Sky is the Limit: Dream Bigger

If whatever you are doing isn't working, then doing more of it isn't going to get you what you want.  When in doubt....


I had another realization after the performance about my purpose as a photographer. Of course I went down to the stage at the end to congratulate Alex and make the poor kid stand for a couple more photos by mom. He is used to it, and he loves the photos after the fact, but at the time I usually hear something like, “Mom, hurry up! I have to go.” I’m pretty good with the speedy portraits after two decades of shooting weddings. Before I arrived at the stage, I had planned my shot. I passed by a woman photographing her three kids where they stood….standing among the auditorium seats (which are black), as she struggled amid the crowd to back up far enough and focus in the dark with some strong lights pointed right into her camera. This happened in a flash, so I didn’t think to advise her….but I saw all of the problems with her photo before she even pressed the shutter.

Alex was still on stage. I moved him a few feet and asked him to go up to the third riser so that I could fill the frame with balloons and put him right in the middle. I didn’t bring a flash, and wouldn’t bother to use one anyway because the school does great theater lighting for their performances. If they went to all that trouble, why shouldn’t I use it? I got my shot, I let Alex go, and I was halfway out of the auditorium building when I suddenly realized that I should try to help someone else take a better photo too. THIS suddenly felt like the point!

I ran back to the theater and saw one mom in scrubs trying to get a shot of her bald eagle holding a bunch of balloons….from the wrong direction, with the wrong backdrop, and a nearly empty stage at her disposal. Without asking as much as telling, I offered to help her get a better photo. I grabbed the balloons, tied them back to the risers, turned the eagle around to take advantage of the great stage lighting (that she had been fighting, by shooting into the lights), and took a few shots of my own after showing her that now it didn’t matter what kind of camera she had….she was going to get a better photo. Making all of those decisions and repositioning her daughter took no more than 20 seconds. The improvement in her photos is off the charts. I’ll send her mine as well, but I doubt she needs them.

I left the auditorium again and remembered one of the things I love so much about photography. I love teaching other people to do it better in really easy, simple ways. I forget that normal people don’t think about photography nearly as much as I do and they don’t shoot even a fraction of the images I do. I am always learning, always finding new and better ways to see and shoot. I have learned most of what I know through trial and error…lots of error!

I take a ridiculous amount of photos as a mom, and I know so many moms that want to take a photography class….someday. I once gave one of my best clients a private lesson and had a lot of fun in the process. I gave another client some great info about how to use Photoshop better. MWACs (moms with a camera) get ready! I am here to help you all be better photographers….we all need better photos of our kids.

Would you like to see these Tropicana Dancers on display in NYC?

A glimpse of my entry to the One Life Competition.
Tanya Malott: Click "Collect Me" to help me win a New York City photo exhibition and a $25,000 cash grant: One Life Photography Competition

Renee Fleming and Tim Jessell at the Neue Gallery

Renee Fleming and Tim Jessell at the Neue Gallery, NYC

Renee wore a lovely green Vera Wang gown for this party in celebration of her marriage to Tim Jessell.  Both the wedding and this party were beautiful private affairs.  I am thrilled for both of them and was honored to get to know them and their kind friends and families.   The story of how they met is so can read it here (with effort).  My photo and the story ran last Sunday in the New York Daily News column called "Down The Aisle" by Elyse Inamine.  It is so rare that I will see any of my images published, so I am grateful to Renee and Tim for giving the world this little glimpse.

Havana Story, published in "Luxury" magazine in Jordan

These Cuba photos were published in Jordan's Luxury Magazine...(the Tropicana dancers, the Casa Lilliam photos, the trumpet player on the Malecon).   Here's a lovely first: Eason Jordan also gets a photo credit (for the picture of Carter and Raul Castro).  Our first published article together!  :)  Another interesting tidbit....they found me because of a blog post I made on the Tropicana dancers.  You just never know who is reading....

25 Random Things About Me

I thought this was interesting enough to post on my blog....3 years after I originally wrote it:



written by Tanya Malott on Monday, February 2, 2009 at 7:47pm  for one of those crazy circulating Facebook letters

Random photo of a place I used to go often....(these days I avoid JFK if at all possible)
1. Matchmaking is one of my favorite activities. I love introducing people who can help or love one another.

