The Importance of Doing

“What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.”
— Pablo Picasso

There is great importance in the doing of things. Not simply coming up with a plan or discussing ideas, but real action. Not because there’s a payoff, but because you have no other option but to do This Thing.

Earlier this year, while in Nashville for a conference, I took a detour to visit my longtime friend Adam, who lives in Chattanooga with his wife and daughters. Adam and I were roommates back when he still lived in California and we were fighting the good fight of local journalism, working for a small daily newspaper. Since then, he’s gone on to move back into web design, and over the past few years completely dive in to the world of podcasting. Not only does Adam have a great podcast called The Gently Mad where he’s interviewed people like Seth Godin about life, work, and creativity, he’s also teaching other people how to create successful podcasts.

It’s inspiring to see how he’s had a vision for doing something, and has thrown himself into the doing of it.

But this isn’t all musings on old friends and getting stuff done. The portrait of Adam above in his office was a great chance to use one of the single-best iPhone accessories of the past few years: the Nova flash, the best handheld, “off-camera” flash for the iPhone. (Its creators providing a great example of seeing a lack, and filling the void.)

While the iPhone works fantastically for a variety of photos, it — like any other smartphone — falls short in the area of flash. Nine times out of 10, direct flash is not your friend. The Nova solves this. About the size of a credit card, about a quarter-inch thick, it has rows of LED lights under white plastic, and syncs up with its iPhone app via Bluetooth. The app allows you to adjust intensity and color temperature, and the Nova works anywhere within a 20-foot radius.

With the Moment Tele lens mounted on my phone, and the Nova set off to the side, I was able to keep Adam in that great, soft window light while still adding some fill flash to provide depth.
It helps to have great tools, especially those that don’t take up much space in your pockets.

As a gentle plug, if you’re serious about your photography and you wind up shooting a lot with your iPhone, pick up a Nova.

The Nova also came in handy for another recent portrait of someone who inspires me with his drive to do the things about which he’s passionate.

My friend Nate is a talented singer-songwriter who’s spent the past few years criss-crossing the U.S., playing for audiences small and large, sharing songs inspired by his life and experiences. He’s currently raising funds for his next album, which promises to be really good.

Recently, we had the chance to meet up for dinner while he was in Los Angeles, and I captured this portrait of him. This is another great example of the opportunities created by using the Nova. I positioned Nate in a darkened doorway and tucked the Nova on a door handle. With very minimal, helpful gear I was able to create a strong portrait.

That’s how we move forward: By the doing. And we develop personally by doing the things about which we are passionate.

What are you doing today?

What's Limiting You Today?

Why do we put ourselves in a box? Why do we limit ourselves to what it is we want to achieve, but tell ourselves we can’t because we aren’t properly equipped?

Any photographer (or insert any other vocation) knows this all too well.

If only I had that lens…

If only I was shooting on that camera instead…

If only, if only, if only…

At the beginning of the year, I gave myself a personal challenge to create more portraits, constantly, no matter what gear I had at hand. After all, the best camera really is the one you have with you.

Which leads me to this portrait of Mike, a case study in using what you have at hand. A fellow coffee aficionado and news junkie, we ran into each other one Saturday at my favorite local coffee spot, and I had to create a portrait of him in that light. My gear? My trusty iPhone 5, coupled with the fantastic Moment Tele lens, and, oh, the white side of a menu I was holding just out of frame to bounce a little light back onto Mike’s face. I shot it with my go-to app, VSCO Cam, in which I applied some mild post-processing.

This was one of the earliest images I shot with the Moment lens, which I received as a Christmas present. There are a lot of iPhone photography accessories on the market, but this lens is by far one of the best and worth every penny. With high-quality craftsmanship, optical-quality glass, and ease of use (it twist-locks onto a small adhesive plate you affix to the back of your phone), it’s a great way to step your game up when shooting photos with your phone.

Here’s the thing. The skill to create a strong portrait comes from being able to see a strong portrait, not because of your gear.

Our ability to achieve, to rise above, and to succeed? It’s helped by various outside influences and resources, to be sure. But do you have within you the fire and the drive to do something in spite of circumstances?

What’s limiting you today?

"I'm not going to believe that only a few people are permitted to be gatekeepers or creators or generous leaders. I have no intention of apologizing for believing in people, for insisting that we all use this moment and these assets to create some art and improve the world around us."

