Back to Work… Again

Back to Work… Again

I was truly disappointed that my Alaska trip was cut so dramatically short. I didn’t expect it, and I was not really ready to give up on that idea. (I will do it next year, or the year after if I have to.)

The back pain forbade me doing any camera work, or walking even, so I had a terribly wasted August/September. I couldn’t even sit at the computer for nearly 6 weeks.

Physical Therapy (yea, Foothills Sports Medicine and Lori, my Physical Therapist) worked me back to a good spot. In fact, I feel better than I have in a long, long time. Sometimes these things can creep up on you and what you think is normal is not.

When I finally got the go-ahead to become physical again, I wanted to shoot more than anything. Once before in my life I had taken a forced hiatus from shooting and a young lady started me back on the shooting path. It was only logical that Briana work with me again to get me motivated to make images.

We spent a morning together driving and shooting and laughing. It was great catching up with her, and it was really fun to shoot again. There was so much I wanted to do – still want to do.

I decided to go old school on this trip, so all I brought was my Nikon Df and an 85MM lens. I also packed a Lumix DMC Z540 for snaps. No lights, stands, reflectors and such. Just natural light, a model, and a camera.

I had a blast, and we made some images I really like.

I hope you do as well.

July Portrait Challenge Entries

The 8 Week Portrait Classes had a July challenge of a “summer portrait”. Winner was decided by photographer Nick Giron, a very good portraitist himself.

Here are the entries:

Off to Alaska


AUGUST, 2016

Daily updates at Phoenix to Fairbanks website.

I decided last August that this year I would do something big, something challenging. When I told my wife I wanted to do something to really get back in touch with my creative side, she said, “well then, what do you want to do?”

“Ride a motorcycle to Alaska”, I blurted out, expecting her to dissuade me.

“You’ll need a motorcycle first”, she said, and the next weekend found us looking at bikes together. She has been so supportive of this trip / adventure that I can only realize further why I married her nearly 40 years ago.

Thanks, Marian.

So today I am off. Bad back, stiff left leg and all.

I will be updating from the road at and will be back to this blog when I return the first week of September.

See you all then!

Paula Puffer: “Journeys” – A Show in Houston

"Journeys" - A Photography Show in Houston

Artist/Photographer: Paula Puffer


Photographs by Paula Puffer

Journeys consists of selected images from several bodies of work photographed by Paula Puffer since her mother’s death in 2010. Works that are a part of the show include:

Watching Alzheimer’s: Focusing on aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and how it’s progression changed her Grandmother’s life.

Will Travel for Sea Turtles: Photographing Kemps Ridley and other endangered turtle species along the Texas Gulf Coast;

Transient Art: Graffiti across the Southern US;

The Spanish Missions of Texas;

Canyons of the American Southwest.

Puffer explores the physical world around me as well as themes of life, aging, and death. Puffer also explores her place in the world as a documentary, commercial, and fine art photographer.

Artist Statement 

Paula Puffer is a writer, photographer, and mixed media artist located in Houston, TX. She spends the majority of her time along the Texas Gulf Coast although she regularly travels through the Midwest, Great Plains, and the Desert Southwest.

Paula is currently working on two projects.

“Secret Selves” focuses on documenting the secret selves that women have created for themselves and the impact those selves can have on their lives. Each image in the series uses upcycled and recycled props where appropriate to create the images portraying each  hidden self. The images will be created in color. 

“Family Farm” is a long term documentary project that focuses on building a sustainable farm in Iowa while deep in the heart of Big Agribusiness. The images will be a mix of monochrome and color images of the work Paula’s brother Charlie has undertaken after retiring from the United States Air Force and pursuing his dream to create a farm that connects people and their food.  

The show will run from July 30-August 7 at Texas Art Asylum (


1719 Live Oak, Unit L,  Houston, TX  77003

Reception Hours

Saturday July 30th 1-8 pm
Sunday July 31st – 1-5 pm

Paula Puffer will be on site to answer questions about her images during both of those times.

