I bought a Canon camera, financed it through Canon and got so goddamned screwed. Clearly I’m a sucker.

I came to a vital conclusion last night: I hate Canon. I’ve shot/used/bought their products for photography for 25 years.

I don’t have enough time to go into the full story. I have two recordings with their customer service that I’ll have to post at a later date.

Long story, well, long: based on my experience with other companies or credit companies offering 0% interest programs, I’ve been able to buy products from companies like B&H, Amazon, eBay, etc. and I’ve never paid one dime of interest. I’ve never paid one dime more than the purchase price of the product. I’ve always paid purchases off before deadline.

I run a cash business in a sense. I always have the money to buy something before I buy, but sometimes I like the freedom of not paying for products, say, for tax purposes. Sometimes I don’t want several large purchases to hit in one year.

Along came Canon’s promise of 24-months, 0%, and it was the encouragement I needed to pull the trigger on a Canon C100 Mark II. I’ve been weighing out several different purchases, but it was this 24-months, 0% deal that won me over.

Damn, I was stupid.

Over the past year, I looked at different options from several leading companies. I considered Sony, including dumping my Canon DSLRs and buying into their line of full-frame, mirrorless DSLRs that offer 4K video with VLOG. What a fucking dream.

It’d be like buying one camera system to satisfy a range of needs. I also looked at Panasonic, whose GH4 offers 4K and now is upgradeable to a VLOG that offers 12-steps of dynamic range, one of the HUGE reasons I went with Canon.

But I had used the C100 Mark II and I knew that it was a good camera with a great picture, and sound acquisition is built into the body. It’s great because they market it to guys like me that often shoot solo, and don’t have time to fuss with a lot of extra gear. We need something to just work. Our distribution is mainly web, but in the event we needed to provide for broadcast, picking up an Atomos Ninja is very easy.

So I jumped on Canon thinking the experience would be like when I buy through PayPal.


Man I fucked up. This program is NOTHING like PayPal. Admittedly, I didn’t read the fine print closely, and I overlooked namely a “Documentation Fee” of $65. Now I’m finding out that there must be documentation that they’re hitting me with paying taxes right away. Something I was hoping to avoid, until I worked with my accountant to do so.

Over the last 24 hours, I’ve worked with Canon to buy out the camera completely, so that I can start figuring out if I want to sell the camera on eBay and also sell off all my canon bodies and glass.

In case you’re wondering, when you buy certain cameras, they are not-returnable to the seller. If you need proof, go to B&H Photo and to Adorama and look up C100 Mark II.

I don’t want anything to do with Canon anymore.

Cameras are tools. I’ve watched other photographer migrate happily away from Canon.

It may take me a little while to do so, but I’m going to join the exodus.

You may say, “It’s your fault. You didn’t do your homework. It was all available to you.”

And you’re right. I admit fault.

But Canon has pissed me off. Working with them has made their name, brand and identity on par with bullshit. And I don’t deal with bullshit.

There’s no one right camera or lens that does EVERYTHING perfectly. So whether I’m using a Sony, a Fuji, a Nikon, a Hasselblad, a PhaseOne, or a Panasonic, I’ll figure out which tool is the right one for the situation I’m in … which I assure you … will no longer include Canon.

Embarking into my forties never felt so good

Forty years ago today, I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in them United States of America.

Flowers were blooming. Choirs were singing. Swarms of bees were buzzing. Beautiful women were leaping for joy. Babies were hiccuping. Dogs were barking.

Cats were meowing. Children were scribbling in coloring books. Mothers were shopping in Sears catalogs. Fathers were dreaming of a way to contact women to have affairs without their wives knowing about it.

Trash was being collected. Beers were being drunk. A pair of lips tugged on a cigarette. LSD trips were took. Pot was smoked.

Wars were waging. Daughters were being sold into the sex trade. Animals were going extinct.

It was another day the earth was swirling around the sun. One star of zillions in this great big universe.

The pale blue dot gained a Puerto Rican, who would later be adopted into a family of Dutch heritage. He’d grow up, become a photographer, marry a beautiful woman and have to pinch himself every day for the good fortune of landing on two feet.

Forty years is a landmark. We measure life in lots of ways. We measure in meals, in naps, in time between meals and naps. We measure in snacks, in weight, in fat and distance. We measure life in seconds at times, others in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and and in times like this … decades.

In my first decade, my mind was getting packed with information, stimulation, and socialization. It was a decade of playtime, schoolwork, homework, Sunday school, friends, family, and wonder. My body developed from baby to pre-teen. The years were laden with discipline, pain, thrill, excitement and love.

