Dentistry & Photography have a lot in common

This x-ray I got on-line in creative commons of a dental implant that also had a sinus lift. I am going through that process right now.

The tooth to the right with a post inside the tooth after a root canal is what failed and started the process. Because they had to pull it I asked to be put to sleep so in case the tooth cracked even more and they had to dig out the parts I wouldn’t even know that was going on.

Now the oral surgeon asks what do you want do after you have the tooth removed. Do you want a bridge where they grind down a tooth on either side and they then put a tooth between supported by those teeth or you can have an implant. That is what the screw is in the middle.

I went with the implant plan. So to have the tooth pulled, put in bone graft and be put to sleep was around $1,200.

Four months later I came back they x-rayed and discovered there was not enough thickness of bone for an implant. They recommended a sinus lift. They put in more bone graft and you wait another four months and then they put in the implant. After another four months they put in a Abutment which a couple weeks later then you go to your dentist to have a crown attached.

To get the sinus lift, the implant and Abutment was another $5,000. I still will have to see what the final cost of the crown will be, but I am thinking $1,500 – $1,800.

Right now my cost has totaled what is close to a Nikon D5. I have spent $6,200.

Togo, West Africa

While we all cringe on prices, I am still surprised as to how much people often cringe at a photographer’s estimate.

Most all the costs for the dental implant are for labor and not the actual materials. I doubt seriously if the actual cost of a implant, Abutment and the crown are more than $100 in raw materials. You are paying for the expertise of the medical professionals to craft it and put it safely into your mouth.

We do know that if you cross the border to have medical work done you can get it for a fraction of the cost due to the most expensive part of medicine–labor costs.

The reason we spend money on our teeth like we do is for two reasons. Being able to chew our food and to look good.

Photographers need to remind themselves that the costs to produce great quality work so that your clients or their products look good is like the medical profession. Sure we have expensive gear like doctors use, but the largest expense is often our labor.

Your labor costs that you build into your prices determine the lifestyle you want to live. Price yourself to thrive rather than just get by or worse losing money.

Monday Devotional – Photographer you are the “Greener Grass”

I am photographing Jeff Raymond, James Dockery and Pat Davison on our Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop in the Balkans this summer.

Last night my wife and I were out to dinner with another photographer and their spouse. We had gotten together to talk about how to market yourself as a photographer at events like Chamber of Commerce hosts.

Dorie, my wife, reminded our friend that as a photographer you have one of the coolest jobs to most people. Photographers are the yard on the other side of the fence that looks greener to your neighbors.

The Grass is Always Greener …

Photographers should know that perspective can often be very deceiving yet we too let our eyes look at our neighbor’s yard and think it is greener until you are actually standing in the yard will you see all the patches.

Ecclesiastes 6

6 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: 2 a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. 3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4 For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. 5 Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. 6 Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place?

7 All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. 8 For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? 9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

10 Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he. 11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? 12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?

Solomon’s point in his writing of Ecclesiastes is that our lot in life is determined by God whether we’re rich or poor, whether we have good health or bad. But these things do not lead to happiness. That only comes as God grants it to us.

James Dockery enjoys taking photos and showing the boys in the Balkans their photos.

Jesus taught his disciples to be obedient to God.

John 15:10-11

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

While we may work really hard at keeping God’s commandments we need to also be reminded that we are human. We will screw up again and again. The good news is we are forgiven.

Ephesians 1:7

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

An officer of the Cadre at The Citadel starts pointing out the flaws to the new Knob [freshman] as he awaits finding out his room assignment in the barracks.
The fourth class system of The Citadel is for me a great reminder of the idea of following orders yet always being wrong. For those who learn to follow those orders then they move on to places of leadership.

The good news about photographers appearing to have “Greener Grass” is that many times when you introduce yourself people want to know what you photograph. Where is the most interesting place you have been? Who is the most interesting person you have met?

While you may thing that all the problems in your yard are so horrible, remember today that you do live where the grass is greener.

