Posts Tagged ‘Process’

More Images, Just for Fun


They say the best camera is the camera that you have.  I tend to agree.

Lately, I’ve been just goofing off, a prime phrase for many things, with the camera most available to me.  My camera phone.  It’s fun, the images aren’t serious, they’re just for my own personal enjoyment.

Having said that, I do, of course, share them.  I use tumblr to feed posts to my facebook fan page and my profile.  So I’ve been using one of my tumblr pages, Mojave Photos, to feed images to my facebook profile, and I’ve been posting a lot of my goofing off, daily life images to it.

Some of the images are good, some aren’t, they’re just images from around life, and I enjoy it.  I’ve actually stopped to doing Facebook status updates (mostly) and replaced them with photo status updates.  Same idea as a status update, I just take a photo of my status instead of writing about it only.

It’s a fun game for me.

What else can you ask of any art form?

iPhone 038.JPG

From lunch

Why I Volunteer


Lifeguard Games for the Southern Nevada Red Cross

For years I’ve done volunteer work, volunteer work as a photographer.  For years I’ve read the arguments as to why this may not be a good idea, and they may be right, but for me, volunteering is the right decision in some cases.

I volunteer because it makes me happy.  That simple.  I love that it helps people out, whther that be people who are having a hard time, or people that could use hand, or helps the arts in it’s many forms.  The volunteering I do, I believe, helps people, makes people happier, and makes the world a better place, and that makes me happy.

I ultimately am a pretty simple man, I like to be happy.  If volunteering someplace, or someway, doesn’t make me happy, doesn’t give me a sense of fulfillment, then I don’t do it, and I don’t do it because it doesn’t make me happy.  That’s ultimately selfish, but that’s fine with me, I can live with myself knowing that.

I do the work when I can, and when I can’t I say “no”.  I say “no” to shoots whenever they conflict with something else I’d rather be doing with my day, or with work, because I need money too.  That’s one of the benefits of being a volunteer, being able to say “no”, being able to set the bounds that work for you.

Now the argument against doing this, and I’ve never read it as a hard argument, but more as something to seriously consider, is that there are other people in these organizations which are making money, are earning a living helping out these organizations.  Why shouldn’t the photographer, who is also providing a valuable service, get compensated?

I’ve done plenty of work for non-for-profits where I have gotten paid.  I’ve loved it when I’ve had that work.  I feel good, I feel like I’ve done something meaningful for the world around me and I’ve put food on my table.  It’s a total win situation.  It’s great, but again, why sometimes would I do essentially the same work and not get compensated?

I’m not going to say I shouldn’t get compensated, I’m not going to say any photographer, or person, shouldn’t get compensated, they should.  They totally should, but sometimes that just isn’t possible for everyone.  The world’s an imperfect place and there’s never enough money to go around, if there was the whole profession and basis of economics would come crashing down.  At some point I have decided, and I imagine many others have decided, that other forms of compensation are worth it.

I have long since decided, that in some cases, and only some cases, that the reward of the happiness I receive volunteering is worth doing the work.  I’d love to get paid, who wouldn’t?  But at the end of the day, between not doing the work and doing the work and being happy for it, I choose doing the work.

I enjoy going home, feeling happy, feeling fulfilled.  I’m happy with what I did.  And I volunteer so I can be happy, so I can be fulfilled, so I can be the person I want to be today.

And when that calculus changes, then I’ll move on, but that ain’t today.

Things Ya Find When Looking Through Old Stuff


So I was poking around through my old panos looking for a few more and I came across this one.  I did this a few years back, maybe 3 or 4 or 5 or I don’t know.

I did this originally to try to sell a client of mine, Dominican University, (nice people, good place, fyi) on the possibility of how these could help them market online, do online tours, stuff like that.  I forgot it was even there.

Anyhow, click on this link, check it out, it’s worth the time.  Click on the image and move your mouse around to move your view around, up, down, left, right, anywhere.

It will make your browser go full-screen, fyi.  And yeah, the audio ain’t anything of interest, but it’s what’s there right now and I ain’t fussing with it.

Click here.

Update: Apparently they changed something in the newest WordPress release which makes it challenging to make a pic a link.  I’ll work on solving it (I think it’s solved, fingers crossed).  In the meantime use the other links if ya don’t mind.

Because I Can CXXXI


So originally when I saw this I thought it looked like a small fuzzy Beavertail Cactus.  I thought that was just a funny phrase.

In actuality it’s an Old Man Cactus, I think, and that name is not as funny.  I’m trying to learn all the vegetation out here, at least a little, and it’s going to take a while.

I did find a nice resource in Bird and Hike where they list the various habitats, and the various cacti around Vegas.

Also everything I thought was Beavertail Cactus is a member of the Pricklypear Cactus family.  More to learn.


