The earth’s orbit around the sun is not a perfect circle. One consequence of this is that the earliest sunset of the year does not actually coincide with the winter solstice, but instead happens about two weeks earlier. In 2023, that date happened to be December 8th, one day before I found myself out in the woods hoping for the right ingredients to come together for a magical, dark, but kind of twinkly shoot for my long-time email friend Janna over at Maggie Inc. Janna has booked countless shoots for me, and it felt high time we finally meet in person. And what better way to finally meet than to plan a photoshoot. So, bag full of fabric and overstuffed camera bag in hand, I abandoned my kitchen’s latke project and drove off into the (very early) sunset.

The date itself was pure coincidence, sort of picked out of a hat when Janna and I started riffing on what she’d want her perfect shoot to be, a combination of knowing December would have the right ambiance and hopefully not so deep into winter as to be unbearably cold (although you never know). I’ve written about natural light shooting in December countless times. It is my favorite light of the year and it is the most magical time of year in the woods. All is calm. All is bright. Everything sparkles. This particular day turned out to be cloudy and not so sparkly, which wasn’t what I intended, but it was 50 degrees and you take what you can get. We wanted moody, low light, and the afternoon did not disappoint.

The location was perfect, the day was perfect. About half way through a great horned owl started hooting at us, a sonorous reminder that we were in the middle of the woods right before dark, and might want to think about heading back towards our cars.

It was around this time that two women wandered off the trail to ask us where the trail was, and if we were Wiccan, which reminded me that I did eventually have to get back to my latkes.

They finally hiked away and we got to talk to our owl a bit longer.

Honestly I’m not sure Janna didn’t turn into our owl right here:

Now, speaking of December shoots, I took a deep dive into my old blog entries and it turned out that my very first real shoot with a model I did not know was exactly TEN years before this one on December 9th, 2013. I also spent that day out in the woods, only in that case it was an ice storm and I had to keep a shower cap over my camera- a real pro move if ever there was. I’m floored enough by the date repeat, but there are even more coincidences. Both these shoots were at Audubon sanctuaries, both envisioned a kind of sheer, chiffon dress (although I had more limited resources ten years ago), big hair felt like a must, and I had a kind of fairy tale in mind. It’s been a good while since I did a simple shoot in the woods, no crew, no fancy styling, just a camera and subject and nature and a bit of strong will and optimism. And yet, with no planning, I had come full circle, albeit in a completely uneven, barely circular path. Maybe we do wind up at the same point in our work every so often, just like the Earth does in relation to the sun. I haven’t quite processed what it all means, but I am very glad I was out there to see it happen.

And since we ran out of light by 4 pm, I was home in plenty of time to get latkes on the table by five.



  • Date: Saturday, December 9, 2023
  • Location: : Habitat- Belmont, MA
  • Photographer: Kayt Silvers
  • Model: Janna S.