When Things End…

This post is not photography related even though there’s a photo below. It’s also probably the most personal thing I’ve posted here. If you’re here for photos and happy subjects, skip this one.

This blog has been quiet of late, and I shared the reason the reason this summer. That post ended on a somewhat optimistic tone, and that came to pass. My father became quite ill unexpectedly early in July. He recovered from the initial illness and was able to return home in August.

It didn’t last.

He went back into the hospital in September, from complications of that original illness. He never came back home. On Saturday my father passed away at the age of 68.

He had entered a cycle where every time he was able to get over one problem, another set in. He kept getting weaker. Twice in the last month I really didn’t know if he’d make it through the night. He’d recovered, but each decline began to get lower than the recovery. Much of the last months has been spent trying to maintain work and what life I could while also dealing with his health problems. He’d improved over the last couple weeks so even though he was still quite sick, his passing came as a shock.

I’m fortunate enough to have a close and supportive family. My father’s illness was hard. Losing him is the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with. I did get to spend a good amount of time with him the last months, which I’m thankful for. I saw him two days before he passed away when I had my last conversation with him. I loved him, and I’ll miss him.

I’ll be taking the next few weeks off from photography to help with settling his affairs, helping my mother begin to move on after more than forty years with my father, and to get myself back into the mental state to create again. I plan to start shooting again roughly in mid-December. There is a long backlog of shoots from summer and fall that I’ve not edited due to lack of time and often energy. Look for more content again as I move into the New Year.

And if you have a family member or friend that you’ve not spoken with in a while, give them a call and chat a bit.

The flag from my father's casket.
The Flag from my Father’s Casket – Rest in Peace Dad

How Long Again?

Had the thought come to me as I was driving home through the pouring rain from North Carolina late this afternoon. I don’t know the exact date, but sometime right around the end of September/first of October 2005 was my first “real” shoot. By that I mean model that somewhat knew what she was doing while I had no clue what I was doing. And the photos from it largely show I had no idea what I was doing.

Still it’s been about ten years, many models, and a lot of images since then, and I’m still enjoying it. Just had a wonderful few days working around Charlotte, NC and hopefully will be back editing this summer’s backlog of work soon.

Thoughts at the End of a Trip

It’s been a hectic few weeks. I’m writing this post in the wee hours of the morning while sitting in the airport in San Francisco waiting for my flight home. It’s been almost three weeks since I last saw my home so it has been a very long trip, the longest continuous time I’ve been away from home in my life. The trip mixed work, vacation, and of course, several shoots.

In the last month I’ve visited Las Vegas, Phoenix, the High Sierras of California, Central California, and the area around San Francisco Bay. After last summer’s trip went so poorly I had more than a little trepidation about this one, but really it’s hard to imagine it going much better. In a state in a severe drought I found rain twice, once to good effect and once less so. It held a visit to a spot with a lot of personal meaning to me, my first interruption by police during a shoot, meeting some new faces, and working with a few friends I’d not seen in a while. I even took some time to play pure tourist, which in my case means not carrying around the camera for the day.

Overall I’ve enjoyed the trip more than I could have hoped. Not everything went according to plan, but those were minor inconveniences and didn’t dampen the trip as a while. There’s lots of photos to come and stories to share coming soon.

Why Last Summer’s Trip Sucked and Why I’m Doing a Trip this Summer Anyway

Earlier in the week I discussed my thoughts, concerns, and frankly fears about travelling this coming summer. I’ve been working to do more travel, but an overall rather bad travel experience last summer left me a bit shy about this year. I’ve hinted at that trip more than once, but I guess I should explain a bit about why the trip left such a mark months later. There are people involved I do consider friends, even if some of those friendships are strained at best now. So forgive some intentional vagueness, but an interlude into my last trip to Arizona and why it left such a mark.

