Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pittsburgh Engagement Photography | Mellon Park

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

30th post in 30 days. So What!

This is my 30th post in 30 days. For those of you keeping track (and I would be surprised if any of you are) I started this journey on May 31 with the story of Abner Townsend. When I first took that photo and then sat down to write about it I had no idea the impact that Abner would have on me. 30 days later and at this time I must give thanks to Abner for his guiding motivation that has stayed with me.

The day after Abner's post I received an invitation for a 30-day writing challenge from the team of Seth Godin. The goal was to write a post a day based on the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Every day I would receive an e-mail with a passage from Emerson's “Self Reliance” essay with a prompt to write about the quote. The running theme was about looking inward and questioning your thoughts and writing them down. As I did the 30 days of writing I was not especially good at being influenced by the daily prompt. I went my own way. But the prompts were the first e-mail that I would read daily. Thank you to the Godin team for providing this daily prompt of accountability.

The discipline: this daily task has been a life lesson for me that I hope that I will carry on. Many slight changes in body, mind and spirit started happening with this goal in mind. I read a lot of books to spur my thoughts. I took a lot of walks to give my mind time to process. I even wore a hole into the bottom of my shoes on last night's walk. Kind of appropriate that this would happen at the end of the 30 days. I exercised faithfully for 30 days, nothing extreme, but faithfully. I have a pull-up bar in my backyard, it's attached to my daughter's swingset. A couple of times of a day I would go out to the pull-up bar and do as many as I could then I would do a set of push-ups after that. That was my workout for the past 30 days...push-ups and pull-ups, 3 times a day. No sets or reps or even big master plan, just exercises a couple of times of day.

What have I taken away from this this journey?

I can write a page a day. This means a lot to me. I have no grand ideas of writing a novel but now I feel that I have the discipline to achieve something more. No idea what that may be but I am not afraid to do the work. As for the walking and exercise, I feel great and my pants fit better. My wife and daughter are tired of me showing of my new rip “ish” biceps ( I’m not ready for muscle beach). Doing exercise daily, even in small amounts, has created a noticeable change (if I do say so myself).

Today's e-mail prompt asked me to imagine my future self 10 years from now. What would that future me tell the me of today?

Do the work, daily ~ small discipline goals, daily...create big results.

Now I have to go take some photos... & buy some shoes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Commandments of Creativity (Part 6 of 10)

(See Commandment #1 #2 #3 #4 #5)

These commandments are getting harder and harder to write about as I go along.

I have taken many walks trying to place into words my message. It starts with the idea that few people get to be working artists. Why? Because few people do the work that is necessary to achieve their goal. The easiest example I can think of is building a portfolio. It is not often that a person builds a portfolio, does the work necessary to build that portfolio without the assurance that they will get something in return for their efforts. Money, fame, more work, pat on the butt, whatever it is that motives you to keep on creating. But the problem with creativity is not that it is an act of receiving something, it is an act of giving something. Results should not influence the amount of work that you will do or not do.

This rant brings me to:
Commandment #6.
Do as little harm as possible and be aware of the harm that you do.

What does that have to with creativity? Let me tell you.

It teaches you how to see the world through a different lens to do the work, the creative stuff, that is needed. Too often we walk through life unaware in a dreamless re-hash of what is going on around us.

To notice is to see suffering. To notice is to see grace.

If you live in America or any first-world country it is hard to purchase anything without doing harm to someone. We can not walk through life without causing harm to someone or something. Taking the time to notice the harm that we unintentionally place on each other, either by the products we purchase or the words that we might say, give us a source of creativity.

Creativity is fueled by our feelings, needs and wants. Art is pain, creativity breads suffering. Both of those two lines are spot on. The practice of seeing the world is a practice that can cultivate new ideas, new projects and a new way to bring purpose to your work.

Arts only purpose is to serve. What is your art serving? Is it healing or entertaining or thought-provoking to the viewer?

Do as little harm as possible and be aware of the harm that you do.

Create, connect and grow in body, mind and spirit.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nothing Special ~ Get Good At It.

Nothing special but it is extremely difficult when done correctly.

I push myself to live a meaningful life, a life of purpose and effort. I have written those two words, “purpose and effort”, more than any other words in my journals. Still those two words remain a mystery to me as much as they are a guiding force for how I wish to live my life.

Purpose and effort are undefinable words to me in the broad sense of their meaning. Those terms are just too damn debatable when you get down to it. How am I supposed to know what the correct level of purpose is or the amount of effort to place into my work? Is the point of exhaustion enough effort? Is getting up only to finish something what can be called purpose? Or are they simply labels we place upon ourselves and our actions?

I came across the words “nothing special” while reading about a Japanese therapy technique. The idea awakened a new thought for me. Get good at it. Get good at doing all those things in my life that are nothing special.

How many things do I touch in a day that are nothing special, but the importance of doing it correctly is important?

The first thing I think about is my wife's coffee cup. Every morning she uses the same orange coffee cup. She leaves it on her desk or on the counter every day. Sometimes I find it in the bathroom. Everyday I pick it up and place it in the dishwasher, slightly irritated that I had to do this again. Every morning if it's not in the cabinet she checks the dishwasher for it and then washes it out for herself.

If I were to wash it by hand and place it back into the cabinet so that it would be ready for her the next day, that would be nothing special on my end.

It would become an act of “secret service”. A small act of kindness, daily. Without bringing attention to myself (accept for this blog post...but you get my point) a small act of nothing special to make life more enjoyable and easier.

Doing things correctly is nothing special but it does take purpose and effort.

That is a definable idea.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Current Reading: It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong
Current Music: American Idiot by Green Day
Mood: Vibrant
Smells: Barbecue
Sounds: Wind, trees & birds
Temperature:73 degrees
Thoughts: Is photography a sloppy art?


A long walk in the woods, a good book, great conversation, time with my family...these things bring me joy.

I was asked to list everything that brings me joy, actually to catalog it. Break down the smallest things that I normally would not notice the happiness that it gives to me (see yesterday's post on coffee).

A mother of a good friend of mine passed away yesterday morning after a long struggle fighting a debilitating disease. Her passing does not bring me joy. The comfort my friend takes in knowing that she is at peace with God brings me joy. The prayers that I offer to her and her family brings me joy and gives me a feeling deep in my chest of comfort. This bring me joy.

