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Land, Sea, and Family

In Rockland Harbor, off the coast of Maine sits a historic windjammer called the J. & E. Riggin.

The 120-foot schooner was built in 1927 in Dorchester, New Jersey as an oyster dredger by Charles Riggin and is named after Charles Riggin’s sons Jacob and Edward, J. & E. for short.

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A mast on the J. & E. Riggin.

The Riggin continues the tradition of family with its current owners Captains Annie Mahle, 50, and Jon Finger, 56, who have two children Chloe Finger, 19, and Ella Finger, 16, who work on the ship during the summer.

They have a business aboard the Riggin that offers eco-friendly sailing vacations with meals prepared by Mahle and her crew. Though there might be a destination in mind, the ship relies on the wind, tides, and weather to determine destinations and possible itineraries.

The Riggin’s sailing season is from late May to the beginning of October. From November through April crew works on projects on the ship.

 

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Captain Jon Finger plays the guitar in the galley of the J. & E. Riggin on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

Mahle and Finger met in 1989 while working aboard a different ship and married in 1993.

Finger has a Master of Sail 500-ton license and served in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Mahle, originally from Farmington Hills, Michigan, graduated from Michigan State University (MSU) with a degree in psychology.

“I knew I had to go on and get an advanced degree, and I was fine with that, at least until I got to my senior year,” said Mahle. “I realized I can’t make myself take any of the tests, look at any of the schools—I just couldn’t make myself do it.”

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Crew member Amy Wilke makes sure the ropes are secure after raising the sail on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017.

She decided to take a year away from school.

“I thought alright, I’m going to travel. I’m going to sail, and I’m not calling home for money,” said Mahle.

A friend of hers mentioned that her parents own a schooner in Maine and when Mahle called the owner said Mahle could have a job if she could begin work the day after graduation.

She began work on the Stephen Taber, where Mahle met Finger, and the ship docks next to the J. & E. Riggin in Rockland Harbor, Maine.

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The J. & E. Riggin docked at Pulpit Harbor, Maine on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

Mahle is not only a captain and a mother, but also a professional cook and a published author.

After graduating from MSU, Mahle studied at the Culinary Institute of America, and trained for three years under Swiss Chef Hans Bucher.

She has published three cookbooks At Home, At Sea: Recipes from the Maine Windjammer J&E Rigginand Sugar & Salt: A Year At Home and At Sea, which is split into two books.

Aboard the schooner Mahle provides meals for the guests, and cooks with a wood burning stove while at sea for up to 30 people.

The menu is seasonal and tailored to what is brought from Mahle’s garden. She strives to use as many fresh and local ingredients in her cooking as possible.

Mahle said the weather is an element in not only how it affects the boat but also how it affects her cooking and the heat of the stove.

But she said that an advantage of cooking with a wood-burning stove is the enhanced flavor, primarily using mixed hardwoods. Mahle gets up at 4:30 a.m. every day the schooner is sailing so she can light the stove at 5 a.m.

Breakfast is served at 8 a.m., lunch at noon, and dinner around 6 p.m.

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Annie Mahle starts lunch in the galley of the Schooner J. & E. Riggin on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.

Mahle said Finger had wanted to own a schooner since he was 16 years old, but she wasn’t entirely on board with the idea.

“It’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of capital investment, and I didn’t know whether we’d be able to do a family and own a schooner well,” said Mahle. “Turns out it’s the same wherever you go. Raising a family is raising a family. Where you raise your family is less important than how you raise your family.”

She said they came to an agreement.

“First, if either one of us feels like the business is affecting our family adversely, then we get to cry uncle and we’re done, that’s it,” said Mahle. “The second one was that he gets to pick the first 20 years, I get to pick the 20 years, what it is we are doing for work.”

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Crew members Mark “Chives” Godfrey, 20, from El Paso, Texas, and Erin Nolan, 20, from New York, New York, make sure the sail is secure on the J. & E. Riggin on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.

