Thursday, August 05, 2010

Back on Track

Here in Northern Va., and we're finally getting up and running. The last three weeks have been a whirlwind. We've set up a new home (sort-of), had a visit from my parents, a job interview (rejected), and worked to meet the demands of my current clients.
Those of you that know me, know that I struggled in OH to find my place and establish a new career. The hard part about running your own home business was deciding exactly what to do every day. I had plenty of time on my hands, but was constantly faced with the question of how best to use it? I'll readily admit, I didn't always (or maybe even often) make the right decisions. I had a lot of false starts, and smacked up hard against some brick walls. But I evidently did a few things right. I made some good friends and future contacts both personally and professionally. The two often overlap. I'm finding now that the relationships that I developed there are continuing to pay dividends.
I often assuaged my battered ego by telling myself that I've been spending the last two years giving myself continuing education; my own master's course in multi-media communication. The resources were all there so I dug deep into learning to shoot and edit audio and video, build acceptable web pages, make motion graphics, use social media for marketing, and in general learn the tools I would need to continue being relevant in a world where just being a "photographer" simply isn't enough.
Green Screen Set in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Now I'm beginning to see the fruits of that labor, and with relief, am finding that all that time was not at all wasted. Last week, I traveled to Myrtle Beach to produce some chroma key videos for an e-learning client. The shoot was complicated because the final videos will be merged into a 3D graphical environment. The talent was being flown in from across the country and the client, acting as director, would be watching my every move. In short, I had to get it right. It was a big deal for me. Not only because I needed to make the client happy, but because I would need to use every skill I've been learning.
The good news is that I'm working on the post production now, but (dare I say it?) it looks like everything came off without a hitch. Now I've got another project coming up that will further stretch my skills but it feels like I'm finally back on track.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


We're here, we're in, and we're doing our best to get it all sorted. We've unpacked a few thousand boxes and still have them packed floor to ceiling in our two spare rooms.
I had an interview this week, and as part of the interview process they asked me to write for 30min. about anything that interests me. I guess it was sort of a writing/personality test. I'm so preoccupied with what I'm going to do with all this stuff and how I've accumulated it, that I wrote about that. I hope that in proving my own neurosis, I didn't shoot myself in the foot with this little piece. All photographers are a little crazy though right? Here's what I wrote:
Twelve tons. That's what my life weighs these days according to my movers. What happened? Five years ago I was bouncing around the globe and everything fit in a backpack. Then I got married and we needed stuff. A civilized life. It's not just my wife that's at fault. I'm probably accumulating more stuff these days than she ever did. There's my camping stuff: the backpacks, bedrolls, cookstoves, and boots. Dozens of pairs of hiking boots when I only ever where one set. There's my fishing stuff. I've become a bassaholic. Not only does this take a lot of rods and reels for every different situation, but boats! There are three of them now: a canoe for family trips (that rarely happen), a Jon boat rigged up with a big motor for moving across the lakes and fishing with a partner. Finally my new found love, the Kayak. This little wonder allows me to go places no fishermen have gone before...or so I always think, until I run across an old rusty hook hung on some limb. That always depresses me, knowing that the wonder's of a rocky river were not created for me alone. Then there's my electronics. These are for my business so I not only have a desire but a solid excuse to purchase whatever I might want or need, because it's "for the business." There's the little HD helmet cam that I haven't had a use for but will one day when I finally do the story on the guy that gives Kayak Fishing lessons. Hey, it's the newest trend in outdoor sports. There are even Kayak fishing tournaments now! I've got big 1600ws strobes (lights) that will light a gymnasium. I rarely do sports photography, but I'll be ready if the time comes. I've got a laptop (mac of course), a desktop, a closet full of defunct cell phones... Then there's all the cables, and powers and batteries. Drawers and drawers of the stuff. A cord for every use, except when I don't have the right cord, and it's back to Radio Shack. Then there are my babies, my cameras. I've still got those 8lb. Nikon F3s with motor drives though I haven't shot film in about 5 years. The Leica that was born the same year I was. The newer D1s and D2s and finally the whiz bang D300s. Most of the time, I can do my work with just a point and shoot though, and I've got those by the score. But hey, everything's video these days, so video it is. The primo is the Sony V1u which is pretty small in and of itself, but then you've got to add some type of shoulder mount for steady shots, a shotgun mic, a lav get the idea. By the time I'm done rigging it it feels like I've got a Volkswagon on my shoulder.
All of this is just to say I've got more stuff than anyone could ever really need, and sometimes more than I really want. I'm now trying to unload all that stuff in 2000 SqFt. of a new home, though I don't get to use all of this space because my wife says she needs the bathroom, bedroom and kitchen. The movers packed all the stuff in cardboard boxes after wrapping them in about 14 sheets of paper. Each little item, a flashlight for instance... did I mention that I collect flashlights.. each item, is wrapped in those 14 sheets of paper. So, as you remove the stuff, lets say the flashlight, and look for a place to put it, you then need to find a place for about the paper and the box. My new county doesn't recycle cardboard boxes, and the landfill is an hour away. So what you end up with is a beautiful little house surrounded by 8,000 boxes and enough paper to run a metro news printer for about three weeks.
The real problem, of course, is that when you're surrounded by half empty boxes, and paper, there's no room to run your life. There's no where to sit down to right the cable installer a check for the new coax he just ran because the kitchen table is covered in boxes, and paper, and stuff. Then, when your potential employer calls and offers you an interview, you've got to find the wardrobe that you stashed 5 years ago when you decided your life was your own and you could live in flip flops and t-shirts. When you finally did the clothes out they don't fit, because you've gained weight sitting on your butt behind your computer playing with your software stuff. (time's up)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Proud Husband