Living a life of purpose and effort brings me joy, all that shall pass. I know at my death it will all be stripped away. Death, joy and rebirth in the afterlife?...When asked I say that I am OK with whatever happens after this life. If I go to Heaven or melt into the Nirvana or if I am reincarnated for another go around I’m OK with it. This may seem odd, disconnected or that I am experiencing disbelief but none of that would be correct.

I believe deeply, just not deeply enough to catalog my afterlife trip. This may seem even stranger but this brings me joy. The not knowing. The study of faith has been a lifelong passion of mine but the end result has never been much of a motivator for me. I hope my afterlife evolves into seeing all my loved ones, playing music, taking photos (guessing the sunsets in Heaven are amazing) but I’m not guided by the what-ifs of faith.

I am guided by the joy-of-faith; the experiential things that we can have here and now in this moment. There is joy in praying for the passing of life. There is joy in noticing the grandeur in the woods. There is joy in appreciating the words in a good book, and there is an immense amount of joy in the details of the love that my family offers me, daily.

Going to make a pot of coffee and then go for a long walk in the woods (joy).

Have a great day.

~ Peace

Saturday, June 25, 2011


This morning as I prepared my coffee I thought about the soil that grew the beans. I thought about the weather that helped the plants grow. I thought about how the beans were harvested from the land. Was it by machine or was it by man? If by machine, did the machine rip the bean from the soil, damaging the bean and the land? Or by a man who took his time, selected only what was ready to be picked? Was that man treated well by his employer? Did he earn a fair wage? Did he enjoy his work?

I thought about what happened after the bean left the farm. Traveling by truck to a factory. The bean roasted then crushed into grains of dust. Next to be vacuumed sealed into bags that have been labeled for sale. Then packaged into boxes to be transported all over the world.

How many people would have to touch the coffee bean in some way for me to have this cup of morning coffee. This cup of coffee sitting steaming hot next to me, giving off that aroma that I love so much to be the fuel that inspires me to write this post.

How many people? There is no way I could thank them. There is no way I could even guess at the number of people it took to get this cup of coffee from the soil to my hand.

A lifetime worth of gratitude was given to me in the first cup of coffee that I drink, daily.

What do I do daily that is an act of gratitude?

All too often I do things in search of gratitude. I write a post and wait for a thank you e-mail. I photograph a wedding and we receive a five star review on some site (thank you for that, it helps a lot). If we receive a 4.8 or 4.9 we comb through the photos trying to find where in the photos we did not deliver five star work.

Even if I do a random act of kindness to a stranger on the street I patiently wait for the thank you from them. If I do not receive the blessed thank you, my act of kindness does not feel validated.

How much good does the world give to me in my cup of coffee? This may seem like a grand reaching thought about a cup coffee, and it is. Noticing the good that people do is harder than it seems. I have a guiding theme in my life: do as little harm as possible and be aware of the harm that you do. Later on this week I will write a post on that topic.

Through a conversation I had yesterday morning it got me thinking about going deeper than noticing harm, but also to notice the good (good to the last drop...just had to) that is done for us, all of us behind the scenes of life.

Deep bows of gratitude to all that help to get this cup of morning coffee in my hand. I do love it.....

Friday, June 24, 2011

What would my life look like if I could not fail?

What would my life look like if I could not fail? That was the question that I was asked today. Visualize yourself floating in the Great Salt Lake (America’s Dead Sea), think of it as a symbolic rebirth. How would I answer?

The first thought that arose in my mind is that I would want to be Brice Springsteen. Seriously. I want to have done the work that Springsteen did. Born to Run written and preformed by me, John Craig. It's an awful thought that the first thing I would want is for the life of Springsteen to dissolve and have my name inserted. To have those experiences, written the songs and played all those shows that he did. That was the first thought I had. Blame my conscience, I am just the witness to what is arising.

After giggling at myself and feeling slightly ashamed I gave it some real thought and I came to realize that I am very happy with the life I have built.

What I want is my life with the fears removed and the assurance that I am doing the right thing blessed by God. A divine voice that tells me YES, that is the right action, be not afraid.

To know that I am raising my daughter to be kind and intelligent.
To know that I am a good husband, partner and friend to my wife.
To keep my business fluid and successful.
To have “just” the right amount of clients.
To have “just" the right amount of money.
To have no fear of my health falling apart.
To be able to sit on the meditation mat for 45 minutes a day.
To be able to do 20 pull-ups effortlessly.
To climb Mount Everest (with my wife's blessing) (insert from wife: No.)
To travel the world with my family.
To earn a living traveling the world with my family.
To motivate people to live a healthy life through a creative practice.
To have the assurance that I am living a life of purpose and effort.

There is also the space that I would create for my life if it could not fail.

I would open a studio space that is suited for photographing and meeting with clients. We currently do have a studio space but it's not the grand space that I dream of.

This space would have 20 foot ceilings with hardwood floors, white walls and natural light flowing in from the east side in the morning and west side in the evening. It would have dressing rooms, a full kitchen, a beautiful sitting room, complete workstation and of course so much square footage that I would never again have to trip over equipment.

My wife's Intimates photography would be held there. I would teach workshops and give classes on “Unleashing Your Creativity”.

I can visualize it all. A space for business, creativity, health and discovery of what is possible.

The only thing that I cannot seem to answer is why I have to float over the Great Salt Lake to get my answers?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Endure More Pain

Pushing yourself to the extreme. Can I do it? How much pain (or suffering) can I endure to reach my goal?

As of late I have been reading every book that I can on the topic of pushing yourself past the breaking point. I am researching, trying to find similarities to what makes these people successful in their sports and in their lives.

Reading these books I am finding one theme running throughout the each story: suffering and the ability to endure more pain than the person next to them. From ultra running to navy seals to cycling they all say the same thing, “I am not in any better condition than the athletes to my left or right, all I can do is tolerate more suffering than the rest of the competitors”.

Buddhism teaches us that suffering is the path to being awakened. See the lesson of the “Four Noble Truths” and Eight Fold Noble Path” to read up on the philosophy.

Jesus would have to endure excruciating pain to deliver his message with meaning. If not for what he had to endure his teachings would of died off long ago, even with the resurrection.

