Category Archives Guest Blogger

It’s funny how much can happen in a year. I’m still in some disbelief that I’m writing for Scott’s guest blog series. With that said, I would like to thank Scott and Brad for this opportunity. I’ve been a longtime fan of this series and it’s a real honor to now be a part of it myself.

Often times when I write about a topic related to Photography, the difficult task is not determining what my point is but rather how to most effectively communicate it. How do you even opine over something so subjective without instantly alienating at least a portion of your audience? I think the best start is to propose certain axioms that I try to live by with my photography:

  1. Unless being commissioned by a client, engaging in Photography is totally self-motivated. You frame, compose, shoot, and process for yourself and to your own taste.
  2. Growth of one’s ‘vision’ is not academically taught so much as it is shaped and evolved by experience, failure, success and repetition.
  3. The gift of a photo being ‘done’ according to the photographer is that it can, and should, be shared with the rest of the world.

Now, because I can only accurately talk about my own personal journey, let me share how I came to establishing these three statements for myself.

From One To A Million

For the sake of brevity, let’s just say that my growth as a photographer took many years (I started in 1997) and involved a lot of money spent developing images that were oh-so technically flawed. The first steps were relatively straightforward: learn and appreciate the holy trinity of Photography (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO), start practicing different methods of framing and composing a shot, and stop shooting in the ‘tourist’ position.

Growth was slow and it was very solitary. Shoot the film until empty, develop it, and study it. The Internet was around back then but Social Media and blogging were far from reaching that spark of critical mass. I had never enrolled in any photography classes, so feedback was really limited to the handful of college photographer friends with whom I felt comfortable enough sharing my work, and myself. But, I did grow from it. It was slow and frustrating but I did gain meaningful experience from it in terms of what my style was. I was the one determining what worked and didn’t work within my ‘vision’.

Flash-forward to ‘Today’ – we live in a time where the barrier to entry for an unprecedented amount of self-exposure is virtually non-existent. An Internet-connected device, a blogging platform & a few social media accounts and you are ready to broadcast yourself to millions of people. What’s more is that there are millions of other people also jockeying to broadcast themselves to millions of people. Blog posts, Twitter streams, and Facebook walls are riddled with everyone vying for everyone else’s attention.

Who Do You Do The Voodoo That You Do For?

There was a period of about three years when I gauged my personal success as a photographer by analytics, metrics, followers, comment numbers, and unique visitor counts because it seemed like these were the critical measurements to focus on. I had also enveloped myself around learning and trying to master the galvanizing technique of HDR Photography and tone-mapping. Everything I shot, discussed, and wrote about revolved around HDR. I even began a ‘365’-photo project where I posted a new HDR image every day on my blog. I was consumed and for a long while, it was very good to me. Slowly but surely, I was seeing stats go up, my media exposure was increasing, and I was being regarded as a bona-fide resource in this area of Photography. I was making a name for myself.

And then something happened around halfway through 2010. I began having this feeling of stagnation and automation. There was something missing from the equation that had previously always sparked my love of Photography. I had a routine: shoot, tone-map, stylize, blog, tweet, and post on wall.  The blog comments and retweets came in and grew in frequency but even those began feeling automated. It was in this automation and routine that I realized it was stifling the growth and evolution of my photographic vision.

I let all of the exposure I had recently experienced give me a false sense of real growth as a photographer and I convinced myself that perpetually tone-mapping HDR images was the only way I would maintain this exposure. I was shooting and processing to feed that growth and not to feed my vision. At the time, I couldn’t begin to remember what it was like to shoot without bracketing or carrying a tripod and like all addictions, I really couldn’t see beyond it and then the tunnel vision set in.

And like an addict, I needed to find a significant ‘event’ where I could turn my life around. We were nearing the end of 2010 by that point, so I figured New Years Day would be as good a time as any to turn things around.

Evolution By Way Of Regression

For the past several years, my sole goal with my images was to retain every detail from the shadows through the highlights and everything in between. I convinced myself that my images had to be representative of what the human eye would see at the moment of exposure and not be limited by the digital sensor. I also focused exclusively on urban and abandoned areas, almost wholly abandoning any sort of landscape, portrait or nature scene because, hey, it seemed to fit this distorted formula for online success that I had.