Paula became a Project 52 Member a long time ago. I have watched her work mature and grow for several years now. She uses her camera to explore her fascination with the world around her. From Sea Turtles to Missions to Food Trucks, her work always gives us a unique and intimate view of subjects we have known, but not in the way she presents them.

This will be a great experience for anyone wanting to attend a photography gallery and speak with the artist herself. I am proud of Paula, but even more proud to call her my friend.

Meet Yechiel Orgel, Commercial Photographer in NYC



I read about Yechiel Orgel in an online publication a few weeks ago, and instantly knew I wanted to meet him and get an interview for Lighting Essentials. This is the interview I read, and please go over for a complete view of how hard and long Yechiel worked at his dream, perfecting and experimenting and developing a strong body of work along the way.

“Taking the jump was HUGE and it took me a good 8 months until I was actually able to say “I’m leaving” to B&H. I was missing days regularly at work, taking on photography jobs during the day. I’ve got to hand it to B&H: they were wonderful and extremely patient with me. They knew this was my long term goal and as long as my job wasn’t suffering, they pretty much gave me a lot of leeway.

That is, until the day they told me I have to choose what I want. I couldn’t have both anymore. I was pretty much only a part time worker at this point and they couldn’t hold onto me much longer.


When that happened, things escalated from scary to terrifying… I knew I had to make the jump and I had to make it fast. This step I imagine is really hard for anyone. Leaving a day job and a secure paycheck is never easy.”

We tried a few different times to get together for the interview. Once we simply missed the time, then I was stuck in the most remote part of Southern Utah I had ever seen. No internet, no service – no nothing.

We finally got together for this webinar-interview last week and I am very excited to share it with you.

Three takeaways from this interview:

  1. Yechiel worked two jobs to make this dream a reality. This took precious time from his family but he kept his eye on the prize. Work/Life balance is a myth to entrepreneurs who are driven to succeed.
  2. He is a very savvy business person. He knows the value of his work, and demands his clients meet that value with compensation that is commensurate.
  3. He shoots for his book at every opportunity, and at least once per week. Yechiel knows that the portfolio IS the marketing tool that gets you assignments. His commitment to keeping the portfolio strong is one of the reasons he is as successful as he is,

In addition to great talent, Yechiel is one heck of a nice guy. I feel I made a friend in that hour, one that I will chat with again. He generously offered to speak with the Project 52 and FPCN students and we will set that up for after my Alaska trip.

Some images from Yechiel’s portfolio.

Thanks so much, Yechiel.

Four Wonderful Books For Photographers



I think this book by Susan Eckart is one of the best photography / business books I have ever read on the business of photography. She is a consumer photographer with a long list of awards and loyal customers, and her experience gives you a rarely seen insight into running a photography business. The images are beautifully done, and the book is absolutely beautifully printed.

Get it at Amazon.


Body and Soul presents a unique and emotionally intelligent approach to building a sustainable boudoir photography business. The higher-level strategies within these pages will enable photographers to move beyond the task of simply making pretty pictures to greater goals, such as understanding the emotional journey of the boudoir process, building meaningful, long-term relationships with clients, and creating a referral engine to sustain your business. Susan Eckert combines her professional experience as an internationally published photographer with her advanced degree in Psychology to deconstruct the boudoir experience. Each chapter is complemented by interviews with her clients, and illustrates how photographers can partner with their clients throughout the boudoir process in the development of meaningful work.

I’ve followed Chris for many years. He is an inspirational writer, photographer and educator. This book takes his creativity to a new level and helps photographers find their true spirit. Photography is not simply what Chris does, it is who he is.

Get it at Amazon.


Creativity is not a gift for a select few, but an ongoing process of growth and self-realization available to anyone who puts in the effort to pursue the spark. In this book, Chris Orwig offers a unique perspective on the creative process, showing you how to find meaning in your work, be inspired, and discover the life for which you were designed.

