Out THe Door Without A Plan ( Thanksgiving morning at daybreak is driving nirvana.)

1/200 sec at f/8.0 ISO 200 168 mm.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I started the day by getting up early grabbing the camera bag, the drone bag and heading out the door before sunrise. My goal was to capture a scene that would convey “Thanksgiving in The Country.” Or something close to that, however I knew going out the door without a plan is a horrible idea. And it was.

But not all was lost, because being out early on the empty roads was like therapy. It gave me time to think. For whatever reason driving for me is relaxing and driving when you’re the only one on the road is like heaven. Thanksgiving morning at daybreak is driving nirvana. After a while I could care less about capturing my Thanksgiving photo. I was driving along the Delaware River and I started thinking about the upcoming Christmas season and that thought lead to the “New Year” coming and that thought lead to “what are my goals” and then I… well let’s just say “I was lost,” like literally lost for a moment. Not really lost, but more like “hey I need to turn back” and head home because I do have a holiday dinner to prepare lol.

So I did just that and as I was heading back I kept taking roads that lead towards home, but just not the usual roads. And then I came across this scene with the horses and the farm in the distance. I actually turned the car around so I could shoot without getting out of the car (I’m lazy lol). First I sat and marveled the scene and took it all in. It was about 25°F so the air was crisp; the sun was on the rise and not a cloud in the sky. The foreground was still in dark shadow so this in my opinion made it “not” the perfect shot, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

I’m not a “horse” person per say, but I love to see them grazing, I love the fences and farms are part of me because I grew up on a dairy farm. Farms are beautiful and here in my part of New Jersey they are getting far and few between.

So there it is, my Thanksgiving Day photo and the day was more productive than I first though because I started planning out my goal for 2018. I have more thought to put into them before I solidify them and write them down. I truly want 2018 to be a great year in my life and as for my photography and videography… it’s going to the next level.

Photo notes: 1/200 sec at f/8.0 ISO 200 168 mm. Then I edited in Photoshop and applied a few LUTs.

2K17 Goals (I would go “old school” and sit and look at magazines for inspiration,)

Nixlot Dameus 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Nixlot Dameus
1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 24mm

So last year I had set a goal to create portfolio quality images with “impact.” Now I felt (at the time) I had some great images in my portfolio, however the goal is always to add more. Now with that said; you cannot just keep adding, if you put something in you have to take something out and my personal preference is to keep the portfolio around 20 images and no more. After looking at ten images, a person is either going to interested or not. If they’re really interested they will look at ten more and that is why I feel the number 20 works. So creating new images that are portfolio quality is a daunting task because I am actually competing against myself. I have to make something good enough to knock something I already love out of the portfolio. This is like killing a child to make way for another. A horrible comparison I know, but I love the images I create and I don’t want to see them leave and go to the “back-shelf” so-to-speak.

I knew going into this that if I could come out with three great images I would consider myself lucky, two great images and I would feel accomplished, and one great image I would be happy.

Well let me tell you “happy” came quickly, Saturday January 16, 2016 to be exact. That is the day that a young lion named Nixlot Dameus walked into the studio. Just a mere 17 years old this amazing young man not only looked amazing he embodies “overcoming the odds.” Soft spoken and serious as a heart attack about what we were there for, Nixlot was focused and serious and that made me feel confident that what I had planned would actually come to be. The image you see posted here is “exactly” what I had envisioned. To have a seventeen year old kid whom I never met before and who is not a model walk into the studio and do exactly what I say is not only amazing, but also very gratifying. This image came at the very end of the shoot as is almost always the case with my shoots. I knew when I left the studio I had a “keeper” and I hadn’t even downloaded the images yet.

LaydeeFly Reyes

LaydeeFly Reyes

Now meanwhile I should say that this goal started on January 1, 2016, yes that’s right on New Year’s Day I was out shooting the cold and windy streets of Bethlehem PA with a local model LaydeeFly. The shoot was fun and it was cold, but the fun outweighed the cold. There were a few amazing images that came from her shoot, the one of her sitting on the street corner was a favorite of mine for sure.

Mina Santiago

Mina Santiago

Then the very next day with teen model Mina I was shooting of a forest in Tinicum Township PA and it was even colder than the day before. I did make one creative edit from that shoot that actually got a lot of attention on social media. Still I was looking for another good image, the year was young, but I wanted something to happen.

 

 

Ice_Princess-4802Instagram

The “Ice Princess” shoot with Kendall seemed promising, however due to time constraints the shoot did not last as long as I would have liked. But there was still a great shoots that came from that shoot. The portrait shots were awesome and I had one creative edit that I really liked and I felt was decent enough to put in the portfolio. So up until now I had the stellar image of Nixlot and then spring gave way to summer and I was getting worried because I had nothing in the works that would seem to yield a great image. Sure I was working doing paid shoots, but they never yield stellar shots.