So, I figured the easiest way to start growing was to go cold turkey. I began going on personal shoots with a camera, a lens or two, and nothing else. No tripod, no shutter release cable, no bracketing. I began focusing on appreciating and embracing blown out highlights and dark shadows. I was seeing shapes in the lack of tonality, rather than in the presence of it. I began learning more about Black & White Photography and enjoying the use of neutral density filters for Long Exposure Photography. I started embracing and really falling in love with the beauty of nature and landscape scenes, along with the nuances and complexities of portraiture work.

I was returning to the world I had forgotten when I was first starting out.

With HDR Photography, I got to a point where I was no longer experimenting in-camera and rarely made mistakes in terms of processing. I didn’t stumble and, as a result, I stopped learning. I forgot what it felt like to have that ‘Aha!’ moment when you figure something out that you did not previously know.

The Not-So-Trivial Pursuit of Photography

Writing this blog post gave me good reason to take pause and think about what I’ve done as a photographer, reflecting on my failures and accomplishments. When I first started out learning how to use a camera, I didn’t have any delusions about ‘going pro’, appearing as a guest blogger anywhere, or making a dime off of my work. I did it to become a better photographer. I knew that photography was what I was built to do and so, initially, it was all about the experience and gaining that second-nature, knee jerk reaction when working the camera. Ultimately, it was about being able to consistently make photos that I was truly happy with and nothing more.

Photography is very much like the playing piece in the game Trivial Pursuit in that it is comprised of many different ‘wedges’. You get these wedges through experience and knowledge. The key is not to stop when you think you’ve gotten that first wedge and all along the way in this pursuit, keep asking yourself “What is it that I’m trying to do here?” and “Who am I trying to do it for?” It wasn’t until I took a step back and really questioned myself that I realized what it is that I really want to get out of Photography.

Ask yourself these questions often and honestly. The answers may surprise you.
And please believe me when I say, “that is a very good thing.”

You can see more of Brian’s work at, follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, and email him at

Thanks so much to Scott and Brad for inviting me to share my thoughts here! I’m a longtime fan of all things Kelby so this is a real treat. I was told I could write about anything which is great but also a little overwhelming. So many topics! How do I choose? I decided to write about how I approach environmental portraits and the role location plays.

Location, location, location! The old real estate saying about the importance of the right location definitely applies when it comes to creating compelling environmental portraits. The way I think about it, the locations I choose for portraits are like stages for my subjects to act on…

How should I decorate that stage?

What kind of set design is the right one for the person I’m photographing today?

What defines the person I’m photographing?

What do I want the portrait to say about them?

These are the kinds of things I’m thinking about when pre-visualizing an image. Everyone is different and unique and has their own story to tell so I want each portrait to be a reflection of who they are and to hopefully reveal something about them. I try and achieve this by creating a mood that suits them through the use of the right location, lighting and posing. With any luck these elements come together and play a supporting role in telling their story and conveying the message I’m trying to get across.

I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting places to shoot whether I’m working locally or far from home. My camera phone helps me to quickly capture potential locations when I’m the go. I use it like a digital notepad to create a library of visual reference cards I can search later. Geo-tagging images with services like Flickr or using built-in GPS data are also great tools for building an online location library. I think of myself like a location scout for films or TV. When you watch films and television, especially commercials, you’ll see some of the best locations out there being used.

I try and challenge myself to find the locations used. Sometimes it’s easy. I see locations in San Francisco used all the time, for example Fort Point.The internet is also a great resource for finding and researching great locations. Google image searches are one of my first stops and are great for inspiration.

Here are two family portraits, both very different based largely on the locations where they were made. The first, in a word – “urban,” really reflects the hip and physical personalities of this modern family. The second image is a much softer, more traditional and intimate image of a family with 3 young boys. Both are families, but both have very different stories and personalities. You can see how the locations used influence our perceptions and feelings about each image.

