Friday, December 18, 2015

First Impressions

Erratic new schedule.  Plane hopping to various parts of the country each weekend.  Long days.  Lack of sleep.  Hefty learning curve.

SO.  MUCH.  FUN!

These are the things I experience each weekend photographing competitive cheer and dance competitions around the country.  If you could even call it that yet... I've covered 3 locations so far. 

The first, close to home - a venue on the Northern Illinois University campus in DeKalb, IL.  Mother Nature was NOT on our side that weekend.  It was the weekend of 8+ inches of snow in our area (oddly, the only significant snow we've had all season to date).  This event had 3 others flying in from lands far away, and much warmer - 2 from Texas, and 1 from Florida.  Everyone was delayed and/or diverted, and did not arrive on schedule.  So instead of setting up the night before, we were all up stupid-early to set up the morning of the event.  This seemed to be the weekend of 'anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.'  But we all pulled together and made it work.  This was a great example, for me, of how to work under fire... and I witnessed how to troubleshoot many things.  A bonus, I would find out later.

As much as I was concerned with not being invited back to shoot again after the DeKalb chaos and Nature's wrath, a couple days later I was invited to shoot a 2-day event in Minneapolis with the company owner and his wife.  While set-up and other things that were problematic during my first event went smoothly in Minneapolis, a different skillset was learned and I felt rather fortunate to be working with the bossman this time around.  It was a window into his head - to see they types of images he was looking for, insight as to what sells and what doesn't, quick tips, and so much more.

Last weekend, I was in San Antonio for a 1-day event.  While not as smooth as the weekend in Minnesota, this event was still far better than DeKalb (I have a feeling it will take a LOT of bad circumstances to meet the craziness of that first event).  Some of those items I had to troubleshoot in DeKalb came back into play in Texas, and I was extremely glad I learned them ahead of time.  As it turns out, the veteran photographer in Texas with me had issues that I was able to help with, and things were overall pretty easy for me.  I'm sure my time is coming eventually...  :)

Now I have a break in the action for the holidays before I'm off to Charlotte, NC and who knows where else next month.  I've got some new and valuable tools in my pack - everything from photography tricks to computer networking.  And the energy from competing teams is infectious... no matter how stressful or how tired I end up when I get home, overall I've still had a great time!

Scenes from San Antonio:










Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Double-life

Our road trip to the Pacific Northwest and back again was wonderful!  Highlights seemed to be anytime we could get off the main paved roads, anytime we could get away from major populations of people.  The road out of Glendo, Wyoming and into the wilderness that took the better part of the morning.  The pathway along some of the original alignment of the Oregon/Pony Express Trails.  The 4-wheel drive only roads inside Grand Teton NP.  The scenic drive west of Bend, Oregon through the Cascade Mountains.  The miles and miles of driving on the Pacific Coast beaches.  These were the moments where Aaron could be on the mini-moto, and me in the Jeep.  While we physically traveled the same path, we both enjoyed our own individual experiences.  It was fun to share stories later in the day once our paths rejoined.

As always, we ran out of time and wished we’d had more.  We even toyed with the thought of adding another few days for the next go-around, but then quickly realized that we would end up using those days to explore more… and still run out of time.  It happened on this trip, it happened when we did the Route 66 trip, and I’m sure it’ll happen on every free-form trip that we do in the future.  
 
Most photos will be forthcoming – as even nearly 2 months after the fact, I am just past the halfway point in my edits.  Teaser photos on their way.  

---------------------------------------

I’m still living a double-life in the working world - full-time in an office environment, and part-time in my photography land.  I’m up at 6:00am, at the office between 8:00am – 5:00pm, out to shoot at one of the area schools most evenings during the week until sometime between 7:00 – 9:00pm (depending on the night and the event), home to edit and upload those images, and then off to bed.  I do contract work at least one day on the weekend (often times both days), and back to the office on Monday morning to do it all again. 

However, I will be making the leap of faith out of the office environment into full-time photography work around the first of the year.  I have a fair amount of contract work that has made it *nearly* possible to do for so long… and recently I have landed a large contract that will make my not-so-busy winter/fall/spring season a lot busier with photography and travel.  This will free up some weekday daytime/evening hours, and I should ‘technically’ do the same or better income-wise as I do now… in an environment I prefer, doing something I genuinely love.   So, I intend to make the leap and see how things shake out.  Worse-case, I have to jump back into the land of the office monotony… but I’ll cross that bridge if and when I get there. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

West 'til we hit water...

