2013 Awards

I am beyond thrilled to have received Third Place for Best Feature for this year’s NCPPA annual contest and an honorable mention for the Southern Short Course’s Portrait/Personality category! I didn’t expect to win anything, so it’s pretty awesome to walk away with two recognitions. 


3rd place Feature – NCPPA
06ihtbh05Honorable Mention Portrait/Personality – Southern Short Course


Nothing like downing 5,000 calories and paying $5 to see ” Tiny Tim: the world’s smallest pony”

Oh the NC State Fair. It’s a magnet for every disease under the sun, the kind of people who think a pound of cotton candy in one night is normal, and kids who are somehow able to ride a mechanical bull for 10 minutes straight. With every step I took at the fair this year I could feel myself getting sicker and fatter. The State Fair is endearing, however, in all of its strangeness. I felt like I jumped into a world that hasn’t changed since the 20s. When our world turns to robots and flying cars, we will always be able to count on the State Fair to be running its 100% unsafe ferris wheel from the early 1900s and the greasy men with stained wife beaters serving oversized, hormone-infused chicken legs, only the legs will probably be twice as big. I wonder if everyone has the same moment of shock that I encountered when I went back to the fair 10 years after my childhood and suddenly all of the magic of the State Fair had vanished (except for that $6 Lemonade—now that will always hold its glam). It was so entertaining, though, that I quickly got over my “coming-of-age” moment and enjoyed the peculiarity of the whole affair. 

On the photography side of things: we are still honing in on event photography skills. We are using the five photo design, which includes an overall shot, a tight face, a medium shot of people, a detail, and a “wild card” or whatever I choose to use as my 5th photo. My biggest challenge was finding moments to focus in on within the neon, chaotic whirlwind. I was pretty overwhelmed with the number of potential photos hitting me at all angles and felt hindered by my inability to pick out the best moments or scenes within the event. You live and you learn, though. There will always be a next year.


Chandler: The Longboarder

I helped my friend, Aleece, with photographing senior portraits of a great lad named Alex this weekend in downtown Asheboro. His friend Chandler came along for support and entertainment. Chandler got bored so he grabbed a longboard and tied a shirt around his neck and started skating like a superhero because that’s what boys do. It was fun hanging out with these kids for an afternoon and photographing the beauty of youth.


Scotland County Highland Games

It’s event time in photojournalism now.  I’ve been learning a lot about photographing events for a newspaper. The “formula” includes a wide-angle that sets the scene, a tight face of someone enjoying an event, a medium photo of people engaged, an iconic detail, and a “wild card” of anything else that helps tell the story. Eddie and I went to the Highland Games in Laurenburg, NC this past weekend and it was swizzawesome. Kilts and funnel cake–yeah. We had a history lesson on Clan Leary, which is where the O’Leary’s come from, so that was pretty awesome. It’s nice to get in touch with my roots by marriage. I think we’ve started an O’Leary October tradition.

O'Leary_Event4_A O'Leary_Event4-B O'Leary_Event4-C O'Leary_Event4-D O'Leary_Event4-E


My love for digital retouching/editing has been slow going. I have a hard time sitting in front of a computer for hours practicing my bad posture. Within an hour I begin having periodic moments of intense flailing in an attempt to fight off the insanity creeping in. BUT, I will say, that after putting in 10, 20 hours of editing and finishing an image, it’s worth it—for about a second. For our last assignment in Digital Imaging we had to make a composite using at least six different photos. I learned a whole lot about Photoshop trying to put this composite together. I was forced to learn different techniques to get the look I was going for. I can’t say I would want to create images like this a lot, but I am glad that I know I would be able to make it look like I was hanging out with my zoo homies if I ever needed an alibi.


The White House

Last semester was the beginning of large format photography for me. I fell in love with the slow process and the way it forces me to stop, look, and just be before I push the shutter. Although the nature of the process is so different than how I usually work, I’ve learned to appreciate its value. It’s very much like a puzzle in that it is a slow, tedious buildup that ends in a sweet moment of satisfaction when the last piece is in place. I took my dear friend, Justina, to this beautiful abandoned white building. I pass it every day on the way to school, and finally decided to do a shoot there. I’m so grateful for such great friends and for the subtle breath of wind that made this photo.


When I meet someone who is such a rare gem, I cannot help but be changed by them. Janis Mason is one of those people who can create a deep world of connection within a 10 minute conversation and probably does every day she lives. I met the 95 1/2-year-old artist while walking through the art gallery in downtown Asheboro the other day and was instantly drawn to her genuine voice. She showed me around the gallery openly explaining why each piece spoke to her (which she recently judged for an exhibit held in Asheboro and now Winston Salem). She nonchalantly told me a story about assisting photographer Margaret Burke White decades ago and holding all of her equipment until she heard the urgent snap of Margaret’s fingers signaling the need for a light or film. After taking her photo, she held my hands in both of hers and told me it was so so great to talk with me. It’s moments and people like this that make me love photography so much.

Janis Mason, 95

Austin & NC leather goods

My brother-in-law, Austin Saylor, is one of the most talented people I know. He is a full-time graphic designer, illustrator, skateboarder, film producer, and leather goods maker. He is constantly using his hands to create beautiful pieces of art. I went up to Boone to take some photos of him working with his leather for my portfolio last semester and bombarded him with almost every format of camera possible. Although I mostly photographed with large and medium format film, I also grabbed a couple of digital photos as well. My new canon 6d is pretty great in that it can do in-camera double exposures, so I decided to mess around with the feature and play with vertical and horizontal compositions. Check out his amazing work at FullHarbor.com