With thoughtful and engaging chapters such as “Keep the Edges Wild,” “Einstein’s Game of Connect the Dots,” and “Grit and Glory,” Chris presents each concept through personal examples—his own and others’—showing how to live a more creative and meaningful life.

Ond of my go-to books for inspiration and to be reminded of the passion we share as photographers. Bruce’s work is captivating, and his approach to photography simply life changing. I recommend this book to anyone who is seeking to move from snapshots to serious work.

Get it at Amazon.


This is an updated and newly revised edition of the classic book The Art of Photography (originally published in 1994), which has often been described as the most readable, understandable, and complete textbook on photography. With well over 100 beautiful photographic illustrations in both black-and-white and color, as well as numerous charts, graphs, and tables, this book presents the world of photography to beginner, intermediate, and advanced photographers seeking to make a personal statement through the medium of photography. Without talking down to anyone, or talking over anyone’s head, Barnbaum presents “how to” techniques for both traditional and digital approaches. Yet he goes well beyond the technical, as he delves deeply into the philosophical, expressive, and creative aspects of photography so often avoided in other books.

One of my absolute favorite photographers shooting today is Peter Lindbergh. His sense of style, elegance, and grace creates a timeless body of work that has little reference to context. Images of women being themselves take the stage over the ultra-styled, overly made up high fashion we see way too much of.

Get it at Amazon


Internationally-revered German fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh revolutionized his metier with iconic images of the 1980s supermodels. From his beginnings, he has sought to capture the personality, character, and identity of fashion models, not just the glitter and glamour. In 1997 he presented his seminal book Images of Women comprising his work of the 1980s and 1990s. As a sequel, Lindbergh now presents Images of Women II featuring the highlights of his work created between 2005 and 2014: fashion photographs, nudes, and portraits of today’s actresses and models such as Milla Jovovich, Isabella Rossellini, Monica Bellucci, Jamie King, Emmanuelle Seigner, Tilda Swinton, Kate Moss, Elisa Sednaoui, Jessica Chastain, Hye Jung Lee–and the occasional man, such as Hollywood grand seigneur Kirk Douglas.

Exceptional Still Life Photography (from the recent Still Life workshop)

Exceptional Still Life Photography (from the recent Still Life workshop)

We just wrapped up the most recent 8 Week Still Life Class. I wanted to feature a few of the images the students submitted.

I will be doing more 8 Week classes when I return from my road trip to Alaska.

Cover photo by Lavanya Reddy

PLEASE Make This Guy Famous

Ramona, California.

This guy needs to be sued into oblivion. Full on sued into poverty.


“Police were quick to take action and have now identified and arrested 52 year old Mark Gordon as the driver of the vehicle. As well as being charged with misdemeanour battery and vandalism, Gordon is facing a felony charge of Assault with a Deadly Weapon.

More at DIY Photography.

Meet John Covington, Photographer – Musician



I had interviewed and had lunch with John early in June of 2016. We met at his studio which is built in his backyard in a wonderful little neighborhood full of trees and greenery. I have been aware of John for a few years, but this was the first time we sat down to have some conversation. Lunch was at Tokyo Express, and their California rolls are just as I remembered them.

John is a busy photographer these days. He was in the middle of a product shoot for one of his clients and waiting for info on a shoot. He showed me his classic Cadillac, new Victory bike, and a real find – one of his old Steed bikes that he purchased for his girlfriend. Now that is cool.

John’s bio quickly:
Studied industrial design and Art Center.
Began designing restaurants.
He also plays drums professionally in his off restaurant design times.
His love of motorcycles led him to build custom bikes, designing the framework and the brand.
His need of better photographs of his bikes led him to photography.
His love of photography is what he is following now.

He started full-time photography in 2007, right in the middle of the financial meltdown. This was one of the worst times for starting a small business, and a ‘terrible time’ for photographers. Just ask all the photographers that lived through that time and expected to be able to do this business without working at it. Everyone will tell you it was a horrible time to start a photography business.


