Vigil of Pascha


At a little before midnight, I went to St. Luke’s Greek Orthodox Church to photograph the Vigil of Pascha Easter morning. The experience was challenging but very rewarding since there was almost no light in the building except for a select few candles. Over the multi-hour service, there was a lot of subtle emotion that I tried to capture, and I think that, in part at least, I succeeded.

Father Michael Monos

20170318_OrthodoxChurch_ns_0048Monos passes the cross at St. Lakes Greek Orthodox church in Columbia.20170318_OrthodoxChurch_ns_0070Smoke pours from a burning incense holder as Monos walks past parishioners.Monos and his son Matthew read prayers from the lectern.20170318_OrthodoxChurch_ns_0145Monos crosses himself while reading from a prayer book.Under his vestments, Monos' hand rests on his lectern.20170318_OrthodoxChurch_ns_014420170318_OrthodoxChurch_ns_0181

Father Michael Monos, the priest at St. Luke’s Greek Orthodox Church in Columbia, has truly dedicated his entire life to his calling. He and his family are the main church leaders, his son helping him lead services. When he isn’t working in the church he runs his own Greek Orthodox publishing company, Newrome Press, as well as now taking over a new publishing company from Holy Cross Orthodox Press.

Sarah Leen

Having the opportunity to listen to Sarah Leen, the Director of Photography at National Geographic, was amazing. Though I had to leave a little early because of another class I still managed to hear some very good advice both on a publication scale, but also on a personal one. The first and foremost piece of advice that I heard was to be bold: To take and publish bold photos, photos that haven’t been seen before, that aren’t typical, and may not even be traditional “journalism.”

This doesn’t mean she was advocating deception, but in a world where everyone is so inundated with visuals, it is more important than ever to set the highest bar with your work. Whether it is revisualizing the national parks on a forest floor, or over a composite day, I think that she has shown that her vision of DOP includes that boldness to show new things.

Now I just need to apply it to my photography and really break out of the mold that I have been cast in.

Long, Long nights

Melissa Bunni Elian is a photographer whose work I find very inspirational because of her sense of identity. Her strong ties to her own cultural and racial identity as a black Haitian-American show through in her work, which is something that I am strongly attracted to. I don’t always like the aesthetic of her work, and how much she sometimes obscures the subject in her work, but I find the character of it to be really strong.

I really liked the intimacy of generation t.b.d. and how she showed such a tender side of a man who is trying to make his way in the city. The dedication that she shows in Travis is really intense, especially since much of the shots she has of him are in between him doing things, in the day as it drags on longer and longer. I feel like the isolation of that, other than his interactions with his son are really interesting.

1400 stairs and a room with a view

The small town of Groppo nestles into the hills above Manarola, one of the five villages that make up Cinque Terre or “The Five Lands,” a UNESCO world heritage site on the Liguria coast of Italy.

*Reposted from Plated.*

VOLASTRA, Italy – Hiking Cinque Terre sounds like a great idea, an understatement in reality, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it coming up the hill from Manarola, the second of the five towns in the national park along Italy’s western coast. Every view you see of the terraces of grapes and vegetables and olives spilling down the hillside beneath you, over small stone shacks with shadow blackened doorways, is gorgeous. However, you spend your time looking at the next step to come, wiping sweat from your eyes and cursing the more fit, middle-aged Australian banking couple on holiday who are putting you to shame. Even worse is how nice they are about it all, and well informed too of the apparent 1,400 steps we are hiking up.

The trail that leads from Manarola to Corniglia, two of the five villages of Cinque Terre, ascends a steep incline of allegedly 1,400 steps up to the small town of Volastra, passing small stone buildings, terraced vineyards and olive gardens along the way.

I am not convinced that any sane person would actually have anything to do with this ancient, god-forsaken path until I see a sun-browned figure off to the left in one of the olive terraces fixing a wooden stake fence. That luckily means we are close to Volastra, the peak of our efforts and where the trail levels out. Almost immediately we struggle into the tight alleyway leading up into the town where we dead end into a small foot path with a fountain, a defibrillator for the less hardy, and a blessed market shop blowing cool air and proudly displaying a fridge with a selection of drinks and water bottles the size of a large cat.

Across from the fountain and the defribulator that welcome hikers into Volastra is another type of salvation: small market that offers bottled water, soft drinks, fresh fruit, and traditional deli offerings like meats, cheeses, and olives.

Two lovely ladies, who might be angels, staff the small delicatessen counter and collectively speak about zero English – not that you would expect them to – but fully understand our desperate panting and flushed red faces. A hike well worth the effort, though If I was less exhausted I would buy some of the delicious olives waiting in big bowls in the counter.

