Tag Archives: inspiration

Fitness For Your Photography And Your Life – A Call Out To The Community

Getting ready to go on a run, one of our favorite end of day activities.

About 6 months ago, I hit a wall. I’ll be honest, work was overwhelming and my personal life was a mess. Running two companies (the photography and my production company 8112 Studios) takes a toll on your mind and body, not to mention flying about 100k miles a year on assignments. In a sense, I was feeling like a zombie. I made a promise to myself when I turned 30 last year that I would take better care of myself, especially due to the poor health history in my family and the arduous health-draining lifestyle of photography and production. Although, at that point 6 months or so, I hadn’t done anything to really change my life except an occasional jog and eat less junk food. I’ll be honest, I was also doing a lot of moping from a hard breakup at that point and feeling plenty sorry for myself and having trouble focusing on all of my projects (hey, I’m only human). Then one day, I just woke up and decided I didn’t want to mope anymore… that I needed to make some changes in my life, and that’s when this all began…

I started to do research on diet and exercise. Reading books like the 4 Hour Body (see the video below), which my mom the amazing nurse suggested, and various online articles. I started to exercise and jog slowly. Some weight training here and some cardio there. I would learn different exercise routines from diagrams online and try them out and see what worked. I used what I had learned about circuit training from trying out crossfit last year, which I stopped after I broke my ribs doing crossfit in China last summer. I began to create a diet that worked for me and my lifestyle (less carbs, less sugar, less sodium, no soda/more water, less/no processed food, cut most but not all alcohol out of my life, ate more veggies, ate some more fruit but didn’t overdo it due to their natural sugar, cut out fruit juices, ate more protein, avoided excess red meat, etc etc) and an exercise regiment that worked in my tight schedule. I started to pack running shoes in my luggage, and was gradually increasing the intensity of my workouts. Every day I would just tell myself that as long as I was headed in the right direction/a positive direction, that this is all that mattered.

6 months later, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, including my time as a firefighter in my early 20’s, faster than ever, my natural energy is much higher, and I even have visible stomach muscles (never thought that would be possible). My back no longer aches like it did at the end of a long day with a camera around my neck or lifting heavy cases, and I can pull long hours and keep motivated. It’s changed my drive and my ability to focus. Cutting all of that junk out of my system and treating my body better has truly changed my life and improved my life outlook.


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Now, let me step back here. This is not meant to be a brag post, I promise, this is about you taking care of you. I just had a good photographer friend suffer a stroke. He is surviving by his sheer will to fight and survive. Amazing guy and it happened to him way too young. I see way too many shooters, myself included, that push our minds and bodies way too hard and it takes its toll. You do not have to be crazy like me and change your entire diet and fitness lifestyle. You do not have to run marathons or lift heavy weights. I just want you to promise me something: that each day you will proactively do something to be conscious of your health. Avoid that extra donut, take the dog for an extra jog or walk, drink less or cut out soda (including diet soda which is just as bad because your body does not know how to process most fake sweeteners and just convert them to fat anyway), just do something! Our lifestyles are SO HARD and the only way to keep ourselves going is to take a little better care of ourselves. Do not abuse your bodies any more than they need to be (unless you’re into that sort of thing).

I would LOVE to hear your input on this subject. Please comment with your stories. If you want to know more about my personal exercise routines, diet, or how to be healthier on the road, I’d be happy to share if that interests you guys at all.

Remember:

  • It’s not a diet, it is about a healthy lifestyle. If you are on a crash diet to try and lose weight to hit a certain goal, you may make that goal but it will most likely not stay there long. Starving yourself is bad for you (portion control is an entirely different story) in most situations. Feeding your body with the right healthy food can actually do wonders.
  • Do at least one thing a day that points you in the right direction of a healthy lifestyle, as little as it may be. As long as you are being proactive, you are in a better place than you were yesterday.
  • Strong body equals strong mind. It also works the other way around. Taking care of yourself can improve your productivity and creativity.
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Monday Moment Of Zen – Making Of Top Gun


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These are much longer videos than I normally post, but way more awesome. Check out this 2+ hour documentary on how the 80’s action movie Top Gun was made. Incredible and inspiring in regards to production and creative development.