In 1998 the couple bought the J. & E. Riggin from the previous owner Dave Allen who had converted the ship to accommodate passengers in 1977 for a total of 24 passengers and six crew.

“We chose the Riggin first because she had a wood stove and she didn’t have an inboard engine and she was, from our perspective, the right size. We just liked the look of her,” said Mahle.

Mahle said Finger was walking down the dock one day and Allen was changing the oil and the oil was just dripping down Allen’s elbows when he called to Finger grumpily, “You want to buy a schooner?” and when Finger responded yes Allen said, “Let’s go to breakfast.”

“I knew the business, but owning the business—you have to wear a lot of different hats, but you get to choose the hats that you wear,” said Mahle. “There are some hats that you might not be as good at as others but you get to get good at a lot of stuff.”

The Riggin has no electricity while it is away from the dock. The ship’s power is battery operated for lights in the cabins and bathrooms, called the “head” on a ship as a nod to the old days when the toilet was located at the front, or the head of the ship. During the evening, the crew put out lanterns on deck so guests can safely find their way around the deck after it gets dark.

The ship also has a water tank that is warmed by the wood-fire stove so guests may take a shower after the water has been warmed from cooking breakfast.

“Some people I think look at what we do here and feel that we live without,” said Mahle. “And I don’t feel that way, I don’t feel that I have less here. I’m not waiting to get back home so that finally I can x, y, z. Some people will say, ‘Finally you get to sleep in your own bed,’–I do sleep in my own bed. I have two beds. I don’t pine for one over the other, I like them both. They’re both cozy, I’m next to my husband in both places. As a matter of fact, when I’m home, what I pine for are sunsets where I can see everything. The whole, 360 degree sunsets, which I cannot see at home, or just the feeling of living outside. That’s what I miss more than anything else.”

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Captain Annie Mahle knits while watching her husband play the guitar in the galley of the J. & E. Riggin where crew and guests have gathered on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

Amy Wilke, 29, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, works as a deckhand on the Riggin.

She learned about the Riggin from a blog post and it instantly sparked her interest.

“The article made sailing the Maine coast sound incredible and immediately I wanted to go,” said Wilke. “The guy I was dating at the time didn’t want to come with me and forbade me from going alone.”

Wilke said that when the relationship ended a year later, she booked a six-day trip for August 2015 aboard the Riggin.

“It was the first time I had ever stepped foot on a sailboat and it was one of the most incredible weeks of my life. I was heartbroken when I got home and ran a google search for tall ships closer to home so that I could become more involved,” said Wilke.

Wilke returned to the Riggin for additional trips and through that got to know Mahle and Finger.

Wilke still lives in Wisconsin and works full-time as an electric distribution control operator. She uses her time off and vacation time to work on the schooner.

“One of the hardest things to adjust to as a crew member is lack of privacy,” said Wilke. “We have our own spaces but sometimes other people (crew) need to get in those spaces because it may be where something important is stored. We were very fortunate to all get along easily which makes any adjustment process easier.”

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A photo of Captains Annie Mahle and Jon Finger’s daughter Chloe is placed amongst utensils in the galley of the J. & E. Riggin.

 

Mahle and Finger’s children grew up on the ship and around the business.

“Being a parent is crazy, and amazing, and when you add your kids in a workplace environment- there’s always a high concern on our part about the level of professionalism,” said Mahle. “We created a family atmosphere here, so our kids grew up around crew members and guests who gave them so much. It’s just rich. Rich and amazing.”

“Every year was a different challenge,” said Mahle. “We’d see behaviors and we’d think, oh gosh how’s that going to go on the boat, what are we going to do, and what are our strategies about how to deal with that. But what we tried to do was strike a balance between what the boat needed in terms of while being a family friendly environment not being completely kid focused. It’s not about the kids, it’s about our guests who are coming to stay with us.”’

Though they still managed to get into trouble every once in a while, as children do.

