Goals, Growth, and Gratitude: 2014 Retrospective

01_2014_yearendLightning strikes the Willis Tower following a severe thunderstorm as seen from Solidarity Drive, Monday, June 30, 2014.

“Do you ever wonder how many times your life is gonna end? Like how many people you’re… like how many times your life is gonna totally change and then, like, start all over again? And you’ll feel like what happened before wasn’t real and what’s happening now isn’t actually…”

The above prose struck a chord with me as I lit Indiana University Northwest’s production of Circle Mirror Transformation, written by Annie Baker, last November. As I delve deeper into my professions, I find this sort of thing happening more and more often, where facets of productions or images I’m working with touch something deep inside me, often leaving a thought-provoking impression that haunts me for weeks.

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Self-portrait in Gary, Indiana’s, abandoned City Methodist Church, Tuesday, September 23, 2014. A roof collapse just a few days prior at the famous urban ruin ignited an urgent passion within me to document the beauty of the structure before it vanishes for good.

As the last of 2014′s calendar days were crossed-off, this passage from the live stage was quite fitting for my experiences, both personally and professionally. It was a year where fantastic, new friendships were gained, and some had to be left behind. It was a year where new professional relationships brought excitement and opportunity, while others – for whatever reason – didn’t feel quite as fluid as they had before. It was a year where some of my thoughts and ideals on life were challenged in ways I hadn’t expected.

It was also a year, however, for growth. On the professional side, I continued to enjoy and develop my skills in the art of wet plate collodion photography. I attended my first WPPI conference in Las Vegas, and returned to “Sin City” a few months later for my fifth LDI show. At both conferences, I was able to visit and connect with old friends, as well as having the chance to check out new gear with which to create my art. On the personal end, I felt like I further honed the craft of “picking my battles,” that is, knowing when it’s truly worth making an issue of something, and when to just go with the flow.

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A view of the full moon behind the Olympic rings at the Laura Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Center during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Friday, February 14, 2014.

Along the 2014 road, I was pleased to check off several goals that I’d set for myself. On the photography end, I was proud to photograph my second Winter Olympics games in Sochi, Russia, which also marked my first time traveling overseas. I successfully captured lightning striking the Willis Tower in Chicago a total of three times within the course of 8 minutes, crossing off a goal I’d set for myself just a few weeks prior. And, on the long-term goals front, I landed a position as lighting designer on a national concert tour for R&B artist Anthony Hamilton, fulfilling a desire to be on the road that I’ve had since I began lighting shows at age 15 at East Chicago Central High School.

Speaking of my alma mater, I was extremely proud to be asked in June to deliver the commencement address there for this year’s graduating class. Where I’m from, truly-positive role models who care don’t come often, so the fact that I was recognized as one was extremely flattering and touching for me. I hope the words I delivered that day inspire a new group of young people to pursue their dreams in the face of often extreme adversity and hardship.

Nobody ever told me that doing what I loved was going to be easy, and 2014 reminded me many times over that it’s not. Despite some bumps in the road, the year was overwhelmingly positive. I’m quite thankful for the goals I was able to accomplish, the new friendships I’ve formed, as well as for the continuing friendships that I’ve had through the years. I’m really fortunate to have a home-base of local artists, both in the theatre and the visual arts, who have each other’s backs and always offer support – both professionally and personally – when it’s needed the most. You all know who you are, and I thank you for helping me make 2014 the success that it was.
 
04_2014_yearendShaun White with Team USA hits the lip during the mens snowboard half pipe final during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

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Russian officers on the street in the village of Rosa Khutor, Russia, during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Monday, February 17, 2014.

06_2014_yearendA general view the Olympic cauldron in Olympic Park during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

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Canada’s Matt Margetts competes in men’s ski halfpipe qualification during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

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A street musician performs along Las Vegas Blvd. outside the MGM Grand Casino in Paradise, Nev., Monday, March 3, 2014.

09_2014_yearendDick Reillo and Stella Jimenez pose during an engagement portrait shoot in Hammond, Ind., Thursday, March 13, 2014. Special effects were used to create the snow for the shoot, which was done on a clear night.

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Khalifa Kulaiban of Saudi Arabia is thrown into the air following the Valparaiso University graduation for undergraduates held at the Athletics and Recreation Center in Valparaiso, Ind., Saturday, May 17, 2014.

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Dancers Leonard Perez and Jessica Winter-Troutwine of the The Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Emerging Artist Ensemble pose in their rehearsal space in Chicago, Ill., Sunday, June 8, 2014.

