Deconstructing Success: How Ansel Adams became Ansel Adams

While culture praises and promotes quick success, 4 hour work weeks, and instant gratification, most of us are keenly aware from life lessons that success rarely comes without hard work, persistence and laser sharp focus.

Looking at the ‘Father Of Photography’, it’s interesting to step back and join him in the 1920’s long before he became Ansel Adams, and simply was young Ansel. Born in 1902 with a grandfather who was  a wealthy timber baron, Ansel grew up in a life of privilege for the first 5 years of his life.  In 1907 the entire family fortune would collapse. In his early days as a young adult, we would have found him studying and intent on the piano being his primary occupation.

Young Ansel had trouble fitting in at school.  He was naturally shy, and could possibly suffered from dyslexia.  As a result, he was then tutored at home by his father and his aunt.   Early on Ansel took solace in his love for nature and long walks alone.

It was only when he first experienced the beauty of Yosemite Sierra that he picked up a camera that his parents had given him and began to photograph.    Something important shifted during those long days of exploration and they shy boy that could never quite fit in, started to become a man who found himself comfortably at home in the wilderness.

At 17 years old he joined the Sierra Club and became a “keeper” of one of the lodges. Unknowingly to him, we can see that those years of networking within the Sierra club would be his first steps into his destiny as a world renowned photographer.  3 years after joining, he would have his photographs and writings published in the Sierra’s 1922 Bulletin.  6 years later he would have his first solo exhibition at the club’s headquarters.  At 25 years old and 5 years after his first  published achievement, he would meet a patron who would pave the way and financially support him in his becoming Ansel Adams.

There’s a few important lessons that we can learn from his beginning and apply to our own lives:

1. His love for nature came before his love of photography.

I’ve had the opportunity to interview many big names in the nature photography community and I have noticed one key trait amount all of them:  Their love of nature.  Quite simply without passion it’s hard to sustain a desire to get out of bed while it’s still dark, or to sacrifice your mattress for the forest floor.  Passion for nature places you on trails and your curiosity keeps one foot moving in front of the other when the incline becomes steep.

Ansel wouldn’t be Ansel Adams had not his love of nature been birthed.


2. He placed himself in a situation to be and do what he loved. 

His love for nature caused him to step out of his comfort zone by surrounding himself with like-minded people who shared a common passion for wilderness.

There’s nothing more valuable and harder to fake than authenticity.  His commitment to be present, to help where help was needed, as long as he was able to be present in nature is what led to his natural promotion within the Sierra Club and ultimately a seat on the board of directors.

Ansel wouldn’t be Ansel Adams had he not put himself in an uncomfortable position by putting himself out there.   Had he hid his photographs from his adventures in the mountains, or neglected to share them, he would have never been published.


3. Passion is easy to promote.

In 1927 Ansel would make his first “fully visualized photograph” (meaning he took a thoughtful approach to make an image based on knowledge of the gear and filters he had, combined with patiently waiting for the right light).  In addition that same year he would challenge himself physically by making his first High Trip. Pushing himself further both physically and creatively would cause him to become noticed by a patron who would be a significant figure in his artistic life and helping him to become who he was supposed to become.

Ansel wouldn’t be Ansel Adams had he not pushed himself further both with his creativity and physically.  Fostering his intrinsic need for creativity and expression through prints caused him to push further, wonder and contemplate different ways of doing things.  Passion is easy to promote, but more importantly it’s contagious and something everyone wants to be around.


Although there will never be another Ansel Adams, we can reflect back on his life and his early beginnings as a photographer to take away valuable lessons to inspire and challenge us to love and preserve nature, to capture the beauty of what we experience from our travels, and share our passion with others.


I know I shall be castigated by a large group of people today, but I was trained to assume that art related to the elusive quality of beauty and that the purpose of art was concerned with the elevation of the spirit – Ansel Adams




Wildlife Photography That Will Make You Smile

With the east coast being pelted right now, Hawaii needing to evade hurricanes and all the storms, I think we could all use a little light-hearted humor today.

In walks the Born Free Foundations photography contest called “Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards”.