2. I met Eason on a blind date. My first thought as he stepped off the train was "Wow! He's taller and more handsome than I expected from the photo." A few weeks later, when he shared his old profile with me, I said I never would have contacted him because there was a typo in the profile. Almost four years later, I realize he types faster on a Blackberry than I do on a computer (with only limited typos), and I wonder if the magic was in the picnic dinner Fat Ralph (Pagano) made for us that day. I am hoping the typos kept other would-be suitors away!

3. Eason is afraid to introduce me to his military friends, especially the special ops guys because he knows I have a thing for uniforms and crew cuts. Lucky for him, they all look too young to me now....and he always keeps his hair short. I can get him a uniform if necessary.

4. I was born near Boston and traveled around the world at age four as we moved to San Francisco. I still love to travel and usually feel very happy on airplanes. Happiest up front. On my first trip to Moscow (1995), the Alitalia pilots let me sit in the jump seat for landing. Stuart was not pleased.

5. I remember 2 compliments that have touched me deeply...both are more than 10 years old. The first was from Sigrid, the first photographer I ever assisted. She said I was the most European of her American friends. I knew what she meant and felt flattered.

6. The second came from a client in 1997. Upon receiving his wedding photos, he said "Anyone can take a great photo if they shoot enough film, what impresses me is the percentage of amazing shots you took". I never forgot that, but I also know they made it SO easy....beautiful everything on a perfect day...a blind person could have done well. That is when I realized what a collaboration a wedding is. That client has continued to hire me every year since.

7. I can almost always tell which couples will stay married....and the weirdest thing is that about 95% of all my couples (over 18 years) are still married. I can't explain it, but I think somehow we find each other for a reason. When a couple I meet chooses another photographer, then gets divorced a few years later, I'm glad I didn't shoot the wedding. The parents of my best friends from high school are still married, but my dad was married three times, and my mom, twice.

8. I lost my sense of smell about 15 years ago when I fell in my loft building. I never missed it more than when Alex was born. I wish I knew how he smelled. I figure if I had my smell, I never would have married his dad, a cigar smoker, so I have no regrets because Alex is the light of my life.

9. When I was 11, my great grandmother said I should be a writer based on some story I wrote for school (she was probably just being nice) but I always remembered that. Other friends have said the same. I have written several articles for the East Hampton Star because I don't really know anyone who reads it and I can write about things I love: weddings, photography, and architecture.

10. I learned far more in high school than I did in college. I thought college was a waste of time and money and I left feeling totally unprepared for life.  I still secretly want to go to Yale for an MFA and Harvard for an MBA. It all seems sort of pointless now, and I'm afraid to apply because I doubt I could get in.

11. I love technology, gadgets, puzzles and spatial problem solving.. I don't know many people who can do a Tangram puzzle better than I can. Some people call it freaky.  I solved a puzzle on display at Harrods that had stumped people  for months...but I can't do a Rubik's cube (my son can). I can fix strange things...mechanical things mostly. I like to pack the trunk of a car too.

12. I always thought I was a cat person. I had one Siamese cat from K thru college. We had dogs too, but I didn't really love them. I am surprised how much I love our new dog, Sparky.

13. I would really like to spend the night at the White House with the Obama's. Alex and Malia are the same age and would have lots to talk about. I would be speechless, so Eason could do the intelligent talking. Maybe I'd be more comfortable on a long Air Force One flight, given my love of flying in luxury. I'd like to do both.

14. I think I am really un-photogenic. It is better when I am super skinny, but those days might be over. I sympathize with my clients who don't love being photographed, but I like to stay on my side of the camera.  I still wish I had more great photos of myself.

15. I snore. Or so I am told. Worse after margaritas. Or so I am told.

16. I'm not really sure what I am good at, but I know it isn't cooking....even though Eason and Alex lie and tell me what I cook is good. Unless it is chicken picatta, then I know they are telling the truth. Tough when you can't really taste anything.

17. I have owned only 3 cars since I was 17. All Fords. I only bought the last one and I chose it for the name: Focus. I felt I needed more of that in all areas of my life at the time.

18. Before I die, I want to see my photographs in a museum. I'll settle for one. But I am always happy to see them on the walls of my friends....maybe that is better.

19. Some days I think I suck and I want to give up photography. Other days I think I'll take my last breath with a camera in hand...better yet, by that time, I'll have camera implants in my eyes and I can blink to take the shot. That is how it works in my dreams. Someone else will have to edit though.

