18 Months

Eighteen months.
You can learn a lot in 18 months. 

I learned about change.
Change happens and I have learned that there are two types of change.
Change we cannot control and change that is designed. I have gone through both. One hurts and the other brings promise. 

Divorce can, and does, bring both types of change. 

 The past 18 months, and particularly the past 12, have brought a lot of change to my life. I have slowed down on taking any new jobs in photography (for a very short time) and have done a little bit of traveling to a few places I have grown to love and have wanted to revisit from my childhood. These trips have also been designed to help with closure from one end of change to the other. The people involved have all been a major part of my journey. 

 I am not mentioning my family in this post because, well, they know that they are important to me and they understand all that I have been going through. Just because I do not mention them does not mean they are not thought of—on the contrary, without them there would be no real need to change, to make my life better.

On my quest I visited Paul and I met Chris. Both are fantastic photographers (one is a little more seasoned than the other. I can let you figure out which is which). Joshua Tree is a favorite location for me, and these two cats took me on a great day trip. They are truly awesome talents. This area was also very important to me because I had made up my mind to move to Huntington Beach after a lot of thought. It is a beautiful area and the travel guides are pretty cool as well. (I later changed my mind…that will be addressed soon.) 

Most of my friends and family know I love Vegas! Mostly due to WPPI, but also because it is a place that plays into my ADHD tendencies. There is a great mix of total chaos and action, and then when I have had enough I drive into the desert and clear my mind. Such a fantastic place! I have attended WPPI maybe 8 times over the past 10 years. The last two of those 10 years I have had a very good friend/colleague and my local competition go with me to WPPI (and other photo/non-photo related shenanigans). Shawn is also a talented photographer. We shoot in totally opposite styles and see things differently, but Shawn is solid in technique, business and in his work. Plus, he keeps things light when the crap is hitting the fan. Not to mention he is there for me, after 8 hours in a car, entering the Grand Canyon with only 15 minutes before the park closes, to take my picture in front of a pitch dark canyon. Yeah, he’s a good friend!

Last quick trip was to Colorado. (You gotta try the new edibles, right?) Denver, Boulder, Loveland and Estes Park were on my list from my early childhood. I never forgot how massive and beautiful the Rockies were…but it was so nice to see them through an adult’s eyes. My aunt and uncle are two of the coolest people on the planet, and I had not seen them in really happy times until this trip. The other times over the past 3 years were due more with the declining health of my mother. (my Uncle Gil’s sister.) It was great to catch-up on good times for once. I also got to reintroduce myself to Moses (my second cousin) and his wife Penn. Moses took my photo when I was 7 at his studio in Estes Park. That is all I really remembered of Moses, other than funny stories through the years. Spending the day with them brought me to the realization that a photographer of 20+ years (that would be me) can learn so much from another photographer by just watching his movements when he talks about the medium. He never picked up a camera or spoke of settings/lighting/gear–only the emotion that needs to be seen and coaxed out from your subject in a photograph. Click here to see the short post about Moses and Penn.    


The following people, aka best friends on Earth, have been a major influence in my change of path over the past 18 months. I have known them all for much longer than that but I have connected with them a bit deeper (even if they did not realize it) the past 18 months. They all know what they have done for me.) I will mention though that I have not been the only one dealing with change. Divorce effects the entire family, on both sides. And I know it has not been easy for either family.

 I will just leave it at that.  

Jon is my best friend since 10th grade. We have both seen ups and downs and yet our bond is as strong as it was back when we were invincible. He has been, and continues to be, the brother I never had. Shelley has a beautiful attitude towards life. She (re)entered Jon’s life (we were all friends in high school) at a pivotal time and her soft demeanor and quiet soul makes for a perfect mix.  

Paul- I doubt he realizes it but I did listen and follow his words of wisdom during his visit here over the summer and my visit to Huntington Beach. His insights about relationships and photography have been invaluable. He speaks of experience, life and loss.

My bubble is an eclectic mix of transplants from Oklahoma, Ohio, Chicago, Indiana, and close to home here in Grove City. We are also a mix of professions: an MD, PHD, IT, a counselor, retail, sales and “big business.” I am the lone photographer. Within the group are talents in cooking, painting, beer brewing, baking. There are instigators, bartenders, arcade aficionados, entertainment agents…the list goes on. But mostly, they are there whenever I need them. Some even show up when I do not even realize I need them. I cannot go into details about them individually because that would be a twenty minute read in itself. But the highlights are summed up like this: in the years I have hung out with them, they have never said no to whatever idea I had for photoshoots or just plain strange ideas, from my inebriation session during a poker night or an entire day of underwater sessions with a group photo at the end. Some of us (I say us because I cannot swim) were not a fan of water but went through with it because they are close friends and that’s what friends do.