Suffering is pain, but it is also a mindset.

I have been asking myself: what is my breaking point? How far can I push my muscles and mind to exhaustion. This begs the question of why? Pain is pain and pain hurts. What's the point of undergoing suffering? I am not training for anything, not a race, not a hike, not a climb. I am training for life, a life to live with effort and purpose.

This is what I need to discover for myself. How much fuller will I be able to live if I can continue to push myself passed the point of fatigue.

I go on 5 mile walks a day, I do 25 push ups and 10 pulls and I feel strong. At no point do I really “push” myself because if I get tired or fatigue I sit and rest.

What if I push myself passed the pain.

Could I write with flow, photograph with a clearer mind's eye? Could I be a more attentive father and husband?

Conscious suffering in body, mind and takes lots of heart and lots of strength....I’ll let you know how I do.

If you have book recommendations on this topic please e-mail me. Also, if you have a personal success story of this topic please e-mail me. I’m interested!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Dance with Susan Sarandon ~ Short Story

Flamenco music played in the background as I dance with Susan Sarandon, damn she beautiful. I look down to see my toes swaying to the music on the hardwood floor. Next I noticed my bare knees then a white sheet hanging off of me. I’m in a hospitable gown?

Susan is dressed in one of those gowns made by a famous designer that would be worn on the red carpet. She whispers in my ear, I smile. She smells of lavender and bourbon whiskey. How I miss that smell of whiskey. The aroma and color of the drink was alway the best part for me. To hold a glass in my hand one more time, to smell the fragrant and watch the colors swirl around, that would be good moment.

Susan, I ask “How did I get here” “No idea” she responds. “Dance with me as you used too” “Use to?” I say to myself. I pull her close to my chest the music gets faster we move cross the dance floor. People are staring at us, why not I think to myself I am dancing with Susan Sarandon in a hospitable gown. She whispers in my ears for the second time, I smile.

Hand clapping, the crowd start clapping there hands in syncopated beat to the music. I smile at Susan, “dip” I ask here? Then proceed to dip her on the dance floor genteelly kiss the top of of her chest. The crowd erupts in cheers,I smell of urine. Urine? I just relieved myself on the dance floor, I couldn't feel a thing my body just let it flow. Susan doesn't seem to notice. She whispers in my ears for the third time, I smile.

Susan pulls me close, placing each hand on a cheek of my face. “I had a good time, my conscience is telling me that its time to leave. Follow me, it time to follow me, we had our fun now it time to service your conscience” she said.

The dance floor erupts in flames. The flames do not burn me. Susan moves away from me dancing erotically swaying her hips moving her hands up and dow her body, reaching up and grabbing her hair pulling it into a bum to show off the line of her neck. I stand there engulfed in flames that do not burn. Somebody hands me a glass full of whiskey, I drink staring down. “I’m a lonely soul. Please don’t keep me waiting. I tired of waiting for you. I had nobody till I met you, dance with Susan Sarandon” I cry out to her.

Susan whispers in my ear for a the last time “I expected you to accomplished nothing, so you could try anything.

Six months later I awoke from a coma.

Kiss me , kiss me, kiss me Susan Sarandon were the fist words I spoke.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

30 Days, 30 Photos?

My 30 days of writing is coming to an end...nine days left. The past days of writing has excited me in many ways that I would not have expected at the onset.

I have taken longer walks thinking about writing. I have exercised daily thinking about writing. I have devoured more books searching for meaning, purpose and effort and read books to keep me focused on my task. I have enjoyed conversations, sipped wine and gotten hugs on this journey.

"Journey" is the word to describe this process. To write you have to live. To live you have to have enthusiasm for all that is around you.

I do not want to stop this flow of creativity. So what's next for me?

30 days, 30 photos? What do you think?

The goal would be to create a new photo each day. The only rule that I would set for myself is nothing repeated.

The biggest obstacle that I would face is getting my butt out of bed in the morning to shoot at daybreak and getting my butt off the sofa at night to shoot at dusk. When your butt is the problem that is never good.

I could do a long exposure of the skyline of Pittsburgh but only once in the 30 days and only from one point of view. I would permit a shot taken at dawn and at dusk to be to allowed as two different photographs.

With those same guidelines I would allow different abstract photos but only one could be from my ambient series.

Street photography is where I think I may have the hardest time deciding what is a repetitive pic. Street photography at twilight vs. street photography at rush hour are different, but both are still street photos. I will decide that one as the month goes on.

July 31st who will I be?

Today I am fitter, smarter (just spelled smarter wrong twice before getting it right :)) and happier do to this journey.

30 days, 30 photos. Will I succeed? Not even sure that I will complete this set of 30 days. I will try and I will enjoy the work.

Perfection is found in the process....

(side note from adoring wife that is editing this post: you can find lots of things to photograph in other cities. My psychic powers are telling me there is a romantic getaway in our near future...Oops! I mean a business trip for photography... ;-))

Monday, June 20, 2011

Commandments of Creativity (Part 5 of 10)

(See Commandment #1 #2 #3 #4)

Commandment 5. Living your purpose is living your calling.

For as long as I can remember I have been having conversations about faith and creativity. The interest in these subjects seems to be just born into me, not sure why. Some people are crazy about sports. Me? I am crazy about a monk with a paintbrush.

This is the hardest commandment to write about. The topic is too large to only place some tips on a single page, but I’ll try.

Ask yourself "what is my calling?" That is a hard question to answer, lucky you get a lifetime to completely discover the answer. To live fully awake we need to have a starting place to open the doors.

This is where we get stuck. How do I start? Do I need an "epiphany moment"? Do I need change? Yes, yes you do. But it's not as hard as you may think, but you will have to think.

At this point the best correlation is the connection of faith and creativity. This is what I have been building up to with the previous commandments. There are as many levels of development with your faith as there are levels of development with your creativity. The prior commandment are the building blocks to discovering your purpose and calling in life. Commandments 1 through 4 are the tools to get you to your answer.