20. I love Astrology, Tarot cards, psychics, numerology, and mystical things that guys don't believe in. I loved it when Julie read my palm. I love the reading Layla just sent me. Frank Andrews was/is my favorite psychic who told me many true things about my future. I believe in past lives and reincarnation. My closest friends tend to be Scorpios, Libras, and Aries (women). Tell me there is nothing to it!

21. As a teenager I wanted to live in prison or on an island. I liked the idea of having lots of time to read, and not having to work. (I'm not sure the island fits that description).

22. It saddens me that I lived a mile or less from my maternal grandparents for most of my life and never got to know them. The only cool thing I remember was riding on my grandad's "caboose" as a kid (it was his private jet...only better, I thought). I loved going to Disneyland in LA every year with my paternal grandparents. They did every ride with my sister and me.

23. I feel better after a movie that makes me laugh, but I don't usually choose to see comedies. I prefer going to see tragic stories that make me cry. Benjamin Button made me cry so much I was embarrassed to walk out of the theater.

24. I have an irrational love of rearranging the furniture. I have been doing it since I was about 7. Nothing is too big or too hard for me to move alone. Ask Lise or Mary, or even Alex. Sometimes I don't like the new arrangement, and a few days later I move everything back.

25. Other careers I always thought I would enjoy: jewelry design, renovating houses, furniture design, being a detective, being an archivist for a photographer or a president.

From My Idea Factory: Multi-tasking Mama-Blogga

I created a clever tip today.  This isn't an everyday solution, but from time to time, I think it's kinda genius.

Sparky is the black blob on the path in this park we call "Heaven"....because that is what it is to him.

A blog post has been brewing in my head for two days, but I don't have the chunk of time I need to write it, and it isn't top of my priority list.  But because it involves Beyonce and her concert from Monday night, this is a time sensitive piece that needs to get written sooner rather than later.  As a woman who loves to multi-task, I solved it like this:  my son needed a ride to practice, my dog needed a walk,  I needed a walk, and shortly after that, I would be picking up the boy and making dinner.  No time to write.

So I took Sparky to the woods, and talked into my iPhone 4s most of the way.  I went into notes, used the speaker function (right by the space bar if you don't son taught me).  I talked out most of the blog story, while walking the dog and myself.  Now I can email the note to myself, copy and paste into a Google Doc (my favorite because it is always saved and my mouse sometimes behaves oddly), edit a bit more, add my photos, then copy and paste into blogger.  I got a LOT of writing done while talking, my dog is panting, and I got just enough of a walk to pass for exercise today.  Three birds, one stone.

And by the way, this is not the post that was brewing in my head (stay tuned for my longer, deeper Beyonce story), but it seemed too clever not to share.

Facebook creates an iphone app too....

Images from iTunes for the Facebook Camera App

Are you ready for the Facebook camera app?  I already have 5 camera apps, and I don't even use Instagram. Personally Hipstamatic is my favorite.  Instead of shooting with one app and uploading to Facebook, they made the obvious step of putting the camera in the app.  Why?  I suspect so that when you think "Oh, I have to take a photo of that" you immediately think "Facebook", and you share it, without that extra upload step.  Pretty soon, you won't have to think at all, the process to upload will be automatic.  Oh, and do you think there will be another monster camera-social app like Instagram?  Not likely.  Ever.

So now, do I ditch Camera+, or Camera Awesome ( should buy that one!) and your boring old camera phone?  Even my beloved Hipstamatic? Shoot with Facebook, share with Facebook, spend too much of my life on Facebook.....   Do I really want Facebook to have that much access to my photography?  You think you are sharing with your friends...but never forget you are also sharing with Big Brother Facebook.   

No doubt in the face of falling advertising revenue, this is yet another tool to keep us hooked.  Call me cynical.  The app is free, but the add-ons won't be.  They don't exist now, but they will.  In-app purchases are too tempting for any developer.

So what do you think?  Gotta have it?  Or is Facebook just getting a little too big in your life? Maybe they are being thoughtful, kind and helpful.  Maybe they are giving us crack, and withdrawal will be painful, if not impossible.  Maybe your happy snappy is their future advertising campaign.


The Edges of Darkness.

Singer at the Tropicana. Havana, Cuba
As a photographer, I find myself drawn to photos taken in extreme lighting conditions.  I particularly love what happens with photography in the darkness....when all you can see is a little sliver of your subject.  Stage lighting is always great for this.  I also love streetlights, headlights, and candle light.  The more difficult the lighting conditions, the more interesting photos I can make.  I like the way darkness  lets you fill in the story with your imagination.