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A Wedding, Photography, And The 10 Year Itch (Not To Be Confused With Wedding Photography)

Biloxi coastline

I’ll always remember how this feels. It’s a hot sticky Mississippi summer night and I’m accidentally and completely overdressed, wearing a suit and tie which feels more like a sauna inside than a fashion statement. Acoustic lyric-less renditions of class rock songs are playing quietly on the speakers in the background as I look down from a second story balcony upon a candle-lit wedding alter by the water. The sun is setting and the crowd is hushed. Something about this moment feels completely like one of those movie moments, as if I’m supposed to remember this for the rest of my life. No, I’m not getting married. Not even close.

There’s something about weddings that make you ponder back and forward upon your life. No matter where you may stand in your own love life, you take personally assessment of where you stand with the ones you love. Although, the thoughts drift well past the sentiments of matrimony and undying love like you read in old storybooks and Chuck Norris movies. You see, I’m observing a wedding ceremony for the member of a rock band that started my career almost 10 years ago, and flanking him are the members of the band, my friends, looking on, smiling.

I had flown in from an advertising shoot in Miami to make this wedding, wouldn’t have missed it. I thought about the first time I met this band member getting married about 10 years ago. It was actually about 1 mile from where we stand now, in another part of Biloxi, Mississippi. I was just a nervous college senior shooting my first national magazine editorial (knowing very little about what I was doing). Ten years? How could it have been that long ago?

The funny thing is that its not so much the time passed, but the significance of the 10 year mark. You see, I looked up to a few photographers as I developed my career early on (of course I still look up to them). Amazing portrait shooters like Platon and Kwaku Alston. I surmised that successful photographers like them took about 10 years to finally “make it” shooting world leaders and famous celebrities for the cover of major magazines and huge ad campaigns. I would sit in class at photo school and just daydream what it would feel like to hit that 10 year mark in my career and hope I had “made it” and everything would be figured out.

So here I am. At a wedding where my career started almost 10 years later. Standing with the band that originally took me on the road with them and introduced me to all the big names in the industry, jump-starting my career. I took personally inventory of my life and career. All those times I dreamed about where I would be in 10 years professionally and personally and here I am. Funny, I really had accomplished a lot of my personal career goals. Met some of my favorite musicians and photographed them, shot covers for my favorite magazines, ad campaigns for some of the biggest companies, and even a few endorsement deals. Although, these accomplishments haven’t fulfilled as I envisioned they would 10 years ago. Yes, I’m extremely thankful in every sense of the word, but I’ve found these accomplishments alone to leave something to be desired. It is a great feeling to feel like you’ve done something with your work, but it means very little if you cannot share this joy. Sometimes, I even forget what I’ve done. I straight up just forget. You see, the accomplishments have meant less than the time I share with those I care about.

It’s this moment right here. This wedding. My friends in this sentimental reunion. It’s swimming in the pool fully-dressed. It’s rolling up the sleeves and dancing like idiots to foreigner as the sweat permeates every pore of my body. It’s catching up with the people that were there from the beginning, when a fumbling inexperienced kid shot his first magazine.

I suppose this long drawn out story has a moral somewhere in there. All these big accomplishments you want to make for your photography. Accolades. They are awesome and all, but after awhile, much like love and marriage, your relationship with your craft grows and changes (together hopefully!) This is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. The accomplishments are a means to an end. A pathway to better jobs and opportunities. But the fulfillment, it’s in the relationships and the memories. It’s in creating the photos that you always wanted to and that’s rarely accomplished through paying gigs. As I hit 30 last year, I knew that the key to a happier photo life was enjoying the experiences to the best of my ability and not worrying as much about the career markers. For too long I was worried about career markers and didn’t even take moments to breath in the new adventures I was embarking.

I liken photography to the music industry. 10 years ago, there were more larger than life rock stars, and today, there are more independent musicians killing themselves to make modest to respectable living, but to do what they love. So, don’t focus so much on whether you’ll make the cover of Rolling Stone or a photoshoot with the president. Do your thing. Pay the bills. Love the ones you’re with, as they say. Make new friends. Live the adventure and the art, not the accolades, no matter what you like to photograph. Sure this may sound preachy and slightly cliche, but it’s a valuable lesson I’ve had to teach myself to keep myself sane as I wonder what’s  in store for the next 10 years…

To love, to health, to adventure.

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Key To Developing A Successful Freelance Photography Career – Keep Busy

I’m not going to pretend I am the richest photographer, or most successful, but I do pay my bills, get published regularly, and rather enjoy my career in photography and filmmaking. People often ask what is my big piece of advice for launching a career in professional photography that can sustain you full time. Well, I could go on for days about my personal philosophies, but here is one crucial element that all of you can do: keep busy.