Today is the day that we start our drive out into the wild blue (and potentially smoky) yonder!

Much like my solo trip to Oregon and Washington and back last year, we’re going again!  Same idea as last year – west on US Highway 20, east on US Highway 2, no interstate highways – yet a slight bit different.  Two of us this time, and an itty bitty motorcycle hanging off the backside of the Jeep for 16 days.  Camping out of the Jeep, no certain destination, stopping wherever we want, whenever we want… very free form, as we’ve come to appreciate.  He can hop off at random and cruise the bike on the dirt roads, and I’ll certainly stop off at random for countless photo opportunities.

This trip has become a much-anticipated one.  We didn’t travel anywhere of significance together last year – just separately.  Originally we planned to do this back in June, but it was bumped for my knee surgery.  Now that I’m 11-weeks post op, and nearly back to normal operating condition, it’s time we get this show back on the road.  :D

So be forewarned of the upcoming photos and trip reports from the road.  Come 5:00pm, we do this thing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ends



The dance season is over.  *sigh*  The annual recital was over the weekend, and was a great time as it always is.  It’s always nice to perform, support other dancers, and see old friends.  It’s a good environment, even when things don’t go as you’d hope.  The small dance community is my other tribe, and I’m not sure what I’d do without them.

I’m working on processing photos still (and likely will be for the week ahead).  If you want a sneak peek, click here:























While I thought my weeknight high school photo season would be over as well, it’s not.  I’ve been given some playoff games to cover this week and next.  It’s nice to be requested for specific games – it makes me feel good about my work. 

I’ve also been approached by my other contract to do a bit of section lead work for my next event with them… in their words, ‘because you have been shooting with us for a while and we have been impressed with your quality of work, dependability and professionalism.’  Badass.  I will oversee a group of 4-5 other photographers. The pay is better.  And lead experience is going in the right direction.  Regular team leads are kept quite busy, they travel regionally (and sometimes farther), and provide the promotional photos to the event in which they cover.  It’s a lot of work, but also looks/sounds like a ton of fun… and I’d love to eventually be able to do this.  Baby steps this week… hopefully this 1 event will lead to more down the road. 

Knee surgery has been confirmed and will happen June 17th.  I have received an okay for medical leave with work - it will keep me out of the office for 2 weeks (unless I’m feeling exceptional, and then I may go back sooner).  I only have a physical left, and a conversation with the hospital a few days before the procedure.  Everything else is preparation for when it’s done.  Mobility around the house, clothing constraints (like, what can I wear that will fit over the brace and that I can wear to work later), being as comfortable as possible once I get back to work, etc.  I don’t have the nervousness like I did the last time – because I know what this is, and that it won’t be fun… but it will eventually be a lot better.  And it’s the being better part that I’m honing in on.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ll probably still have a panic attack the night before, like last time.  :oP

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Chaos & Healing

Once chaotic weekday/weeknight/weekend schedules have become the norm... the thought of having most of that removed in just a mere couple of weeks is a little surreal.  It's a little welcomed.

Okay... it's a LOT welcomed.

This time, two weeks from now, the only thing I'll have going for me is the silly day job.  Dance will be done for the season (and potentially longer), schools will be out so my high school photo gig will be finished until September... and other than the previously mentioned silly day job and the periodic weekend contract, things are looking mighty relaxed.

I'm really starting to like that idea.  I've dished up too much a lot for myself since December, and the light at the end of this tunnel is looking mighty bright from where I stand.

Energies can be put back into reacquainting myself with my long lost friends and family (sorry guys, I know I'm lame).  I can back on track and delve back into some of these photo projects I've been working on (SO jazzed about that).


I've had one seemingly major bump in the road in terms of the way my summer should work.  Instead of enjoying the time away on a road trip with The Boy back to the Pacific Northwest in June and July as we'd planned, it appears I may be recovering from major knee surgery instead.

