Don’t Clean Up Your Background

Photo by Don Rutledge

Every time I hear someone teaching photography and says you need to “Clean Up Your Background” I know they haven’t met Don Rutledge.

photo by Don Rutledge

There are so few photographers that know how to make the background work.

Today I think many photographers use the smooth BOKEH as an excuse for not knowing how to make sense of a location and use the background to help give context to a story.

Philippines – by Don Rutledge

Don spent a lot of time studying situations he was in and was not looking for ways to take things out of photos–he was trying to see how to include more.

Puerto Rico – Don Rutledge
by Don Rutledge

Some people do talk about layering for composition, but often are talking about just creating a 3-D look to an image. Don saw layering as a way to tell you more about the story and the people.

Poland – Don Rutledge

The three ladies in the background help show the fashion of the old Poland in the now moment.

Spain – Don Rutledge

Some people would get low and help isolate this guy with the flag. Don would go just enough above the person to see the crowd in the back and give you an idea how large the crowd is and this guy being in the midst of this.

Still under Soviet rule in 1988, believers from four language groups meet for Easter worship and communion in Tblisi, Georgia. Their faith stood firm during tough times, as captured by Don Rutledge’s camera.

I remember sitting with Don in his office and me asking him to walk me through his editing process with contact sheets and slides. We spent hours doing this. Don would show a few of the frames before this one where the framing wasn’t as good. He would talk about including the women on either side in the background. Many would shoot this and concentrate on the three men and cut the women out.

Egypt – Don Rutledge

What you learn from Don is how important background and things around people give context.

John Howard Griffin is shining shoes in New Orleans. This was Don Rutledge’s photos that were to be in the book “Black Like Me”

Back in 1956 Don Rutledge partnered with John Howard Griffin on the book Black Like Me. Don wanted to show the context of Griffin becoming black and how people treated him solely based on the skin color. To do this Don used background to show the White Man looking at him judgmentally.

Born in rural Mississippi, Bailey King, at age 65, is stoop-shouldered, gaunt cheeked. Doctors say he had a mild stroke–friends say “his body was just plumb wore out.” For Bailey King has worked since he was five. Yet all he has to show for it is a yard full of chickens, a half-acre vegetable garden and a bowlegged Chihuahua named George. “But bein’ pore ain’t so bad,” King says. “it’s just inconvenient.” Don spent three weeks living in the ramshackle home. His photographs awakened the conscience of many. donations poured in; the Kings now have a government subsidized home, a better standard of living, and a close friend in Don Rutledge.

One of the photos I love the most of Don’s was from the time he went and lived with Bailey King for a month to capture Poverty in America. Again you can see Don is making sense by not cleaning up the background but allowing it to add more information about Bailey King.

Shortly after coming to the Home Mission Board, Don spent six weeks photographing inside the Artic Circle, Alaska in 1967. This photo was taken as Don, with two volunteer workers, visited an Eskimo house. So happy was the family to see their friends, everyone ignored Don’s click-click-click.

Don saw the kids in the doorway and in the window. Many photographers only would see those n the porch. This is my favorite photo of Don’s because it embodied this skill that he had developed better than anyone else I knew. He would become invisible and the audience would be transported to see everything and not just a selective focus that most would give you.

Russia – Photos by Don Rutledge Monks at the Pskov-Pechorsky Monastery in Pechory, Russia walk to lunch in a “line up”.

Don’t try and just clean up your backgrounds. Take the time to really pay attention to the background. Move until you can frame your main subject and help tell more about their story by using the background, foreground and everything around them.

Take the time to make the background work for you and not against you. When you do your photos will be more informative and for the photojournalists the is your ultimate goal–to inform the public.

photo by Don Rutledge
Mark Rutledge, on the left, is missionary in Haiti and also Don’s son.

Improving Old Photos

This is the side-by-side view in Adobe Lightroom of a photo I took on September 6, 2003.

Auburn (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) has quickly established itself as the nation’s most disappointing team, losing its second in a row Saturday when Georgia Tech pulled off a 17-3 upset behind freshman quarterback Reggie Ball and a ferocious defense.


Here is the photo as I delivered it to my client in 2003:

Auburn vs Georgia Tech September 6, 2003 [NIKON D100, Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX APO IF HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/1250, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 270)]

I was still pretty new, not even one year shooting digital, when I took this photo. I would shoot only JPEGs and treated the process just like I had been shooting transparencies in the past.