Different Places, Different Times, Different Looks


“I like your nature shots a lot it’s a new side to you,  but it nice to see some people again.” – Kathy

I’ve been thinking about this as well for a while.  Ultimately I think it comes down to my photography changes as my life changes.

In Chicago I did do work like this, just not much, and for a simple reason, it wasn’t an available option.  Today I can drive 15 minutes and be in Red Rock Canyon.  I can drive 30 minutes and be on Mt. Charleston.  In Chicago this wasn’t possible, and I’m enjoying having the option available for the first time in my life and taking advantage of it.

I am, trust me, working to go back to more people photography also.  I miss it.  A lot.  It’s just going to take a some time.  In Chicago I had a pretty broad and varied network of friends and contacts.  I knew what was happening, when and where, and if I didn’t already know I knew how to find out.  I had build that knowledge base, acquired those resources, and met those people over 20 years.

I’ve been in my new home for 6 months.  I want to have those options available to me again, and I will, I just don’t yet.  I’m working on finding all the whacky and fun in Vegas, but I’m looking for more off-the-strip stuff.  That’s just more interesting to me at this point.  I will it more and more, but it’s an area that I’m definitely working on growing.

And my photography is, in the end, from wherever I am.  These days, I’m outside, usually taking hikes.  I’m rather enjoying it, as it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to.  But as my activities change, so will the imagery.

Catching up, Winning Awards


In the mix of moving across the country, I’ve fallen behind on some stuff…one of those items is that at the Illinois Press Photographers Association (IPPA) Best of Photography competition I took awards for 1st place in Portrait, HM in Portrait, and 2nd place in Enterprise Picture Story.  Also at the Southern Short Course I took 2nd place in Daily Life and 3rd place in Daily Life Story.  All and all not to bad.  Not great, I’d like to have done better, but on the other hand that’s always true.

The winning entries are related to my story on Michele.  Michele is a breast cancer fighter/survivor.  I documented you her battle throughout 2008 and into 2009.  I hope to continue to document her in the future, even with the flights involved.  By the way, if you ever get a chance to meet her, she’s a great human being.

The image below is after her 2nd chemo round, during which she stopped breathing from anaphalatic shock, this is during the elevator right down to the car.  This is the image that took first in Portrait.


I Hate Shooting Santa







No Plan Survives


No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.

– Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard von Moltke

Every few months I have to shoot a couple of months worth of magazine covers for our various parenting magazines. These shoots almost universally involve taking photos of kids, from newborns to about 10-year-olds. Kids…they bring a unique set of challenges.

Magazine covers need to pop more, need a extra over the inside images, and are worth, because they’re the first thing anyone is going to see who might decide to pick-up our magazines. So we put in the extra work to make the photos work better. We rent studios, we scout locations.

So on Monday of last week I was supposed to shoot a cover, it fell apart due to rain. The idea was to have a very fall (the season) photo. We were thinking fall colors. Since the shoot fell apart and I was already at the location I figured I’d spend the time location scouting. (I had already planned two hours in before the original shoot to scout, but as the reschedule was for 8am, I figured I’d do it at that point in the rain because I wouldn’t have time before the reschedule.)

So I go out, hunt locations with my assistant, look for good trees, take test shoots and notes. On Sunday the group of us get there, go to our location and start shooting. The trees have changed a bit, so there’s some on the fly adapting, but that’s normal. We shoot for about 3 minutes, make some changes, basically just get some test shots done, get ready to start again, and the subject, a 2-year-old girl, just falls apart. She’s done. This is shockingly normal.

At this point the other person from the office and I decided we needed a change of venue, namely some place where we would have something for the subject to play with. With kids, when in doubt, distract them from whatever is making them unhappy, usually by giving them something to play with. Actually, this works with adults also, but we won’t talk about that.

We went over to the Children’s Play Area. We found a spot, we went with it, we made it work. At the end of the day the hours of prep work amounted to 3 minutes and about 30 frames of return. I find that this actually about normal.

Which raises a question, why still do it?

It still surprises me how little the planning helps directly, and how much of a difference it makes. There is something about the planning process, it sorts the thoughts, it creates a structure, a framework to hang the rest of the shoot off of. It’s like the steel framework of a building. It doesn’t tell you what the final building will look like, but a good framework will is vital to building a strong building no matter what the final structure is.

The part of the process where we have meetings, it gets everybody on the same page, it gets ideas out there, and it gets communication started. Again, it creates a framework so when we start improvising we’re improvising towards the same goal, improvising starting from the same page. And in the end, we get a better product the better prepared we are. I’m sure that the planning would be even more valuable if we had subjects that didn’t bring a high level of unpredictability.

As it is, it makes all the difference in the world.
P.S. Oh, and if you wonder what I do when the child is crying. I check my exposure, look for new compositions, and laugh, sometimes to myself, sometimes out loud, and fidget some too.