The idea for the trip came a few months after I visited the Grand Canyon for the first time back in 2012. I wanted to backpack into the Canyon itself for a several days, and hopefully complete a rim to rim crossing. That’s starting on one rim, descending into the Canyon, and then ascending to the other rim. Early last year I asked a friend to accompany me on the trip, and she agreed. I was able to secure a permit for a trip in June. This friend models and the resulting plan eventually coalesced into travelling to Arizona for several days before the backpacking portion. When schedules and time allowed we’d travel together to split expenses, but otherwise plan to meet up and head to the Grand Canyon for the backpacking trip.

Sidetracking the preparation and above came in March. In a fairly short period of time I entered into what I only describe as an absolutely horrible stretch of time. So many things went sideways in a short time, a few weeks really. My professional life hit an absolutely horrible stretch leaving me a bit lost and bewildered. Suddenly though a professional opportunity I’d really had hopes for, but seemed dead came back out of the blue. That made it even more painful when it just missed and I got the news in early April. And just after that a seemingly promising romantic relationship fell apart suddenly and unexpectedly. Many more things, small and large over those months . Through all this the trip was sort of my anchor and my landmark as I waded through the muck. The thing I kept looking forward to and stayed excited about.

I’d had some concerns in the last weeks leading to the trip, but felt it mostly nerves. A phone call a few days before my departure soothed those and I felt good whenI left home to drive to the airport for my flight. Right up until the moment I stopped for gas and saw the text from my friend that she wasn’t coming.

I was already committed, I was on the way to the airport, so I flew out. My friend didn’t return my calls before or after the flight leaving me somewhat worried about her along with being bewildered and completely unsure what the hell to do with myself and this trip. The backpacking trip that meant so much to me began to crumble, and I had no idea why.

Still I’d planned several days before we met up, but almost nothing went right. So many shoots canceled or fell through at the last minute. A friend in the area I found both over promised and under delivered combining the frustration I felt. In fact even the shoots that did come to pass almost all had issues such as reptilian photo bombers. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the highlight of the trip was not being bitten by a rattlesnake in spite of being a couple feet from a coiled one. As for the backpacking trip, I’d planned the trip for two people and changing to a solo experience with a few days notice felt impossible. I tried to make it work, but it wouldn’t. A few days after arrival I canceled what I could and ate the rest of the backpacking trip along with changing my flight to an earlier departure. On the day I’d originally planned to arrive at the Canyon, I instead flew home. The dream delayed.

If you’ve followed this blog for more than a few months, you know that I did go back in November and complete the backpacking trip with a few additional stops I’d not planned the first time. It lived up to my expectations and surpassed them. I’m very glad I made the trip even if it took a bit more time and drama than I’d hoped. The effects still linger in frustration and damaged friendships. While I’ve forgiven the friend for not coming out for the trip, I still feel hurt at both how she did so and her behavior since then. While I still hope we’ll reconcile, we’ve not. The friend in Arizona I consider lost.

So that was my trip last summer. Broken friendships, lost trust, Murphy’s Law, more canceled shoots than successful ones, and the dream and core of the trip falling apart when it was almost literally close enough to see. This hasn’t been as short as I’d meant it to be, but that’s why another summer trip feels me with a level of almost physical discomfort at times.

While my day job will take me out west this summer in any case, the question really comes down to what to do afterward. I’ve really decided to sort of go for it. Yes, I’m nervous about a trip going as bad as last summer’s. That’s no reason to not make some trip and enjoy myself. Yes things could turn into another disaster, but they could also be awesome. Without going they’ll simply be nothing.

Oddly that decision made the rest of it fall into place pretty quickly. While I’d love to do the long west coast trip, it would only be possible as a whirlwind and I don’t want to travel that way. I want to experience and savor the places I visit for a few days. So I’ll be visiting Las Vegas and then heading over toward California. It’s a big state and I’ve been there for only a few nights since starting to do this seriously. The plan right now is to start out in Vegas and visit Death Valley, Yosemite, and Sequoia parks. Also planning to come to the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and perhaps Sand Diego for a bit. I think it will be fun. More planning to do, but I look forward to some fun shoots coming out there.