 

ryan_5_15-6591-edit-2

Model Ryan McNally

Then came Ryan McNally and again I gained a stellar image that got good reception on social media. But… Now my two best images of the year were in the same genre of male fitness and I want diversity, something with a punch. I needed to kick in an afterburner or something, I wanted… I couldn’t think anymore and it was eating at me, day in and day out. I didn’t talk about it much, hell I didn’t even blog about it. It was almost like writer’s block or something. I would go “old school” and sit and look at magazines for inspiration, I looked on Pinterest till my eyes were ready to bleed. Inspiration!  I need you so bad and I cannot find you. Then it happened, just like finding love when you least expect it and in the least likely of places. On

 

 

 

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 88mm Model Nicole Gallagher, Makeup Artist Jade Alexandra Brown, Photographer Richie Smith Jr

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 88mm
Model Nicole Gallagher, Makeup Artist Jade Alexandra Brown, Assistant Makeup Jordan Brown, Photographer Richie Smith Jr

Facebook I see a post about entertainment news and I see the image of the “new” Pennywise the clown, the villain from the Stephen King Novel “IT.” THAT’S IT! A clown and I had been thinking about a clown “crawling on a floor” (strange I know) but this would be even better. Now with all this said; I did not want to just create a duplicate of the new Pennywise, but rather I wanted to take that concept of a… I don’t even know what to call it… “Evil clown” no that sounds to generic. “Sinister Clown” sounds more like it. So I wanted to take this so-called sinister clown look to another level, same as they have with Pennywise. They made the new Pennywise look more like a doll with his wardrobe, like and old doll from the renaissance or Victorian era. So hey why not shoot my Sinister Clown in a renaissance context, such as was done with the Super Heroes by French photographer Sacha Goldberge.

And so it was to be, but this look would take a whole lot more than a model and a makeup artist. This would be a lot of work. So how to you climb a mountain? “One step at a time” and that is what we did. The clown images were stellar and I was satisfied. I would now put myself in that extremely “Lucky” category and I can now say I accomplished that goal. That my friend, is a great feeling.

So here we are in 2017 and what are my goals? I have set a goal for just two stellar images this year, concepts are in the works and who knows maybe more than two will come, but I will be satisfied with two. More-so the bigger goal is to get more content on the YouTube channel and to increase subscribers. So in-order to do that I need to improve my vlogging skills and I started working on that at the end of last year. Along with vlogging skills a drone will be needed and it may be time to update the DSLR… we’ll see. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading. Have a great day.

Soul Searching for Goals (Now I know every click of the shutter cannot be a winner)

Nixlot Dameus 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Nixlot Dameus
1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Soul searching… Something that I do about this time every year, however this year is a little different because I will be traveling to Thailand. The trip to Southeast Asia is something I would like to do every year but between jobs, plastic people and a budget I can only go every other year and that really hurts. I have family there now, a family I deeply love and if you were to imagine only ever being able to actually be with them every two years… well that hurts.

So why the soul searching? Truth be told it is not all about family, but rather this is the time of year I start to think about my goals for next year. Now if you have followed this blog (I know that is hard because I am the world’s worst blogger) you know I do not make New Year resolutions. Why? Because resolutions fail, but goals lead to dreams. I set goals for many things in my life, I didn’t always do this because I did not know how to or even why to set a goal. However, through the help of a wonderful friend who really took the time to care about me many years ago and explained and showed me how to work at goals, needless to say I cannot thank him enough. Not just for sharing his wisdom, but just for caring about me… priceless.

So because this blog is for the most part about my photography and all other things “creative” in my life I will share a little bit of my creative goal setting with you. And I will not share my deep personal goals… the messy things in my life like “to stop eating peanut butter out of the jar” or “my plans to over throw the world.”

Let’s look at 2015’s goals. The main creative goal I had set was to “create images with impact.” And what that meant was to create an image/s that would just make people stop and look, hopefully a “wow factor” kicking in. Now I know every click of the shutter cannot be a winner, but I wanted to really get three to four awesome images in a style unlike any of the images I currently had in my portfolio. Well… I did it and it wasn’t easy, it just took a lot of planning. I think the Image of Nixlot Dameus was killer as was the Sinister Clown. I had other great images too and I really do feel that by setting a goal and putting importance to it really allowed me to reach up and accomplish the task I sought.

So on the years I go to Thailand I have a long and peaceful talk with myself, no distractions and with my mind at ease I look at the new year coming and contemplate what I would like to do. I can tell you this year my creative goals will take a different direction. Yes, I will continue with my photography (that is a given), but I think that next year’s goal is to focus on the YouTube Channel and my vlogging skills. I know another area of my life that will see a change in direction is my catering business. After 20 years I am so fucking bored to death mere words could not express the trauma that is created when I have to think about dealing with a catering customer. It’s like wearing the same pair of shoes for 20 years and that is all I have to say about that. However something happened last year that changed me and that was when I put together a small fundraiser for a man and his family. It was a challenge and it was emotional for me on the inside and that might just have saved me from throwing the catering business to the lions. …we’ll see.