I didn’t have one iota of an original thought that influenced anyone else. I believe that I had creative, original thoughts but I didn’t have the wherewithal to write anything down. Children are, quite possibly, the most creative people around us. I felt creative in those years. Sometimes I approach work with the idea that I must harness my first decade self in my approach to current projects.

In my first decade, I held a camera or two in my hands during that time. My second decade was filled with more play time, more homework, more Sunday School, church, religion, faith, friends. It was marked by wonder and creativity. I found a written voice and a visual one. I loved and lost a first love. I wrote, photo’d, video’d. I traveled.

I explored original thought, all of which were tainted and steered by religious thought, traditions, pangs of guilt and adolescent craze.

In my third decade, I was playing, traveling, trading faith for nonbelief, finding new friends, removing old ones, and wondering about what was next. I was succeeding and failing. I was both a rebel and not one. I was perpetually scared of letting others down. Individuality was an internship turning into a mediocre part-time job.

In my forth decade, I still played, I traveled more. I retired faith completely. Found more new friends and lost other ones. People my age were dying. I got married. And all the while, I constantly kept wonder in the mix. I tried making individuality a full-time job, but found it to be a disappointment to others.

And now I start the fifth decade. Today. Labor Day Twenty Fifteen. And wonder remains. Individuality still remains a mystery to me.

I’m inspired by all that’s behind me to create all that’s in front of me.

With another decadal notch comes a tinge more concern/thought about mortality. It inspires a sense of determination to create more. To seize the day’s seconds, minutes, and hours in a white knuckled grip and give everything, family, friends, creativity and love more of a crying chance.  To love more. To hate less.

Yesterday is an investment into tomorrow.

Without the promise of afterlife of any kind, it casts a different shade of urgency. Without an afterlife, there’s no casual dilly dallying like our dog Talulah when she’s in the yard smelling every stump, tree, patch of grass and pole. When you’re blessed with a creative spirit, there is a constant insistence on making new, then moving on to the next project.

My dad tells me often that I am part of a bigger plan. A divine one. And I understand where he’s coming from. And it pains me when I disagree, tacitly or directly. I don’t want to disagree with anyone. Not even a movie or music that someone else likes and I don’t.

But if a divine being had influence over how well things worked out for me, that same divine being ignored/hurt/maimed the thousands upon thousands upon millions who wished for the same, similar or safety, and came up short. Way short.

When I revel in a creative photo, I remember a child dying of leukemia.

When I bask in the success of a big paycheck, I think of the child sold into slavery.

When I hold the woman of my dreams, I can’t help but consider all who have loved, lost, and lost again.

This so-called divinity that watched over my life, stood by with crossed arms and a nose in the air when so many … so so fucking many — who probably even attempted to love this being — he ignored them, their prayers, their wishes.

Why would a being like that care about me? A guy who gives no mention, no thought to its existence or involvement. No thanks?

I guess — from some standpoints — you could call that the definition of faith.

But that would be mental gymnastics.

The way I see it, I got here by inexplicable luck. Maybe not inexplicable. I worked my ass off. I’ve worked my ass off. Over the weekend, I gave my photographer expertise away to a friend. The results were BEAUTIFUL. My pay is results. Money helps me keep a roof over my wife’s head, food in my dog’s bowl and litter in my cat’s box. It keeps gas in my tank so I can visit my family, whom I love and cherish dearly.

Art, love, life … they are my passions.

I love the process of the creative spirit. I love to create and be creative.

It’s the process, not always the outcome, that drives that spirit.

Without children of my own, the only legacy I have to create an afterlife is creating things that outlive me. Whether they are thoughts, ideas, images, motion pictures, or other art.

I feel good about my position. I feel good about my marriage, my life, my friends, my professional network.

I feel good about the art I’ve been creating, and the reception to it.

I feel good about my health.

I’m inspired by my friends and family. I’m reminded too often by the passing of my loved ones around me. And I’m goddamn determined to do everything I do as well as I possibly fucking can.

Hey, Forty! Let’s do this thing.


The reporter, the camera man, the shooter and you.

This news of the reporter and camera man shot in Virginia is destroying me.

Out of morbid curiosity, I watched the footage from the camera man and from the shooter. Unseeing/unhearing it is impossible. The shock, hurt, anger and confusion is heavy on my mind, like it’s wading through a mire.

Tina and I often interview people in a similar fashion (Tina’s not on camera like a reporter, though), and I can’t help but put ourselves in their shoes or visualize myself as them. When we’re doing that kind of work, we’re all about the moment and certain blinders prevent us from noticing a lot of periphery information.