Hold On

For all the heartbreak dreamers waiting for the light;
Looking for just one reason to get through the night;
Every long-lost believer caught in the fight;
All the heartbreak dreamers gonna be alright.
In the past month, that verse from Mat Kearney’s latest album “Just Kids” (Go download it now. Seriously.) has been constantly playing over and over in my head. It is because I know the truth in those words. It is because I have seen over the past several years, while walking through some true valley periods in life, what it means to hold on to hope, to fight through heartbreak and disappointment, and come out the other side and see and know that it is going to be alright.
I don’t know what you are facing. I don’t know what anxieties keep you awake at night and what stresses are waiting for you in the morning. But I know you can make it. I know heartbreak may seem the thing that is going to win, but I am urging you: Hold on. I know the road seems long and with no end in sight, but there is a destination on that horizon.
I’m telling you this because I need to hear it myself. I constantly battle my own stresses, anxieties, fears, and hesitations over not being good enough, not talented enough, not driven enough, not successful enough. I haven’t done enough. I haven’t risked enough. I am not making enough of the precious time I have on this earth. And on and on it goes.
And then I am reminded of how much I have accomplished; how much I am truly blessed in life; and how, no matter how many seconds I have left on this earth, I have not reached the end of that road.

And so I hold fast to hope.

P.S. This blog has been languishing for far too long. That's changing. Because I'm tired of the regret I have every time I don't invest in what I say I care about. So, I'm focusing on breathing new life into it, sharing photos as much as I'm sharing my thoughts. I hope you enjoy reading.

The Ticas Family

I've known Sam and Dina for some time now, so it was fantastic spending some time with their family this afternoon, capturing some photos. 

Married 17 years and still rockin' the camera like newlyweds.

It's always the right time to schedule a family photoshoot.
Contact me at
You get one shot at life. Live it with vision.

Portrait of a Lady

One of the things I love about the type of work I do is the people I meet. Recently, I had the opportunity to create a quick portrait of Noelia Rodriguez. She is a gifted, inspirational speaker whose background includes having been the press secretary for First Lady Laura Bush, deputy mayor for Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, and former director of the John F. Kennedy Jr Forum at Harvard University's Institute of Politics.

Family Love

I've now had the opportunity to take family photos for Maria and Tom several times. It's always a pleasure to capture families at different stages of their life. I had a great time capturing images of them, their daughter and their dog, Oz, at Mentryville, a historic oil town on the edge of the valley.


It's always the right time to schedule a family photoshoot.
Contact me at
You get one shot at life. Live it with vision.

Open Your Eyes

There's something fantastic about being to capture the first bits of a family's new chapter. Seeing the joy in their faces. Seeing the wonder in the eyes of a newborn. It was a joy to see my old college roommate, Ryan, and his wife Christa, and capture some images of their son, Hunter.

Hand in hand

One of my college roommates, Jon is just an all-around great guy. Super genuine, deeply creative, and adventurous. So it was a joy and an honor when he asked me to capture some images of him and his fiancee, Sarah. The two of them make a great couple, and I'm excited to see them start this chapter of their lives together.
With the late afternoon sunlight in its full golden glory, we had a great time walking around Huntington  Gardens and the Langham Hotel in Pasadena.

Winter Love

An Italian villa. Lots of flowers and vintage details. LOTS of Dr. Who-referencing details. A grey wedding dress. A bride with pink hair. You know, just some of the standout details of Ben and Beck's fantastic wedding yesterday. I've known these two since college, and it was a pleasure and honor to be able to document their day of exchanging vows, beginning a new chapter in their life together and celebrating with their family and friends. Not to mention, Via del Sol D'oro in Sierra Madre is one of the most gorgeous venues I've shot.

Settle in, this is gonna be a long post....

I love moments like this, when the bride's father sees her in her dress for the first time.

Seriously, how elegant and rockin' does she look?

That ridiculously long scarf? One of their purely awesome Dr. Who details.

Did I mention how awesome that dress was?

I loved seeing how in love with each other these two are.

This was such a sweet tender moment between Beck and Ruth, one of her bridesmaids.

There was no shortage of simply wonderful details at the reception, from the little favor bags, to the table settings and everything else. (And not a shabby chic mason jar anywhere in sight.)

Just try to tell me this is not the cutest wedding cake ever.

As first dances go, you really can't beat a room like this.

This one's a bit out of focus, but I can't help it. I love it.

These two know how to dance.

The danced. And then they danced more. And then dashed out in a shower of rose petals and cheers.

Mr. and Mrs. Ross, thank you, so much, for giving me the gift of documenting this beautiful day. 