Here I’m really using the people in this image as the location or background. I choose to do this rather than rely solely on the physical location to tell the story of this father and his children. A location or background can be many things. I try and see from as many different perspectives as I can during a shoot.

Having a plan is important when you’re putting together the concept for your portrait but you can’t be afraid to deviate and take advantage of the magic of spontaneity either. Here’s a perfect example. I made this totally unplanned engagement session image on the way to make the image I planned to make that day! It turned out to be the best image of the day by far. Leaving myself open to the creative possibilities happening all around me made this possible.

Sometimes the photo gods just smile down on you and give you great gifts to work with. However, it’s really what you do with those gifts that ends up separating the great images from the mundane ones. During this retro inspired wedding shoot in Vegas, my client, photographer Sal Cincotta and his bride Taylor, rented an awesome cherry red vintage Cadillac for the day. We drove out to Red Rock in the desert after the ceremony where I set up this shot in the middle of the road and posed everyone around this great car.

The point is that great locations, backgrounds and props are all around us. Even in spontaneous and unplanned situations like weddings. The trick is, and your job as photographers is, to make the most of them. This would have been a very different image if I hadn’t placed the car smack dab in the middle of of the road to convey attitude, if I hadn’t taken advantage of the mountains for a dramatic background, or if I ignored the classic Cadillac as a great prop to pose the group. This image was all about capturing and conveying “cool.”

You can’t photograph a vintage Vegas wedding without including the famed Neon Sign Graveyard. This location provided the perfect retro backdrop for the bridal party.

These two images come from an album cover shoot for spiritual singer Melissa Phillippe . Wait, do people even say album cover any more? Ok I’ve dated myself, lets try CD case art instead, oh no I’ve dated myself again! Ok forget CD art and call it iTunes store art. There, that’s better. The concept for these images was to create to a spiritual, etherial feeling for Melissa. I used a Lenbaby for the shot of Melissa at the piano to add the soft glowing effect. For the second image I had everyone on the shoot hike to the top of a mountain (I wasn’t very popular that day) to get the perfect spiritual shot. The backgrounds play a key role in establishing the feeling of each image.

A great location doesn’t have to be far away or on top of a mountain. In fact, sometimes they’re right in your own backyard. Well this isn’t really my backyard but you know what I mean. This image was made at a gritty old mill in Petaluma, CA where I live. It fit perfectly with the edgy fashion meets Gotham City feeling I wanted for this portrait of actor Eric Urbiztondo.

These two portraits illustrate the different feeling your location can convey. The first couple, photographers Byron and Wendy Roe, are hip, urban, fashion forward people who were in need of promotional images that expressed their personalities to potential clients. The second is from an engagement session for two people who live in wilds of King Salmon Alaska and work in nature conservancy. It’s easy to see how the right location for each of these couples really has helped tell their unique stories.

The concept for this senior portrait was to create an image that captured Rachel’s powerful and fashionable personality. When it comes to creating an edgy fashion look what’s better than a city alley. I found this one in San Francisco and use it for just such occasions.

This wedding image is one of my favorite examples of how being open to things outside your plan can end up creating cool results. I made this portrait in the middle of shooting the family pictures after the ceremony. We were in the courtyard of a Carmel, CA resort hotel. I noticed a couple watching us from a room above us, from the window in this image. I knew I had to get my couple framed in that window for a killer image. Happily the couple whose room it was agreed!

Placing this mother and daughter in the tall reeds among the dunes of Ocean Beach created the perfect soft, timeless feeling this portrait. This image would have had a very different feeling if it were made in a different setting. Contrast this image with urban family image above.

These two wedding images are examples of finding locations on the fly, or as I like to call it, thinking on your feet! That’s just the way weddings are. I always look around when I get to a venue and scout out locations to use later with my couples.

If you’re as crazy about cool locations as I am, you’ll love composites. This image was created from two shots, one HDR background image and one studio shot of Sonoma, CA pro football hopeful Joe Trombetta. I’ve recently been experimenting with compositing images together thanks to techniques taught by my friend Joel Grimes (the undisputed master of the composite). If you haven’t checked him out you should. Composites are great because all the location images you’ve collected can be used in conjunction with images created in the studio. This requires a lot less logistics and gear hauling! My back loves me for this!!

