Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Reflections on life, life’s lessons, parenting and just being a 40-something in Dayton, Ohio

True and Original | The Coen Brothers and the Art of Expression

“Like something out of a Coen Brothers movie.” There’s a fine line between inspiration and imitation and I suppose that’s why I find my best sources of inspiration in other mediums than still photography. I admire the work of the masters such as Adams and Weston, but I never want to imitate it. And that can be a challenge sometimes. But to be inspired by prose and poetry, music, film, design, sculpture . . . that’s where energy in the art of expression is renewed, again and again.

For example, the films of Joel and Ethan Coen. They don’t bend to popular whims nor do they film to please this particular group or that particular audience. They hold true to their own creative vision and all else falls into place. They also stay true to those components or pieces that best serve their vision, whether it be the musical genius of T. Bone Burnett or the understated performances of John Goodman.

The Coen’s nail it every time because they have the courage to be who they are and not mold themselves to the expectations of a fickle audience, and the studios come to them. Sure their best work often gets snubbed but there’s no mistaking one of their films from those of a sea of other filmmakers.

The universal connection found in the art of creative expression that is unique to each soul is life and light set to a harmonious interludes of wonder and joy. To be true, even it means long stretches of hanging out there by your lonesome, that’s the place to be. Life was never meant to be a popularity contest. The posturing and posing and pandering leaves everyone wanting. I’ve seen a lot of that in my life. There have been many times I’ve been guilty of falling into that trap as well. It served as a painful reminder of the importance of being true to self, always humble and thankful to a higher power and love without conditions or false intentions.

Life is meant to be lived in the courage of your own convictions and expressed through the work of your own hands. Talent fully utilized may on the surface be seen as selfish but when serving the higher purpose of inspiring others (and always in gratefulness) it is actually quite the opposite, and beautiful to behold.

Awesomeness : Looking Through the Lens of Kindness | Measured in Moments

2013 Christmas Challenge: Day #13…Looking Through the Lens of Kindness | Measured in Moments.

It was incredibly rewarding to once again participate in Help Portrait Dayton. It was something I missed after moving away in 2011. I am very thankful for the opportunity to jump back into this great event of donating professional portrait photography to those who normally wouldn’t be able to afford it. In December 2010 Help Portrait Dayton provided a full day of portrait photography and prints to families of military personnel based at Wright Patterson AFB. This year the event was held at the Church on Third Street in East Dayton. It’s a blast to come together with other pro photographers and volunteers and to brighten the faces and holiday of many families in our community. Thank you Kelly Maroney @ http://kellymaroney.wordpress.com/ for the great behind-the-scenes shots and blog article.

The Photographer’s Journey | Deeper and Higher

There’s an article that popped-up on my web browsing radar this morning (I gave up on TV news long ago) that tells the sad story of Canon Inc. cutting their annual profit forecast due to declining sales in the face of the rise popularity and capabilities of “smartphone” cameras. From the perspective of a professional photographer this would at first appear to be sad news with the assumption that everyone with a camera phone now can do just about everything a pro could do with a DSLR and several lenses.

True there’s some impressive imagery coming from shooters just using an iPhone. The new apps are amazing. Personally I’ve been having a ball with my iPhone 4S, Snapseed and Instagram . . . but . . . my iPhone won’t be replacing my DSLRs with those nice lenses. And it’s not a matter of greater technical capabilities of the equipment. It’s more of a case of making the most of the tools that are at my disposal.

The paintbrush and canvas don’t define the artist. The pen and computer do not represent the soul of the writer. What is more important is what is achieved with the tools available in representing in visual work how and why the photographer interacts with life and light around him or her and more significantly, if that work touches and moves the viewer – even if just one person – in a way that is affirmation in the positive and heartfelt.

It’s the connection that matters and from my experience it must be a connection that is honest, respectful and reflective of a gracious nature. Can that happen with a pic from an iPhone ? Sure can. Not often, but it does happen. One of the images posted with this entry – below – was snapped with my iPhone. Is it an award-winner ? Maybe.

Camera manufacturers adapt to the changing market. New, easier to use cameras come out to meet market demand. “Smartphones” get smarter. People shoot away. It’s all good. It’s all fun and once in a while very creative and inspiring. The one consistent will always be the grace and beauty found in the balance of light and subject and that hard-to-explain reason why we are all pulled toward artistic expression through the visual interpretation of our life experiences.

