Set Out on a Spirit-Filled Alternative to the Standard Bachelorette Party

By Oui We contributor Sam Spahr

Whether you’re the bride boheme or her free-spirited maids, a rollicking fête is clearly in order. As the women who love her deeply and know her truest self, it’s time to honor the bride and the friendships you’ve shared thus far.

Trade in traditional bachelorette party ideas for one that serves up a bit of substance as well. Try turning your attention to the four elements: air, water, earth, and fire. Allow them to guide your bachelorette party expedition as you celebrate the greatest and fifth element, your very spirits and life itself!

Bachelorette Party by Sam Spahr

Air

independent, creative, thoughtful, traveler

Take a cue from Princess Belle: find adventure in the great wide somewhere. Trade the bright lights and crowded streets of a typical bach' party destination for somewhere more . . . freeing. This trip is all about your tribe, so give yourselves the space to focus on each other, but most importantly the woman of the hour. The reality is that as time moves on, the opportunities to be with each other this way will only be more difficult to manifest. So get selfish with this precious time, get secluded from necessary distractions, and get creative with your celebration.

Air by Sam Spahr

Water

regeneration, change, trust, and devotion

If there is someone out there who doesn’t find the sight, sound, or feeling of water to be totaling refreshing, please call me. A water feature in any form is a mandated staple for a bach' party, in my humble opinion. Wedding planning - in all of its forms - can take a toll on the mind, body, and spirit. On top of logistics, your bride-to-be is stepping into a world of change, both subtle and substantial. Hike to a waterfall. Spend a lazy day in a river. Rejuvenate at wellness spa. Seek out a water element to help her melt the stress away and focus again on the beautiful light and the end of all this: her loving partner and the life ahead of them.

Water by Sam Spahr
Water by Sam Spahr

Earth

grounding, loyal, nurturing, stable

Maybe the ladies of the bridal party are a patchwork of your bride’s friends. Find an activity that will challenge your group and have you come together as a unit - especially if you haven’t known each other for half your lives. Something like cliff rappelling or rock climbing is a beginner level opportunity to cheer each other on and conquer some fears (in the hands of experienced and seasoned guides!) Overcoming an adrenaline inducing and totally thrilling experience together will leave a massive imprint on the soul that no one will forget for years to come.

Earth by Sam Spahr
bachparty4_copy.jpg

Fire

energy, passion, freedom, charismatic

Who hasn’t had a long lazy and boozy campfire night? The ancient act of communing over a fire is deep within our blood. It’s where we tell our best stories, laugh our great laughs, and feel free to speak out on some of our fears, worries. A roaring fire begs us to muse on our lives until the early hours of the morning. Whether you build a fire, light some candles, or gather to paint your nails (slumber party style), invoke the energy of fire as an element. Let this time be a freeing of the mind. Wedding planning can have your bride trapped in her own thoughts and anxieties so talk, laugh, cry, squeal, and just get silly. Release it all into the void of the night.

Fire by Sam Spahr

At the end of the day, don't forget to be with one another. Nurture your bonds. Sink deep into the blissful aura that surrounds your friend as she marks this milestone in her larger and greater journey.

Cheers,

Sam

The Solo Jaunt My Soul Was Crying For

by Oui We Contributor Sam Spahr

I’m currently in the research stage of an upcoming family vacation, and as much as I love the words family and vacation, I’ve been dragging my feet a bit on the endeavor. I’m truly a lucky gal; I like my family. Which is a bigger thing than love I think sometimes. We’re together often. We’re friends. We choose to be with one another when we don’t have too, you know? As much as I genuinely enjoy these humans, I think the impending vacation(s) coupled with the extra time we’ve spent together lately has me feeling a little like the proverbial family tree is tightening its limbs around me. It’s made me bit nostalgic for a time when I was a single little leaf living far away from home and traveling alone when I needed.

St. Michaels by Sam Spahr

I’m thinking specifically of when I was in the throws of my graduate study in Baltimore, and I had the opportunity to take a long weekend out of the city, away from my studio or any library. (In the spirit of honesty, I brought my work with me - I'm adventurous, not reckless.) I did a quick search to find a interesting place to land for a few days.

I couldn't go too far, but I still wanted to feel . . . different . . . maybe even inspired, if I could ask that much.

Eastern Shore, MD by Sam Spahr

Shoring Up

An easy drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and I found myself on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. As I headed south down this craggy side of the bay’s turf, I immediately felt the comfort of two lane roads, vague sprawling fields, and antiques for sale. A switch flipped in me. I wasn't even sure of where I was headed - no tourist attraction or famous landmarks drawing me in - but I knew I could not have made a better decision.

