Monthly Archives May 2021

One of the worst things about getting older is that you’re old enough to have a friend or two pass away. In the past few years, I’ve lost some good friends: Winston Henderickson, Jim DiVitale, Mike McCaskey, and this week my buddy John Swarce passed away, and I’m heartbroken once again. Like Winston, Jim and Mike, he went far too soon (at just 60), and his passing was just as sudden and unexpected. So when Kalebra told me John passed away, it was like a slug in the stomach. It hit hard. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. 

John and his sweet wife Gina were coming down to Florida next week (from their home in Boston) for a visit to the Orlando attractions, and he wanted to come over to Tampa to catch Wednesday’s episode of The Grid live in the studio. Afterward, John asked to go to Zaxby’s to try their top-ranked chicken sandwich (since they don’t have one up where they live). The day before he passed, I had emailed him about whether he was comfortable eating indoors with masks, or should we do takeout and bring it back to the office after the show? And then, the next morning, he was gone. I’m still in shock.

Left Side: my friends Deb Uscilka, Me, Mike McCaskey, Bob DeChiara. Right side: Sam Haddix, Kalee Greer, and John.

When I’m up in Boston, the night before my seminar, I would invite John and a small group of my friends up there to dinner at a casual North End Italian restaurant, and it’s become “a thing” — one I look forward to so much every year. It’s more like a family reunion with some pasta, and the last time I was in Boston was the year before the Pandemic hit. John used to love to tease me about the Patriots and their many SuperBowls (me being a lowly Bucs fan with just one SuperBowl win in our team history). We always went back and forth about teasing each other. At the last time I was up there, he sat right in the front row of my seminar wearing a Patriot’s Tom Brady jersey (and he got the rest of my friends to do the same — all of them, in the front row, each wearing a Patriot’s Jersey. It was brutal and totally hilarious!).

Look at this: John, family and friends (at a home BBQ), with him wearing his Photoshop World t-shirt, holding a photo of me and him, and he’s posed behind a box of Chicken in a Biscuit crackers with “Spray Cheese.” How could you not love this guy!

So, you can imagine how I turned the tables on him this past year when not only did Brady leave the Patriots for The Bucs (of all places), and then Pat’s hero Gronk joined the Bucs as well (double-whammy), and then Brady went on to win us a SuperBowl. An incredibly unforseen chain of events for sure.

You’d think I would have been gracious and classy about it. Not a chance! LOL!!! I teased John unmercifully and often via email, texts, and DMs. When they came for their visit, I had even planned to take a long way around on our way to Zaxby’s to secretly drive him past the Buc’s Stadium to see giant posters of Brady in a Bucs uniform. It would have been so funny, and he would have totally rolled with it, laughing all the while.

While I was neither gracious nor humble about any of this, John was both. When he learned of Brady joining the Bucs, he told me he was a Tom Brady fan for life and was actually happy for The Bucs and that he would now be a Bucs fan too — pulling for us (and Brady) to win it all (note the hashtag on the end of his Facebook comment above). Well, that really sucked the fun out of teasing him, but it gives you a little glimpse into what a cool guy John was. So creative, smart, talented, funny as heck, and he was one of those guys that everybody loved. Everybody. He was always in a great mood, so witty, and he really enjoyed life, friends, family, and football (maybe a little less last year, but still). 

John was a great supporter of everything we did at KelbyOne. I can’t count how many members we must have got through John spreading the word about us to anyone who would listen. I can’t imagine a Photoshop World conference without seeing John. He was part of the fabric of the conference, and when we get together again for an in-person conference, he is one of the things I will miss the most.

That smile is just so John. Of course, I always called him “Jaaaaahhhhnnnn!”

John’s passing is another reminder of how each day is a gift and how precious life is. They say it’s why we need to make the most of each day, and I can tell you John did. Not only did he make the most of his days, if you ran into him on any given day, he made your day, too. I’ll miss John so much, and for my small group of great friends up in Boston — we are all the better for having known him.

I hope you have someone in your life like John, and if you’re lucky enough, now would be a great time to hug them and tell them so.

Rest in peace, John We love you, and will never forget you.


Who doesn’t like a good travel story, one that has a meaningful moral? Who doesn’t like to see captivating travel photographs—images that motivate and inspire? And who does not like going behind-the-scenes to learn what went into the making of a travel photograph?

That is where my 42nd book, Photo Pursuit: Stories Behind the Photographs – a travel photographer’s memoir (a Kindle book readable on all devices, including IOS devices, with the free Kindle reader) is all about.

In this guest blog post (thank you Scott and Brad), I’ll share three of my favorite Stories from the book, which features 38 Stories along with more than 40 full-color photographs.

But first, a bit about the book.

Through my storytelling for each photograph (some of my favorites from my travels to more than 100 countries), you will learn about important photographic techniques that you can apply to your own photographs—when traveling to faraway places or when photographing close to home. In fact, this info-packed book offers all the practical photo tip, tricks, and techniques that you can use to make pro-quality images.

And speaking of images, this book is best viewed on a full-color device for maximum photo quality.