Moving to Spring and Planning for Summer

The quiet period is coming to an end. January and February usually pass as quiet months. Winter means few models from outside the area travelling through. Sometimes other opportunities present, but the cold and waves of snow and ice this winter have kept things fairly quiet even locally. Some shoots of course, but few as even local shoots seemed to fall victim to forecasts of snow more than once the last couple of months. That’s changing as March arrives. The first promises of spring tease in the air. People begin to move about the country again now that ice doesn’t blanket most of it.

My posts around the change from last year to this one focused around some frustrations from the last year. The last couple of months have given me time to make peace with much of that, and I look forward to the coming year as it starts to pick up. My experimentation has been mixed, but the secret of experimentation is that it’s designed to fail. The mistakes are learning opportunities to build upon.

I’ll be heading out west again this summer to Las Vegas for work. I’ll be extending the trip with some additional travel, though I’m not sure how much yet. The disaster that last June’s trip became has me a bit gun shy. During that June trip almost everything went wrong from the drive to the airport to the flight home. The normal lies somewhere between that worst case and the much better return in November and that’s where I debate. I’d love to take the time to enjoy the whole west coast from San Diego to Seattle or Vancouver, but that seems a little too far. Too many logistics that could break, too many days away, and other good, sound, logical reasons.

In truth I worry it’ll end up like the trip from last summer if I push it too far. When I returned in November the June trip led me to keep the trip tightly scheduled and my time for the unplanned short. So I had no time for the unexpected moments that arose. I didn’t get to work with some people because of my schedule, and what time I spent in Phoenix in particular was constantly either shooting or getting ready for a shoot. Being too busy seems better than not being busy at all. Is it better to rush through at a madcap pace or take the chance of leaving time for quiet leisure and the unexpected? The unexpected hasn’t been my friend of late, but I feel comfortable coming toward it again.

I don’t know what I shall do yet. I feel California along with Nevada are almost certainties. I have places I want to see there and I’m not sure the next time I’ll get back out west after this trip. There’s much of the country I’ve not seen in a while and I’d like to get back to those places. I’d like to add the Pacific Northwest, but again the logistics make it tricky. I have time to decide so the decision can be debated a bit more. The longer I debate though, the more likely I will find myself in the northwest this year.

A First Beginning

Once upon a time it seemed during almost every shoot the model would ask me some version of, “How did you get started in photography?” I rarely hear it anymore. I assume that’s because I’ve been working long enough now that how I started seems less interesting than what we’re going to do that day. Also possible that I’ve just gotten so much better at small talk during shoots that models don’t need to go to their standard bag of questions to fill the silence.

I bought my first digital camera embarrassingly early. That camera was little more than a toy and useful only for taking photos for web pages when speeds were measured in bits per second and not megabits per second. I came into photography through art. I started drawing and painting the nude, and then thought of photographing the nude. Moving to nude photography took a while. Finding models became the hardest challenge to working often enough to build my skills. I first photographed a nude in 2005, a female friend who was mostly just curious what it would be like to see herself nude in a photo. This was before everyone had cellphones to text naked pictures to each other making it a more unique experience then. I hired a professional model for a shoot later in the year, but my inexperience really showed there.

After a few more attempts that came to nothing as I moved through early 2006. Late in the spring I connected with a model traveling through the area and scheduled a shoot. She also introduced me to a friend also traveling through the area at the same time. In the end things worked out where one model would come through and we’d work one on one, the second model would arrive and I’d work with the pair, and I’d finish working solo with the second model for a while.

The circumstances for the shoot weren’t the best. I was scheduled to close on a house a couple of days before the scheduled shoot and really had no alternate plan had the house closing been delayed. Most of my belongings were in a storage shed so the only lighting I had available was a single halogen work light bought to use when renovating the house. The house had last been renovated in the 1970s and the color choices reflected that. On the day of the shoot I had only a couple of chairs for furniture and wifi had been installed late the day before. Most of the shoot took place in an empty room that’s now my bedroom.