P.P.S. And yeah, I like the later ones much better also.

P.P.P.S. And if anyone knows why blogger isn’t pulling up the full resolution image and seems to be pulling a lower res version than what I’m giving it, I’d appreciate the help. I love Goggle, but sometimes they do some wacky things I don’t get. These are tack sharp, or should be. Ugh.



Doing It For Myself


I wish I could remember the number of times a photojournalist has told me to not focus on shooting for the office, for the paper and instead shoot what I want to shoot. I’m okay at this, not great, but okay.

So recently I acquired a phone with a camera and text messaging (my previous phone I bought around 99′ and at that point was fancy because it was digital. This new phone will hereafter be referred to as the “iWife”.) This has resulted in me texting all day long. It’s like swapping notes in class.

Somehow in the mix of all this I got to talking to a friend who lives in the desert these days about fall colors, and started sending photos taken with my iWife of fall colors, and now other random things, mostly with greenery. Reminders of leaves.

The funny thing is about this, I tend to like more of the photos I take with my iWife than with my other cameras. There is something about doing it for someone, doing it for fun, doing it for myself which makes it more rewarding.

At first when I made those images I didn’t put much work into them, point the iWife and push the button. As I’ve done it more I’ve started putting more effort into the images, why make a crappy image when I don’t have to? Why isn’t this photo for a friend as important as any other photo? Why isn’t it more important?

It’s fun. It’s really out of my norm. It’s not the kind of camera I like. It doesn’t give me the control I like. No shutter speed, no ISO, no white balance, no place for me to decide, for me to decide anything and while that encourages laziness, there is no reason I need to be lazy about the images. No room to crop later. Just shoot it, and send it right from the phone. Imperfect everytime and the better for it.

Now, mind you, the photos don’t have to fit a story or purpose like my stuff for the paper so they tend to be more “pretty pictures”. They tend to be images that will mean something to me and my friend, nothing more, but in that, I think they mean more than a lot of the other images I make.

Kind of sad that all my work can’t mean as much, but I’m proud that some of it does.




Ah, the Repetition of It All


I’ve been to this event, I think, 9 out of the last 10 years. Regardless of the exact number, it’s a lot.

On one hand there is the sheer repetition of shooting the same things, year after year after year after year. In all likelihood you just end up with small variations on the same images year after year.

On the other hand there is a kind of lazy comfort, you can get your job done easily and quickly, and there is an opportunity from that to try some new things because once you’re covered, why not ?


Things to Remember


I got to set-up the strobes more often. It just helps out so much sometimes. (I’m not saying it’s a good photo, it is a business portrait after all, just that it would be so much worse without the additional lighting.)

The Nature of Time


Editing photos is an interesting exploration. Sometimes it’s very easy, often it is. Softball, get the ball in the damn frame, get some action, whatever, move on. Not very tough. This is true with most of my “work” imagery. It’s easy, it’s easy because I largely don’t care in all likelihood.

Tonight was a bit different though. Tonight I was, did, deal with, only start to edit, the first review really, some images I had been emotionally, mentally, preparing for for months. Tonight I dealt with images I feared.

Over the past six months I’ve been working on a project, a wonderful project, a project I love, but a project which has created some great images through some moments I would never give up having witnessed and hope to never experience again.

A few months back a pretty major event occurred, and I was privileged enough to be able to document it. During the process I reviewed a few of the images on the back of the camera, some portraits, and they stopped me in my tracks, in my head at least. I kept shooting, kept working, kept doing what I needed to do. But in my memory were those portraits. I couldn’t not have them in my head, rolling around. I wanted them gone.

What she choose to share, the images haunted me, her generosity, kindness and openness amazed, still amaze, me. I couldn’t deal with the images, and I knew it. This has never happened to me before. Through the months of hard images, this had never happened. So tonight, over three months later, I knew I needed to deal with them. I knew the images were images that needed to be dealt with, edited, but I’ve just been afraid to look at them. I’ve been afraid of what they mean, what they mean to me, and afraid to “re-live”, afraid of being reminded of that time, and most of all, those images, I knew they would just hit me, hit me hard.

I opened them, and scanned them for maybe 10 seconds, then I had to walk away. Luckily, happily, while that was happening, a friend called (thanks Ya Looblue, you have SuperStar timing) and I was able to talk through some of it, and be distracted, get happy again, before getting back to editing.

Editing through them wasn’t a long process in the end, but I still want to block those images from my memory. Hopefully they’ll help and effect some other people some day, today, no matter how happy I am that those image exist, how honored I am to have been allowed to make them, today I want to forget those images exist.



This is just a few quick grabs from the last few minutes of a friend’s birthday party. I normally don’t go for cute, lovey dovey crap, but hey, we all got to branch out every once and a while.

