Hanging on for dear life during neck-snapping re-trajectories … or something


I feel like I’ve aged four years in the last four months.

One day I start the day with meditation. The next, I start the day in a full-on mental sprint. Gosh, I guess sometimes it’s a full-on physical sprint.

Today is somewhere in between.

My company, Wittefini, is busier than it’s ever been. My personal ambitions are occupying the hell out of my so-called free time.

This is good.

While I work most hours of my week, these hours don’t feel so “worky”. I’m doing what I love. It just happens to be billable to someone else.

The driving force of positivity in my life, my wife Tina, balances me. Even if I work all night, the next day we work out. Spend us time. Spend time together. Take our dog Talulah for a walk.

Our schedule is unlike anyone’s I know. There’s no clearly defined work schedule. There’s no right or wrong place to sit down and work. There’s no clearly defined free time.

I’m not sure if it’s good or bad. But I know it’s not completely awful.

Lately, my goals are to remain positive despite all the fucking chaos around me. Politics will drive a man crazy, and then some. Other people’s views will then send that same man to the edge of oblivion.

This “positivity” is no small feat.

I went through an angrier period a few years back. To me it wasn’t so much anger, as it was the swinging pendulum that I was riding at the time. I needed to let go of a lot of poisonous ideas and thoughts from yesteryear and I was confused and desperate to let go.

Anger to others was my inability to accept others failures.

Anger to others was my perception that all people strive for perfection, to make the world better, to be better people to their loved ones, to call, to nurture relationships, to want to be present.

Anger to others was my pervasive disappointment.

Negativity can be perceived by others in so many ways. I couldn’t and still can’t paint other people’s perceptions. I can’t control others ideas or responses. That much is true.

Declaring a state of “positivity” is basically admitting I’m not always positive and it’s a struggle to be so. It’s like god declaring you can have no other gods before him. We can only assume there are other gods that can be considered for the job.

My other ambition right now, that just may kill me, is to create more content.

Tina and I are, apparently, as barren as one of those landscapes on Mars.

Legacy takes a different form with me.

And while insecurity and self-doubt sometimes prevent me the idea I’ll reach the level of — say — notoriety that I might dream of sometimes, my ambitions seem to want to push me to try.

Do. Or Do not. There is no fucking try. 

Lately, my perspective is a concentration on Tina, Talulah, my cat Zoe, and being/becoming a role model, force of good, strong creative influence. I want to work with groups. I want to collaborate. I want to leave earth better than the way I found it.

And concentrating on negative and not doing something positive about it … that shit was killing my so-called soul.

If I could do it all over again, I’d likely do it all the same way, though.

Why?

I accept the way I’ve done this life recipe is right. I’m at the dinner table of all I’ve cooked, and I see what’s wrong, see what tastes can improve, and will cook the next meal marginally better until one day, most courses taste great.

For the first time in what feels like ever, I’m not concentrating on perfection.

This is big for me. Concentrating on perfection is creatively, mentally and physically paralyzing. It’s a preventer of all things artistic, loving, beautifying and doing.

I want to “do more.”

Be more.

Going at it alone is the wrong choice. There are very few successful artists, people in general, who found any level of success by their lonesome. And this idea banged me on the head several years ago, and now it’s just starting to make any sense.

So onward and upward with “doing more,” “productivity,” and “positivity.”

Shake it up and throw it on the barbie.

Let that shit rest when it’s cooked and serve it with a smile and a hug.

Attempting to document our world via vLog


Over the last few years, I’ve attempted to vLog a little. They’ve always been intermittent attempts to do some kind of behind the scenes or show a snippet of our lives.

When I slowed and basically stopped blogging here, it left a large hole in my, um, spirit, that I’ve since wanted to fill.

In November, I decided that I would produce a weekly vLog — at least — for as long as I can do it.

I’ve been somewhat successful with it, even though the vLogs themselves are far from “professional” video productions. They’re pretty gorilla really. Things I’d never include or do on a pro job, I let slide with these vLogs.

My goal, first and foremost, is to document my life as a professional photographer, a husband, and friend to about two people.:)

I’m not getting any younger. And as the years pass and I look back, the only road I’m paving comes in the form of work for clients with a spattering of personal work. But I’m absent in my own life, because my face rarely shows up in front of the camera.

In full transparency, these vLogs are incredibly influenced by YouTuber Casey Niestat. I’ve even lifted some of his approaches to telling stories from his playbook.

What I like about Casey is that he’s an incredibly creative and prolific content creator, but he does it in a way that’s true to his personality. Love him or hate him, he’s a positive guy and goes out of his way to present himself with a sense of lovable neutrality.