Sometimes I fight the urge to get a bit perturbed at the fact that the one thing I was (and hopefully still am) good at – photography – has now become so mass produced, mass marketed and mass consumed that I worry that I will be lost in the crowd, insignificant and meaningless. But in spite of all the noise and mass image snapping out there, the sense of accomplishment still remains when I touch and move just one viewer in a positive way.

It’s not about the gear. It’s not about the apps. And honestly it’s not about me. It’s about what I can accomplish by allowing my time, talents and tools to be used as vessels for reaffirming the blessings all around us and encouraging others to do the same. It’s about gaining the greater wealth when letting flow and letting go and to connect deeper and higher, in the sacred honesty of love, light and life.

The nice equipment and accolades are temporary. The connection is forever.

NovemberWhentheLightEchoesbyJimCrottyFW Photo Oct 08, 7 35 26 PM ThreeMapleLeavesEarlyOctoberbyJimCrottyFW November Morning by Jim Crotty ToSetAglowbyJimCrottyFW

 

A Beautiful Mess | Leaving The Leaves Be Where They Fall

A Beautiful Mess. Of leaving the leaves where they fall and letting go of expectations.So much of the stress we place on ourselves resides in the inheritance of the self-imposed pressure of meeting unrealistic expectations – of not disappointing those who will never be willing to freely release their approval in the first place, no matter how hard we try. Why is it that we so willingly give over the power of approval to those who are reinforced by this negative energy when God has already released us from such binds ? There is a beauty to the simple grace that arrives when we not only learn to let go of our own pride-filled expectations of others but also when we regain the rightful inheritance of peace based on an unconditional and all-powerful love. There is never a need to earn what has already been given. Declare today to stop the cycle of the sinful inheritance, embrace the gift that has already been given and just enjoy the beauty of all the simple graces of each day, including a yard full of fallen leaves!

ABeautifulMessbyJimCrottyFW

Betwixt and Between | Coming Full Circle, again

It’s always the unexpected that makes for the best experiences and images with landscape photography. One such experience occurred this past Friday evening. Good friends of mine here in the North Dallas area of Frisco, Joel and Julie, invited me to come photograph a hidden away patch of Texas prairie that had not yet been developed into a subdivision. It was land that bordered the farm property they both were renting for raising Arabians, chickens and just having a welcome retreat for me to escape to. But even here they were already making plans to buy farm/ranch acres of their own, several miles to the north near the Oklahoma border. Sprawl was coming.

We hopped on the ATV’s and headed over to where Julie wanted to show me an incredible display of spring wildflowers. Through a face-load of pollen we came upon on a scene that I had always imagined how a North Texas prairie should be – an unbroken field of wildflowers (in this case Indian Blanket) with a horizon line not ruined by power lines and roofs. It was there and just as the setting sun was breaking through rain clouds I jumped off the ATV and began composing my captures.TexasAwesometicitybyJimCrottyFW

The bad news is that just on the other side of this field trees were already being taken out and the land surveyed for a new road, and subsequently new subdivisions. I live in one of those subdivisions just a few miles away.

The building-out and growth north of Dallas has not let-up since the 1980’s. Frisco is in the top five of the fastest growing communities in the U.S. Thousands of new residents are pouring in as more and more employers realize the benefits of favorable tax incentives in Texas. It’s all very good for the local economy but the nature photographer in me sees the downfall. There is very little in the way of set aside green space. There is nothing that even comes close to the Five Rivers MetroParks I had access to back in Dayton, Ohio. The situation presents a bit of a paradox for me. One the hand I can’t complain about the quality of the Frisco public school system. I have daughters in 6th and 8th grade here in Frisco and I have to admit, the quality is at par or even surpasses what I’ve experienced in the past with private schools.

But I can’t help but miss all those beautiful hills and woodlands back home in Ohio. It’s where I built my reputation as one of the top pro nature and landscape shooters for that area. It’s a big reason why I am returning to Ohio next month. The decision did not come easy. I don’t exactly enjoy being torn in several different directions. There was some tempting reasons for returning to South Carolina as well. Ultimately I have to be true to myself and my art. That truth is back in Ohio.

Rapid economic development and growth can be mostly good, however, I won’t be so quick to be as harsh on Ohio in the future. There is a quality of life issue, an ease of living, where closeness with nature plays a bigger role. There’s the essence of home that’s rooted in a familiar landscape and a rhythm and balance to distinct seasons. Texas is Texas. Ohio is Ohio and Ohio is home. I need to be there and my daughters need for me to be that touchstone to their Ohio roots. I need for me to be doing what I do best in the place I know best.