“There’s a lot of eyeballs on them, so they couldn’t be naughty all that often. If one of them were here I think they’d say I got really good at whisper yelling or “the look” where they talk about this laser look that I give them,” said Mahle. “Then I would whisper in their ear and try to have this conversation that was quiet and private so that they had some choice in the matter and some ability to talk about their emotions while not making whatever was going on for them public.”

Mahle attributes the business as a part of what helped shaped them as individuals.

“As they’ve gotten older, they have a really good sense of people now. They’re comfortable around adults and both of them, as I’ve witnessed anyway, have a really clear sense of self,” said Mahle. “The other thing that we’ve taught them is, I hope, because we have so many people around there’s lots of different opinions, and walks of life, and ways of making a living and just because someone else does that, thinks that, says that, and lives that way-is just interesting, speaks about them.”

Eventually Mahle and Finger started having a family friend come stay with Chloe and Ella while their parents were sailing with guests.

“When they got a little older and school got more important they decided it’s really crazy to go from the boat, to home, to friends and repeat. It’s like going from two different divorced households but never knowing where your stuff is at all. There’s three different places your stuff could be and it never felt like it was in the right place for them.”

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The crew of the J. & E. Riggin enjoy a toast after docking from a wedding sail for Bryan and Shannon Pollum on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017.

The couple’s oldest daughter Chloe attends Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania and is pursuing a degree in Environmental Science and Biology though she said that she would also love to run a boat.

Chloe said she thinks her parents would love to see her or her sister Ella take over the ship, but currently the J. & E. Riggin is up for sale.

“They have always made it very clear to us that our level of involvement with the boat and the business is completely up to us,” said Chloe. “They always say that they chose to do this and there is no pressure on either Ella or I to make the same choice.”

“I think I am in complete denial that the Riggin will eventually be sold because that boat is such an integral part of who I am and who I want to be,” said Chloe. “I know my parents will find really good people to take over her care and continue to steward her in the way that we have.”

Chloe said she hopes that if the Riggin does get sold that she hopes it stays in Maine and continues to sail.

“These old boats need to keep going to stay alive so they don’t get converted into a dockside restaurant or something like that,” said Chloe. “They were built to sail and that what they do best. We are keeping a piece of history alive by continuing to work her.”

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A moon is starting to appear from behind the clouds while the J. & E. Riggin is anchored in Pulpit Harbor, Maine on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. Lanterns stay lit overnight so crew and guests can find their way safely along the ship’s deck.

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Sports Story Single

For a sports assignment for school I’m following Cassi Ackels-Weatherby, a roller derby skater for Central Michigan Mayhem. The story and additional photos will be posted next week.

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26-year-old roller derby skater Cassi Ackels-Weatherby skates backward during Central Michigan Mayhem’s practice on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.

Coffee Bean Still Life

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For this week’s assignment I decided to photograph some inanimate objects and do a still life. My boyfriend’s love for me is comparable to his love of coffee. A large portion of his coffee consumption he actually roasts at home. So we had these beautiful Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans hanging around that had this amber brown shade coffee3to them and some still had the sheen of oil from being roasted only two days prior.

I really wanted to play around with using light to shoot from underneath which I did in the image to the right. I actually took the glass from my coffee table and and lined the underside with a white sheet to use as a consistent base but doubles as a diffuser and set my speedlite to aim straight up. I also had a second speedlite set up to light up the beans from the top. I really liked the detail it brought out with really defining the shape of the individual beans while also keeping a lot of the shadows on that center cut of the bean.

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I decided to use a mirror as a base for a couple of the other images. I really liked the reflection of the coffee beans in the images and the extra bit of depth it added.

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It’s your rite (to be Wiccan)

Glenda Bartel along with her best friend Melissa Collingham opened up the Livingston County Spiritual Center (LCSC), an alternative and holistic health service, to educate, inspire, and heal others.

The two provide services such as Reiki attunement, tarot and medium readings, and chakra and aura healing. They also teach classes and host workshops at the center.