I mainly remember being really nervous before the shoot working with both models. The first model was okay to work with, but the second model really taught me a lot about working with a model and getting good results. I learned more during that one day of photography working with these two models than any other single day I’ve had with a camera. While I had little idea what I was doing,  that second model in particular was wonderful to work with and really taught me a lot about how to work with a model. That second model was Melissa Troutt. It was the first time I worked with her. While it would be several years before we’d work together again, a quick search of this site will show how much we’ve worked together over the years.

Melissa was great, but there’s little I look at from that shoot today without cringing at the mistakes I made. Here Melissa demonstrates why you should always make sure models are well fed before starting the shoot.


There are a few gems scattered in there though. Melissa probably deserves most of the credit for those, but I do think the idea to shoot some images using candlelight worked well. A good example below and this is a lighting I need to try again sometime. It’s also been a while now since I’ve had the chance to work with Melissa, and I hope that we can work together again soon.


Thanks to those of you that stuck around and read through these last few days. As I get to the end you might wonder what the point of this was? I’m hoping as I move into 2014 that I’m making the same jump I did in those times documented today or yesterday. A moment when I can move to a better level of work and one day look back as a similar transition point. In the last few days posts I’ve documented some of those moments along the way from the past. On Monday and Tuesday I touched on some frustrations from the last year and thoughts on where I want to go moving into 2014. Wednesday I looked at the worst stretch of my photography time. One Thursday I looked at the stretch that broke that frustration and titled it a new beginning. Today I looked back at my first beginning.

Later this morning comes my first real attempt in this direction in a shoot that will push me outside my comfort zone. The results will either be amazing or a mess. It makes me a little nervous, but I think that’s a good thing. Even if it doesn’t work, then I’ll learn from it and can take that forward and try again as I explore some new areas in photography. There will still be photos like you’ve seen in the past here, but expect some new things to show up in the future.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled post programming.

The New Beginning

History is much easier to write in the past tense. Sounds obvious, but I mean that events that leave a mark often do not seem so until reflected upon after the fact. I left off in yesterday’s post at what turned out to be a turning point for me, though I didn’t know it at the time. As the middle of March 2010 arrived I knew I was really frustrated after dealing with some personal issues and  a lot of canceled or flaked shoots over the last months. So these three shoots The first of those three ended up postponing until the following Sunday putting all three shots over the course of a single week. That week turned out to be a large step into my current photography.

First of the three came Ms. Rebel, a fairly local model out of Knoxville. It’s the only time we worked together and honestly it wasn’t my most inspired shoot since I was coming off such a long gap. If I’m honest I don’t think I really expected her to show up until I got a text from her that morning that she was on her way. I hadn’t planned a lot for the shoot, and didn’t have a great plan before she arrived. I played it by ear and was nowhere as good at that as I am now. Overall though we had a good shoot. Working with her helped me get back into the routine and thought process before my later shoots that week. The photo below is of her amazing seascape chest tattoo. It’s still one of the best works that I’ve seen.


Originally I had two shoots scheduled for the late in the week, one on Thursday and the second on Friday. A week or so before the shoots the Thursday model asked to move our shoot to Saturday, which turned out to work better for me so I ended up with Friday and Saturday shoots.

The Friday shoot came with Laura New. We headed to a place that’s become one of my favorite shooting locations over time. I’d hiked there a time or two, and the thoughts of the locations to photograph held great possibilities in the late winter/early spring transition. Having not shot nudes outside before, we began with some work with her in a white dress. The photo below of Laura on a rock next to a small rapid was my favorite of the shoot and a print of photo hung on my wall for a time.


Laura was really the first time I’d photographed a model outdoors for a lengthy period of time. We got a lot of good images that day. It was early enough that while some green showed,much of the bare winter landscape still prevailed. In spots there was a lush green carpet of plant life, but feet away would have passed for mid winter. Another shot I like from this shoot is this one of her posed on a tall rock. You can see some greenery jsut behind the rock, but the trees in the background are still bare.