I hope this discussion about the impact of locations has inspired you to go out and find great places to  make your next images. I can’t wait to see what you do!!

Michael Corsentino is a Sonoma, CA based wedding and portrait photographer. You can keep up with him on his blog, “Like” him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

For the last two weeks I had the distinct honor of being one of four photographers involved in judging the graduating class at a high-end photography school.  The students pay 60K to learn and master the art of photography and come from all over the world.  Before graduating each student must produce a twenty seven-image portfolio of his or her finest work.   The student portfolios are judged by an outside panel of working photographers who judge each photographer on the merits of their work.  During the judging process the students have their work critiques and receive helpful advice to guide them in the transition from student to working photographer.

In this image of a beautiful model, you almost don’t see her. She becomes the canvas and the hero of the image is the Butterfly.

By the end the judges worked with 160 students and viewed 4,320 images.   Hopefully the lessons learned will last a lifetime for all involved.  The two lessons that stand out the most to me are the importance of starting a portfolio, or website, with your most powerful image and finding the hero in your image.  Starting your portfolio with the most powerful image is critical if you want to make a great impression with your work.  You can never assume any potential client will look at all of your work.

This is from a recent ad I shot for Wells Fargo.  In this image shot on location, the focus and hero of the shot is the father and baby son.

Equally as important is finding the hero in your image.   The hero element is the focus of your image and helps the viewer understand your reason for creating the photo. The hero element can be as simple as a great smile in a portrait or an intense stare in the portrait of the Mona Lisa.  The image of the model show has the hero element focused on the hair but the hero can be complex, subliminal or screaming from the image.

This is a group of three celebrity subjects. But the focus is all about the guy, actor Shemar Moore from “Criminal Minds,” who has two beautiful woman kissing him on the cheek.

Take the photo of Hillary Clinton taken during the mission to capture Osama Bin Laden. There are many people in this image, including President Obama but the hero in this image is actually Hillary.  Take a good look at the focus of this image and her expression.  Everything else in this image works to create this powerful moment but the photographer focused directly on Hillary and she is the hero or focus of this powerful image.

This is a group of horses in Iceland, but the hero of this shot is the horse in the center of the image that looks directly into the camera.

Who’s the hero of your images?

Today, start thinking about how you can make your images stronger by finding your hero.  There are many ways to do this from using depth of field, to lighting to direction of your subjects when possible.  For the landscape photographer the hero might be color, or shape but every image has a hero and from this day forward I hope you find your photo hero.

You can see more of Matthew’s work at, and get photography lessons at

Hey everyone!  RC here doing a quick blog post on this Friday to see if I can convince some of you to do something I just recently did.  Go Fishing with your camera!

I was inspired to do this after watching “Another Day With Jay Maisel” over on the Kelby Training website.  I’ve been an admirer of Jay’s work for a while, and as a friend I try to visit with him when he’s available in New York City.  Every time that I do, I’m always nervous as to whether he’ll ask if I have been carrying my camera around everywhere I went.

I’ve always seen my relationship with Photography as a “I will decide to do it at key points” – and to that i’ve always been quick to leave my camera at home.  Because of that, I am always the guy who runs into a scenario when I see a great shot, i’m never able to get it.  To counter that – i’ve made myself a little bit more disciplined in carrying a camera.  While it’s not all the time, it’s certainly a lot more than it used to be.

I was traveling into New York City to give an interview over at School of Visual Arts with Katrin Eismann.  I figured, while I was there, I would take advantage of the time and try to make some images.  After watching Jay’s event – I became tempted to do one thing:

The Challenge

Take my camera – nothing else – and wait for a moment to come to me.  While i’ve heard this concept before – Find your stage – the actors will come to it – I’ve never really been confident enough to actually give it a shot.

