Which are you apart of? Group ƒ/64 or Group ƒ/1.4

L/R Laura Standard, Almond Standard, Pam Pullen (Almond’s daughter) & Christine Burton (Almond’s sister) & Kyle Standard (Nephew of Almond) & Rick Standard (Almond’s Son)
Almond Standard built his log cabin home himself. It is located in Signal, Georgia.
[Nikon D2X, Sigma 15-30mm, ISO 100, ƒ/13, 1/4]

Group ƒ/64

In 1930 Willard Van Dyke, Ansel Adams, and Edward Weston formed the Group ƒ/64.

Group f/64 was founded by seven 20th-century San Francisco photographers who shared a standard photographic style characterized by sharp-focused and carefully framed images seen from a mainly Western (U.S.) viewpoint. In part, they formed in opposition to the pictorialist photographic style that had dominated much of the early 20th century. Still, they wanted to promote a new modernist aesthetic based on precisely exposed images of natural forms and found objects.

The term f/64 refers to a small aperture setting on a large format camera, which secures excellent depth of field, rendering a photograph evenly sharp from foreground to background. Such a small aperture sometimes implies a long exposure and, therefore, a selection of relatively slow-moving or motionless subject matter, such as landscapes and still life. Still, in the typically bright California light, this is less a factor in the subject matter chosen than the sheer size and clumsiness of the cameras, compared to the smaller cameras [35mm] increasingly used in action and reportage photography in the 1930s.

One of the magazines I have done work for through the years is Country Magazine. They require to shoot at the highest depth-of-field for their photos. To do this on today’s DSLR cameras, you typically shoot at ƒ/22. This would be equivalent to the ƒ/64 on an 8′”x10″ that many in Group ƒ/64 used.

Stream near Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in the Great Smoky National Park located in Townsend, Tennessee, on June 22, 2006. [Nikon D2X, Nikkor 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 100, ƒ/22, 1/1.5]

The strength of shooting with sharpness all through the photograph is it puts the audience into the scene. This is where you use composition and lighting to draw the audience into the picture.

While your eye may go first to where the photographer directs you using light values and composition, your vision will wander around the scene as if you were standing there yourself.

This style was in opposition to the pictorialist of the time.

Pictorialism is the name given to an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no standard definition of the term. Still, in general, it refers to a style in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph to ” create” an image rather than simply recording it. Typically, a pictorial photograph appears to lack a sharp focus (some more so than others), is printed in one or more colors other than black-and-white (ranging from warm brown to deep blue), and may have visible brush strokes or further manipulation of the surface. For the pictorialist, a photograph, like a painting, drawing, or engraving, was a way of projecting an emotional intent into the viewer’s realm of imagination.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 140, ƒ/1.4, 1/100

In photography, BOKEH is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light.” Differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause some lens designs to blur the image in a way that is pleasing to the eye. In contrast, others produce unpleasant or distracting blurring—”good” and “bad” bokeh, respectively. Bokeh occurs in parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field. Photographers sometimes deliberately use a shallow focus technique to create images with prominent out-of-focus regions. [Wikipedia]

I would say that those who shoot primarily wide open aperture are more stylistically like the pictorialist of the last century and less like Group ƒ/64 which was about preserving everything in the scene.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 500, ƒ/1.8, 1/320

I love that my camera lets me shoot from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/57. The ƒ/57 is when I shoot with my Nikon 60mm Micro lens. Here is a shot I did that was widely published.

“ƒ/8 and be there,” Alfred Eisenstaedt responded to the question on how to be a successful photographer.

However, the earliest record of the quote “ƒ/8 and be there” is attributed to Weegee, a famous street photographer during the 1930s, ’40s, and beyond. It represents a philosophy to keep technical decisions simple and be where your vision takes you. The quote has been the mantra of photojournalists, travel photographers, and even nature photographers.

This says you need to anticipate and be technically ready to capture “the decisive moment.”

I say to be careful not to treat your interviews as having microphone and recorder levels set and just hit record, and I am done.

Don’t Make Your Camera a Box Camera

Kodak made a box camera where you pushed the button, and Kodak did the rest. You had no control over the Aperture, Shutter, or even ISO.

Once you subscribe to shooting all your photos like the Group ƒ/64 or those doing BOKEH photography, you have essentially taken that costly camera and turned it into a box camera.

Exercise for you to do

Take your camera and just one lens. Find a scene, and then shoot the stage at every aperture you can on your camera. Now, as you get to a wide open gap, you know that your depth-of-field becomes very shallow, so remember to change your focus so that the focal point is on something in the scene that creates interest. We call this selective technique focus.

Now spend time doing this for several different situations. It might be able to do it with scenic rather than people at first but then move on to people. What is fun to do is to shoot where there are many people. A good example would be in a coffee shop.

