January 1st is a day of reflection and hope. It's a day we all sit down and think about what the last 365 days brought us, and what the next 364 days have in store for us.
I find reflection a method of growth, especially as a photographer and business owner. I'm able to sit down and review what did and didn't work in my business plan, my methods of photography, and my plans for the future as an artist. Comparing my work throughout the years helps me to see what I do and do not like to bring to clients, as well as where I wish to guide my medium.
In 2018 I launched my new website, introduced my new logo, and redirected my attentions to areas I wished to focus on, i.e. more traveling. I would like to take you along as I reminisce about the year, and what I think did and didn't work for me. I also wish to forewarn you in advance as this may be a long read. You may want to grab a cup of tea or coffee and hunker down.
After the busy holiday season, as well as year end with a business, I took January to just breath and plan. This is the month most photographers catch up on everything they can't seem to fit in throughout the year. Sometimes January's are more busy than other months.
I knew I wanted to still shoot and write with NYSMusic, but I wanted to be more selective and diverse in my choices. I wanted to mix it up with some new music, and give others at the magazine an opportunity to shoot shows too that I may have spoken for in the past. I felt like my music photography was becoming stale, as well as my writing. I felt like my articles all began to sound the same. Perhaps I'm my own worse critic, but I want to grow in my field and not just stay status quo. I also wanted to put more efforts into my actual photography business expanding on portraits and weddings and building my clientele.
My main focus for 2018 was to make my methods of social media and marketing more cohesive and reflective of who I was and the direction I wanted my business to go. After doing some research, I decided to change website builders and I chose to go with Wix. It gave me the best options to have everything in one place, was easy to use, and was more affordable. So January was the month the work began; to build a new look and new website. Working together with my very talented son, Ryan, who also is a graphic designer (shameless plug), we designed a new logo. I wanted a look that would incorporate my photography (music and regular portraiture) together with my love of travel. I think he nailed it.
For me, it is more reflective of what I am, who I am, and what my business offers. The old logo was great, but I never felt like it was me. Once I had my inspiration piece, I began to build the pages. This took some time, but was well worth it as I fine tuned them about a million times throughout the month. Finally I was able to have a page that incorporated my regular photography, my music photography and articles, and my travel blogs. One tidy neat package.
In February, I launched my new website and introduced the new look. I invested in new branding materials featuring the new logo, and implemented a new way of packaging my products to clients.
In February I also finally began my blogging. To me this was a new way to share a part of who I am. My blogs may be randomly posted or lengthy at times (something I'll work on in 2019), but I mostly want to share with others a way to explore yourself both through art and adventure. The message I want to share is that just because you may older, be single, and/or on a fixed income, you still can pursue your passions, no matter what they are. Just do it! My passion obviously is travel. I love to see new sights, meet new people, and capture those moments through my lens. Through my blogs I hope to inspire others to do the same, and not let things such as fear be a deciding factor. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
In 2018 I also experienced personal growth through a program called Leadership Mohawk Valley. This was a huge learning experience for me. The program helped develop the leader within me. I learned about community organizations, programs that are available to assist those in need, and I developed and nurtured skills within myself to help achieve success in my day job, my business, and my personal life. I highly recommend this program to anyone who wishes to become a better all around person. It's not just a means to grow leadership skills...but also to become a team player and foster leadership in others. And as a footnote, I fostered a new family of friends through this program that I will always cherish! #lmvunicorns
In March I became more involved with the Great American Irish Festival as I covered the Hooley for them. I have always been a part of the organization as a volunteer, however this year I began to become part of the team. A small but mighty team that works tirelessly to celebrate Celtic music and culture in the Mohawk Valley. (More to come on this later in the year.)
This month I also had an opportunity to shoot some band promo pics for a local band; Simple Props. I had a blast doing this and hope to do more of this in the future for local bands. Hey hit me up if you need new band photos for marketing!!
In March I started to implement a personal goal; being in the moment more. In the past I always felt compelled to capture the moments of every sporting event my son participated in. As my son's lacrosse games began for Cazenovia College, I held true to my goal and found myself only capturing only a few team photos this season. I learned how much fun it was to be on the bleachers with the other moms and dads cheering on our boys.