Quick background... I have hypermobility syndrome, which essentially means my joints easily move past the normal/typical range of motion that most people experience.  I use prescription orthotics to help correct foot/ankle/knee/hip alignment, and I'm mindful of my posture.  About 10 years ago, I had major knee procedure which helped to re-align how my kneecap tracked in my right knee.  Prior to that, it would dislocate and relocate when I bent it and was weight-bearing and was generally pretty painful.  Back then, I was told the same issue existed in my left knee, but to not concern myself with it until I showed symptoms.  I've had symptoms in the left knee now for 5-6 months.  :(

So after x-rays and a consultation with Dr. D, my orthopedic doctor, last week, I seem to be on track to have the whole thing done all over again.  I still have to do the tests to confirm - MRI is on Tuesday - but if all looks as it did with the other knee, I'll be going back under the knife.

In case you're curious, this is what I'm having done, click HERE.
(DISCLAIMER - there are a couple of icky images in this link, but most are diagrams.  Careful if your squeamish like I am.):

I'm not necessarily looking forward to having this done again, or the time and discomfort involved with the process - complete recovery is somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 months.  I am looking forward to the improvement that it should bring.  And, I'm fortunate that my schedule is slowing quite a lot.  It allows me to have this done and not miss out on much extra-curricular contract opportunities**, and only miss a few months of dance once the season starts in the fall.  Also... this being completed in the summer months vs. in the winter when it's icy and snowy... I hope will be better.

**I do worry about not being available for my contracts sometimes. It's gotten to where, because I've been around awhile and produce quality work, I'm requested personally.  I worry that if I can't be around, then they'll move on to someone else.  The contract work is a lot of fun and pays well - I'd hate to lose that.**

And we still plan to get out to the PNW this year - just not until later in the year now.  We're starting to think maybe in September.  If all goes as planned.  Hopefully that's still as nice of a time to visit as the summer.  :)

I'm more than ready to get back out here...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Stepping Back to Breathe

It's an interesting phenomenon when you make a respectable amount of money doing something you love - in my case, photography.

In the beginning, it's all I wanted to do.

I was given a chance to learn and work in action sport photography about 4 years ago.  I took every available opportunity to practice and learn the particulars - from camera settings and nearly-necessary equipment, to studying available light and being able to work in some pretty awful lighting conditions, to getting the shots the people really want to see.  I love the fast pace of this genre, that (no pun intended) you really have to be on your game to get it right.  I also love that it's given me the ability to think on my feet and be capable of real-time troubleshooting in the field.  I've had opportunities to practice everywhere from small 5k running events to professional sports games in my area.  Just in the last year, I've been picked up as a regular contractor by 2 different companies to shoot their sporting events year around... and I'm talking with a 3rd.

Between my desk jockey day job, dance, and the photo work, I typically only have Sundays off between September and May.  Yes, it can get crazy... but it doesn't feel much like "work"... except for that desk job thing (I'd like to evict that from my life entirely, and I hope to in the next year or two). I am nearing the end of the craziness - by mid-May, the chaotic weekday schedule will relax.  Then I will have the summer/fall mud-run, obstacle sporting event season... while also chaotic, it's a lot of fun and can be contained to only the weekends.

Since digging into the sports field, I've done little else in other areas.  I used to be all about getting out to catch the landscapes and the dawns and the dusks and the animals and nature in all her glory. There isn't as much time for that lately with the other things happening.  I miss it.

Now I find myself taking a couple of steps back to refocus attention in other areas of my work - to get back to the basics of things I once loved.  I'm not giving up the sport work, but I have decided to reel it in just a little, and to not do so much.  All in effort to give myself more time for other areas of growth.  More time for learning and mentorships.  More time for discussions from my peers - sharing ideas for the benefit of everyone.  More time for discoveries.  More time for taking that leap of faith and branching out.

It's a little scary, but everything new and different should be.



Monday, March 16, 2015

Aftershocks



I am hoping this doesn’t come off as a horrible, rambling mess in writing as it seems to be in my head. 
I don’t blame anyone for bypassing this entry.   I am putting this writing because I can’t seem to get around it mentally, so just bear with me while I attempt to regain some balance.

It’s been nearly a week PV (I’m calling it Post-Vegas).  It has been an incredibly surreal experience.  I don’t naturally get excited about large group gatherings – it’s often quite the opposite.  However, days prior to leaving for the long weekend I was really eager to go, to do this… to meet all of these people behind this Scavenger game I’d been involved with for a couple of years.  To put faces and voices to the names on a screen.  Even before leaving, I was puzzled at the genuine want to put myself in this kind of environment.  