Your challenge is not to make one good photo in each situation but rather a great photo at each ƒ-stop.

When you master this technique, you discover you can say something different about each situation. This will be the difference between writing a concise sentence and creating a novel with just one frame.

Will you take up the challenge?

I believe the great photographers are the ones that know when to use what aperture to capture what they want to say about the subject.

No Longer Available–Now What?

Our ice maker stopped working a few weeks ago. I first replaced the ice tray inside the refrigerator. While it worked after the repair, the water wasn’t flowing to it to make the ice.

Above is the actual part of the water inlet valve. It controlled the water for ice and got cold water in the front door.

The great thing about the internet is you can find parts from sources worldwide. However, in my case, the part was nowhere to be found. The “Currently unavailable” message was on every website I visited, and even calling around locally, no one had one in stock.

I went to forums and had no recommendations for anything other than rebuilding it.

Problem Solving

While searching, I realized this Kenmore part looked similar. The exact number of inlet, outlets, and similar switches, just a little different placement of the components.

I took a risk and ordered the part. The cost was about $38, vs. the original piece was more than $100 in many locations.

It took me about 15 minutes to install, minus one trip to Home Depot to get a $6 part to convert one water line to a bigger line. I turned it on and tried it. At first, when making ice, the water shot out the front of the door, where you fill your cup with just water. It took about a minute to figure out I had switched the connections.

I made the change in the connection, and now everything works.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 4500, ƒ/4, 1/100

This is what I do every day for my clients. I identify the problem needing to be solved and then look for a solution.

Many people today can type in the model number of their refrigerator and find the part. Yes, this is problem-solving and would be helping a client. However, how many would be able to find a solution when the solution isn’t so clear-cut?

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/20

I will be honest that I often pray when I come up with problems, and the solutions are not so clear. I have yet to have a voice talk to me and tell me the answer. What I have had to happen many times after some time in prayer is the ability to let go.

After letting go and knowing I do not have a solution, I can be much more creative. I believe that the creator of the universe works through me in ways I cannot explain and helps me to think in ways I would never have done by myself and come up with some solutions.


First, let me say that you cannot get enough education to know it all. Education is about a lifestyle of constant learning.

If you are starting, take formal classes at a college or trade school. Find a mentor and ask lots of questions.

Remember that if the solution is obvious to most anyone, then there is little you can do to be of any service. Your value is helping solve problems that people cannot solve themselves.

All problem solving is creative thinking. Whether it is accounting, childcare, food service, or something in the arts, when you are up against a new situation, and the solution hasn’t been done before, you are creative if you solve the problem.

I make this last statement because if you are an artist, like a photographer, as I am–You should take as much pride in doing the business part of the job as you do in the artistic part.

I will leave you with a scripture that reminds me that God can work through me if I only let God do so.

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

John 16:13

Devotional – Live for today

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/125

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

The life of the freelancer is one of feast and famine. It can produce an untold amount of stress.

The significant difference between freelancing and being on staff is as a freelancer; you are all too aware that you are working from project to project. As a staff, you are just as prone to losing your job as a freelancer. It is just that you think you are more secure, but you are not.

Just because you want to do something as a career doesn’t mean you are cut out to do it. I see many people who think the grass is greener on the other side. They believe that being in a creative field, you spend most of your time creating something.

You may be that person who is struggling right now. Take a deep breath. Pray, ask for God’s wisdom, and be willing to do what he wants. I can guarantee you he wants the best for you just like these parents do for their children.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/125

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6

I am so reminded of how dependent we are in this world on others. The children rely on their parents in these photos to meet their basic needs.

It is my faith that sustains me each day. I know God cares as much for me as these mothers do for their children.

These children are being taken care of because they are resting in the hands of their parents. Do you relax in the hands of your heavenly father?

Also, take the time to lift others around you. Maybe God wants to use you as his voice today to help someone else. Remember, it isn’t all about you.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/125

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22–23

I can imagine that just like this mother enjoys watching her sleeping child, our father in heaven does the same with us. He takes delight in protecting us, especially when we obey him.

“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.

1 Chronicles 28:9

Sometimes we need a reminder that we have a father who cares for us daily. As a freelancer living in today is much better than worrying about tomorrow.

My calling to be a photojournalist

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 800, ƒ/2.8, 1/20

Back in high school, I felt a call to be a preacher. For those unfamiliar with this kind of language, I will explain this a little more.

A vocation (from Latin vocātiō, meaning “a call, summons”) is an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which she/he is suited, trained, or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.

In my Christian tradition, we believe that one is responding to God.

After this, I heard the Lord ask, “Is there anyone I can send? Will someone go for us?”