This blog certainly started as a divisive voice and it ended up dividing parts of my personal/familial life that I wished it didn’t do. It wasn’t that I wanted to be anonymous, but I also didn’t want familial interaction to influence my views.

My views regarding the supernatural remain the same. Those views are largely kept quiet except during short discussions with Tina.

Recently, Casey included a quote that means a lot to him. It was, “Never let perfect be the enemy of good enough.”

This is a perfectionist’s conundrum. When I release something to the world, I’m endlessly critical of it. I’ve had to learn, through my career, that nothing I do will ever be “perfect” per se and that when clients and others like something, it’s okay to let go of self criticism that leads to self deprecation, insecurities and even creative paralysis.

The way I see many creative people — including myself — is that they/we are paralyzed by fears and insecurities, even perfectionism. They have a zillion ideas and even criticize those who create, while their own work is minimal or prevented thanks to those fears.

I’m not sure any thing ever gets any easier in this regard.

My next goal is to really push my personal envelope. Put myself out there with more gusto. More Oomph. I think there’s a formula of likability + crazy that creatives must have to set them apart.

I don’t define that crazy as a pejorative. I think there’s good and bad crazy. It’s that je ne sais quoi of likability and anomalous something something. Or maybe I already have it and I just need to keep plowing forward.

 

The other reason I’m doing it is because I want to be a content creator.

I’d much rather make something for someone else to consume than to consume something.

That’s why I love cooking. That’s why I love photography. That’s why I love making motion pictures. That’s why I don’t like sitting absently in front of a TV.

I haven’t seen a movie in the theater in years.

That’s right. I haven’t seen Star Wars yet.

And it’s killing me.

If anyone is still out there, I’ll do my best to at least publish my vLogs here. Gosh, I miss writing as well.

Before I forget, Happy Fucking New Year, to you and you and you.

Let’s do this #2016.

 

Reviewing old B&W photos with no dates on them


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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.

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


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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.

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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.

When you hit a creative deficiency, make a casual shoot appointment with a beautiful model


 

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It doesn’t take long for someone like me to feel the sluggishness that results from a creative deficiency. It’s a time of frowns and repeating the lines, “Gosh, I need to photograph something soon that isn’t a bland cracker of a project.”

We get a lot of projects. Some are creative. Many aren’t. Lots of people’s and company’s needs for content aren’t much more than things that feel cookie cutter. And while we make great strides to work with folks who need more creative content, it’s dampening to the part of me that some call the soul. You say soul. I say creativity.

As a photographer, I have lots of friends on social media that are photographers, models, hair and makeup artists. I see their work all the time, and it loads up another pile of jealousy onto my creativity depleted soul.

Then I remind myself, the difference between wanna-be artists and artists is ideas versus execution. Lots of people have ideas. Few have the strength to pursue them, let alone follow through.

So reached out to Andrea to do a short casual shoot, two hours tops. Her time was valuable as well — because in two days from this shoot she moved to China to model for months.

My goal for this shoot was to shoot all f2.8. Find poses and then push the focus point to be SPOT ON. Focus is something I prioritize anyway. But I do it with more depth of field, f6 to f11. The depth of field plain on my Hasselblad set at f2.8 is closer to f2.0 on my DSLR with a similar focal length. And hitting the mark is often made more difficult because of a minor move by the model or camera.

Andrea here is a true professional, and we were able to work with the minutiae until we landed beautiful shots, spot on focus … all of which were done within a short two-hour window.

The image below is probably one of my favorite shots in a LONG time. It’s all natural light, and my only criticism is that I didn’t have her do an implied nude, as I’d love to see her decoupage as well. I cropped it out, because what she is wearing over one shoulder and it really distracted from her face.
Andrea Susan Bush, February 2015

Andrea Susan Bush, February 2015

The Growlers take JBTV by storm


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Last week, I photographed a portrait and snapped a couple concert shots of The Growlers at JBTV.

The portrait portion of our day was a little on the chaotic side. I’m not sure they heard a word I said when asking them to pose in a particular way. When that’s the case, you get what you get.

And that’s what I got.

According to Wikipedia:

The band is known for its heavy use of effects, including voice effects, especially reverb, and mixes the sound of the Californian rock of the late ’60’s, with psychedelia creating what they call ‘Beach Goth’.

The band’s sound has been described as “a trademark style of music that somehow combines country, surf, pop, and rock”.[7]


The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2

The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2

The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2

The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2

The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2

The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2

The Growlers performs at JBTV Music Television on February 28, 2