It’s Not What You Think.

Glen Falls

Glen Falls

I’ve been involved with an organization called the Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) for about five years. ACAP has spearheaded a project for several years called the Marsh Creek Restoration Initiative. Marsh Creek is an estuary which starts in the suburbs of Saint John and cuts through the heart of the city. The project was initiated by ACAP because the creek has been contaminated by raw sewage and abused by industry in a small section of the marsh for several decades. Thanks to the attention ACAP has brought to Marsh Creek a plan has recently been put in place to finally fix the problem.

If it wasn’t for the work ACAP is doing I would have continued to associate Marsh Creek with the polluted parts, like most people. When I got involved with ACAP I began to learn that there is so much more to the creek and started to realize how many beautiful parts there are besides the small part that’s been polluted. I like the shot above because it’s not what most people think. You tell them it’s part of Marsh Creek and they are so surprised; just like I was the first time someone told me.

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Do What You Love.

I’m reading a book by Max Lucado called Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot. In the book he talks about using your talents, doing the things you love for the right reasons. It’s not for the money or for the fame but because you love to. It’s taken some time but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized, Max is right.

I follow a blog called Garden Walk Garden Talk and not because I’m an avid gardener. The writer of the blog has two passions; gardening and photography and uses both of these to create some incredible images. Her inspiration comes from her love of flowers and gardening and her talent in photography is what creates the works of art. I personally don’t know much about gardening, but I really enjoy her blog and images because she does them so well. She has a great blog with amazing images because she really knows her subject and she knows her subject so well because she is passionate about it.

Over the years I have photographed a variety of different subjects. I’ve enjoyed taking portraits and sports photos, I’ve had fun at balloon festivals and car rallies. I like to walk through cities that I visit enjoying the architecture and lights at night, but there is one subject more than all the others that I’m passionate about and continue to gravitate towards. That is nature.

I’ve read photography books and had friends say that you if you want to be successful you need to photograph this or shoot that but I’ve learned that it is not the case. Doing what you love is what makes you successful. Whether it’s photography, writing, painting or helping people, do what you love and you will be good at it.

The Photograph That Was Never Taken

As photographers, we’ve all likely said it at one time in our life, “I wish I had my camera right now!” It may have been while we were just walking the dog, driving to the grocery store or work. Our lives are so busy with things to do, it just isn’t possible to capture every moment in time, as much as we may want to. Even as recent as this past Saturday I had one of these moments.

The weather is very spontaneous here in New Brunswick. I woke up to rain on Saturday but by 8:30am it had cleared enough for me to head to a local nature park for a hike. I was able to spend an hour or so taking photographs before it started to rain again; and when the sky opened up, it poured. Later, after the rain stopped, my wife and I went for a drive so I could get some framing done. As we left our neighbourhood I saw the fog and steam rolling off the street. It was certainly an “I wish I had my camera moment.”  I looked around and saw many opportunities to create dreamy images. With my wife in the car and my oldest still at home babysitting his younger sisters, I thought it was best to get where we needed to go and get back home before sibling rivalry took over. Opportunity missed.

There have been several other occasions that I have wished I had my camera in my hands. Sometimes the moments are a spontaneous display of affection between all three of my children (rare!!) on a family outing or a once in a life time moment like taking a first step. Of course there are many photos that my wife and I have taken for family celebrations, our kid’s musicals, dramas and sporting events. These are the most important images that I have taken.

As a husband and father as well as a photographer there has to be a balance. Sometimes I have to make a choice when and where I take photographs that are just for me. Some of the photographs I haven’t taken have been by choice because there are some moments with my family that I won’t get to experience again. I’ll admit, sometimes I wish I had more time for my personal photography, but my kids are only young for a short period and the important moments in their lives only happen once. Redoes for these events aren’t an option.

Is there a photograph that you haven’t taken?

Give and Take (Nothing)

For many photographers the concept is fairly simple. Give me money and I’ll take your photograph or sell you one that I’ve taken. The idea of getting paid to take a photograph is not a new concept and quite often becomes the desire of many aspiring photographers, myself included. For some of you who follow my blog on a regular basis, you might recall some of my recent posts when I have talked about wanting to do more with my photography and use it for a greater purpose. Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing some research on organizations and individuals who are using their talents to take a photograph and get nothing in return. I thought I would pass along a list of organizations that have really impressed me. If you know of another concept or organization that I haven’t mentioned here please feel free to share back with me.

The Maple Leaf Mission is an organization based out of Edmonton Alberta whose mission is to provide portrait photography to families of individuals who are: facing a terminal illness, living with a debilitating illness yet demonstrates a life lived to the fullest, military families celebrating homecomings or deployment, soldiers returning injured from a tour. For more information on The Maple Leaf Mission visit http://themapleleafmission.ca/.

Help Portrait was started by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart. The concept is simple. Find families or groups who would like a portrait but can’t afford to have one taken. Single parents, underprivileged families, families affected by illness, army veterans, or just a neighbor. Go to http://help-portrait.com/ to learn more.

