THE PEOPLE AROUND | SUMMER PROJECT

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During the summer of 2017 I am working to document those who surround me. From May to August, I am shooting Ilford HP5 B&W film on a Koncia Reflex camera. I am shooting this theme for several reasons, but as I get further into the project it becomes more apparent why this project is vital to my photography and my life. I am shooting this project for three main reasons; to develop my film skills, document emotions and people, and have a gratitude for those who surround me. I want to go a little further in-depth of why this project has so much meaning and why I want to share. 

TO DEVELOP FILM AND PHOTOGRAPHY SKILLS

As you might see looking around my website or Instagram, I do not take a ton of pictures of people. While my portrait work is not awful, I simply never gained the desire to shoot people (with a camera or gun!). Yet, every time I take a portrait of someone I fall in love with what I capture. I am shooting this project for several photography skill objectives. 

  • Be able to properly expose film and not use major digital alterations. (Cropping only)
  • Capture genuine emotions through use of candid, documentary, and posed photography styles.
  • Be better at composing shots and quickly adjusting aperture, shutter, and focus.
  • Be patient and not posting photos 10 minutes after I take them.

DOCUMENT EMOTIONS AND PEOPLE

This aspect of the project ties into the next and became extremely vital during the month of May. The above photo is a candid portrait of my mother, it was taken four days before she had a heart attack. Fortunately, I was able to celebrate Mother's day with her and she has healed. We still have a long way to go with adjusting to medications, diet, and exercise requirements. This explains the images of the medicine and kitchen table. It hit me when I got my photos back from The Darkroom Lab, that this could have been my last photograph of my mother. Thankfully its not, even though it is a very appealing photo of her in her favorite spot. My Mother's heart attack and this photo solidified the importance of shooting this project and ensuring I capture those around me and the emotions surrounding life events. 

HAVE GRATITUDE

As a landscape and travel photographer, I am always seeking a new place to take photos of. This desire for new and interesting places overflows into my other photography. I have simply overlooked people that are involved in my everyday life. The people that have molded me into the man I am. With the scare of almost losing my mother, I cannot simply ignore the fact that these people are constantly pouring into my life. So last but not least, I want to look at the photos with extreme gratitude and be thankful for those that are around me.

I share this project not for my photo skills alone, but for the purpose of encouraging everyone to start noticing THE PEOPLE AROUND them. I will be posting a blog update anytime I upload more photos. Thanks for taking a look.

600,000 | Baylor update

I promised several blog posts over the next few months regarding, my good friend, Baylor's journey on the Appalachian Trail. This post is about 5 days late from the actual update so he is somewhere closer to the 400 mile mark than the 300 mile mark. I actually got to talk to him for quite a while on the phone. Let me start with a quick recap. Baylor started the Appachlain Trail on May 22, the day after he graduated, in Harper's Ferry. He is a Flip-flop hiker and is currently northbound (NOBO). He will complete the Northern half of the trail around August 4th, and then he will be meeting his Father in Harper's Ferry to hike southbound (SOBO). He will complete the 2,200 miles of the trail in early November. 

UPDATE: 

"Hey man I just crossed the Pennsylvania/New Jersey Border yesterday [June 8th]. I am meeting up with my family and spending some time with my trail family and actual family."

On the trail there is a tradition of adopting a trail name. This trail name is usually bestowed upon the the thru-hikers by their trail family (a group of hikers moving in the same direction around the same pace). Baylor has earned the trail name Keller, this is a reference to Helen Keller, apparently he has great listening skills. Trail names are unique because they often are bestowed after your trail family notices a weakness or a exceptional strength that marks your journey. I think this represents one of Baylor's hopes for this journey is for him to hear what God's plan is for his life.

I asked Baylor what his thoughts have been so far. He told me he has been most amazed by the pure generosity and love that people have shown him and his trail family. Another tradition is something called "Trail Magic". This is simply something that people living near the AT or hikers do in order to make thru-hikers journey easier. It can be grilled burgers by a road crossing, water in especially dry spots, or letting hikers hitch rides for free. While these seem to be small acts of generosity, they make a huge impact on those who are hiking the trail.

He also talked about how his trail family took him in. Especially when all they knew was he was a complete stranger, hiking in the same direction. Baylor said the love he has seen and felt on the trail is in stark contrast to what our small towns and world seem to hold. He talked about the fact that people listen to understand, not to leverage people. Everyone on the trail is seen as a person with a clean slate. No matter the past that haunts them, love covers the imperfections and makes deep impacts. Baylor's question was "Why can't the world show a love like this?". I don't have an answer to this deep question but I know as Baylor takes one step at a time, God will speak and Baylor will listen. This journey is just a short chapter in Baylor's story, yet it will have a deep impact in the rest of his story.

