* 28 FRAMES: Brian Delaney

I found out on Sunday morning that Brian Delaney had died the day before in a climbing accident.  I was headed to photograph a wedding and was trying to stay focused, but I was already scouring the web for whatever information I could find.  Why? How? The journalist in me was making sure facts were being found and checked against news reports and climbing forums. Are we sure this is true?  I was hopeful that somewhere I would discover a shred of evidence that this was a cruel lie.

The wedding proved a needed distraction.  I was still in shock, but I put my photographer hat on and managed to make it through the day.  During his toast to the newlyweds, the father of the bride had a moment of silence for the bride's grandparents who had just passed.  She sobbed and my heart skipped a beat for her grandparents and her family's pain from their passing, but also for Brian.  "Keep it together," I told myself.

For a couple days, I was in photographer mode, editing images and such. I took breaks and again scoured the news reports for any updated information and new photos of Brian I hadn't yet seen.  It was so sad yet comforting to see his photo, him climbing on various trips, doing what he loves, always donning that sublime smile of his.  I'm not sure if I realized that I was still in shock.  However, I did know I was anxious to head to work at the rock gym on Tuesday.  I wanted to be there, but I didn't.  I wasn't sure how I would react, knowing that Brian would never walk through the Maine Rock Gym doors again, bringing his wave of calm that everyone felt when they were around him.

Brian's death finally hit me Tuesday afternoon.  Lots of talking.  Ran brought in a photo of Brian. I hung it next to me at the desk. More talking.  Brian's wife Kris called the gym and I spoke to her for a few (a slideshow celebration night will be held at MRG soon). Then as Jess was trying to buy a membership, I lost it.  The gym was slammed.  A dad and his two sons even walked out, but I'm sure they had no idea what was going on.  Jess kindly offered a hug and I hid my tear-streamed face behind her small shoulder, thinking I barely know her, but I need something right now.  I feel lost and hollow, angry and sad.  "Keep it together," I told myself again.  Back to work. Get through the day. Tomorrow will be better.

I finally had the courage to pull the RAW images I shot of Brian during my Day In The Life shoot for the photo studio I work for, emilie inc. photography.  It was back in October and one of my images of Brian made it into the final slideshow edit (ironically, bouldering).  Looking through the RAW images, I pulled anything that had Brian in them.  Even the out of focus ones with the tilted horizon line -- that doesn't matter now.  The 28 frames right in a row, a digital film strip of Brian climbing and down-climbing a problem in the cave, that same smile on his face -- that made me smile.  

Finally, my first moment being able to think and see more clearly; I could handle doing something with these images.  Initially, I just wanted to process the photos and share them with folks. But I found myself not wanting to do anything to the images really, other than just color-correct the white balance for the gym lights.  For me, I wanted these "unedited" 28 frames to just be a beautiful record of a mere minute of Brian's life.  Writing this post and creating this short piece has me in a better place amongst my grieving process. Maybe it will help someone else as well. I did pretend that Brian was there editing with me.  Would he like this if he saw it?  Would he approve of it? I kept those questions in mind, and I think (I hope) I have succeeded.

I only knew Brian in the gym capacity.  I never had the privilege of climbing with him outside.  But now that he is gone, I realize how much a person like him affected me.  I am only fully understanding this now.  It is amazing what you can learn from others, if you're willing to be open to it. Brian was one of those people who probably didn't realize how much he taught others -- how to be happy, conscientious, curious, and bold.  I just feel lucky to have crossed paths with him during his lifetime.

Last Wednesday was the last time I saw Brian. I was working at the desk, and he waited until I was off the phone to say hello and ask how I was doing, because that's who he is.  I had no idea that would be the last time I ever spoke to him.  I am sad it wasn't a longer conversation or that I didn't give him a high-five or do more.  Oh, to have that moment back again.  However, I am so thankful I  had that moment at all.

Brian, you are so missed by so many.  I have no doubt though that your spirit is living on.