“I’ll go,” I answered. “Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8

While early in my career, I would say that when I decided not to go to seminary after getting my Social Work undergraduate degree, I took a detour; now, I would say I was learning how to tell stories.

While working on my master’s thesis on Don Rutledge, I realized I was a preacher. So here is what I wrote in my thesis:

After talking with Don, this writer felt redirected in his call to be a minister who used the camera as a central part of his ministry.  Many who are Christian photojournalists have struggled with the call.  In many ways, the Christian photojournalist is a preacher.  The photojournalist’s illustrations are not done with words in the pulpit but with photographs on the printed page.

Today I would change that last line to say with still/motion images used in many mediums to tell the story.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 800, ƒ/2.8, 1/30

The men in these photos are pastors in Burkina Faso, learning how to be effective preachers to lead their congregations.

In 1992 a few of my friends started the Southwestern Photojournalism Seminar in Fort Worth, Texas. To help identify who we were, we came up with this sentence:

The Southwestern Photojournalism Conference is the conference for those who believe photojournalism to be a calling and the act of bearing witness to be important.

I believe all photojournalists are responding to a call. Those who agree to the profession’s code of ethics that you can find here seek truth and communicate that to their audience.

The hardest part of the code of ethics to me is trying to be sure you are being truthful. Being truthful means, you must spend time getting to know the story. It would help if you dug to be sure you are representing the subject accurately and that after seeing your account will feel that you accurately described the subject’s story.

I learned how to exegete scripture While in seminary.

Exegesis includes a wide range of critical disciplines: textual criticism is the investigation into the history and origins of the text, but exegesis may include the study of the historical and cultural backgrounds for the author, the text, and the original audience. Other analysis includes classification of the type of literary genres present in the text, and an analysis of grammatical and syntactical features in the text itself.

I went to seminary after working as a photojournalist for more than six years. I found that the skill was pretty similar to what a journalist does to be sure they understand a story.

My call story is unique to me but has a lot of similarities to some biblical characters like Jacob, Joseph, and even Moses.

Looking back through the lives of these biblical characters, you see how God took each thing that often was a struggle to help prepare them for their calling.

Moses complained about his voice to God. I was born with Autism. Both of us complained about our struggle to communicate.

I can tell you that the camera brought me great comfort in helping me navigate this world. I am so thankful that my father, a Baptist preacher, advised me to be central in either Social Work or Business as an undergraduate and that I would get all my biblical studies in seminary.

Majoring in Social Work taught me how to listen with my ears and eyes. I learned how to ask questions to get to the bottom of a problem. I also learned about body language and how to read people. Social work would later help me tremendously with a camera and recognize why specific photos were better at communicating than others.

While my intention of going to seminary to get my master’s in communication to return to the church to do photojournalism, the required courses in education and theology would genuinely teach me more skills that I use today.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 800, ƒ/2.8, 1/60

Had I not been willing to take a different direction by becoming a photojournalist, I might be a pastor today of a congregation. Each week I would prepare a sermon and speak to my community. Pastors equip the saints to do the work of the church.

However, because I followed the call to use photojournalism as my pulpit, the audiences I have reached through different newspapers, magazines, online media, and the list goes on is not a few hundred. Still, I am touching the world with the photos I have been privileged by my subjects with their help to capture so that audiences will understand the world in which they live better than they did before they saw these images.

I believe I am equipping the saints by educating them with photos, text/audio, and even cinema that helps to deliver stories to them so that they can take action to make this world even better because they now know more than they knew before.

My favorite thing today is to teach others who feel called into this profession of photojournalism/storyteller and equip them to do even more than I could.

Orlando Massacre’s Silver Lining

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 100, ƒ/14, 2 sec

James 3:16-18 The Message (MSG)

Live Well, Live Wisely
13-16 Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s how you live, not how you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—animal cunning, devilish conniving. Things fall apart whenever you’re trying to look better or get the better of others, and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.

17-18 Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other and treating each other with dignity and honor.

Waking up Sunday morning to the news of the Orlando massacre where one man took the lives of 50 people and injured another 53 people was gut-wrenching.


Today our country is more divided to me than at any other time in my lifetime. Yet, every group seems to say that all will be well if you think like us.

One of the most challenging things I have wrestled with in my faith is the concept of Free Will and, simultaneously, having an omniscient God. If God knows everything we can learn, how can you have faithful Free Will?

If God allows for our Free Will, how much should we allow each other to exercise Free Will?

John, the disciple, recorded Jesus’ prayer for his disciples.

John 17:14-17 

14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth.

The Christian ideal is not freedom from work, but strength to do it; not freedom from temptation, but the power to overcome it; not freedom from suffering, but joy in an abiding sense of the Father’s love; not absence from the world, but grace to make the world better for our presence; not holy lives driven from the world, and living apart from it, but sacred lives spent in the world and leavening it.