I took to the streets of Manhattan, and just walked around until I found a place that I thought was interesting – a colored wall.   Standing across the street, I aimed my lens to this newly found stage.  Rather than run around and try to find the killer image that I would put into X – I took a deep breath and said to myself “Lets wait here to see what kind of moments come to me.” I also gave myself a limit. I wouldnt go out to find a great place in the city. I could only choose the location of the scene between where i had lunch, and Penn Station – where I was boarding the train back to Long Island.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I cant stand being in hot weather.  Anxious as I was – I noticed that the feeling of frustration that I had was replaced by anticipation. Excitement.  It almost felt like a fisherman – setting up a spot and casting into the water, and wondering what kind of story you will be able to tell your friends at the close of the day.  Some of the shots that I got from the day are in the collage that I have above.

Watching The Stage

I noticed that as I started working on getting these shots, I became more focused on the types of color relationships that were coming down the street.  Blues on Greens, Reds and whites on Blues.. things like that.  I also started looking at things like negative space – and how biased I was for one direction versus another.  I changed its usage and saw images that I thought were cool become that much better for me.  I started looking at how people could affect these relationships, and I nervously sat around waiting for magic moments to occur.

For example – I had my camera trained to the picture of the windows of this post for a long time.  That picture on it’s own doesnt really do a great deal.  However, I stayed fixed to that spot for two reasons:

If a person wouldve shown up in this general area, I would have been incredibly happy.

If a person wouldve shown up in THIS spot and looked down to that center window I would’ve been overjoyed!

Unfortunately for me – neither of those things happened.  As much as I wanted to make these moments happen – luck just wasn’t on my side.  There were no fish to catch today.

Packing it Up

I got to Penn Station  with a mixture of disappointment and intrigue.  I sooo hoped to have that Henri Cartier-Bresson moment of the man jumping the puddle but all I got back was a bunch of OK pictures, and a lot of sweat.

Then I sat and thought it a bit more:

I sat at these places and wondered about color and the relationship between the subject and enviroment.  I played around with space, lines and composition in a quick paced enviroment.  I exercised my technique by moving focus points around, and tried to relearn hitting my automatic “Center Focus” button.

I spent time looking at scenes and wondering what kinds of things would make them more interesting. In effect – I was pre-visualizing my scenarios and making calculations on this.  It was as if I had gone to the photographic gym and went through a workout on my technique.  Yes – for me I looked like a chubby guy doing a half a pushup – but it was MY half a pushup.  I went out with a goal to try something, and in the process was inspired to get a bunch of other lessons.

I was also reminded of one thing we often forget as photographers. Try as we may – luck is still a portion of being in the image.  The more practice we have, the luckier we can get, this is true.  But sometimes luck just doesn’t hit.

Or maybe not in the way you originally intended it.   Happy Friday everyone!

Introductions are in order…

I am Pete Collins…”The New Photoshop Guy,” or, as I am called around the office, “Monkey Boy.” I have done a bunch of stuff in the past… from surviving cancer, teaching tennis, competing in Disc Golf tournaments in the U.S. and overseas as well as living in Bangkok, Thailand for over 6 years. I have a Fine Arts degree and I have been a graphic designer for the last eight years. I am a Canon shooter and I have shot just about every type of photography you can imagine. The sole reason why I got this job is because Scott lost a bet and I was the booby prize. Can I use the word booby in this blog? I guess following after Jay Maisel and Moose Peterson, I can get away with it. :D

Ok, so once I was given the privilege of writing this post, I had to decide what I was going to say. This is big stuff! My plan was to write this hilarious post where you would laugh and think what great a guy I am and my name would become synonymous with cool. My picture would be put into dictionaries next to the word cool, and people around the world would talk to their friends and say, “Did you read that super cool blog post by Pete?” Isn’t that the goal? Isn’t that what we all want?