This year was also full of baby photos!!! Whether it was pregnancy shoots, or newborns, 2018 was my year of babies!! And oh how I enjoyed it!!! Especially the arrival of my granddaughter, Remi Mae Stockbridge in August!!
In April I got to go into the studio with a friend and capture some action shots for a video they were putting together. This was really a fun and different experience for me. I love the creativity of others, and was thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it and see it unfold.
If I had to pinpoint the one thing I love the most about being a photographer, it would be the relationships I have developed over the years with my clients. Most of my clients are return clients that allow me to capture their lives as they unfold. This month I had the opportunity to shoot a baby christening for a family I met right as I was beginning to do photography. I originally began shooting this family through a commercial shoot I was hired for at the last minute. He is my Santa that I often share on my social media pages! They liked my work so much they hired me to do a family portrait, then senior photos, then wedding photos, more family photos, and finally their grandson's dedication ceremony. I just love them, and I'm so thankful for the opportunity to grow along with this family and chronicle all their special life moments. Yep, that's definitely one of my favorite things about being a photographer. My clients become a family to me!!
May was a rather quiet one for my business. Remember how I wanted to be more present in the moments of my life? Yeah, I did this in May! I got to spend some time with my sister, my son came home for the summer, and I did some things just for fun! Yay!!!
Starting with....Hollywood Vampires!! This month I got to be a fan, and just a fan. No camera, no articles, just shear yelling and screaming like a crazy person. My friend asked if I wanted to go with her to see Hollywood Vampires, I was like...what? Absolutely I want to go see Johnny Depp again!!! Who turns down Johnny Depp?!!! As strange as it may be to be at a show without a camera around my neck, it was fun to sing and dance and act like a goof! Yep, life in the moment doesn't suck!!!
The one senior photo shoot I did this month allowed me to explore a new theme; baseball. Had tons of ideas in the past for possible baseball images, so this was a new creative avenue to explore. This senior had other photos taken earlier in the school year, but his mother wanted a more personal set of photos. My subject wasn't too sure at first with me or my ideas, but he was a great sport and played along, and I think we got some great captures that day. Although he was a little reluctant at first, I know his mother was happy we did this, and I know he did this more for her than for himself. This brings me a warmth in my heart now as I reflect back on this shoot. A few weeks ago I learned that we recently lost her to cancer. Cancer sucks!! She was a beautiful person that loved her children so much. I hope whenever he looks at these photos it will help him remember how very happy he made her that day by his selfless act.
Being a photographer is an honor. I feel like I have a responsibility to my clients when I photograph them to freeze moments in time. Capturing the moments gives them the opportunity to relive those emotions. These moments are priceless. This gift makes what I do very personal. It's not a job, it's an honor.
In June I watched as my son took off for his first vacation by himself with his friends to Florida. How did this happen? You know, the growing up and becoming an adult part? He had taken vacations before, but with other parents along for the ride. This was his first sole vacation as a young adult and a turning point for me as I had to let go a little bit more of the apron strings. Geez...I hope it gets easier as time goes on!! I have a feeling, it won't.
Speaking of family, I had my first photo shoot with my granddaughter and her parents. She had the easy part, think she actually slept through the whole thing! Her parents on the other hand were just beautiful!!! So blessed to have such a wonderful family. So blessed to be able to document their special moments too!!
June began my busy season for NYSMusic and the Lakeview as well. Now named the St. Joseph's Health Ampitheater at Lakeview...I will be calling it the Lakeview from here on out, just to make things easier for this blog. I love my work with the Lakeview and LiveNation and couldn't wait for the 2018 year's shows. They had an amazingly diverse mix of music for everyone and some great performers I had yet to cover!!!