Had I shot RAW I could have improved the photo even more. Here is what I ended up with after some editing in Adobe Lightroom.

Auburn vs Georgia Tech September 6, 2003

Frankly I was really surprised how nice the image was with my Nikon D100, which was a CCD sensor camera. Today my Nikon D5 and Nikon Z6 cameras both have CMOS sensor. While the ISO range was 200 – 1600, almost no one would shoot much above ISO 1600.

Auburn vs Georgia Tech September 6, 2003

Here I zoomed in a little for you. Not bad for technical quality. Since this was one of my first games with the NIKON D100, I started shooting at shutter speed of 1/500. I quickly realized I needed to be higher and in this photo shot at 1/1250.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl 2019 [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 25600, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 360)]

Today I am shooting football games inside at ISO 25600 with shutter speeds of 1/4000. There have been major improvements from my first Nikon D100 to my Nikon D5 and my Nikon Z6.

Here is that photo a little closer.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl 2019 [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 25600, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 360)]

Here is another before and after image.

ORIGINAL – Auburn vs Georgia Tech September 6, 2003

This is how I turned this photo in back in 2003.

EDITED – Auburn vs Georgia Tech September 6, 2003

Here the photo has been run through Adobe Lightroom and due to a few improvements in the software since 2003 I can give a client a better image with the same camera.


  1. SOFTWARE – If you have photos from many years ago, with today’s software like Adobe PhotoShop and Adobe Lightroom you can most likely get a much better images than you did way back when you first shot it by just editing it with the newer software.
  2. RAW vs JPEG – I cannot recommend enough that shooting RAW will give you more flexibility in editing. The biggest difference I know that I see is in the color. In RAW you can still change the color temperature after you shot the image with everything that the camera sensor was seeing. With JPEG a lot of that color information is lost.
  3. CAMERA – upgrading more often than every two years seems extreme to me. I mean, these are not cheap $100 P+S models here; we are talking about $2,000+ cameras. We may be professionals, but even for someone making their living from photography, that is a lot of money to be spending every other year.

When to upgrade your camera

  1. If you have a 16+ megapixel camera the only reason to upgrade beyond this is if you like to crop a great deal or you are going to make HUGE prints bigger than 30″.
  2. ISO – This has been one of my biggest reasons in the past to upgrade. Going from my Nikon D2Xs to Nikon D3 was huge. I went from ISO 100 – 800 to ISO 200 – 6400. That was the single biggest jump in significant game changer in my career with a camera. I had never shot any useable color images above ISO 800. I was getting awesome images at ISO 6400.
  3. Motor Drive – With fast moving things like sports have a 11 fps can make a big difference in getting that image.
  4. Shutter Lag – Early on with digital pushing the shutter didn’t give you instantaneous results. Cameras in the last few years are incredible.
  5. Auto Focus – Through the years this has been a major jump.

There are other new functions you might consider. Video settings are vastly better today. You can always order a camera and test it for 30 days and send it back. You pay stocking fee, but you get to really test it to see if it is worth the upgrade.

Bigger than the WHY Question

Defense attorney Robert McGlasson, left, talks with his client Brian Nichols during a pretrial hearing Thursday, March 6, 2008 in Atlanta. Nichols is accused of killing a judge, a deputy sheriff and two other after escaping from the Fulton County Courthouse in 2005.

In 2005, Pastor Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life made national headlines when a man named Brian Nichols escaped an Atlanta courthouse and, after murdering four people, including a judge, forced his way into single mother Ashley Smith’s home and held her hostage for seven hours.

Ashley asked Nichols if he wanted to her to read to him the book she was reading? That was Rick Warren’s book.

Years ago Rick Warren wrote the book “The Purpose Driven Life”. The question that he was asking was, “What on earth am I here for?”

Self-help books often suggest that you try to discover the meaning and purpose of your life by looking within yourself, but Rick Warren says that is the wrong place to start. You must begin with God, your Creator, and his reasons for creating you.

Journalists are trained to ask 5 w’s:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

These are questions whose answers are considered basic in information gathering or problem solving. These are the very tactical questions that really are great in guiding the journalist to uncover truth.

I have written many times here about how important the WHY is for giving direction.

While thinking about his idea of purpose I started to think of ways to explain this to the audience and you. One of the coolest apps on my phone is Waze. Waze is a GPS navigation software app owned by Google. It works on smartphones and tablet computers that have GPS support.