I have been unfortunate for many years as I watch those who call themselves people of faith not show grace or love but rather a condemnation and hate of those who do not hold to their beliefs.

I watched as political parties wrapped themselves with what they call faith, but what I saw as a condemnation of those who didn’t believe as they did.

John 13:35 The Message (MSG) 

34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

To me, this is one of the most powerful scriptures in the Bible. It tells us how we are to live our lives. Jesus says this at the last supper and before his arrest and crucifixion. So many of us were just like Peter when he said to Jesus –

36 Simon Peter asked, “Master, just where are you going?”

Jesus answered, “You can’t now follow me where I’m going. You will follow later.”

37 “Master,” said Peter, “why can’t I follow now? I’ll lay down my life for you!”

38 “Really? You’ll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you’ll deny me three times.”

Our purpose here is to not talk about our faith as much as we are to live it. Living it is to show the love of God through our actions with others.

The power of true love is most profound with significant loss. The actions of the lone gunman in Orlando Night Club were extremely severe. Each time our country has suffered such a loss, the community responds. The stories after 9/11 were great healing to our country.

Our response should be that no matter who you are–your life matters, and you matter. Our community will always suffer when anyone dies. We suffer even more when that loss is due to violence, such as in Orlando.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/250

This past memorial day, we celebrated those who gave their lives through the armed forces so that we can have the freedom of Free Will in our country. Memorial Day is very personal for my family.

ON THE BEACH: The first wave of Marines takes cover behind the dunes on Saipan beach during the World War II invasion of the Marianas Islands. The soldier kneeling in the sand at the far right is Carl Matthews of Texas; second from right is Wendal Nightingale of Skowhegan, Maine; standing is Lt. James Stanley Leary of North Carolina. Neither Nightingale nor Leary made it home from Saipan; both are still missing in action. Time Life photo by U.S. Marine Sgt. James Burns

I think one of the hardest things our country is going through is for those who are new to the concept of being able to exercise their Free Will. It is hard because where many are from, they could not enjoy such freedoms.

I am so thankful that I do not live in a Democracy but rather a Republic form of Government.

The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of a Democracy is the Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man.

A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of Government. Our Government is designed to protect the individual’s rights, not for a majority rule. The definition of a Republic is a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution–adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment–with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Here, the term “the people” means the electorate.

Let us remember the words of James Madison regarding the republican form of Government:

“As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government (that of a Republic) presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.”

It takes more thought and purpose to create laws than it does to react. We think of how the direction we make will impact everyone. We want those laws to benefit all of us. We are careful not to create a rule that singles out one person because one day, that person could be us. We must be a community that values each person’s life.

The more I understand and study storytelling, the more I see the importance of protecting the rights of people to make their own choices. I also see that solving their problem is not possible for the main subject in a story. They must have help. Individual rights are why my belief in God and community is at the core of a good story.

Tip on dealing with depression that often comes with freelancing

Ernest Hemingway used this long quotation from Ephesians in his book The Sun Also Rises:

“What profit hath a man of all his labour which he takes under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goes down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.”

Hemingway thought the characters in The Sun Also Rises may have been “battered” but were not lost.

Do you feel “Battered”?

For many reasons, you, too, may feel frustrated and even depressed with your plot in life.

Are you suffering from any of these:

  • Loss of a client
  • Not sure what potential clients want or need
  • Camera gear is old and not financially able to upgrade
  • Feeling betrayed by another photographer
  • Losing clients to younger photographers
  • Feeling old
Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 500, ƒ/4, 1/500

“I have told you these things so you may have peace in me. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

– John 16:33 I cannot tell you to read or take something; it will all be better. However, I can say from my life experiences that it can suck all you are dealing with. One of the best things when feeling this way is having someone there with you who listens and doesn’t give advice but is willing to be with you during this time.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/640

Psalms 23:4 is a Bible verse that reminds me that I am not alone:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and staff comfort me.

– Psalm 23:4

You may feel like Joseph and Mary are on their way to Bethlehem. You are going there to pay your taxes, and you arrive, and you have nowhere to stay. It is the end of the year, and you also have a child on the way.

I doubt they were excited about this trip and all they were dealing with.

Nikon D3S, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/500

Carry one another’s burdens.

Galatians 6:2 – Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way, you will follow Christ’s teachings.

Now, I highly recommend helping others when you are down. However, if you cannot do so, this is a clear sign that you must see a doctor.

It will help you to get your attention off of your problems. Sometimes, we get into such a hole that we can’t see anything else or find the way out. Helping others works to break this cycle and opens our vision. It gives perspective and shows that your problems are not insurmountable.

When I started giving my time and talents to others, things finally turned around for me. Now let me tell you, just because you start helping someone doesn’t mean there is instant gratification for the work you are doing.

