First off, I would like to say that it is an absolute honor to be asked on as a guest blogger on Scott Kelby’s site. A very important thing for me is expressing gratitude for opportunities that have come my way, and understanding how the good things in my life have come to pass. Scott has been on the giving side for me on more than one occasion, both directly and from happenings through the ripple effect caused by the NAPP, and I just can’t say it enough. Thank You.
For my few seconds up here on the soapbox, I would like to share with you a quick story and a few ideas that I THINK I know. I say think with emphasis because I realize that life hasn’t given me all of the pieces yet. I’m here with the rest of you just trying to figure things out while everything around me, as well as myself, continue to change on a day to day basis. One big thing I know for sure though is that I don’t know everything, and I never will.
Of all of the images that I have had the pleasure of dreaming up, or seeing happen before me, one of my favorite that comes to mind was more than ten years ago. I wasn’t a professional photographer at the time, much less a professional anything. I was working a 9-5, collecting a paycheck, and living a pretty happy simple life. That is an “uninspired” simple life. A few months prior I had picked up my first SLR from a pawnshop, a Minolta x-700, with a few lenses, pretty sweet deal. (That’s right all you purists, I was a film guy too back in the day. Let go. It’s okay. I liked the little red light too, and if you miss the smell of fixer and stop bath that much you can always keep a tray of it next to your monitor. It’ll be ok. 8tracks were a great idea too at the time. I digress…) I carried that thing with me everywhere because you just never know right? There I was, driving down Highway 270 in St. Louis, minding my own business when it hit me. Nope. Not the car next to me, the image.
I saw it on the side of the road up ahead. Traffic was really light so I saw it pretty clearly from a good distance away. It was an old red truck, kind of a flat bed type but it had large wooden gates around all four sides. The bed of this thing was filled to the brim with old tires, obviously some type of tire recycling truck. The next thing I saw was the shiny golden nugget! On the rear of the truck on the side opposite of the road there was a large jack cranked up lifting up the vehicle… Yep, you guessed it, flat tire. Next to this, the driver sat on the ground with a not so happy expression, talking on his cell. The tire had been removed, lying next to him, but why hadn’t he put the spare on yet, he’s just sitti… OMG! He doesn’t have one! The phrase “water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink” came to mind. I couldn’t believe it. I started laughing out loud because back then I wasn’t using LOL yet. So obviously the next thing I did was pull over to the side, jump out, camera in hand, and start firing off pictures of this unbelievable stroke of luck (mine not his) right? Nope. I kept going. I thought about stopping maybe a hundred times in the 10 seconds it took me to pass him and then a few thousand more to the next exit where I could turn around and go back. But I didn’t.
Why not? Who knows, maybe I didn’t want my head bashed in by a tire iron, for whatever the reason I saw this amazingly funny moment happening in front of me and I let it slip away. Seeing this comical event inspired me to create an image to tell this story, but I let it go, even though I had the chance. An opportunity presented itself and I passed it by. To this day I remember that image that I didn’t create and I still see it perfectly. I’m sure if I tried hard enough I could re-create it because I own a ton of Scott’s books and nowadays we can do anything with Photoshop right? But I kinda like it the way that it is. It’s the one that got away. It’s the one that reminds me when I see a cool shot, not to pass it up. When I have an opportunity come my way, I should take it. Instead of coming away with a pretty funny image of our human existence, that day I got a life lesson. To this day I am a firm believer in the thought that the things that are happening to us today are just practice for tests we will face tomorrow, and the way that we respond to them continue to shape our future. I’m not sure who said that, but somebody must have.
I was recently honored to teach a seminar for the Westcott Top Pro Tour, and one of my main focuses was to encourage people to shoot with inspiration. To be passionate about what you are creating. Put a little forethought into your planning process and you will be surprised at what you come up with. No matter if you’re a wedding photographer, portrait artist, graphics guy, retoucher, develop your style and share that with the world. Realize that with the images you produce, you are sending out a message of who you are and what you have to say. Your message doesn’t have to be a life-changing topic, but the images you are creating should at least have meaning to you and inspire you. Because if they don’t, how can they move someone else?
I count myself among the lucky who get to do what I like for a living, and have fun doing it. I stopped working a long time ago. On this day my “job” consists of sitting out on my back deck with my 2 dogs on a 74 degree Tuesday afternoon in November writing a blog for Scott’s page. Not too shabby, I can think of much worse. I think the definition of success depends on the way you see things. I’m not rollin’ through the Lou (that’s St. Louis for all of you outta towners) in my brand new Benz, tryin’ to count my Benjamins through the glare of all the ice hangin’ round my neck! Nor do I care to be. Nothing against Benz’s, Benjamins or ice, but what matters most to me is that I get to live my days the way I want. Not the way I have to, but the way I have chosen. This didn’t happen overnight for me, and there where many people who passed through my life and handed me the keys to go further. And that bit of info is a huge piece that I believe is important to realize, acknowledge, and remember. The people who touch our lives and points of reference of how things happen, so we can fully remember how far we’ve come, who helped us get there, and realize what we can achieve. No, I wouldn’t say I’ve reached the end zone just yet, but that safety behind me is pretty dang slow and if I just keep moving I think I can take him.
So what’s the moral of this story…
Hang out with Scott, Larry, Matt, Dave, Corey, and that Vanelli guy, and eventually all of your dreams will come true.
Or… it could be…
Be grateful for what comes your way. Understand that life is trying to give you gifts, pay attention, and be open to them. Put some thought and a little heart into your work and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.