Separation clarity

So, I've been in the process of going through image after image, culling and narrowing down my portrait and wedding portfolios as I prepare to launch the long-overdue in the next few weeks. I won't lie. There have been moments, as I've started to go cross-eyed from staring at photo after photo after photo, that I've mused "It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if I just 'accidentally' lost all the photos on my hard drives and started from scratch, would it?" It can grow wearisome, cycling through past work, trying to decide what best represents you, while functioning as your own worst critic.
And then I stumbled across this image of my friend Megan, shot more than two years ago in a fire-blackened Southern California canyon. I somehow completely bypassed this image while editing back then, and last night saw it with new eyes. A horizontal crop, a few minor adjustments, and I sat at my desk feeling better about a lot of things.

I'm finding it sometimes takes that distance, that time away from things, to provide clarity and freshness to get back on track with more vigor than we had before, when perhaps we were muddling along attempting to keep up a flagging energy. I've been feeling that a lot over the last few months, reminded that sometimes we simply need to step back, take a deep breath (literally or figuratively) and take stock of things. And just maybe, that's all it takes to find our way. I know that sounds terribly reductive, and really has nothing to do with this photo, but it's the truth.
What do you need to step back from?

2010 Retrospect — Part 1

The year's almost over. Personally and professionally, 2010 was altogether challenging, rewarding, joyful, frustrating — it was another year of living life. I've done a fair amount of reflection over the past two months, but I'm more focused on looking ahead to what the future holds. That said, I wanted to share some of my favorite images from the past 12 months. I'm thankful for everything — every place, every face, every moment — I was able to see and photograph. Hopefully you enjoy some of these as much as I do. Today is a smattering of more photojournalistic images. Tomorrow, Part 2 will pull together some of my favorite images of people.

This first image in many ways encapsulates my approach to life these days: Chasing the light in the darkness.

I kicked off (yes, pun intended) getting to cover the Rose Bowl game between Oregon and Ohio for the newspaper I was with at the time. I'm not really a sports fan, but it's impossible not to feel the adrenaline pumping when you're walking the sidelines of a stadium packed full of cheering fans.

In the 5 1/2 years I spent with The Signal newspaper, the kind of stories I most enjoyed writing were those that cast a spotlight on ordinary people getting recognition. Read the story here of this Vietnam veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star more than 40 years after a battle in the Mekong Delta.

Over the past decade I've spent in California, I've always enjoyed driving through the vast expanses of desert. It's a harsh landscape, peppered with interesting landmarks. One of those is Salvation Mountain. For more than 30 years, Leonard Knight has lived without electricity or running water, east of the Salton Sea, constructing and painting a clay "mountain" adorned with flowers, rivers and Bible verses. This oasis of American folk art stands in stark contrast to the unforgiving terrain surrounding it.

A moment in time along the freeway west of Palm Springs.

Catalina Island sits just about 30 miles off the coast of San Pedro, California, but it feels a world away. It was good medicine to get away from everything for a day and wander the small harbor town of Avalon. At the top of a mountain overlooking the island is the Wrigley Memorial, in honor of William J. Wrigley who did much to develop the island.

In September, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to a help a friend photograph a wedding. It was my first time there in probably more than 15 years, and I fell in love. It's a grand, walkable city with architecture that reminds me of Europe. These were the views as I walked the National Mall one afternoon, ending up at the Washington Monument for a beautiful sunset.

It's been nearly a decade since L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Hagop "Jake" Kuredjian was shot dead during a shootout, but he was close in memory to his brother on the anniversary of his death. Read the story here.

A few months ago, I dragged myself out of bed in the pre-dawn hours to capture some images of the community's early risers. The Way Station Coffee Shop has been a Santa Clarita Valley fixture for almost 40 years, and is a deliciously textbook example of a "greasy spoon."

That's it! Some of my favorite newsy images from 2010. Come back tomorrow for images of couples in love, bouncing babies, chic ladies and more.

sing tomorrow's praise.

July and August were great, busy months of capturing some fun images as part of my 30for30 promotion. Everyone brought a different personality to the table, and I had the pleasure of capturing some moments I feel really reflect who these people are. Thanks to everyone for braving the SoCal heat, dodging security guards, standing in the midst of fire ants, and generally letting me tell you what to do. Here are just a few of my personal favorites. And keep on the lookout for an upcoming holiday photo special, and if you are (or know) a graduating senior it's time for some relaxed and natural senior portraits. You only get one shot at life. Live it with Vision!