I started off the season with Kenny Chesney and Old Dominion. A first time with Kenny Chesney, and second time for Old Dominion, they didn't disappoint. My second show was Imagine Dragons with Grace Vanderwaal. What a show this was! Grace was so sweet and talented and Imagine Dragons bring an energy that to their shows that transfers so well to stills. Rounding out the month at the Lakeview was probably my favorite show of the whole season, Foreigner with Jason Bonham and Whitesnake. First of all, Jason Bonham is beyond amazing!! Ever since seeing his performance with Ann Wilson at the Kennedy Awards, I have been hooked. His father would be so proud of him and his legacy he carries on. This was a first time for Whitesnake for me and I just love 90's hair bands because they just love to play to the camera. (see below) Covering Foreigner was a bucket list item for me. As a teenager I owned all their albums. As the show began with Long, Long Way Home...I found myself singing along to every word. I can't remember what I walked into the next room for, but I remember all the words to their songs. Priceless!
I also had the opportunity to cover one of my favorite Celtic bands this month, Gaelic Storm. They put on one of the best shows around. Their energy and talent shines through and for those came, they were in for a real treat. For those of you not familiar with them, you may just be and not know it. They were the featured music for the "Real Party" scene on Titanic!
Sometimes when you are not looking, you find something new and exciting. This happened one night as I was volunteering at a Saranac Thursday. I was there with my LMV family to pour for United Way. Scheduled for this particular Thursday's show was The Eric Tessmer Band, from Austin, Texas. They happened to be playing that weekend at Mountain Jam and made a pitstop to Utica for a quick gig. This soulful band immediately captured my attention, and although I didn't have my equipment..I couldn't help but snap a few pics with my phone and run an article on this amazing band the very next day. Check them out! They were another of my favorite new artists for 2018.
Finally, finishing out this hectic month was a treat as I watched my niece graduate from high school. As I said previously, capturing photos for my family is a gift and I found it hard to focus as I became misty watching her walk across that stage.
July began with carrying out my personal goal of enjoying more of the summer this year. Normally I work most of the summer with shows, weddings, and festivals. But this year I was determined to get the "Green Machine" out on the water more. I am happy to say that although it wasn't as often as I wanted to, I happily accomplished my goal twice. And...to top it off. I even captured an amazing photo of a loon! One I've been striving to capture for years now! What? What?!!!! Those little birds are quite elusive!!!
In addition to my kayaking adventures, friends and I also took an overnight to Ausable Chasm. Ausable Chasm is located just south of Plattsburgh and about an hour from the Canadian border. This area is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, and rightly so. It was spectacular! Take a peek at my Blog on Ausable Chasm for details and photos!! It is definitely a must see!! For those of you who haven't explored New York, it's so much more than skyscrapers and yellow taxis! It's one of the most beautiful and diverse states around! They don't say I Love New York for nothing!!
This month I attended my very first World Series of Bocce. Can you believe I've never been before?!! It's a true Roman tradition, and I'm ashamed to say this was my first ever. A first for my son and his friends to complete as well. They happily won their first match to make it to round two, however were defeated by one of the best teams out of New Jersey in round two. The whole experience was a good time, and a tradition I will continue...next time I may even bring my camera along to catch a few matches.
Speaking of traditions, July is the month of the Great American Irish Festival. This year's festival welcomed newcomers, We Banjo 3, celebrated with many returning favorites and said farewell to festival favorites, The Elders. Take a peek at my article for GAIF and a special interview with We Banjo 3 and a special farewell message to CNY'rs from The Elders!
Finally rounding out this amazing month of July, I would be remiss to not mention checking off another bucket list show at the Lakeview. July I was able to see the amazing Janet Jackson at the Lakeview. "Ms. Jackson if you're nasty"! She is everything and then some folks! This was truly an honor!
Looking back now, August was my busiest month of the year. How I fit everything in is beyond me!! Starting with the arrival of my beautiful granddaughter, Remi Mae! She took her own sweet time arriving, but you have to wait for perfection and it was worth the wait! My heart is full!!
August was a month of music for sure! Back in the 90's my son Ryan introduced me to a band he loved called 311. Not a mainstream band to me, I was unfamiliar with them. Through him, I grew to love them and their unique mix of rap and rock. Fast forward 24 years later, and I find myself in the pit taking their photos and loving every moment of it wishing I could share with him. But as the good Daddy he is, he was home with his gals taking care of them. I think this was definitely one my favorite captures for the 2018 music season. This one's for you Ry.