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Bronwyn Coffeen and John David Mercer pose for a wet plate collodion portrait on their wedding day in Mobile, Ala., Saturday, July 19, 2014. The 8×10 tintype image was produced using a vintage 1896 view camera with an 1880 brass petzval lens.

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A fisherman casts his line in San Francisco Bay near Helmet Rock and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif., Friday, August 1, 2014.

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The sun sets over the Grand Canyon as seen from the south rim at Lipan Point in Grand Canyon Village, Az., Friday, August 22, 2014.

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Gospel recording artist Philip Welch lies in the waters of Lake Michigan during a promotional portrait shoot at Marquette Park Beach in Gary, Ind., Monday, September 8, 2014.

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Stylized steam boats travel west down the main branch of the Chicago River during the Grand Spectacle of the Great Chicago Fire Festival presented by Redmoon Theater in Chicago, Ill., Saturday, October 4, 2014. The production, which spanned several blocks of the river, paid homage to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and the resulting rebirth of the city.

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ESPN director Chip Dean gestures while calling a shot during ESPN’s telecast of Monday Night Football between the St. Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome in downtown St. Louis.

18_2014_yearendGuitarist Kevin “Byrd” Lloyd poses for a portrait promoting a concert in Gary, ind., Saturday, October 25, 2014.

19_2014_yearendNik Wallenda walks on a cable stretched 600 feet above the Chicago River between Marina City and the Leo Burnett Building in Chicago, Ill., Sunday, November 2, 2014. The clock in the foreground is on the Jeweler’s Building at the intersection of Wabash Street and Wacker Drive.

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Fifteen-year-old Tiara Jones, a Simeon Career Academy freshman, wears a tiara to celebrate her birthday during the After School Matters program at Simeon Career Academy on Chicago’s south side. The program provides after-school activities to students, many of whom are underprivileged. Jones was participating in the Top Model program, which offers students etiquette training as well as runway modeling experience.

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The sun sets behind the Chicago skyline, flanked by the Aon Center and Trump Tower (left) and the John Hancock Center (right) as seen from the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Ind., Friday, May 23, 2014. The skyline was 33 miles from the camera position.

Play Like You Work

01_wallenda_110314Nik Wallenda walks on a 3/4″ cable stretched 600 feet above the Chicago River between Marina City and the Leo Burnett Building as seen through a bridge traffic gate on Wabash Ave. in Chicago, Ill., Sunday, November 2, 2014. Wallenda set a world record with this portion of his performance, with it being the steepest tightrope walk (19 degrees) between two buildings.

All across the world, photographers follow many tried-and-true rules to capture the best images. Of course, there’s the “Sunny 16″ rule. There’s also the one about your shutter speed being equal or higher to the focal length of your lens to avoid blur. And, from the Guy Rhodes photo rule book: When a world record attempt is taking place less than an hour from home, assignment or not, you must photograph it.

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Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Pop Culture on November 3rd, 2014. No Comments.

Learning To Swim

03n EXPLORERS 1 092204Munster Police Explorer Bryan Buck (left), 18, of St. John, Ind., works on an activity with Jeff Cook, 21, of Munster, Ind., during the Munster Police Explorers meeting held at the Munster Police Station, Wednesday, September 22, 2004. Cook is the chief of the Munster Police Explorers, and has been with the group for four years.

Before I knew it, I was completely out of breath, chasing a criminal with officers between houses as a police helicopter hovered loudly overhead. I had to hop three chain link fences before I caught up with them, my cameras flailing wildly at my sides. A snarling K9 unit dripped saliva onto the grass just near the criminal as officers pinned him down with their knees and applied the cuffs. Flashlights darted around the yard and flared my lens with beautiful blue and purple hues. As I framed the criminal’s face in my viewfinder, he smiled at me through bloody teeth and muttered, “Your deadline is in a few minutes, make sure to file this one first.”

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Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Thoughts On Life on September 23rd, 2014. No Comments.

Loose in Stewart’s Town

01_tonystown_081514The Robert N. Stewart Bridge in Columbus, Ind., Wednesday, August 13, 2014. NASCAR celebrity Tony Stewart, who grew up in Columbus and still resides there, was involved in a fatal accident at a Sprint car race Saturday in New York. Driver Kevin Ward was killed when Stewart’s car hit the young driver while confronting Stewart on the track.

Here’s a contradictory thought that I’d like you to ponder for a few moments: “As a photographer, I thrive on lack of direction.” On the surface, this phrase doesn’t make much sense. After all, how can once excel at anything without direction? How can one come away with anything worthwhile without a plan?

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Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Sports, Travel on August 15th, 2014. No Comments.