Thousands of photos had been submitted, but there are currently only 41 finalists.  The top prize of Overall Winner will be announced in November and will receive a trophy and a one week photographic safari for them and a friend in Kenya’s Maasi Mara game reserve.

Two tongue – twisting moose


‘Stop me if I’m boring you’ – an owl yawns


‘Not tonight darling, I’ve got a headache’



A ninja squirrel rehearses some moves.


Two deer argue over who’s the tallest


It takes two komodo dragons to tango



Photographers: Those Who Draw With Light

The word photography was first used in the 1830’s. It is derived from two Greek words, photos (“light”) and graphein (“to draw”).

To draw with light.

It’s a beautiful summary of what we do.  When I discovered the original meaning, something deep within stirred.

Today we live in an oversaturated photographic space.  As I write this, kids are heading back to school and my social media is filled with cute children equipped with backpacks and books.

I then looked at my Instagram account and saw saturated image, after saturated image.  I had to ask myself: Have I become desensitized to photography?  Do I require florescent sunsets and vibrant flowers in the foreground to stimulate and inspire me?

I was then led to this personal reflection:  What if photography didn’t exist?

Social media would be boring.  If photography didn’t exist, we could rule out video.  A larger dependency and reliance would be given to the written word.

It’s hard to imagine a world where something so entrenched in our culture doesn’t exist.

Somewhere between the space of oversaturated stimuli and baulking at the thought of it not existing, is a place where I am reconciling why photography matters.

Recently I began blogging.  I write personal reflections about life, faith and family.  My photography is used to support my written words.  I’ve noticed that I can be granted a few moments of someone attention when I intertwine my words with an image I’ve created.

Keith photographed the approach of Hurricane Irma in 2017.  His image, Irma’s Approach went viral and sold numerous prints.   People’s relatability and emotional connection to the storm they personally experienced caused them to bond with his piece.

As people who “draw with light”, we are more than documenters of moments (although that is exactly what each mother did before they sent their children off to school).   The time invested to learn the art, the financial requirements for gear, travel and education are all proof that there is a deeper need for self expression and enjoyment in the art of creating, drawing with light.

There’s no single piece of art that has touched each eye that has viewed it.  The beauty of art is that it’s subjective.  Created first from something deep within the artist, and then appreciated by those who it speaks to.

Your photography will speak to those it is meant for.  At it’s source though it’s a personal expression of your experience, a journal of your travels, and your interpretation of a moment.

And at the end of the day, when the contest winners have been chosen, the gallery has selected their artists they want to feature, the prints have been packed up from the art festival, or you take account of the numbers of like on social media, the question that should be last on your lips are these:

  1. Did I enjoy the process of creating this piece
  2. Am I happy with what I have created and is it my best.
  3. What does this piece say to me and how can I share it with others?

Of course not every image you capture will be able to have these questions answered in the affirmative, but every once in a while, everything will line up in the field, your processing will flow, you’ll create magic, and you’ll know that the piece will become a benchmark of your life.

Dear artist, don’t stop drawing with light.

Astro Photographer of the Year – 2018 Shortlist

Celebrating 10 years of Astro Photography, the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London seeks out and awards who they consider are the best astro photographers who capture the wonders of the night sky.

The competition announced their shortlisted contestants for this year’s competition and we are amazed!

As photographers we understand how expensive the art of photography can be.  When you enter into Astro Photography and Deep Space, the budget can quickly be broken, leaving our spouses with concerned, partially agitated looks on their faces.

Interestingly enough, one of the shortlisted images was captured by a photographer named Casper Kentish who made the list with his photo of the moon that shockingly was captured with an iPad.

Here are a few of the short listed winners…


Photogrpaher:  Peter Ward

“The brightness of the solar corona hides details of the Moon to human eyes during a total solar eclipse. But, by layering multiple digital exposures, in this case from two seconds to 1/2000th of a second, much more can be revealed. In doing so, eXtreme High Dynamic Range photography (XHDR) shows not only the brilliant solar corona, but the newest possible of new moons, seen here illuminated by sunlight reflecting off the Earth”.


