Cooking an excellent jumping off point for more adventures in my own kitchen, and I bet you will, too!

From the Publisher: About Maine Home Cooking:

Residing on Maine’s Islesboro Island, Sandra Oliver is a revered food historian with a vast knowledge of New England food history, subsistence living, and Yankee cooking. For the past five years she has published her weekly recipe column “Tastebuds” in the Bangor Daily News. The column has featured hundreds of—from classic tried-and-true dishes to innovative uses for traditional ingredients. Collecting more than three hundred recipes from her column and elsewhere, and emphasizing fresh, local ingredients, as well as the common ingredients found in most kitchens, this volume represents a new standard in home cooking.

(Down East Books; September, 2012; Hardcover; 7″ x 9″; 240 pages; 40 color photos; ISBN: 978-1-60893-180-4.)

Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Powell’s

Available direct from the publisher: Down East Books.

Icons? Did someone say Icons?

Though it is a wee bit after their official release date, I am nonetheless busting to announce the publication of not one but TWO new books that my husband, writer Matthew P. Mayo, and I worked on together.

New Hampshire Icons: Fifty Classic Symbols of the Granite State and Vermont Icons: Fifty Classic Symbols of the Green Mountain State are companion volumes to our hot-selling book of last summer, Maine Icons: Fifty Classic Symbols of the Pine Tree State.

The two newest books round out our “Northern New England Trio” and we couldn’t be happier with the results. And judging from early response, readers feel the same way.

The books are hardcovers with full-color dust sleeves, and inside are packed with 112 full-color, glossy pages filled with hundreds of photos and loaded with Matt’s excellent essays that explore little-known facts (Did you know that New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington is home to the world’s worst weather? Or that Vermont was the first state in the nation to ban billboard advertising?), historical legends, and longtime secrets about the 50 icons from each state.

If you have a hankering to visit–if only just via the pages–three of the most beautiful states in the nation (perhaps we’re a wee bit biased), a great place to begin would be with your very own copies of Maine Icons, New Hampshire Icons, and Vermont Icons!

2011 Top 10 Photo Moments … Number 7

Let the countdown begin! Over the next few weeks I’ll work my way down a list of my Top 10 Favorite Photo Moments from last year. I’ll post an outtake photo or two, a link to the finished project (a few are coming soon in 2012!), and a few words about what made that particular place—or shooting moment—so memorable. Stay tuned for Number 6, coming soon!

#7 Champion Lands, Northeast Kingdom, Vermont:
In mid-October, between photographing for the Vermont Icons and New Hampshire Icons books, I took a couple days break and went bird hunting with my dad and cousins in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. October is one of the finest months of the year in Vermont, it’s definitely my dad’s favorite month (not only because he married my mom then, but he says it’s the best month for bird hunting!). The woods put on their finest show before winter takes hold. As we hunted, the spectacular autumn foliage shimmered in the breeze and scents of balsam and drying leaves drifted through the trees.

It’s been quite a number of years since I last bird hunted, and I will admit to being a bit rusty and slow at getting off a good shot. But for my family, it’s not about the shooting, it’s about the time spent together walking through the woods, laughing and sharing those deep and difficult conversations that seem only possible in the woods, and admiring the hard work of the bird dogs. I left my big “gun,” my Nikon camera, at my folks’ house, and decided to bring my small Panasonic camera and my iPhone for those couple of days. I carried my brother’s shotgun, a Lefever Nitro Special 20-gauge side by side.

Once in awhile (when nobody was looking!), I paused and captured some of the moments in the field. I made some still images, but had an awful lot of fun working with the video modes on my iPhone and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5. When I returned to my home in Maine, I cut together a spoof trailer called “Bird Hunt.” It contains some of the neat moments in the field: Annie, my dad’s English Setter, nose to the ground, flying through the thick woods; my cousin Jack laughing while taking a break on an fallen log; Selkie, my cousin Mike’s new black lab puppy exploring and honing her hunting instincts; my brother’s Llewellyn setter Zoe on point and holding fast; my dad smiling and thoroughly enjoying these shared moments with his family. We talked and laughed and tried to hold back tears; this was the first family bird hunt since my brother, a hunting and fishing guide and high school teacher, passed away suddenly the year before.