Instead, we proceed to enjoy the most delicious beverage of our trip to date: water from a cheap plastic bottle to replace the sweat pouring from our brows and down our backs, as we look down at the small town of Manarola where we started, now way off in the distance.


Baby steps in the shadow of the Duomo


A youngster listens to street performers playing as light drizzle wets stone pavers outside the Duomo di Firenze.

*Reposted from Plated.*

FLORENCE, Italy – After trickling in over two days, the MU food writing team gathered in the streets around the Duomo di Firenze to learn about food story, as well as our place in the world, in the old streets and towns of Tuscany. We seven explorers have just started dabbling among delicacies of Italy – gelato, caffe,panini.

We took tours through the old, hot streets of Florence to visit the Florence University of the Arts buildings scattered around the Old City, before stopping at a family gelateria for our first sampling. After gathering our final member, we waded through lines and cramped dark quarters to All’antico Vinaio for delicious panini, which we devoured while dodging cars and ducking in and out of shade in the nearby alleyway.

A brief rest pepped us up before our first class where we toured through Florence looking at the original Roman bones of the city; a city whose awareness of its history is embedded in every aspect of its existence from its bedrock to its bars. Ending south of the Duomo, we briefly stopped at our apartments before heading back out for dinner at Ganzo, the fabulous student-run restaurant of our FUA hosts, where we sat at tables on the patio and had a chance to sample some of the amazing food cooked by FUA student chefs. An opportunity, too, for our fearless and esteemed leader and educator, Nina Furstenau, to sample a Florentine original and Italian classic: the Negroni.

It’s a learning experience for all of us and we are just now taking our first steps, with much, much more to come.

A worker prepares a panino, or Italian sandwhich, inside of All’antico Vinaio in central Florence while long lines wait outside.

Into Italy

Part of the Italian countryside outside of Milan peeks through the clouds on descent during Aer Lingus flight 432 from Dublin.
Immediately finishing up my semester at Mizzou I hopped on a bus to hop on a plane to wait in line at Chicago O’hare to sleep my way across the Atlantic to make this shot of a small part of the Italian countryside. I might make a few more photos but this is it guys, I’m done.

After this I am going to be writing (mostly) in Florence with MU Journalism Abroad’s Will Write for Food program and the MU Food Writers blog. I will still be taking photos and posting plenty, including a photo essay or two for the food blog (diversity is the new name of the game at MU). Before I get to florence though I got a single day in Milan, and while it wasn’t fashion week, and I wouldn’t know where to find fashion week if it was, I did get to explore and experience and fall just a little bit in love with this city.

A young man stops for a quick smoke break by the roses after checking around the corner in Milan, Italy.
Between the gorgeous old architecture and the wonderful people I don’t know why I am leaving to head down to Florence (only slight hyperbole). I got a little lost on my way to an eatery this afternoon while waiting for check-in at my frankly amazing hostel, Ostello Bello Grande is perfect, and spent some time wandering around and peaking into the Cemetery Monumentale before I made it to Eataly.

Eataly was a treat and a visual overload together. Probably more from the jetlag and the heat but it took me a while to get my bearings and order my Piadine which is not pictured because it rapidly disappeared and I have no idea what happened to it other than a vague dream of absolute delicious wonder. Eataly itself is a massive grocery and all of restaurants showcasing traditional Italian foods made with only Italian ingredients (which sounds so hipster Californian), of which I tried the Piadine Parma Squacquerone Rucola. Just walking around the grocery and smelling the different options was a feast in itself and if I had less restraint I would have walked out with some of the fresh strawberries that they had available, or some of the Pistachio Gelato, or both.

Instead I went back and checked into my room and took a nap before wandering around in the evening and settling in with a glass of Barbera, to review my day.

Baristas of Columbia

Working on a tight deadline, I went out to photograph the baristas that work to serve downtown Columbia and its teeming horde of college students and professionals. The people working in the shops are an interesting bunch, all of them very kind and very knowledgeable about what they make. I found working with them to be very fun and very rewarding.

The lighting setup that I used to photograph them was very basic, just my speedlite flash with a small softbox held in my right hand. This let me overpower the existing light conditions easily without having to get too many harsh shadows. I asked them all to make either their favorite drink to make or their favorite drink to drink while I got setup so that I could photograph them with it, to further show their identity as baristas and as people, since what we drink tells a lot about a person.


The Devil’s Ice Box

Trying to play around with light painting is always fun, but trying to produce a full shoot is always a little frustrating. The process to bring out our final, hellish result was a complicated mess of trial and error that involved a lot more error than anything else.

The devil possessively guards her icebox; she likes to quench her thirst in the fires of hell with refreshing drinks.

Not the first idea our group tried to illustrate, we had to abandon our other attempt for complications including our painters being on opposite sides of a large creek from the camera making communication near impossible. This ended up making us really trim our ideas down and come up with something much more concise.