The shoot made for a long day, but a good learning experience. I learned on the fly to balance the changing natural light and a model both in outfits and nude. We worked in a number of locations, each a little different. Not all went well. We were caught by onlookers once with her nude, and almost caught several other times. As it ended I walked away happy with the images and feeling I’d learned a lot in a short period of time.

I also remember being completely exhausted and sore when getting back home at the end of the day. I’d started hiking the year before, but done little over the winter undoing much of that gain of endurance. I spent much of the coming summer slowly getting back into some shape. Now I do longer hikes than that day carrying more weight just to unwind after a hard week. You can also read a post written nearer the shoot along with a second with more photos.

Saturday came the last of these three shoots with Melissa Troutt. I’d worked with her once several years before when I just started out. After she arrived  we had a wonderful artistic click almost from the start. She seemed to understand what I had in mind and how to help get there. We did a little indoor work before heading out to a location because of concerns about the weather. After the day before, I chose a less ambitious hike for this shoot. We made a short though slightly strenuous trail that ended with of a wonderful waterfall. We got to the waterfall, but started in the area around it. This early photo from that day still is one of my favorite photos that I’ve taken of Melissa.


I love the expression and pose of her on the log. I remember enjoying the way she got involved in the shoot, not just reacting, but looking for ways to make better photos. We only worked the one spot around the falls, but there was plenty of variety for a long shoot. We didn’t end until we were stumbled across by some surprised onlookers. Again no problem, but with that and the lowering light deep in these woods, we did wrap up the shoot. The biggest lesson of the two days I learned the lesson to be more careful in the future was learned.

Another shot of her on the falls itself. Posts and photos posted nearer to the shoot can be found here and here.


The experiences reworked my thoughts on photography. I felt energized and ready to work harder to get better. This blog began to become more active after those shoots. I still had a number of flakes and cancellations over the next months, but more good shoots. Somewhere along the way I began to feel like I had an idea of what I was doing and began to wnat more. I already could produce good photos with models as experienced and talented and Laura and Melissa, but began to get better results with everyone. In retrospect I think that the end of 2009 and early 2010 was a dip, a sort of plateau I had to get across to get better and start getting the results I wanted. Thanks to Ms. Rebel, Laua, and Melissa, I did get there to where I couldn’t imagine the last few years without photography.

This was the only time I worked with both Ms. Rebel and Laura New. Ms. Rebel appears to no longer model. Laura still works, but I think no longer does nude work like that here. Melissa and I have worked together many times since this shoot, and I’ve come to see her as both a muse and a friend.

Tomorrow to wrap up this week I’m going to take a look a bit further back to 2006 and one of the first real shoots I had with professional models and wrap up this little series.

The End of a Phase

I took the photo below in early August 2009. The models are Candle Boxx  on the left and Kimberly Marvel on the right with a light bulb in her mouth. The two had driven up from Atlanta for the shoot. It was the last photo of the day, the end of a final comic theme around the two playing at trying (badly) to fix a problem of a blown light bulb. We ended with this Uncle Fester inspired solution. Not a great concept, but fun and they did it well. I enjoyed shooting with them on it and do like the humor in the final photo here.


I wouldn’t take another photo of a model for about seven months.

Right after this shoot a lot happened. A long term, and often tempestuous, relationship came to a final and unpleasant end. As that fell apart, two people I’d put a lot of trust in screwed me over to their own benefit. All three were involved in my photography. Some people leave a mark on your life when they leave it. Others leave a scar. After those moments, I just didn’t want anything to do with photography for a while.

I started trying to come back toward the end of the year, but shoots kept falling though (a few legitimately, but mostly just flaking models). The trend and my frustration built early in 2010. I reached the point I begun to consider if the frustration was worth it. I got as far as gathering my gear and considering putting it onto eBay and stopping completely. How close I came to that is hard to say. At the time it felt like a close thing, a near decision. Looking back I have trouble believing I would have done it, but time changes perception. Photography wasn’t as much a part of my life then as it’s become today. I don’t really know. Even if I had quite then, I think I’d likely taken up a camera again at some point. Probably I came closer to quitting model photography than I did giving up on photography completely. I do think I was close to giving it up.