Woven into my stories are camera settings, gear choices, and other important photographic techniques.

In reading this book, you will also learn something about the different locations and what it’s like photographing in those locales, which can help you make better photographs in similar situations.

So, in effect, this book is also a travelogue. You’ll get a taste of what it’s like photographing in Antarctica, Africa, Botswana, China, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, Iceland, Italy, Lake Baikal, The High Arctic, Provence, and Alaska, to name just a few fascinating places in which I have worked. 

Each of the 38 chapters is a story, and each story is accompanied by Morals of the Story. These takeaways are designed to reinforce the message of the story. In fact, in writing each story, I wrote the Morals first so I could weave in my most important tips and advice in an interesting storytelling fashion.

Virtually all of the photographs in this book were taken on my photo workshops or photo tours. I mention this because joining a photo workshop or tour is a wonderful way to see the world and to get photographs that perhaps you could not get on your own.

Again, this is a Kindle-only book. It is my first ebook-only book, and I am actually surprised at how easy it is to read and how good the images look on my iPhone and iPad.

This book was fun and rewarding to write. And now, perhaps because I am 71 years old and wrote this book during the pandemic of 2020/2021, this book has special meaning. Photo Pursuit is a recap of some of my favorite travels with my wife Susan Sammon, making the book a travel photographer’s memoir. Authors seem to put the most effort, passion, and love into memoirs.

The Appendix for the book features all the tech info for each photo. In addition to finding the EXIF date in the book, I set up a Gallery called Photo Pursuit, on my web set so readers can see each photograph along with the info. 

For readers of this book, I think you will find the exposure and location information useful if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Photo Pursuit is the third book in my recent “Photo” series. Photo Therapy was the first and Photo Quest was the second. You’ll find info on all my recent book on this page:

Okay, here are the three Stories from my book. Enjoy!


The Importance of Wildlife Ethics

Hi there, I’m Juan Pons. I’ve been a Wildlife Photographer leading workshops and seminars around the world for the last twenty years. I’m so honored to be one of the featured instructors at this year’s Outdoor Photography Conference on May 18-19th.

One topic I will be focusing on during the conference is fundamental to my work as a photographer and outdoor enthusiast- always exercising respect and protecting wildlife and the environment while capturing a memorable image.

No image, no matter how unique or special it may be, is worth stressing, endangering, or otherwise harming the wildlife or the landscape. As wildlife photographers, it is essential to be advocates for the environment and to lead others through our own actions and diligence.  If we as the storytellers, who love to photograph and observe the wildlife, do not prioritize protecting them, who will?

In my presentation, I will discuss a few of the areas of focus I always follow to ensure wildlife and their environment are being protected:

  1. Understanding Your Subjects
    The most beautiful wildlife photographs originate from natural behavior. We need to prepare ourselves to capture those critical moments, and the best way to do so is to research and understand our subjects, their behaviors, social structures, diet, migratory habits, and more. You can never really predict what wildlife will do at any moment, but by familiarizing ourselves intimately with our subjects, we can be ready to create those once in a lifetime images.
  2. Leaving No Trace
    The foundation of all wildlife photographers’ ethics should be to always leave no trace. This concept extends beyond the landscape- the wellbeing of your subject must be your priority at all times. We must never alter, modify, disturb or harm any habitat, food source, or surroundings. I advise all adventurers to understand they are a guest in the landscape they’re shooting. You should always consider the welfare of your subject first and foremost- ask yourself if the next action you are about to take will bring any harm in this moment or even in the distant future.
  3. Being In The Moment
    Oftentimes, we become engrossed in making images and neglect to fully appreciate the environment we’re in and the beauty we are witnessing. Take a moment to put your camera down, take a breath, and observe your surroundings. This practice deepens our connection and strengthens our appreciation of the environment and our subjects. As Baba Dioum well put it “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”

All of these topics, and many more, are imperative to our success as photographers and wildlife ambassadors. When we commit to the wellbeing of all wildlife, we create a symbiotic relationship with the environment.  I look forward to expanding on these topics during our time together in my seminar this week.

Juan Pons
Juan Pons Photography

You can learn more about Juan’s workshops, upcoming seminars, and newly released educational videos on Youtube, and check out his website at

But it’s not too late to join us and get in on two incredible days of education and fun. There is a first-timer orientation today followed by a pre-conference session with the one and only Rick Sammon on “What makes a great Outdoor Photo.” Please watch official trailer below (it’s short) and see if it’s right for you.

Hope you can join us — we’ve got an incredible team of instructors, and I’ve got some really cool post-processing techniques to share, too! Here’s the link for tickets, along with the full conference schedule.

“The Grid” is on Hiatus This Week

The conference will still be in full swing on Wednesday, so we’ll have to skip this week’s episode of “The Grid” but we’ll be back again next week, so thanks for hangin’ in there with us while we’re on break this week.

Get on The Love Train!

