Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Abner T. Townsend 1828 - 1831

Abner T. Townsend Born 1828, died 1831, age 3, cause of death unknown, buried in Townsend Cemetery, on a hilltop in Armstrong County, PA.

Last year my brother-in-law took me for a walk through the woods of the property that he owns. As we walked he would point out the names of trees, plants and fauna. Over there is a Paper Birch, that is a White Oak, this is a Black Cherry tree, good for building furniture, and over there is poison ivy, he would say. He has an understanding of the land that he walks on. A love for the soil and the space that he owns. I can’t even tell you the names of the flowers that sprout magically every spring in my own backyard. I sit on my back porch as I write this staring at purple flowers. I can’t even type a good enough description into Google to find out the flowers names.

We reach the hilltop, walk out of the woods and into an open field. The field has a large scale movie set feel to it (build it and they will come). Viewing the grand open space is a rare experience all to itself. Few times have I seen land that has not been excavated by man, earth’s landscape as seen before man, a truly breathtaking sight, as we stop to catch our breath.

To our left sits a wall about 3 feet high, stone bricks that had to weigh more than a man could pick up. The wall forms a perfect square with a small opening leading you into the plots. The first words that my brother-in-law shares with me is that these stones must have been carried up here by horse and buggy, a long day’s labor for man and animal.

Many of the tombstones in the graveyard are unreadable, time has taken the etching away, leaving only a stone with no story. Many of the stones in the graveyard were small, standing no more than a foot high and 3 inches think. The growth of trees and plants have choked out many of the stones that once felt the air, now buried by roots, fallen trees, plants and new soil birthed from the decay.

Abner’s tombstone stood tall and strong, standing at four feet in height by 3 feet in width. This stone was built to outlast nature. It has. Here we are standing in the Townsend family Cemetery looking at a gravesite that has been untouched for the past 180 years. When was that last time somebody before us stood at this grave? Fifty years, 100 years, 150 years ago? When was the last time anybody said Abner’s name?

As I set my tripod up and place my camera into position. I think about the composition that I wish to create. I want to show a strong image that holds the emotion of placing Abner into the earth at the age of 3. I wanted to create an image that holds the feeling that their young son will not be forgotten and that the tombstone stills hold his name. I want to create an image that is respectable to the land that holds Abner.

It has taken me one year to go back to the Townsend family Cemetery to take this photograph. It has been a ghost-image that has stayed with me over the months since I last visited the land.

To the Townsend family who may still live on a hilltop somewhere in Armstrong county, I offer this photos as gratitude for the love that your ancestor left behind.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why Bother ~ Rant on Copyright

Yesterday was the last straw in me being ripped off by digital culture. This bloggger (here) set up a mirror site of mine that he cut and pasted my blog into. The site is an add site. The blog owner is hoping to make money from Google Adsense.

The way I discovered this site was when I was Googling a phrase that I wrote after a lecture that I attended. To my surprise I could not find the the original speaker or my post on it but the ad-spam-blogger site came up on page one of Google in the top five listings.

Yesterday afternoon I asked for help on Facebook and Twitter and many of you came to my aid. Thank you for that! Google was quick to respond to my issue also. Due to the the way I copyright my work, having the blog removed may take some time.

Why bother. People have taken advantage of my Creative Commons license that I provide to share and distribute my work for too long.

For the record I think Creative Commons is a great way to distribute and build an audience for your work. Because of me using CC licensing my work has gone places that it never would have seen: a South Carolina community college used my blog as part of a photography class, that was cool. I have been able to share many photographs in trade for advertising as well place hyperlinks. I have been published in a couple of books due to CC licensing. You get my point, I bow down to the invention of Creative Commons.

This is not the first time that I have been ripped off by digital culture, it has happened many times. It is been becoming more and more frequent in the last couple of years. I have even walked into doctor's offices to see my night photography hung on a wall. I have even seen a pic of mine plaster on a side of a delivery truck. Various other random way people feel the need to take my work.