One of the coolest things about the Waze App is real time traffic and police reminders. You put in your destination and it gives you turn by turn directions and redirects you around accidents, construction and heavy traffic. I have discovered parts of Metro Atlanta I have never seen before and since using the app saved hours of my time.

Not only does it tell you turn by turn it tells you the approximate time you will arrive. How does it do it? Well as more and more people use it the app is able to gather all this information on driving patterns and calculate fastest routes.


Now in life there is not a Waze app for your life. You see the Waze app is based on roads that exist. In life you need more of a compass. Unlike the “Wizard of Oz” there is not yellow brick road.

You do need to ask where do you want to end up.

One of the best things about education is you get to learn from others. When we are young we learn to not do something usually from doing it and getting hurt. You only touch something hot on the stove once before you learn that lesson.

While in school you learn about those 5 w’s when you study communication. That was my master’s degree and so of course I learned about that method and many others. What was cool about where I got my degree was a seminary. I had to take three tracks which made my time twice as long as the average masters degree.

I had to take a theological track that helped a great deal with those big questions like Rick Warren ask in his book. By the way he went to the same seminary as I did and we had him speak to one of my communication classes. That was my main track–communications. This was in the school of education and that was the third track.

All three disciplines taught you that your best answers to everything are rooted in the best questions.

In education they teach you lesson planning. One of my professors changed how I saw almost everything when it came to not just teaching but communications as well. She taught me to start at the end of the lesson plan. What did you want your students to know at the end of the lesson?

Up until I had her as a teacher I had always worked on preparing my bullet list of point and being sure they were all covered. You know the teacher than plows through everything. She taught me that once you know where you are going and know the content well, then when a student asks a question or just contributes you know how to keep that interaction going which entail engages the entire class to ask more questions and get excited about learning.

Before I would want to cut off these comments that I thought were taking me down a rabbit hole. If you know where you are going you are like the Waze app and can redirect back to your purpose for the lesson.

Bigger than the “WHY?” is the question of “PURPOSE?”.

In theology I learned what is taught in Ephesians 2:10 that “… we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

In education I learned to ask yourself what is the take away for the lesson.

In communications I learned that you start with the audience and ask what are you trying to tell them and why should they care.

Be sure to ask yourself today, “What is my purpose?” Once you have that it your answers to the 5 w’s will be better and your “Why?” is much clearer.

Surprises while working on my Photo Mechanic Plus catalog of photos

Representative John Lewis with Chick-fil-A Founder S. Truett Cathy during the coin toss for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in 2009. [NIKON D3, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 6400, 1/500, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 90)]

I have been looking through my work using Photo Mechanic Plus trying to find some images for proposals and other things when I came across this image of John Lewis and S. Truett Cathy.

Here is a video I did on using the software for cataloging your photos:

One thing that almost everyone makes a mistake about is metadata with your photos. While I found the images, they were not tagged with John Lewis or S. Truett Cathy names in the captions or keywords.

Representative John Lewis with Chick-fil-A Founder S. Truett Cathy during the coin toss for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in 2009. [NIKON D3, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 6400, 1/500, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 24)]

Most of the time I put a general caption with a project when I am ingesting them into my computer using Photo Mechanic Plus.

Representative John Lewis with Chick-fil-A Founder S. Truett Cathy during the coin toss for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in 2009. [NIKON D3, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 6400, 1/500, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 24)]

When ingesting I fill out the metadata fields here in Photo Mechanic Plus.

For this event I had “Chick-fil-A Bowl Game Day” in the caption field. Not so helpful in finding images.

I probably shot 3,500+ images for that day. I kept 1338. Then I went through and rated photos from 0 t0 5 stars. I only rate 226 photos with 1 ★ or more.

Representative John Lewis delivers the game ball to Chick-fil-A Founder S. Truett Cathy during the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2009. [NIKON D3, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 6400, 1/500, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 24)]

This software lets me keep track of images and even if I don’t put all the information in the metadata I can later add that as I did here with these photos.

My wife Dorie enjoyed helping families take their photos in front of the John Lewis mural on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, which is now serving as a gathering site for those mourning his death. [NIKON D5, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/1000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 14)]

What I love about digital photography is I am going through over 395,000 images that I have put into the database. There are many more than are not in the database that are also on my hard drives. Those would be all the RAW files before I did any editing.