I am not going to ask you to meditate or journal your way to these answers but they are the fastest track. After conversations about faith and creativity my second most asked about topic is meditating and journaling. It seems that people have a love/hate relationship with them. They wish it could be fluid and natural process, but it never is. The “perfection is found is the process” is too slow for most people to make a real connection. Connection is the key word, not commitment. Here is a tip that I found useful to me: I do not care how bad I am at it, no judgment at all, all I care is that I do it. Thirty seconds or 30 minutes on the mat, I do not care if I do more. A page, a word, a line in my journal, I do not care if I do more. All that I care about is that it is something.

As for your faith, I do not care what or whom you believe in. I do not care what you create. I do not care if you ever make a dime off your work. I do not care if you ever have the pure God moment. I only care that you do something, every day.

With faith you have two choices: either sit in the congregation and accept, or seek for experimental truth. In our creative pursuits we can either be an observer or a creator. The choice is yours.

If you choose the life of sitting in the congregation and observing from the sideline then that is all you get.

We have to de-condition ourselves into discovering our purpose to living our calling. Dreaming out loud and even dreaming quietly to ourselves has been crushed by culture, community and the boxes of time we live in. Life has been divided up into the many boxes of time: work time, family time, personal time, relationship time, running around time. There is no time left to “Do The Work”. To live your purpose and find your calling you have to put in the work.

Jesus and Buddha questioned the status quo of life. Think about that. The two greatest and most enlightened people questioned their place in this world, which lead them to their life calling. It does not have to be this grand of a leap. You do not have to go out into the wilderness for forty days. But you do need to put in the work.

Do not give up on being human.
Do not let the machine think for you.
Do not concern yourself with results, concern yourself with the process.
It’s ok to often, fail forward, enjoy the failure.

Opening yourself up to a creative practice is a road map. Opening yourself up to the idea that faith is a creative process in its most divine form is a road map to your answers.

Go do the work. Think about commandments one through four. Your purpose and calling is given to you in those answers. Go discover it. Then share it, and shout it out load on the mountain top.

Living your purpose is living your calling. You will no longer seek, but experience.

Photo of the Week~ Happy Farthers Day

I know its a day late, but its a great shot. Happy belated Fathers Day!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Conspiracy Theory

Had a conversation about conspiracy theories last night.

The conversation started off by noticing a ring on his right hand. The ring had the face of an alien imprinted on it or what we accept as what an alien face would look like. Big eye’s, small chin, slit for a mouth and a swelled cranium. This is what we culturally or commercially believe what an alien looks like. Not sure who patented this alien face but whoever they are they made a killing off the idea.

I’m interested in listening to it all. It’s truly one of my favorite thing to do; to sit back and listen to grand ideas. If there is truth in the subject, I don’t care. Passion for belief is what interests me. If your passionate I will listen. Religious folks can come knock on my front door and I will listen. Tell me why I am going to Hell, tell me why I should pick your personal savior, tell me why I should donate to your cause, tell me why I should vote for your candidate...I am interested.

Give me a conspiracy theory and I will listen.

My belief in conspiracy theories is that there really are not any conspiracies at all. We all know too much about conspiracy theories for them to be theories at all by this point. When books, movies and websites merge into current myth and folklore we get the byproduct of conspiracy.

I would argue, if we know about it, then that is enough proof for it not to be a conspiracy. If the truth is out there then it as been set free a long time ago.

The conversation went on to discuss why our government and religious organizations know the truth but keep the truth to suppress and keep control over the masses: us.

If aliens do not believe in God that would crush the purpose of the church and worse than that if aliens do not believe in taxes that would crush the economy.

The conversation was interesting, I enjoyed listening.

Truth is discovered in perspective, I like that.

(insert spooky music here)

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Current Reading:
Born To Run By Christopher McDougall
(2nd time)
Moment It Clicks by Joe McNally
Ultra marathon Man, By Dean Karnazes

Current Music:
Collapse Into Now by R.E.M.

Mood: Awesomeness

Smells: Eggs & Toast

Sounds: Little girls singing, wife cracking eggs

Temperature: High of 83 degrees

OK, this is not writing a page a day, but I am journaling, just not sharing.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fast Company, Notice Me

I always wanted to have a photo published in Fast Company magazine. What I really want is Fast Company to do a featured article on me titled “The Future of Creativity” but I don’t see that happening any time soon. If I was a new-agie-type person I could visualize my future success by placing my intentions out into the universe, sit back and wait for the accolades.

Maybe I should do more commercial shoots. Every year we do a small handful of c-shoots. I have shot a college, purse company, fire truck (not as cool as the way Joe McNally does) and now a CEO of an airport deicing truck company.

He looks like the type of person that Fast Company would do an article on. Some guys just have that look; I’m powerful, I own the room, yeah I’m rich. They used talk like “we'll work the deal out on the golf course, then oysters at the bar.”

It was a great shot, lots of fun and the CEO was fun to work with.

After the shoot I went for a long walk, little too long of a walk (tired today). As I approached the entrance to the woods I saw my dog (who passed away earlier this year) walk out of the woods towards me. Same size, same gate in her walk, same puffiness to her fur, just different owners holding her leash.

I walked up to them bent down and start petting their dog and telling them the story of my loss. The couple was very kind and the dog was adoring. After the passing of my dog I was told that she would come to visit me. That she would make her presence known. That I would hear her barking or hear the clip-clap of her toe nails or feel her next to me as I took my walks, but none of that has happened.

Yesterday, I saw a dog that could have come out of the same litter. I missed her as I walked through the woods. She was my greatest teacher (sorry Dr. Mistro).

If Fast Company was to do an article on me maybe it could be called “The Future of Creativity as Taught by a Dog”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

500% and a Funny Thing

Sixteen days ago I gave myself a goal to write every day for 30 days for the sole purpose of writing. I placed no other expectations on myself whatsoever. Just write, whatever happens I will call it art, or at worst a bad memory.

I have been a long-time journaler and blogger but never have I put a plan into the volume of writing that I would do. I didn’t think it would be that hard. I was wrong. Also I didn’t think it would become the all-and-all of self-awareness. I was wrong.

Writing is therapy, writing is also the onset of schizophrenia.

To be honest my fear was that you the reader would become bored and stop viewing this blog. Second, the fear was that this blog is supposed to be a working portfolio about photography and I knew very little of what I was going to write would be on that topic. Lastly, well probably lastly, I promised myself that I would not look at the stats counter.