Anyhow, this is the birthday girl Nora, and her man toy, Jason. They’re good together. I like them together. She is so out of his league. And yeah, they make me want to puke also, but you still have to give them credit, they are cute together, even if disgustingly so.

I also probably should have edited this tighter, really one or two would’ve done it, but I’m not going to right now. It’s late, and I’m tired. I’m also not so sure on the sepia toning, haven’t done it before, but for some reason it felt right. I’ll change my mind in the morning.

It’s all so Zen


I’m going to start with some tangents then get to the point, as much as I ever have one, a few paragraphs on. The imagery is from polar bearing, the Chinese New Year’s Parade, a Snow Skate event (think SSX Tricky, and the only story assigned by the office, for you PJs), Information Superhighway’s performance, and The Afterlife’s performance. All the photos are from Friday night through Sunday night, and if still got leftovers for future posts. Ha!

There is just way too much to talk about from the past few days. Busy, busy beyond all recognition. Last night I got to turn the TV on for the evening news, tonight I watched my taped episode of Coupling (btw-I started watching this program a few months back, and it just kicks ass. Hilarious. Plus that whacky British humor kick. It’s on PBS.) That hour of TV has been all my free time for the last 5 days, and I hope it never ends.

It’s been nothing but edit, shoot, drive and talk about imagery with amazing photogs. Life is nothing short of grand. (I should note here, that I feel a little bad saying that as numerous of my friends have had really bad things happen to them this last week. And while I may be having a great week, that they are all in my thoughts and heart. If any of you need a hand, and I’ve said this to many of you already, let me know, I’m here and it would be my honor to make your life a little better.) Thursday a friend went out of her way to set-up some free tickets to a show for me. Totally unasked for, so kind, and wow, talk about setting a great tone for the weekend.

Friday after hanging with some friends, and running into a cool new friend totally at random, I got to see my favorite singer, the incredible Leslie Beukelman. (And if you’re cool, and I know you are, you want to see Leslie perform with my favorite tap dancers, Chicago Tap Theatre, in what will surely be an awesome performance, Mixology. Buy tickets now, it sells out, every show last year. Guys, you will impress your gals, with your class and taste, trust me.)

Saturday I got go Polar Bearing (I will go into depth on this in a bit, it’s the zen of it all.) And that night hang with some of Chicago’s, and the country’s premiere photographers. (Don’t believe me? Go here. Some of the presenters, showing the best in unused political photography coming out of the primaries. It makes me sad for newspapers that this doesn’t get used, but I’m not surprised either.)

Sunday was the Chinese New Year’s Parade, which was just all kinds of cold. Sunday night (Fri and Sun were both at Silvie’s strangely enough and Sat was at a house two blocks away, weird) I got to see one of my favorite theater groups turn band, The Afterlife. Whacky fun. I like theater people, I tend to get them, usually because they’re insane, so we have something in common. Plus I got to finally meet a friend (this whole Facebook/MySpace/Blog (FMB) world is weird. People I’ve never met know me, and I know them. Well at least this weekend I got to meet both of my FMB friends who I had never actually met.) who I’ve been having some pretty kickass conversations with.

Damn, I mean, damn, can life be better? Oh yeah, to top it off, I was on fire. I was like a drunken teenager in a car on a Saturday night in nowhere Texas with a baseball bat and nothing but mailboxes in front of him. Just hitting everything, everywhere. Not perfect, but solid hits all around.

Alright, too the much delayed point……Zen.

My mid-day Saturday shoot, or one of them was the Lakeview Polar Bear Club’s 7th Annual Celebration of Shrinkage. For those who don’t know, Polar Bearing is basically jumping in a cold, or in this case, literally freezing, lake, for…fun? I’ve wanted to do this for years and because of recent acquasitions by our company, was able to self-assign it for work. All the time I had for prep work basically consisted of calling Brian and getting some tips; sandals so submerged ice cuts your feet less often, a nice robe so you can quickly disrobe and re-robe, things like that.

I knew there were going to be a multitude of technical issues going in. Not that cameras don’t like either the cold or water. Who would’ve thunk it? Plus an event I have a minimal understanding of and have to cover with a minimum of equipment, again, due to the whole “water problem”. I made sure my camera was set-up before hand to be as quick and responsive as possible, basically, all manual. As old Leica ads used to say, “A camera that doesn’t get in the way of taking the picture.” Plus it was going to be quick, maybe a minute, maybe less I had been warned and the people I really wanted, the newbies screaming, probably meant a 15 second window for what I needed. This was going to come down to one, maybe two chances and that was it. Plus there were going to be a host of safety issues, as I would be in literally freezing water. Dead photographers don’t make good photos, basic rule. Basically I knew it would be great. I love intensity. It’s passionate. Yeah, baby.