Image Credits:  Mark Hanson, Warren Keller, Steve Mazlin, Rex Parker, Tommy Tse, David Plesko, Pete Proulx

“These spectacular reflection nebulae in Corona Australis exhibit the characteristic blue colour produced by the light of hot stars reflected by silica-based, cosmic dust. The data was acquired by Star Shadows Remote Observatory at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory’s PROMPT2, using LRGB (luminance, red, green, blue) filters. The data was prepared in CCDStack and post-processed in Photoshop and PixInsight by Mark Hanson. While the whole of Corona Australis is a gorgeous region, the cores of NGC 6726 and NGC 6727 are rarely seen at this amazing resolution. We feel that this is one of the most stunning regions of the southern sky, which leaves us with mouths agape!”

Image Credit:  Łukasz Sujka

“These spectacular reflection nebulae in Corona Australis exhibit the characteristic blue colour produced by the light of hot stars reflected by silica-based, cosmic dust. The data was acquired by Star Shadows Remote Observatory at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory’s PROMPT2, using LRGB (luminance, red, green, blue) filters. The data was prepared in CCDStack and post-processed in Photoshop and PixInsight by Mark Hanson. While the whole of Corona Australis is a gorgeous region, the cores of NGC 6726 and NGC 6727 are rarely seen at this amazing resolution. We feel that this is one of the most stunning regions of the southern sky, which leaves us with mouths agape!”


Image Credit:  Carlos F. Turienzo

“We had been travelling for 24 hours without sleeping to reach our destination before the one night where clear skies were forecasted ended. After reaching the hut and having a nice dinner, we climbed up to the cliff and waited for night-time to come. Unfortunately it came with a cloudy sky. We stood there being optimistic, knowing that all our efforts would be rewarded, and eventually the clouds disappeared and the magic happened: a beautiful Milky Way emerged over the mountains! It was amazing being there together enjoying the magnificent spectacle, truly a dream come true.”

And our personal favorite and the one we are hoping wins…..

Image Credit: © Miguel Angel García Borrella and Lluis Romero Ventura

Image Title: Mosaic of the Great Orion & Running Man Nebula

“The Orion Nebula, also known as Messier 42, M42, or NGC 1976, is a diffuse nebula situated in the Milky Way, south of Orion’s Belt in the constellation of Orion. It is one of the brightest nebulae and is visible to the naked eye in the night sky. M42 is located at a distance of 1,270 light years and is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth. The M42 nebula is estimated to be 24 light years across and has a mass of about 2,000 times that of the Sun. This image is the result of the efforts of two astrophotographers, Miguel Angel García Borrella and Lluis Romero Ventura, who chose a common target of the Orion Sword area (one of the most beautiful areas of our night sky) using different equipment from their observatories, which are located hundreds of kilometres from each other”.


You can see the complete list of shortlisted images along with signing up to hear more about next year’s contest and the 2018 winners when they are announced by visiting the Royal Museums Greenwich website.   Winners from the 2018 competition will be announced on 23 October.

Just a girl with an iPhone…

Have we officially arrived in the future?  Are we now at a place where we can disregard our expensive, heavy DSLR’s for something as compact as a smart phone?

From the millennial to the baby boomer, folks are trading in the weight of heavy “traditional” DSLR’s for mirrorless cameras and have been for a number of years.  Are we now in a place where smart phones are becoming a standard in photography?

Last September Time Magazine published an image on their cover that had been captured with an iPhone.

In her post titled “How we created Time Magazine’s First iPhone Portfolio“, Kira Pollack states this:

“Last summer, I came across the work of a young Brazilian photographer named Luisa Dörr while I was browsing Instagram. I had never heard of her, but with all great photographs, it’s the image that captivates me, not the name of the photographer.” 

Pollack goes on to state that she became captivated with the Instagram feed and the consistency of the images the feed contained.

As a result, Pollack hired the Instagrammer to photograph women such as Oprah, Hillary Clinton, Aretha Franklin, Serena WIlliams and many others.  All of these names have been photographed by the best in the industry, and yet they chose a young girl with an iphone for this large task.

Luisa Dorr, left, shoots Oprah Winfrey on her iPhone in Los Angeles, Oct. 2016.

Luisa Dorr, left, shoots Oprah Winfrey on her iPhone in Los Angeles, Oct. 2016.