This 30 days of writing is for myself and I'd be damned if I was going to be swayed based on the number of viewership that I received. The reason that I turned comments off on this site was so that I would not be influenced to “Do The Work” that would be influenced from reading comments.

When your job is to create, you create. If you are doing what you are "told to do” either by readers, fans or clients then you are not creating, you are assembling. This is why many artists' first project are their best. They had a lifetime of living to create that batch of work. Then maybe that leads to another year or two, if they're lucky to create the next volume of work. Having the voices of the first success in your head is a maddening place to be. Being praised, noticed and patted on the back is great, having money in your pocket is even better, but duplicating previous works is not. Nothing in this universe is repetitive (accept maybe reincarnation, ask a jellyfish about that.)

Nothing is ever the same twice, be it light, art or doing the work.

Sixteen days, a page a day, fourteen pages to go. During this process a shift in what I was writing became apparent to me. I wanted the words to be purposeful to me and hopefully to you. I started asking questions. Then I started answering them, that only leads to more questions, thank God I have fourteen days to go on that one.

Writing is therapy, writing is the onset of schizophrenia - I know I said it twice but it's worth repeating. OK, disregard my "nothing is repetitive" line a couple of sentences back. A soon as I wrote that line I knew some science geek would be calling me out. (To the science geek reading this, hugs, I'm glad you are here).

Here is the problem. I looked at the stats counter. It's good, really good. Readership has gone up 500%, that is not a typo...500%...holy shit.

Funny things happen when you are trying not to look.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Commandments of Creativity (Part 4 of 10)

(See Commandment #1 #2 #3)

This is my Top 10 list for unleashing creativity. These 10 commandments will be my speaking points for my talk on “Faith & Creativity” and my new class “Unleashing Your Creativity”. (p.s. if you've been reading this blog lately you will see that this post is a re-hash of current writings. Think of it as the "greatest hits" if you will.)

Commandment 4. It’s OK to often, fail forward, enjoy the failure.

Can failure make you fearless? Can fear give you experience?

Fear and failure go together, it's an easy picture to see. It's an easy picture to see in all of us , at times.

How about being fearless and experience? Can we see ourselves in that picture? Do they go together? Yes, but we hardly think about that, rarely do we think of being fearless and experience as a bi-product of fear and failure.

Being fearless can lead to courage. Experience goes to the old. Not true! Fearless goes to those who commit to the “practice” and “practice” gives you the experience to become fearless at your art.

What does this mean for the creative person? That perfection is found in the process. (Commandment #3)

Failure gives you the opportunity to improve on the smallest details that will create the biggest difference in your work.

Failure gives you the opportunity to solve the extreme problems first, letting the smaller issues to self-correct.

Failure gives you the opportunity to improve with relevance.

Failure gives you the opportunity to do the work that is important.

Failure gives you the understanding of the “why” of your starting points and that is often the overlooked. In turn it helps to provide the obvious solution to your creative problems.

I am a promoter of the idea that failure is a good thing. Be not afraid. My advice to all has been fail, fail often, enjoy the failure, and fail forward. Failure is #4 on my 10 Commandments of Creativity, it is that important to me. Place purpose and effort into the idea of failing forward, because all that is left is experience.

What happens before we fail? We have a grand adventure. We go off into the unknown as willful explorers looking for something new. I ask you how much of that feeling of adventure is left in us? As children we lived adventure, daily. Fearlessly trying things anew, scraping our knees, making cardboard box forts and lemonade stands. We played supers heroes, we played dress up, we walked off into the woods to be Robin Hood.

Adventure was a daily part of our lives. How much adventure is in you today?

Got Adventure! Get Fearless!

Go Create!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Books, Updates & Stuff

“The pursuit of passion matters more than the passion” - Dean Karnazes

This is what I have been focused on the past few weeks of my life: the pursuit. It has been an adventure with new books, new people and new ideas that have found there way into my life. I have no idea where this journey is taking me and I'm not even sure that I am on the correct path, but what I do know is that every day I am doing the work and putting in the effort. That is the pursuit of passion.

The above quote is from the book “Ultra Marathon Man”. If you want to be motivated read it.

Let’s talk photography. Later this week we will be shooting a commercial job at the Pittsburgh airport. The last commercial job we did ended up as the main shot on a national advertising campaign. Next time you're in the grocery store pick a copy of “Veg News” and look at the back cover.

The photo above is from my ambient series. I has nothing to do with this post, I just wanted to share it with you.

Photo books are something I hardly ever read. Recently I finished book by Joe McNally, “The Moment It Clicks”. Good book, give it a read.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Commandments of Creativity (Part 3 of 10)

(See Commandment #1 here & Commandment #2 here)

This is my Top 10 list for unleashing creativity. These 10 commandments will be my speaking points for my talk on “Faith & Creativity” and my new class “Unleashing Your Creativity”.

Commandment 3. Do not concern yourself with the results, concern yourself with the process.

Commandment number 3 is often the breaking point for why most people never start their creative lives.

All too often we want to get to the satisfaction without the need for the process itself.

Looking back I wish I would have titled Commandment 3 “Perfection is found in the process”. That is the essence of the creative life, the enjoyment and the experience is all that there is. The end results are not as important as you may think.

Life is a good example of this lesson, faith is an even better example of this lesson. No matter how much belief we have, if we do not put in the effort, do the work, the outcome is not in our control. Faith with works, works without faith, fight it out for yourself and in the end only those who have done the works and enjoy the process can look their “Creator” in the eye and say “I did my best, thanks for the opportunity”

In today's world the process has become all too easy to forget about. Why try when most things are done for us (see Commandment 1), we no longer “have” to try...anything.

Wash the dishes for the sake of washing the dishes. - Thich Nhat Hanh

The eastern philosophy concept - Mindfulness is the driving force for the creative person. How often are you in the “Here and Now” of the moment? We do things in a hurry just to get to the act of doing nothing, we rush through our food, our work and our thoughts to sit in front of the TV.

There is an enormous amount of depth and willingness to do something and to be fully awake of the process.

This is the gift of creativity. The creative person is awake in the moment of creating. For those of us who create things we do not call it “creating”, we call it practicing. We love it. If we only did our art for the sake of applause or to see a photo on a gallery wall or to hear the music on the radio, if we only did it for the after effect we would never get anything done. We would never be able to get past that nagging voice inside our head telling us that it is not good enough..

