Category Archives: Life Philosophy

Balance and Priorities and Lost Wisdom Teeth

Processed with VSCO with c2 preset

Last Friday I accompanied my 15 year old daughter as she went to the oral surgeon to have her four wisdom teeth removed. I am very fortunate to have the flexibility and freedom to be able to be there for her. It all went well with even a comical video or two of the after effects of the analgesia. I was happy to be there for her. Chloe is my youngest and lives with me here in Ohio. Her older sister Emma is 17 and will be graduating this year from high school in Texas where she lives with her mom. My son Philip, age 30, is making his own way and living his dream near the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Make a difference where it counts, and lasts. The achievements that will always stand the test of time will be those that positively impacted another person’s life. That’s job #1 in being parent and I fear that in all the political noise we’ve surrounded ourselves with has taken some the focus away from why we’re here and what we’re doing in the first place. And it’s just not the political noise. It’s the noise of our own insecurities and fears often amplified due to the inevitable and constant comparisons being made on social media.

As an independent artist and photographer I’m often challenged to constantly bring in new work in a smaller market where I’m well-established, and with growing competition from influx of new photographers and cell phone cameras. I put pressure on myself to introduce to the fine art print market striking, new imagery representing new locations.

It’s always there on social media, is it not? The hipster photographer traveling the back roads of the American West in his custom SUV or retro Woodie Wagon with a Husky in tow and every week a breathtaking sunrise along the coast or in some grand vista of a National Park.

How many photographers can actually make a living from such a “dream job?” Very, very few. Seriously, if any at all. What still surprises me is the number of people I come in contact with who think that’s me. It is not. In fact I haven’t traveled outside of Ohio since I went to visit my daughter in Dallas last October.

All those images I post everyday to my company Facebook page? Old stuff. Lots of it. Again and again. And you know what? That’s O.K. Just last week I posted a canyon landscape that I captured when I lived in Utah in 1999. Six months from now I will probably post it again.

There are some important points I’m making here. One, selling art is not selling entertainment, and unfortunately that’s what the bent has become for the vast majority of artists pushing themselves on social media these days. To entertain and “engage” by feeding this huge, nebulous audience of followers “new stuff” that shows just how exciting the life is being pursued by the most popular adventuresome hipster artist. I think it’s a shame that this approach is being perpetuated amongst art schools and colleges and in a way falsely convincing students that they will actually be able to make a living traveling, blogging and selfie-stick their way through life. They won’t.

The other point to be made is that when we finally learn to accept the blessings and opportunities that are right outside our front doors we find that often it’s through such local endeavors, no matter how “boring” it may appear on social media, where we find our creative voices and more importantly, the type of face-to-face, personal connections that in the long run will be far more profitable and fulfilling. For me one area of unexpected fulfillment has been expanding my photography practice to the field of teaching photography, through field workshops. To awaken the joy of artistic expression in a new photographer with a camera and with the right guidance is worth any National Geographic expedition to the most exotic locations.

The problem we are all facing today is this constant negative energy of adversarial relationships that arise from so many comfort zones and assumptions, especially between generations. Heck I’m already doing it with the use of the term “hipster.”

We need to return to common ground of learning, growth and collaboration. To remain divisive is to continue to keep generations isolated. That’s not good for anyone.

My other point is the most important. Don’t screw-up priorities. It’s easy to do, especially when you work in a field where there’s quite a few unrealistic expectations. That gets frustrating and it simply is not worth it to try to please all people all the time. Look to where and how your work has made a positive impact, beyond the bottom line and short term profit. Having worked as a photographer since 2003, in a number of different locations and for a wide variety of clients and students, I’ve lost count the times I’ve been told what a difference my photographs have made, how I’ve inspired someone to reach out and grow or how simply sharing an old favorite landscape image with some words of support made someone’s day.

And this gets back to the unexpected joys of parenthood. When my daughter selects one of my images from my web site for a project for her sophomore art class and for me to be there when they perform, maybe not all the time because of how things have worked out with distances, but to be there when it matters and to matter to them when it counts, and sometimes you get a goofy post-wisdom teeth video to share to boot.