This will be my first blog post without pictures because my beloved MacbookPro is in for repairs. So, here I am stuck with my wife's little Gateway Netbook, without access to either my photos or my bookmarks. It's maddening. I feel like I did in those childhood dreams where I'm stuck in a glass phone booth naked and late for class. Everybody's had those right?
But, all five of my blog fans insisted I write and give them an update after more than a year hiatus from this blog.
The BIG NEWS is that amazing wife, Tami, has been promoted to manage one of J.C. Penney's largest stores in Springfield, V.A. For those of you that have been keeping up, yes, that's exactly where we moved from 2 1/2 years ago when I left a good position at Army Times and came to O.H. to become a "kept man."
Moving here, and giving up some of my globetrotting ways has been quite an adjustment and the lack of photojournalism opportunities a serious blow to the self-image. But, I found the people of the mid-Ohio Valley warm, welcoming, and extremely helpful. The town of Marietta took me in and and made me their own, and I've learned as much in these last two years, both about myself, and the craft of storytelling, than in any other time in my life. (That will be the subject of my next post.)
Most importantly, I've had a chance to watch my wife succeed in a role that she seems made for. For the last two years she's developed into an excellent manager, motivating and counseling over 160 associates, maintaining high customer service scores, and keeping profits up during a difficult economic downturn. I've watched her agonize over the decisions she's made, and learn from her few mistakes. She's helped win numerous awards for her store. On top of all that, she's found time to stroke my fragile ego, manage this household, hike with me on icy trails and even learn to fish from a canoe. Evidently I'm not the only person who recognizes the abilities of this amazing woman. In Springfield she'll be managing one of Penney's largest stores during a complete remodel of both the store and the mall. Now that I know how smart, and capable she is, it completely boggles the mind, that she could be duped into marrying me. Just goes to prove that love really is blind.
The plan right now is for Tami to move to Springfield in the first week of April. I'll stay behind with the dogs and get to work selling the house, making frequent trips to the D.C. area to shop for a new one. To my Marietta friends, I'm extremely grateful to you all and will be in contact with you over the next few weeks. As, for my work, I'll look forward to getting back to my photojournalism roots with a whole new skill set...I've got some ideas, but those will have to wait for another blog. The whips snapping, and I have to get back to work. Congratulations Tami, I'm very proud of you!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Through the fog

No blog without a picture. That's been my self-imposed policy since I started this little log, and is the reason that I have been absent from it for so long. I just haven't made the pictures and it's driving me nuts!
Every year about this time, every photojournalist that I know go through their "year in pictures" as a way to either congratulate themselves for jobs well done, or to remind themselves that they need to work harder. I'm embarrassed that for the first time since I entered this profession, I fall firmly into that latter category. It's not that I haven't had the ideas. I've got notebooks and post-it's filled with the scribblings of story ideas that I should be working on. And it's not that I haven't been filling my time working. I've been building business contacts, making cold calls, developing web pages and taking online tutorials on web design, video production, and business practices. I've been going to networking meetings, handing out business cards and guest speaking to any group that will listen. I am ever hopeful that all those I've met, and all that I've learned in the past year will pay off in the long term. BUT, I haven't been making pictures and telling stories.
Every writer I've ever traveled with knows that if I haven't made a good story-telling picture for a few days, I'm not my usual happy-go-lucky self. I get down right bitter and angry. Now that months are going by between them, you can imagine what my poor loving wife is going through. And, if some of you are wondering why I fell off the map, it's because I can't face that most important of all questions that we PJs are constantly faced with: "What have you done lately?"
I've talked myself out of doing what I should be doing with a variety of excuses ranging from:
"I've got to concentrate on the commercial side of my business" to "I don't have an audience/outlet for it" to "I can't afford it and when I have enough money to finance the stories, I'll do them."
But the truth is, I can't afford NOT to do them because I am a photojournalist, a story teller. It's not just something I do for a living, it's something I HAVE to do.
For the past year, I feel like I've been feeling my way through a heavy fog, but it's time to push through it. I'm getting back to shooting and telling stories. They won't all be tear jerking or world changing, and I honestly don't know who will see them or if anyone will be willing to pay for them. But, I know they are out there waiting for me and I know I have a lot of catching up to do.
We're heading home to see the family on Dec. 26th and on Jan. 20th, I'm off to spend a few days with an indian tribe in the Panama rain forest. Thanks to my wife for her continued encouragement and seeing me through the fog. Happy holidays to all.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Busy Month