The sad part is that I love sharing my work. Just give me credit, truly that is all I ask. The distribution of my work has provided a very nice way of life for me and my family.

CC does have a licensing that states "look but don’t touch" that I may try. For now I am going old school and placing watermarks on my prints (which I truly hate).

If you would like to use any of my work publicly or commercially please contact me by e-mail. Good chance I will say yes.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Current Reading: The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto
Current Music: Virtuoso by Joe Pass
Mood: Motivated
Smells: Coffee and waffles
Sounds: Sponge Bob (he has range as an actor)
Temperature: 82 degrees, with mix of sun and rain
Thoughts: Never trust anyone who thinks there right.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thank You!

It amazes me that you spend your time on my blog. Thank you.

I started this blog January 18th 2006, eight days before the birth of my daughter. Five and a half years latter here I am writing and there you are reading, Thank you.

I came across a random statistic that states that there are three websites for every person on the planet. Placing the number of sites to be around 18 billion-ish. Not sure if that is true or not but it seems true. I have watched and participated in this ever-expanding multi-verse of information.

The readership of this blog is small, very small, in comparison to many of the top sites and bloggers out there. (for big readership see my wife’s blog) The quality and intent of you, the reader, is perfect.

Thank you for you sharing so much with me throughout the years. Please keep the e-mails/comments coming. I have found them to be a divine guiding voice. I have shared 1,400 posts, it is the most committed I have been to anything in my life.

Today my life has evolved into a mix of grassroots and social media communicating with you. Getting the opportunity to meet you in person and share ideas, stories and sometimes even collaborate with you is a gift.

I never could have dreamed that this blog would have turned into me holding workshops, consultations and occasional photo-walks. I am even giving my first talk on creativity and faith in a month, thanks to you.

Thank you for sharing so much with me and believing in my ideas.

Deep bows of gratitude to each one of you.

Simple, purposeful and with rhythm,

~ John

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Nightmares, third night in a row. It is the type of nightmare that rubs off on you in your sleep. Leaving you with a heaviness to carry...that horrible feeling during your waking hours. I can’t recall what the dream is even about. I do know it is the same dream each time.

My sleep hasn’t been good in the past few days, but these last few nights are maddening. Maybe it's all the medication that I am on. Nothing excessive, nonetheless, I am currently taking four different prescription drugs. I do my best to stay away from processed foods and meats to avoid the drugs that get injected into food. Here I am sucking down all these meds chased with a shot or two of whiskey, trying to mend the body and clean the soul.

The nightmares keep waking me up just long enough to talk to myself about the dreams. I lay there asking God to keep me sane. I fall right back into the nightmares. I repeat this process for hours, till the light breaks the blackness.

Prayer. I do not pray as much as I used to. There was a time when I could be enveloped in deep prayer. For a long period of my life I felt as if I had a personal relationship with God. The embracing presence, the feeling of conversation and companionship with God is gone.

Not my faith, but my prayer is lost.

Nightmares lead me to prayers and the prayers make me remember that the connection is gone. I wake feeling as if I lived a night in Hell.

It is odd to me that we all share similar nightmares of Hellish visions, yet you never hear companion dreams of Heaven.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pittsburgh Wedding Photography & Style Me Pretty

(Re-Posted, original post by my wife) to see our wedding site please click (HERE)

I’m very very very very very very very very (continue to infinity) excited to announce that we received our official invitation to be a featured vendor on Style Me Pretty. If you are a bride and you have never heard of SMP then stop what you’re doing right now and go to their site. That’s right, drop EVERYTHING and go there right now. You will not regret it.

Style Me Pretty is a driving force in today’s wedding trends and always highlights the most awesome wedding photos, features, information and content, all with a fabulosity factor of about a billion. Not only is their site incredibly inspiring but one of my favorite features of the site is their DIY section. Real ideas for real people with real lives. Meaning, even the busiest of brides can figure this stuff out and it’s all so fresh and beautiful.

