It’s the Most ________ Time of the Year…

The weight of some people’s problems weigh differently on others under the same situations. Some will hear someone’s problems and say “oh, suck it up, buttercup, and deal with it”, while others feel discouraged beyond repair. Everyone deals with things differently.

So, let me back up a little. 12 years ago, I started working for the biggest drum and percussion company in the world. I was the Lead Person of it’s East Coast distribution center. I really liked that job and the people and atmosphere it brought. Being a musician myself it was the perfect fit for me. Sure, it was warehouse work, but it was drums, and we shipped them to Rock Stars and famous music stores. Knowing what I was shipping out could be the inspiration for the next Rock Star was pretty freaking cool!

I worked there for almost 9 years. And after two surgeries on my spine leaving permanent nerve damage, the doctors said “No more!”.

I was sad to leave my friends and work family. But I was eventually offered a job with my longtime friend and his wife doing everything from music creation, to photography, videography, creating games and marketing. It was all about creativity. I was in heaven… and I was getting paid for it. It was truly my dream job.

Fast forward 7 months. The wife decided to open a toy & book boutique in the heart of downtown. I hated the idea at first because the attention to what our vision was on the creative side of the business started fading. I was prompted by them to write a fun science fiction book, and I was writing like crazy, but the move from my cool, inspirational work area to the gloomy backroom of a downtown store was not inspiring. For the first two months of the store setup process, I wrote for two hours each morning and then helped with inventory and stocking shelves.

The store opened and there was no time for creativity. The store was a success and was enjoying influx of shoppers. I was promoted to Store Manager after the owners enjoyed seeing my engaging interaction with the customers and wanted me up front and around the store more than in the back. Promotional videos were made with me talking about new toys and having fun with the store employees. I had finally found something I love just as much as being creative.

I fell in love with the store. I was passionate about it and the clientele. I became a public figure in the community and knew many customers on a first name basis. Working retail isn’t something I saw myself doing at age 50, but I developed a deep passion for Small Business, and the other businesses downtown. I never not wanted to go to work. I was happy again and I had found my calling in life.

Then, in the late summer of 2019, my friend, who hired me, came in on a Monday morning before the store was to open for the day and informed me that “the store will be closing it’s doors TOMORROW”. I kind of saw it coming. Over the last few months the we started seeing less inventory coming in, less interest in store promotions, and less interest in general from the owners.

Why did a successful and popular store close after only two years? Especially going into the busiest season of all? Financial ignorance and stupidity.

Though I was sad my job was ending, I was excited about new opportunities in the same line of work. I mean, I can talk to anyone. I’m good at it. I love giving customers the experience they want while shopping. The retail world is wide open, and I want to make myself known. As soon as I turned over the Open sign to Closed on the door on the last day, I drove to a local music store who wanted to meet with me about a possible job.

BUT…

I quickly learned that no other retail job, even for managers, paid anything near what I was making. But then again, I wasn’t hired to run the store, I was hired for my creativity and artistic value. After months of job hunting, I found out that the only jobs that pay anywhere near what I was making at the store… was warehousing. The same work that destroyed my body.

SHIT!

After 8 weeks of job hunting, the grieving process began. I applied for every grungy warehouse job I could find. 99% of them worked horrible hours, which are great for people who either don’t have families, or don’t want to spend time with them.

Currently I’m working at a warehouse working hours that doesn’t allow me to see my wife and kids as much as before. It’s a dark, ugly, depressing place. The walls are dark concrete with very small square windows near the ceiling. Though I’ve made nice with a few select people, it’s a different mentally. They’re all miserable. They’ve accepted this life within these walls and no longer dream to make themselves better. They work for the paycheck (which isn’t that great) and just survive. They have truly surrendered.

I feel stuck, now. I need the money for my family to survive. And the only other way out is to go to the same kind of job somewhere else that might pay more. And it’s a depressing realization that this is the rest of my life. My dream is over.

Again, people handle things/life differently. But at my age, you should already be well settled in a career and thinking about retirement.

So here it is, my favorite time of year, and I’m not feeling it at all. It took everything I have to even want to get the tree and decorated it. All I can think of is counting down the hours before I leave for work, and counting down the hours before I can be home again. This is a depressing place to be and has consumed every aspect of my life.

I gotta get outta of this. I can’t surrender and live like this. I cannot become what my coworkers have accepted. This is not who I am, or the life I want for myself and my family. I must escape, somehow. And soon, I hope, for my sanity.

Know of any Ma & Pa small business that needs some major pick-me-up?

Kidz

 Everybody loves photos of children. I know I do. I’m a sucker for friends, and even strangers, who posts photos of their kids. I immediately click the Like or Heart button. 

 But as every photographer will tell you, they are the WORSE subjects to photograph. They’re squirmy and inattentive, and couldn’t care less of the importance of what we’re trying to accomplish. You literally have less than two seconds to snap the pic once you get their attention for a shot. I could never work at a photo studio. I would get fired within a day by saying things like, “Will you sedate the little bastard, please?”. 

 I always joked that there is not a shutter speed fast enough to capture children without blurring. You have a better chance of shooting a hummingbird without blurring the wings than capturing a child ‘standing still’. 