“As Luisa told me in our interview, which you can read here, many of them were disarmed by her stripped-down, bare-bones process. The iPhone has become so ubiquitous in our culture, so essential to the way we are communicating, that our subjects, I think, were at first surprised that something so basic was being used for something as singular as a portrait for TIME. But such a universal tool in fact became a refreshing and equalizing force for each session. It enabled the shoots to be much more about the “act” of portrait-making—the gestures, the eyes, what even the most subtle body language can reveal about a person.”  – Kira Pollack 

Although most of us won’t be willing to set down our DSLR’s for strictly an iphone, it’s a challenge to all of us.  For many of us, each piece of gear we carry in our bags is beloved.  We know the lenses intimately.  We have spent time with them and we know their limitations and the places where they can come to life.

Ms. Pollack, her position with Time Magazine and her willingness to identify a young girl with an iPhone and to engage her to create 12 cover photos for her magazine, should encourage all of us to use the tools we have.   Rather than chasing, striving for new gear, let’s instead focus on our artistic abilities, dig deep into our passion of the art itself and see what can be created.

As with all artists, it’s easy for us to get distracted.  I’m sure Luisa Dorr never imagined that she would get a call from Time Magazine. She was staying in her lane, consistently making work that stemmed from her heart, and was committed to doing what she loved.  When that diligence and passion is done consistently over a period of time, creation does evolve and with the creation, growth that you could never imagine.

3 Tips For Staying Active With Your Photography When You Can’t Travel

Inspiration is life to any artist.  It can also be your worst enemy.  If we full rely on only creating our art when we are inspired, we’ll find that one thing happens:  We don’t create.  In fact, the same is true with romantic relationships.  Contrary to popular Hollywood opinion, you are never in the rapture of euphoria 100% of the time.  For those of you who have been married for a few years, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

There’s a place where practicing the discipline of your art must come to be a priority in your creative practices.  

This has never been more true of staying inspired while staying close to home.  Although Keith and I are fortunate enough to live in one of the higher rated locations for vacationers, it’s easy to take Charleston and her surrounding lowcountry for granted.  Do not be fooled:  Even Charleston can become commonplace to someone who lives here.

Below are three tips that we find helpful to keep things fresh, staying inspired, and maintaining consistency in your photography:

1)  Create Margin to Create

This is true of both your post processing, and your field work.  As mentioned above, if we only act when we’re inspired we will not only create less, but we will stunt the natural growth that occurs when we are routinely creating.  Make time to get out and explore, or learn a new technique in your post processing.

Your photography is like a lake, 

to be healthy, it must always have a source fresh water flowing in

and an outlet where it can flow out. 


2) Cultivate Curiosity

I can personally attest to this truth:  Being intentional about curiosity is key to feeding your creativity.  A sure threat to your art is finding yourself in a place where you think you know everything, or worse yet, being unwilling to enter into a place of discovery.  This is true with your post processing.  It can be very easy to get into a rut doing the same “recipe” or using the same tools over and over, without asking “what does this image need”.

The same is true with getting out and photographing where you live.

Just this past spring, Keith and I entered into the dangerous place of thinking we knew all of Charleston and her surrounding areas.  Smugly we thought: “We’ve seen it all”.   It was only then that we found what we consider one of the most beautiful locations in Charleston for azaleas.   The truth that came from this:  Never underestimate where you live.

Just because you don’t haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist

3) Be Present

When I was working in the Mortgage Industry, it was during the 2009 Refinance Boom.  The hours were long, the stress was high, and the only thing that allowed me to maintain some semblance of sanity was regularly scheduled explorations into nature.  I’d come home from the office, grab my dog, grab some food, and set out to hike, walk, or drive down old back roads.  It may be that I’d drive for 3 or 4 hours TRYING to get lost.   There I discovered fallen logs, dilapidated  tobacco barns, rusty trucks, and hidden rivers just waiting to be photographed in the light.

When your desire to be surrounded by nature becomes your priority, amazing photography will always follow’



*My deepest thanks to Mandy in our community for inspiring this post.  Although it may not have answered her questions, it provoked a lot of thought.  For that and the inspiration you gave me today Mandy, you have my deepest thanks.