One of the classes is Wicca 101.

According to Thea Sabin in her book “Wicca for Beginners: Fundamentals of Philosophy & Practice” Wicca is an evolving religion and a Wiccan is a person who has either formally or ritually declared themselves a Wiccan or simply is following the Wiccan religion/spiritual path.

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Glenda Bartel teaches the Wicca 101 class at the Livingston County Spiritual Center in Pinckney, Michigan on Sunday, February 12, 2016.

Bartel is a medium/clairvoyant and though she no longer follows Wicca religion she still identifies as a witch and enjoys educating others about Wicca.

“I wanted to share my knowledge with people, because I know what it did for me,” Bartel said. “So why can’t this be for other people?”

Bartel said she first realized she was a medium when she predicted her grandmother’s death when she was 12 years old. At age 14 she saw her great-grandmother’s spirit, an encounter she described as “bloody frightening.”

As for being a witch, Bartel said she didn’t really know anything about Wicca until she was 22 years old.

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Faye Sweeny takes notes during the Wicca 101 class taught by Glenda Bartel.

“I noticed how sensitive I was with the moon phases,” Bartel said. “I paid attention. But I’m also a triple Scorpio.”

Howell resident Faye Sweeny attended the Wicca class to learn about the religion and satisfy her curiosity.

“It may sound selfish, but to get a better understanding of myself. What am I doing here, where am I going, what’s my purpose,” Faye said. “I think this will help.”

Bartel believes Wicca is a great stepping stone for spirituality.

“It gets you in tune with Earth,” Bartel said. “It gets you in tune with the elements, it gets you in tune with the universe. It makes you respect all living things. These are essential things to know and learn on any spiritual path, not just Wicca.”

Two years ago Bartel decided to stop following Wicca and explore other religions and her own spirituality. Wicca is still a fundamental part of her though due to her being a witch.

“I was looking for spiritual awakening, spiritual enlightenment,” Bartel said. “And that takes a lot of work outside of Wicca. And because it is a religion you do have things that you have to follow.”

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Faye Sweeny takes notes over “Wicca: The Complete Craft” by D.J. Conway, a book Wicca instructor Glenda Bartel recommended for beginners to Wicca.

The religion of Wicca is based on a simple moral code called the Wiccan Rede “An ye harm none, do what ye will.”

According to Sabin’s book, the earliest church documents mentioning witchcraft is in the “Canon Episcopi” which could date as early as 906 AD. “The Canon said, essentially, that witchcraft was an illusion that originated in dreams, and to believe in it was heresy, or against the teachings of the church,” Sabin said.  So ensues the witch hunts and trials.

It wasn’t until about the 1950s that Wicca popularized. Followers began to make their own form of it and the faith made its way to The United States. Wicca made its way into popular witchcraft-based books and television shows, such as Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Charmed, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Popular media featuring witchcraft is still prevalent but strong stereotypes still exist such as Halloween dressing up as the ugly witch with the face warts or calling someone who is being nasty a witch.

When asked about stereotypes and what people think about her being a witch, Bartel had a quick and firm answer.

“I don’t base my life on other people’s opinion because that means they control my life, not me,” Bartel said. “And I’m not giving people that kind of power.”

The Livingston County Spiritual Center is located in Pinckney, Michigan but Bartel and Collingham plan to relocate. Updates can be found on their Facebook page at facebook.com/livingstoncountyspiritualcenter/.

Catching up

New semester started and it’s just as busy as the last! Since I last posted I have been working on starting a few project for video that I’ll be posting intermittently over the next few months.

I’ve also been shooting boudoir shoots lately which I’ve really come to enjoy. Most recently I photographed my friend Kendra who wanted to do photos for her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day and it gave me an opportunity to try out some new equipment. Out of respect for Kendra’s privacy I’ll only post some PG shots.

