29 April 2011

Make it Happen

"There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there's only scarcity of resolve to make it happen."

- Wayne Dyer

Model, Trixie
What I've learned.... There are things you can control and there are things outside your span of control. In the midst of times like these when your backs against the wall, you've still got a choice. One option is to just surrender and let this whole mess take its course. Whenever you land when the storm is finally over, you can begin anew if you wish to do so. Or, you can ride this thing out while doing what IS in your control to affect. The resulting effect is that you are that much more ahead of the game when the tide turns. One thing you can always affect is YOU. When times are tough, you can still make a commitment to improve yourself. No matter what's going on around you, you can still make a choice to actively pursue development of yourself, whether that is physically, professionally, spiritually, or academically. When things in your world are spinning, you can always choose to keep your edge sharp in the meantime.

Model, Trixie
For me, that means studying my trade even more. Take in more online tutorials, re-read the manuals to your gear, staying abreast of the current trends, and looking for more avenues of differentiation. It also means getting back to working out. Sitting on your butt editing photos all the time and only moving when you get hungry can take a toll on the body. I'm down about 15 pounds for the year so far which is definitely a good thing. Another 15 and I'll be where I want to be. I can already feel a big difference in my body and its definitely a good thing to take the added pressure off my knee. I think its also important to spend some time improving yourself by helping others. Volunteer! I think I've mentioned before about my work with the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation. We do free portraiture and photo sessions for mothers who give birth to stillborn babies or children who aren't expected to live long. Its a hard gig, granted. I did a session a few weeks ago that made me almost break down. I don't suppose that's anything I'll ever get used to, but I'm making a point to do more with them as calls for our services come in. Something like that may not be for you, but you can still take time to help teach others in your field who are up and coming. I've been a part of several photo organizations and try to do my part to assist my peers in becoming better.

Model, Trixie
I've always been a proponent for multiple streams of income. Most people hear about that with dealings of multi-level marketing businesses. Those are great alternatives, but if they're not for you, then I still think its important to have that mindset. Write a book or a screen play. Hey, you never know! Start working on a secondary business that has nothing to do with your main business. It can be complimentary to your main money-maker, but its better to not have the same tie-ins. When you main line of revenue begins a seasonal downturn, your secondary generator usually takes the same hit if its tied to the main. Something that ain't connected will still allow sustainability while your main rebounds. Slow downs in your business are excellent times to work on personal projects and develop those alternatives into viable options and bring them to fruition. I knew a teacher once who earned a decent living and drove an old car, but lived in a really nice paid-for house. What most people didn't realize was his side gig of about 10 rental houses that he successfully ran. He saved his money from teaching, bought his first rental property and then used the proceeds to purchase more. If he lost his teaching job, the man would still do very well.

Model, Trixie
I think its important to spell out your plans. Write them down. I've been told that for years and have done so in the past. For whatever reason, I had done that in a while and didn't follow my own rules. An opportunity forced me to put everything on paper and a lot of the mystery mist began to clear. I've written several business plans for other companies and individuals. I've consulted and reviewed other people's plans. When it came to my own, for some reason, I just kept it in my head and got all the more frustrated when things simply weren't coming together. It wasn't until I started writing everything out, just as if I were doing one for another person that my scope expanded and possibilities began to develop and present themselves. The dream became a goal-oriented vision, as opposed to remaining as a fragmented ghost-like apparition that I could hardly remember details about.

Model, Trixie
So many people around me are being affected by this economy. I say now's the time to rebound and I hope you'll do it with me. I'm far from perfect, but I do know better. Do the right things. Stay the course. Make every day count as a step towards the goal. Every action and choice should bring you closer to improving your game. Ultimately, it shouldn't matter what the economy is doing. Our success should not be dependent on external factors. I say we move forward, take the hits as they come and deal with the setbacks by continuing to manage the things we can control...ourselves. Learn from not only your mistakes but others as well. Fall, get back up. Do the right thing again. Don't succumb to depression or become weary of setbacks. Keep moving. Make it happen. We can do it.

These are photos from my first ever session with Trixie from about 3 years ago. Trix has her own business, Just 4 Trix, LLC,  teaching Pole Dancing in her studio located here in Las Vegas. I got to do some work with her recently and got to see her students and clients learn the routines. Some of these women do it just for the workout and believe me, Trix will make you work up a sweat. I saw women of all sizes and shapes, but there was one guy who was blowing them all away! I hadn't seen a guy with that sort of skill or agility except for in Cirque du Soleil shows. If you've ever been interested in giving this a try, now's the time. I keep running into women that say they've always wanted to do this. Well, no more excuses. When you meet Trix, you'll understand what I mean when I say she's an exceptional woman. She knows her trade, she has the skill to demonstrate, and she's a natural born teacher. Check her out.