John knew how to work. He had built businesses from the ground up, and he knew it took ambition, commitment, careful planning and a strong work ethic. He just made it happen.

He built a studio in his backyard in 2009, and clients love coming to him for his no-nonsense approach to making the shots, doing them right, and getting them delivered. From automotive, to motorcycles, to portraiture and tabletop, John stays true to his style, and elegant use of light.

John’s studio:

John doesn’t usually work with ad agencies. He prefers direct client work, and has an impressive list of clients locally, regionally and nationally that he works for. The studio is busy with a couple of studio shoots a week, and he does location work as well.

John is not a ‘bargain budget’ photographer and gets commission rates commensurate with any photographer in the southwest. He has developed his own, exceptional list of customers, and watched that list grow year after year.

Even during the financial crisis.
Even during the ‘terrible times’ for photographers.
Even through the downturn in advertising.

You see, John Covington has a plan.

His plan is simple. Find clients, service clients, get paid, and bring the client back for more.

So while we read blogs and FB posts about how terrible this business is, and how nobody is making money, and oh whoa is us, John is out doing his thing, shooting for clients, playing drums in his own recording studio, and riding his new Victory custom motorcycle when he has a little down time.

John has a very small social media presence, a small circle of FB friends, and does all of his contacts the old-fashioned way… with a plan. (His plan and my system are a perfect fit, so another glimpse of how it really works.)

Stop listening to the negativity, begin investing in your own future – and for goodness sake when someone starts whining about how terrible everything is, remember John. And know that he isn’t listening to that crap.


John’s Photography Website
John’s Drumming Website
Steed Motorcycles

Thanks John, keep doing what you’re doing, man.

Oh… and a little something to play us out…



John’s book boundless is still for sale. I have a copy and to say it is unique is a total understatement. The book is bound with a supercool finish, and the design of the book both from an aesthetic and product definition is incredible.

50 numbered units, large vertical format (11″ X 17″) handsome coffee-table book with numbered certificate of authenticity signed by the artist, including 50 deluxe framable prints. More info on the book and a link for purchase here.

Let’s Uncheck Boxes That Kill Our Creativity

Let's Uncheck The Boxes That Kill Our Creativity

Sooner Rather Than Later

Let’s Uncheck Boxes That Kill Our Creativity

I recently listened to a speaker talk about unchecking the boxes he had that put an artificial hold on his career, and how that had helped him in his pursuit of sports excellence.

I realized how many boxes we photographers have checked that keep us from reaching our peak creativity as well. Perhaps it is human habit that makes us take inventory of all the things that we don’t have, or can’t possibly get, or “need” in order to succeed.

I wonder why we don’t take the same type of assessment on what we have, what we can accomplish, and why we should create more? Lots more.

But that assessment is for another time, for now I want to focus on the boxes we already have checked in our minds – and uncheck a bunch of them.

The “I Am Too Old” checkbox.
No, you’re not. You have checked that box because so many others in society have checked it and we are all expected to follow suit. Starting a business is not age related, nor is being creative, ethical, or smart with money. In fact, a bit of age gives you advantages over being youthful.

For one, you recognize the value of time. You know it goes by quickly, and you take advantage of every moment. Young people have their own advantages to starting a business, and one is they have not checked this box.

Time is an asset and a motivator. I will turn 67 somewhere near Lake Louise in British Columbia on a motorcycle heading to Alaska. I am also starting another business. I know how time works, and I know how precious it is, and I know I am not going to waste any of it with pre-conceived notions of failure. Far too many people have told me that they think I am crazy to do this at “my age”. I think I am crazy not to do it. Asset. Motivator.

Gary Vaynerchuk on “Age” – Watch.
Gary Vaynerchuk on “Turning 50” – Watch.

The “I Don’t Have the Right Gear” checkbox.
This affects photographers more than some other businesses, but I hear it all the time as well.