Eyes Beyond The Ordinary

We are knee deep into May and June will arrive faster than we can count the days on the calendar.  With that, Keith and I will start shifting our focus to our annual pilgrimage to the Canadian Rockies to lead this year’s workshop.

This image was captured at Lake Louise.  Lake Louise is a special spot for me.  My grandmother had one life-long dream and that was to experience and see the turquoise waters of Lake Louise with her own eyes.  In fact, she kept a postcard on her refrigerator of the beautiful lake for as long as I can remember.  She never made it there.   Whenever I step to the shore, I think of her.  It’s a special place that’s iconic to many people.

Sentiments aside, and photographically speaking, Lake Louise is a hard place to photograph.  The majority of times I’ve been there, the clouds lingering over the glaciers stick close to the ridge, and don’t allow the color and light to creep in.  Also, there is a boardwalk that stretches in front of the Chateau Lake Louise that most tourists capture images from.   While you can make the trek to Lake Agnes and the teahouse, few photographers venture there.  It’s a bit of a lung burner.

On this particular trip (last year), we had an exceptional sunrise for which I was abundantly thankful for.   However, I very much wanted a different composition from what you usually see coming from there.  I decided that I might be able to unleash some creativity if I released the glacier from needing to be in my point of view, and I embraced what everything else around me was saying.    That’s how this image was created.

Photography teaches me many life lessons.  Sometimes we have to let go of something we are expecting, or familiar to us to receive something fresh, new, and unexpected.   This is true as well of your creativity.

I’d love to hear from you.   Do you have an image you can share or a story that reflects this lesson in your own life?


How Photography Defined The Great Depression

During the 1930s, America went through one of its greatest challenges: the Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to relieve the dire economic situation with his New Deal programs. To justify the need for those projects, the government employed photographers to document the suffering of those affected and publish the pictures. Their efforts produced some of the most iconic photographs of the Great Depression – and all of American history.

Photos showed ‘the city people what it’s like to live on the farm.’

The Resettlement Administration, later replaced by the Farm Security Administration (FSA), was created as part of the New Deal to build relief camps and offer loans and relocation assistance to farmers impacted by the Depression and the Dust Bowl, which wreaked havoc on the Great Plains. But the programs weren’t cheap and required significant government funding to maintain.

Roy Stryker was hired as the agency’s Photographic Unit. Stryker was tasked with documenting the need for government assistance by taking photographs of rural farmers at work and at home in their small-town communities, of migrants looking for work and of the effects of the Great Depression on everyday life in rural America. “Show the city people what it’s like to live on the farm,” Tugwell reportedly told Stryker.

‘Fleeing a Dust Storm,’ photographed by Arthur Rothstein. (Credit: Farm Security Administration/The Library of Congress)


The FSA photographs galvanized Americans into action.

Stryker created a team of “documentary photographers.” They didn’t want to just churn out propaganda photos of bread lines, vacant farmhouses and barefoot children caked with dust. They also wanted to capture the raw emotion behind the drudgery and bring empathy to the suffering of ordinary Americans.

The first photographer Stryker chose for his team was Arthur Rothstein. During his five years with the FSA, his most noteworthy contribution may have been, “Fleeing a Dust Storm,” a (supposedly posed) photo of an Oklahoma homesteader and his two young sons trudging through swirling layers of dust towards a dilapidated shack.

‘Migrant Mother,’ photographed by Dorothea Lange. (Credit: Farm Security Administration/The Library of Congress)


Depression-era photo subjects showed as much strength as suffering.

Although the government used FSA photographs to prove its New Deal programs helped impoverished Americans, FSA photographers also sought to portray their subjects as strong, courageous people determined to survive tough times.

The people they photographed were often resilient, prideful and fiercely independent. Ironically, many refused to accept the very government assistance they’d inadvertently become the faces for.

Instead, they used ingenuity and whatever resources they had to remain self-supporting, and considered government welfare a last resort. Some people were reportedly angry and embarrassed when they realized their photographs had been published.



Photo – A – Day Projects Improve Well-Being, Study Finds

Shooting a photo every day and then sharing it online improves your well-being. That’s what scientists found after studying a group of people who have committed themselves to photo-a-day projects (often referred to as “Project365“).