Young lady photographs her family at the John Lewis mural on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta that is now serving as a gathering site for those mourning his death. [NIKON D5, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 900, 1/1000, ƒ/13, (35mm = 14)]

I take lots of photos when working. Sometimes I enjoy just taking photos for our family.

This is my wife Dorie Griggs in front of the mural. The John Lewis mural on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta is now serving as a gathering site for those mourning his death. [NIKON D5, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 360, 1/1000, ƒ/9, (35mm = 14)]

Finding these photos of family is even more rewarding to me.

Digital photography lets me store so many images in such a small space. I remember when photographer Jay Maisel came to town and had his first digital camera. I was talking to him and he pulled out of his pocket a memory card case and was thrilled all this is what he needed rather than a few cases of film when he traveled.

Going through images by looking through prints, slides and negatives takes infinitely more time than today we can do with software like Photo Mechanic Plus.

Young women celebrating being at The John Lewis mural on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta taht is now serving as a gathering site for those mourning his death. [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1000, 1/1000, ƒ/6.3, (35mm = 200)]

Famous Photos Require a Narrative

Two things I am talking about here. 1) Quality of the image sure does make a difference & 2) the narrative makes it rememberable.

I have shared this photo in the past, but not like this one. I continue to do searches trying to find the best copy of this photo.

Caption for the photo above –– ON THE BEACH: On June 15, 1944, during the Pacific Campaign of World War II (1939-45), U.S. Marines stormed the beaches of the strategically significant Japanese island of Saipan, with a goal of gaining a crucial air base from which the U.S. could launch its new long-range B-29 bombers directly at Japan’s home islands. The first wave of Marines takes cover behind the sand dunes on Saipan beach, during the World War II invasion of Marianas Islands. The soldier kneeling in the sand at 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 listed as missing in action. [Time Life photo by U.S. Marine Sgt. James Burns]

If you have a photo and want to see if it exists other places on the web you can upload it to TinEye and find all the copies.

So I uploaded the copy of the photo I had of my Uncle Stanley Leary from WWII and found it was on the web some 142 times.

By the way we are both named after my grandfather James Stanley Leary. He was always known at Stan Jr.

I was surprised to find this one that had been colorized.

I found this one many years ago and what looks like the copy of a print. I can also see the lab guy who printed it was pretty lazy and just exposed for the face and didn’t bring out the detail around the people.

The colorized photo came from this version I also found online.

When you zoomed in you could see the faces were not clear and there was a bad dodge done for the print.

Now I continued to search and finally found a few that were good, but none perfect. So I copied the people in one photo and merged them with another to give me a better overall photo.

So as you can see in this photo, you can see my uncle’s face.

The problem is I still don’t have a good scan of the original negative to work with, but rather me just piecing these photos together to get something I think is the best for now.

My cousin recently was visiting the National Archives when he saw this photo for sale as a poster. I had more information about who was in the photo from my research. Carl Matthews who was in the photo would become close to my grandmother and tell the family the story.

The photo was actually on many of the front pages of the newspapers in the United States. It was for a while at USMC Quantico up on the wall in the foye.

Why was this photo used over and over through the years and so many others from this time are not shared?

Maybe the rest of the story of Saipan will help you know why it was used so much:

The brutal three-week Battle of Saipan resulted in more than 3,000 U.S. deaths and over 13,000 wounded. For their part, the Japanese lost at least 27,000 soldiers, by some estimates. On July 9, when Americans declared the battle over, thousands of Saipan’s civilians, terrified by Japanese propaganda that warned they would be killed by U.S. troops, leapt to their deaths from the high cliffs at the island’s northern end.

The loss of Saipan stunned the political establishment in Tokyo, the capital city of Japan. Political leaders came to understand the devastating power of the long-range U.S. bombers. Furthermore, many of Saipan’s citizens were Japanese, and the loss of Saipan marked the first defeat in Japanese territory that had not been added during Japan’s aggressive expansion by invasion in 1941 and 1942. Worse still, General Hideki Tojo (1884-1948), Japan’s militaristic prime minister, had publicly promised that the United States would never take Saipan. He was forced to resign a week after the U.S. conquest of the island.

Every day I am seeing some awesome photos on my social media feed. Beautiful photos of scenery, people and so on.

Caroni Swamp Trinidad [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, ISO 8000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000, Focal Length = 300]

When I would have my portfolio of photos reviewed it was amazing how often the editors would flip so fast through my work.

