Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound….

There’s no pain in my life that compares with losing our pug, Maggie, two years ago this week. She was extraordinary, and exceptional in every way. I’ve never experienced a more giving, altruistic soul than hers. She was a trained Therapy Dog, and visited hundreds of people in hospitals, hospices, rehabilitation centers, schools and nursing homes. She was also a beloved friend, wanting nothing more than to be together and take a walk, or watch a movie at night.

My wife and I decided, around December or so, that we would adopt a new pug puppy. We want to honor Maggie’s memory and to offer a loving, safe, nurturing environment for a little soul that relies on kindness and goodness (and activity!) in its adopted family. We met Grace on February 8th and, immediately smitten, brought her home four hours later.

What does this have to do with photography….? For years, I published a Facebook page for Maggie (Maggie the Pug), in which I included a single quote, with a single photograph, for each post. I believe photography absolutely can share love, compassion and kindness in this often-crazy world. My intention for the page was to do that, and, I suppose, even a bit more, as I included quotations that touched my own heart. I don’t even have to guess whether Maggie touched people’s lives for the better, as we heard a chorus of “Thank You’s” from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people, all deeply appreciative of the simple gift of quiet love, calm eye contact and a giving, pure spirit.

I decided yesterday that I will continue Maggie’s Facebook page, albeit now as Maggie the Pug and Amazing Grace…. My deepest desire in undertaking the responsibility of another weekly task is pure — I want others to feel a small touch of wonder and purity that, though often hard to find, still exists.

Photography. Love. Kindness. Simplicity. Gentleness. Appreciation. Mindfulness. A helping hand to those in need. Gratitude. And may I say Grace…. These are why I’m a photographer, and these are what I want my life, and my work, to represent.

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I’m in the midst of shooting a fun job for a South-Central Indiana business that specializes in countertops made of high-end granite, marble, quartz and other wonderful substances.

Part of the joy of the shoots is getting the chance to meet and chat with the homeowners who kindly open their doors to let me photograph their beautiful remodeled kitchens, bathrooms and utility rooms! Folks do some awfully creative, inspirational home updates, and I love being surrounded with all that positive energy!

Great ideas and thoughtful craftsmanship make a wonderful tandem!

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Twice in the past three years I’ve had engagement shoots outside on the coldest day of the winter! Perhaps when I schedule a January/February engagement shoot I’m unwittingly hexing the universe….!

Nevertheless, this fun couple shrugged off the polar vortex and we had a joyful session filled with love and laughter (and hand warmers!).

There are days, and times of day, traditionally considered to be more optimal for outdoor portrait photography, but, in the end, a good photographer and easy-going, resilient clients can make even the most trying times memorable and special.

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Whether photographing weddings, engagements, senior pictures, sports events, commercial work, family reunions, etc., there’s a palpable joy that comes from working with people to make sure they get beautiful shots to remember special occasions.

With modeling sessions, however, the equation shifts to helping beautiful people get beautiful shots to make sure they enhance their successful professional portfolio.

I’ve loved working with Alec — on two separate shoots — as he builds his career as a model (and animal behavior scientist). There’s something inordinately powerful about living/working in a major college town, as so many of my clients are set for the launch of their careers as they finish their years at Indiana University. I love helping each of them in any way I can, as so many others helped me at the beginning of (and throughout) my own personal and professional journey.

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Combine two powerful personalities. Sprinkle in joy and laughter and spunk. Toss in some Oh-my-God-we’re-getting-married-in-one-hour nerves. Add a layer of the photographer saying “Let’s get some shots of you as if you just landed on a beach for your honeymoon”.

Wonderful recipe!

I adore how accurately this shot caught a completely honest moment of Tiff and Katie’s life together. I smile every time I see it, and I love that clients get to smile, too, as they share their images with families and friends.

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I’m blessed to shoot with the best photography equipment in the world — I use Nikon’s best bodies, lenses and speed lights for all my professional work.

However, sometimes the cameras on our phones do a brilliant job of capturing the images you see as you’re wandering your own personal journey. Here, a gorgeous Indiana barn last night following our first snow of the year. I was on my way home and didn’t have my photography equipment with me, but the scene was so idyllic I wanted to hold the moment and the phone did a wonderful job.

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What joy working with local high schools and sports teams!

I just finished my second year of photographing the Bloomington Blades hockey team — the full team, each separate class, every individual athlete and groups of the players and coaches. It’s non-stop laughter working with these hard-working, disciplined (but often mischievous) young men!

Off today to shoot a portfolio for another young man who will be applying for modeling jobs (though he’s holding all the cards in the negotiations!). Professional photography is a brilliant, wild, wide-ranging profession. One day you’re in a church with a nervous young couple, the following in a park with a family reunion, the next in your studio on a maternity session and the next day on ice.

All the while, of course, smiling to yourself how fortunate you are to share special moments with good people.

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Inspirational people, projects, moments and sights are so essential to us all, and particularly, perhaps, for those of us in the creative arts fields. Inspiration catapults our minds and actions (or inactions) to exhilarating new heights, and the lift we feel is powerful, poignant and real.

I was thrilled to be contacted to photograph dogs for Guide Dogs For The Blind, an organization that matches trained dogs with people who are blind or low vision. Hoosier was my first session, and our results were joyful (and productive, of course).

There is a grace about Hoosier that is palpable, and it’s humbling to imagine his upcoming life being fully dedicated to helping his person physically (at minimum) navigate the world. Each of us has gifts, and training, to help make the world a better place for others. None of us, however, perhaps give as fully, and without preconditions, as do these extraordinary dogs.

What a wonderful opportunity for me to look into the eyes, and I would say soul, as well, of these dogs as I photograph them before their full-time assignment. I patted Hoosier on the head and said “Thank you”, to him, in advance, of the long and giving life he’s about to embark upon.

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Whirlwind three weeks of an awesome, greatly-appreciated return to Key West and then back to Bloomington to photograph a wedding, two engagements, two senior picture sessions and a maternity shoot! Whew!!

One unexpected benefit of being a photographer hit its zenith this year, as an overwhelming number of Christmas cards we received incorporated images I’d shot of those folks/families during the year. It’s such a kick to see the portraits again upon opening an envelope in December.

I’ve got my 2019 resolutions and commitments set, and it’s already off to a wonderful start!

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I laugh at myself all the time when on photography assignments. I’ll occasionally look at the back of the camera, see a photo I love and exclaim out loud, “Wow! This is awesome!” or something similar. I even warn clients in advance that this may happen! I’m such a fan of gorgeous images that it’s impossible to contain my joy sometimes when I see one!

I think this was one of those moments. I love this shot of this little family, and was aware (as Alyssa was not) that shortly after taking this portrait, Brad and little Rhees were about to propose…. (she said “Yes!”).

The year 2018 has been everything I thought it could be and much, much more. I saw the very worst in some people and the very best in others. I shed the former and embraced the latter, and am thrilled to launch into another adventure-laden 12 months of photography, travel, writing and running in 2019. I’ll look forward to those beloved occasional “Wow!” moments, both for myself and for those with whom I share life’s experiences.

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