It's been a busy but fulfilling month. Amazing how much faster the time goes by when you have projects you're working on. I did manage to make a trip to S.C. to work on some video for my mother's C21 McAlpine real estate firm. But it was all work and little play this trip with the exception of getting a chance to frolic in the pool with Muddy, my nieces, and nephews.
For the video series, I followed C21 agents around Conway getting shots of them doing what they do. They'll be a total of 5 videos on her web page in the coming month highlighting both the features of the area, and this top selling firm. Here's a preview:

C21 Conway Profile Video from JLeephoto on Vimeo.
The down side of the increased production schedule is that my time out fishing this summer has taken a major hit. Tami and I did make a short trip down the Hocking River in the canoe where I managed to get a lunker smallmouth right to the side before performing a "professional catch and release." (read: it got off) It was the size of a boulder, shining like a copper penny with the most menacing evil red eyes. So, naturally, I've got to find time this weekend to take another run at that monster! I'll let you know how it goes. In the mean time, hope you're all doing well. Drop me a line when you get a chance.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New River Gorge

New River Gorge from JLeephoto on Vimeo.
It's been too long since updating and too much to tell in this short post before I head to S.C. for some projects I'm working on. Instead of photos, this time I'm including a video that should give you all an idea of how our summer is going. Hope you enjoy and hope to talk to you all again soon.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Wandering Around Heaven

Standing in a smoke garden in Singapore’s airport in Feb., trying to suck down one last nicotine stick before my 19hr. flight home, I met Jim Booth, of PRISM International (Professional Records & Information Services Management). Jim said he needed a photographer in May and wondered if I’d be interested in going to Alaska.
I thought about it for about a nanosecond before jumping at the chance!
My conference coverage in Anchorage would take about 3 days, and I have a chance to do a little exploring before flying home.In the two days I had to wander, Alaska completely blew my mind and if the King Salmon run had started, I’m not sure I would have made it home before fall. This is an outdoor paradise.Waters teeming with fish, jagged snow capped mountains in every direction, glaciers, elk, bear, yeah haw!
Without consulting the first guide book, I jumped in my rental car and headed south out of Anchorage on what was labeled the “Seward Scenic Highway.”The label was a massive understatement. They should call it the “Absolutely Awe Inspiring, Eye Popping, Most Beautiful Stretch of Road You’ll Ever Travel and If You Don’t Try It You’re A Complete Moron Highway.” I’ve taken some great drives through the Rocky Mountains, the California Redwoods, western Ireland’s coast, and even across the red center of Australia, but I can’t remember ever getting more excited on 90 miles of tarmac. Ten minutes out of Anchorage and I was slamming on the breaks and pulling over to take in the view. Around every corner there was another, seemingly better than the last. A crystal lake here, bald eagles sitting on the banks of a marsh there, towering mountains spanned by glaciers, cascading waterfalls…This went on and on. I stopped and talked to native fishermen dip netting Hooligans to feed their family, watched climbers hanging from cliffs over head, and saw snowmobiles on distant ridgelines..All of it easily accessible by just pulling off the road and hitting the trail. To top it all off, all this went on during 18 hours of sunlight! Heaven.
Unfortunately, I was told when I called a local guide that none of the King Salmon for which the Mat-Su valley was famous, were being caught yet but that the first of the run should start any day. It seems the first to catch them would be local celebrities in the region. Never one to miss such an important opportunity, I hired Howard with IfishAlaska Charters to take me out on the Deshka River. Howard was right, the Kings weren’t in yet, but I had a great time with him swapping adventure stories while dragging our baits and wildlife watching, beaver, muskrat and moose. He made me promise to come back when the fish are in thick and it was the easiest promise I ever made.
I will be back! I’ve got to take a glacier/whale cruise, fly-in to a remote river camp in a seaplane, combat fish for Salmon, hike Denali National Park, and see Mt. McKinley. Alaska doesn’t just capture your imagination, it surpasses it.
You can see more pics from my wandering here: Alaska Photoshelter Gallery