The truth is… we all long for acceptance and will do almost anything to avoid rejection. I will try to become the person that everyone will like, and I will easily compromise my principles if it means that they will think I am cool. And I bet just about every one of you reading this is the same way. Our lives are lived behind masks that we project to the world and we live in fear that someone will see the real us behind the illusion and reject us. Being rejected is one of our most painful experiences, because it says that we are not worthy and there is something inherently wrong with us. Once we feel rejected we just want the hurt to go away, but unfortunately, the heart remembers that pain so we seek out ways to distract ourselves from the pain and do things to ensure we are not rejected again in the future.

However, the very things that we are doing to cover up our hurt and our pain are causing a greater sense of isolation. We have traded our pain for numbness, but the cost is loneliness. We are so alone and we are not truly alive. The crazy thing is that we think we are the only ones who feel this way. I know because I am one of them… I know I am screwed up, but I am pretty sure that you have your act together… and since you have your act together I must pretend I have mine together too so you won’t think I am worthy of your rejection. So we pose and pretend and act like everything is ok, and yet inside both our hearts are dying. So in order to numb the loneliness, I stay busy, I find things to entertain me, I strive to find that perfect niche in society, or that perfect photograph that will validate my life. I put on a fake bravado, I make people laugh so that they won’t see my fear, or I spend countless hours trying to craft my words in a blog so that it will give people the impression of how important and smart I am. But, all that does is strengthen the masks that hide my real heart from you.

Have you ever watched a child get lost in the joy of a moment? They are not burdened with any sense of shame and they are not concerned with what others will think… they are free and full of life.

I want my life to be like that, and I bet you do too… I am trying to regain that joy… I want to be stirred to tears by the beauty that surrounds me, and not be so critical of others. I want to let go of my masks and let you see the real me, and have you accept me despite my warts and my fears. We have this awesome power to come alongside each other and encourage one another yet we don’t do it because of fear. If we will dare to allow those close to us to start getting glimpses behind our masks, I bet they would start to do the same, and before you know it… we might all be living real lives and with real joy. Imagine how much more wonderful our art, or music, our relationships would be if we were really alive and not caught in the self-imposed Matrix. What if I did things because I loved doing them rather than doing things based upon whether or not it would be accepted by the masses? Am I going to live a life of fear or joy…? That is the $64,000 question.

One final question before I go…

How comfortable are you with love? Are your masks keeping you from really being honest and intimate with those around you? I bet someone near you could really use a loving word from you right now… and the crazy thing is when you push past the fear inside and say it to them, it chips away at the masks in your own life and opens your heart to be free a little bit more. At the end of life, do you want people to say? “He was a great photographer, but his life was a mess” or would you rather them say… “He was full of life and look how that showed in his relationships and his work.” Do me a favor, instead of taking time to comment on this post, which will do you no good… since I can’t read; call up someone you love and just let them know they are special to you. Then go take some pictures, or draw or sing or dance and do it with a sense of wonder as if you were a kid again. Give yourself permission to be real and alive!

You can find Pete on Facebook, and keep an eye out for him on Photoshop User TV, Photoshop User Magazine, and other random places he might pop up :)

Taking a Closer Look…….


It’s always an honor to stand in for Scott, and I’m already so indebted to him for his many acts of kindness to me, I better do a good job!!!!  Is that fear that I smell?  Something’s burning, must the gears in my mind!  Actually I do have an idea I think might work.  I just finished taping a two part Close-Up class for Kelby Training and spending weeks preparing for that studio shoot, I came up with an idea.  The point to any close-up class is to teach someone how to approach a close-up subject, and what techniques are needed to capture it effectively.  For this blog entry I would like to take the same concept and move it in a different direction,  looking more closely at life.  With your permission, I will sprinkle some close-up images throughout the entry.

The thing that is shocking about making a close-up image, especially one in which you get really close to your subject, is just how much detail you see, that you never realized was there.  The richness of many subjects is almost indescribable!  A very close look and life reveals much of the same textures that we don’t see in a quick glance.