Like the mule here helping carry the farmer’s burden, you, too, will feel the weight of your work. Helping others will once again reveal you’re true self-worth. It will show you that you have value and can make a difference.

While helping with other people’s burdens, which sometimes are wounds, you will help heal yourself.

You will find that you aren’t the only one with problems. We know this intellectually, but seeing it firsthand is healing. Sometimes, we feel like we have been singled out for pain. We are not that special. It comes to all. Receive healing as you work to heal others. Do something; get out.

I am in the People Business

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100


Most people don’t realize it, but McDonald’s is not a burger-flipping restaurant chain; it is one of the world’s best real estate portfolios. Franchisees flip the burgers. McDonald’s owns the best commercial property all over the world.

Well, through the years and more so lately, it has struggled. At one point, Ray Kroc said, “McDonald’s is a people business, and that smile on that counter girl’s face when she takes your order is a vital part of our image.” However, that wasn’t a consistent quote from their leader.

Another time Kroc said, “We’re not in the hamburger business. We’re in show business.” But the one I hear the most often when you are at business schools is, “We are in the real estate business, not the hamburger business.”

Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 2000, ƒ/2.8, 1/400


The founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, said, “My business grew on my understanding that customers are always looking for somebody who is dependable and polite and will take care of them.”

Today Chick-fil-A has a corporate purpose in front of their headquarters that everyone in their company if you ask them, can pretty much quote this for memory.

To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

I have been in countless meetings where I continue to hear, “we have committed to take care of the people who take care of our communities.”

Dan Cathy says,

At Chick-fil-A, we are convinced that Jesus had it right in Matthew 20:26 when He said, “Those who want to become great (leaders) must be willing to become servants.” WE built our leadership competency model around the word SERVE, because we believe that great leaders…

S ee the future
E ngage and develop others
R einvent continuously
V alue results and relationships
E mbody the values

In the lobby of Chick-fil-A Support Center is this statue of Jesus washing Peter’s feet. Here you can see a tour group in the background.

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 11400, ƒ/4.8, 1/100

Every manager goes through training on the SERVE model, and when they complete the training, they get a miniature replica of this statue to put on their desks and remind them of their role.

Communication Professionals

Are you in the people business, or are you defining what you do differently? I believe the core of what we do is all about people. When you ask the question of WHY it will lead you to a group of people or a person.

Many of you might think that Jesus was just a pushover and a doormat based on washing his subordinate’s feet.

If you read John 2:13-22, you will see Jesus clearing the temple with a whip.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/320

Humanitarian Communication

Excellent communication with an audience requires the communicator to ask, “Why should the audience care?”

The key to great humanitarian photography is tapping into people’s compassion for one another.

Compassion means “to suffer together.” Emotion researchers define it as the feeling that arises when confronting another’s suffering and feeling motivated to relieve that suffering.

Compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism, though the concepts are related. While heart generally refers to our ability to take the perspective of and feel another person’s emotions, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.

Sadly today, it takes a lot to move the human spirit to get the audience’s attention on caring for those in need. Covering those worldwide who, by no fault of their own, are struggling to live and find audiences not responding can cause the heart of the communicator to break.


You can define your business as Ray Kroc or as Truett Cathy did with their models.

In 2015, McDonald’s closed down more than 700 of its restaurants.

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 3600, ƒ/8, 1/100

Chick-fil-A just celebrated its 2000th store opening in Springfield, IL. Here is the story. They have plans to open 95 stores this year.

You may think this is nothing compared to all the McDonald’s worldwide, but the reputations of the two chains couldn’t be further apart.

Chick-fil-A is the highest ranking fast food restaurant in the U.S. for customer satisfaction, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index Restaurant Report 2015.

If you are in the people business, then the most important thing is customer satisfaction because sales are always there with this model.

Deep Depth of Field

Nikon D2X, Sigma 15-30mm, ISO 100, ƒ/14, 1/15
By looking around the industry, you would think that everyone is shooting wide open at ƒ/1.4. However, some places like Country Living Magazine want just the opposite for their viewers.
Why would someone want everything sharp from front to back in a photo?
Many people are looking for decorating ideas and want to see the details. The other thing that a deep depth of field does for the viewer is put them into the space. They can now let their eye roam from front to back in the photo and all around.

A deep depth of field pulls the audience into a scene more than a shallow depth of field. The shallow depth of field helps you isolate a subject within the frame, and the profound depth of field does the opposite and gives more context to the subject within the frame.

When Country Living hires you, they give precise instructions for the greatest depth of field possible in all the photos.

Here are some more photos from that shoot.



Are you a photojournalist who finds yourself suffering from depression?

Nikon D3, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 1000, ƒ/8, 1/160

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see the truth.

