OneQuestion: Brian Matiash

Copyright Brian Matiash

I’m so sad, the first week of OneQuestion is at its conclusion! But what a way to finish. Last, but definitely not least…well, maybe kind of least, or more in the middle, or whatever, my good friend Brian Matiash (who knows I kid, it’s our thing) was kind of enough to drop this friggin’ awesome road shot on us today and answer the question I posed to everyone. Brian is an amazing guy, an amazing photographer and I owe him a lot for where I am right now.

And before we get to Brian’s answer, I just want to thank everyone who participated in this project, and also all the support we had out there from Twitter, Facebook, G+ and the rest of it. It’s been a ton of fun and I can’t wait to do it again sometime!

What do you have a passion to photograph? What would make you forego much-needed sleep

because you just can’t help but get out and take more pictures?

Follow Brian Matiash: Twitter | Website

Let me start off by thanking my good bud, Mike, for thinking of me when he put this very interesting series together. I always appreciate unique spins on guest blog series and this one certainly doesn’t fail to please with the provocative question that is posed – What would make me forego sleep to keep shooting?

Well, let me start by explaining just how much I love my sleep. I hold it in the same lofty regard as a finely crafted ale. I don’t get much sleep because I’m unable to nap and it usually takes about 2 hours for me to even fall asleep at night. So, when sleep finally does come, I usually hold onto it like it’s manna from heaven. But still, what would keep me from it?

Well, the answer can be summed up in this – it’s all about ‘the streak’. There is a phenomenon in photography where you are out shooting and all of a sudden, you just see this one shot. Everything is aligned and the frame just makes sense. You get the camera situated and BOOM! – you get this shot that just surges through you. You chimp it and you know you nailed it. This causes adrenaline and endorphins to start coursing through your veins. Thoughts start caroming off each other and new shots appear right in front of you. You’ve hit the streak. It’s that streak that makes it more than a pleasure to give up sleep and comfort.

When I took this shot, I was tired. More than that, I was tired, sweaty, and getting more wet with each rainy minute that went by. But, I was mid-streak. I had just finishing shooting the Empire State Building and saw a way of framing it that I never thought of before. Something about the shot just energized me. I had been on my feet shooting all day and we were in the middle of a massive heat wave. But, none of that seemed to matter at that point.

I started darting around, thinking of shots to get. I settled on this one random corner and positioned my camera about a foot off the street. I knew the type of long exposure effect I was going for. Each shutter release was a 10-20 second investment. Timing the traffic lights and the amount of cars passing through the frame was critical to get the shot. But, I had fuel pumping and it didn’t matter. After a few failed attempts, I got the shot I was looking for.

It was one of those situations where I wouldn’t have stopped until I got the shot I was happy with. At that point, it didn’t really matter what time it was or how gross I felt, it was all about getting the shot. Sleep would come eventually. The shot only happens in the moment.

This is what it is always about to be a photographer.

OneQuestion: Jesse Pafundi

We’ve arrived at Thursday and Jesse Pafundi for my OneQuestion guest blog series. Jesse is a kindred spirit to me and we’ve had tons of conversations about how we change as photographers. Both he and I have been on a similar journey since the beginning of the year (or around there). Realizing what we love, who we are and being comfortable with our own styles and passions. Jesse’s photography has changed so much this year and it’s been inspiring and beautiful to watch. Visit his newly updated website (and name), check out his Rome pictures (or anything really) and follow his work.

What do you have a passion to photograph? What would make you forego much-needed sleep

because you just can’t help but get out and take more pictures?

Follow Jesse Pafundi: Twitter | Website

We’re lucky. Every single day on this Earth we get to experience the brilliance of a rising and setting sun. It’s an amazing thing to witness and can stop us in our tracks. It’s the one universal thing that cause people to slow down and appreciate the beauty around them.

When Mike asked me his “One Question,” I didn’t hesitate for a second in my mind. I’ve sacrificed hours of sleep dedicated to sunrise chasing. Missed out on dinner’s because the sun was setting at exactly 7:09 pm. I’m extremely fortunate to live only 10 minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. When I’m sitting in my backyard and gorgeous clouds roll in, I know it’s on. I toss my bag in the car and head south on Ocean Parkway. Can you smell the salt water?

A few weeks ago, during one of my softball games at Jones Beach, the sun began to set. The light was just outrageous and the photographer inside me became restless. I knew whipping out my iPhone would be a risky venture because at softball games, there is a certain manliness you have to uphold. I decided the risk was well worth the reward and stepped up to the top bleacher. I composed, adjusted settings, and snapped a frame. Within minutes the heckles began to pour in but I could not care less. I froze that light for an eternity and it’s at the top of this post to prove it. Joke’s on them.