So I get changed, btw-you know you’re in trouble when you are taking your clothes off on a beach, in the snow, and when you pull your long underwear off, and you have swim trunks underneath, so I get changed, get some “before” shots. Whatever. I end up standing around for a few minutes in my hat, sandals and swim trunks. You’d think this would be really damn cold, it was in the mid-20s after all, but I really wasn’t. This was kind of the theme for the day.

I set-up to be able to enter the water about 5 seconds ahead of the pack. I wanted to be able to get people if it was shocking right as they entered the water, and as I wasn’t wearing a wet suit, it needed to be as little lead time as I could get away with. Safety was a constant in this plan. I entered the water well everyone else was still about 30 feet away, so the first few seconds I got to be in the water without having to, being able to focus on shooting. This is, actually, a bad thing. See I got to feel my feet lose feeling, in what I would estimate to have been 1 to 2 seconds. But once everyone else started hitting the water, it was totally different.

When I shoot, not always, but when I’m there, when I’m in the zone, I’m there, totally in the moment, totally aware of my surrondings, totally aware of what is occurring and totally focused on what I’m doing, on the image I’m making. I think, but more than that, I react, I follow instinct and training, years of training. It’s a hard to describe combination of being in the scene, feeling the scene and floating above it all. I believe as a journalist I have to report what is there, but to capture the emotion, I have to be open to the emotion, and sometimes, feeling the emotion. I have to let that feeling, in this case, damn cold, into me, but flow through me. It has to flow through because well I need to feel it to use it to guide my imagery, my creation process, I can’t get overwhelmed by it. Sometimes I do get overwhelmed by it, and that’s hard on many levels for me, but as much as possible I need to not let it stop me from doing what I need to do.

So once all the participants got in the water it was all shooting. Turn here, look for this shot, turn there, try to get that shot. I don’t remember my legs being cold, but they could’ve just been numb at that point. And while I remember my feet being cold initially, there is something shocking I don’t remember. I didn’t go that far out, that deep, but I got above my waist in the water, I know this because my trunks were soaked when I got out of the water. Not to be blunt, and while the ladies will understand this, the men will truly get this, I don’t remember the boys hitting the water. Maybe they went numb to quick, whatever, but this is one of those moments you expect to hit you, like that drunk teenager earlier, except this time I’d be, or my boys more accurately, would be the mailbox. As a guy, any water below a nice warm bath tub, or a jacuzzi, ahhh jacuzzi, is a memorable experience and not in a good way typically. This one, which may have been the worst ever for me, I didn’t even notice. I was too focused on getting my shots, on what was around me.

It just amazes me how focused the mind can be, how it can allow all the necessary information in and discard everything else, regardless of how…profound, it may be. I ended up being in the water for about a minute and seven seconds (I’m taking that time from the time stamps on the images.) I left, I think I left, when I felt that I was starting to enter a time frame where safety issues might start to appear. Plus most everyone had come in and gotten out, so my shots had moved to people getting dressed and such and were no longer in the water. I didn’t think about it much, I just knew that’s where I needed to be, and moved to be there.

I spent the next 30 minutes, maybe more, in my wet trunks, my sandals, with wool socks on now to keep my feet warm (if my feet are warm, I’m warm), my winter hat, and my awesome royal blue heavy cotton robe. I wasn’t cold at all. I shot people getting warm, drinking hot chocolate, doing all the “after” things you would expect. Plus I ran into one our freelance photographers and we chatted for about 10, 15 minutes. The photo community is small, it’s always good to get to know people, and help them when you can, because someday, you’ll probably need it in return.

But my favorite point in shooting, the experience I live most for, is not when I see that final image. It’s for the moment shutter is open, it’s when everything is around me, I know what’s happening on all sides, and the shutter is open, making that image. For that split second an exposure is being made. That is my moment in life. That is the moment I live for. Not all photography is like that, a village council meeting? Who cares, it’s got to be done, but I’m not into it. Those intense, beautiful instants, when it’s all about feeling, instinct, passion, and the moment, that beautiful moment, is like nothing else. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to that Zen mediation feeling of being totally empty, without thought. Luckily for me, I get it regularly, or fairly regularly, and nothing can replace it.

Can life get better? And if so, can my heart handle it?

Damn that guy in the background


Why? Why? Why?

It’s so close to what I previsualized for the event, so close to what I wanted, now I have to figure out how to crop it to make the guy in back less intrusive.

Damn it, damn it, damn it, so damn close.

(If you have any crop advice, feel free to let me know, I’ve got 24 hours.)

Cup: Half Empty or Half Full?


It’s always an interesting question. I can positively, and definitely say, I see it both ways. (And in the political spirit of the season) I wholeheartedly admit to flip-flopping, flip-flopping like a pack of teenage girls on the beach, on this issue. One day one way, one day another. So, what I say, here, now, is true for today, tomorrow, we’ll see….