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For school we were working with Canon Speedlites, really nice but easily $400+ a piece for the newer versions, or around $150 used if you’re lucky. I really wanted to invest in some of my own so I could shoot whenever I wanted and not worry about getting the equipment back to the school on time, but financially I couldn’t justify $150 for each speedlite at the time.

A while back I ordered an Altura Photo Speedlight for about $35. It kind of just sat in my spare bedroom that doubles as a make shift studio. I had a hard time getting it to fire not hooked up to my camera and I didn’t want to rely on it out in the field.

A little over a month ago I stumbled upon an Ebay posting for a set of five Pocket Wizards (the Plus ii) that was going for $130 at the time which is a total steal. I started price comparing and I ended up finding the Pocket Wizard PlusX for $55-60 used via Amazon, so I bought five. B&H sells a set of 2 for $145 brand new. I’m really happy with the PlusX, they have 10 different channels compared to the four channels on the Pocket Wizard ii and it also is compatible with other Pocket Wizards if you need to mix and match. What I also love and appreciate about the Pocket Wizard PlusX is that there is a battery life indicator. It has green, yellow, and red lights. It’ll flash green until the battery is below 50% then it’ll flash yellow until the battery life is below 25%, then it will flash red. I really appreciate this because then I don’t have to trouble shoot and spend time figuring out what isn’t working, I can just change the batteries and continue. Really love that addition.

The boudoir shoot with Kendra was the first opportunity I had to test the Altura Speedlite in the field and I was so happy with the product that I ended up buying a second unit for the next time I shoot. Compared to the Canon Speedlite series it doesn’t have the light up display that easily lets you see the screen in the dark and it also doesn’t adjust for distance with the flash, but it does allow to adjust flash output power and for $35 I will physically move the speedlite to save myself the money.

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Loving dog mom Kendra, poses with Charlie after the boudoir shoot. One of the things Kendra and I have been chatting about was getting some photos with Charlie so this was a great opportunity. Charlie was so curious and wanted to know what was going on, but he behaved very well and just lay down beside the bed, only jumping up while Kendra was changing outfits. Boudoir photos aside, this was one of my favorite photos from our session, with these two together.

Photo Illustrations

For our photo illustration assignment we had to shoot two different ideas. I originally struggled to think of ideas but then I struggled to think of ideas that I could do that wouldn’t cost money to go out and buy items that I wanted to use as props in the photo.

I knew I wanted to do something with food. I’m a server and I came up with the idea to photograph how silly I find it when sometimes customers cut corners saying that they’re eating healthy because they ordered a diet soda or get angry when we don’t have low fat ranch dressing- and then order an all fried meal. The most difficult part of this assignment was really just my boyfriend getting to the first round of donuts before I had a chance to photograph them. That, and now I’m finding bits of bacon all over the carpet.

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“Cheating on your diet” A maple bacon blueberry filled donut wrapped in lettuce is still a donut, even if there is lettuce. Don’t cut corners, if you’re going to cheat on your diet then cheat. Web MD recommends not cutting out unhealthy foods entirely because it will lead to fixation and then splurging. This image was lit from the front left and another light to support and fill in the shadows coming from the right.

The inspiration for my second assignment was from an article I stumbled upon while scrolling through my homepage on Facebook. The article talked about this television show in Morocco that did a makeup tutorial for women to hide signs of domestic abuse. That really resonated with me about abuse being normalized and almost brushed under the rug and I wanted to do my assignment that showed the pressure women feel to keep quiet about abuse.

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“Concealing the abuse” Merissa Faye models cosmetic makeup and makeup imitating what a punch may look like. Models Taylor Kring and Kendra Peabody mimic the “shh” gesture to the pressure women feel to keep quiet. Faye, Kring, and Peabody were each lit with two lights with snoots to directionalize lights on the faces and give the fade to black effect.

Class Photo Illustration

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Our class split into two groups to compete against the other for who had the best idea and execution of the illustration. And though my team lost it has what I believe a strong message of dating, then and now and how drastically it has changed over the years due to technology and social media.