Nikos Kazantzakis

These are a few sentences I found interesting in an article by Rev. Peter M. Wallace a few years ago.

There has never been a more challenging time in [fill in the blank]. Everyone is scrambling to find the right way to connect to an audience that has fractured and fragmented to numerous different platforms.

And yet the reality some fail to acknowledge in this midst of this chaos is that the need or function all these declining institutions used to fulfill remains. People are simply choosing different ways, different platforms, to meet these needs.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 100, ƒ/14, 2 sec

It has been easier for me to focus on an institution and set my path in life to get to its destination. But unfortunately, this path is what many photographers concentrate on working for Sports Illustrated or National Geographic rather than the need or function these institutions serve.

Sports Illustrated just let go of its staff photographers; National Geographic has shrunk its staff through the years.

I had focused on working for The Commission Magazine. It was the flagship printed piece for missions for the Southern Baptist denomination I was once a part of years ago. While I did get there and worked on the magazine for a short time, I never really got to be one of the leading photographers for the magazine. They would do three or more important stories a year.

During the financial crisis of the late 1980s, the agency had to make cuts to balance the budget and cut my position.

Nikon D2Xs, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, Sigma 2X, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/3000

I went into a major depression. My first marriage fell apart. Nevertheless, I continued to push forward, realizing I needed more skills to add to my resume, and I went to seminary and got my masters in communications.

Upon graduating, none of the missions agencies were hiring, so I found a job at Georgia Tech. While I was there for ten years, it was a temporary job on my way to my original dream—still no openings through the years I could find.

Nikon D2Xs, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, ISO 400, ƒ/5.3, 1/2000

Slowly I was coming out of depression, but I still was finding that my dreams were not becoming a reality. My skills had improved dramatically, and I was thrilled to be working, but I never felt like I was fulfilling my purpose all the time.

Maybe you find yourself in this exact spot as I did. Today I, too, find I drift into this depression. My friend Gary Chapman spoke at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference a few years ago and introduced me to the book Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and Your Life. For Gary, the photography stock market was his cheese. He had built a library of images at Getty and other smaller agencies, and each month could expect a pretty decent check. But then, that check started to shrink. Soon all he saw was just crumbs each month rather than the large block of cheese he was used to experiencing.

One of the biggest mistakes storytellers make is focusing too much on the what and the how. When someone’s experience moves them from an NGO trip, when you ask them to tell you the story, they give you a timeline of their experience. They inform you what and how they did their work.

What is missing is, too often, the WHY. Once you hear why you are more likely to stay engaged, many Christians disgusted with their churches will say they are followers of Jesus today. So they choose to focus on Jesus rather than the institution.

Maybe so many of us are depressed and feel like someone moved our cheese because we have been focused on these institutions more than we should have been. I might better wrap up the key to our purpose by focusing on the need these institutions were fulfilling. Focus on WHY these institutions started.

Due to the leadership decisions of the church, people were leaving. A Gallup poll reported that “Most Americans Say Religion Is Losing Influence in the U.S. But 75% say American society would be better off if more Americans were religious.

You see, the need still exists. People are looking for what faith brings to their lives.

When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

– Viktor E. Frankl

Maybe we are struggling in this profession because we have been too focused on institutions and not enough based on WHY these institutions existed from the get-go. 

Photojournalist Job Description

The primary role of the photojournalist is to be a visual storyteller.  By photographing, editing, and presenting images, they tell a story in a way that no other media can.  Some photojournalists will work for a local publication, while others will travel nationally or abroad, sometimes putting themselves in constantly changing or even dangerous situations.  The subject matter can vary greatly, from local civic issues, national political races to social unrest in a foreign country.  Many photojournalists are freelance photographers and sell their photos to various organizations around the world.  The photographs serve the purpose of enhancing the story for the reader or viewer.

 As you can see, the role of the photojournalist isn’t limited to an institution. It is just a matter of having stories to tell and finding the audience that needs to see them.

Photographer’s self-sufficiency is another word for poverty

Nikon D2X, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/1600

Self-sufficiency is another word for poverty.

I read that and immediately bristled, but as I listened more to Matt Ridley’s comment, I realized he was right.

Listen to Matt here:

The more we work for each other, the better off we are.

The key to how much work you get depends on how much networking you have done. What you learn from networking are two things that are extremely important to your being able to pursue your passion for photography.

What you do must benefit others.

No one cares, no matter how nice you are and how much you care. What matters is how those things inside you move you to action. You are measured by what you do and not by what you think.

I remember the story where Jesus cursed the fig tree for not producing fruit [Mark 11:12-25]. But, of course, that was the purpose of the tree.

People will not buy what you produce unless it benefits them.

David Wong wrote:

Either you will go about the task of seeing to those needs by learning a unique set of skills, or the world will reject you, no matter how kind, giving, and polite you are. You will be poor, you will be alone, you will be left out in the cold.