The “photographic community” has decided that there is a level of gear you MUST have in order to take a professional photograph. But in the world of clients, that simply isn’t so. (Yes, we have heard of the NY AD’s insisting on Hasselblad and Broncolor… but that is an anomaly, not a rule.) I don’t think it is possible to buy a camera that cannot make professional level images for most, and I mean MOST clients.

I shot for major clients with a Rebel and a 5D. I know a photographer selling fine art prints and he shot for years on a 40D. Photographer Jens Lennartsson travels super light, with only one small camera, and great assignments. An entry level camera and “kit lens” can make extraordinary photographs with a good photographer at the controls. The key is knowing what you can do, and focusing on clients who are more interested in the work than the gear. And that is MOST of them.

Petapixel: My Camera Gear Sucks
Petapixle: Which Pro Camera Do You Really Need to Shoot Like a Pro?

The “It’s The Economy” checkbox.
You see – here’s the thing. It’s always the economy. It is either hot or cold, heating up or cooling down. And businesses keep opening no matter what. We are led to believe that there is a ‘right time’ to start a business, and we better wait for it.

And we will wait and wait and wait. There is never going to be a ‘right time’ to start a business in photography. I can save you that waiting.

But there are strategies, models, and systems that make it easier, more accessible, and definitely within reach. We are not victims of the world, we are participants in it – and participants can aggressively create their own paths.

We start by making sure we know all about the business we are starting, pay attention to finances, create multiple channels of income, and forge new and exciting alliances as often as we can.

We participate. We engage. We follow through with actions designed to keep us participating.

A Photo Editor: The Personal Project. (Keep scrolling…)
Forbes: Why Now is a Good Time to Start a Business
Entrepreneur: 7 Myths About Starting a Business That I Used to Believe

Recommended Reading:
Choose Yourself by James Altucher
The Hundred Dollar Startup by Chris Guillebeau
Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk
What to Do When it’s Your Turn (and it’s Always Your Turn) by Seth Godin

There are more checkboxes for sure, but these are the most common three I see being checked before they are thought through. Let’s uncheck them, and get moving on the creative life we deserve.


We started the next session of Find Photo Clients Now on Saturday, June 11. I still have a few openings if you are interested. The summer is a great time to focus on getting your system up, and building your list. This is the enrollment page for more information. Join us for a great class, and get your photography business moving.

Header image courtesy Unsplash

2016 P52 Roadtrip Book: FREE PDF



Every year we go on a roadtrip and all of the Project 52 members can come along. It is not a workshop, although we do photography nearly all the time. There is no charge for it, members simply pay their own way and their portion of van rentals. We spend a week in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, and we have a blast.

Here is the book of this year’s trip in PDF form. All images are copyright by the photographers who took them, but you are welcome to download the book and enjoy the imagery.


The Art of Still Life: June 2016 Edition

The Art of Still Life: June 2016 Edition

PROJECT-52-2016Examples from the Still Life Class here at Lighting Essentials.

Finished photos and the BTS shots of the lighting used.

(cover image by Carla McMahon)

A big shout out to the students for such wonderful work. And the BTS shots.

Photographer: Doris Rudd

Photographer: Lavanya Reddy

Photographer: Rachael Switalski

Photographer: Paul Brousseau

Photographer: Katherine Gooding

Photographer: Helen Svensson

Photographer: Barbara Schweighauser

The Porto Photography Experience

The Porto Photography Experience

From Anna at the Porto Photography Experience:

“As photographers living in Porto, Portugal, we feel privileged: the UNESCO World Heritage area backdrops to shoot in, the kind of sights all photographers dream of; amazing food; great weather for most of the year; gorgeous models we love to work with – all of this at our fingertips.


Late last year, we had a lightbulb moment – why not share this with like-minded people?


After months of excited preparations (which you’ve probably read about in our monthly “Behind the Scenes”), we asked a group of sensational photographers whose work we have admired for years if they would like to join us to test our idea – much to our delight, they said yes!”

Read the whole thing… and start planning for the next Porto Photography Experience. I will be going next time for sure.