I didn’t know these two people, but I can only begin to imagine the broken hearts, the pain, the tears of so many who loved these two dearly. As well as so many disappointed and appalled by the shooter’s actions.

I don’t entirely regret watching the videos. If you watch the one recorded by the shooter, he readjusts his camera zoom as he’s walking up. If that’s not proof that he’s entirely cognizant of his intention and goal, there should be no discussion of this man’s sanity.

Although, the word is he’s now dead.

From what I heard about the 20-some page manifesto he faxed to the station, he was upset by the way he was treated at work. He cited details regarding racial tension in his workplace.

And maybe, if I interpret this correctly, maybe these two people — the reporter and/or the camera man — were guilty, or purportedly guilty of what he saw as poor treatment in the workplace.

And maybe, if you stretch your imagination, can you empathize with the shooter for feeling like he was somehow mistreated, racially or personally.

It’s the violence that’s pathetic. It’s not dealing with the situation with tact and appeal. Has it come to this bullshit that the only way to be heard is to fire a gun?

I hate violence, and a lot of the news of different shootings in the past few years and even in my neighborhood have caused me to attempt a certain heightened awareness of my surroundings when walking my neighborhood. It’s likely futile. How do you see what’s happening behind you.

Should I constantly spin while walking? 

Another thing that’s completely appalling to me are all the people who say they’re praying for the victims, their families and those involved.

Praying? Really?

Who is that helping?

Where were the prayers before that prevented this shit? Who are you praying to and who feels better when they say that stuff? It’s not the victims or their families and friends. They’re fucking miserable right now.

Who is the god that is prayed to that knew this was going to happen and was powerless to intercept this shooter? What all-powerful god is this who is incapable of destroying the evil in the world? This fucker can create a universe in a week, but he can’t stop an angry man with a gun from shooting two people in cold blood while doing their life’s work? While doing their art?

If that’s what prayers are for, or to, I don’t want anything to do with it, and don’t understand EVER why anyone would.

My birthday is coming up. My one wish, as I blow out my candles, will be for people — unless it’s with a camera — to stop shooting other people.

Where the fuck did Jeremy go?

I’m almost 40. This September I cross that age threshold. That makes 20 years of non-belief.

My level of non-belief ebbed and flowed for a long time before I finally came out of that closet and eventually started this blog. During my closeted years, I searched for liberal views that were more accepting of my completely changed view of “god”. I tried to embrace different euphemism. That’s to say, when I said god, I meant me. When I prayed, it was to the universe, to nothingness, because sometimes that’s all that hears our hopes.

Why am I writing all this?

I don’t know.

Creatively, I feel like I’m producing more work than I ever have in my entire career. Not only is it more work, the quality of work has never reached this level. I feel I have so much more to learn. But I’ve also never felt like the work I’ve done in the past ever meant a good god damn.

But as an artist, I have never been as deathly afraid to share my work as I do now. When I share work now, it’s forced. I’m marketing, because, well, if I don’t, my business may suffer.

A few months ago, two different clients criticized some of my work and double-handedly created a sense of insecurity in my head that I can not shake.

I haven’t blogged in goddamn forever. I know. Not here anyway.

Between business, a decline in blogging motivation, and that WordPress now requires that I pay an annual fee to house digital media, I felt the need to back off of blogging at Le Café.

I miss you guys. I miss you all a lot. This blog had reached hit counts of over 30,000 to 35,000 per month.

This blog descended from one defined by my expression of non-religious beliefs to one centered around my day-to-day work and art, which caused a rift between loyal readership to a drastically declined one. This was something I did to alleviate the stresses I started to feel regarding my conservative-Christian family.

I chose family over fans. Morally, you’d think that was the right choice. 

You’d think that, wouldn’t you?

My family reads this blog — or at least used to — and I came to a conclusion that blogging about atheism created a larger rift between my family and me.

So I dialed it back. Way back. And then stopped.

I stopped to encourage a healthier, more productive relationship with my family. And at times, it seems to work. Other times, not so much.

Before all of the blog changes, I stopped any direct atheistic or liberal expression Facebook. I even told my family that it was the reason for backing off. I hoped it would encourage a reciprocated effort. It hasn’t.

Oddly enough, with certain family members, I feel it’s worse. And there’s a part of me that wants badly to divorce myself from the entirety of all that. It hurts too badly to continue, and I am finding myself somewhat close to what’s termed as one’s “wit’s end.”