According to their website “Outside the Lens™ (OTL) is a San Diego-based youth media literacy program dedicated to celebrating the vision and voices of children around the world and across cultures. Students (K-12) tell their unique personal stories using photography, writing and other digital media forms while under the guidance of writers, poets, journalists, photographers, filmmakers, artists, and teachers.” I like this concept a lot. The idea of giving a young person a camera should help us see the world in a new perspective. Right now they are participating in a global photography project called Water in Focus which documents the use, waste, conservation and pollution of the world’s water supply. If you are interested in learning more about Outside the Lens visit them at http://www.outsidethelens.org/.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is an organization that has really captured my attention for personal reasons. The mandate of NILMDTS is to help parents recover from the loss of a baby. This might seem like a morbid type of charity but for parents going through a very difficult situation it might be an important part of the healing process. For parents of stillborn babies, and babies that die shortly after birth a photograph might be the only thing they bring home from the hospital. Right now they have over 12000 volunteers in 40 different countries.

Photo Philanthropy is an organization that is all about social change. They connect photographers with non-profit organizations around the world. Projects may include environmental causes, social and economic situations in places like third world countries, or education on a variety of topics. If you are thinking about donating your talents to a cause this might be a good place to start.  You can connect with them at http://photophilanthropy.org/.

If you are interested in learning about more organizations to partner with you may want to look at the website http://shuttermission.org/ or do your own search on philanthropy and photography.

“From what we get, we can make a living;
what we give, however, makes a life.” –
Arthur Ashe

Worship the Creator While Caring for Creation

It was just a little over a month ago that we celebrated Earth Day but it was in the spring of 1970, that U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson originally had his idea. His plan was for all of us to take one day a year to think about our actions and the influence they are having on the planet. As the father of a daughter with asthma, there is rarely a day I don’t think about my actions, efforts, and sometimes lack of, to make a difference. Long before Senator Nelson, I believe there were many others who were passionate about the environment and all of creation. In Genesis 1:26 God says;
“Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”


Great Blue Heron – Quispamsis, New Brunswick

Adam and Eve were the original caretakers of the Earth. It was what God had intended. Unfortunately, too many of us have lost sight of this or misinterpreted what it means to rule over the Earth.  It’s not about taking whatever we can because we have the right to do it. We all look to those who lead our countries or cities for many things. In choosing a leader or ruler we look for someone who is wise, just, and will protect us in our time of need. Too many of us have forgotten that as the “rulers of the Earth” we are supposed to be the keeper of the planet as God had intended.

King David mentions his appreciation for God’s creation dozens of times in the book of Psalms. All of creation was his inspiration; the moon, stars, mountains and rivers inspired and created a sense of awe in David’s mind and heart. In Psalm 115 he reminds us that we are take care of the Earth. Was this another reason that David was known as the man after God’s own heart?

Red Rock Canyon – Nevada

I also believe Jesus was concerned about the environment because he saw it in a larger picture. I know there are some who will think I’m taking this too far but I truly believe this. I don’t really like the term environmentalist because it has the connotation that it is only about animals, trees and the air. But really when it comes right down to it, it is about people. Trees are cut or burned in the third world because people need to farm so they can eat. Our oceans are over-fished because people need to eat.  Factories pollute because of our desire (mine included) for more and more stuff. Jesus was compassionate and he cared for people. Whether they were sick, blind, or hungry, Jesus showed his compassion. (See Matthew 9:35-36.) It was always about people.

I read an interesting story online recently in a magazine called Relevant. In this article the writer Aly Lewis talks about an organization called Plant With Purpose which was started to help fight extreme poverty by planting trees. It is such a simple idea. With a little education, and a few trees, this organization is looking to make the difference in the lives of those who struggling with the environmental crisis the most.

My Back Yard (double exposure) – Kingston New Brunswick

As Christians, I don’t believe one day a year is enough to be conscious about the decisions that we make.  It has to be a lifestyle, everyday. Just like Jesus was concerned about people, we need to do the same. The decisions we make daily, not only concern us but they can also have consequence for others. Every decision that I make, both good and bad, reflects how I feel about my relationship with others and God. If I truly believe that God is the Creator and I want to worship Him, then I should worship in all aspects of my life and not just when the music is playing on Sunday morning.

Salt Water Cure

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. – Isak Dinesen

I’m back from vacation. It was a short walk but the view was fantastic. Even though it was only a mental break from writing and I didn’t go anywhere, it was a much need time away to recharge and refocus on my photography. In looking for inspiration there is an abundance here in New Brunswick. I can look out my window and see the Bay of Fundy and open my front door and hear it. If it is too cold I can look through any of my windows and see the salt spray that has been left behind.

The Bay of Fundy in Action

It has been during walks along the coast when I have captured many of my favorite images. The Bay of Fundy has no shortage of  inspiration and subjects to photograph. There are many times when I visit the ocean that I attempt to record its power and awesomeness . Creating images of waves can be made on just about any visit, whether calm or stormy days. On a calm day I love to get close to the shoreline to show the motion and beauty of the water. The stormy days offer the beauty as well, but it is power that it really demonstrates.