So recently my “daytime” employer, thee who provides me health insurance, bought several new newspapers (new for us.) We went from having 6 weekly papers to 9. The 3 additions are also a significant hike away. This will most severely effect the circulation staff and the photo staff, in my estimation, because we’re the people that have to travel there. No way around it for us. We have to be on scene, we can’t work via phone calls and email.

Of course, my first response is panic. Change causes fear in many people, me included. I believe this is natural, and good. Change is symbolic of food or shelter being at risk, and people want to live. I want to live. I want to live my happy, shiny little life. That has been largely my response, and is going to continue to be part of my response till I see how this all works out.

My belief is that photo doesn’t have the resources to do the job properly. The company’s position is that they’ve added the resources they can, and that will do the job, and otherwise we’ll find a way. (Hmmm…the staff wants more, the management wants to give less than what the staff “needs”…this song sounds familiar, like the song sung at every company everywhere, except maybe Google. I don’t want to work at Google, or own Google, I want to be Google. Someday.) Where it all lands? Who knows? Give it a few weeks to a few months.

To date, what I’ve been seeing is the company believing I should work 70-hour weeks, and that all the photos should just magically get done, somehow. I like to think of it as the “Photo-Fairy”(picture me in a tutu with a wand in one hand with a magically light weight pro-body and lens combo on the end, just taping people and getting photos and floating over traffic.) Now, my publisher expects a lot out of the photo staff, but he’s not inhuman. The problem is, he doesn’t understand photo. He’s a writer, writers never get photo. They’ve never done it, don’t get what’s involved except in rare instances. Alas, my boss (photo editor, PE) and I aren’t good at communicating our workload to the office. We’re always on the road, I only go in when I have to and call when I have something to talk about. They know as little as I show them.

The solution? Better communication, better self-management. I need to realize my days are going to be full. Every day. Previously some days were full, some over-full, some downright slow. As a colleague (Strazzante) once said, (I’m paraphrasing as I don’t remember exactly, but it’s a great sentiment) “I average 40-hours a week, but I don’t work 40-hours any one week.” I’ve had weeks hit 70 hours in 5 days in the past. I never minded that much, as much as I get kind of pissy and bitchy those weeks. Why? Because some point down the road, I’d have a 30-hour week or less, and maybe a few of them. Over a year, I’m guessing I averaged 45, maybe 50 hours a week. I can live with that.

Now those slow weeks are gone. This means, no more sprints, but a constant marathon. I have to work 50 hours a week, but not more, not more because I won’t have the slow week to walk after the sprint. It’s a constant jog. The office won’t be able to see how much I work, they don’t do my job, they don’t know. I have to set this pace, and they have to respect it. That’s all they have to do, is respect the limits I set and listen to what I’m telling them. Hopefully they can accomplish this. I don’t usually give them credit for this, but this is often unfair, as I’m bad at communicating the limits to them, and why.

So hopefully by managing myself better, I can keep the potential bad of this growth at bay. But the good? That had been simmering in my head, but really hit today, and it involves, of all words, bhangra. Yes, bhangra.

See, over the summer, I went to one of the Millennium Park Dance Festival events of band that was recommended to me, Funkadesi. (FYI – they are absolutely awesome.) I learned how to bhangra dance at this event. Good times. Need to do that more. Apparently bhangra is a from of traditionally Indian dancing, I learned this at that point. I need to do more of it, just an FYI.

So today, I’m driving down Devon, in one of our new neighborhoods (I have no idea what neighborhood mind you), and I realize I’m in a heavily Indian neighborhood. “Hmmm…”(he says in his head) “wonder if I can find some bhangra to shoot for these new papers.” That sounds like fun.

Then it hit me. Duh! Okay, we now have some freelance budget, so if I’m booked, it’s not as bad. If I limit myself to the jog, and don’t get burned out, I can take the chance to explore these new neighborhoods, which I’ve been rather interested in since this acquisition was first announced. If I do some research, learn what’s going on, where, and find the visually interesting ideas, as long as I stay ahead of the writers (which is like hurtling a cantalope, not much more than walking) I can save them the effort of finding photo spreads and drop-ins, and create my own. Writers are inherently lazy people (I really rather like writers, and by writer I mean reporter, not real writers, oh yeah, bring it on, and respect them, really, I do, they just don’t plan well, as a group. There are some wonderful, marvelous exceptions. Yeah, and photographers are pre-Madonnas, we are, which is one of the common complaints. That and all women think we’re hot. We are. Just suck it up writers, Photographer equals sexy, don’t be jealous. Don’t be hating.)…where was I? Oh yeah, writers are always behind on their photo requests and don’t like doing them. So if I can find ideas for those imagery needs first, they’ll be happy not having to do that work, and not get in my life with they’re non-photogenic ideas. (I kid you not, “They’re doing this old time radio broadcast. This should be really cool and interesting, let’s get 5 images out of this!” What about “radio” says “visual”? People standing by a mic, one prop person.) This is a good thing. I get to photograph more photogenic subjects and events, and do more of what I want.