 The photo above was shot during my very first family session, ever. This was also my first time shooting a family with my new camera, which before this day was used for nature only. The family are very dear friends mine. And though they wanted nice pro pictures for Easter, they also allowed me to take my time and figure out settings, angles and focus. 

 And just the day before I had just had surgery on my spine, so I was highly medicated. 

 I took nearly 200 photos that day. 80% of the photos were scrapped because either the kids would not stand still and look at me, or they were making ridiculous faces. These kids are naturally funny, fun-filled, and obnoxiously goofy characters. Trying to get them to stand still and just smile while looking at me was not happening. 

 This shot was taken after trying to get a few nice posing photos of the kids alone. But by this time they were just tired of being there, and ‘posing’, and just wanted to be their silly selves. 

 As soon as I gave them the ‘all clear’ to be themselves and act goofy, the magic happened. And as you can see they are beautiful and wonderfully photographic children.  

 But my opinion on photographing children still stands. They are the devil. 

 😈

#nofilter

 Purists piss me off. Their attitude, like their beard-wearing, vape-smoking, douchebag Hipsters counterparts, makes me want to download all of their photos and edit the shit outta them, and re-upload them to their Mom and Dad’s joint Facebook account. 

 Look, here’s my take on photo editing. If you think your picture looks great as it is, awesome! You enjoy your bland photos. But don’t shit on my parade because I love to make colors pop with vibrance, bring out details in clouds, bring objects out of the shadows, or even crop. I have never seen an amazing photo that didn’t have at least some minor editing done to it. Don’t believe me? Ask the NatGeo photographers. 

 Back in the day, they didn’t have computers, so they experimented with techniques in the darkroom while processing them. All to make their photos look more amazing than they did originally. 

 OK, now, back to the above photo. I didn’t do any editing other than cropping out a sign that was in the left side frame. My LG G2 phone had this cool feature that if you tapped on the brightest section of your shot (and in this case, it was the Sun), it would focus and darken the frame, to not let the brightness overtake the picture, then snap the picture. 

 This was the result of that feature. I actually tried some filters and other effects, but nothing worked. So i left it alone. 

Luna

  Taken in 2002, this is the oldest existing photo in my digital portfolio. 

 This was shot using my very first digital camera. It was an 8 Megapixel Kodak that cost me, like, $600. Back then it was new technology. And having an 8 megapixel camera, I was the talk of the block (for about 30 seconds… when I told someone… who was walking by with their dog… who really didn’t care). It didn’t have interchangeable lenses and the digital zoom sucked back then just as much as it sucks today. 

 With all of that said, I had to hold the camera up to the eyepiece of my old homemade 4″ Reflector telescope. It’s not easy to do it that way, either. Don’t believe me? Try it. You’ll hate me later. 

Do you smell something burning?

 I totally overcooked this photo. But on purpose. Meaning, I overused filters to give it a more unrealistic look. 

 The original photo (again, using my cell phone) looked pretty, but I really wanted to capture the warm glow of the setting Sun on the trees. And I wanted to give the clouds a more ‘illustrated’ vibe. 

 This was taken in Keedysville, MD. My kids were shooting hoops at the town’s quiet little park during a visit to their Grandfather’s, when I noticed the sunset’s glow on the trees and mountains in the distance. 

 Though the grain is unforgiving, it was a popular picture on my Facebook page, so it must be good, right? 

A Winter’s Morn’


The last thing I wanted to do that morning before work was to run to Walmart. First of all, it cut my extra cup of coffee out of my schedule. Second, I hate Walmart. But at that hour of the morning, nothing else is open for what I needed to purchase. 

 My daughter had just left to catch the bus for school and it was still somewhat dark due to the cloud cover from a storm that dumped 7″ of snow the day before. 

 I was just expecting another shitty morning drive, getting stuck behind every school bus stopping every 50′ to pick up kids. So I took the back roads. 

 But back roads, a day old snowfall, clouds, a bare tomato field, and the rising sun was the perfect cocktail for one of my favorite photos. 

 This was taken using my old phone’s (LG G2) stock camera. 

 A little side note, if you ever HAVE to go to Walmart, the best time is the early AM. It’s a more civilized clientele. 😉

This Could Be A Inspirational Meme…

… but pffffft, whatever. Another cell phone pic.

I was setting up my gear to shoot a sunset (in Gettysburg, go figure!) and my daughter, who was with me on this photo venture, wanted to have a photo of herself doing this. I’ve always dug photos like this and never had the chance to shoot one.

So I told her to kneel down so I could get the right angle. The people driving past looked at us with stupid faces. But I’ll do anything to make my kids happy. 

I think it looks adorably perfect… like my kids… who are adorable!

Sunset #1,276

Seriously though, I take way too many sunset photos. But when something like this happens, I can’t just look at it. This photo was taken using my cell phone (LG G5) because I don’t normally drive around with my camera (Canon Rebel SL1) unless I’m purposefully out to shoot something.

It’s not about the equipment used (typical little penis’d guy response, HA!), but how it looks post editing (that’s NOT what she said! 😉).

Would you have guessed this was taken using a stock cell phone camera?

Also taken in Gettysburg while driving around on the Battlefield tour route. At this point, my son was running amok from cannon to cannon and my 2 y/o daughter was in complete meltdown mode because she was nap-less and tired. I snapped this while I was walking to my SUV to get them the hell home. 😄