Prayer for today:

Dear Lord thank you for the talents and gifts you have given me. Thank you for blessing me with being able to meet so many of your creation and get to know them and tell their stories through my camera.

While there are so many things that I could be doing today when I look around, Lord keep me focused on your priorities. Help me to stay true to your word and help me to keep your commandments.

While I might not understand why you have given me a burden today and a task to do that I don’t understand, please bring joy into my life that I am doing your will.





Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT

I just purchased the Godox 860IIN [$199] with the radio transmitter Godox X1NT [$49.95]. The reason I did this is I loved the Neewer TT850, which is pretty much the same flash with the TTL capabilities.


Godox 2.4GHz RF Radio System
Range – 100m +
Flash Modes – iTTL / M / OFF
HSS to 1/8000th
Second Curtain Sync
FEC / FEB – 1/3rd Increments (±3 Stops)
FEL (Flash Exposure Lock)
Manual Flash – 1/128 – 1/1 Output (1/3rd Increments)
Remote Flash Zoom (Auto / Manual) (Global for All Groups Only)
Group Mode – 5 Groups A / B / C / D / E (D & E Are Remote Manual Only)
32 Channels
Large LCD Display with Back Light
HSS Delay Setting – 0~19.9ms, (100us Increments)
Modeling flash
Auto Memory Function
AF Assist light (With an On/Off Switch)
Wireless Shutter Release
Micro USB Port for Firmware Upgrades
Transmitter PC Sync Port – Input & Output
Receiver 2.5mm Sync and Shutter Release Port – Output

I think the radio transmitter is what really made the difference to me. First the radio transmitter for the Neewer TT850 required me to tape it to the side of the flash or it could get bumped off and the channel selection was dip switches that often got bumped. You would need to use a hot glue gun to fix it from being bumped.

Now on this new Godox I bought I can still pick manual mode and dial in Full power to -1/128 like i did before with the Neewer system. See the photo of the radio remote that shows you group A & C on manual and B on TTL.

Besides being able to now use TTL the biggest reason I wanted to buy the flashes was for High Speed Sync up to 1/8000. This will let me shoot at ƒ/1.4 outside using flash.

Getting A Natural Fill Light Feel

My setup

I started with the flash closer and then realized even tho it is TTL if you back it up just a little you stand a better chance of not over exposing as much.

Pulled the flash back a bit after test shots
No Flash

Now what I want to do with my use of the Godox flash, or any flash, is to wink the flash in so as to clean up the skin colors and remove some of the shadows often created from the sun being above most subjects during the main part of the day.

I set the flash on Group A and the Trigger to Group A on TTL with the exposure compensation set to 0.

Now I did not adjust the exposures in Lightroom. I just wanted you to see what the camera and flash do without any help from tweaking the exposure.

-1 Exposure on flash. Camera is at 0 compensation.

Here you can see the setting on the Radio.

While E and B have some settings in manual mode, I have only one flash set on Group A. So this is the only thing that matters for my setup. If I had other flashes set to Group E and B then they would be important.

-2 Exposure Value on Flash
-3 Exposure Value on Flash

Now you also can have the camera under and over expose. I am usually shooting in Aperture mode so when you under or over expose the camera will adjust Shutter Speed and/or ISO to get the proper exposure.

-3 EV on Camera and +1 EV on flash [ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/500]
Now the downside to using TTL is that if you move the camera the light values change in the scene. The camera’s sensors are what is used to figure out the TTL proper exposure. The camera will make the scene look normal or under exposed or over exposed depending on your settings. However, this doesn’t mean it is what you were looking for, it is as the camera’s sensor is interpreting the data.

This is why switching the flash to manual mode you can keep it the same value as long as the flash and the subject remain the exact same distance from each other.

+1 EV on camera and -3 EV Flash

I believe that sometimes the flash is too strong and makes the background look unnatural. Many photographers use no flash and just open up until the face looks great and let the background go really hot.

I find that if I am going for high key then over exposing in the camera and just winking that flash at -3 EV looks natural yet color correct on skin tones better than without the flash.