I’m a believer in chaos. Chaos is good, just follow me here for a second. In chaos, the people who usually come out the other side in the best condition are those who are best trained, most intelligent, most adaptable, best prepared, and generally, strongest (in which ever form the word “strong” need take.) I’ve been through chaotic times with other companies in the past, I’ve done well, quite well. I believe, if I take control of my situation, I can come out the other side, doing more of what I want, less of the reporter requested schmuck grip and grin, ribbon cutting crap. Maybe I can even book all my Friday and Saturday nights October through March and not ever shoot basketball again. Okay, that might be too much to ask.

I do have about 20% of the city of Chicago to work with. I might, just might, be able to find a way to fill 30, maybe 40 hours a week, with what I want. Okay, that might be high, but you never know.

I’m not sure how true this all is. I’m not sure that I’m up to the challenge. I’m not even totally convinced the opportunity is really there. But maybe it is. Just maybe.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow the world be crashing down again. Oh well. (I’m smirking here.)

No School Like the Old School, Again?


Someday I’m going to learn to stop unlearning things.

Many a year back I used to use test strips, many test strips, during many hours in the darkroom. The test strip, for those of you who never hung out in the darkroom, which is the high school equivalent of the college bar. (Well, maybe not, but it’s sounds like I was more fun when I say that.) The test strip is a thin strip of paper, that you made a print on, a small portion of the final print, to figure out your exposure and contrast and test to make sure things were coming out alright before dropping the dough on the full sheet.

I took my darkroom down about 5 years back. The “digital darkroom,” which sounds downright sexy compared to “home office,” took it’s place. I haven’t done a test strip in that time, till tonight. See a few weeks back I got a new toy, unless you’re the IRS, in which case it’s a tool to expand my clientèle and avenues of distribution for more imagery and increase my name recognition to generate sales of fine art prints and increase my speaking revenues. Also known as, a really cool toy. It’s a 24inch wide printer. I got it for “Summer Love”. Those images are going to look so sexy when I’m done and they’re 23×31 inches. Oh, they’re going to be hot. Like my hair.

Anyhow, I haven’t calculated out the cost per square foot of print yet. I’m to scared too. Suffice it to say, “not cheap”, will be part of the answer. (replacing all 12 ink cartridges will run roughly $700-$800. Add paper on top of that. Ouch time. And if you want to know why I’m too broke to go out for drinks. Yep. Why I’m working every day, this year. Yep.) So I’m back to doing test prints.

I find it hilarious how the longer I do this, the more I go back to what I did when I first learned how to do this.

On the edge


Just as a pre-cursor here, and because I’m thinking about it right now. Diet Sunkist with Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, kinda tasty. I’m going to have to work on it, I don’t have the ratios quite right yet. I can get it to start with a good Dr. Pepper flavor with a hint of orange then have it finish with a nice strong Sunkist kick. But I’m not quite there, yet. The ratio is something like 10:1 Dr. Pepper to Sunkist too, it may go even higher by the time I’ve figured it out. I’ve never had a mixing ratio that high before. Anyhow…. (and yeah, I need something productive to do with my life.)

One of the skills, thought patterns, I’ve been working on improving is spending less time working the event, and more time working the edges of the event. The center of an event often has a lot going on, but it’s predictable, it’s easy. The edges, where the people are there, but aren’t necessarily, are so often more. They speak more to what people are, and less to what they want to project to be. They tend may be more into the event than those that are there to appear to be in the event.

Cases in point. The man dancing. I can always groove with a guy who will dance to the music, unself-consciously. The man sitting by the wall, maybe homeless, maybe not, I don’t know, was way into the music. He would occasionally shoot dirty looks at the talking couple, not in a mean way, but just in a way that you knew he was appreciating the music. He had a great little wry happy smile, that I wish I could’ve got just right, but never did (well I may shoot for publication, sometimes it’s better to remember than to capture.) He was also very kind, anyone who wanted the seat in front of him he generously extended his hand to say “you are welcome to sit here” even when it was going to block his view. The band was good, don’t get me wrong, but so much less interesting to watch than the people watching. (It’s like the zoo, animals, cute, fun. People? Now that’s just fascinating, and a reason to go. Whacky species them homo-sapiens.)

And yeah, I’ve been going and shooting the Cultural Center during their lunch time jazz performances, because really, if you could go listen to a 45-minute jazz concert and call it work, legitimately, wouldn’t you? My job may not pay much, so hell, I might as well be happy. And I am.