Let me share a story that will help you understand how I came to have this “new” vision of life.  About thirty years ago, when I was 35 years of age, (I know I look much younger than 65!),  I was diagnosed with cancer, and was told I had about a 5% chance of surviving.  It was a devastating blow.  I was madly in love with my wife (still am!), I had three young children, and all my hopes for my life, and my career were only beginning.  I wish I could say that I was very brave, but, if the truth be told, it knocked me to my knees.  I went through the three common stages.  First, because I was a Christian,  I blamed God.  Why me?  With all the evil people in the world, surely he could have picked someone else!  It didn’t take very long to figure out that wasn’t a very good idea to go down that road.  Then I felt sorry for my self, but that too, soon wore thin.  Finally I just admitted that I was scared.  On the third night in the hospital after my surgery to remove the tumor, after my wife had gone home at my insistence, I simply prayed and asked God to give me the courage to face this disease with all the bravery he could supply, I simply didn’t want to make things even harder on my family than it was already going to be.   I further asked God if we could make a deal, I told Him I was sure he didn’t cut deals, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t eligible for one, even if He did.  But this was my offer; If He would allow me to live long enough to see my young children grown and not in daily need of a father, I wouldn’t serve Him every day for the rest of my life, I would serve Him every moment for the rest of my life.

After my prayer I felt a peace that passed all understanding, and slept well for the first time in several nights.

The next morning my doctor, who was also a dear friend, came into discuss the results of the pathology report with me.  He had a big smile on his face which certainly puzzled me.  He said, “Bill, I have some good news and some bad news.”  I asked for the bad news first,  he responded, “Bill the tumor we removed, about the size of man’s fist, was definitely cancer.”  My heart sank, then he said, “the good news is that it is not the kind of cancer we had feared, multi-strained, it was, instead a single strain form that was very curable, in fact he elevated my chances of survival to 95%!

I was, of course, overcome with joy.  Later when I had time to think about what had happened I had a revelation that changed my life forever.  First I wondered if my cancer, had in fact, been the kind my doctor and feared and God had changed it!?  With more thought I came to the understanding that it didn’t matter.  I came to realize that what I had just gone through has a technical term in heaven, a wake up call!

This is the hard part of my story to share, but if the story is to have any value, it must be shared, for I am certainly not proud of it.  I was a Christian and loved my wife and family, and tried to be a “good” man, but I had put myself in first place in my life.  I was obsessed with becoming a quote, “famous photographer”.  Looking back,  I now realize that I was insecure and felt I needed that to make me feel okay about myself.  It became apparent to me that during all my time, after I found out I had cancer, I never once thought about being a famous photographer.  All I could think about was missing growing old with Sherelene, and seeing my children grow up.  God had changed my priorities.  I made a solemn commitment to keep my word and serve Him every moment for the rest of my life.  I started by trying to be the best husband and father that I could be and, though I worked hard at being a good photographer, I no longer concerned myself with how my work, or I, for that matter, stacked up against all the others out there pursuing our shared career.  I had been cured of the desire for fame.

So what has all this led to?  I’m a happy man who experiences real peace and joy.  I love photography and have never enjoyed it more, it just is not how I see myself being defined now.  I now know that I’m defined by how much I love others, after all that’s what my Heavenly Father does, and by what kind of partner I am to my wife, father to my children and grandfather to my six grandchildren!  Did you catch that?  “6”, I’m so blessed! I enjoy life for the sheer joy of being here.  I know that my earthly treasure is family, friends, and many professional associates.  Most of all I delight in a daily walk with Him,  and the changes are not over.  Everyday I get new insight into how I can make life better for others, and in turn it makes my life better as well!

Am I preaching?  Absolutely not!  I’m just like a man that saw and incredible movie and can’t wait to tell everyone they meet, “You’ve got to see this film!”  Every dream I ever had for my life, and career, and many more, have all come true, except the famous photographer part!  I finally realized that they don’t really exist!  Elvis was famous. The best a photographer can ever hope for is recognition, or respect among their peers.  I’ve found something worth a great deal more, a life worth living and sharing with others.

So sometimes, it’s a good thing to look a little closer……….

May your adventures of looking closer, richly bless you,

Bill Fortney

Galatians 2:20

You can see more of Bill’s work over at, and keep up with him over at his Pilgrim’s Chronicles blog. If you’d like to get in touch with him, just send an email to