I don’t find it necessary to go into a play-by-play of the event, as I often do when I travel… because this time it was far, far less about the places we went and things we did than it was about the people.  All of the wonderful people.  The fun-loving, funny, inspirational, caring, and sensitive people. 

I never rave about people.  I just never, ever do.
Again, surreal…

I struggle with what to say when others ask me about the trip.  I mean, for real… who goes to Vegas and does nearly nothing that is typically Vegas…?!  And who comes back speechless about the experience?  Speechlessness has nothing to do with the whole “what happens in Vegas” mantra… it’s so much bigger than that. 

How do I describe this to anyone that was not in attendance and is not familiar with the group? 
I went with the expectation of putting faces to names, learning some things, taking some nice photos.
I returned with the sense that I’d just gone to some over-the-top inspirational, love-in retreat… with all of these wonderful people from all over the world… who just happen to be photographers too. 

After shedding the some of the star-struck-ness of seeing some of these great artists that I see and read daily, I found that all the people admire were approachable.  Available.  Very friendly.  Encouraging.  And still just as wonderful and inspiring as their virtual selves.  Unbeknownst to a lot of people, they are truly great teachers.  From them, I picked up a lot of tidbits of ideas and techniques in general conversation. 

The quiet moments were rather incredible as well – for me, maybe more so. 
Taking those personal, silent moments to process everything that happened… both internally and otherwise.
To look across a busy table or a room full of talking, joking, happy people… and find those eyes looking back in understanding.  That face that simply ‘gets it,’ without the need for an exchange of words.   These are the moments that truly grab my heart. 

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I am forever changed by this experience.  After only 4 days of time spent, I have never connected better with any other group of people before.  Ever.  And it just fills my soul with goodness and wholeness and inspiration and wonder for new experiences.   These people have motivated me for change – and not just change in my photographic journeys… but in life.  I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating.  I have found my people, my tribe.

Which is why, now, I think I feel such a huge loss.  I’m home.  I have been for almost a week.  And I’m still melancholy, still in withdrawal, and still generally blue.  I feel like I’m in mourning.   I’m having a real difficult time shaking it.  Visiting the online feeds with everyone’s photos and stories are great… but two-fold.  They make me so very happy that it all happened and I could be there to experience it, and yet ever so sad that I don’t have the ability to see everyone as easily as I could just a few days ago. 


It’s this that I’m struggling with now. 




Monday, March 2, 2015

Coming soon...

Travel plans are in the works!

First and foremost - Vegas, baby!

This trip came about by way of a little group of Photo Scavengers over on Google+.  Every couple of months, we sign up, and we impatiently wait for the coveted list of words to hunt for and concepts to create.  While we wait, and while we hunt, and while we create... we also have the opportunity to get to know the other hunters, ask for/lend assistance when needed, and generally enjoy the close-knit community we've become over the years.  Oh, and the photo reveals are outstanding!

After so long of playing and chatting online, we've decided to congregate in Las Vegas and meet... for real... in person!!  How amazing!!  We'll meet, we'll have presentations, and field-trips, and studio time... and I'm ridiculously excited to do it all... of course, all of this in addition to meeting some of the people I've been playing this game with for years.  Over 130 of them.

It's going to be a rough few days at work this week... *sigh*














The Boy is going to do a week-long 2-stroke motorcycle meet on the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee again this May.  Sounds like it should be a fun time.  I drove down to rescue him after some mechanical issues last year... I won't be able to easily do it again this year, so I hope he's ready.  But the area is truly gorgeous, and if the weather cooperates for him, he should have a fantastic time!

Later this summer, we are both going back west to loosely re-create my trip to the Pacific Northwest that I did last year.  With some modifications, of course.  We're looking forward to more time driving on the Pacific coast beaches (in the Jeep and his motorcycle), more time hiking in the rain forests, and more photo opportunities.  We'll take around 16 days, round trip.