We hunted some of the very special “hot” spots and put up a few birds. Quite a few of them got away, but a couple made it into the freezer. I’d like to say one of my shots hit its target, but I’m not going to bet on it….

Growing Local Exhibition!

DIRECTIONS: TAKE ONE RECIPE. ADD LOCAL INGREDIENTS. FOLD IN A PHOTOGRAPHER. COOK ’TIL DONE. YIELD: GROWING LOCAL.

Belfast, Maine: The documentary project Growing Local: Wild Maine Blueberry Muffins, created by award-winning photographer Jennifer Smith-Mayo, explores connections between recipes and cooking, local food producers, and community. During the month of March, a selection of photographs from the project will be shown at the Barbara Kramer Gallery in the Belfast Free Library at 106 High Street. [Click here for more about the Exhibition!]

2011 Top 10 Photo Moments … Number 8

Let the countdown begin! Over the next few weeks I’ll work my way down a list of my Top 10 Favorite Photo Moments from last year. I’ll post an outtake photo or two, a link to the finished project (a few are coming soon in 2012!), and a few words about what made that particular place—or shooting moment—so memorable. Stay tuned for Number 7, coming soon!

#8 Quechee Hot Air Balloon and Craft Festival, Quechee, Vermont: Last summer I photographed the Quechee Hot Air Balloon and Craft Festival for our upcoming Vermont Icons book. It’s always held on Father’s Day weekend and the kickoff is Friday evening. The officials were deciding whether or not to cancel that evening’s flight because of impending bad weather. While everyone was waiting, I struck up a conversation with Dick Young from A Beautiful Balloon, Inc., and he kindly invited me to hang out with his crew for the evening. The word came from the officials: no flight that evening. It was a bit disappointing, but safety is top priority at the Festival. While enjoying a lovely spot of wine and strawberries and conversation with the crew, Dick and Mary Beth (his wife, also a pilot) welcomed me to join them in the morning and ride along in the balloon chase van.

At 6 am the next day, fog drifted and hung low along the edge of the field, threatening to spoil the morning’s flight. I found Dick and Mary Beth and the crew on the field and waited with them while the officials made their decision. Finally, enough fog burned off and it was a “go!” I moved throughout the field photographing the teams as they laid out and inflated their balloons. A few balloons lifted up into the sky, and then Dick gave the go ahead, and the crew began to prepare their balloon. I can still hear the ffffffffffffffffff! as the crew turned on the burner flame and filled the balloon with hot air. When the balloon was prepped and triple checked for safety, Dick—who was piloting that flight—invited his passengers to climb into the wicker basket. After a safety talk with his passengers and a final check, off they went! They slowly floated up into the cloudy sky, every so often we could hear the hiss from the burner flame and watched them float higher. Then, Mary Beth informed me, the chase was on!

 

Mary Beth drove the chase van and the crew gave me the prime seat: shotgun! The balloon traveled toward town and we drove down the Main Street toward the shops. It was out of our sight for awhile so Mary Beth checked in with Dick via radio and he informed us they were traveling towards a school. We stopped the van and I hopped out for a moment to take some pictures of other balloons and all of a sudden, there they were—floating over the van! The crew looked on their maps and found a road that would lead us to the school. We chased the balloon to the school then Dick communicated with us that they wouldn’t land there, they were headed back toward town.

Off we went, losing sight of the balloon, and then it came back into view once we were on Main Street. Dick let us know they were about to land, so we parked the van on the side of the road and hopped out. We looked up and the balloon was crossing Main Street and  about to land on the front lawn of a house! I ran back, away from the balloon, and photographed its descent—my favorite moment—it landed so quietly, almost stealthily (except for the fact that a crowd had gathered and cheered as it landed!). I made a series of images of the landing, thinking that one day when I have a little extra time, I’ll edit them together as a multimedia piece.

After the balloon was folded up and it and the basket were stowed away in the van, Dick, Mary Beth and his crew had a celebratory toast and nibbles which they shared with the passengers, the folks from the house, and all the spectators who gathered to watch (and help take down the balloon!). It was a great morning shared with some of the nicest folks I’ve ever met!

Project: Vermont Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Green Mountain State, Globe Pequot Press, July 2012.