Beth & Courtney

As those of you who routinely come to this site know I have been doing most of my street photography on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville for many months now. And that’s where I was headed earlier today when I passed these two young ladies doing a shoot of their own on Rt. 53 where it passes right by Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

For those of you who aren’t sure what Jefferson’s home looks like just look on the back of an ordinary nickel (a 5 cent U.S coin for those of you outside the United States) and you’ll see the front facade of the main house.

I had just passed under the beautiful Saunder’s Bridge which crosses the road in front of the Monticello turn-off that goes up to the manor house when I saw these ladies minding their own business—not bothering anybody—and impulsively swerved off the road, parked on the shoulder a few hundred feet past where they were shooting. I grabbed my camera, leaped out of my truck and bounded down and across the highway to where they were under the bridge.

Those of you who are street photographers know there is just no really cool way to approach complete strangers to ask if you can photograph them—especially in a situation like this. Here we have two young ladies on a country road who suddenly look up to see this geriatric dork running across the highway toward them waving a camera.

I try to look as benign as possible—try to look like a harmless little old man so they won’t smash their camera over my head and spray mace in my face.

“Hi,” I said a bit out of breath—trying to think of what I can say to assure them I’m not some senile lunatic.

“My name’s Holen,” I blurt out, “I’m a photographer in Fluvanna County—I shoot for the Fluvanna Review and for my own website,” I hand them my card. “Yeah—ah—I saw you guys doing this shoot and like, I wonder if you’d mind if I shot you guys doing your shoot, I’ve started doing this possible series—pictures of people taking pictures—ah—for my website. Yeah—about a month ago I was in Luray Caverns with my wife and I found shooting the other tourists taking pictures was a lot more interesting than shooting the cavern—I mean that’s been done I think—you can buy postcards of that.

By this point I’m thinking, “Shut up you pathetic old fart—now you really are starting to sound like a nut.”

“If you really don’t mind—just go ahead with your shoot.” I say, “just pretend I’m not here—ignore me. If I’m in the frame just tell me and I’ll move.”

I forget their exact words—looking at me a bit suspiciously (I can’t imagine why) the young lady with the camera says “Yeah—sure.”

I later learn the girl doing the shooting is named “Beth,” the girl who is the model is named Courtney.

Courtney first poses leaning against the underside of the bridge. I can see Beth is making excellent use of background lines to direct the viewer’s attention to the model. I first shoot with Courtney in the foreground and Beth shooting her from the background then reverse my position.

Courtney moves from the bridge’s interior wall, sits down and reclines by the side of the pavement—I maintain my position behind Beth who now makes strong use of the receding road’s leading line.

The girls walk around the side of the bridge and up the grassy slope to the level of the road surface as it passes over the span. Beth makes very creative use of an unusual angle—Courtney extends her arms, leaning against the bridge rail abutment and looks up at Beth shooting down on her. This seems to me a beautifully chosen angle—I’d really love to see the final edits of this pose.

I lie down in the grass—hoping there are no ticks around—and shoot the girls against the sky as much as possible. They make for a beautiful and interesting composition as they go about their session.

The shoot ostensibly completed Courtney—who seems to be the more extroverted of the two—asks me,

“So—what are you selling?”

“Nothing,” I say with pride. “I’m not selling anything, I’m not promoting anything. I just love to do this—I’ve been shooting off & on for close to fifty years, I put up a new image and story every day and around 70 or 80 people come daily to the site and I get messages indicating they enjoy what I do.”

By this time the girls seem to be a bit more relaxed—not as self-aware as they were earlier with this antique weirdo laying in the grass taking pictures of them.

I explain I’m retired and this—I hold out my camera—is who I am now.

Courtney asks if she will be able to see the final edits. I assure her I will be delighted for her to see the edits—they will be posted on this site along with the remarks you’re now reading. As we walk down to the road I ask Beth if she is shooting an assignment for a photography class. I can’t remember what her initial reply was but she tells me she anticipates starting a BFA program at the Savannah School of Art & Design in the fall.

I tell her about my 17 year old daughter who I believe has a very good eye. I relate how I gave my daughter a medium-format camera about a year and a half ago and pointed her toward a beautiful old, rusted and painted-over dump truck. The images I saw on the contact sheet a week later blew me away—I think she’s a natural. As I believe I’ve shared on this site previously, I really hope she decides to go to a program like the one Beth will be attending.

While walking along the shoulder under the bridge I snap a few portrait shots of the girls, hand Beth another card with the web address on it, thank them profusely and scurry back to my truck.

As I pull away and head for the downtown mall I just know, nothing I photograph on the mall today will be as good as the images of these two sweet (and probably a bit too trusting) young ladies who were generous and kind enough to share their shoot and their presence with this old shutterbug.

And I was right.

Thank you so much girls :-)

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11 Responses to “Beth & Courtney”

  1. Matt Says:

    I know herrr! She’s so pretty :)

  2. orion Says:

    Hi Matt–thanks for coming to the site–and thank you very much for commenting.

    I don’t know either of these young ladies other than the encounter I describe in the post. I hope they saw the pictures–do you know if they did?

  3. Lynda Says:

    I know that Courtney has seen your story and photos. She was very excited about it when she showed them to me. I am her very proud Mom. Did you take any other photos of the girls that you can add to this page? I would love to see them and I am sure that all of Courtney and Beth’s friends would too!

  4. orion Says:

    Hi Lynda–thanks for coming to the site and for commenting.

    Have the girls seen both posts?–some people like the “arty” stuff–some don’t.

    In response to your question–I’ll probably do one more post tomorrow–for a total of 3 posts. I notice a lot more visits to the site this evening–
    I figured it was the girl’s friends. They’re great subjects–very natural and self-posessed. I’m pleased you, the girls and their friends are enjoying them. :-)

  5. KRIS KING Says:

    COOL, WOW…NEVER KNOW WHO YOU WILL RUN IN TO OR WHERE. THIS IS COURTNEYS AUNT IN MD.

  6. orion Says:

    Hi Courtney’s Aunt :-)

    So glad you came to the site and even gladder you chose to write. Great to hear from you. Are there any pic.s that you favor?
    I haven’t heard anything from anyone in Beth’s family–do you know any of them?

    There will be one more post this evening–for a total of 3. I usually post between 8 & 9 PM. Orion

  7. Beth Says:

    I haven’t edited any of the images yet.. but here’s a link to my “website” so you can see some examples of my work and where I will put up the photos from that day.

    Thanks for taking our pictures..it was neat!

  8. orion Says:

    Hi Beth–thanks for coming to the site and commenting. Yes–it was a fun shoot (I think) for all.

    Just looked at your portfolio and commented but your mail isn’t functional yet. I like your work and want to comment further but I think there’s a problem with my email from this site. If you would–let me know you got this & I’ll comment further.

  9. Creeps McGee Says:

    That Beth girl sure is a looker.

    Wouldn’t mind seeing more of her ;D

  10. Lonnie & Christine Says:

    Very nice photos. Black and white may seem passe’ to some, but images like these are quite captivating – even more than the same would be in color. This is Courtney’s uncle and aunt in Pennsylvania

  11. orion Says:

    Hi Lonnie/Christine. Thanks for visiting the site–and thank you for commenting. I look at a lot of serious photography from all over the world and it seems pretty evenly divided among us “arty” types–about 50/50 color & B&W. I do some color but probably 90 % is monochrome. My feeling is if it’s good composition and good post production color (usually) only detracts.

    My wife has family in the Lehigh Valley (Wind Gap). I love photographing in Bethleham–the steel mill ruins–and in old downtown Easton.

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