“A Disturbing Trend” – by Neal Rantoul

“A Disturbing Trend” – by Neal Rantoul


“Look, the practice of making pictures used to be hugely craft based. You needed to study photography and the making of pictures hard to be good at it. It used to be difficult to do well. As a professor I seldom saw any student any good at it until they were a couple of years in. Now, the level is higher and proficiency comes without much work. I doubt most students two years into their degree can accurately tell you what ISO is, aperture and shutter speed settings, 18%  gray, reciprocity failure, D-Max and so on. You can build the case, of course, that they don’t need to know those things. Put the camera on “P” and fire away.

My point? As photography becomes ubiquitous, as we are all photographers and even the most simple of cameras made today provides stunning results compared to a few years ago, photography is free to explore areas never approached before. That’s all good. But please give me less words and better pictures! I find the story, the text mostly boring and condescending, telling me how to look at the photographs rather than letting the photographs do the talking.”

Digital. Film. Images.

“I don’t think using film per se makes someone stand out in a digital world,” he says. “That’s never been a motivation to me. It’s essentially a photographer’s understanding of his craft and sensibility and way of seeing that makes him stand out… And that certainly shouldn’t be bound by a format, or even a talking point in the conversation between the image and the viewer.”

— photographer Jamie Hanksworth in this fabulous column on the growing resurgence of film.

Is Snapchat a New Story Telling Medium?

“Snapchat brings the reader into the story. Each viewer becomes a part of the assignment. They are my travel companions,” Stanmeyer tells TIME. “When millions of readers pick up the magazine each month, they only see 12 to 15 photographs. But so much more takes place while creating these deeply layered stories; moments of success, failure, problem-solving, excitement, boredom, hope, terrible hotels, to camping under the stars, eating tins of meat and instant noodles.” And, through Snapchat, National Geographic’s followers saw it all.”

John Stanmeyer, Photographer National Geographic in Time Magazine

Overheard: Keith Taylor, Photographer, Atlanta

Keith Taylor, Photographer, Atlanta:

“You must learn to be content with where you are & what you have, yet still push yourself. Otherwise, you will destroy yourself – mentally – by comparing yourself to where somebody else is at. What somebody else is doing doesn’t matter so much. What matters is what you’re doing with what you have to work with at any given time.”


I noticed this guy as I walked past him on Peachtree Street. He was looking through the viewfinder of his camera at something or another. Once past him I looked through my viewfinder at him and sharply said, “Hey!”


He looked up at me & I took this shot. Then, I walked over, introduced myself, and explained that I liked capturing random people & sharing a little about who they are as well as any words of advice they had for the viewers of their photo. This is what I got from him:


His name is Seth, and he is originally from Americus, GA. He moved to Atlanta one year ago to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time photographer – something he has been working on now for seven years.


I asked him to share some advice with the viewers of this photo and he said (in the context of pursuing photography professionally): “The key is patience. Don’t get in a hurry. It’s all about becoming a better version of yourself. You’ve got to learn to enjoy where you’re at while you’re there.”


He then apologized to me because he felt what he had just said was “incoherent.” I suppose it could be to some people – but it wasn’t to me at all and I told him so. As a photographer myself, I knew all to well what he was talking about…


Commercial photography does require patience – copious amounts of it. There are very few overnight successes in this field. It requires what seems like a never-ending effort on your part – for years – before you start seeing some of it really pay off. You’ve got to stay in the game during the times you don’t feel like playing anymore.


You’re forced to become a better version of yourself, because you’re constantly having to learn, adapt, & humble yourself.


You must learn to be content with where you are & what you have, yet still push yourself. Otherwise, you will destroy yourself – mentally – by comparing yourself to where somebody else is at. What somebody else is doing doesn’t matter so much. What matters is what you’re doing with what you have to work with at any given time.


So Seth – thanks for reminding me of what I need to be doing – and possibly even some other creative spirit out there that’s feeling like giving up as they read this.

Noticed on Keith’s FB page today.

Visit Keith Taylor Photography.



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