Now, the one thing I would change, of my three primary work cameras, all three have something busted on them. Buttons not working is the top problem. I was really enjoying when I could only trust the auto-focus on one of the cameras, and that camera can only auto-focus in the middle of the frame. I don’t own a single camera with a totally working auto-focus mechanism. Alas, one of the questionable focusing cameras went and had the whole shutter mechanism break, so that’s off to Nikon tomorrow. The Canon with the sticky focus button I can do on the fly fixes for, but it’s annoying as all get out. It’s tough to manually focus well when you can’t even see what’s in the viewfinder. (I like dark places. It probably goes along with, I like challenges.) The auto-focus doesn’t do well in those situations either, but if I can get it to catch I know I’m in the ballpark. Alas I can’t go a week without that camera, it earns me too much money, and I’d really rather not drop the cash to buy a replacement, for a week. Few more months, the new version will be out, and I’ll buy one of those. Life is funny.

No School Like the Old School


I believe in looking back only as much as it teaches about the present and the future. What’s done is done, money spent is gone, what investment can I make in the future?

So hence you’ll rarely, read probably never, see images older than these, unless you are at my house rifling through boxes, which either means I’m sleeping with you or I’m dead. So, excluding those two, these are about as old as you’ll ever see. (And the only reason you’re seeing these is because I had to do some copy work as a favor for a friend, so since it was set-up I figured I’d shot these at the same time.)

These two images are part of a series of six or seven images, the others I need to find, they’re in a tube somewhere, of self-portraits. I seem to be a lot of self-portraits lately, so this is a kind of compare and contrast. These images are from when I was 20, in college at U Iowa (Go Hawkeyes!) and very depressed.

I was done, I was cooked, it was time to leave the oven. Believe it or not, I didn’t party enough, I was working too hard and just spiraled down and down. Sucked at the time, looking back at the images now, worth it though. These have been some of my favorite images of mine for years.

I look forward to making better images than these, as challenging at it will be to accomplish.


On a completely different note, Seagrove tea, Wow. Just wonderful, a tint of orange I think, but whatever, it’s delicious. My whole body just relaxes drinking this stuff. And the smell while you’re brewing it, yummy. I love yummy.

I feel good.

I Am My Own Student, Or How I Schooled Myself


So many a moon ago (I’m going to start measuring my life in moon cycles, just for giggles) I taught a digital photo 101 course at a local community college. Working with the students was a really good time, as most everyone who has worked with students will attest too.

I would get my students going, a few weeks worth of shooting, then I would force them into a month of black & white only imagery. I did this in part because I grew up on good ole’ black & white Tri-X, and later many other black & white emulsions.

I thought it was educational to learn in black & white. It simplifies an image to a more graphic construction. My students always hated it for the first 2 weeks or so, then a few, not all, but some, would fall in love with it. They also became noticeably better shooters during this time. In part because they were starting to hit the steep part of the learning curve, but also because many used color as crutch. The color in an image was used to create the image without as much composition. When they went to black & white it really forced them to compose, to think more about it. (It took me a few semesters to figure this out, and why this was happening.)

I have been digital for about 6 or 7 years now. Rarely have I shot film since the switch. I have a few times, but probably not even 30 rolls. (30 rolls = 1 weekend) I have also had to start thinking about everything as possibly making page 1, or another color page, so I have to think in color for that. On top of that, I don’t adjust my own images for print (a decision I see as increasingly bad and hope to get changed this year) so I don’t see what my images look like in black & white, at any point.

Then, a few weeks back, I got an infra-red camera. This is essentially a black & white only camera. So now when I shoot with that camera I look at the LCD and see not color, but black & white. I forgot how much I like, no, love, black and white. I forgot how it affects my thinking.

So guess what I figured out in this process? I’ve started using color as a crutch, just like my students did at the start of their semester. Isn’t it always about going back to the basics? Luckily, happily, and in way that is providing me with great joy, I found a way to deal with this, or at least have a little fun. (Remember when having fun used to be getting drunk? Now it’s in creating a little different. And I’m happier this way too.)

I can set my cameras to capture images, from the get go, in black & white. This means when I review images, I see, black & white, shades of gray, when I’m trying to decide how to change an image. This seems to be helping me simplify, and work more directly, compose better, my images. (Yeah, these images aren’t anywhere near my normal subject matter. On the other hand, life is slow right now, and when I want to relax I go take scenics photos, because really, what did you expect me to do? Not take photos, and call that relaxing? Hah!)

“But what about your need for color imagery,” you may ask? For the shooters amongst you, I do only raw captures, all the time. For everybody else, the files my camera make contain all the color info, it’s just the preview image and default, but changeable, conversions settings that are black & white.

So I can think black & white, and my designers can have whatever they need, and we can all change our minds later. Everybody wins, which is the best thing around, with “Josh Wins!” being a very close second.