22 April 2011


"I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth expressing. To me, that makes photography more exciting."
- Harry Callahan

"Bamboo", Terrell Neasley

"Saddle in Panguitch", Terrell Neasley
I follow several blogs. Some are friends that I keep tabs with and others are professional resources from which I glean information. One in particular has made encouraging impacts with a few blog posts which you can find at Chase Jarvis's Blog. The first one of note was simply timely, entitled "Everything is Going to Be Alright". I was really in need of slowing down and de-stressing when I got the email version of his blog in my In Box. I laughed out loud when I saw it. (Saying I LOL just didn't sound right.) Needless to say, several commentators shared my sentiments as your scrolled down the comment list. His next blog post was also timely, but more of a good truism or principle to live by. "The Only Things That Really Matter Are..." was posted just a few days later and once again, after reading it, I LOL'ed...(or is it L'ed OL?) He recounts the most important things that relate to who you can become and what you can do. Its really an excellent short read.

NHRA '09 Hotrod, Terrell Neasley

I'm just finishing up on two projects that deal with my health and my profession. Its too complicated to go into details, but suffice to say, it has consumed my attention, efforts, time, money, and energy over the last six months. Paperwork...lots of paperwork, research, editing, etc. Now, I've got it pretty much all done and it seems like I'm in a sort of state of mind that begs the question, "Okay, so now what?" Well, in addition to working my profession, I want to start getting back to doing personal projects and making goals again. Specifically, I need to get shooting more nudes, but also I want to start doing alternative and film photography with specialty cameras. I got a Holga Pinhole camera six months ago and I have YET to put this thing through its paces. Part of that is because I want to do some nudes with it, but I have to also find some color medium format film for the thing and probably lots of it. Then its off to experimenting with a patient model. The latest issue of Rangefinder Magazine has some interesting ideas related to Scott Highton's Virtual Reality photography that I'd like to explore. Just got the mag in yesterday and I'm anxious to finish pouring through it. Lots of good stuff.

"Tower of Power", by Terrell Neasley, from a recent hike

"End of a Beetle", by Terrell Neasley
from a recent hike
I've also met a few inspirational people along the way here recently. Model, Selena Bree from a recent interview is one. I've got personal reasons to travel around over the next 3 to 4 months, but Selena Bree is another model I've got to get to Arkansas to work with. She's full of life with an attitude that makes you want to be around her. Very charming woman. Samantha came by to see me a few weeks ago. I've lauded her several times on this blog, as a search for her reveals. And then there's a conversation with a fellow photographer and friend who got to talking to me about hiking the Appalachian Trail. Her dream is to do the Pacific Crest Trail someday. Me...I want to do the trifecta. The AT is 2200 miles from Georgia to Maine. The PCT is 2600 miles from Mexico to Canada, and then there's the Continental Divide that runs 3100 miles which starts in Mexico and runs up New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, touches Idaho, then Montana, and on into Canada. Talking to her was inspirational in that it got me to refocusing on being able to make that happen. In the process, I began war-gaming a way to shoot models throughout each of the hike. It'd take some serious coordinations and even more intestinal fortitude, but I'd like to do each of these trail systems over a 3 year period. I'll probably need some sponsorship or maybe some kind of funding from grants or friends. This talk coincided with a new doctor that I've been seeing that suggests he might be able to fix my knee. With a stronger knee, the first thing I thought about was the fact that my dream of doing these trails might not be dead after all.

Enjoy these shots of some of my Fine Art stuff. Some are older images that I've revisited. Others are of course, new.

06 April 2011

Risk: The Man - Boy Separator

"Its a dangerous business to walk out your front door. If you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where the road will take you!" 
- Bilbo Baggins, (paraphrased)

Model, Robin B. from a recent photo shoot
I guess this post goes along with the previous one about going solo. Just a few days after I made that post, I came across another blog post written by Scott Bourne on his GoingPro2010 blog. This particular post is about taking risks. Above all the things I can think about that differentiates one person from another in their prospective fields as it pertains to being successful, taking risks is the top element that separates the men from the boys. Or the girls from women, as it were. By nature, I think most people are risk-averse. In business and investments, we are actually taught to minimize risk, but we also understand that greater returns are expected commensurate to the level of risk assumed.

Model, Robin B
To some degree, we all take risks every time we step out the front door. We are comfortable getting into our cars every day and driving aggressively in morning traffic while texting and putting on make-up, yet this is where people have a tendency to die most often. I believe I can say with a high degree of certainty that this is one reason why most of us will not make grand achievements, fulfill dreams, or become wealthy. At some point in life, I think we all have that moment analogous to standing at the edge of the high dive and waver on the decision to jump or not. On the ground, it doesn't look that high. You see other people dive off and splash into the water. You can count the 1.5 seconds it takes for your buddy's feet to leave the diving board and hit the water. But when it's your turn to climb up the ladder, walk out to the edge, the perspective somehow looks different and that thrill that rushed through your veins from watching your friends do it has now consolidated into a heavy ball of a rock in the pit of your stomach.