Baylor has asked for prayer for a few things. He asked that we continue to pray for him and his hike. Pray for his feet and blisters and strength. Pray for good weather. Pray for his trail family. I ask that you pray that and much more. Pray for Baylor to hear God. Pray for the deep lifelong impact of this journey.

Side note: The titles of the remaining updates will be numbers. This is number is not accurate but a representation of the number of steps Baylor has taken thus far on his journey. 

Quit Planning and Do It

As an avid hiker, I never leave the house without a map of where I am going, a compass, and cellphone. I usually know exactly what trail I will be on and approximately where the nearest road is. I am not saying that this planning is bad. This post is about planning that tends to take up our lives, planning that happens late at night, when we are bored in class or at work, and for me usually in a coffee shop. Planning can be extremely useful and necessary. Just as in the case above, when things go wrong on the trail I use the things I planned with to get me out of the sticky situation. 

The planning I am talking about is the planning that never gets to the action step. There is four essential steps to successfully plan. These are the essential steps to planning anything in life, whether a trip somewhere, a plan after college, or simply dinner plans. First, Have a Big Idea. Second, Research. Third, Write it Down. The fourth and final step is Do it. Many of us are amazing planners. Except for the fact, that we forget the fourth step. So here is a quick guide to become the best planner and doer.

HAVE A BIG IDEA

This is my favorite step. It is the one step where your inner child, explorer, dreamer, and heart gets to work the best. This is just like a pure brainstorming session. No negatives, no impossibilities, no no's. Only things that are BIG. Start brainstorming. Mark nothing of the list. Start writing them down. Whether is a spontaneous trip to Canada or a medical missions trip to Haiti, a career as a National Geographic photographer or Marketer for Fight the New Drug, or even a trip to the new coffee shop in town. Have the idea. There is no wrongs. Write them down.

RESEARCH

The Millennials are some of the best researchers. We have some of the best tools in the world at our finger tips. The research step doesn't have to be long and drawn out. It can be as easy as Google mapping the directions to Niagara Falls or the new coffee shop. It can be as in depth as finding the website and exploring every line of text. Whatever you find in your research is what can make your big idea possible. 

Sometimes as you research you might find that an impossibility comes up. It might be that your bank account doesn't have enough funds or that to get to your destination you need a helicopter. Who knows but there will be roadblocks. During your research you either need to find a way around them or write them down for future planning. 

WRITE IT DOWN

I have journal full of big ideas, research, and hundreds of details. I never know if I will complete everything in there. Personally I hope I never finish all my big ideas, because if I do that is going to be a sad day of no more dreaming. In my journal it is split into 3 parts, the first part is the BIG IDEAS section. It is full of dreams, places, and journeys I might do one day. This section is my compass, the direction I want to go. The second section is my RESEARCH section. It has a lot of scribbles and looks messy but I need it to work out every roadblock to my Big Ideas section. The last section looks very neat and has the research and finalized details of the Big Ideas. It is my map, where I want to go with the trail marked. I suggest you start a journal or journals of your plans and ideas. Write them all down so that way one day you can complete them.

DO IT

Sadly, we are too damn good at the first three steps of planning. We often forget to do this fourth and final step. But without the doing part of planning, all our journals are is a bunch of scribbles. I used to get really discouraged when older generations would say that the Millennials would never do anything worthwhile or even get off our phones to do something meaningful to society. As I look around at my fellow Millennials, I realize this is often the step we forget. We already have a vision of the world we want to raise the next generation in. We can see it. We even have ways to accomplish it. Yet, we have yet to take the first step in the direction of our Big Ideas.

In order to be the best planners, we have to close our journals, pack them in our backpacks, and walk out the door. So quit planning and do it. Find something in your big ideas section and do it. Even if it is that new coffee shop or microbrewery, find adventures in exploring your local town. Don't let your map have dark areas or your planning journal gather dust. Get off your phone and go do it.

One Step at a Time

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On a rainy Sunday, a good friend of mine started on a long journey through the woods. On Saturday, he graduated from high school with 45 college credit hours and a full-ride scholarship to a private college. Instead of doing the typical high school senior stuff on his last summer vacation before college. He decided to go on a 2,190 mile walk in the woods. Skipping the beach, the parties, and the non-sense most 18 year olds do.  His dream to hike the Appalachian Trail turned reality his last two years of high school.