Lee- is my breakfast partner and anti-emotional shoulder to lean on. Nothing but truth and odds when I hang with him. He has given me 100 reasons to not move in the direction I am going but he respects the decision I am making. Lee is also one that took me in when I was new to the area and has been by my side through good and bad times.  Lee even looked after my son Trey to make sure he had a job through middle school and high school and made sure it never interfered with sports or other functions…but also made my son accountable. That’s true friendship.

John- My goodness. It is no secret that I think he is one of the best photographers I have come across. He is building a legacy on his own terms, and everyone will be better for it. 

He is a photographer who takes risks and is a no nonsense kind of guy. We ate, enjoyed a bit of bourbon in my home, and he stayed the night at my house on his way back to San Diego after weeks and weeks on the road shooting for his project. I have facebooked and tweeted about his journey for months and months. He did not realize it, but his words that night pushed me to take the final steps in my new direction. And I can say he has made me a believer in going forward and not really asking for permission along the way. John is a breed all his own.  

As I mentioned earlier, I had every intention of moving to Huntington Beach. I had traveled there (and to Orange County) a few times, had made some great connections with a few photographers and just loved the weather, climate and the smell of the water. (This is kind of funny, as I had never enjoyed the beach until last year.) 

I was all set. Then a funny thing happened on the way while I was planning my move. An old friend was having similar issues in her life. She was going through some hard changes as well, and dealing with the same issues I had faced. Through all of the changes and all of the madness, I noticed something new. Clarity was now a term I was using for my mind and life, not just a term used in photography. One thing led to another and then all of a sudden Southern California seemed like the wrong move. Instead of warm weather and sun… I was wanting colder weather and less sun because someone special was living in a colder, less warm climate.  Amy. 

Amy had come into my life and had quietly changed what I thought was important. I learned that change in scenery is not the remedy for sadness. Happiness and love brings clarity and that is what Amy brings to me. Someone asked me the other day “this is a big move and change, what does Amy add to your life to want to make these changes?” The answer was easy but silly and a bit simple.  My reply was, “she is Amy”. Meaning, she brings solace, surprise, patience, warmth, tenderness and clarity. All of those offerings bring joy into my life.   You can get a little glimps of her musings herehere and here.

So, instead of warm and sunny Southern CA I will be relocating to the colder, less sunny city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. There is a ton of happiness and love there for me and that is what fuels my heart, soul and profession. Change is a part of life and I am looking forward to this change. Change in location, change in attitude and a change in relationship. There is even a change in how I am moving forward in my photography. 

I will still be deep in weddings and portraiture but there will be a subtle change as to how I go about those.  I will lay out the details later but in order to give every client the attention they deserve I will be concentrating on fewer clients but more time with each client. I feel there is not enough personal attention going into photography these days. I want to bring that back and bring it to the forefront in my work. My clients deserve more of me and this is the only way I know how. 

Lastly, I will also still be working in Pennsylvania (as I have weddings booked through 2017 there) and having family in Western PA, I will be offering sessions on the times I am in the area. 

Liz & Doug at the Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel

I met Liz and Doug at an Adult Prom (a.k.a. Cystic Fibrosis - A dance for 65 Roses) a few years ago. (2015) I was asked if I could photograph their wedding reception as they would be holding their nuptials in Jamaica. OF course I said absolutely! 

This was nothing but fun for me and my right hand shooter Jerry. Zero stress with only making images on our minds.

The only request they had was a photograph taken from outdoors looking up into the venue.  

What a great event to end the 2016 wedding season! 

Kids and “the competition”

One of there cool things about making friends with the competition (in this case, a local photographer) is that they allow you to photographer their kids at the bus stop minutes before the bus pulls up. 

And they allow you to call up 12 hours before the bus arrives to schedule the 7 minutes session. 

These two kids are just really cool. They just played along and went with the flow.  I will say it helped that they are used to being in front of a camera, so I won’t take any credit for making them comfortable. 

I am working on a series of portrait photos where I have only 10 minutes or less to capture something. It is fun, and a bit difficult, because I have no time to set up fill light (if there is no strong natural light) and with the time change 7:10am is a tough time when it is overcast.  And shooting medium format the ISO only goes up to 800. (at least with my MamiyaLeaf ) 

Thanks to Shawn and Corinna (mom and dad and my competition) for the use of your kids! 

You can check out Sweeny Photography here.

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