Does that seem mean, or crass, or materialistic? What about love and kindness — don’t those things matter? Of course. As long as they result in you doing things for people that they can’t get elsewhere.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/400

Sell the Dream

No matter how passionate you are about something, nobody cares about it simply because you do.

I love to watch Shark Tank, the TV show. However, after you listen to them, I hear many who have ideas that are not marketable each week.

If you want clients or customers, you need to be concerned with why they should care about what you’re doing, even when you’re doing what you love. Don’t be so in love with your passion and busy doing it that you forget to look up and show others why they should care as much as you do.

Your challenge is communicating the gift of your passion, mission, and unique value.

Nothing succeeds like success.

One of the best ways to get people excited about your offer is to show them your success. Showing your successes is how many NGOs get their support. Here is the problem and a success story where we have made a difference. They then will show how there are many more to help and need your support.

Here is a great example that I helped Honduras Outreach produce this past year.

Summary: Don’t focus on being self-sufficient. Focus on being a service to your fellow man. The key to your success is not just to find your passion but to find out how this benefits other people. Once you have this nugget, you are well prepared to promote what you can do for others.

The Organic Process Professional Photographer

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/5000

This “Chicken Man” was on the road between Tenkodogo and Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, West Africa. These are “free range” chickens that tie their feet together to take them to market.

Instead of ordering “free range” chickens off the menu, they are called “bicycle chicken.” Of course, they get that name, as you can see in how they bring them to market.

We hear today the benefits of eating natural organic food. We think of organic as a natural process.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/400

Mergers and acquisitions, which are inorganic growth, are an aggressive approach to growing a business. While most photographers are too small to think of merging or acquisitions, the aggressive approach to business is hurting their growth.

When you start a small business, you must focus on growing your customer base, reinvesting profits in new assets for more significant income, and improving productivity to increase your bottom line. All of these efforts are examples of organic growth. In a nutshell, organic growth is focused on preplanning and preparing for the future.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 125, ƒ/14, 1/250

Photographers need to operate their business like a farmer. He prepares the ground, plants the seeds, weeds the fields, waters the crop, and does what they can to protect the crop when storms come. The percentage of the farmer’s time is in the preparation versus the harvest.

Advice for the photographer

  • Dream first of what you hope for
  • Think of all the steps necessary for you to reach that dream
  • Invest your time and energy in getting the things you need to make the dream a reality
  • Create your action plan
  • Execute the plan

There are a couple of significant insights for the photographer from the farmer. First, there is a season for planting and a season for harvesting. The farmer clears the fields when they first start. They may have to clear trees and brush and remove rocks and stones from their areas before plowing the fields to prepare the ground for the seeds.

In West Africa, farmers are so poor they cannot buy fertilizer. It costs more than they will get out of the harvest. Many of these farmers will plant two seeds in the field because if they get enough rain, one of the plants will thrive, but if it is a dry season, the other plant will do better.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/500

This farmer here works the fields in Koudougou, Burkina Faso. He is part of the bible school where they not only teach theology but farming to help the pastors feed their families while they minister as bi-vocational pastors.

Photographers may need to be bi-vocational as well today.

Overnight Success

You will look like an overnight success only if you are ready. There are some things in your dream that you will try and force to happen. We all do this, and then we slowly learn that sometimes the problem was we have been planting seeds in the fall and not the spring, or we were trying to harvest in the spring rather than the fall.

Here are a few things to help you become that overnight success.

  1. Have an elevator speech ready [earlier blog on elevator speech]
  2. Have ideas prepared for clients – Don’t just show your portfolio, do some research and have some pictures you can pitch to them when that opportunity presents itself.
  3. Prepared replies – Think about those situations that a client may ask you to do something and how you should respond. The more you anticipate issues, the better you will come off when they arise.
You have heard of Natural Leaders–Well, they have invested much time on the front end. You may have also heard of those who are “Good Natured.” Well, most likely, they have thought about situations enough to know how to respond or to understand how a case isn’t a problem, to begin with anyway. You know how to go with the flow because you have thought enough about things before your response.
You are going with the flow is a critical thing to understand. You need to know enough about your industry to learn how to be very flexible and when to take those “organic moments” and speak into them.
A farmer who plans to put the seeds into the ground one week realizes that if they move it up a few days, they can take advantage of the rain.
The photographer has invested some thought into their business like the farmer. So the question is, how well prepared are you?

Combating Portfolio Depression

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM Macro Lens, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/160

Most photographers grow despondent of their portfolios over time due to having little new work that can replace their best work. I call this Portfolio Depression.

There are times in life when we need some intervention. Sometimes this is medical, where we may even have to undergo surgery to get rid of something harmful to our body.