Opening for 311 that night was a hometown favorite of mine. Travie McCoy and his band Gym Class Heroes. The band hails from my hometown Geneva, NY or GTown as we call it, and I think I may have even gone to school with Travie's parents. Will have to pull out the year book one day and see. Being able to capture this set was really fun, and prideful seeing a hometown band's dream come true. This capture is another favorite from last year.
Finally, on the 311 tour was the Offspring. Not really familiar with their music, I began researching them and found that not only are they amazing musicians (and I was familiar with a few of their songs) I also found that the lead singer Dexter Holland in 2013 published a paper that focused on "computational molecular biological approaches to identify microRNA-like sequences in HIV". What?!!! This man is a molecular biologist and published scientist! I love it!!! Proof that people are so much more than what others perceive them to be. Never judge others!! Loved their set and love them!
August also marked the first ever annual Woods Fest at Woods Valley Ski Resort in Rome, NY. With acts such as Los Blancos, The Old Main, Mike Powell and John Hanus, The Black River, Les Brers, Nick & Jay from Floodwood, and so many more, this event was hailed as a huge success, a great family friendly event, and is on again for 2019. So stay tuned for lineup and more information!
Below please find one of my other 2018 favorite new artists, Mike Powell. He is amazing and folks he will be a huge star one day. He's so very talented and humble!!! Check him out!!! You can thank me later.
Although the Lakeview was in full swing with shows galore, my schedule only allowed me two more nights there covering some amazing acts. First up was Lynyrd Skynyrd with special guests, The Marshall Tucker Band, 38 Special, and Hank Williams Jr. Talk about a night of country rock!!! They were all amazing and there is nothing like finally being at a show where they yell "Freebird" and the band who is actually suppose to play, plays it!!
As the month progressed, so began the Great New York State Fair. One of my favorite times of year, I love covering shows at the Fair and this year offered an excellent line up. Fitting in three shows, I was able to cover two bucket list shows (Blondie and Dropkick Murphys), and cover another favorite of mine (Counting Crows).
Blondie is a legend. Loved her always, and she's still the most amazing!! So happy to have covered this show!! She sounded amazing, and just look at her...she doesn't age!!! Was right back in high school as she sang "Rapture".
Any time the Counting Crows come to town you can expect to see me there. Adam Duritz is one of my all time favorite musicians. The emotions he puts into his music and lyrics is what draws me to him. Plus he's fun to shoot as he is an emotional performer. Definitely a highlight for me at the Fair this past year. A few years ago I had a chance to interview him and it became one of my favorite interviews ever. Scheduled to be around 10 minutes, our conversation was flowing so well he kept telling his publicist that it was okay...we could keep talking. He taught me a really important lesson about interviewing someone..never ask a question you aren't sure of the answer. His take on Woodstock 99 was true and from the heart and took me back a little leaving me in a position of how to turn the interview around on a more positive spin. The rawness and honesty was brutal, and for someone that only likes to say something nice, it was a real turning point for me as a journalist to just write what was said and put it out there. Check it out here, he's is definitely one of my favs and always will be.
The final show I covered at the Fair was a total surprise for me as I didn't have any more scheduled. Not scheduled to appear, the Dropkick Murphy's were a last minute addition when Dickey Betts had to cancel due to health reasons. It wasn't a question, I was fitting this show in for certain. I had never had an opportunity to see these guys, and was so glad I did! A tough act to shoot, the two front men, Ken Casey and Al Barr, just never stop moving. Good thing I'm versed at action photography. Otherwise the photos would be a blur. A great show and a band I definitely go to see again. How did I not ever see them before? Loved their raw, energetic Celtic rock sound. Fan forever now.
