Two Weekends of Live Performance Photography

Since Thanksgiving is upon us, I would like to share something I am thankful for. Recently I had the pleasure of photographing two very awesome and different shows, two weekends in a row. It was the first real work since Kelly had surgery. She is recovering nicely, but has since started follow-up treatment which comes with its own unpleasantires. Her prognosis is good and she is a trooper, and so the time was right for me to get back to work. I was nervous. I felt rusty, still shaken after a run-in with some paranoid private investigators who happened to be at a client’s place of business that I was photographing. Long story short, it had been a rough few months and I was in need of a break.

Jason Webley’s Night of Elevens

The first concert I shot was Jason Webley‘s 11-11-11 concert at The Moore theater. It came about through a question in a short e-mail: would I like to cover the concert, which was the culmination of a year of massive touring and over 200 gigs? Webley had invited a host of friends, performers and fellow musicians to drop in and add some flavor to the show. And what a fantastic show it was. So riveting at times that I had to put my camera down and just watch. Other times I caught myself doing just that, when I really ought to have been taking more photos.

I shot a few hundred frames that night, and for a moment forgot everything else in the world. There was just the work and the music. These are the kind of experiences I live for as a photographer, when you’re in the zone and the camera almost becomes an extension of your body. Also, it was great meeting one of my favorite authors – Neil Gaiman – with whom I also share a connection to…

A W00tstock Surprise!

Comedians Paul and Storm are half of the master minds behind the traveling geek fest that is w00tstock, and also the subject of my second photo shoot. Having photographed them twice before, returning to the Triple Door to shoot the Wil Wheaton vs. Paul and Storm show was something I had been looking forward to for a while. It was – as all w00tstock productions – a show with many friends involved as well, in this case they were co-hosting with Wil Wheaton (Star Trek the Next Generation), and were backed up by drummer Jason Finn (Presidents of the United States of America), Molly Lewis and John Roderick (The Long Winters). Oh, and apparently – me!

This is something I have definitely never done before as a photographer: early in the show, I was called out and introduced to the audience as the guy who’d be walking around on stage, taking pictures of the performers in action. Not in front of the stage, but on it! This was of course just as awesome and amazing as it sounds, but also a bit of a challenge. Not so much the stage part – I’m fine with making a fool of myself in front of hundreds of people – but I quickly realized how ingrained it is in me not to be in people’s way while covering an event. Stepping out between performer and audience just felt wrong! So I stuck mostly to the sidelines. Mostly.

These experiences were wonderful and just what I needed to revitalize. I am super thankful for being invited in and being able tell kind of stories my camera loves, to follow the process and even become part of the show. That is pretty cool, inspiring and motivating – and definitely something to be thankful for.

Here is a slide show from each of the events.

Life, Business and Bad News

In the last few weeks it seems my world has gotten smaller in almost every sense. It started when my wife’s health took a hit and she was diagnosed with not one, but two serious conditions, one of which was cancer. This kind of news will make everything else seem unimportant, all of a sudden. The fact that I lost my mom to cancer in May is probably not helping any.

The good news is that they caught it super early, and that the doctors are expecting a full recovery from the cancer part. There’s still the other issue of course, which will require surgery and several weeks of recovery. The ugly kind, where they give you hardcore meds just to deal with it. Right now, we are both mentally and physically preparing for what’s ahead.

Since we are both independent businesses owners, this situation has another effect on us – neither one is working much, while the bills keep piling up. This is added stress that we really don’t need. We are not on the brink of starvation or anything like that, but we are definitely feeling the crunch. Which is what led me to write this post.

If you are a freelancer or a one-man band, do yourself this favor: cover your bases in case of an emergency. Get health insurance. Let me repeat that. Get. Health. Insurance. As an independent, insurance is expensive and if you’re bootstrapping it is easy to tell yourself you’ll add it later. Don’t. Bite the bullet and pay the man. Cancer doesn’t wait until you’re ready.

You’ll want a support network. We have had daily messages from friends and family, checking in and offering help and encouragement. This support is crucial, especially if you’d like to try and stay positive.

Anybody working for themselves will be used to being immersed in the work, and powering through to get the job done. You may even enjoy it. But when illness hits the household, that is taken away. Focus shifts, and staying on top of business quickly fades into the background. It has to. If you can, put a little aside for a rainy day. You might even look into getting a backup in place, if you have clients who need regular pampering or can’t be rescheduled.

Whatever you do, don’t just sit there thinking it will happen to someone else. It’s not a gamble worth taking.

Jack of all Trades…

Jack of all Trades
King of None

That’s pretty much me, right there. At least if I’m to say so myself. If you ask me what I can do, I will say that I am a decent writer, a decent musician and a decent photographer. I can draw a little, too. But if you ask me what I’m a master of, I’ll look at you and shake my head.

In retrospect, maybe I should have stayed with just one thing. If I had specialized in, say, music, I could have been an awesome songwriter. I’m sure of it. But most of my energy went elsewhere. If I had concentrated on photography only, I would have been amazing. But my interests have been spread out.

One could argue that I am better at what I do, because of my dabbling in many similar or at least somewhat related things, and I would tend to agree. But still, part of me wonders what if.

However, I would like it to be known, that I have no regrets. I am proud to be a multi-artist. Yes, I realize that there will be others who are better than me at everything, but if I can create something that other people will take pleasure in, whether that be a song, a book or a photograph, then my mission is done. I did not set out to be the best in the world at what I do, but I did set out to make some kind of impact. That’s all.

Later, I’ll talk about managing all of these creative impulses.