Monday Devotional: Help me overcome my unbelief!

Airborne School First Jump of school

Leap of Faith

A leap of faith is the act of believing in or accepting something outside of the boundaries of reason.

“Thinking can turn toward itself in order to think about itself and skepticism can emerge. But this thinking about itself never accomplishes anything.” Søren Kierkegaard says thinking should serve by thinking something. Kierkegaard wants to stop “thinking’s self-reflection” and that is the movement that constitutes a leap. He’s against people thinking about religion all day without ever doing anything. But he’s also against external shows and opinions about religion and in favor of the internal movement of faith. He says, “where Christianity wants to have inwardness, worldly Christendom wants outwardness, and where Christianity wants outwardness, worldly Christendom wants inwardness.” – Wikipedia

I am part of a Sunday School class where we love to ask those taboo questions. The questions which are really often embedded in our logical thinking minds of trying to work out our faith.

This one piece of scripture is one of my most favorite, because I can so relate to the boys father talking to Jesus.

Mark 9:23-25

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane is just something I will probably never do. Watching my son jump at Fort Benning was something to behold.

Airborne School First Jump of school

As a freelancer I continue to find like all business owners that I am often praying to God, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Like the farmer who has planted his crop and to be caught in a draught is how many freelancers feel. How will I feed my family and what will I do?

Most farmers plant different crops in different fields and while one crop is weak they have something. But if the weather is really bad they can lose it all. This is why farmers learn to store up during those great times to weather the bad times.

This is why all accountants tell their customers to have six months of reserves saved. This way if something bad happens you have a cushion to pay all your bills for six months.

Let’s just be real. Many of us are often having life happen and we are looking at our bills and seeing the revenue stream just doesn’t seem like it is there. We are doing all we can to cut down on those expenses.

If you are in this position then you are like most of mankind. While some may have the financial resources they are lacking something. They too feel desperate for different reasons.

Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

I am always looking into the future to see how it will meet the needs of the present. I can never really see the future like God. The hardest thing for me to do is to put my trust in God, who knows the future.

God wants me to be working each day and doing something. Faith is not sitting and letting God do it all, but trusting that he is with us and walks with us and wants the best for us.

Pray today, Dear Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

The Power of Photo + TXT

When you post a photograph with text you have increased the value of your photo by more than sevenfold.

Here is a great example that I did on Memorial Day where the text was needed to understand the photo.

A coin left on a headstone let’s the deceased soldier’s family know that somebody stopped by to pay their respect. Leaving a penny means you visited. A nickel means that you and the deceased soldier trained at boot camp together. If you served with the soldier, you leave a dime. A quarter is very significant because it means that you were there when that soldier was killed. So what happens to the coins after Memorial Day? It is collected and the money is used for cemetery maintenance, the cost of burial for soldiers, or the care for indigent soldiers. Supposedly the tradition became popular here in the United States during the Vietnam war. It is believed it was a way to show respect without getting into an uncomfortable political discussion about a war that was very controversial. In general, however, this tradition can be traced to as far back as the Roman Empire. It was a way to give a buddy some spending money for the hereafter. #MemorialDay #GeorgiaNationalCemetery #military #ColumbusGA #Georgia #freedom #coinsCemetery

A post shared by Stanley Leary (@stanleyleary) on

While I can go on and on about the value of being sure you use text to help people understand a photograph, there is another HUGE reason for you to get in the habit of writing captions for all your photos. This is especially true for social media.

Here are some of the photos I have posted to Instagram that I also share from Instagram into my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Searching for a photo that you posted somewhere on the internet is really difficult to find if you don’t use text. Then you just search photo by photo in your timeline. Yes you can narrow it down by year, but had you just put text with that photo you could search by that text as I have done here as an example for you.

If you type in the search field of Facebook for example a word that you used in a caption then you can find this photo in your timeline. I searched the word “deer” because I was looking for a photo a deer I took in our backyard.

The next screen popped up after the search. Then I went to the far left column and narrowed my search using just the filter for “POSTED BY” and selected “You”, which narrowed down all the posts to mine.

