A funny thing happened on the way to going pro…

A long time ago in a galaxy far away — way back in 2005 — I made a decision to get serious about my photography and see if I could go pro in the field as my “career 2.0″, either full-time or as part of something other than working high tech.

That’s easy to say. Making it happen? That’s the hard part. but when I sat down to figure out a path between that starting point and making the decision to make it happen, I came up with a long list of things that needed to be done.

But if you think about what the critical path is, it’s simple: until the craft you want to build the business around is good enough, nothing else matters. You can build the worlds best website, you can market the hell out of your work, you can promote and twitter yourself until you’re blue in the face, but if the photography isn’t good enough, it doesn’t matter.

So job one was to become good enough — and that’s been my focus. Every few months I’ve sat myself down and evaluated where I stand and my decision has been that I still have work to do to get where I believe i need to get to be successful.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t made progress; I thought I was a pretty good photographer when I started this (and I guess I was at some level), and along the way I’ve become a much better photographer. Many times I look back at my older images that I thought were pretty good and wince; some are salvageable through what I’ve learned about post-processing — many are being retired and put into storage. the more I learn, the more I study — the more I realize I need to be able to do to be successful at this.

Earlier this year I made a winter trip to Yosemite. That trip was (among other things) a test — to put myself into a situation well outside my comfort zone, to create a list of images that I needed to create and do so under deadline conditions, implement that plan when I get on site and adapt to the conditions and situation to see if I could still accomplish the goals (and to see what else was available when I got there, of course), and then see if  I could reliably create quality images to the plan. It was a conscious attempt “on assignment” under conditions that weren’t fully under my control and see if I could turn out work that I felt met the requirements of the assignment at a quality I was satisfied with — and most importantly in some ways, that the images were “made”, not just taken.

That latter point is crucial in many ways, because being pro isn’t just about being able to produce an image, it’s about being able to produce the images that are needed and produce them when needed and reliably. It’s about making images, not just taking them. Anyone can get lucky and take a publishable shot. you can’t build a business around getting lucky — you have to make your luck, so to speak, and be able to produce reliably.

I felt that I succeeded at pretty much all levels. I was quite happy with the images, and the images were what I envisioned and planned. Feedback on the images was positive. All of the challenges I put in front of myself to “prove” I was ready to go pro were answered. So a back in April, I sat down and started planning what my next steps were going to be.

And a funny thing happened on the way to going pro….

One of the realities you have to understand about running a photography BUSINESS is that it takes time and energy; you have the bureacracy of running a business (paperwork and taxes, business licenses, managing finances, etc, etc…). You have to spend time and and energy soliciting business and supporting your customers, fulfilling requests, billing, managing inventory, marketing and promotion… Businesses aren’t magic. Things don’t happen, you have to make them happen.

The time to do those things has to come from somewhere. Since I have no intention to “give up my day job” any time soon (if for no other reason I’m enjoying what I do for a living. And there’s this thing called a paycheck) where is the time to start the business going to come from?

Yup. The most likely place that time will be sucked from is the time I spend doing photography. Physics wins, folks.

So I made the decision – surprising to myself at the time — that the best way to guarantee my long-term success as a professional photographer was to wait and leave it to a later time. It’s better for my to put my time into continuing to take photos and work on improving my craft (and especially working to widen my portfolio into areas I’m currently not strong at). I worried that my photography might stagnate if I put cycles into marketing instead of shooting — at the least, I’d be complicating my life, and the reality is, I don’t NEED to create an income stream right now, and it just doesn’t seem to make sense to try to force it to happen now.

My life priorities have changed in the last few years. there have been some speed bumps in my life the last few years — health issues, my dad dying, the hysical realities of middle age — but I seem to be beyond that, I feel better and I feel healthier than I’ve been since probably 2003 and except for my weight there aren’t any life complications I have to worry about. I do, however, have to worry about the weight and focus on getting it off, and the things that have happened the last few years has changed my attitude somewhat, and I am trying to live a little more for now and a less for someday — in the last two years I’ve lost two friends to cancer, my dad to his heart problems and I’ve had other friends my age have major cancer or health scares. It’s made me realize that my situation (diagnosed with diabetes almost a year ago but well controlled, and the joy of middle-age — arthritis) isn’t all that bad. But it also reminds me that you can’t always assume for tomorrow, either.