Think about just those people mentioned in the Bible and how few people are actually in the Bible as compared to those who lived during those times. Made up people in Jesus’ parables made the cut whereas others who really lived didn’t make it.

For photos to really live on in the future, either they are truly iconic like Ansel Adams photo of Moonrise over Hernandez or they have a narrative.

I think one of the reasons for that photo becoming famous was the story of making it that he told.

Ansel Adams said, “I could not find my Weston exposure meter! The situation was desperate: the low sun was trailing the edge of clouds in the west, and shadow would soon dim the white crosses … I suddenly realized that I knew the luminance of the Moon – 250 cd/ft2. Using the Exposure Formula, I placed this value on Zone VII … Realizing as I released the shutter that I had an unusual photograph which deserved a duplicate negative, I quickly reversed the film holder, but as I pulled the darkslide, the sunlight passed from the white crosses; I was a few seconds too late! The lone negative suddenly became precious.”

“Humans of New York began as a photography project in 2010.  The initial goal was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street, and create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants.”

Humans of NY photographer – Brandon Stanton

When he started photographing people on the streets of New York he was first drawn to those who visually stood out. That isn’t what made his photos become viral. It was when he sat down with the people he was photographing and just listened to their stories is when Stanton’s epiphany happened. It was the narrative.

“Somewhere along the way, I began to interview my subjects in addition to photographing them. And alongside their portraits, I’d include quotes and short stories from their lives.”

Brandon Stanton

When photos are paired with text and more specifically their story the power of the image has the potential to become one for the ages. Without the narrative – well it is just a cool composition and even might be well done, but it doesn’t move the heart.

Philip Newberry with his father, Randy. Philip Newberry almost died of meningitis just before his second birthday. As the missionary child recovered, his hands and feet were amputated because of gangrene. An antibiotic after surgery caused 70 percent of his skin to slough off, but he was recovering two weeks later.

“We can’t dwell on the negative and get discouraged, but you can’t be around Philip very long and maintain that because he changes that. He lifts us up.”

Randy Newberry

The photo is much more powerful with the narrative, don’t you think?

Suffering Battle Fatigue

How I wish for a button like this today more than ever in my life. I am writing this blog so that others who are also feeling this uncertainty will find solace in another who is on that same path with you.

I have gone through many disappointing times and trials through my life.

February 1971 Stanley in Traction from broken neck at Lenoir Memorial Hospital in Kinston, NC.

In 1971 my year started off with me having to be placed in traction for a month for a broken neck. Four weeks of traction and then another eight weeks as I recall in a body cast.

Body cast for my broken neck

So 1971 I was out of commission for more than 12 weeks.

2020 has surpassed this and created an even more difficult emotion of so much uncertainty. It has created a sort of Battle Fatigue, which is an acute reaction to the stress of battle commonly involving fatigue, slowed reaction time, indecision, and other symptoms.

Friday, June 26th was a difficult day for me. It was the 2nd worst day for number of new coronavirus cases in the US and then the following day it went even higher.

The health crisis is the crisis. Addressing this will address the financial crisis. But in the US we put getting back to work over health. I understand it fully. I need to get back to work as much as every other person.

I don’t know how closely this resembles the Battle of the Bulge where American forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. However that is what it feels like we are in the middle of right now.

I am marketing all my talents to an audience who doesn’t know when they will return to work. They don’t want to spend money now and have to change their messaging again.

I feel like the Grasshopper in “The Ant and the Grasshopper”, is one of Aesop’s Fables. The fable describes how a hungry grasshopper begs for food from an ant when winter comes and is refused.

The ants are looking out and see winter and there is no spring in sight.

Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

My Plan

While I do not know when this will end, I do know that some day it will. If I wait until then to start my messaging then I will have wasted the crisis.

“Never waste a crisis.”

Rahm Emanuel

While this is during the 2008 crisis that the White House was dealing with, the quote can be traced back at least as far as 1976, when M. F. Weiner wrote an article in the journal Medical Economics entitled “Don’t Waste a Crisis — Your Patient’s or Your Own.” Weiner meant by this that a medical crisis can be used to improve aspects of personality, mental health, or lifestyle.