I scrolled down and found one of the many photos I had of the deer in our backyard.

Then just to see it bigger I clicked on the photo and this revealed the photo bigger.

You can just copy that link and share it somewhere else or if you just want to share the photo only, right-click on the photo and you can copy just the photo or the image url.

Now if you posted the photo without any text at all then the only way to search for the photo is to have really good memory. Then you can go to your timeline and search for when you posted a photo by year and slowly narrow that search by going image by image to find your photo.


There’s no such thing as winning an argument

Three different ethnic backgrounds, but all of them are friends.

As a business owner I know first hand about how important a relationship with customers is over me being right.

The reason certain brands have “Raving Fans” is because those businesses are thinking of the customer and doing all they can to meet the needs of their customers with solutions they can provide.

One of the most difficult things I struggle with when looking out for the best interests of a client is when I know that a client is going to suffer because of a decision they are making.

In the 1980’s I remember quite clearly my uncle, Knolan Benfield, discovering using a projector to show clients their family portraits.

Knolan Benfield in a bank lobby with his display of the pastors of the churches in Hickory, North Carolina.

He was watching way too many people select 11×14 prints for their walls when they really needed often a 40×60 to do justice to the print.

Knolan was able to help people understand that he wasn’t trying to make more money off a bigger print, but really believed that prints in a typical living room on the wall needed to be a certain size to be appreciated.

He had a watch and a clock in the room where he would project images. By having the smaller clock face most obvious they would often squint to tell the time. Then he would point out the other clock where the size of the face was larger.

Then Knolan would project the photos on a screen. The projector lens was a zoom so he could adjust the size of the image for the clients to see. Having them sit in chairs that were about the same distance from their walls of their house customers would then pick the size they liked. Knolan even had frames to show with the photo once they chose the size.

A headshot could be a lot smaller than say a large family outdoor group photo, because when you make the face the size of a clock for telling time then you have a good guide that helps to guide the customer.

Even with this show and tell customers would choose smaller images when they saw the price difference. The hard costs prevented my uncle from giving them what they really wanted and needed to enjoy the photo they had already invested a great deal to make.

At this point Knolan had to choose the relationship over being right. If he pushed to show how wrong they were then the relationship would dissolve and while they might still buy the smaller print they wouldn’t be back for more photos in the future.

I worked very hard taking these photos of people from around the world. I wanted you to get to know them. They are all God’s children. None of them should be treated like White Supremacist do.

You cannot be profitable in business if you do not treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect. You cannot look down on your customers. You must be able to look them in the eye.

I believe if the United States wants to survive they must learn to act like the small business owner. They must work to embrace everyone they come in contact with.

There are some really great things that will come from someone who puts relationships first.

One of the best things that come from dealing with people you disagree with is that it is quite challenging. When you are passionate about your ideas and beliefs it makes it quite difficult for you to be willing to listen. I have found time and time again that I have done a really poor job of thinking of all the ramifications of my thoughts. Having someone challenge me is in the end a good thing for me.

Your critical thinking cannot be selfish or it is flawed. When grounded in fair-mindedness and intellectual integrity, it is more balanced.

When others disagree with your ideas take it to heart and understand why an idea may not be supported by them. This respect of others ideas means you are really trying to see the other’s perspective. When you really learn to do this well it doesn’t mean you will end up agreeing with them, but you are able to see why they have a different perspective.

This is my uncle James Stanley Leary during WWII as part of Anti-Facists disrupting a large gathering of ethnic supremacists on Saipan.

The past few days Donald Trump has done a great deal of Mansplaining to the public through the media. Trump again blames ‘both sides’ for Charlottesville violence, spurring outrage. Our military fought against regimes that have believed in ethnic cleansing.

Throughout history different groups have been persecuted. Very seldom are they able to stop the violence. The Indian people were not allowed to turn their crops into fabric by the British. They were beaten if they even owned a spinning wheel. It was Gandhi who used non-violence to show the world how they were being treated by the British.

