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 for the water inlet valve. It controlled the water for ice and getting cold water in the front door.

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

I went to forums and no recommendations for anything other than having it rebuilt.

Problem Solving

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

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

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. 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. 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 look and identify the problem needing to be solved and then I 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 many times when I come up on problems and the solutions are not so clear, I pray. I have yet to have a voice talk to me and tell me the solution. What I have had 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 then am able to 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 never would have done by myself and come up with some solutions.

Tips

First of all 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 out 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. No matter if it is accounting, childcare, food service, or something in the arts when you are up against a new problem and the solution isn’t something that has been done before, you are creative if you solve the problem.

The reason I make this last statement is that 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 to me reminds me that God is able to work through me if I only let God do so.

John 16:13

“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.

Devotional – Live for today

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

Matthew 6:34
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

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

The major difference between freelancing and being on a staff is as a freelancer you are all too aware that you are working project to project. As staff you are just as prone to lose your job as the 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 really cut out to do it. I am seeing so many people who think that the grass is greener on the other side. They think that being in a creative field that you spend most of your time creating something.

You may be that person who is struggling right now. Take a deep breath. Pray and 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

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

I am so reminded of how dependent we are in this world on others. In these photos the children rely on their parents to meet their basic needs.
It is my faith that sustains me each day. I know that 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 rest in the hands of your heavenly father?

Also, take the time to lift up others around you. Maybe God is wanting 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

Lamentations 3:22–23
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.

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 watching us, especially when we are obedient to him.

1 Chronicles 28:9
“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.

Sometimes we just need a reminder that we have a father who really cares for us each day. 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 not familiar with this kind of language I will try to explain this a little more for you.

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 to not to go to seminary after getting my Social Work undergraduate degree that 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 started to realize I was a preacher. 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 code of ethics of the profession that you can find here are seeking truth and communicating that to their audience.

The hardest part of the code of ethics to me is trying to be sure you are being truthful. This means you must really spend time getting to know the story. You must dig to be sure you are representing the subject accurately and that after seeing your story will feel that you accurately represented them.

While in seminary I was taught how to do an exegesis.

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.

Now I went to seminary after working as a photojournalist for more than six years. What I found was 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 of biblical characters like Jacob, Joseph and even Moses.

It is only when you look back through the lives of these biblical characters that you see how God took each thing that often was a struggle that was 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.

What I can tell you is that the camera brought me a great deal of comfort to help navigate this world. I am so thankful that my father who was a Baptist preacher advising me to major in either Social Work or Business in undergraduate and that I would get all of 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. This would later help me tremendously with a camera and recognize why certain photos were better at communicating than others.

While my intention of going to seminary to get my masters in communication to return to the church to do photojournalism, it was the required courses in education and theology that I would truly 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 congregation. 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, but literally 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 through educating them with photos, text/audio and even cinema that helps to deliver stories to them so that they can take actions to make this world even better because they now know more than they knew before.

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

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 the way you live, not the way 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—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart 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, 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. Seems like every group is saying if you just think like us all will be well.

One of the most difficult things I have wrestled with in my faith is the concept of Free Will and at the same time having a God who is totally omniscience. If God actually knows everything that can be known, then how can you have true Free Will?

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

I am reminded of 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 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 holy lives spent in the world and leavening it.

I have been really sad for many years as I watch those who call themselves people of faith not showing grace or love, but rather 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 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 are 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 great 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 a 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 that we can have the freedom for Free Will in our country. This is very personal for my family.

ON THE BEACH: 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

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. This is because where many are from they were not able to 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: 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. Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual’s God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general. 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, of course, the electorate.

Let us remember the words of James Madison on the regard of 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 just react. We think of how the law we create will impact everyone. We want those laws to benefit all of us. We are careful not to create a law 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 for the main subject in a story to solve their own problem basically is not possible. They must have help. This is 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

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

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 taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth 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
  • Loosing 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 that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

– John 16:33

First I cannot tell you to read something or take something and it will all be better. What I can say from my life experiences is that it can really suck all you are dealing with. One of the best things when one is feeling this way is just to have someone there with you. Having someone who just 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

This 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 thy staff, they comfort me.

– Psalm 23:4

You may feel like Joseph and Mary on their way to Bethlehem. You are going there to pay your taxes and you arrive and you have no where to stay. It is the end of the year and you also have a child on the way.

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

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 if you are able I highly recommend helping others when you are down. If you are not able then this is a clear sign you need to see a doctor.

It will help you to get your attention off of your own problems. Sometimes we get in 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, shows that your problems are not insurmountable.

When I started giving to others of my time and talents was when 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 the work you will do. Helping others will once again reveal your true self worth. It will show you that you do have value and that you can make a difference.

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

You will find that you aren’t the only one with problems. We know this intellectually, but seeing it first hand 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

McDonald’s

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 simply 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

Chick-fil-A

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 that is in front of their company 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 made a commitment 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 a different way? I believe the core of what we do is all about people. When you ask the basic question of WHY? for all your work it will lead you to a group of people or a person.

Now many of you might think that Jesus was just a push over and a doormat based on the washing of 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

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

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

Compassion literally means, “to suffer together.” Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.

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

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

Summary

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 their restaurants.

