Category Archives: Projects & Ideas

Father’s Day Reflection

I know, I know… Father’s Day was last week, and while I can say I was being a slacker, and for some small part I was, but I can also say that I was waiting for a good moment to do some reflecting and it’s always a good thing to take some time when considering a reflection. I apologize upfront too if this gets a little sappy; I’ll try to keep it skin-deep.

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself looking at holidays as just another day; I’m not saying I don’t respect the purposes of these days, but as long as my parents got a call on their respective days, they were happy and I went about my day not really considering what it means to be a parent. I can’t say I understand completely now and probably won’t until I have children, but this year, for some reason, I find myself thinking more and more about what my Dad has done for me and who he is to me in this life.

Son of a Veteran

Last year, I was inspired for Veteran’s Day to do something special for my Dad. He enlisted in the Marine Corps from 1968 to 1971 and served in Vietnam. It wasn’t until this past Christmas that I realized what that experience truly meant for him; for the first time in my life, he opened up about his experience overseas to me and it was a moment I’ll never forget. For as long as I can remember, it was an unwritten rule in our house to not talk about Vietnam and Dad’s time in the service. It wasn’t that it was a touchy subject, but just something that you didn’t bring up as there wasn’t much Dad would say.

I don’t know if it was because Mom had moved out of the house or it was just time for him to share, but I decided to ask Dad why we never talked about it. “You don’t have to tell me. I was just curious,” I said. While he said there wasn’t much to say, we both knew that wasn’t necessarily true. I thought we were moving on to other topics when he started telling me stories and answering questions I had about the experience.the fear o

As a kid, you have certain perceptions of your parents especially their indestructibility and their lack of fear. Well, as older children find out at some point, that isn’t true; parents are just taught to be strong and hide their fear from their children. For one of the first times I can remember, Dad admitted to being terrified as a soldier, which was a hard thing for him to divulge, but it added a layer of humanity to the man I had known for 27 years now that was never there before.

During that Christmas Eve dinner, he laid it all out for his only son – stories of friends lost, weekend trips around the countryside, the fear that prevails during the last two weeks of being in-country, and the only time he truly felt death was only a step away (a piece of shrapnel, which he still has in a box at home, came within inches of his head).

Needless to say, I knew I had witnessed a moment that could never be repeated and will stick in my brain until it ceases functioning. For a man who has always been a strong, confident, powerful force in my life, I saw a glimpse of his innocence and a time long past when the majority of his life was ahead of him instead of behind.

The Never-Ending Project

These stories inspired me to do something special for my father. I call this the “never-ending project” because I actually started on it over a year ago. I originally intended to put it together for Veteran’s Day, then Christmas, then Memorial Day… I finally finished Father’s Day this year. Wait a minute… what project? I’m glad you asked!

Before my Mom headed to the southeast, she borrowed some old photos from our family collection of Dad in Vietnam. I decided to try my hand at restoring the photos – clean up dust and scratches, remove some noise, fix some blemishes and water damage where needed, etc. I have very little experience doing that type of thing, but with my knowledge of Photoshop and a very good reason for doing what I was doing, I did some high-resolution scans of the images and went to work.

Once the restorations were complete, I had my local print shop do some prints up and I got the thing matted and framed at Hobby Lobby. Hold up a second, Mike! You use Hobby Lobby… and you’re a professional? Umm… yeah! I use a variety of vendors but locally, the good folks at Hobby Lobby are specially trained (have you seen the certificates on the back wall of the framing department?) and the local folks know me and my preferences by heart so it works out overall.

Anyway, the whole thing turned out great for short notice (do you see a pattern forming here?) and I gave it to my Dad on Saturday when he came up to Peoria to visit for a few hours. I was proud of myself; I didn’t choke up, but I think Dad did for a moment and in that moment, I remembered Christmas Eve, as I know he did, and a connection was made between two grown men, father and son, hero and spectator, veteran and thankful American.

I know I’ve rambled a bit and I’m glad you’ve stayed with me. As a reward, enjoy the gallery above that shows the stages of my restorations! I hope to do some more photo restorations in the future and I’ll add some posts on some techniques I use as well so stay tuned for that too!

Project 52

Waiting for Spring

Waiting for Spring

With the new year well underway, I figure it’s about time I got started on my new set of photography resolutions. I’ve purposely put a theme to the past year’s resolutions to help pull them all together. 2010 was the year of portfolio building and setting up my portrait business while 2011 was my year to focus on selling fine art and explore the world of fine art fairs and markets.

2012 is my year to explore my craft and my vision. Actually, “explore” is a little too generic; “focus” would be a better term. I’ve spent the past few years getting my name out into the local arts community and I’ve done a lot of pro bono work portfolio building so it’s about time that I really take my vision and stretch it out a bit. I have a better understanding today than I did five years ago of exactly what sort of vision that is, but I’ve tasked myself with taking the vision and using it to drive my own personal projects, concepts, and ideas.

It seemed like serendipity when my good friend, Lily, decided to undertake Don Giannatti’s Project 52 a few weeks ago. With my resolution in mind, I took the plunge as well.

What is Project 52?



The idea behind Project 52 is not only to make better photographers out of all of us who are participating, but to stretch our skills in the commercial market. Don plays art director and provides us with an assignment every week.

Each assignment is due every two weeks so you are always concepting one assignment while shooting another. Then, every week Don does a live audio/video chat critique and goes through the set of photos posted and gives his thoughts on each. It’s a pretty sweet deal all around.

The part that I enjoy, and I feel will really help push my images above and beyond where there are now, is that Don sets down rules for each assignment as if he were a real-world art director. Assignments include everything from portraits to product shots to action images and we are often constrained by size, image orientation, and requirements of what the “clients” are looking for.

Here We Go

We are quickly approaching March and I just turned in my fifth assignment. I plan on shooting my sixth (theme: chocolate!) this week and we have already received the assignments for seven and eight. It’s a fast-paced project and I never thought I’d have to do homework again after college, but I feel like I do with this one. Like my mother always said, “Do your homework first, then you can go play.” With Project 52, I get a bit of both.

Stay Updated

Want to see how the project is going for me? I have a special set on Flickr for this project.

Crunk Girl of the Month

Crunk Girl of the Month, Lindsey

Crunk Girl of the Month – 
Lindsey (March 2011)

One of my many resolutions for my photography this year included pursuing more project-based shooting. I’ve got a whole list of different concepts and ideas that I’m in the process of getting models and locations put together to shoot for, but in the meantime, I’m starting to revisit a project idea I had a few years ago.

My good buddy, DJ Real Juicy, of White Folks Get Crunk, has been having a wonderful run of gigs and publicity over the past couple of years. All the while, I’ve been right there beside him snapping shots for my friend. Not only is it a great way to spend my time practicing some night life shooting, but I usually can pass my card on to a couple of potential models and even clients that might be out at the club.

In light of all of this good success, I am finally taking another stab at a segment for his website called the Crunk Girl of the Month. Based upon the format that College Humor uses for their Cute College Girl of the Day segment, I will be choosing a model for each month of the year and doing a glamour shoot with them featuring some of the merchandise that WFGC has to offer. The photos will then be posted on the WFGC site monthly alongside a set of random, sometimes funny, questions that each girl will answer.

At the end of the year, I’m hoping I can develop some sort of Crunk Girl calendar, much like the Hooters calendar, to generate some money and publicity for my friend and my business as well. We have already shot Miss February and I’m working on the next few months of girls. I have the list set up through June so if anyone is interested in being a Crunk Girl, please feel free to let me know!