I stopped believing around twenty years old. I don’t think I’m right about atheism. But I don’t think religious people are right either. Atheism is the closest mindset that reflects my views.

If you need someone to criticize atheism, give me few hundred thousand words and I’ll give you a great breakdown.

And that’s the same for religion.

But I can write a zillion words to back either up. Either. That’s the rub. I can defend religion just as well as I did as a teen. Why? Because I get it. At least I think I do.

That’s pompous.

I know.

Again, why am I writing this?

I’m at my wit’s end for sure.

Another reason: last week I heard a raucous out front of my condo. We’re on the third floor, and when I looked outside there was a police cruiser, an ambulance and a fire truck.

A group of people were out front, and one of them was my next-door neighbor Natalie. “I’m going to go down and see what’s up,” I called out to Tina. “Natalie’s out there, too. Just curious what’s up.”

When I exited my front door, I saw my neighbor with other folks just in front of our fence and neighbor’s fence to the south.

At first, I thought they were looking at something across the street. When I got closer, though, I could see paramedics were surrounding a man lying down on the sidewalk. Seconds later, one of the paramedics started chest compressions on the man. Another group of paramedics were wheeling a gurney from the ambulance to the sidewalk.

There were some six or seven people attending to man.

Once they got him on the gurney and into the ambulance, my neighbor and another man informed me that they had discovered the man slumped in front of the fence, and that when Natalie — a nurse — felt for a pulse, she could feel a faint one. Then she felt nothing. Seconds later, the paramedics came.

They took over.

The man died on the sidewalk. He was in in his fifties. Looked a little over weight. Gray hair. A dirty t-shirt and shorts.

He lived with two dogs in a building two doors down. I had never seen him before.

He died on the sidewalk.

Right in front of my building. Wait, right in front of me.

Seeing this certainly sparked thoughts of mortality. Of revisiting the ideas of heaven and hell, of afterlife. It caused me to review my perception that none of that exists. It caused question.

I think about religion — and my place outside of it — more than any other topic.

And the questions did not overwhelm my view that neither exist. And that doesn’t depress me.

What depresses me is that it’s this kind of thinking that might cause division between my beloved family, my loved ones, my life.

But I have to be okay with it. Right?

I mean, I feel much more at home in the thought that this life is it. That’s all. And soaking up the experience takes priority, rather than the idea that I’ll have eternity to cherish my loved ones.

It creates a wildly oppressive fear of not being an all-around decent person when hanging out with my believing family. It means that I stuff back thoughts and ideas for the sake of the whole. But damn does it hurt when those types of values aren’t reciprocated.

Who me? Officiate a wedding? What the fuck. 

One validating moment, though, was two weeks ago. I photographer friend asked to visit with Tina and me. He’s soon to be married. Usually when these kinds of things means you are going to read or stand up.

But the request for for Tina and I to officiate the wedding. Tina, because she represents spirituality for the bride. And me, because i represent skepticism for the groom.

My views have become much more private. And I feel it’s hurting me. Or at least part of me.

But it feels so damn good to be appreciated for my views. This is the highest honor. Marriage is so important to me. It’s the best thing about life and I wish I would have married much younger. Much sooner.

This scenario deserves a stupid metaphor. My life is a game of poker. Sometimes it’s a shitty hand. Sometimes it’s a royal flush. And it’s sometimes everything in between.

I’m up when I’m in my element here in Chicago; doing my art, cooking for Tina, being a husband, a friend to many, and an asshole to others.

And that’s worth everything to me.

Reviewing old B&W photos with no dates on them



Today, Tina and I drove to the south side of the city to an area called Palos Park. I think.

We visited Tina’s aunt and uncle to share some recent black & white photos that Tina received from her brother. The photos were from Tina’s parents and grandparents, and many of the faces were of strangers or people we have no way of recognizing.

Tina thought it would be a good idea to share the shots with her family to see if they could identify them or if they would even want them, or copies of them.

It was a trip down memory lane, and her uncle was able to name many of the folks in the photos.

Among the pictures were envelopes filled with loved-one’s hair.

It’s great when you’re looking at photos, and you hear the stories about different people. Tina’s uncle would say, “Oh man, this guy here. Your mom’s uncle’s brother’s sister-in-laws brother’s cousin’s dad … I hated that guy … what an asshole.”

I love the candor.

I personally enjoyed looking at the quality of the photos. I mean, you have these strange families in their better-than-Sunday best posing in the once-in-a-lifetime photo that captured them in such crisp and beautiful black and white. Or the little photos that are thumbnails of street scenes. Kids playing in fire hydrant water. So much history with ghosts whom I’ll never ever meet. Or maybe met once at a wedding or funeral.