So my priorities are different now. When I redid my blog in July, it was to bring my photography more front and center in the design and make it a better showcase for my images, but I consciously decided not to try to put out a shingle and creating a business around it. that doesn’t mean I won’t license something if it comes along (I need to work on my smugmug site to make that possible), but that’s different. My attitude today is about simplifying my life and enjoying it more, keeping the stress manageable (and cutting stress out where  can), more living in the moment instead of investing for someday. And doing really good photography and continuing to expand my skills instead of marketing and selling it. Letting someday happen and see what it is rather than always pushing to make it be something. Because you never know whether it’ll be there.

I don’t regret the goals I set along the way — and in fact, especially when I was dealing with dad and all of that entailed, my photography was sometimes the thing that kept me centered and sane — but you can’t be afraid to re-evaluate your goals and change them when circumstances change. I still think “going pro” is something I want to do, but later, when I’m thinner and older and ready to step away from silicon valley. But I’m not — it’s way too much fun these days. So while I still want to make this happen, I want to make sure i do it in terms that it the quality of life I’m trying to maintain today as well.

And that means sometimes the answer is a surprising “not now”…..

(and now, the camera is calling…)


Posted in Photography

Why I’ve been away from the blog…

Apologies for the radio silence recently. For once, I have a good excuse.

Two weeks ago, I decided that, since there wasn’t a hockey game on, I’d go out for a walk. First night since the playoffs started nothing was on, Laurie was on her road trip somewhere on the way back from Chicago, the weather was nice, and I hadn’t picked up a camera in days.

So off to Shoreline I go, thinking maybe i’d try to do some swallow photography and see if the cliff swallows were nesting yet (answer: just starting).

And while walking out towards adobe creek, I caught the edge of the asphalt path and went down like I’d been shot. Didn’t even have time to cuss. Suddenly I’m flat on the ground, looking like roadkill.

When you’re a “person of girth” no fall is trivial. The extra weight you carry brings with it potential for disaster, as well as completely messing up your center of gravity — I’ve always been a bit of a klutz, and despite being really aware of the potentials for taking a fall and being careful while hiking, I’m still a klutz.  When you carry a chunk of extra weight, falls bring with it a real chance of broken bones or other damage.

I realize in retrospect I was a bit in shock. My first reaction was to see whether I was injured — somewhere in the back of my head a voice was screaming “systems check! systems check” at me). I started by moving arms and legs, flexing feed and wrists, wiggling fingers.

The good news — didn’t hit my head. Went down on my left side, got an arm out a bit to break some of the fall. I remember thinking I hadn’t heard anything crack, and as I started moving things, nothing caused me to scream in agony. That’s a good sign.

Suddenly I realize someone’s yelling at me. I’m hearing “Are you OK?” from somewhere far away. I look around and a girl I’d passed as she was headed out had come back to see what’d happened. She looked convinced I was dead or something, but god bless her for wanting to help. (cute girl, where at my age girl is anyone recognizably female and under about 30 years old; for some reason that recognition amuses me…). So I rolled over and said I thought I was okay.

She clearly believed me, because she asked again. and then again. I was still moving and flexing things and it was now clear that nothing was broken, so I decided it was okay to move, so I rolled over and sat up. Probably not exactly my most graceful moment, but honestly, I didn’t care. Still don’t.

So I’m now sitting up and madly moving fingers and rejoicing in the fact that they move as intended and I then look at her again and let her know I really am okay. And I”m not sure she really believed me, but she accepted it as proof she could stop freaking and get on with her life, and she did.

Again, dear, bless you for stopping and caring, and sorry I scare the crap out of you. It was much appreciated that you wanted to help.

And then I checked out the cameras. I was carrying both bodies, with the Tamron wide angle on the 30d and the 100-400 on the 7d. The Tamron landed first and got bodyslammed into the asphalt, while the 100-400 landed last on a nice soft cushion. Some preliminary checks seem to indicate that the poor cursed Tamron only took cosmetic damage — and it has a couple of interesting gouges on it — but I still need to do some serious testing for focus and alignment. I don’t see any sign of problems in the mechanism or some simple test shots. But to be honest, I haven’t really picked up a camera since, since picking things up has been a bit problematic.