So in two days I set forth on a trip to Southeast Asia to visit family and heal my mind. All the while thinking about and setting my goals for 2017.

Thank you so much for reading.

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Moving Forward for 2016 (But having a big set of guns never hurts to keep the world around you in line.)

Nixlot Dameus  1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Nixlot Dameus
1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Keeping true to my goal for creating images with impact for 2016 I worked with an incredible young man yesterday. Nixlot Dameus a seventeen year old athlete from Philadelphia Pennsylvania.  Nixlot immigrated to the USA from Haiti in 2007 and he has an amazing story to tell, more about that later.

I found Nixlot when he left a comment on one of my Instagram posts several months back and I started to follow him. I found him very interesting and I could see from his postings that he was strongly dedicated to his bodybuilding and weight training. His physique is obvious proof that this young man is motivated and that is what I want for a photo shoot. I want “motivated” people and I want them for a few reasons. One reason is motivated people are usually on time and come prepared, they are interesting and always on the move and most of all they have a great attitude towards life in general. I feel making an impactful image takes more than just a good camera & lens. All the editing in the world cannot add the impact that somebody like Nixlot brings to a project. I want to promote my photographic & editing capabilities and what better way than to get interesting and motivated subjects in front of my camera. So Nixlot did not disappoint at all and we had a very creative shoot. I would like to thank my friend Brendan for offering up his studio for the project and for his amazing input and ideas, a great help indeed.

If you’re reading this post, (obviously you are lol) just take a moment to remember the name “Nixlot Dameus” because I have a very good feeling you are going to see and hear about Nixlot’s accomplishments in the not so far off future. Nixlot has an amazing story about young little boy who felt the cold evil wrath of street bullies when he first arrived in Philly. In a way it is not a new story as I think we have all heard about people who overcome being bullied through whatever means or route they chose to escape it. But in my opinion there is only one true way to disarm a bully and that is a face to face stare down. Nixlot flipped the tables on the bullies and I think it is fair to say that no street bully in his right mind would dare cross this young man. In-fact while talking with Nixlot he said he now trains some of the guys who used to bully him. There really is a lot to be said for the power of love in this world, love yourself, love your family & god, and love all others too. But having a big set of guns never hurts to keep the world around you in line.

Nixlot is already an accomplished record-setting power lifting and bodybuilding athlete at his young age of 17 years old. Read more about his story here http://articles.philly.com/2015-11-01/sports/67904486_1_bodybuilding-haiti-marie-innocent

2015 (Problems are the pot holes, all roads have them. Your job is to learn how to get past them.)

I call it the 10,000 mile sunset because that's about how far from home I was when I captured it.
I call it the 10,000 mile sunset because that’s about how far from home I was when I captured it.

