I am beginning to write this post on a particularly snowy April day in 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown. It's been several weeks now since we could all go out and see each other face-to-face, or hang out together and watch a movie, or visit our favorite coffee shops, restaurants, and bars together. I thought I would share some of my favorite pictures of togetherness taken over the last year or so and the stories behind them. I am avoiding wedding shots for this blog post, but I might do a similar post soon that focuses on weddings.
I am also taking this opportunity to plug a few local businesses and business owners that I really like. All of the businesses I link to in here are local to the Springs and most of them are able to ship their products nationwide. Most of them are entirely owned and operated by one or two people pictured here.
These first two images are from a popup dinner at Blank Coffee (@blankcoffeefood) hosted by two of my favorite people, Sean and Jenny of Bonbon Bombardier (@bonbon_bombardier). The first image was taken after the last course as Sean, Jenny, Brian, and the drinks master (sorry, I don't know your name!) shared a drink and explained the inspiration behind the menu. The theme for this dinner was fancy comfort food; things like hot pockets and toaster strudels and beer-ritas (oh my!) done really well. I actually met Sean and Jenny at this dinner and have happily gotten to know them much better since then.
Sean and Jenny make amazing candies that they sell through their website (see the link above), as well as really cool clay earrings. Brian and his partner Michele run Art and Article (@artandarticle), a really cool home goods and decoration store with a Japanese-inspired aesthetic.
Going back through these images starting in January of 2019 is rather poignant for me. At the start of this series I was still living with the person with whom I moved to Colorado Springs. That broke up pretty early on in the series and the following several months were really tough for me, including a lot of anxiety attacks, some borderline depression, that sort of thing. I moved in with some friends, traveled some, visited some friends, shot some weddings and events, bought a house, traveled some more, switched jobs, and finally met someone really cool whom I've been seeing a lot of since.
While going through the aforementioned tough times, I was blessed to rent a room from two beautiful souls, Sipho and Stephanie. Sipho runs a watch shop on the 'gram (@siphowatchbox) where he sells some really cool used and vintage watches for good prices. Stephanie runs Wilderbag Co. (@wilderbagco), which started as an awesome thrift store and now sells hand-made jewelry that rocks!
The following image was captured at a house party hosted by Sipho and Stephanie shortly before I moved in. They are both very involved in the local art and poetry scene, and invited a bunch of their artist friends to come and perform for their peers. It was a great night of listening to some excellent music and poetry, with special shout outs to Danny Leroy (@dannyleroymusic), DJ Sanza (@sanzapyatt), Amby (@ambyentwitch), and several others for whom I unfortunately don't have info.
My friend Steve usually makes it out to the mountains once a year to visit some friends and family for a ski trip up by Denver. I didn't ski on this trip, but drove up to Breckenridge for a fun afternoon and evening of good food, drinks, hot tub times, and company. The ski resorts had to close early this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the mountains should be around for a while still, so I think they'll be alright.
I visited another good friend of mine in Huntsville, AL in the Spring and got to check out the US Space and Rocket Center. If you're ever in the area (and after museums get to reopen), I highly recommend going. The Saturn V alone is awe-inspiring. I think this shot of kids at the museum watching video of a Saturn V launch captures some of that awe.
This next shot was taken at another one of Sean and Jenny's popup dinners at Blank Coffee. At this point I had gotten to know them a bit better so I was able to wander around and take some behind-the-scenes shots in the kitchen. This is a shot of several of the people involved in making the dinner happen sharing a meal after the last course was served. I really hope that when we come through this, Sean and Jenny will be able to do more of these popups. Their food is amazing and the events have a great vibe.
About a year ago this month, I was hired to shoot a dinner and dance showcase event for a local dance studio, Dance Wonderland (@dance_wonderland_co). I captured this shot of a couple warming up before guests arrived. Once upon a time I competed in ballroom dance for several years. I can imagine how frustrating it would be to be unable to meet with your partner for practice during this lockdown. I am sure when we all come through this that there will be many practice sessions!
This year's showcase is one event that I was scheduled to shoot but has had to be rescheduled due to the pandemic. I am looking forward to the opportunity to capture some dancing fun again.
Last summer I spent a week in the New Mexico desert shooting the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association's (ESRA) Spaceport America Cup, a collegiate rocket competition where teams from all over the world compete in a number of categories with rockets that fly to between 10,000 and 100,000 feet! I took a lot of pictures of launches, but my favorites were the pictures of teams working hard together right up to the last minute to get the most out of their rockets, and teams celebrating their launches in the desert. The last picture in this series is one of my favorites from the event, capturing the moment a whole team realized their launch went off without a hitch.