Martin Luther King used peaceful protests to show how white supremacist would torture them in the streets.

I was at an event where in the audience was The Honorable Maynard Jackson, Jr. He commented in a discussion that what was needed most to combat racism was whites standing up for their black friends.

I think he was right. Everyone needs to speak out against injustice that is like what we saw in Charlottesville. We also need to hold our president accountable for the role of the presidency, which is to unify our nation and not divide it as his words are doing now.

We cannot allow to happen to the United States what happened in Germany after World War I that allowed for a White Supremacist movement that caused World War II. It is hard to say with exact certainty how many people were killed during World War II, but estimates vary between 50 million to over 80 million. One thing that everybody agree with is that it has been the deadliest war ever, wiping out around 3 percent of the world population at the time.

You see the Nazi’s were allowed to pursue winning their argument rather than about building relationships.


Monday Devotional: Importance of community

Matriculation Day 2017 at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4.8, 1/500]
Each year a new class of cadets starts a new at The Citadel. They come in many of them being self reliant and many do already understand the importance of community, but the process of the Knob year for the cadets is to integrate them into the corp of cadets.

“Do you think the Clemson students are going through this today?,” I over heard some people as they watched the incoming freshman [knobs] moving into their dorms and getting oriented by the upper classmen officers of the Cadre.

My wife, Dorie Griggs, has been writing a blog for Citadel parents ever since our son was a student. He graduated in 2011. We decided to drive down to Charleston, SC and help some of the parents as they dropped off their sons and daughters.

[Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/1250]
Each year parents of older cadets help the new parents and incoming knobs move into their rooms. This is the paying it forward that they feel so compelled to do after their move in experience the first year at The Citadel.

The Citadel Family Association helps identify all these upper classmen parents with the blue shirts.

[Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/3200]
Before 7:00 am parents with their cadets are all lined up around the Alumni Center where they find out which company their young cadet will be assigned. We helped one student who flew from California and needed help getting to campus.

After they have their assigned company they drive to the barracks where the cadet goes in and in the middle of the quadrangle meets the officers who will start the same process of all military organizations. You learn that you will be yelled at right away and learn to follow orders.

[Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/2000]
At each and every station you go to there is another officer who gets your attention and asks you many questions or to do certain things which you find out you are not doing correctly.

The good news is that each of the officers were in those new cadets shoes just a short time ago. They remember how it felt. However, they have been through the training and understand the process works to build a cohesive corp of cadets.

it is Matriculation Day 2017 at The Citadel. Here each student goes from one line to another throughout the day. These are the student officers who will train the Knobs. They are part of the cadre. [Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/1600]
They will learn to be in step with the corp of cadets. They will learn to hear just the voice of their commanding officer. They will learn to rely on each other.

It is Matriculation Day 2017 at The Citadel. Here each student goes from one line to another throughout the day. These are the student officers who will train the Knobs. They are part of the cadre. [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 400, ƒ/7.1, 1/125]
As I looked around I watched the cadre interacting with each other and the knobs. You see there are friendships between them. You see the family that they have become away from their homes.

It is Matriculation Day 2017 at The Citadel. Here each student goes from one line to another throughout the day. Here the new student reports to the sergeant who tell them where to stand and when and where to sign a paper. [Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/640]
It all starts with following those first instructions that seem so silly as to stand behind the piece of tape, but not too far and to lean over and sign your name.

In the span of just 3 hours The Citadel had moved in 825 Knobs to their bunks and had them all dressed alike in the barracks in lines ready to begin their college career. I wonder how many other schools can move that many students into their dorms that quickly. It is military precision taking place on their first day of school.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4.8, 1/125]
They think of everything at The Citadel. Each cadet is issued a Camelbak that they must keep full and drink from regularly. You can watch the cadre coming behind them in formation squeezing the Camelbaks to be sure they have water. They are telling them to drink their water.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4.2, 1/250]
While in formation the cadets are to make the best of their time, yet they must wait for instructions. Here the cadre instructed them to read their Guidon. It has the rules of the corp of cadets. They must be able to recite this later in their training at a moment’s notice.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 200, ƒ/4.8, 1/105]
The Apostle Paul talked a great deal about the importance of the Corp of Cadets. Well actually he called it being a part of the body of Christ.