So when we got the invitation to join their Little Black Book of Vendors we were thrilled! You may be wondering why I’m referring to an invitation to be on their site. Well, you can request to advertise on their site and they do get hundreds of emails a day from wedding industry vendors, but they typically choose to hand select the vendors that appear in their Little Black Book. Their selection is pretty intense, which includes a team of industry professionals in charge of researching each potential candidate, following their work and inquiring about their services with other top wedding vendors. Once selected, each potential vendor must undergo an interview process and if all goes well….Boom! Fireworks! You’re on their site! And, I’m happy to report, we made it! Yay!

So we are excited to share with you all THREE of our listings (yup…THREE!). We were honored to be able to list our Wedding Photography, Indian Wedding Photography as well as my Intimates Photography.

So, if you have a little time, stop by and visit our listings. They’re so purty. :) And while you’re there be sure to take some time and peruse the SMP site in full. Lots of great info, pretty pretty images and a ton of advice from the industries top professionals.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Equipment ~ Love or Hate

Equipment: my love hate relationship with it.

Most photographers that I know are equipment junkies. They can’t get enough of this stuff. Not me. I have a "less is more" approach to my gear. The problem is that I keep buying more and more equipment each year.

One reason is that digital gear does not last as long as analog gear. I have had more equipment failure in the last five years than I have in my twenty years of shooting. Also technology improvements in equipment seem to have me buying a new camera every couple of years. Now that ISO is reaching the range of 100000, which is pretty amazing, I will most likely be upgrading to a Nikon D3s in the next year or two.

The recent gear added to the kit is the Pocketwizard Flex TT5, a good piece of gear. For me to add artificial light to my style is a huge jump in philosophy. Natural light all the way (or as much as possible) for me. I switched to a prime lens, 35mm, before adding a flash.

My photo career is broken down in to decades, first ten years I was stuck in a studio using can lights. When I broke out of the studio I used a tripod and a reflector as my weapons of choice for adding additional lighting. Moving into my third decade of shooting I will blend in a little artificially light to the mix. (P.S. I am only 41 yrs old, all this "decade talk" is making me feel old).

Photo Tip: Every year challenge yourself to add a new element to your shooting style. This does not mean that you should go out and purchase new gear. Think of a weakness in your style or ask a fellow photographer for a critique. This year for me I added street photography and the blending of natural and artificial light.

This is what I love about photography and art in general: it's limitless.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Current Reading: Do The Work by Steve Pressfield
Current Music: Live at the Quick by Bela Fleck
Mood: Not dead yet!
Smells: Coffee
Sounds: Muffled echoes
Temperature: High of 71 degrees
Thoughts: Eros > Life Force > Creative Drive

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cash is The New Vinyl

On a plane ride from FLA to PGH I ordered a drink, handed the flight attended a five dollar bill and he apologetically said, "Sorry sir, we only accept credit or debit cards." No problem, I handed him my debit card and he quickly returned with my drink.

That got me thinking about how little need there is to carry cash. In most cases I never have cash on me. I just happened to have a five on me which prompted me to purchase the drink in the first place.

The main problem I see since cash has gone the way of the vinyl record is in giving to charity.

Many times I have walked out of a store and passed a good cause by due to having no cash on hand. What is to become of the homeless who have come to depend on the charity of the passersby? I like giving to the homeless on the street, it just makes me feel good. Friends question me on what that person may do with it, but, I simply don't care. I like to give when I can.

To the Girl Scouts, Red Cross, Salvation Army, other random charities standing on sidewalks, I am sorry.

Cash has gone the way of vinyl record....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Gift Of....

This photograph is licensed under a creative commons licensing: Please feel free to use and distribute the photograph in accordance with the licensing.

You can download all sizes (HERE)