Photographers are like many other artists and find themselves under the knife trimming the fat to become more lean and effective in our craft.

My Workflow

After a shoot, I ingest my photos from the camera and do a rough edit in PhotoMechanic. All I am doing at this point is deciding if the images are OK. Out of focus, extremely harmful exposure, accidental frame shot, bad expressions, and other things that rule a photo from keeping it are what I am evaluating.

Usually, I am eliminating 50% to 75% of the images at this point.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/80


A few weeks ago, one of my clients talked about my consistency. He said he could always count on solid professional work and people like working with me.

The hardest part of the edit is during the Lightroom phase, where I straighten horizons, maybe crop a little bit, and were correct for the lens profile and minor burning and dodging. I am often feeling left very flat emotionally.

It doesn’t take long, and I find myself sinking emotionally. But then, I look at my work and realize I do not see many grand slams.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 2.5 sec


To compensate for my frustrations, I started planning skyline shots of some of the cities I was visiting. Here is the Seattle Skyline I did back in April.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/16, 20 sec

What has been happening on my photo shoots that is making things more and more complex is clients sending me to locations with very little information about the area. It wasn’t something they could fix either. It just is what it is.

Kyle Petty’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was the 1986 Miller High Life 400 Richmond, Va. Here is where Bill Elliott ended up on the wall. After the race, Earnhardt had to pay a $3,000 fine ($6,454.46 when adjusted for inflation) plus a $10,000 security bond for an incident involving himself and the back end of Darrell Waltrip’s vehicle ($21,514.88 when adjusted for inflation).  

In the days of breaking news, it was difficult for you to plan. So the best I could do was position myself as I did here, covering the 1986 Miller High Life 400 at the Richmond Speedway to catch where many of the wrecks happened on that track.

ƒ/8 and Be There

Photojournalists have a saying, “ƒ/8 and be there”, meaning that being on the scene is more important than worrying about technical details. Practically, ƒ/8 allows the adequate depth of field and sufficient lens speed for a decent base exposure in most daylight situations.

It doesn’t take long in this profession to realize that the “ƒ/8 and Be There” attitude is concise.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/22, 25 sec

Google Photo Search

A few weeks ago, while in Bucharest, Romania, I went online and found some signature shots of the city before getting to Romania. While it felt good to get this photo like all of my other skyline shots, the part frustrating with these photos is the many photos other photographers have taken. I was more proud of the Bucharest photos since these particular angles didn’t show up right away on the Google searches when I was researching.

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/320


I learned early on that if your photos are not very exciting, then change your perspective. So this is what my wife and I did one day by taking a balloon ride in the North Georgia mountains.

Nikon D3, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 720, ƒ/5.3, 1/1000

By just getting up in the air, I saw things from a different perspective than 6’2″, my height standing.

Nikon D3, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/30

While getting a different perspective by getting high or low and shooting late or early, I still need the essential content photos with most of my assignment work.


OK, you are now reading my story of conflict. My photos are not exciting enough and lack the surprise factor that I want to get every time I go out. I remember watching my mentor Don Rutledge struggle with the same issue. Just one thing majorly different is my mentor was a lot better than I have been with photography.

I watched Don buy new camera systems to see if that would help give him some creative edge. Don bought new Singh-Ray filters for all his camera lenses, which helped give him a unique look.

Don shot Nikon, then shot Olympus, and then went on to Leica cameras before returning to the Nikon cameras. All these moves were to help him keep creative and get the very best out of a situation he was shooting.

The sad reality is that you can produce some very excellent professional photography, but you still need content that isn’t as visually interesting. Nevertheless, you have done just about all you can to make the very best photo you could have made.

Staying Truthful

The danger for the photojournalist is you don’t want to manufacture moments. A photojournalist is who I am most of the time. I want to stand flat-footed, find the angle, and then help tell the story as authentically as possible.

The number one thing that has helped the most with accomplishing a sense of satisfaction has been doing multimedia projects. I realize that the subject’s words often were missing in photos, and having them tell their own stories took my work to a different level. Are the images better? No. However, the stories are complete.

What often feels like depression after an assignment is me looking at the conflict in my story. Then usually, I will look at other photographers’ work on similar topics and see how they treated the story. In addition, I am finding other resources through photography magazines, online galleries, and, most important is through professional associations. Associations are where my colleagues publish, like NPPA’s News Photographer Magazine and ASMP’s Bulletin magazine, which help keep me updated on trends and gear.

The best advice to help combat this portfolio depression is to create your project. This way, you can plan and control more of the variables and allow you to show people what you can do.


  • If you love all your work, then you are not growing
  • If you are depressed after reviewing your latest work – that is normal
  • If you look to get better by studying other people’s work – you are smart
  • Do your special project
  • Take a Workshop