Posts

Gratitude

 

It’s not always easy writing a blog. In fact this week was one of those weeks that I was desperately trying to think of a topic that is consistent with the messages I try to convey on these pages.  Out of frustration I decided to just get out of the office and away from the computer. I emailed my wife and told her to meet me at pub across the street from her office.

 

After a wonderful lunch I was still short a topic. As I was driving back to my office I drove past Eastern State Penitentiary and right in front there was a parking space. I thought why not, I have my camera with me (no surprise there) and I have always wanted to tour the place during the day (previously I had only been there for Terror Behind The Walls, near Halloween). For $12 I could go in and forget my deadline and ignore that “whoosh” noise it makes as it goes by.

 

This place is a one of the cheapest tourist traps in all of Philadelphia and probably one of the best too. No one tries to sell you anything and all the guides are friendly and helpful (they must be from out of town). On top of that it’s really cool!  Of course Al Capone’s cell is the most restored, but most of the place is falling down around you: debris, broken windows and concrete are everywhere.

It happened to be my lucky day too!  Not only did I get a great parking spot, they were giving tours of some of the places not usually open to the public. I was able to see the chaplain’s office and the special murals on the walls, and also “The Hole” where prisoners were put for solitary confinement.  I stand a hair under 6 feet tall (probably because I have no hair) and when I was standing in the ‘hallway’ in front of the solitary cells my head just touched the ceiling. Not a place I want to spend any time.

 

As I toured the rest of the prison I noticed all the cells, the conditions and how horrible it must have been in those days to have been stuck there for years. The idea that the only natural light many of the prisoners ever felt came from a tiny slit in the ceiling. The only other light came through the skylights but they were over the hallways and you would not feel the sun on your skin but you could see it just a few feet away outside your cell.

 

As I started to leave I began to feel a sense of gratitude wash over me; I was able to walk out when I wanted to. This got me to thinking (dangerous, I know) about how lucky I am.

 

When I was younger I was a borderline kid. I didn’t believe in school, authority, or anything most ‘good kids’ believe in. I had the choice to go down the wrong path and it would have been very easy for me to do. However for some reason I did the next right thing over and over until I got to where I am today, a man who owns his own business and has the chance to take a random Wednesday afternoon off to tour a decrepit old prison.

 

I am a lucky guy, I have freedom today and that is something that I often forget about. I think about bills, mortgages, payments and where the next job is coming from. Today I was able to take a few moments and understand what gratitude really is; I have to say that it is one of the best things I have in my life. Today I am free to worry about bills, mortgages, payments and where my next job is coming from.

 

All this gave me something to write about too. It gave me an Attitude of Gratitude.

Keep It Simple (Stupid)

 

Complication is easy – While simultaneously applying downward pressure and twisting in a counter clockwise motion to create upward movement, creating a release of pressure and separating multiple items bound together. Also known as unscrew it. However, anyone who has tried to loosen a screw with a stripped head knows that simple isn’t always that easy.

 

So just how does one keep it simple? Obviously that entirely depends on what the ‘it’ is. In my case it’s usually photography or getting the right image for you. So what if the image you need is complicated? That is where experience comes in; anyone can make the simple complicated but experience is what can make the complicated simple.

 

Recently I was contracted to photograph a large mansion in the Poconos of Northern Pennsylvania. This home has 6000 square feet of living space just on the first floor. Included are bathrooms, sitting rooms, a large foyer, an entertainment lounge, a koi pond (with huge koi) with a bridge and 3 meter waterfall, dining room, formal living room, two bedrooms, mud room, hot tub and full size indoor heated salt water pool, not including upstairs or the full basement! To capture the ambiance of this home is not an easy task.

 

I have some experience capturing the mood and feeling of an estate like this as I’ve shot quite a few of them. I have an approach to shooting large estates and the process is very similar to all the projects I do. The first and foremost thing that I do is find that ‘feeling’ and to do this it’s best to start by talking, at length, to the client. In most cases a home like this is the pride and joy of the people who live there and often they are more than willing to share what means the most to them.

 

Once I have an idea of what ‘s special about a project I need to survey it and that means taking  time to walk through it and determine the flow of the project or, in this case, the home. Some estates will strike you as soon as you pull in the lane: Winterwood Estate in CT was like that and the flow of the property was as important as the structures on it. In the Poconos it was a bit different though: it wasn’t the property itself or even the beautiful home, it is how the home interacts with the view from atop a mountain. From almost every room there was a view of the valley below or the ski resort across the valley.

This meant that whenever possible I needed to include the views and vistas. My experience has shown me how to do this in a way that shows both the home and the view without compromising either. By walking through the home I was able to experience what the homeowners enjoy every day with their morning coffee or their evening meal.

 

What I did was take a very complex job and I broke it down into pieces, learn, observe, review, survey and then formulate a plan of action. This is what I do with all my work whether I am shooting a multimillion dollar estate, simple portrait, an event or a major advertising campaign. Depending on the type of project the length and details of each step may change but the same simple formula is applied each time and I get the results my clients want, every time.

 

For me it isn’t just to keep it simple, for me it is Keep It Simple Stupid and that is why I call it my “K.I.S.S.” method.  Let me know if you need a KISS. 😉

 

You can see 50+ images of the home at www.19whisperinghillscourt.com and if you may be interested in purchasing it, contact me and I will get you in touch with the owners.