Here is Paul’s letter to the Corinthians to get them to stop bickering and not working together.

1 Corinthians 12
One Body with Many Members
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[d] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

You cannot be a leader or a follower if you are not a part of a community.

Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This week how will you be a part of the community of Christ? Who will you teach? What do you plan to learn? How will you serve?

It is August are you going back to school?

[Nikon D3, 24-120mm, ISO 200, ƒ/11, 1/250 – Alienbees B1600 for fill flash]
It is back to school this week for college students and other schools in Georgia. Monday morning my drive in the morning took longer because all the school buses were out picking up children to take them to their first day of school.

In many ways this feels more like the beginning of a new year to me than New Year’s Day. There is such an excitement for everyone.

[Nikon D3, 24-120mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000]
It is something new because so many students are going to a new place. They are moving down the hall to the next grade wing or they are moving off to college.

[Nikon D3, 24-120mm, ISO 200, ƒ/14, 1/250 – Alienbees B1600 for fill flash]
For most of my career I have been covering the back to school story and also helping private schools and colleges with the public relations and marketing materials.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/5, 1/100]
We moved our daughter in last week to her college dorm. We are starting a new chapter in our lives now with our youngest off the college.

[Nikon D3, 70-200mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/2.8, 1/250]
The first part of our life for 18 years is where each fall we enroll in classes and then each spring we are tested on what we learned. If we prove we know the new material we then move on in life to the next rung on the ladder. Once you rise a few rungs up the ladder, life becomes easier.

[Nikon D3S, 14-24mm, ISO 4000, ƒ/2.8, 1/250]
Until you graduate high school most every year is planned out for you, with little options. You only need to navigate the halls of the school to get from one classroom to the next.

[Nikon D750, 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]
What about the rest of your life out of school? When you stop learning you stop living. You are only letting your mind and body start to slow down and finally quit on you.

“When did you become such a know it all?,” is something we have all heard, but really I am asking this question to myself as much as for you. If we stop learning haven’t we declared that we know it all?

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/6.4, 1/170]
Each year, maybe like now in August, pick something that you are going to learn more about. Maybe buy some books or take a class at the community college near you, but make a commitment to learn something new.

One of the best ways to learn is to travel. Even if it is just around your own city or town, go and explore. You get a lot more out of travel when you read about the places you plan to visit and study about what there is to do in those locations.

This year I learned about the Balkans. Last year I went to Togo, West Africa and Nicaragua to explore and learn about the people.

Every time I pick up a book, take a class, visit a new place I learn something new. I also most every time my previous knowledge is modified. You see learning more helps us to process what we already know in a new way.

[Nikon D3, 24-120mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/250]
While reading a book is learning, I suggest doing something with a group of people. The relationships you form bring a great deal of joy to the process of learning.

I love to teach photography and storytelling to groups. If you have a group of friends that just wants to learn how to get better photos of your friends and family I can teach you skills to elevate your photos.

If want to tell stories for a non-profit where you volunteer, I can help teach you how to capture the story more effectively to engage an audience.

No matter your age be sure you are going back to school this August.

Monday Devotional: Do you see the milk and honey or the difficulties?

[Fuji X-E2, Fuji 18-55mm, ISO 640, ƒ/5, 1/100]
It is back to the grindstone for many of this Monday. Are you excited or depressed about your day? I’ll be honest with you I am struggling. This is written for me as much as to share with you today.

If you are like me there are parts of your faith that just don’t make any sense at all. My problems are not with the facts within my faith about if something took place or not, but how do I deal with life right now.

Maybe you are like me and believe that God created you with unique skills and gifts that you believe has been part of why you are in your present vocation or feeling you to be led into a vocation.

