I'm officially back in Houston, after a pretty amazing getaway in Sonoma County, California. To be honest, the entire experience was truly sensory overload -- it is such a beautiful place, and from a photographer's standpoint, the light was mindblowingly incredible. (I'd often heard that different places have different quality light -- it's only because of how often I shoot now that I have really discovered this truth.) In addition, besides reconnecting with some of my favourite bloggers, I also had the opportunity to meet so many new beautiful people.
As a result, I'm not ashamed to say that I shot close to 2000 photographs on this trip.
This, of course, means that I'm going to be sharing photographs and thoughts of the people and places that I met and encountered over the next week or so, with your indulgence. I thought I'd first start with the people and then move on to the places. And because there were several who I've already featured in my 1000 faces project before, I'll only share with you the beautiful people who I photographed for the first time on this trip.
One of the first people I met was Meg, above -- a vivacious woman from San Francisco. She was such an interesting person: she relatively recently converted to Judaism, and I couldn't help watching from a distance as she stole away in a beautiful area of the hotel's gardens for some time in meditation and prayer, in observance of Yom Kippur. It was so amazing and beautiful to watch. Later that evening, I admitted to her that I had been spying, and she so generously shared many of the tenets of Judaism and Yom Kippur with me. Her sharing her faith so kindly and openly was one of the most touching moments of my trip, for which I will forever be grateful.
Zan is a blogger whose work I've admired for a really long time. She's got an amazing talent with words and an ability to tell a story in such a way that you have to blink a few times to realize that the scene isn't actually happening around you. But even more wonderful is her "Sunday Zen" posts, which feature photographs without words that have you craving to hear the story behind the image. So although Zan and I had met briefly in New York at the BlogHer conference this past August, I was really looking forward to getting to know her better in Sonoma.
Zan is as fabulous in person as she is online. She is relatively reserved, yet at any given moment you glance at her, she is invariably wearing a wicked smile and a twinkle in her eyes. And while she's very circumspect when she speaks (much like when she writes), you can almost always count on her to say something that causes everyone around her to break into spontaneous laughter. She is truly a beautiful soul.
Mena (who, incidentally, in my opinion tied with Zan for "Coolest Name of the Weekend") is a woman with incredible style. She blogs at The Sew Weekly, and handmade every item of clothing she wore over the weekend. Every time she appeared, she looked like she walked straight out of the 1940's. When you talk to her, you are immediately struck by how quietly brilliant she is, but then she also has this almost startling sense of humour, so that you almost do a double-take when you realize she just said something uproariously funny. She was really a pleasure to get to know.
I've mentioned Tea before: in addition to being a wonderful food/life/photoblogger, she is also the author of one of my favourite books of 2010, The Butcher and the Vegetarian, a serious and journalistic look at the culture behind, of all things, meat. Tea and I have been online friends for some time, but had never met in person; as such, I was really looking forward to getting to know her in real life.
If I were only allowed one word to describe Tea, that word would indisputably be "gentle." She is soft-spoken with kind eyes, who has a sweet way of connecting with people with compassion and tenderness. I'm so glad I finally got to meet her and spend some good quality time with her, and I suspect we'll be friends for a long time.
If you've been reading personal blogs for any length of time, I'm willing to bet I don't have to tell you who Heather is. Her blog is read by literally millions of people each month, and her frank, funny, outrageous and sometimes raw writing has earned her international recognition. She's definitely a writer who has revolutionized the personal blogging world.
I actually met Heather over 4 years ago now, and in person, Heather is surprisingly demure. But if there was only one word that could be used to describe Heather in real life, that word would be "elegant." She is invariably warm and gracious, with an expressive face and eyes that flash with humour. My encounters with Heather have always been really lovely, and it was great to see her again.
I met Andrea very briefly at the Evo Conference earlier this year, when I rather rudely interrupted the conversation she was having minutes before she was to deliver a keynote, to tell her how amazing I thought her outfit was. Instead of looking at me like I fell out of a tree (which truthfully, would've been the most reasonable response), she fixed a gaze on me with those amazing eyes and warm smile and gave me a very sincere thank you. Those 20 seconds represented the entirety of my relationship with her before Sonoma.
This weekend she surprised me by immediately remembering who I was, and she confirmed my initial impression of her being very warm and genial. As I watched her move among the group of women we were spending the weekend with, Audrey Hepburn quite often came to mind. Andrea is truly a gracious person, and I hope I get the opportunity to connect with her again in person.
And finally (for today), Margaret. While Margaret is clearly a pretty woman, that adjective doesn't even begin to cover what you notice when you're in her presence. You start thinking about words like "sharp." "Witty." "Bright." "Clever." And most definitely "hilarious." She's both laid back and exuberant, if that combination is even possible, and by the time I left California, I surprised myself by being sincerely disappointed that she doesn't live in Houston, so I could call her this week and ask her to connect over tea. She's open and friendly and outgoing, and I liked her immediately and immensely.
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I hope you enjoyed the first half of my Sonoma portraits -- part two tomorrow. In the meantime, I believe we have some unfinished business: to name the winners of the Modern Bird Studios gift certificate and the Expressive Photography book! Thank you so much for your participation -- I loved reading your comments while I was away.
So, without further ado: upon asking Random.org to do the honours, our winner is Rebecca, whose comment said, in part, "Also, chocolate does not need enhancements of any kind, but if I'm honest, I do like to mix it up with some ancho chilis from time to time. Around Valentine's Day, we are able to get our fill of that tasty treat. Otherwise....chocolate and fruit = NO; chocolate and nuts = from time to time; really wonderful dark chocolate with espresso nibs = um, well, YES." Congratulations, Rebecca! I'll be contacting you via email to get all of your snail mail information.
Thanks much to Modern Bird Studios for such a generous giveaway! Also, some good news: if you didn't win and you want to order some of their modern art, Modern Birds Studios is offering a 15% discount if you use the code "CHOOKOOLOONKS" when you order. How awesome is that? This offer is good through September 28th, so go quickly and order now!
Images: All photographed with my Nikon D300 and 50mm lens.