Nothing broken, nothing dislocated. I landed left little finger first, and bent it and it’s neighbor back significantly. By all rights I should have dislocated something, but somehow, I didn’t. I did, however sprain two fingers rather seriously, the wrist less severely, and as I found out over the next day or so, basically sprained the entire hand, while hyperextending the elbow. I also whacked the right hand leaving it scraped (and sore and bruised where I think the 100-400 landed on it), and whacked both knees, fortunately, nothing beyond a bit of scrape and bruising.  The hand swelled like a grapefruit, and I got the most interesting bruising deep inside the palm where bending things back stretched all of the ligaments and tendons in the core of the hand (did I mention I was damn lucky nothing dislocated or tore? a broken finger would have been the least of my hassles…)

So I’ve been a hurting puppy. Typing’s been — a challenge, so I haven’t any more than necessary, and what typing I could do without things spasming has been aimed at work, not play. Evenings have been mostly hanging out on the couch with body parts wrapped in ice bags. Tonight was the first night where I didn’t feel the need to haul them out and use them.

I’m still not 100%; I’m guessing another week before the arm is useful for carrying anything heaver than a soda can, but I’m finally able to do that, at least. My range of motion is about 90% of normal and improving daily, swelling is mostly gone, the hand is mostly functioning again, and I can type again with both hands — at least for a while. This is about it for the evening, though, because the little finger can only handle so much pressure on the key.

So things have been on hold for a while. Over the holiday weekend I hope to start ramping up a bit and moving things forward again. I haven’t exactly been idle — it was time I spent thinking through some projects that I’m chewing on that are getting close to surfacing where I’ll talk about them here. Some interesting stuff, and I’ve gond from researching and considering to making decisions and starting to create some plans, and so soon I can share some of it and maybe get a dialog going on it.

But until then, my hand’s telling me this is enough for now, so I’ll be off. But I had gotten a couple of people asking what happened, and I figured it was time for a quick status update.

and the quick status update is — I’m still a klutz, and fortunately, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. Which all things considered, I won’t complain about…

Posted in About Chuq

2009-2010 playoff predictions (round 2 edition)

But first a look back at round 1. How’d I do?

In the west, I picked San jose in 6, Vancouver in 6, Chicago in 6, Detroit in 6. I picked all four series, and three of them finished in six, and the one I missed went seven.

Not bad. not bad at all.

In the east, I didn’t pick series specifically, but I did pick Washington, Pittsburgh and Buffalo as the three teams I thought would come out of the east and said that New Jersey was in trouble. And in fact, Montreal took out the Capitals, Pittsburgh did in fact beat the sens, Boston beat Buffalo, and Philly took out the Devils, so I ended up 2-2 but didn’t guess # of games.

So I come out of the first round 6-2. To put that in perspective, I’ve had playoff years where I didn’t guess six rounds for the entire playoffs, so I’m happy. And since I watch primarily the west these days, guessing them all that well feels good.

That and $5 gets me a latte. Onward to the second round.

I didn’t get this in before the first Sharks/Wings game, but I did announce in front of witnesses at the game before game time that I was picking San Jose in six, and I stick with that. I mostly want Vancouver and Chicago to go seven games and for the two teams to beat the crap out of each other, but if I don’t pick Chicago I’ll be sleeping on the couch again, so I’ll pick Chicago in six. It would not suprise me greatly if Luongo and the Sedins carry Vancouver through this round, but I really like the Hawks as well. It really has proven out that all eight teams in the playoffs in the west were exceptionally talented and very evenly matched — if not purely in talent, teams like Colorado and Phoenix road great goaltending and amazing work ethics into serious battles.

In the east, it gets tougher; no easy series now. I’m amazed the Capitals are out, but the team had some fatal flaws that Montreal exposed: you simply can’t be a one-line scoring team, and your goaltending can’t falter at all, or you die. The Caps need to figure out secondary scoring depth, and it shows.

But I can’t see Montreal doing it a second time against the Penguins. The Penguins should get through this fairly easily (well, easy as playoff hockey is defined), but watch out for Halak. He’s capable of a “mission from god” run that could make things crazy. But: Pittsburg in 5, and they’re now my pick to come out of the east.

Boston/Philly: six games, I’ll choose Philly, but I’m not sure whoever wins this series will be in much shape to compete the rest of the playoffs. Should be physical and intense, but the Bruins just don’t do much for me…


San Jose in 6
Chicago in 6
Philly in 6
Pittsburgh in 5

and onward to the next round.

Posted in Sports - Hockey