I’ve put a lot of expectation for perfection upon myself. Artists tend to do that. But at 52 years of age all I can hope for now is just to make a positive difference each day, with my kids and with anyone I’m blessed to come in contact with.

Plant the seeds that no else sees, and anchor your confidence in the joy of the fruit to be harvested long after you’re gone. It will all be worth it.

Enter November | Regaining Your Soul in the Change

The quiet of November. The cold of night slowly releasing to the remaining warmth of the day. Morning mist filling the valleys. Frost-covered leaves and bare branches silhouetting the oranges and purples of early sunsets. There’s a calmness to November; an ease of being, a peaceful disposition before the arrival of winter.

November has always been a welcome respite; that quiet and beautiful month of transition. It is an opportunity to return to my photographic roots among the towering Hemlocks of Hocking Hills and along prairie trails in twilight.

There’s a soft and slightly melancholy feel to the early nightfalls and horizons set to hues between orange and pink and migrating flocks overhead. I welcome the change and I’ve learned not to dread the arrival winter for it is in all the seasons and the in-between months when we are reminded that life is in a constant state of change. The soul was never designed to be a stationary object but flows with tides and the waxing and waning of the Moon.

Change is to be embraced. It’s good. It’s necessary. It’s how we grow. What remains consistent is the energy of love and grace that stays with all the winds of change. Let us all be fully and completely present in all that change brings us and during the calm beauty of November to stop and be grateful for all we’ve be blessed with in our lives.

The Super Moon of November 14 2016 rising above the woods in Sugarcreek MetroPark near Dayton Ohio by Jim Crotty
The Super Moon of November 14 2016 rising above the woods in Sugarcreek MetroPark near Dayton Ohio by Jim Crotty
Dusk in November from Sugarcreek MetroPark near Dayton Ohio by Jim Crotty
Dusk in November from Sugarcreek MetroPark near Dayton Ohio by Jim Crotty
The Super Moon of November 13 2016 rising above the woods in Sugarcreek MetroPark near Dayton Ohio by Jim Crotty
The Super Moon of November 13 2016 rising above the woods in Sugarcreek MetroPark near Dayton Ohio by Jim Crotty
Late fall evening in Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve Ohio by Jim Crotty
Late fall evening in Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve Ohio by Jim Crotty
Early November sunset along the Bridle Trail in Hocking Hills State Park Ohio by Jim Crotty
Early November sunset along the Bridle Trail in Hocking Hills State Park Ohio by Jim Crotty
Misty morning in November near Bellbrook Ohio by Jim Crotty
Misty morning in November near Bellbrook Ohio by Jim Crotty
Misty morning in November near Bellbrook Ohio by Jim Crotty
Misty morning in November near Bellbrook Ohio by Jim Crotty
Misty morning in November near Bellbrook Ohio by Jim Crotty
Misty morning in November near Bellbrook Ohio by Jim Crotty
Misty morning in November near Bellbrook Ohio by Jim Crotty
Misty morning in November near Bellbrook Ohio by Jim Crotty
Misty morning in November near Bellbrook Ohio by Jim Crotty
Misty morning in November near Bellbrook Ohio by Jim Crotty

A Photographic Moment | The Bridges of Preble County Ohio

Discussing the regaining of creative momentum, positive energy, covered bridges and the Canon 5DS. I also mention my two upcoming workshops – “Find Your Creative Zone” on Saturday, August 27 2016 at Cox Arboretum and the “Shoot the Stars/Night Sky” workshop on November 4-5 at The Inn at Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills, Ohio.

A Photographic Moment | The Bridges of Preble County from Jim Crotty on Vimeo.

Transcend | Dare to Believe

Only by peace can the human heart gain sovereignty over the darkness of fear and the desires of the ego. The world grasps and holds at what is only temporal, as if life is a mere game of competitive oneupmanship. The winners. The losers. The accounting and counting of what eventually amounts to nothingness. But the truth of the soul is a love that transcends this world, where the only measure is the heart’s capacity for the sheer honesty of its beauty and being and destiny. We are not sent to our fates by a cold and uncaring God. It is rather by our own choosing do we recede into darkness or proceed into light. Only by peace can the heart lead the way forward. The conscious decision to follow that path is a holy power, a divine gift. In the years that fall behind us may we all gain the awareness that is peace and acceptance and join our hearts in the grandeur that is love everlasting.