The Dayton Ohio area is also where I worked hard to establish myself as both a commercial and portrait photographer. Corporate clients, editorial clients, high school seniors, workshops. It was all just starting to hit stride when I picked-up and moved in early 2011. I will regain that momentum. I have to. What’s also interesting to note is that most of my portrait customers on Hilton Head were Ohio referrals ! I had a good thing going and now I fully appreciate it. And I very, very much appreciate all those beautiful metro and state parks and nature preserves.

DaytonSkyline080610byJimCrotty 10

 

A Year Living in the Light | Meaning and Milestones

Milestones are important. These are the moments in life when we pause, reflect and are made aware of the beauty and mystery that is both grace and life. At the beginning of each year there’s always the question – “what will the next 12 months hold in store for me?” And then always on December 31st the answers that surprise.

In no way could I have predicted the experiences during 2012 that would lead me to where I am now, but without a doubt I can now look back with nothing but thankfulness.

As a photographer I have the added blessing of visually recording those times and experiences when I become completely lost within the light and the spirit of my subject. At the end of each year I try to make a “top 10” list of those images that truly reflect who I am as an artist while telling the story of my life experiences. It can be tough to narrow-down the selections. The temptation is always there to include those images that received the most “likes” and shares on Facebook or the ones that resulted in the most print sales on my storefront. But in these end-of-the-year lists I try to emphasize those few images that have more depth of personal story behind them, the ones that are infused with deeper meaning and reflect what I was feeling and thinking at the moment and in the place where the camera shutter was released.

Sure I could just simply include the technical data involved with each of the following photographs (and that’s available if anyone would like to know – email me and I’ll be happy to answer) but I’d rather share the story, the meaning, of what was happening and changing within my life and my style of photography at the moment of the image.

Indeed what an amazing year of discovery, emotion, reawakening and ultimately a turning in the right direction. All of it means even more to me now that I see my time on Hilton Head Island coming to an end and a new chapter opening westward, in Texas and beyond. The previous year and this place (Hilton Head) was a time and location of reflection and learning, more of a crossroads than anything else. Many new friends and the haunting beauty of the tidelands. I am thankful for the lessons both have taught me and the opportunity to capture and share the unique light and character of coastal South Carolina. But also during 2012 I was fortunate to have a few initial previews of what is in store for me during 2013.

In marking the conclusion of 2012 here are my top 12 photographs –

Blessed in Morning Light | Hilton Head Island

The crabbing dock behind the building where I rent my apartment. March 17, 2012. The sunrises over the marshland that borders Broad Creek have a calm beauty and peacefulness that endures despite the development of the Island and the hustle and flow of visitor traffic. To experience sunrise from this location is a living prayer set to light. This is a place to go and meet the incoming tide with peaceful reflection. The time I’ve been fortunate enough to be blessed with here on Hilton Head has for the most part been a period of contemplation, prayer and redirection. There is a reason why I was moved in this direction at this point in my life, perhaps to come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of what truly matters, through perhaps one or two painful lessons but mostly quiet observation.

January Moonrise | Hilton Head Island

To appreciate the true beauty of the nature of the area you HAVE to get out on the water, whether by boat or paddle board. This where the spirit of the Lowcountry is met on an intimate level. The water, the water, the water. Sunlight dances but moonlight enthralls. I am very thankful for the opportunity to own a boat and explore the local creeks, sounds and offshore ocean. This is the source of all positive energy that flows over and through the islands. In preparing for my move to Texas – and to gather the funds for the move – I had to sell my boat. That was the first time in my life that I found it hard to part with something material but the fact is that boat – a 23′ Century – was my access to the water, from swimming and tubing with my daughters and son to cruising out alone to the open waters of Port Royal Sound at sunrise and coming back in at nightfall under the light of a rising Moon. It was freedom and an investment in memories for a lifetime.

May Rain at Cedar Falls | Hocking Hills, Ohio

I’m thankful for the opportunity to return to Hocking Hills, Ohio at least twice each year, to teach weekend workshops on photography at The Inn at Cedar Falls. On the Sunday afternoon portion of the program last May I took my group out in the rain to demonstrate how wet weather often can be a benefit with spring landscape photography in this area. The lady with the umbrella was not part of our group nor was she asked to stand in that location. I was just sitting up on a ledge under a rock overhang, talking with one of my students, when she just appeared with this purple/pink umbrella. I thought to myself “this is too good to be true.” She also stood still long enough for the longer exposure I needed to capture the flow of the water off of Cedar Falls. Every year my top 10 list includes at least one image from Hocking Hills. The place has become a part of who I am and for good reason. It is home.