The findings were just published in a paper titled “The daily digital practice as a form of self-care: Using photography for everyday well-being” in the journal Health. UK scientists Liz Brewster of Lancaster University and Andrew M Cox of the University of Sheffield were behind the study.

The duo selected a sample of subjects with approximate ages ranging from 20 to 60. The participants post a photo every day to services such as Instagram, Flickr, and Blipfoto. Each photographer was monitored for two months, with researchers recording the photos taken, captions written, and interactions had with other photographers in the online communities. After two months, the photographers also gave a phone interview.


What the scientists found was that the act of shooting and sharing daily photos improves a person’s well-being through self-care (it’s therapeutic, renewing, and refreshing), community interaction (it provides regular interaction with people who share the same interests), and reminiscence (it provides the ability to look back on one’s life).

Here are some quotes from the study’s participants:

It’s really good to be able to take that five minutes every day to do something slightly creative, which I enjoy doing and I think is good for well-being. It’s positive in that it gives me something to look for.

[My job] was a very highly stressful role … Oh, God. There were some days when I’d almost not stopped to breathe, you know what I mean … And just the thought: oh wait a moment, no, I’ll stop and take a photograph of this insect sitting on my computer or something. Just taking a moment is very salutary I think.

Connections with other people and sharing things, and so being able to put things out there and then get a response back. And it can be some surprising people, as well, it’s almost like having a personal conversation but with a lot of people at once, that sounds a bit odd. I’ve found you can be saying these things and then different people will react back to them. And yeah, it gives a sense of connection, which helps well-being.

If I’m ever feeling down or something it’s nice to be able to scroll back and see good memories. You know, the photos I’ve taken will have a positive memory attached to it even if it’s something as simple as I had a really lovely half an hour for lunch sitting outside the [location] and was feeling really relaxed.


The scientists conclude that committing yourself to photo-a-day projects can provide a number of health benefits.

“Photo-a-day is not a simple and uncomplicated practice; rather it is the complex affordances and variance within the practice that relate it to well-being,” the scientists write in the paper. “We conclude that this practice has multifaceted benefits for improving well-being.”



(via PetapixelHealth via ScienceDaily)

What Photographers Can Learn From Walt Disney

It was the 1940’s as the world was in chaos with the first world war.  One father took his daughters to amusement parks to escape the realities of life and have some fun.  While there, he sat on a bench and watched other parents sitting clearly bored while their children played.  He asked himself “What If I created a place where both parents and children can have fun”.  In that one thought, Disneyland and what would become Disney World was born.  So what can photographers learn from Walt Disney that can be applied to our art? A lot.

     1) He looked at something that was, and asked how he could do it better

At the time when Walt took his daughters to amusement parks, they were known for being dirty and unsafe.  In fact, when he approached his wife Lillian about his idea she questioned him.

“When I started on Disneyland, my wife used to say,  ‘But why do you want to build an amusement park?  They’re so dirty.’ I told her that was just the point — mine wouldn’t be.”  –Walt Disney


How does this apply to photography? 

Look at what others are doing, identify what you like, what you don’t like, and ask yourself how you can do it better.  Use the work of others, new locations, and new techniques as a platform to jump from to create something that excels from where you began.


     2) He ignored what was expected of him.

Walt was in the business of animation, not in the business of amusement parks.  Of course as a result he had people who thought he was crazy for taking on such a huge task that was not only unexpected of him, but clearly out of his comfort zone.

“Almost everyone warned us that Disneyland would be a Hollywood spectacular—a spectacular failure. But they were thinking about an amusement park, and we believed in our idea—a family park where parents and children could have fun—together.” –Walt Disney


How does this apply to photography? 

Doing what is expected, and what has always been only leads to more of the same.  Ask yourself what would happen if you incorporated elements outside of your genre into your artwork.  Perhaps you can include mixed media, portrait lighting into nature photography, a new post processing technique that captured your interest.  Ignore and push past what people have come to expect of your art, and ask yourself what could happen if you worked from a curious heart.


     3) He was confident in his vision

Walt knew in his heart that he was on to something.  He identified a way he could make the world a little brighter, and because he acted on that seedling of a thought, millions of parents and children enjoy “The Most Magical Place On Earth”.   Had he listened to those who doubted, who couldn’t see past what was already being done, we wouldn’t have this magical kingdom.