Eastern Shore by Sam Spahr
Eastern Shore, MD by Sam Spahr

Easton, Maryland is a thumbprint of a town. It’s sweet and quiet, and where I found the coziest Airbnb to house me for a few nights. Truly, I was blown away by the simplicity and warmth of the space that had once been a corn crib. Yes, meaning it once held heaps of harvested corn and nothing else. After an astute renovation, it stands as a studio style bungalow complete with a small foyer, spa-esque bath, and a kitchenette complete with mystically delicious banana bread fresh baked by the owner waiting for you when you arrive. And no, I was not able to snag the recipe.  

I was able to lose track of time in the property’s quaint courtyard, hunker down with Chinese take-out while I read through my research articles and binged late 90s teen dramas with a bottle of wine. You cannot shame me; I am unshameable because this is what I needed to happen.

Easton, MD by Sam Spahr
St. Michaels, MD by Sam Spahr

Traveling isn’t always about doing

It’s not something I recognize easily though. I often feel the need to keep moving because I don't want to waste time, or that I ought to take advantage of being wherever I am. Yet, this time was different.

I needed to be me, just in someplace new for a little while.

With my base in Easton, I ventured into St. Michaels for fresh air and a fresher outlook on my life, at that time really. A charming waterfront town that necks out into the bay, St. Michaels brought to life many ideas I’ve held about dreamy little (east) coastal towns as a deeply southern gal. Slips stacked with boats were bordered by understated seafood eateries. Walkable shops and historic buildings popped straight out of a storybook or painting, I’m sure. They all validated a piece of my soul that always hoped places like this existed in such splendor, even outside the magic of a television screen.

St. Michaels, MD by Sam Spahr
St. Michaels, MD by Sam Spahr

It’s no wonder St. Michaels has the reputation as one the most romantic towns in the country. I distinctly remember feeling joy just floating around in the air there. Nowhere pressing to be, no one else needs to consider, I walked aimlessly around for hours in some state of pure bliss. Maybe the locals were concerned about some chick waltzing around with a dopey smile on her face, in and out of every street, shop, and sidewalk, but who cares. I was damn happy. And isn’t that worth everything?

So, I’ll get on wrapping up my family’s vacation plans, (planning does make me happy) and you consider this a personal call to action: get away and go fall in love with yourself.

Eastern Shore, MD by Sam Spahr

Sam Spahr is an artist-educator who gets her kicks sharing the magic of the arts with kids and adults alike. She has a penchant for ancient artworks and helping others find the connections between now and then. When not inside a studio or bookshop, you can find her paddling out somewhere with her hubs and pup. She loves experimenting in the kitchen, but loves eating even more, especially in new cities and cultures.

Get Out and Get the Shot: 4 Photo Tips & Then Some

by Oui We Contributor Sam Spahr

As a photographer, the visual record is everything to me (trés dramatic, oui). But I know I’m not alone because we live in possibly the most visual time. Photos are easy to produce and extremely accessible. We share like there’s no tomorrow! Every day I know what the desert in Oman looks like, and someone in Kraków is super up-to-date on my dog’s little adventures - thank you, Instagram!

Interlaken, Switzerland by Sam Spahr

With all of this possibility, access, and general love of photographing it’s easy, even for me, to get a bit wound up in it all while traveling. I’m deciding which camera to take, when to post a pic, not wanting to miss a cool shot… and wham: I’m spacing out on the whole experience instead of really living it. 

So, I’ve been working on me (claps for self) and am trying to do better. Maybe, just maybe, your out there thinking, “yeah I get a little caught up behind the lens too” Great, because cheating yourself out of any experience that you have spent planning and dreaming about for any amount of time is not fair to you or anyone hoofing it with you.

Pedernales, TX by Sam Spahr

After some reflection and practice, I have some thoughts that help me to better live in the real-time sweetness of my adventures, and I hope they help you too!

Choose your machine, and commit

As a bit of a purist, I always bring at least one camera, that isn’t my phone, along for any journey. Whether it’s film, point and shoot, DSLR, or even a cutie little instant camera, I like the focus of having one machine for one job. If you’re more comfortable shooting with your smartphone, do it! Whatever your choice, focusing on one camera apparatus is step one to dialing in.

One camera may work better for different activities or excursions than another. I would probably rely on my phone for a night out in a new place but take my DSLR or film cam out for a village stroll during the day. << look I can’t even pick one camera for a hypothetical, hahaha help me…

Resign yourself to the #latergram

I do not care if you’re shooting you’re entire Grecian getaway on your phone. Stop trying to post photos immediately after you’ve taken them. Harsh, I know, but it’s so important, and here’s why:

You will 100% miss the magic of the moment you’re trying to capture in the first place once you start filing through filters and slick captions and subsequent emojis. Save that stuff for a boring cab ride or take a few minutes when you get back to the room. Take the hand of your travel bud and run off into the bustling market instead of spending 11.7 minutes trying to upload it!