When we create, when we practice for the sake of enjoying the process of practice...this is enlightenment, if only for the hours that we are transfigured in the act. It's a powerful experience that my words cannot do justice. Trust me, it's grand.

What is our purpose if not to create, I ask you? The quest to understand our consciousness is the pursuit of perfection and that can only be found with practice.

The act of creating something, anything, is a door that can open you up to your purpose in this world.

Art's only purpose is to serve.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hugs, Kisses, Cookies and Wine

(A follow up to yesterday’s post)

The wine was Chianti made a year ago by a family friend, it was great. I was hoping that I would leave with a bottle of my own, but no was all gone.

The cookies were phenomenal. As I wrote yesterday, the Italian cookie table is paramount and this cookie table created a flash mob like no other. Truly, the unleashing of this cookie table would have made a great scene in a movie. The guests sat waiting for this table to be unveiled, and when the cloth that covered the table was removed all you could do was hold onto the grandma next to you for dear life. The crowd went crazy.

I went home with no wine but I have sitting in front of me, as I write this, three containers of cookies, one container solely holding cream stuffed pizzelles. Will I share them with a five year old? Probably not, we’re not that close when it comes to cookies....ok, there are two additional boxes, if her mother shares I am sure she will get a cookie or two. To0 bad we weren't able to come home with the wine, she could have had that.

This wedding day had more kissing and hugging than any other wedding I have attended in all my years. It was a full circle of celebrating love, life and family. This is what weddings must have been like in the old days before weddings became an industry. Hugs, kisses, cookies and wine, it’s a amore.

I saw friends that I have not seen in twenty years. I re-introduced myself to a lot of people, the older of them by saying, “Remember me? I was your paperboy”.

I grew up in a small town with extended family living all around me and with more friends than a kid could play with. We spent all of our time at a local ballpark playing sports all year round. Only two rules: if you hit the ball over the fence you go get it, and be home when the street lights come on. It was a youth guided by a fellowship of friends....we would all grow up and move to different parts of the world. But last night we were home.

A wedding brings you home if only for a weekend, if only for a day of holding a camera in my hands. Home, it is a bunch of different places for me now. Today it’s being in a house with my wife, daughter and 3 containers of homemade Italian cookies. Last night it was being in a room with lots of memories.

It’s always good to be home.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I'm Off To Photograph

Today I am photographing the wedding of a childhood friend who I went to preschool with.

My friend waited until the age of 42 to marry his love. It is going to be a big Italian wedding, lots of wine and lots of cookies. I never drink at weddings but I will be sure to have a sip of the homemade “Dago” red wine before leaving. Will definitely be going home with cookies. Cookies are a serious thing at Italian weddings. The last friend's wedding that I shot, the groom's Mother, who looks like Dr. Ruth, pulled me aside and firmly told me “I only want two things: a photo of my three boys and a photo of the cookie table” and “get it right Johnny, I know your Mother”. She let go of my arm I delivered on the pics.

Do you remember that movie “My Cousin Vinny”? I think the day will be a lot like that minus the courtroom drama. Ok, not at all like that movie. If “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” had an Italian sequel, it would be like that. Either way he has found his Mona Lisa and she has found her man.

I cherish what I do: documenting a day of love. It amazes me that I get paid to photograph people on their wedding day. The idea that my work will live long past the lives of the couple gives me a feeling of awe. The photos that I take today will live on for future generations. I love that. Every snap of the shutter is important to me.

I have photographed friends and family many times over the years but nothing as special as this is to me. It has to do with the time he waited for love. This will be his first marriage at the age of 42. There is glory and honor in waiting that long. There will be many jokes about getting this man to the alter and why it took him soooo long to get there, most of the jokes will come from me...sorry about that, but you asked me to shoot your big day.

At his age (and mine to0) most of the friends that we grew up with are on their second marriage or hoping that their wife doesn't kick them out. Some people celebrate anniversaries. Me? I have a special day that comes once a year called “She hasn't kick me out yet day”, the day comes sometime in March but I always get the date wrong.

I kept a photo of my preschool class all these years. Their are 14 kids in the photo. In the second row on the far left their I sit next to my friend. Both of us sitting next to each other smiling, so much life in front of us. The photos make everything feel like it happened days ago, life moves fast, too fast.

Just yesterday my daughter completed preschool and here I sit thinking about my friend that I made in preschool.

The small circle of life and time...

I am off to photograph. Hope you have a great day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Odd Thing That Happen on my Back Porch

Maybe they are here to give me ideas about which to write. Could they be a source of divine ideas? The Greeks believe that “Genius” was a spirit or angel that sits next you as you do your work. Could birds my Genius...

As I sit on my back porch writing this, there is a Blue Jay, Cardinal, Robin and what I think is a tiny Sparrow all visiting me at the same time. One fat rabbit sits no more than ten feet from where I am seated, eating leaves off a bush. If you can believe it, a family of chipmunks scurry left and right across the patio floor at the same time. Those little buggers move fast. None of this wildlife seems to be bothered by my presence. I must not be a threat to those who live in the trees and dirt.

It’s a freakin' Disney movie. No idea why the animals feel comfortable in my backyard. No water, barely any food...small garden with only two tomato plants and a single pea plant, neither has sprouted a thing . A basil and oregano plant grows in small flower pots, but nothing has been nibbled on. I have thought about placing a bird feeder in the far back corner of the yard, but why spend the money if they already like to come around. I should at least offer them a drink, don’t you agree?

I think they come for two reasons: one, animals like back porches because they just make you feel good. There is something about having an outside space that is attached to your house that can only be used on days when the weather is just right. The animals do not often get to share in the sharing co-habitat-space with the two legged tall walkers. I think they enjoy watching us. It's sort of like a zoo, only it’s a people zoo that the animals watch us from. Ok, that is probably over thinking it a bit.

Two, they're here to consider if they would like to be reincarnated as a human. Now, I feel as if I am being judged by the feathers and the fur that frolic around me. Why would they choose to watch me? There are two other back porches to the left and right of mine and one has a bird bath. How interesting could I be? I sit here reading books and typing on this laptop. Surely I am not a good subject to base reincarnation on.