The idea of vocation is central to the Christian belief that God has created each person with gifts and talents oriented toward specific purposes and a way of life.

But maybe like me you have experienced the eroding of opportunities to use your gifts in the work place. You may even have a job and just find yourself not appreciated or feeling as if you are not allowed to use your gifts.

I know many photographers that if they are not out shooting with the camera in hand they feel like they are not working. Freelancers often may go for a long time between assignments and during those times feel discouraged.

After all, isn’t this why I was created by God to do good works.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Now just look at how in the past the Jews dealt with their time in the desert when God spoke to Moses.

Numbers 13
1-2 God spoke to Moses: “Send men to scout out the country of Canaan that I am giving to the People of Israel. Send one man from each ancestral tribe, each one a tried-and-true leader in the tribe.” 

What I think is interesting is that when they returned and spoke to everyone they all were impressed with all the good they saw and then there is the big pause and reflection about how impossible it would be for them to take the land.

Numbers 13
26-27 They presented themselves before Moses and Aaron and the whole congregation of the People of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They reported to the whole congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Then they told the story of their trip:
27-29 “We went to the land to which you sent us and, oh! It does flow with milk and honey! Just look at this fruit! The only thing is that the people who live there are fierce, their cities are huge and well fortified. Worse yet, we saw descendants of the giant Anak. Amalekites are spread out in the Negev; Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites hold the hill country; and the Canaanites are established on the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan.”
30 Caleb interrupted, called for silence before Moses and said, “Let’s go up and take the land—now. We can do it.”
31-33 But the others said, “We can’t attack those people; they’re way stronger than we are.” They spread scary rumors among the People of Israel. They said, “We scouted out the land from one end to the other—it’s a land that swallows people whole. Everybody we saw was huge. Why, we even saw the Nephilim giants (the Anak giants come from the Nephilim). Alongside them we felt like grasshoppers. And they looked down on us as if we were grasshoppers.”

If you read the entire story you will find that there were 12 sent out. One from each tribe. Only Caleb had the confidence that they could do it.

36-38 So it happened that the men Moses sent to scout out the land returned to circulate false rumors about the land causing the entire community to grumble against Moses—all these men died. Having spread false rumors of the land, they died in a plague, confronted by God. Only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh were left alive of the men who went to scout out the land.

After this God wanted to wipe out them and start over. Once they understood how they let down God the people just wanted to go and take the land, but Moses stopped them. God was not with them, because they were not with God. Moses told them that God wanted them to keep all the commandments that God had given to them. After repenting and committing to following God were they able to take the promised land as promised.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 1250, ƒ/1.4, 1/100]
Are you experiencing a desert experience right now in your life. Do you feel like the Jews and feel like God had led you from a bad place to an even worse place. Are you now wanting to return to a place that you like the Jews would be like a slave to something?

God’s timing is not like our thoughts about timing. Today we might just need to do our chores and complete our responsibilities.

The one thing I love the most about Jesus was he boiled things down for my simple mind. What are we to do today?

Matthew 22:34-40
The Greatest Commandment
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In the broadest sense, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being”.


Where my inspiration comes from

[Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/4000 – Alienbees B1600, Triggered with Pocketwizards]

When I took this photo I was doing all I could to capture the look of the musical Oklahoma! in Roswell, Georgia at a friends horse farm.

I didn’t get paid at all for this photo shoot. However, I put as much effort into it as I have done for any client. I wasn’t doing this for my portfolio and really wasn’t motivated for doing it for the school.

I love my daughter so very much that I was doing all this for her. I was wanting her to have the best experience in high school theater as possible.

Oklahoma Banner

I also didn’t do this alone. Dorie, my wife, and I have been doing this all through the years for all of our kids. Dorie was assisting me that day and together we were able to get a great banner for the photo.

I think the best motivation for any photograph centers around love. While we can show the joy of love through smiles we can also show the sorrow that comes from seeing one suffer in life.

Moving Chelle into her dorm room for the start of her freshman year at Columbus State University. She arrived early to participate in Camp Prowl a freshman experience and first year of the program.