When I am not shooting, I am editing, or planning out scheduled marketing, or searching for new clients, or shooting personal portfolio projects. Make lists of goals. Without goals, you dont know where you are heading and why or what you should do. Make short term goals and long term goals. Make to-do lists that include completing current projects on time (obviously) and if/when youre done, planning out ways to expand your portfolio and ways to reach out to new clientele.

When reaching out for new clients, think of a specific niche for yourself. If you fancy yourself a wedding photographer, or band photographer, or car photographer, reach out to clients that specifically would be interested in that specialty. Also, build a portfolio (web, ipad, or print) that reflects your specific niche so you may show them. As I have said before, few clients respond to promises of “I’ll do a good job, just trust me” on projects where you show no prior experience. Don’t be afraid to cold-call (or cold-email). Be persistent with clients you really want to work with. Trust me, I am sure I have been annoying from time to time with my persistence, but much like trying to convince an out-of-your-league girl to go out with you, they cave… eventually. I’m kidding folks, I’m kidding.

Make goals (short and long), keep to do lists, when you aren’t shooting a job you should be either shooting for your portfolio and developing a specific niche for yourself and marketing yourself to specific clientele that reflects your niche rather than the shotgun marketing approach.

If you have any other advice, feel free to comment below! You can see me speaking more about becoming a profitable full-time photographer at Photoshop World DC this weekend (March 2012). Some inspiration below.


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Monday Moment Of Zen – Thumbs Up For Rock And Roll!


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Here is a little inspiration to start off your Monday. This kid has the right idea. If you believe in yourself you can do it! Just keep trying! Really cute little guy. I was inspired. THUMBS UP FOR ROCK AND ROLL! That’s what I say every morning.

[hat tip to Joe]

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With My 30th Birthday Here: Lessons I’ve Learned From My 20’s

This is a good representation of my 20's. Partying with Lea Thompson and a Back To The Future DeLorean

Today I turn 30. It feels very surreal. Sure, I know I have plenty of life to live (unless I do something stupid and dangerous lol), but I remember when I thought being 30 was “old” and yet, I still feel like a kid. Although, like the saying goes, you’re only as young as you feel I suppose. Anyway, here are some things I learned about life during my crazy 20’s:

  • Contrary to popular belief, frosted blonde hair and an eyebrow ring was not as cool as I thought
  • Surround yourself with amazing people, and hopefully some of their greatness will rub off on you
  • Dont forget to tell those you care about how you feel, you never know when they may just… disappear
  • Never fall for a girl that can’t make you laugh… a lot… and that can’t inspire you to be a better man
  • Sure, most girls love flowers, but the coolest girls love a good mix cd… and David Bowie
  • I used to think life would one day start… after college, with a wife and kids and career, but then you realize, as cliche as it sounds, its all living, there is no ordinary moment, there is no pre-game
  • Don’t forget to read something once in awhile. Knowledge is one of the world’s greatest gifts
  • Send thank you notes. Be grateful for the generosity of others
  • People don’t always recognize what you’ve done to help. Don’t expect a parade. Help because you know its right and just.
  • Travel the world (I need to do more myself). Go where you are uncomfortable. Push your boundaries. Feed your soul
  • Help your fellow man, you never know when the roles will reverse
  • Take care of your dog and they will love you unconditionally
  • Do something stupid once in awhile. Makes for great stories later. Buy me a beer, I’ll share one of many.
  • Take care of your body now, or you’ll pay for it later
  • No matter how many times you forget to remove the lens cap, people always find it SO HILARIOUS
  • Put the camera down sometimes during your personal time. It detaches you from experiencing the moment yourself.
  • A good photographer can make a creative image, no matter how good or poor the quality of their optics (but it doesn’t hurt to have the best).
  • Love. It’s passionate. It’s heart aching. It’s irrational. It’s life changing. It’s empowering. It’s the best drug, even when it rips you up sometimes. You always want more.
  • It’s never too late to be an old fashioned romantic. Sure it’s out of style, but it just feels right.
  • Learn from your mistakes, no matter how F#&K!NG stupid you feel. Make the most of a bad situation (not always easy, but you gotta try)
  • Everything you need to know you can learn from the films Robocop, Billy Madison, Total Recall, and Back To The Future.
  • One of my favorites… in the words of my beloved grandpa Leon Sonders “be a mensche” (a man of honor). I hope he’s proud of who I’ve become.

If you want to give me something for my birthday, please donate to this charitable cause. Thank you!