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

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

You maybe thinking that 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 the customer satisfaction, because sales are always there with this model.

Are you a photojournalist who finds themselves 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 reality. – Nikos Kazantzakis

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

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 it as a destination. So many of my friends who wanted to work for Sports Illustrated or National Geographic were focused on the institution and not the need or function that these institutions were serving.

Sports Illustrated just let go of their staff photographers and through the years National Geographic has shrunk their staff as well.

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 apart 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 main photographers for the magazine. They would do 3 or more major stories a year.

During the financial crisis of the late 1980’s the agency had to make cuts to balance the budget and I was let go.

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. I had 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. All the while I was there for ten years I was seeing this as a temporary job on my way to my original dream. Still no openings through the years that 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 reality. My skills had improved dramatically and I was thrilled to be working, but all the time I never felt like I was fulfilling my purpose.

Maybe you find yourself in this same 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 in 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. That check started to shrink. Soon all he was seeing was just crumbs each month rather than the large block of cheese he was used to experiencing.

As a storyteller I learned early on that one of the biggest mistakes we make when trying to tell our stories is focusing on what and the how. When someone comes back from a overseas trip where they went to help out a NGO and they were so moved by the experience that when you ask them to tell you the story they end up giving you a timeline of their experience. They tell you what and how they did their work.

What is missing is too often the WHY.  Once you hear the why you are more likely to stay engaged. Many Christians who are fed up with their churches will say they are followers of Jesus today. They choose to focus on Jesus rather than the institution.

Maybe the reason so many of us are depressed and feeling like someone moved our cheese is we have been focused on these institutions more than we should have been. The key to our purpose might be wrapped up better in focusing on the need that these institutions were fulfilling. Focus on WHY these institutions were founded.

Due to corruption and many other man made mistakes many people have left the church. In a Gallup poll they reported that “Most Americans Say Religion Is Losing Influence in 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 are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.  – Viktor E. Frankl

Maybe the reasons we are struggling in this profession is we have been too focused on institutions and not enough on the reason 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.

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 the country of Burkina Faso, West Africa. These are “free range” chickens that they tie their feet together to take them to market.

Instead of ordering “free range” chickens off the menu they are called “bicycle chicken.” They get that name as you can see on how they are brought to market.

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

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

Mergers and acquisitions, which is inorganic growth, is 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 what is hurting their growth.

When you start a small business, you must focus on growing your customer base, reinvesting profits in new assets for greater 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 being prepared 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 when storms are predicted does what they can to protect the crop. The percentage of the farmers 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

Couple major insights from the farmer. 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 as well as remove rocks and stones from their fields before they can plow the fields to prepare the ground for the seeds.

In West Africa the farmer is 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 field because if they get enough rain then 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 working the fields in Koudougou, Burkina Faso.  This 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 a bi-vocational pastor.

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

Overnight Success

You will look like an overnight success only if you are prepared. 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 ready for clients – Don’t just show your portfolio, do some research and have some ideas that 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 can anticipate issues the better you will come off when they come up.
You have heard of Natural Leaders–Well they are really those who have invested a lot of 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 one know how to respond or to understand how a situation isn’t a problem to begin with anyway. You know how to go with the flow because you have thought enough about things prior that your response is actually well thought out.
This is a really key thing to understand. You need to know enough about your industry to be able to know how to be very flexible and when to take those “organic moments” and speak into them. 
A farmer who has plans to put the seeds into the ground one week and realizes that if they move it up a few days they can take advantage of the rain verses loosing days because they were delayed.
The photographer who has invested some time into thought about their business is prepared 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 where we need some intervention. Sometimes this is medical where we may have to even 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.

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 photos are OK. Out of focus, extremely bad exposure, accidental frames shot, bad expressions, and other things that rule a photo from keeping it is 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

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

The hardest part of the edit is during the Lightroom phase where I straighten horizons, maybe crop a little bit, where I 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. I look at my work and realize I am not seeing very 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 to plan some 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 were making things more and more difficult is clients sending me to locations with very little information about the location. It really wasn’t something they could fix either. It just is what it is.

Kyle Petty’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was 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 ahead. The best I could do is position myself as I did here covering the 1986 Miller High Life 400 at the Richmond Speedway so as 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 adequate depth of field and sufficient lens speed for a decent base exposure in most daylight situations.

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

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

Just a few weeks ago while in Bucharest, Romania I went online before getting to Romania and found some signature shots of the city. While it felt good to get this photo like all of my other skyline shots the part that is frustrating with these photos is  many of these 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

One thing I learned early on is if your photos are 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 was seeing things from a different perspective than 6’2″ which is 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 then also shooting late or early I am still faced with the majority of my assignment work.

Ok you are now reading my story of conflict. My photos just 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 and this 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 that moment you were dealt is lackluster. You have done just about all you can to make the very best photo you could have made.

The danger for the photojournalist is you don’t want to manufacture moments. This is who I am most of the time. I am someone who wants to stand flat footed and find the angle and then help tell the story as authentically as I can possibly do.

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

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

Best advice to help combat this portfolio depression is to create your own personal project. This way you can plan and control more of the variables and give you an opportunity to really show people what you can do when you are given the opportunity.

Summary

  • 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 own special project
  • Take a workshop