* emilie inc.: Vanessa + Matt's Wedding in Saco and Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Vanessa and Matt's wedding day was an intimate affair with just immediate family in attendance.  Despite there being only 13 of us, including me, the day was chock-full.  First a drive to the Saco church through some traffic of beach-goers headed to Old Orchard, keeping in mind an art fair downtown that prompts a partial Main Street road closure.  Father Dickinson lead a wonderful ceremony, sincere in his words for Vanessa and Matt to have a happy marriage and that he would be there for them as they embark on this new journey together as husband and wife.  After some ooo's and aahhh's over Matt's new bling, we took family portraits outside at the church, before walking down the road to Vic and Whit's for a wine tasting that the bride and groom surprised their guests with.  Beth, Mark, and Gene served up the tasting, along with the mouthwatering meats and cheeses.  Such a great idea for a small wedding!  Next, I jetted off with Vanessa and Matt for some portraits as we made our way back to Old Orchard Beach, where Vanessa spent her summers and where her parents now live.  Their day was capped off by champagne and hors d'oeuvres on the lawn of Joseph's by the Sea, before their multi-course meal began in their private dining room. 

The weather was hot and the celebration was memorable.  Good food, good wine, good company -- all for a very good reason.  So happy I could witness your wedding and document the first moments of your marriage with just you and your families, Vanessa and Matt!  Extra special -- thank you for having me there.  Amsterdam and Paris will be amazing!  And a birthday celebrated at the Eiffel Tower? You won't forget that, Matt!  Congratulations, newlyweds!


* emilie inc.: Emily + Patrick's Engagement Session on the Eastern Prom in Portland, Maine

Emily and Patrick's engagement session was so much fun!  When they arrived, they were a little nervous, but after a little direction they were off and running.  Funny stories about the other, jokes, fish kisses, and infectious laughing made these two giddy the entire time.  The gorgeous weather added to our already happy session, and their easy-going natures shined through.  Already 10 years together and still going strong, it is apparent Emily and Pat are meant to be.  Emily told me a funny story about how a lot of their friends think she and Pat look alike.  After editing their session, I think I understand what those friends are seeing.  These two have the biggest smiles and happiest laughs, similarities that just radiate from both of them constantly.

Engagement sessions are a great way to shake those camera jitters, and they agreed it was worth the investment and two-hour drive up from Massachusetts to put them at ease for their wedding day photography.  It calmed their fears about being in front of the camera and the center of attention, and I love as much time with a couple pre-wedding day as possible.  Plus, it puts everyone in the mood for the big day! 

Emily and Pat, you were great!  So much fun and so much love.  I can't wait to document your Cape Cod wedding, and meet your family and friends!  September will be here before we know it!

* emilie inc.: Shepherd Family Portrait in South Portland, Maine

I had the pleasure of photographing Julie and Adam back in October, when their first - little Miss Luisa - was still in utero.  Julie and I immediately hit it off and have enjoyed some walks and lunch since then with lovable, tail-wagging Hank in tow. 

Fast forward seven months and four days, and Luisa is quite the lady.  I was excited to meet her extended family on her dad Adam's side.  His parents Chris and Trish made the drive from Ohio, enjoying the scenery along the way.  His brother Brian, his wife Amy, and daughters Maddie, 11, and Gigi, almost 4, flew up from Nashville for Gigi's first plane ride.

The wind was hauling, so we skipped the beach and hit the local playground, which always brings the kid out in us adults!  Both Adam and Brian couldn't resist joining their own kids on what seemed a particularly tricky spinning wheel structure -- a core workout and an injury waiting to happen, as Julie put it after her attempt :)  Good news though, no injuries.  And I got to document Luisa's first swingset swing!

Ice cream -- pre-dinner! -- might been promised after the photo session, but I said to Maddie and Gigi, it was well-deserved.  They were great!  So was everyone else.  It was such a pleasure to meet you all, and I hope to see you again on your next visit to Maine!