Harpers Ferry, WV by Sam SPahr
Boats in Paris, France by Sam Spahr

 

Be selective

Which is honestly just great advice, for life, but anyway… Choose the moments wisely. When you’re in a new place, everything feels exciting and worthy of a photo, maybe even a photoshoot. This is one that I struggle with most (read: spent 20 minutes posing my husband in front of a giant palmetto frond.)

Humans are emotional beings, and even if we don’t know it, we take photos because we are trying to hold on to a feeling. Remember this when you’re thinking of hitting the shutter. Ask yourself why you want the photo; it may save you from 100 in your camera roll totally unseen and forgotten about because they really weren’t that special in the first place. i.e. The Food Shot: Do you want a photo of a perfectly crafted creme brûlée or a shot of the unadulterated joy beaming from your partner’s face as they dive into it? Go for the feeling, if you must. Or take no photo at all and bliss out with your loved one. You’ll remember that feeling - no photo required.

Get the shot and get on

My hubs is usually my travel bud, and I owe his sighing and palpable distraction much credit for the wisdom I’m laying down. If he starts looking at something else or begins to gain a few strides on me, I know I’m taking to long photographing my subject. I rate my photo skills pretty high, so I tend to linger out of luxury and less so because I can’t get the shot I want. 

However, if you do find yourself spending more than a minute or so trying to snag a pic, it’s totally worth working on your photo game, no matter what you’re shooting with. Spend a few minutes on YouTube and start getting the best performance out of your device - camera or smartphone. You can better respect the time of everyone else your with if you know your machine and how to better use it. Happy travel buds = happy travels.

Hameau de la Reine at The Palace Versailles by Sam Spahr
Hameau de la Reine at The Palace Versailles by Sam Spahr

I’ll start you off with a few time-saving-get-the-shot-you-want-not-the-shot-you-end-up-with notes:

Grid + Frame

Seeing each photo as a grid can help you organize the space of your intended image, leaving you with better composed photos, which = more interesting images.

Use the age-old rule of thirds. Imagine that the frame of your shot is divided in to a 9x9 grid. (some devices give you the option to turn this grid on in real life.) 

Think about framing your shot within the thirds of the grid i.e. far left, far right, or center. Top, bottom, or center. Then you can play with splitting your subject across thirds, etc… Photos are usually more interesting when the subject is not placed center/center unless you're being very intentional.

Focus

It has a double meaning - 1: We say something is "in focus" when it appears sharp in the photo. I am the biggest ruler breaker when it comes to focus. I LOVE to play with what is in the foreground (typically what is in focus) and the background (what's usually blurry or out of focus). Sometimes I have fun creating shots that are totally out of focus (on purpose), but a lack of focus, or a blur, is also a way to convey movement and energy too.

2: The focus of the image itself, meaning where is your eye being drawn to? This is also where the grid helps. Use it to decide how to arrange the focus of your image. Where are you placing the subject? What is their relationship to the space behind them? To the side of them? Above them? If you want to get tricky, explore multiple points of focus. Check out my carousel image to see my use of the grid and focus (1 and 2).

Carousel, Paris by Sam Spahr
Carousel, Paris with grid, by Sam Spahr

Scale

Grand vistas, monumental buildings, and sky high waterfalls always warrant a photo but are sometimes the trickiest thing to translate. Inserting people into large scale scenes can help to convey the grandeur of an impressive subject. Have fun with it though: no need for a bunch of smiley shots. Have your human-scale helpers play with different poses and looks. Get that candid-esque feeling as they awe toward the inspiring landscapes before them. Shoot from a lower angle for some quick and easy drama.

Light

This is a tough one to distill into a few sentences, but the best advice I can give you is to use natural light when possible. Get up early and stay out late. Morning light is soft and gentle on almost any subject you could come across. Evening light can lay down some sick shadows on a city scape, and is my favorite time to shoot architecture and the general feeling of a town.

Also, don’t be afraid to shoot at night. It can be a little intimidating, but the absence of light is just as fun. Glowing candle light or some twinkle lights strung up above a café can lead to some seriously dreamy photos. Bonus: the good stuff happens early and late, the everyday moments that make a a place what it is like shopkeepers setting up in the market, neighbors greeting the day, general unabridged living. *and most importantly please don't use the flash... pretty please*

Louvre, Paris by Sam Spahr
The Palace Versailles, France by Sam Spahr

 

When you do have the time… play, play, play. The only way to get better and faster is to explore and play, which is a pretty nice excuse to keep traveling too ;)

Check back for more notes soon, and in the meantime, happy photographing!

- Sam