The sun set on 2014 and here we are in 2015, a new year with new goals or resolutions. Hardly! As one may know from my previous posts I think the whole “New Year’s resolution” thing is a bunch of crap. Just because the date or number on a calendar changed means you, have to all of the sudden make a plan to do something that you should have already been doing in the first place and you waited till a certain date to try and do it. Hardly makes any sense at all if you ask me. …but who am I, just the world’s worst blogger. Maybe it is me, but anytime I set out on a so called “new year’s resolution” it just ended up by the wayside about three weeks in to the New Year. Again as I said when I posted last year about this time; reaching goals and conquering challenges are more of a mindset and a knowing of “this is something I just have to do.” After all you get and up each morning and brush your teeth right? And maybe brushing of the teeth is a bad example because you can actually get out the door without brushing your teeth. There are no teeth police that will come and beat you down for not brushing your teeth. Although it would make for a miserable day. But how about leaving the house without your clothes on? Ahhh… see now that right there would be something you just “have” to do, you have to put your clothes on. Or there will be police and the whole day would just be ruined. So goals are like clothes, doesn’t really matter what they are, just that they are yours and you have to wear them.
I will agree however a new year is a great milestone in everyone’s life and this would be a great time to sit and reflect back on 2014 and look at all the fun you had or didn’t have. See it was the lack of fun in 2013 that had me motivated enough to make changes for 2014. So for me 2014 was a great year for several areas of my life. No not all areas of my life were great and if they were it would most likely mean I was Kardashian. However I feel very good about my accomplishments with my photography. I learned a lot of new techniques in both shooting and editing and really this is something that will happen every year if I keep up the push. Rather than just thinking I have learned enough to make a great photo is no reason to stop. I can make a great photo, hell I can make a down right awesome photo… of a sunset 10,000 miles away from home. But it is the knowledge I learned about working with people in the past twelve months that I think is the most rewarding. Now you have to know I am 18 years into a catering business that specializes in on-site cooking. So… yeah I’m a people person. And with my photography I have never really had a problem when it comes to dealing with a client on the business side of things and I also do very well in working with people when it comes to posing. But this year I ventured outside of that comfort zone and I wanted to learn how to produce a model shoot, I mean a full scale on-location photo shoot and a big studio shoot. This is a whole new animal compared to just taking the standard portraits and headshots. So without going into details both the studio and location shoots went very well. But before that could be achieved I had to learn how to work with models on a level that would allow me to accomplish large scale shoots. So all along this road that I traveled down in the past year I met some really interesting and wonderful people. I made some really nice friends, some of whom are just the coolest and most wonderful people. Of course there were a few not so nice idiots on that road but that’s ok.
I was also able to travel to Thailand & Laos this year and that was not only good and fun, it was also a challenge. I say a challenge because I actually lived (not vacationed) in Thailand for one month and I had never lived outside of the states for a whole month in a place where I can barely speak the language. For one week I stayed in the Gulf of Thailand on Koh Chang and although that part was kind of a vacation of sorts, I viewed it more as a place to expand my horizons and learn about the Koh Chang Archipelago that has now become part of my life and I know will never leave. I found a treasure that Thailand has to offer that few people know of and I’ll leave it at that. I think most would say “oh yeah it is a great place to vacation” and there are a lot of resorts there. But what I learned had very little to do with resorts and beach goers. What I learned was the natural beauty of the Koh Chang Archipelago and I just seen the tip of the iceberg so to speak. So yes there will be many trips back to Koh Chang in the future.
I also lost about 40 lbs of body weight this past year, due in part to this magical thing called “just doing it.” You know, it is that thing where you exercise and make better choices about what you eat. Magic? Hardly! More like wearing clothes as you leave the house each day… it is just something you have to do.
So is life perfect? No and far from it. But life does need guidance and direction. Even people who have life after death experiences (whether you believe or not) say they seen or we’re headed toward a light. They never say they just wandered aimlessly. So goals are like the guiding light and you should always be heading in that direction. You choose the light and you choose the road to get there. Problems are the pot holes, all roads have them. Your job is to learn how to get past them. …I know it all sound easy when we read it. Now just go and do it.

Happy New Year 2014 (it’s what you “need” to do, not what you “want” to do) Make It A Great Year

New Year 2014 Facebook Cover

So this will be my last blog post of 2013. I still contend that I am the world’s worst blogger, but I hold hopes that 2014 will be a better year for both my blogging and my photography. At this time I am setting goals for 2014, both business & personal. No I am not making any New Year resolutions; I like to call them goals. Somehow that whole “resolution” thing ends up by the wayside about 3 weeks into the New Year. Goals seem more practical, realistic and obtainable. I have in the past achieved goals that I set going into the New Year. Thinking back to 1990 and again in 1996, 1999 & 2000 I really impressed myself with goals I had set and surpassed before years end. It is all about mind set, determination and want. After all I think everyone knows all about determination or the lack of, everyone has read motivational books and or sat through a super charged motivational speech. I know I have. Funny thing is in all the great goals I have accomplished in my life, a book or a speech had very little to do with it. It just seemed I had the mind set to, set out and do whatever it was I was trying to do. And maybe “trying” is the wrong word because “trying” is always a feeling of “ok I’ve had enough” and then you quite. I find it to be more of a “this is what I have to do” feeling, kind of like getting up and shaving and brushing your teeth. Don’t complicate it with books and speeches, just do it and plan to keep on doing it. Of course “life can sometimes rob us of our motivation and cloud our mindset and we end up sitting here blogging or reading about what we need to do. Some goals I have accomplished in the past were weight loss, business achievements, stop smoking and many more. I remember in 1996 I set a goal to ride 1000 miles on my bicycle and like weight loss I kept a journal of all my rides. I rode well over 1000 miles that year and it was not hard at all. That goal by the way was spawned from the fact I had paid almost $1800 for a new bike and although I felt that I really wanted the bike, I also felt I had to justify the purchase. There was a lot of collateral damage from that goal of riding 1000 miles. I lost 86 lbs of body weight. I had never set a goal for weight loss that year, but it happened anyway.  (Funny how that works lol.)

So all I have to say is spread your wings and fly into 2014 with strength and power. Think of what you need to do, not what you want to do. Think about that for a minute, what you need not what you want. Write your goals down, keep track of progress and celebrate those small achievements as you head towards the grand finally. The only real challenge is you lack of wanting what you need and of course the challenge of everyday life. We have all heard it said “don’t let life happen, make life happen.” Happy New Year everybody be safe and well.