Dr. Saj-nicole Joni, chief executive of Cambridge International Group, wrote an artical for Forbes Magazine titled “Never Waste a Crisis” and gave these tips:

  • First, figure out how to survive.
  • Second, ask yourself what you can do now that you couldn’t do before.
  • Finally, no whining.

Those are great tips today. The Small Business Administration is handling the PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM which is a great place to help you survive.

I would change that second tip to “Ask yourself what your customers will let you do now that you couldn’t do before.”

Be like skydivers who check to see if the winds are 10 gusting to 21, many jumpers will choose to sit down because the air feels “dirty” or “bumpy”. Check out your customers and listen to them.

Most of your customers have had their plate cleared of all those projects they were working on before the crisis. They also are grasping for the next big idea. They are more open now to listening to you than ever before.

Remember you are solving their problem and not your own. To do this effectively you need to know their problem as best you can.

Tap the power of purpose in your desire to help others. This is the time to brand yourself as the business there to help their business thrive. If you do this then sooner or later you will thrive as well.

Top Videos

Looking at some of the analytics for my video channels I thought I should share these, because the content hasn’t really changed and may help you with your photography.

Here are 8 videos through the years for you. Maybe this will inspire you today to work on something with your photography.

You Ready for Lady Luck?

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Roman philosopher Seneca

And while many people agree that luck does create some level of opportunity – a chance meeting that leads to a job interview or a boss quitting unexpectedly, opening a path to a fast-tracked promotion – nothing enables greater career success than working harder and caring more.

[NIKON D3, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 500, 1/200, ƒ/7.1, (35mm = 66)]

I relate career success to success in sports careers, and it is exactly the same recipe for success: the harder you train, the more hours you put in and the more you care about winning, the better you will become.

Fledgling Red-Tailed Hawk in our Backyard. Every year we get a new nest. [NIKON D5, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports + Sigma 2.0x Teleconverter TC-2001, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 2500, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]

Getting these photos of Hawks means I must have a camera ready when the opportunity presents itself. You can make a photo with your phone, but the hawks would have been just specs within the frame. I had to use really long lenses to capture these photos.

Red-Tailed Hawk in our Backyard in Roswell, GA. [NIKON Z 6, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 3200, 1/1000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 300)]

As I write this I am looking out my sliding glass door in my basement office. I see the Red-tailed juvenile hawks flying by and occasionally landing to hunt.

My Nikon Z6 with a 28-300mm lens is beside me. I went outside and already got a custom white balance. I am prepared and just need the opportunity.

[NIKON D3, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 500, 1/200, ƒ/7.1, (35mm = 65)]

What things are you doing today to be sure that if Lady Luck presents herself will you be ready? Are you prepared?

What can I work on today to be even more ready for finding customers?

Wild Waves of The Sea

Ocean Isle Beach Pier, North Carolina. [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 30, ƒ/8, (35mm = 52)]

wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

Jude 1:13

“Stanley don’t post any photos of me like this,” is what I hear each year when I am at the beach with my family. No one wants to have the world see them when they don’t look their best.

People take a lot of time in front of mirrors getting ready each day and now we have tons of videos on how you can look even better with some tips from the poster.

Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 560, 1/1000, ƒ/16, (35mm = 24)]

I have noticed that everything has times of the day when they don’t look their best. Just the middle of the night there isn’t enough light to see much, but the middle of the day doesn’t give you the best light either.

Pier at Night Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 30, ƒ/18, (35mm = 90)]

I find there isn’t a guaranteed best time of day to photograph everything. My suggestion for nature is to visit the same spot over time, different seasons, different weather and time of day.

Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 160, 1/1000, ƒ/4, (35mm = 28)]

Change the lens choice as well for the subject. Get close and then step back. Get low like a worm and high like a bird.

2019 Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/800, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 105)]

C.K. Williams said that his poem, The Hearth (in The Singing), took twenty-five years to complete. I can see someone returning to a location for years trying to find the right moment that captures what continually pulls them back to that place.

The concept of previsualization in photography is where the photographer can see the final print before the image has been captured. Ansel Adams dedicates the beginning of his first book to previsualization, and is often quoted as saying “Visualization is the single most important factor in photography”.

I believe even before previsualization a photographer is just emotionally moved by a scene. It takes time to connect the head to the heart.

2019 Early morning walk on the beach at Ocean Isle, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 110, 1/250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 48)]

Some places we return to are places where your earliest times are not even clear memories. The North Carolina beach is that place for me. My family has been coming long before I was born.