Here’s to the golden hour.

OneQuestion: Gina Meola

Gina Meola Photography

The OneQuestion guest series continues today with one of my favorite photographers in the Phoenix area, Gina Meola. The first time we were introduced was at one of our First Friday events down at New City Studio. She hugged me instead of shaking my hand. I was surprised because no one has ever really hugged me the second they met me, but that’s Gina. She’s a hugger. Her smile and laugh are infectious. And she’s passionate about what she does. I am so blessed to have her guest blog for me this week. And stay tuned, I believe she’s presenting a lot more of her work at an upcoming First Friday gallery related to her answer below! Thank you so much Gina!

What do you have a passion to photograph? What would make you forego much-needed sleep

because you just can’t help but get out and take more pictures?

Follow Gina Meola: Twitter | Website

My husband and I are international wedding photographers. People pay us to travel. We shoot incredible couples in expensive gowns and high end venues on sunny beaches and fabulous cities… What a dream. I truly cherish the relationships with our clients who allow us to enter their love story and live out our passions.

But what keeps me up at night, at least without coffee or bloodshot eyes, are not designer shoes and gourmet cakes. They are faces and stories of people worlds away.

My first serious interaction with photography happened while living in Thailand with an AIDS relief organization. I had traveled extensively prior, but never had I lived next to slums surrounded by the poverty-stricken orphaned and dying. My heart was ravaged and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

I started building friendships with, and photographing the people I worked with. They were sick, and hurting, and afraid – but they were beautiful.

It wasn’t long before I began sharing these stories and images, and people from around the world were walking through this journey with me.

When an image not only evokes emotion, but inspires action, you’ve done a service. You are using your gifts to defend and care for those who cannot do it themselves. This became a fundamental value of our business when we decided it (the business) was a means, or vehicle to something much greater than ourselves. How that will play out over the next few years is in God’s hands 🙂

Thanks, Mike!! XOXO

OneQuestion: Scott Ackerman

ElectricSupercellMO - Scott Ackerman

Next up in my OneQuestion guest blog series is Scott Ackerman, my stormchasing buddy from Kansas. You knew I had to include a weather guy, I mean, come on! I love his work, I’ve seen some great strides in his processing and composition in recent months and I’ve been blown away by the images he’s taken. I mean, look at this giant thunderstorm in the photo above (click on it to enjoy the visual with a nice, dark border), with gorgeous light on the anvil and lightning exploding on the horizon. LOVE IT. And without further ado…ScottyAck.

What do you have a passion to photograph? What would make you forego much-needed sleep

because you just can’t help but get out and take more pictures?


Follow Scott Ackerman: Twitter | Website

Big thanks to Mike for asking me to take part in his little mini series of guest blog posts. I consider Mike to be a premier photographer of all areas of the craft and I know my skill has greatly improved from his knowledge.

Mike recently asked the question: “What do you have a passion to photograph”. For me, this was an easy answer. Growing up in the flat plains of southwest Kansas there really wasn’t a whole lot of scenery to take in. No mountains or lakes to speak of. But every spring, the storms would begin rolling in. Amazing, beautiful storms that would test the heights of the atmosphere and roll with astounding momentum. Frightening and beautiful in the same moment. Each with their own unique structure and strength. From a very young age I was always mesmerized by these acts of nature. We had our fair share of tornadoes, lightning, hail of all sizes and wind that at times felt like it would relocate the house down the block.

Now it wasn’t until after undergrad that I decided it was time to take a crack at capturing these beauties. I can remember spending many hours trying to capture bolts of lightning with very little success. At this point I turned where every one turns, to the internet. I consider myself a self-taught photographer but I have definitely spent a great deal of time reading instructional material and watching many video tutorials. And once you capture your first lightning bolt, you’re hooked.

Getting back to the question at hand, it doesn’t matter if I’ve had a long tough day at work, if there is the slightest chance to capture an amazing storm structure or a complex bolts of lightning I’m there. There’s been times when a storm will sit in one spot and just put on a show for hours. Capturing that show is some times tough, and you may spend hours trying with little luck, but capturing that once in a lifetime shot makes it all worth while.

OneQuestion: Michael Murphy

 (This begins the first ever OneQuestion series of guest blog posts by photographers I asked to participate. I want to thank all five of them that you’ll meet this week for helping me out and letting me take a breather from all the blogging and such. But mostly I want them to know how much I appreciate the awesome answers and the depths at which they talk about how much they love what they do.)