“There are whole new concepts of things, and we now have the tools to change these concepts into realities. We’re moving forward.” –Walt Disney


How does this apply to photography? 

There’s one thing you can be certain of.  You’ll never have the desire to try something different if you don’t allow your imagination to wander, and you’ll never create something different if you don’t allow yourself to explore and play.  If you have a seedling in your imagination of what could be if you tried, take it, hold it close, nurture it, invest in it, and see what happens.  Wander and wonder produces vision.


*Inspired by Disney Institute’s blog post:  Leadership Lessons From Walt Disney: Disrupting Industry Stereotypes \

All images used are property of Disney.  

Get Out In It!


Author:  Keith Briley

When Snowmageddon (that’s what we from the Charleston area call a few inches of snow when it hits the ground in our area) arrived, uncommon images within a very familiar scene started showing up in the ole’ social media feed. Upon viewing these stunning captures, we were reminded of the photographic opportunities that can be captured when Mother Nature decides to mix things up a little.

You’ve seen them; the massive, charcoal colored clouds forming rings high in the sky, producing the ominous but beautiful tornado below. The thunderstorm in the distance creating enough lightning to continually ignite the dark, night sky. Or, the crashing of the enormous ocean waves along the coast because an epic hurricane is on its way. All of these were obtained because the photographer chose to “get out in it”! They did their research and placed themselves in a safe position to acquire a capture that will wow the viewer.

It’s not every day that we have these opportunities, but when they do come along, the research, timing and effort can pay huge dividends. Everyone loves a good story. And, everyone loves a beautiful photograph. To combine the two can be rewarding on many levels. Not only do you now have the story to tell friends and family, but you very well may have created an image that can never be duplicated. In addition, the circumstances that existed while shooting the perfectly timed capture can be a once in a lifetime experience. Tell the story! Bring the viewer in! Express yourself as if the photograph didn’t exist, giving as much detail as possible in an attempt to place the viewer right beside you as you grabbed the shot. Before you know it, your photograph will come alive to the viewer allowing for an unexpected, emotional attachment.

“How does an emotional attachment from the viewer benefit my photograph?”, you might ask. It allows us the opportunity to share the experience. Not every living person will have the opportunity to personally feel and hear when a tornado forms over the plains. Nor, will everyone have the chance to watch the seas grow and churn with such anger and force. While having the urge to escape to a beautiful destination seen in many photographs but never had the chance to visit can be enticing, an anomaly by Mother Nature, never experienced in person, can be just as alluring.

Let’s not forget about you. Think about why you wanted to be there. There must have been something that created the desire to plan and execute the attempt to capture Mother Nature in rare form. Something that created a spark that eventually grew into a roaring flame of inspiration. Those sparks, as tiny as they may be in the beginning, can grow into a never ending appetite to fill the cup of creativity. The desire to capture something unique and jaw-dropping is in all of us. But, it’s not going to happen until you’ve experienced it. Until you get out in it.


Fresh Eyes & A Familiar Place

Are you itching for your next adventure or trip?  We are as well.  On a daily basis Keith is talking about us running away and photographing the mountains covered in snow.  This last month has been a very busy one for us.  We welcomed the editor of Landscape Photography Magazine, Dimitri Vasileiou to our home and hosted him for 4 days over Tiff’s birthday.

During his visit we had the opportunity to catch up, chat and talk shop about photography.  We also took him on a mini tour of the area which included the Angel Oak tree.

For those of you who have been to Charleston, the Angel Oak may have been on your list of places to see, or perhaps we took you there on a tour (although that’s not a common stop for us).  When we went there with Dimitri, we weren’t exactly excited about going there (just to be honest).  We’ve seen it a thousand times, and even more than that, we’ve seen it photographed from what seems like every angle.

That trip to the Angel Oak though was inspiring for one reason.  Tiff captured this image with this new perspective and it caused us to reassess the joy that can be had in the very familiar.

Recently Keith was chatting with a guest over how often he’s at the boneyard beach.  Watching Keith photography is inspiring because he never accepts the same old compositions and he’s always approaching the familiar with a new set of eyes.  He created Blush Of Dawn (shown here) out of a desire to challenge himself to see something new at this familiar location.