It was a lot of fun.

After the trip down memory lane, we enjoyed dinner together before driving 45 minutes back to the city.





When shooting a lot of reflections in a tight space, go with your gut


The photo above was from a shoot I found incredibly challenging. We were asked to shoot a space, a small space mind you, that showed the environment and the product within.

The products, dear reader, were incredibly reflective. Tina and I went great lengths to cancel reflections hoping that it would make the photos shine.

The available light, while constant in the space, was mixed when viewed like this. We had to schedule the shoot during office hours, pretty much insuring that we’d have the blue cast across the tops of the images.

I know I can crop in, but I feel this image actually gives a sense of place.

More images below. Enjoy.



Spark Energy might not be a scam, but their business practices are suspect … a review, a recorded customer service call, and you

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Like many Americans, we get door-to-door salesman from time to time. Last fall, we actually welcomed a roaming door-to-door sales guy in from Spark Energy. Why? Because the sales guy was a friend named Mike. I worked with his girlfriend on a photoshoot and I used to see him every once in a while at my local watering hole. I tend to put trust in friends, basically because I want the same in return.

Spark Energy is a company that claims to work with your energy utilities to provide a cheaper rate than actual utility can, by selling you gas or electricity at reduced costs.

The sales meeting was suspicious to both Tina and me, but in the end, we accepted what this guy Mike was saying was truthful, because who lies to their friends?

By the way, the funniest thing was that the sales guy was not allowed to step inside our apartment. He did the entire transaction from the threshold of our place. “But we’re friends,” I told him. “Come on in.”

“Nope. I can’t,” He explained. “I could get into trouble.”

After he explained what seemed to be a good deal,  we signed up last September. We didn’t see much of a difference in our bills. We were contracted to use them for a year, so I was fine with sticking it out till the end. We weren’t losing money after all either.

Status quo is fine with me.

And the early termination of the contract would be $50.

But then we received our gas bill this month for over double last month’s bill. Further examination showed that it was an adjustment fee from Spark Energy. Tina called People’s Gas first, and they said it was Spark’s charge. She called Spark, and a robotic customer service rep kept explaining that the charges were an accumulation of three month’s of Spark Energy charges. He explained that when Spark sent invoices to People’s Gas, PG rejected the invoices.

The charge after three months of rejection was for $112.63.

So if you divide $112 by 3 and add that to our monthly bill, that’s almost $40 more each month.

So Tina was on the line talking circles with the customer service rep trying to understand where this charge came from and how to avoid it in the future. While she was on the phone, I googled Spark Energy and found a lot of websites like this or this from BBB with lots of negative reviews. On a Consumer Affairs site, Spark Energy representatives responded to each complaint and made some resolution statement.

The Better Business Bureau has not accredited them.

So I should have done my homework, but — like I said — I want to trust my “friends.”

What ended up being the kicker was Spark Energy’s own website. Get this.

On their front page, they claim to have a 5.0 customer service approval rating. I’m not statistician, but I read that to mean that no one, not one person, has given a negative review.

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But if you go into their comments and ratings, there are many ratings lower ratings than a 5. They apparently only keep about 22 comments at a time, because I can’t imagine a company has only 22 comments in all its 10 years of business.

Below is in fact what their ratings are based on 22 responses at the time of this writing.

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So their site isn’t exactly a very ethically sound one, don’t you think?

The guy that Tina spoke to finally agreed to give her to a supervisor. And I took the phone from Tina. I learned a trick recently that helped with a dispute with our bank over a $50 charge: I record my phone call.

My hope was to get to the bottom of the charge. And when the guy told me what he told Tina, I would cancel my subscription to Spark Energy and also ask them to waive the $50 early termination fee.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t get that shit waived. If you keep these guys on the line until you’re blue in the face, you will get what you want.

So … if you can stand hearing me stumble and bumble over my words … I’m posting our conversation below. I feel a little badly about calling him a liar, but it was a moment of weakness. I needed more leverage, and I thought I had a better argument going into the “lie” statement.

You gotta give the guy props, though. He never lost his cool with me.

All in all, we got what we wanted: to get out of the contract and to get the fee waived.

This is certainly a lesson learned. Don’t trust door-to-door without doing my homework.

Do yours as well. If one of these guys comes to your door, just do a quick google of their company before signing on the dotted line.

I couldn’t edit the clip for this posting, but I’ll revise it soon and upload it. Edwin, the customer service supervisor doesn’t pickup until about 0:30.