Yesterday we took our daughter off to college where she will major in theater with a minor in dance and will get a teaching certificate as well. I feel like all those photos of her dance classes, orchestra performances, choral performances and theater productions let her know we supported her love of the arts.

As one with Asperger’s Syndrome I can tell you that Aspies do love. We just love in a different way. I do find myself experiencing lots of emotions, but will struggle more than most people on how to convey this to others. I have used photography to demonstrate to others how much I care.

Now I do realize that I still need to communicate using words as well, but this is much more difficult for me. I continue to work on it and am so blessed to have such a wonderful wife who has helped to bring me out of my shell and taught me how to interact with others.

Without the emotion of love as my motivator I could not produce some of my best work.

Don’t get sucked into thinking about photography as working with technology or you will develop a GAS problem. Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

Too many photographers forget that the 6 inches behind the view finder is more important than the 6 inches in front of it. The REAL KEY is to make the camera disappear to the audience, not the focus of the photograph.

Chelle’s first Shirley Temple Drink Beaufort, North Carolina.

Your inspiration must start somewhere. I found mine to start with my family. Today I am just reflecting on the time with my daughter since yesterday we turned the page. We are now in a new chapter of life with my daughter.

Maybe you feel frozen in your work. Maybe you are depressed or experiencing anxiety.

Whatever it is, at first it’s normal to feel rattled, frozen, or unclear about what to do. After awhile, you do what you can to change things for the better. But often there’s not much you can actually change, and sometimes nothing at all.

Still, there is always one thing you can do, no matter what.

You can always find someone to love.

Love feeds us as it flows out of us. Soothing, calming, centering, strengthening.

Screeching Red-tailed Hawk was my alarm clock today

Red-tailed Hawk in our backyard on our deck. [Fuji X-E2, Fuji 55-200mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/4.8, 1/400]

I woke up this morning to screeching in our backyard. Sometimes this is the squirrels and other times it is the chipmunks, but today it was this Red-tailed Hawk.

Let me walk you through this photo shoot that was more about reacting to the moment than having planned to be shooting a hawk this morning.

The photo at the top here is later when I was working on the photos in Adobe Lightroom when the hawk decided to get closer to food. Our bird-feeders where squirrels and small birds hang out around our deck.

Red-tailed Hawk in our backyard eating a squirrel. This one kept on screeching with another hawk nearby. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 sport, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 18000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

I first grabbed the closest camera and shot photos of the Red-tailed Hawk in the tree in our backyard eating a squirrel it had just caught. This was the Fuji X-E2. However, I quickly got my best camera to get this up close.

Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport

I grabbed the Nikon D5 and put my Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 | S with a TC-2001 [2x converter] which gave me a 600mm ƒ/5.6 lens.

ExpoDisc EXPOD2-77 2.0 Professional White Balance Filter 77 mm, 82mm (Black)

By the way before I put the telephoto on the camera I put a 35mm lens and then did a custom white balance using my ExpoDisc. This helped me get the most accurate color under all the leaves and trees in our backyard.

I then quickly put this is my sports settings. I did this because I just needed to pick my custom settings where I had programed my camera for sports. Here is a blog post to walk you through it.

After shooting many photos I realized the hawk was staying until it was finished with the meal. This gave me some time to go and find a tripod, because I was hand holding the camera and lens up to this point.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 sport, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/200]

Then I went to the Nikon shooting menu and picked normal. This let me shoot at ISO 900 versus ISO 18000. I lowered the shutter speed from 1/4000 to 1/200.

I continued to shoot photos looking for moments where I felt like I was capturing the hawk as I wanted to portray it to you.

Red-tailed Hawk in our backyard on our deck. [Fuji X-E2, Fuji 55-200mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/4.8, 1/400]

When it was sitting on the railing on our deck I watched as I think it was looking for a squirrel that was hiding under our gas grill.

Since I had put away the Nikon D5 and the Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 | S I grabbed the Fuji X-E2 with the 55-200mm attached and got just a few more shots before it flew away.