My grandmother rented a house for all of her 7 children and their families long ago. This is where I would first go and experience the beach.

So the beach for me is connected to family and the memories of my childhood.

Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/2500, ƒ/4, (35mm = 58)]

When I see a man fishing in the surf it brings up memories of my day and my mother’s dad fishing along the beach.

2019 Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/2000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 105)]

I have always been fascinated by an image being able to conjure the past. Nostalgia is much more than mere reminiscing; it’s a feeling. “Nostalgia is the warm, fuzzy emotion that we feel when we think about fond memories from our past,” explains Erica Hepper, Ph. D., a lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Surrey in England. … A lot can be said for nostalgia’s benefits.

Pier at Night Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 30, ƒ/11, (35mm = 105)]

So last night I ventured out at sunset and photographed the Ocean Isle Beach pier. By using a tripod and low ISO I was taking long exposure photos. When we are creating a long exposure shot, the camera averages what it sees over time. And if we are standing at the sea level with unrest water, the camera sees the waves. … In the end, it creates a foggy effect – the water doesn’t look like water anymore, it looks like fog.

You rule the swelling of the sea;

When its waves rise, You still them.

Psalm 89:9
Pier at Night Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 20, ƒ/22, (35mm = 68)]

By the way for these night time photos people were walking through. If they stayed a while in a spot then they showed up as you see here.

Pier at Night Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 20, ƒ/22, (35mm = 68)]

This is a closeup of the photo above of te people staying somewhat still.

We all want change

Ever since we started to experience the pandemic of 2020, I have been reminded of the Serenity Prayer.

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can, and

The wisdom to know the difference.

Roswell Protestor

One of the ways we have taken action these past few month was to 1) Wash your hands frequently, 2) Practice social distancing & to 3) Wear a mask when you do go out into public.

While many have been practicing these CDC guidelines we still have the COVID-19 virus.

Then in the midst of all this we have been reminded that this virus is affecting some in our community more than others. This is especially true of the African American community.

In the midst of this George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, & Breonna Taylor were all brutally murdered. Finally enough is enough was being said by not just the African American community but my Roswell Community.

“Enough is Enough is one of the many protest slogans for this Roswell Peaceful Protest

Gwendolyn Dukes, Richard Bonito and their friends organized a peaceful protest on behalf of George Floyd at the corner or King Road and Hwy 92 in Roswell, Georgia on June 2, 2020. Dukes said, “Action speaks louder than words” as to why she and her friends wanted to get out and protest. Richard Bonito added, “We are not mad at the police, we are mad at the system.” They want to see changes for better policing, fixing systemic racism in our society and encouraging their friends to get out and vote. While Richard Bonito voted in the last presidential election most in the crowd are closer to Gwendolyn’s age and this will be their first election.

Libby Segar leads the group in chanting. She is holding the “Dear White People ..” sign.

My daughter’s generation are tired of seeing their friends mistreated. They want change.

Sydney Black far left protests the Black Lives Matter, with many from Roswell community.
Mostly Roswell youth who went to or going to Roswell High School organized protest at the corner or King Road and Hwy 92 in Roswell, Georgia on June 2, 2020.
“I understand that I will never understand. However, I stand.” The white protestors are very aware in this crowd that they have privileges due to their skin color.

I believe the timing of these deaths in the midst of this pandemic might just be perfect storm for bringing about change to fixing systemic racism in our society.

Roswell young people in the protest realize that protesting alone isn’t enough. They know that this is part of the process to get their communities to make changes to the policies that allow for racism.

They are asking people to become informed about who is running in our elections and vote for those people who will enact change the changes the tide of Systemic Racism.

Black out Tuesday was June 2, 2020. It was a day to recognize that everyone, but especially the African community of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, & Breonna Taylor.

Rather than being fearful of the rioting that has taken place, Peaceful Protestors are taking back their streets of their communities. They don’t want the rioters and looters to take over the conversation.

All over social media groups are forming to have peaceful protests. Go online and find a protest near you.

Plan to protest? Here are tips to reduce the risk of spreading #COVID19:

✔️Wear a face covering

✔️Wear eye protection to prevent injury

✔️Stay hydrated

✔️Use hand sanitizer

✔️Don’t yell; use signs & noise makers instead

✔️Stick to a small group

✔️Keep 6 feet from other groups

The protesters are all laying down just like George Floyd did when he lost his life to a cop on his neck.