With the holidays surrounding us, you’ll likely be traveling to familiar places to be with friends and family during the season.   We want to challenge you to find your familiar places, step out and look at it with fresh eyes.  You never know, a piece of art might just be waiting for you to create it.

Inspiration: The Freedom To Create

Yesterday found us in downtown Charleston visiting our favorite art gallery.  While there, we were so inspired by a new artist who is using acrylic, oil, and car paint along with gold dusting to paint an acrylic sheet.  The depth, color, shifting of the story when the light transitions across it was absolutely inspiring.  So inspiring that Tiff wanted to come home, grab her paints and order an acrylic sheet.

The inspiration that comes from seeing the unique work of another painter or artist is a beautiful thing.  The possibilities of what you yourself could create, knowing that although you might use the same materials, your personal fingerprint will cause a created piece to be uniquely your own in its own right.   Therefore, inspiration is an empowering emotion in creative arts.

Does this also apply to photography?  It’s a question I asked myself when I woke up this morning.  Our cameras are virtually the same, with the only difference being the range of light and amount of information that can be recorded for a single image.  That being said, if we stood side by side, with the same camera, same focal length we would in fact create the same image.   Where is the artist fingerprint in this process?

We’ll find our fingerprint in what I believe are two areas:  location and post processing.  Both take patience, exploration and time.

Finding a new composition or location requires a commitment to travel (either 30 minutes from your house or 30 hours), study maps and then it all comes down strapping on your hiking boots.  With your gear on your back and struggling past any pre-visualization, approaching a scene with fresh eyes and looking for that which captures your attention is an important part to the process of finding your fingerprint.

Post processing.  We believe that post processing is the brush (literally) and the paint of the photographer.  Similar to painting and other artistic mediums there are rules to be aware of so that you can create more powerful imagery.  Processing on the computer can be a deeply rewarding process that can genuinely place your own unique fingerprint on a piece.  Similar to paint, if you invest the time into knowing the possibilities, techniques and add in a dash of your own “what if’s” magic can happen.   This is great art.

The trap that we can often fall into as photographers is imitation that robs our creativity.  If you’ve picked up any photography magazine in the last 2 years you’ll notice the holy grail of images is the wide angle shot, mountains in the far background and a clumping of flowers in your foreground.  When one well named photographer created this shot, it seemed a large number of photographers started chasing a similar composition.   While beautiful, there’s something left wanting.  There’s no originality, and if we are left without a unique fingerprint, are we merely imitation artists who excel in producing replicas?

These are tough questions, and to be quite honest they are topics we constantly toss around in our conversations as we quest for inspiration that leads to great work.   Our desire is to bring powerful imagery that evokes emotion, similar to the artwork that we saw yesterday in the gallery.  It caused us stand before the work, exclaim with excitement about a new element found in the piece, and share that appreciation together.  This is our ultimate goal for our photography.  That a single image, created well, birthed from our inspiration would uniquely touch someone in a powerful way.   We firmly believe that level of photography can only be created when your heart is poured out and “what if’s” have been answered.

Gear Trends: Necessary or Distraction?

It’s Thanksgiving week, and Black Friday ads, commercials, newspaper inserts and popups on our internet browser are all blaring the hottest gift ideas, discounts and deals.

This morning while in the office and fielding through emails we came across something that grabbed our attention.

Do ya’ll remember the Lytro that was introduced last fall as the first camera that records the light?  The technology that they have created allows you change the focus point and perspective of the pictures after the point of capture.  What this means is that if you’ve taken an image of a flower in the foreground and there’s a barn in the background, you can decide at a later time which you would like to be in focus.

Here’s the question we ask ourselves: “Is this cutting edge technology that will change the game, or is it simply a passing trend?”

Although the jury is still out on that question for the Lytro specifically, our eyebrows raised when we were directed to this website this morning to find that the regularly high priced item in question was reduced from $1,299.99 to $349.99 on this website.

In our opinion, at $349.00 this could be a really fun Christmas gift for yourself or your photographer.   What’s Christmas without gifting unnecessary techy toys?