Life is made of moments: a series of events all strung together like beads on a chain.
You think you remember most of the moments, but you don’t; none of us do. We remember just a tiny fraction of them. Of course, we always seem to remember the not so nice moments: the time your toddler pulled the tablecloth off a fully set table, sending your heirloom china crashing to the ground, or got his head stuck between two iron posts in a fence at Disneyland, or the morning you were running late for an appointment and backed your car up into your mother-in-law’s car…IN YOUR OWN DRIVEWAY. Or when your 3 year old daughter hid in the middle of a clothes rack at Target, sending your wife into fits of hysteria, or the time you arrived home from a vacation to find wet drywall from the ceiling above on the floor of the kitchen. (Yeah, you can probably guess what happened there)
Yes, these things we remember well, even when we wish we didn’t.
Thankfully, we also remember the precious moments, the times that make our heart ache with love just thinking of them. But regardless of the event, one thing is pretty much the same: the BEST moments of our life are made up of family. That’s why I love what I do: I get to watch as a family makes a moment.
I consider that no small thing.
There was once a boy named Peter Pan. The storybooks say he lived in Neverland, but the storybooks are wrong, for Peter lived in the Santa Fe National Forest. With his fabric knife and boot covers, he climbed rocks and jumped streams and stood on large boulders and crowed.
In the middle of a perfectly ordinary Sunday afternoon, Peter encountered a beautiful and marvelous sight: two fairies, one dressed in purple, the other in pink. The fairies were unsure of Peter and so he told them stories to make them laugh:
And gave them flowers…
And the fairies fell in love with Peter. The purple fairy held her flowers tightly and smelled them…
While the Pink Fairy was content to sit quietly on a log and pick the soft petals from her daisy…
The fairies looked up to Peter as their friend and protector, and Peter took good care of his fairies and loved them with his whole heart.
Peter and the fairies went on many marvelous adventures and took magic with them wherever they went…
It’s a word we use a lot, don’t we? We use that adverb as a goal for ourselves, telling ourselves that when a certain event transpires, it will lead us to another event.
“When I lose weight, I’ll treat myself to a makeover.”
“When the kids get a little older, we’ll take a family picture.”
“When things calm down at work, we’ll take a vacation.”
When always talks about what we will do in the future and it is always predicated on something else happening, first. Weight loss, grown children, a crazy work schedule…so many whens. I’m guilty of this, myself. I’m a checklist maker and I always have goals I want to accomplish prior to moving on to that next thing. I tend not to allow myself to move forward until X,Y, and Z are finished first. And while goals are good to have, they also come with an unexpected consequence; they can easily overshadow the NOW if we let them.
As a portrait photographer, I see this all the time. We tend to put off taking, say, that family picture until a time WHEN life is less busy. And, quite often, that time never comes. And the WHEN slips by when we aren’t looking. And then, the horrible byproduct of an unfulfilled WHEN kicks in; it’s called REGRET. I think REGRET is actually part of the word WHEN, it’s just silent and you don’t hear it until the WHEN is long gone.
All one has to do is look at our children, at how quickly they grow and change, to realize the importance of NOW. Ever look back at photographs of your children and think, “Wow, I thought they were SO big when we took this.” Yeah, I do it all the time.
So, if you’re waiting for that WHEN, maybe stop waiting, and embrace the NOW, instead. It’s easier than you think and the best part? It’s always served with a side of no-regrets.
NOW, I think I’m going to go have that other half of the peanut butter cup I was saving for WHEN lunch for over. 🙂
As photographers, we all have our own style and, usually, it is based on our own personal preference. In photography, our style is our voice; it is the look and feel and attitude that we put out to the world in our images. Our style says more about us as artists than most anything.
For some photographers, style is easy. It’s like breathing-they know what they want and that’s what they create. For others, it is a constant struggle to find their voice. I have always fallen into the former category. Whether that’s good or bad, I still don’t know, but I’ve always been sure of what I want:
I want graceful form.
I want warm genuine expressions that start from the heart and make it all the way up to the eyes.
I want sparkling light that drapes a subject.
I want color that looks ALIVE.
I want something that does not look like it came out of a camera phone.
And, I want simplicity. A camera, a reflector, a subject, and light. That’s it.
And to be honest, I feel a little bad sometimes. When I see others on-location shooting with tons of gear and lights and umbrellas and cameras strapped to their person, I look down at my camera and reflector and think, “Man, I hope my clients aren’t wondering why I’m not using all that.” I own all that gear, sure, but I learned a long time ago that, for me, it becomes a hindrance; it gets in between me and my subject.
But I’ve been in the photography business a long time. And, as any artist will tell you, it’s important that you push yourself to stay fresh and cutting edge in your work, so recently, I tried something a little different. I processed an image and did a total 180; I changed up the color, look and feel of my normal style. I blew out skin tones; pumped up the cyan and desaturated the entire thing. It felt strange to me, and I wasn’t loving it, but I thought, perhaps, that I should consider it.
As the image was sitting on the desktop, my daughter walked by. She paused for a moment, in between bites of pizza, and said, “That’s different looking.”
“What do you think of it?” I asked.
Without missing a beat, she said, “It looks like an Instagram photo.”
Which is exactly what I had been thinking. Lesson learned. Stick to the style you love.
I stopped off at the gas station last night and, rather than pay at the pump, I headed inside to get something to drink. I glanced over at the $400 million PowerBall sign in the window and thought, “Man, can you imagine?”
I grabbed my iced tea and as I put it down on the counter, the sweet little woman behind the counter asked if I’d like to buy a PowerBall ticket. Now, I don’t buy lottery tickets. Not that I have anything against them, but I am simply never in a place to buy them; I’m usually outside at the pump, going, “Hurry..hurry…hurry…” in between sessions.
But last night was different, so I paid my $4, went home, and declared to my wife that I bought PowerBall tickets; I told her I felt lucky. She responded by laughing and saying no one buys lottery tickets who does NOT feel lucky. Good point.
And, because you did not hear on the news this morning: “Albuquerque Photographer Wins PowerBall” you’ve probably guessed I didn’t win. Not even close. I think I got one number and that was it. But it got me thinking why we buy lottery tickets to begin with. In New Mexico,a portion of those lottery dollars go to Legislative Lottery Scholarships, paying 100% of tuition at more than 20 public colleges, junior colleges and universities in New Mexico, which is all a Good Thing, but what compels US to buy them?
The hope of winning a lot of money, of course.
And having won, are we happier? Well, probably at first, as we pay off bills and take vacations; maybe buy a new car. Or five of them. But what about when the newness wears off? What then? Studies have shown that, in a nutshell, if you weren’t happy before winning the lottery, odds are good that once the novelty of having money has worn off, you will resume your unhappiness.
Because what truly makes for happiness can not be bought or sold. It is being loved and loving in return; doing the work you love every day, appreciating the small things, maintaining perspective. And, for guys like me, it’s taking pictures of people. Connecting with clients. Taking a family, a high school senior, a wedding, and creating something people love and are excited about. A photograph they will have the rest of their life of the people who mean the most to them.
So, as much as I would have liked to have had at least a few of those winning PowerBall numbers, it doesn’t matter. I will kiss my family goodbye as I head out the door, enter my studio, pick up my camera, begin my day and know that, in spite of having pretty much all the wrong numbers, I really DID win the lottery.