Check out ESRA's IG (@esra.rocket) for more pictures, including some that I took last year. Unfortunately this year's event has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am sure there are many disappointed teams out there, and hope that next year they can all make it back and do even better.
I didn't make it to the pride festival in Colorado Springs this year, but I rode my bike into town and walked around to take pictures of the pride parade. I was very impressed with how the LGBTQA community turned out for the event, and with the support from the Springs. Everybody had a great time celebrating compassion and love. Free hugs may be out of the question during the lockdown, but I'm sure they will be back with a vengeance when we are past this.
I bought a house last summer and had a few friends (and dogs) over for a barbecue. I took this picture of three of my friends hanging out in the back yard through the smoke rising off of the grill. I am looking forward to having a larger house warming party this summer if the COVID-19 situation allows it.
Work sent me to Hawaii for a week last summer. I took several walks and runs along the beach with my camera, and captured families and friends hanging out in the ocean and beautiful weather together. I understand the beaches are still open for walks and runs, but no hanging out right now.
Every year for Labor Day, Colorado Springs hosts the Labor Day Liftoff hot air balloon festival. I rode my bike down to Memorial Park one morning at sunrise to watch the balloons fill up and take off. The event is huge, with tons of balloons and thousands of people walking around and enjoying the festivities. I enjoyed all of the colors and craziness of the crowd and setting.
Manitou Springs hosts the Coffin Races around Halloween each year. This year I went to a costumed birthday party with friends before heading to Manitou for the races. Manitou gets so crowded that it was a little overwhelming, but the costume party was a great opportunity to take candid shots of friends hanging out.
I visited my brother in Brooklyn in November. We walked around the city, visited MoMA and the Met, ate great food, and just generally had a really good time. I think these next couple of shots are nice vignettes into NYC life before the COVID-19 lockdown.
For the last couple of years I have shot a Christmas party for a family here in Colorado Springs. They somehow manage to get the real Santa Claus to come and mingle with guests. Here he is sitting with a family on the couch during dinner.
I drove home to Chicago to visit my family for the holidays. My sister recently moved back to the area and lives just a few miles from my parents. We Christmas at my sister's place with her family, just hanging out and enjoying a beautiful winter day. Here my niece is showing my mom a cool watch she got from Santa while my sister talks with somebody out of frame.
Back in the Springs I went bowling with some friends for a friend's birthday. The bowling alley made us take our food back out to the car once they caught us with it.
Some friends threw a Mardi Gras party in February, complete with great food, decorations, and silly string (pictured). I love events like this for the opportunities they present to get candid shots of friends not feeling self conscious (or even aware) that they are in front of a camera.
I got together with some fellow photographers and artists in the Springs for a movie and shooting night just before the news surrounding COVID-19 got really bad. We rented out a studio and watched Faces Places (Visages, Villages), a documentary about photographing communities in France with the photographer JR and videographer Agnès Varda. After the movie, we set up some lights and started shooting.
In the first image below, my friend Rich (@the_global_citizen)—a fashion photographer and stylish guy—is teaching us about his cool flash meter. The following image is one I took of Sipho who runs Sipho Watch Box (@siphowatchbox) living in the Matrix. Also present were JAS, a makeup artist and photographer (@sailingsoulfully); Brian (@finraz) of Art and Article and Blank Coffee; Satomi (@gardenofmaiden) who runs Weighstead, a zero waste goods store (@weighstead); Devin (@pyrrhic.war), a photographer at Sun Chaser Studios (@sunchaserstudios); Isaac, a photographer and videographer at Finding Home Here (@finding_home.here); and Stephanie of Wilderbag Co. (@wilderbagco).
Finally, Sipho and Stephanie met us in a parking lot for a little socially-distant face time. We sat in our cars a good distance apart and talked over the nearby traffic. It was a good way to get some socializing done while staying safe, but I think next time we are going to pick a quieter spot.
I have had pretty much all existing gigs canceled or rescheduled due to the shutdown. If you would like to schedule me to shoot your wedding or event later this year or beyond, contact me on my website or through one of the links below. If you'd like to see more of what I do, check out my Instagram (@nathantonerphotos) or my wedding, family, street, and landscape galleries.