We will approach this theoretical high dive moment several times in our lives as we encounter one situation after another. I remember the first time I had a leadership role in the Army. I was given an order to recon an intersection that was roughly 5 or 6 clicks away, [A click is a thousand meters, btw]. My map reading and land navigation skills were actually impeccable way early in my career. It was one of the first skills I learned to master behind marksmanship. The problem was two fold. One, I was still a Private First Class with an expectation to lead two other Privates on a far off mission. The weight of leadership can be quite daunting. The second was that  this was in the dead of pitch black, moonless night. I literally could not see the hand in front of my face, yet I was expected to confidently make my way to this intersection and sit there to watch it. Night observation goggles were useless on this patrol. There was no star-light to help amplify vision as most of this movement was under tree canopies.

Model, Robin B

What made me strong was the fact that I had two other people depending on me. The whole thing would have been disastrous had they looked in my eyes and saw fear. While I was truly fearful, I walked forward into the night with my two Privates in tow. I took the lead the entire way. I planned my route on a map before hand and had it approved by my supervisor. That was if we did get lost, somebody would know a general area to look for us. I also double-checked my pace-count before we left, which is often shorter when you walk in limited visibility. I trusted my training and my compass. Said a prayer and walked forward.

Model, Robin B

Model, Robin B
I don't recall how long it took us, but we made it on target and ahead of schedule. We got a little more light towards the end which made it possible to observe the road intersection with our night vision goggles. My superiors didn't believe we had made it so quickly when I radioed back on our position. We had to break protocol and low-crawl down closer to the intersection to read off the mile-marker and road signs to verify that we were indeed where we were supposed to be. We did our mission, reported back, and returned to be debriefed. At the end, I had my company commander ask how we got there so fast in the dead of night. He admitted that he was thoroughly pissed when he was told that it was myself and two other privates who had been given this task and not more skilled veterans. If not for the fact that we had already been gone a half hour, he'd never have allowed it. The man even jokingly asked how much we paid for the cab fair.

Model, Robin B
My point is this. Sometimes we have to simply jump, but it's still a good exercise in wisdom to jump as prepared as you can. I walked off into the night confident in my training, equipment, and God! I wasn't some trainee who couldn't find North on a map. Many times its the same thing with pros. You stand on the edge of Going Solo, with all the training and knowledge you'll ever need, yet you choose to climb back down the ladder complaining that the water's too cold. THE WATER WILL ALWAYS BE TOO COLD! Get past the fear. Embrace the thrill. JUMP!! Enjoy the fun and have some great stories to bore your kids with.

02 April 2011

Going Solo? Find Your Niche

"High Wires", Terrell Neasley
"If you are going through Hell, keep going!"
-Winston Churchill

Photography is a business that has seen many derivatives...many variations. One might assume that other ventures might prove more worthwhile creative endeavors. Everything that can be done in photography has already been done. The market is saturated. There is no money to be made. How can one stand to make a living   as a "photographer"?

I've had to battle with naysayers such as this for my, umm... resolve, concerning entrepreneurial interests in this field where many chose to run out of it in a state of panic. The market's flooded. Digital has put a camera in the hands of anybody willing to call themselves a photog. GWCs (Guys With Cameras) have tainted the business and undervalued our work so as to prohibit us "decent" togs an honest wage.

I must admit. Some of these doubter-opinions have sprung from my own head. Its not an easy thing to tackle the unknown in lieu of the security of that all-mighty, ever-dependable paycheck. However, I have ever been the risk-taker and if I ever trust in anyone, then it is myself, sometimes albeit to a fault. I believe myself to be my own best investment. I have my own best interest at heart better than anybody outside of my own mother.

Two things, I believe are key to being successful in this enterprise of image making. One is simply learning to be good general businessmen and women. The other is finding your niche that makes you special. Yes, many believe its all been said and done. I do not subscribe to that notion and I am making this blog post because I came across two videos that very handily explain my two points better than my words can.

The first deals with a man at his ropes end. He works at a dead-end job that he hates. He picks up nasty vices that almost compel his wife to leave him. Then he picks up a camera. Takes a journey. Finds that he is much like everyone else in the business and choses to search further to distinguish himself and he succeeds. Check out Denis Smith, from Austrailia with his art work making Ball of Light.

Ball Of Light from Sam Collins on Vimeo.

Next, I beg you to get more comfortable in your seat and spend another 7 minutes viewing the video by graphic designer, Brandt Botes, of Studio Botes. Brandt recently chose to go solo and begin his own business. He sought out the advice of friends who each gave him nuggets of wisdom that he could build on. Check out his stop animation presentation that details what he found.

Going Solo. from Studio Botes on Vimeo.