A Cardinal flies down and perches itself on the top of my laptop screen and whispers in my ear “you're not, we're here for the bugs” and flies away...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wedding Photography ~ Yeah I do That

I have been bombarding you with words as of late, so here are some wedding pics. He has a good reason to smile. Had a blast shooting this wedding. Hope you enjoy!


Phronesis: the Greek word for practical wisdom.

Common sense and knowledge are the two closest words in the English language to phronesis. I understand phronesis to mean doing what is right and what is worth doing. You may say that anything right is worth doing, but right is a subjective word.

The business of photography is lacking phronesis at times. Right and worthy can live on separate sides of the same street. The interdependence of ethics, economics and skill can make a photo career short lived for many. Do the work, marketing will take care of itself.

For a long time I would preach “collaborate rather than compete” to any who would listen. I still think there is much knowledge and common sense in that thinking, but not much practical wisdom.

At this point in my career I neither collaborate nor compete. I do have a small group of photographer friends who share the same foundations to building a good life and good career. We teach, help, critique, listen and share with one another. We refer jobs, offer guidance and resources to each other. We do not collaborate because we are all living the photo-life-career that is personal to each of us. We do not compete either. Why? Three simple principles listed below are the answer that question.

Be kind
Do good work
Commit to growth

Back in January, 2006 I wrote a blog post that would become my most read-hit-search posting. The post titled “Mission Statement” listed below are the four key points.

* Balance lifestyle of professional & personal

* Satisfying & delighting clients

* Increase earning a living & contributing to the wellbeing of others

* Community & environmental responsibility

I still hold these core values important to who I want to be. Without mastering the upper three principles I will never achieve the bottom four.

That is a life philosophy full of practical wisdom.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Could You Do With 10 Extra Seconds ?

Every morning I receive an email asking me to answer a question. After reading the question I drink two cups of coffee, drop my daughter off at school and go on a walk to think about the question. Some of the answers have been re-formulated into blog posts, some of the answers stay in my head and some get jotted down in my journal.

The questions are phrased as “what if” questions. Asking to reflect and go deep inside your head. These are questions for those of us who are constantly searching to answer the existential question of “why”.

These questions asked help us to ponder, dream, re-work the “whatever” of our lives. By answering these questions I start to think about the next heartbeat, the next breath and reflecting on that. I am discovering that this may be more crucial than rehashing our past.

What if I put in 10 extra seconds of effort? What would that moment be like?

I could do two more pull ups

I could do five more push-ups

Be attentive

Write the perfect sentence

Compose the perfect photograph

Have a new idea

Savor my food

Offer a prayer

Ask for forgiveness

Offer forgiveness

I could chose mindfulness

Notice something

I could talk myself out of a negative thought

Have the discussion that I have been putting off

I can say “I love you”

What would you do with an extra 10 seconds?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Got Adventure?

Look at this picture, really look at it. I love it. This photo speaks to me, it's screaming "I am off on an adventure!" How often do we get to have these feeling as adults?

I am a promoter of the idea that failure is a good thing. Be not afraid. My advice to all has been fail, fail often, enjoy the failure, and fail forward. Failure is #4 on my 10 Commandments of Creativity. It is that important to me. Place purpose, effort and understanding into the idea of failing forward, because all that is left is experience.

Ask yourself what happens before we fail.

We have a grand adventure. We go off into the unknown as willful explorers looking for something new. I ask you how much of that feeling of adventure is left in us?

As children we lived adventure, daily. Fearlessly trying things anew, scraping our knees on sidewalks, playing in cardboard box forts, lemonade stands curbside, we played superheroes trying to fly, we walked off into the woods to be Robin Hood. We did everything in search of adventure without a thought of failure.

Adventure was a daily part of our childhood. How much adventure is in your life today?

Got Adventure?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Heart & Strength

This is a conversation in my head that I haven’t quite figured out yet.

As of late I have been asking myself “what is my purpose for this period of my life?”

I’ve known what it is now for awhile, I have been to afraid to say it out loud, terrified to quietly say it to myself.

Couple of months back I wrote about suffering, living with suffering and what it has meant to me. Suffering is my greatest teacher. It is a gift on how to lead a purposeful life, if you accept the lessons it gives. Not a gift that I would ever ask for or wish to give to another, but a gift.

We all have diseases, dysfunction and disabilities of sorts. These are all conditions of being human. In truth I feel like a jerk for even offering the words you are about to read below. Who am I?

I never wanted to talk about my illness. Still don’t. I do not want to be a person whose life is defined by the diagnosis of a disease. I want to talk about the lesson learned from living. These are not lessons on medical advice or tips or tricks to wellness, nor are these suggestions on how to handle side effects from medicine. These are lessons about putting in the effort.

Five years into to this journey I am stronger, smarter and more creative due to the struggles and lessons of living with my disease. I still do not speak about the illness; I am only interested in talking about what I learned. People ask me for answers all the time but I only offer them a starting place to practice. This happens in photography as much as it does in health. To see the look of disappointment in their faces every time when I offer no answer and only a practice. Life is a singular journey that is never the same twice, not even for the reincarnated. No answers given only new paths to is in art as it is in health.

Why I feel the need to share this with others I am not sure. Am I qualified to share? Doubtful. Do I have secrets to life with disease? Again doubtful. Selfishly, I believe if I can help others, in turn I can help myself. Here is a problem no one is even asking me for help. Here I sit on my soap box looking to preach inside an empty church.

How can I make this happen, can I help myself by helping others? Where do I start? What is this need, this calling inside of me to motivate others to lead a healthy, creative life? If you have answers e-mail me.

My purpose is:
To help others lead a life filled with the “heart of a servant” and the “strength of a fighter”, and that takes practices.

Art is pain. Art’s only purpose is to serve. You must have the strength of a fighter to keep getting back up and the faith of an angel to serve.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Moment & Photo of the Week

Moment & Photo of the Week all in single post, this must mean something...

Current Reading:
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally
Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Heart and The Fist by Eric Greitens

Current Music:

Volcano by Edie Brickell
Under the Milky Way by The Church

Mood: Thankful & strong

Smells: Sun Twig Tea, eggs & tofu

Sounds: Birds chirping, lots and lots of chirping birds

Temperature: 84 degrees

Ok, so today's “moments” is longer than my normal post. This is a list of my last 30 days of reading, listening and observing. I often wonder what you, the reader, thinks of this list that I have been keeping.