First up is Michael Murphy, a photographer from London who creates some stunning images that I’m constantly blown-away by. He’s one of those “urban explorers” and uses HDR as a part of his workflow for most of it. Love his processing and style.  A good man, with a good name. Was so excited that he wanted to be a part of this. Thanks man.

What do you have a passion to photograph? What would make you forego much-needed sleep

because you just can’t help but get out and take more pictures?


Follow Michael Murphy: Twitter | Website

My passion is, without a doubt, taking photographs of London from up high. The feeling you get standing high above the hustle and bustle of the UK capital is amazing. The only noises are the wind, the sirens and the sound of your camera clicking away…turning off a busy street on a Friday night, going up 20 or 30 storeys and then spending several hours looking down from above is simply euphoric.

Of course, there are downsides to this passion. There aren’t many places in London which allow you to climb onto their rooftops, especially with tripods and camera gear, and definitely not late at night. Those that do provide access are places where tourists go, where photography is often restricted or completely forbidden and where the view is hindered by glass, netting or early closing hours.

This means I have to resort to access that doesn’t involve asking for permission, which is done without being seen, and which unfortunately means those 20 or 30 storeys have to be done by stairs or scaffold. Night time obviously lends itself better to these covert operations; the streets are quieter with those still wandering them mostly drunk, shadows are available to hide in, and the sites where access is gained are mostly devoid of workers making the process much easier.

The easiest spots to access are buildings that are currently being built or demolished; they often have no doors and the only active alarms, if any, are on the scaffold or hoarding. Some have security, but avoiding them is part of the fun and bumps up the adrenaline levels almost as much as standing on the corner of a high building does.

I’ve learnt the hard way that there is often a small window of opportunity when gaining access to sites (and sometimes, literally a small window). A location that is open one day may have no roof the next, or may have boards put up to stop people from entering, or an increase in security. One particular location earlier this year turned from simply being able to walk in off the street and up to the roof to suddenly having fencing, alarms and signs stating ‘these premises are patrolled by security dogs’ within the space of a week. Another time I climbed a statue in a very popular area of London which had scaffold around it for cleaning, the opportunity arose simply because I noticed the padlock to the hoarding was unlocked as I walked past. The next day the job was complete, the scaffold was removed and the chance to get up there again was gone for another 5 or 10 years depending on how often the statue is cleaned. If you sit around planning too much and deciding to go the following weekend you often find that access is no longer possible; as the old saying goes ‘you snooze – you lose’ and that’s certainly true of this game.

When it come together though, and you’re stood on the top of a 30 storey building looking around at the iconic London landmarks and knowing that you’re taking photos from a viewpoint that the majority of people will never see, there’s no greater feeling. You feel a connection with the city that you don’t get elsewhere, and a sense of belonging in a place that can sometimes be so hostile. For that short period of time you feel invincible, and like you’re the king of the world. I’ve missed many nights of sleep (and nearly one plane flight) pursuing these vantage points, and I look forward to missing many more in the future.

Introducing: OneQuestion

OneQuestion (lightning west of Sedona, Arizona)

I’ve been wanting to do a guest blog series on my site for a long time, but I wanted to do something unique and different. Leave it to my wife to think of something simple that totally works.

Part of the reason why I was interested in guest series was to take a week off from blogging. I didn’t want to leave the place empty while I was gone, so what better way to take a vacation than to have a few people “house sit” for me.

My wife said why not just have them answer a single question? Brilliant. Easy. Awesome.

So next week you’ll be hearing from five artists whom I admire and inspire me. They’ll be answering a simple question and posting a single image:

“What is your ultimate passion in photography? What would make you forego much needed sleep because you just can’t help but go out and take more pictures?”

I love this question. Because sometimes in our business, we shoot because we love to shoot, but we also may be doing weddings, portraits, events, landscapes, interiors…all this stuff, but it may not necessarily be our passion. We love doing it, but there is always that driving force behind why you do what you do.

For me…I love the weather. You all probably know this. If I had to work the next day but there was a lightning storm at 1am…I’d likely go without sleep so I could be out shooting it. That’s just the way it is.

I absolutely enjoy and love photographing weddings and families and babies and all that. But weather is my passion. Weather photography has a hold on me like nothing else. I spent three days in the midwest driving 2200 miles with a total of 12 hours of sleep through five states to try and shoot a tornado. That is my inner beast.

So that’s what is coming at you next week. I love the answers I’ve gotten from the five people. One of them brought me close to tears.

Next week is going to be fun! I’ll likely not really post anything of my own, but that may depend on what happens in the weather world 🙂

(the image above was a 30 second exposure I shot last Sunday night west of Sedona)