As 2012 moved into mid February I’d seen little other than frustration in my attempts at scheduling shoots. Probably a few more negative experiences would have pushed me over the edge. As the end of February arrived I had set up shoots for March with three models. One I’d not worked with before, one I’d worked with early in my photographic career, and the third had been one I’d spoken with a few times, but shoots never worked out. Three shoots in March, and all three worked out well. I do wonder if they had fallen through if that might have been the push to

As part of it I also decided to look at something different and work on shooting outdoors. I’d started hiking the year before, the first step in the long road to getting into good shape. I’d even done one swimsuit shoot outside in 2009 and had found a couple of locations I thought it would be interesting to work with a model. One at a waterfall and the other with some great rock formations around. To those shoots, and why I think they kept me from quitting, I’ll speak more tomorrow.


Closing with another photo from that shoot with Kimberly and Candle. I’d worked with each model individually once before this shoot. I worked with Kimberly again in the spring of 2011 in a nice outdoor shoot. I believe she’s semi-retired now. Candle is still a very active working model and still as talented. Why I’ve not worked with her since this shoot given she lives only a few hours away I can’t really answer and need to try to remedy sometime soon.

Looking Back and Looking Forward – 2

After yesterday’s slightly gloomy post, this last day of 2013 I want to look at the better parts of the past year and forward a bit into 2014.

There was much that went right. Personally my health felt like a major win for the year. Those who’ve known me for a while know that a few years ago I was significantly overweight and out of shape. After several years of work I reached a healthy weight this spring and have maintained that weight through the year. I started running this summer completing my first 5k race in late July and tried an 8k race late this fall. I don’t race to win, but simply to finish the race. I’d easily say I’m in the best health and shape of my life. While it wasn’t as smooth as I’d liked, I also got an item of the bucket list in my backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon this year. Some photos from that November trip have already passed through here with more to come.

Staying within photography I met and worked with a number of new and wonderful models this year. Also worked with a number of previous collaborators again during the course of the year. The results of both groups were a number of wonderful photos some of which I’ve shared here. Every year I find that I enjoy my work more and this was no exception. I’m particularly happy with the small project where I photographed several models at the same location back during the late summer. I’ve also been quietly playing with a project that I’ll reveal more later this week to showcase more of my work.

There are some wonderful models I’ve not worked with in a while for various reasons that I expect or hope to work with again in the coming year and I’m looking forward to those collaborations to come. While my travel was a mixed bag this year, the results of my November trip have me looking to try more in the coming year. I do think I’ll find my way out west again, perhaps to the northwest, and if things align right I’ve had the idea of a trip along the west coast for the coming year.

I’m going to try some new things and push outside my comfort zone a bit more in shoots this coming year. I did a bit of that early in the year, but want to focus on a little more grit and story in my work. Not all of these ideas will work, in fact if all of it works then I’ve likely not pushed hard enough. I’ve already set one shoot for later this week that’s going to be either amazing or a disaster, but should be fun either way.

Also I see more landscape work in my future. Some falls trips to the the mountains and my time out west have left me wanting to explore the landscape alone a bit more. My outdoor nude work actually started outdoor before I added the nude a few years back.

Vanessa and Emilie

Today a photo of Vanessa and Emile from the spring of 2008. I was in Raleigh for a few days where I worked with these two models. I had photographed models together before, but this was the first time I did anything with an erotic concept. I’d scheduled one to arrive first for some work with her, then an overlapped time to shoot together, finishing with the second model solo for some work. The second model, I can’t remember which, arrived late cutting the overlap time leaving time for only one concept, but we still got some good work for I think my first try. As far as I can tell neither model is still working. I did work with Emilie again later than year resulting in a wonderful shot I posted in a wrap up a couple years ago.

Tomorrow I’m going to look back to when I almost quiet photography. Happy New Year everyone. Hope your 2014 is the best year yet.