ebeth photography » E. Beth Thomas | Portrait, event, and lifestyle photographer | Huntington, Long Island

Scribbling on the Wall (orig. pub. 9/18/15)


A long time ago, before the term “bucket list” was invented, I sat down with my journal in the finished attic of the townhouse in Plainsboro, New Jersey, and I made a list of life skills I wanted to learn. I didn’t mull them over; they’d been in my head a while already. I just set them down in a safe place for later.

  1. Horseback riding
  2. French
  3. Photography

I didn’t go about checking off the boxes: I’m not that rigorous. I tend to let life decisions have their way with me. Or maybe it’s more that I set myself on a collision course with them, and they seem to happen of their own accord. No purposeful five-year plans, then, just some notions that might coalesce if they hold my interest.


Back in New Jersey, lots of copyediting and dog walks and cat fur and townhouse renovation and furniture purchasing with my then-husband later, I discovered that the pick-your-own-strawberries farm down the road offered horseback riding lessons. I bought a package of six. I fell in love with the tack room, all polished wood paneling and tidy bridles and saddles and rich smells, and I went home with those details so solidly lodged in my senses that when I closed my eyes, I felt like I was still in the tack room.


But that was the first day. Over the course of those lessons, I came to understand that a horse’s back is pretty high up. That trotting is no. fun. at. all. And that even elderly horses have opinions.

As for languages, I’d taken enough Spanish classes in high school and college that taxi drivers complimented my accent when I traveled in Spain. But over the years, I’d forgotten the vocabulary and the verb conjugations, and I figured French would be more of the same: learning it only to forget it, because I didn’t plan to live in France any time soon. So I made my peace with pronouncing “croissant” the American way and mentally crossed French off the list.


That left photography. In 2007 I took a beginner-level class and learned about aperture and shutter speed and ISO, and I made a couple of good friends with whom I could go hunting for photos. Then I got divorced and embarked on a series of moves and new places and people, and I forgot most of the language of photography, too.

But I never forgot how it felt to walk around holding a camera, looking for pictures.

Which are everywhere when you’re open to them.

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After I embarked on a new life on Long Island, and that life got overly exciting and then, mercifully, settled down a bit, I got inspired by a good relationship with a friendly little point-and-shoot. I dug out my old digital Rebel and signed up for a class. Then several more. I read a ton of books, and studied masters’ photos, and bought a house’s worth of gear (read that how you will). Most important, I committed to practicing photography. I didn’t just want to learn it–I wanted to soak it in through every pore. To know it.


It turns out I’ll never be done learning about photography. Right now I’m trying to assimilate the ins and outs of on- and off-camera flash; how to set a custom white balance using the Kelvin scale; whether there’s an advantage to back-button focusing; and a couple of the many tricks to working with people in front of my camera. I need to learn more about Lightroom, I have to take a class in Photoshop, and I’m willing to bet I’ll always feel like a beginner. I don’t know where the heck all of it will lead me, not even this blog; in the southwestern Virginia parlance of my predecessors, I don’t know shit from Shinola about blogging. When I told Sean I was working on WordPress, he wondered, “What’s the purpose of a blog, anyway?”

Well, for me, it’s a place to share what I find through the lens. It’s a URL where I can send people who want to see my work. And it’s another adventure.

Maybe it will be FUN!


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