Tides In

The shores along the bay provide creatures, color and the abstract of rocks and seaweed. Having a close focusing or macro lens will come in handy to photograph these subjects. Showcasing the details allows the viewer to really appreciate all that the ocean has to offer and also to show the fragility. The ocean is such a stark contrast of power and yet it is so fragile as it is impacted by the negligence and complacency of those who either don`t care or know any better.

Adam’s Rib

The ocean has been the subject of many of my images and it has also been the source of many memories. My children enjoy the beach and ocean as much as I do (but with less apprehension about getting messy). As a family we have spent countless hours walking the coastline while sharing stories, laughs and marveling at God`s creation. Water has this unique ability to capture our attention. Even with all the gadgets, TV shows and music to entertain them, my kids will still leave all those in a instant if I offer an invitation to join me for a walk on the beach.

Mud Pies

Besides photography, my other passion is the environment. Over the past 3 years I have participated in an international effort assisting in beach clean-ups.  The Ocean Conservancy (http://www.oceanconservancy.org) promotes the annual event along with a local organization called Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP). The list of grossness that we have collected is too long to mention but I have picked up just about any type of trash you can imagine.  If you have never been involved in a local clean-up, I urge you to find one and participate. You will be left with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and the added benefit of not having to photograph around trash the next time you visit the beach.

Compassionate Photography

1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

I have struggled with this week’s blog. My first dose of writers block has set in. This was originally planned for Palm Sunday but I have been unable to focus and to get my mind away from the environmental issues I wrote about two weeks ago.  Since I posted my Running Water blog, I have read a few other stories on the topic of water and the environmental and I’ve struggled to concentrate on much else.

Palm Sunday - It was a great time for some internal reflection

For several years I have wanted to use my photography for a greater purpose than just my own fame. There is part of me that still has the desire to be a full time photographer traveling the world creating captivating pieces of art; but there is also the part of me that understands the greatest satisfaction will come from making a difference in the world with my images.

Don’t get me wrong, going out early on a morning or late evening continues to motivate me and I still get excited every time I plug my camera into my laptop. Just being outside enjoying nature, recording images and editing on my computer sustains me from week to week, but long term I would like to accomplish more.  I was planning a trip later this year to Kenya with some friends from my church but unfortunately that was postponed due to an election in Kenya. I had visions of capturing the next image of “The Afgan Girl” like Steve McCurry or a wild creature like Frans Lanting’s “Cheetah and Cub” but that will have to wait.

Synchronized Swimming - A lot of my inspiration comes from sharing the uncommon and the common; sometimes at the same time.

Palm Sunday and Easter is a time of celebration of an Individual who was an example for us all. On several occasions Jesus demonstrated his compassion for the less fortunate and those who were sick. I think most of us now realize the issues that we are now dealing with in regards to the environment will have the greatest effect on the poor. Those who are least able to help themselves are the ones who face the biggest obstacles. The challenge for me now is to demonstrate compassion like Jesus did and is there a way for me to use my photography to share this message.

I have had several discussions over the years with different people and family about my ideas and desire to use my images for something else besides art on a wall. I have discovered new organizations like Help Portrait, Outside the Lens and Broken Light Collective and many others which are all amazing projects. I just haven’t found the one that feels like the right fit for me yet.  So now I’m turning to you my friends, new and old, for ideas.  If you are involved in some kind of an organization or doing something on your own and using your photography to give back to others, I would love to know what you are doing.

Passion With Purpose

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well. – Martin Luther King Jr.

I’m sitting in the Dulles Airport in Washington DC waiting for my flight home after taking part in a course in Virginia.  I’ve had a few moments to reflect on the time that I’ve spent here.  I arrived last Monday and fortunately I had time to take in some of the sights with some friends.    When asked where we wanted to go by our tour guide I immediately requested to stop and see the Lincoln Memorial.   Our drivers suggested since we were in the area that we might also be interested in the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.  I had no idea that a memorial even existed, so I was very excited to have the opportunity to visit.

Martin Luther King Jr. is someone that I have admired for quite some time.  His biography April 4th 1968 is a powerful book that shares so much insight into his life and purpose.  Those who follow me on Twitter will notice that I often quote him.  I find his words to be so full of wisdom and give me so much to contemplate about life.   He makes me think about my own life and my purpose.

His memorial is so surreal.  You enter the site and cross through a large opening in a boulder.  The piece that has been cut out is the stone that Martin Luther King Jr. has been carved into.   Surrounding the memorial is a granite wall with several of King’s most famous speeches.  You can’t help but stand there and be in awe.

I assume that all of us at one point in our lives have someone that we look up to.  I’ve had several mentors in many areas of my life.  Some have been close personal friends and almost parent-like to me.  Others I haven’t even met.  Martin Luther King Jr. is one of those people who I look up to but have never met.  Unfortunately he died before I was even born.

If you are ever in Washington DC, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is a must see.  The experience is not about the photographic opportunities. No photograph could do it justice.  It is solely about the experience of being as close as we’ll ever get to such a great individual; someone who changed the world.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a special man.  I can only hope that my passion allows me to accomplish a fraction of what he has done.