Shortly after turning 16, Baylor and I went on his first backpacking trip. Everything and I mean everything went perfect. The weather was beautiful and warm, the fire started right away, the couscous and food we ate was amazing, we got up at 2 am and hiked to the summit and saw a beautiful red fox. One thing did not go the way we planned though. When we got to the summit it was covered in fog, you could barely tell that the sun was rising. It was cold and windy. We were hungry and couldn't even get our breakfast cooked. So after a few minutes of shivering we started our return. While that summit trip did not go as planned. Baylor's first backpacking trip went down in the books as perfect.

Every time I take a walk in the woods, I learn something new about our Creator. On our "perfect" trip, I realized that our Creator is not on some high mountain somewhere 24/7. Often times our Creator is in the valleys, down in the trenches with us. Even when we think times are perfect, our Creator walks alongside us ready for the first sign of trouble. Our Creator revealed Himself and His character in a small red fox that morning. The red fox probably walked with us for several hundred feet before we heard her. She quietly walked alongside us. Almost as if to ensure our safe passage. When we heard her, we turned and stood still. Silent. She was looking at us and we were staring back amazed with her beauty. Her blood orange coat, her dark eyes reflecting our headlamps, her paw cocked ready to take that next step.

Even though the end of our summit trip ended in cold and foggy weather. I am thankful for that fog. I think often expect to see our Creator at the tops of mountains, we like this concept that the closer we are to the sky, the closer we are to Him. However, on our treks in the valleys our Creator is with us there. He was also in the bloody cold wind at the summit. Our Creator is a beauty in which sometimes we have to be quiet and still to see. Other times he is so present that it overwhelms our senses.

As Baylor embarks on this opportunity of a lifetime I pray that our Creator is revealed to him one step at a time. I pray that when Baylor's body is exhausted that our Creator's beauty and power lures him another step. I pray that Baylor sees beauty on the mountaintops just as he sees beauty in the valleys.

Throughout the last half of 2017, Baylor will be on the Appalachian trail. I have asked him to occasionally send me updates, God moments, thoughts, and revelations on his journey. Some I will share here, others you will need to sit down and have a conversation with him. Pray for Baylor's journey and his safety. Our Creator has big plans for my friend, my brother.

Living Intentionally

There is a lot of keywords buzzing around right now with the term minimalism. A lot of people shrug off minimalism as some counter-culture movement that has gained speed because of a handful of bloggers and a Netflix documentary. With this movement comes a renewed interest in tiny homes, getting rid of many of your possessions, and even mind tricks to clean your brain. I have heard many keywords over the past three years, sometimes I even find that they are appropriate in the situation.

Intentional living is one of the key phrases that seems to be the poster-child of this minimalism movement. However, I do not know if it is a some phrase coined for marketing or the reality of what minimalism is at its core. Since I became serious about pursuing this minimalism thing, I have dug through tons of information, yet at the core seems to be this concept. A concept that almost seems silly. Like who in the world does not live intentionally? Are you living intentionally? This is a question that has to answered individually. We can not group people, religions, lifestyle, or any traditional demographic to answer this question for the masses.

Often times as I am scrolling through minimalism blogs and anti-minimalism articles, I find this grouping, consumerism versus minimalism. However, they are not mutually exclusive. Everyone is a consumer, so how can minimalists be exclusive and not consume goods? The answer is we can't. Minimalism is not a counter-consumerism or counter-culture movement. Minimalism is movement that believes that consumers should make decisions based on value.

Do you work 50 hours a week to afford a fancier car? Do you buy the newest phone every time it comes out because it is the "new thing"? Do you stress over your work at home? I know that these answers are not going to be the same for everyone. For me, I have a car that drives well and so I decide to work a 40 hour week to go to a coffee shop or hang out with friends instead of working 10 extra hours for a better car. I keep up with technology, so I value new technologies and want to have the "new thing". These decisions do not make me a minimalist or a consumer. I am both. Minimalism just provides a framework for me to evaluate and to question the value of products, time, and mental work.

Intentional living is not a key phrase. Intentional living is about questioning the value that you place on things, people, places, and time. Consumerism uses price and social value to adjust these values. Minimalism uses price, time, and other measurements to adjust these values. Minimalism is not a bunch of weirdos living in tiny homes, off the grid, making their own clothes. Minimalism is a movement that encourages a framework in which to value and make decisions about the world around us. Living Intentionally changes person to person and minimalism is one of the many ways to gauge the intentionality of your decisions in your life.