13517445_1370009396347459_9152044667873600723_o

What’s My Favorite from 2015? | Visualizing What is Felt in the Heart

My Favorite Photograph of 2015. I was recently asked to identify and write a short blog post about what I consider my favorite image from 2015. Here’s my reply –

Spring sky over Kettering Ohio on April 26 2015 by Jim Crotty
Spring sky over Kettering Ohio on April 26 2015 by Jim Crotty

To most it may not be much – just a beautiful spring sky and new color in the trees. But to me is what this image has come to symbolize due to timing, setting and subject, but mostly timing. And not timing in the sense of capturing the light at that particular hour or season but timing in the sense of the context of my approach and what I was feeling when I released the shutter button.

It was one year ago, April 26 2015. Just one month prior to that date – March 27 – my mother had passed away at the age of 79. She had struggled with the declining health that comes with Parkinson’s Disease for nearly 20 years.

The scene of this sky and trees was directly above her hillside garden at the Kettering, Ohio home she shared with my dad since 1989.

Her garden was her soul and everything that grew in it was an extension of her heart.

You see that’s who first awakened my love for nature (and subsequently, nature and landscape photography) so very, very long ago. Well, for as long back as I can remember. It was through those distinct seasons growing up in Southwestern Ohio when I recall seeing my mom in her element. She became lost in her gardening, with two impeccable rose gardens and a backyard full of carefully arranged and cared-for annuals and perennials, interspersed and bordered by Locust, Maple and Pine. Spring through fall, mom was in her garden. The local gardening club came for tours due to her attention to detail and expert knowledge on what could grow well here and not there and what provided the best visual presentation as seasons progressed.

Mom was not a fan of winter in Ohio though, especially after Christmas. I like to think it was just too hard of a wait for her spirit and need to be among all things green and growing.

Mom passed away on a Friday just at the end of March. Spring was just barely getting a foothold. A couple weeks later, when spring went into full motion across the Ohio fields, gardens and woodlands, it was the most beautiful of Ohio springs I can remember. It was mom.

The songbirds loved her garden too, and mom loved songbirds. I remember when I was just six or seven and how mom shared her excitement with me over the pair of Cardinals (her favorite) who had built a nest in the tree just outside the laundry room window. Each day she take me to the window to check on the progress, of first eggs and then baby Cardinals, and then leaving the nest.

Before I was ten I could tell the difference between a House and Carolina Wren and could pick-out the call of Robin, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, Starling, Sparrow, Finch and a variety of woodpeckers. And should an owl make an appearance – such as a giant Great Horned – well that was something to truly celebrate.

This image is much more than just sky and trees. It’s more than the technical specs of the camera and lens (if you must know it’s a Canon 1D Mark III with a Canon 17-35mm f2.8 lens). It goes deeper than its composition and color. This photograph is of love.

Photography is a visual connection to the stories that interweave our spirits and give representation to that eternal grace of soul feeling. When that visual connection is so deeply rooted in the love that binds family, then every image becomes cherished in the gallery of the heart.

Spring came beautiful in 2015 and it wasn’t long before evening fall during summer in mom’s garden was full of fireflies and the songs of cricket and Katydid.

The love we leave behind will always take root in the gardens we tend to during our brief journey together. With care we tend the soil and cultivate our heart songs, for in another spring a mother will take her young son to the window and look wide-eyed at the Cardinal’s eggs in the nest in the tree outside, and above a brilliant spring sky will swirl with clouds and Red Bud trees. And the call of a lone Mourning Dove will come on a morning breeze.

This Couple’s Shared Passion for Photography Extended Beyond the Grave

This Couple’s Shared Passion for Photography Extended Beyond the Grave.

The gift of photography is not so much in the beauty of the captured image as it is in the shared experience of living in the light of a common love for beauty; the visual expression of the spirit of life.