Shooting Presidents of the United States of America

The Year of Change

2012 was a year of fighting for recovery, even survival. Last year, my year-in-review post centered around some of the good people that had influenced my life. I could rewrite that same post today, because there is no doubt the fight would have failed, had it not been for the help of friends and family. There were some insanely tough times, and a few hard decisions were made.

I’m not going to write a long sob story, but 2012 sucked on several levels. We were hit hard with financial trouble, and dealing with the aftermath of Kelly’s Cancer treatment and surgery. Not just the bills piling up, but also the fact that she was out of commission for several months after the fact (radiation treatment is a bitch to recover from, throw in abdominal surgery for a few months of not being able to bend over or lift anything). At the same time, continually dropping sales in stock photography only made each month bleaker than the one before.

It was time to make a radical change, so I gave up on full time freelancing and got a part time job (in a coffee shop of course, I do live in Seattle after all). I’d been working for myself for about a decade, and making that change was not easy – but definitely worth it. The stress relief alone more than makes up for having to be somewhere, not in my pyjamas, several times a week. Having a reliable, base income has allowed me to focus on the things I want to do, instead of always running down the next client.

Speaking of clients, 2012 was a year full of lessons. I realize now, that most of my stress from freelancing comes from client relations. I do not like dealing with sales, and so I have promised myself two things to compensate for that in the coming year. First, I’m raising my rates. Second, I will strive to only accept client jobs that are fun and interesting.

Unless something irresistible comes along, the priority will remain my personal projects, designing games, telling stories and learning. I have many, many ideas, including photos I’d like to take – for a while there, I wondered if I had lost interest in photography altogether, but it was working in stock photography that had nearly killed my love for the medium. In relation to that, I finished off 2012 by canceling my exclusivity agreement with iStockphoto. Wow, what a liberating feeling that was!

I’m hopeful for 2013. The world didn’t end in 2012, though it felt like it was getting close a few times. What follows are a few links that mark points of interest from 2012.

  • A Nerd Comes Home – I started the year by proclaiming that 2012 would be the year I let my nerd out. I did. It’s been fantastic!
  • The Fork in the Road – in the beginning of 2012 I still had savings, still ran Another Passion and still thought I might make it.
  • It Gets Better – I was asked to be part of making this video by Mike Selinker and Stepto. It was a ton of fun to do, and the message never gets old.
  • Nebula Rescue in the App Store – my first video game to ever be sold anywhere! Launching Nebula Rescue was a major accomplishment for me. I’m a proud game daddy.
  • Hard Booting Life – from when things were pretty much their worst, financially, I wrote about looking for work.
  • “Natural 20” – a set of three songs I wrote and recorded, inspired by my love of gaming (old skool pen and paper style, specifically).

Molly Lewis’ Graduation Concert


On the 24th of June, I was asked to document an important night for entertainer Molly Lewis. She had recently graduated college and had decided to throw a celebratory concert, inviting some of her friends and fellow performers to share the stage with her at Seattle’s awesome venue, The Triple Door. There is nothing I love more than documenting an event like this, and I was extremely excited to be asked.

Shooting a concert like this one, is akin to shooting a wedding. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, hugely important to the client, and there is definitely a pressure to deliver some memorable results. There is no do-over if you fail, but if you deliver good work, the client will be forever thankful. I brought an extra camera, so I could go back and forth between my favorite lenses without having to waste time switching. Missing some fantastic moment is easy when there are so many talented people together in one spot. Granted, most of the gold happens on stage, but there are always a few hidden diamonds behind the scenes as well. Those are the shots I live for!

Audience participation as Marian Call gets everyone to do the shark week! Click to see an animated gif version!
I arrived at the venue around 3.30pm, so I could cover all the last minute prep that goes into something like this. The band hastily rehearsing a few songs, harmonies being perfected, monitors being adjusted, jokes being made. Lots of ideas are still being thrown around at this point, and during downtime artists are candidly discussing their work and dreams – or passing time playing a game. The four and half hours between my arrival and official show start went by fast.

It was after 11pm when I left the venue, happy and exhausted, knowing I had at least another 10 hours of solid work, sorting and post-processing the images. I walked out on the streets of Seattle, caught a cab home and collapsed on the couch.

Below is a gallery of photos I took at the event. Of the 1,100 frames I shot before sorting away all the misfires, and frames badly out of focus (which happens a lot in such low light, and with people moving around), a grand total of 444 images survived the culling, were post-processed and sent off to a hopefully happy Molly Lewis.

I urge you to check out the performers present at the concert:

Photo Gallery