When Things Fall Apart

We all know that plans, dreams, and visions never pan out the way we expect. If you are still the optimistic twenty-something, I am sorry to ruin this for you. We have all been there. We plan an amazing trip somewhere and then something pops up and forces you to spend the money you were saving. We dream of being astronauts, doctors, and world travelers then school gets in the way and 9 years of school no longer seems appealing or the dangers of the world keeps you in Small-town, USA. We envision a world without homeless, hunger, and war but decision-makers seem content with their lot in life and don't care about the millions suffering.

When things fall apart our plans, dreams, and visions seem to fade into the past and gain a nostalgic feeling for being a "childhood" thought.
When things fall apart our frustrations turn into stress, our stress turns into failure, our failure turns into depression.
When things fall apart we feel lonely and absent from the world we dreamed.
When things fall apart we no longer care to dream these lofty ideals.
When things fall apart we lose the childhood we held onto.
When things fall apart our hearts seem to dull and slow.

So when things fall apart, why do allow this to happen. We know that we are not content with our shattered plans and dreams. So why not change that? Why not open the door beside the closed one? Why not walk the other direction? Why not find a new opportunity in the pieces of our shattered plans and dreams?

We often find it easier to sit down in our messes and just pout. But that doesn't seem to be the purpose of our lives. People are resilient. Some of the greatest people alive and in history seemed to flourish in failure. They were set apart because they would get up no matter how hard their plans, dreams, and visions were shattered. They took their mess and found a way to not let their hearts dull and slow. It is frustrating and hard to get up when things fall apart, but success lies in the standing after a hard fall. Success is earned when you stand again and again.

Daily Bread

In 2015, I found a musician named Strahan. Strahan is a New Zealand artist that is self-described as a Psalmist, Storyteller, and a Traveler. I instantly connected with the poetry of his songs. One song in particular caught my heart and became a psalm that I would sing out to my Creator on a daily basis. It served as a reminder of Whom my strength comes from. It served as a reminder of who I am and who He is. Daily Bread became the song of my heart.

One thing I particularly love about Strahan is that every song he writes is easy to learn, lyrically deep, and speaks Truth. Strahan aims to create modern day psalms, that speak Truth and carry "hints of the divine".

I believe that our Creator speaks truth through our songs and words of praise. Something unique about Daily Bread, for me, is that I understand yet know this modern psalm speaks Truth I have yet to truly understand. After I found Strahan, I went on a camping trip with some of my best friends. I made them listen to this song because I knew that there was something hiding in the lyrics and with their spiritual guidance I think one day I will fully comprehend what is meant by the second verse.

Now don't get me wrong, it already has meaning, but I know because of the Truth of the lyrics, that the line "There has been a harbour where the tide sets in Built upon each other are the rocks my friend" will one day give me a truth so deep and wide. As I write this, I feel like I am writing like a mystic, but instead just as David's Pslams I know that Strahan's Pslams hold meaning deeper than I have yet to comprehend. Ipray for an understanding. I pray to have this psalm as the song of my heart. Even when the chords no longer ring out, this song will be on my tongue.

Anyways, give Strahan a listen. Go to his website. Follow him. And let his modern-day psalms speak truth into your heart.

Ballagàrraidh: an awareness that you aren't at home

First, I want to encourage all of you to read this, then go to The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows Youtube page and spend an hour of your day. John Koenig is a writer of original dictionary of made-up words. Yet, his words speak to the humanity inside of us. The definitions are felt by many, yet indescribable to others.

During John's Tedtalk at TEDxBerkley, he describes why he is writing a dictionary of made-up words. John describes how every man has this need for words. We need words to contain us, to define ourselves. Yet as society we are stuck in a vicious cycle of overusing, detract, and numbing ourselves to the meaning we have assigned to words. We box ourselves in by using words. We define ourselves by using terms like, man, woman, child, parent, millennial, gen x, American, human. We set a standard that we can't break these words. We can't climb out of these boxes and walk between. Those who are outside of these boxes of words are "in transition", "lost", "crazy". Yet all of these words we describe ourselves with, are made up. Yes they are fake. Every word on this website. Yet they hold meaning. A meaning different then what I might intend, but a meaning true in itself. John Koenig's Tedtalk is amazing and a must-see.

One of the words that John has created and defined is Ballagàrraidh. Watch this video definition. I can not compile more words to justify my use of this space. But, I want you to spend some time today, finding a word by The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows that describes some recent feelings.