Want to start your Monday off right? Take just a couple of minutes and watch this video below. It’s the O’Jays appearing live on the TV show “Good Morning America” doing their awesome 70s hit “Love Train” “and the theme for the show is the 70s, and the crowd is all dressed in 70s outfits and doing 70s dancing, including a Soul Train line, and it’s just a blast. Also — check this out — these guys are around 80-years old, but they’re dancing and singing and living their best life. Give it a quick watch — it’s just the best way to start the day. :)

I wish you all good health, happiness, and good health. A big welcome to everybody joining us for the conference, and we’ll see you online. :)


This week my buddy Terry let me know that there’s a new official entrant in the “Chicken Sandwich Wars” and it would potentially be a formidable one — Church’s Chicken (a real, honest-to-goodness yummy chicken place) has introduced their version of Popeye’s incredible chicken sandwich (the one that started the war in the first place). They offer it in both regular and spicy. So, yesterday I made the drive out to the nearest one (about 20+ minutes each way), But it was worth the drive. So here’s my quick review: 

It’s Actually Very Good, But….

It’s considerably better than McDonald’s new chicken sandwich (which is just an improvement on McDonald’s old chicken sandwich). It is almost on par with other top new chicken sandwiches from Burger King or KFC. The bun is really lovely; the chicken itself is crunchy and quite yummy. The pickles? Sublime! And their sauce is so good, and you could probably call it great. 

So, why is it only “Almost on par” with the others?

Taste-wise, it is actually is on par with the top picks, but the physical size of the chicken itself is much smaller. The sandwich I got looked nothing like that Church’s photo above from their website. It’s more like the size of a McDonald’s chicken sandwich, so it’s missing that awesome “bigness” that the KFC, Zaxby’s, Burger King, and of course Popeye’s all have in common. No chicken was sticking out the sides of the bun, and it was about half as tall as that photo above makes it look. If you want to go against Popeye’s, you gotta go big (like most of the other entrants did), but sadly, they didn’t.

There could be legit reasons for this

I could have just gotten a smaller chicken patty by the luck of the draw (they can’t be all the same size, right?), and the person right after me or before could have gotten a big ol’ honkin’ piece of chicken, but I can only go by what I was served. A friend suggested perhaps they’ve cut back on their size because of the chicken shortage. Still, I don’t think they’d let the size and quality of a new product drop like that — I think they’d rather say “we’re sold out” than “we’re shrinking the size to keep from running out” But, again, I could have just gotten a rare smaller piece, but I’m concerned that’s not the case, and that it is just a smaller sandwich overall.

So, in the context of the larger war, where does Church’s rank?

I’ve always liked Church’s chicken, and if the chicken in their chicken sandwich were bigger, I would rank it right up there — probably at least tied with Burger King and KFC, and with such a great sauce it might have even over-taken them (Church’s sauce is better than both KFCs and BKs). However, based on the sandwich I received, I would have to rank it below Burger King and KFC (with Zaxby’s still way on top, along with Popeyes), but above McDonald’s, and so far above Wendy’s that I can’t even include them in this with a straight face. I just don’t know what happened to Wendy’s in this war. (They brought a knife to a gunfight).

So, in short, Church’s has a solid entry into the war. That being said, I wouldn’t make the long drive there again, passing by Burger King’s and KFCs and Zaxby’s along the way. Note: just a friendly reminder: Chick-fil-a is NOT in the Chicken Sandwich war (they did not create a new sandwich to go against Popeyes, who started the war). Yes, we all love them, but it’s “its own thing” with its own unique taste (and small size, and no sauce unless you add it yourself, and just one pickle, etc.,) but for many people, that combination is magic, and I get it. So, no need to defend them or mention how “Chick-fil-a is the best” down in the comments (or, more likely, over on my Facebook page). If you’re drawn to defending it anyway, read this first. 

Next week, Join Us At The Outdoor Photography Conference

Here’s the official trailer (I haven’t had a chance to share this yet — hope you dig it).

It kicks off next Monday with a pre-conference session, and then it runs all Tuesday and Wednesday in two separate training tracks. Remember — you get full access to all these sessions for an entire year after the conference, so even if you can’t make it next week, you can watch it any time in the next full year, which is awesome.

Info and Tickets here. :)

Have a super great weekend everybody, and if you’ve got a Church’s Chicken near you, give their new sandwich a try and let me know what you think (and if your patty was as small as mine). LOL!!


Blind Photo Critiques with Scott Kelby & Erik Kuna | The Grid Ep. 471

What’s your favorite Wednesday in May? If you said “Blind Critique Wednesday,” then you’ve answered correctly! Check out the latest round of blind photo critiques from Scott Kelby and Erik Kuna on this week’s episode of The Grid.

New KelbyOne Course: Creative Portraits with Everyday Objects with Mary Bel

Learn how to incorporate your personality into your portraits and let it shine through the camera! Join Mary Bel as she walks you through how to take everyday materials and turn them into something different that can give your photography a beautiful elevated feeling. Making something from nothing is super fun and completely attainable, and by the end of the class, you’re sure to take away inspiration, ideas, and tips that you can apply to your own creative journey.