Is it narcissistic of me to publicly let you know what I am reading and listening to?

This my first Sunday post ever in my five plus years of keeping this blog. I am in the process of changing myself to write every day for a 30 day stretch. I am on day 7. Will I go the distance? Hopefully. The bulk of what I write will make this blog, some will be left in the journals.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Commandments of Creativity (Part 2 of 10)

(See Commandment #1 here)

This is my top 10 list for unleashing creativity. These 10 commandments will be my speaking points for my talk on “Faith & Creativity” in my new class “Unleashing Your Creativity”.

Commandment 2. Do not let the machine think for you.

I love all things digital. I am not anti-tech. I understand that my ability (or anybody’s ability) to create is not based on the machine that you use.

Three percent, that’s it...3% is all the technology that you need to “Do The Work” that you wish to do.

People create and machines warehouse our work. Remember that.

If you say to yourself that you would be better if you only had this or that piece of gear to do the work it is at that moment, at that thought, that you should stop and ask yourself why. Photography is light, music is vibration, writing is thought, sculpting is clay....creative tools are given to us at the most basic, simplest elements of life. God is the creator, Earth provides the tools and evolution guides us on our path.

97% of art comes from the heart, mind and soul, 3% comes from the machines. This may sound like an easy idea to argue about with me. Trust me, many have.

In photography having a bag full of gear is great. I have a bag full of gear, a big bag. Needing that bag-of-stuff to act as a crutch to create the work is not great, not at all.

Photography is the easiest medium to master, but the hardest in which to be noticed. New gear, new software, new stuff does not get you noticed. Again I would argue that only 3% of the photographs that we see are noticeable. No amount of equipment, technology, or Google research can make you a photographer. The only way to become a good photographer is by daily practice with purpose and effort, that and only that will help you to develop into a photographer.

A photograph is everything that happens before the snap of the shutter. I do mean everything; every book that you read, every movie that you watch, every walk that you have taken, every conversation that you have had.

It does not matter how smart our machines-computers-cameras have become. Photography is about the person holding the camera, not the machine. People create, machines warehouse our work.

The camera is not important...but you are.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Do The Work - Purpose & Passion

I have been having an existential struggle as of late on discovering how I can do the work that I am passionate about while ensuring that work has purpose for me.

Setting out to find the answers for my problem got me to look over my past work. This is what is good about keeping journals and blogging, it much easier to research your thoughts if you have archived them somewhere. I had to go no further than yesterday’s post to find a thought that would inspire me. “Why does the space of a church feel holy when it is empty?” That was it. What space do I feel the presence of purpose? The library.

Libraries are filled up with the collective works of people’s passions that leads them to their purpose; their higher calling, if you will. When I sit in a library I am surrounded not only by the artifacts of the collective wisdom of our history, but also by people working, studying, learning, and sharing information all in the pursuit of a higher level of intelligence. This collective group hold the threads to “do the work”.

This past year I have spent many nights teaching photography workshops in ibraries. I have come to think of myself as the troubadour-of-photography, spreading my creative dharma lessons to anyone who chooses to listen.

As I walk through the libraries and see what they mean to community, I can see the best in us. Libraries not only warehouse our books and media, but they give us a place to go. That place, that building, is needed. Seth Godin wrote a wonderful article on “The Future of the Library” and you can read it (HERE). Godin wrote “The Library is no longer a warehouse for dead books.” He may be right about that. Even with the paper book dying and the rise of the ebook the library is needed.

When you walk into a library you hold a commitment to learn, grow and discover. Best of all the library gives it all away for free; knowledge for the taking. We are living in an age named the “information economy and/or shared economy” and this is exactly what library has forever been doing, just that. It warehouses our future, the now, and the now of what we are becoming.

As I move forward in discovering the work I am passionate about I will do this work surround by the collective wisdom of yesterday in a space with other people doing their work with passion and purpose today.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching” - Emerson

Why does the space of a church feel holy when it is empty?

I have spent many hours inside empty churches playing music. I would place a chair in front of the alter and play. Fingers on strings, strings on wood and vibrations that I could get lost in. I wonder why, as artists, we seek an audience when the quiet time of isolation brings the greatest joy? These are the moments of non-separation, in which you feel more like a vessel for the music than a player of sounds. “Go into your inner room and pray” - Jesus. Is that how Jesus is teaching us to experience the holiest of holy?

I watch as my fingers move up and down the fret board. I watch as my right hand plucks and picks the strings. I listen as the sound fills the space. This creates a feeling of surrender, utter undefinable surrender. I could not tell if the sound was coming from my fingers on the strings or if the sound was coming out of the air into my guitar.

Those moments of music are the only times that I have felt the presence. Simply the presence, no further truth needed. From that quiet-sound-of-music the presence would feel like a perception-of-truth that would create a world that only I could see.

It has been about five years since I have played music inside a church. I miss the community, the fellowship, the congregation singing back at you. Most of all I miss the perfect sweetness of the presence, and that is better than any preaching.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

7 Proverbs on Light & Life

As of late many of my conversations have been about light. When discussing light I have the hardest time talking about it technically. Philosophically I would have to say that people make the same mistakes in life as they do with light; not taking the time to notice what is already there.

Below I listed my seven proverbs on light and life.

1. The feel of life is equal to the feel of light: you need to slow down to understand them.

2. The smallest changes create the biggest difference, as long as you put in the effort.

3. Solve the extreme problems first. The smaller issues will self correct.

4. Understanding the “why” of your starting point is often overlooked and provides the obvious solution to any problem.

5. Place “purpose and effort” into failing forward, because all that is left is experience.

6. Improve with relevance, do the work that is important.

7. The best way to study light and life is not by studying light or life at all but by studying the purpose, effort and the why of your passion. Light and life have no definable definition due to the fact that neither is ever the same twice.

Let me end with a note of warning... Do not take advice from someone who thinks they're right on these subjects all the time; nothing is ever the same twice. Please practice with extreme caution, be forewarned that only some of the answers can be found in books, the rest is up to you to discover.

Enjoy the journey.