In the interim, there will be weekend trips for my photo work like there were last year.  Last year took me to Wisconsin and Michigan... in addition to day trips around home.  It's too early to know for sure, but I'm optimistic that I'll be out and about just as often this year.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Positive vs. Negative

I don't enjoy negativity.  I tend to be non-confrontational.  I prefer to ignore and walk away from arguments rather than engage in them.  It's often a struggle to participate in areas with others who perpetuate these things - who add to negativity with hate, with gossip, with poor and unresearched information, and the like.

I used to let all of these things get to me, to weigh on my mind.  I used to take so much personally which would make me bitter and upset.  It's been a lengthy progression, but I've worked a lot of this out of my head.  I think it started with my time with "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz a very, very long time ago.  It presented ideas that I hadn't considered before.  The best of which was the idea of not taking anything personally.  It essentially said that what others say and do is a projection of their own reality, and when you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. 

While I am much better with negativity now, I don't think any of us are truly immune to it.  I shy away from mainstream news - I pick and choose where I get my information about current events.  That way it feels like I have better control over the bad.  I've been limiting my usage of social media - most sites I have discontinued using.  I keep and use a couple for different purposes.  Facebook is one I struggle with keeping or letting go, as so much of my feed errs towards the negative.  On the upside, however, I have introduced some other contacts who have lightened things up quite a lot in what they decide to post and share.  

I decided to follow that lead.  I choose share the parts of my life that are positive, and share things that interest me and can help me (and maybe others) in personal growth. Sure, I certainly have my share of worries, stresses, and bad times just like everyone else...  I work through those things through other outlets and choose to stop projecting my complaints and problems onto the world.  I am no longer allowing those things to rule my every waking moment. 

It's an interesting idea... when you project less negativity, you find that you don't let as much come back in.  Karma, perhaps?

My adventure in physical purging of things in the last few years has been amazing.  The mental and emotional purge has taken a lot longer to develop.  It has been just as rewarding thus far... if not more so.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

A few things have changed for me since my return home from the PNW last summer... mostly good things.

I returned to Lifetouch, was promoted to a team lead position, and then, later, chose to leave (for reasons I will leave for in-person discussion), all by mid-September.  I was fortunate to learn an interesting array of skills while there - in lighting, portraiture, and sport candid work.  However, it was definitely time to move on...

Concurrently with Lifetouch, I had become very active in local/regional sports photography with a couple of different companies.  The work I continue to do for both organizations has been a wonderful addition to my skillset... in addition to it being a really fun way to earn a paycheck.  It involves everything from high school after-school sports, hockey leagues, 5k/10k/foot races and mud & obstacle races.  I'm excited to continue with this path and see where else it leads - while it continues to be a good learning environment with a ton of potential for growth.

Recently, I went back into a small office environment for 'day work.'  While it pays well, and I don't dislike what I do or the people I spend the day with, I'm already becoming uneasy with the office confines.  I realize this position will severely limit my ability to get out and explore as I have the last 3 summers... and I'm not sure, yet, what I intend to do about that.  I do intend to do something.

So, much of my time now is spent working... some good (photography), and some less so (office).  I don't spend a lot of downtime home, and I spend even less and less time with friends and family.  I have mixed feelings about that.

I've undergone a lot of personal development within the last couple years.  I've updated my outlook in many areas.  I've learned valuable life lessons.  I've simplified my life.  And now I'm in a position where I'm not certain how I relate to others.  I know what I don't relate to anymore - and it seems to be so much of what others do.  I feel as if most times I'm on the opposite side of the fence.  The difference now is, I'm not really looking in anymore.  I don't feel compelled to be one with the group like I used to.  I'm perfectly fine doing my own thing, often times on my own.  All of that said, I do miss the people I used to be really close with.  But now it's hard to find something that helps me connect... and I'm not sure how to fix it.

So I suppose that's one of the next steps.  That, and the pursuit of photographic development that can keep me out of the office confines.

Ever a part of the continuous life and learning journey we're all on...



Pacific Northwest Photos - Final Edits

At long last, the final images from my Pacific Northwest excursion are done.  They've actually been done for some time, but I've yet to post the link where they can all be viewed - sincere apologies for that.

I like to keep and display them on a lovely site called 500px.com.  They retain most of their quality here - unlike uploading them directly to sites like Facebook and others, where the quality and the image data is stripped.

I hope you enjoy.

https://500px.com/yellocoyote

Lake McDonald - Glacier National Park, Montana