My final show of the season at the Lakeview was one I snuck in (as if I didn't have enough on my plate!!) The show was Shinedown and Godsmack with opening act Red Rising Sun. What a crazy show this was, and one of my favorites of the year, but not for the usual reasons. The first act, Red Rising Sun played their set, however with a terrible storm on the way, the show ended up delayed by a more than an hour until it passed. After the storms passed and both Shinedown and Godsmack were back to the stage, they played their hearts out to make it up to those who stuck out the weather. It was during the Shinedown performance that something special happened for the first time ever. I've shot many many shows from the pit and usually the artists just put up with us. They sometimes smile...they sometimes pose, but mainly they are just wanting us to leave and get our cameras out of their faces. I get that. Who would constantly want a number of cameras shooting every angle of you as you sing? Not always is it a flattering position to be photographed. So when Brent Smith of Shinedown came out on to the amps and reached down and shook each and every hand of the photographers and security personnel, I was a fan for life. He got it. He understood that like him, we enjoy music and want to display it in the way we love, through our photos. Thank you Brent Smith. You are one helluva guy. I am now a fan for life. #madrespect #shinedownbrentsmith
Rounding out this amazingly busy month, I took off with my Celtic family for an #emptynestadventures to cover the Kansas City Irish Festival for three days. One of the nations largest Irish Festivals, it was treat to go see my friends, The Elders, play in front of their hometown crowd. With three days of the some of my favorite Celtic bands, being with my friends, making new friends, and the VIP treatment from those in charge, it was a highlight to my past year. I can't thank my friends from the KCIF enough for their over the top hospitality. This one top notch organization!! A must attend for those who like Irish Festivals. (Stay tune this year for a more detailed blog on this event)
I began the month with one of my favorite events of the year, the Syracuse Irish Festival. I have been the official photographer from the Syracuse Irish Festival now for several years, and each year it is such an honor to work with this amazing group of individuals. I love each and every one of them and all the hard work they put in to bringing Irish music and culture to the Syracuse region. Because this was the final year for my friends The Elders before they retired from touring, this would be the final show for the Central NY area and was a bittersweet one. They had become family here with their fans, and there wasn't a dry eye in the place as they sang Men of Erin along with a packed crowd in Clinton Square. It was a fun filled weekend, and despite my camera breaking during one of the final sets on Saturday, I was able to capture not only the final moments with the Elders, but also a new band Cùig. A huge thank you goes out to Ann for allowing me to borrow your camera and to my trusty Android phone..moments were captured to document another successful weekend for the Syracuse Irish Festival.
September was my month for weddings. It's such an honor to do weddings, as it's such an important day for the couple and their families. It's even more special when you get to photograph a wedding for someone you've had the pleasure to know for years and are friends with.
I had two of these moments this month. One with a couple I met through the Irish Festivals, and one who is a family friend and actually used to babysit my son when he was little. Both were super special to me and highlights of 2018!!! I just love LOVE!! I just loved these weddings!!
Speaking of wedding couples, I love when my wedding couples call me after the fact to let me know they had a baby and ask to do newborn photos. This is all the feels for me. It's like you are part of their story. Your heart swells knowing you get to capture another special moment for them. Yep I have the best job ever!! Just look at this cute little chef!!
Back in June I got to capture my niece's graduation, well I don't know where all the years went, but in September I got to capture her younger brother's senior photos. I am feeling a bit old now. That time flew by, and now he's a grown young man, driving, working, and applying to colleges. Okay, you two can stop growing up so darn fast!!
This month also had a very proud moment for me as a music photographer. I had the opportunity to shoot the Thomas Rhett show in Syracuse at the OnCenter, and after posting the photo below, Thomas Rhett reached out to me personally and asked for a copy of the photo to frame! What?!!! Highest compliment ever when an artists likes a photo so much they want it, to frame. Mind was blown and you could have tipped me over with a feather!! Yep, September was a pretty great month.
In October you would think I would slow down a bit, but not really. I began the month doing something fun. I got to celebrate my 35 year class reunion!! Our class was the best. We have always been an extremely tight group, but with the invention of Facebook, we have been able to continue to stay in touch and be a part of each other's lives even today. We are a support system that most don't have after graduation. So very happy to have all my classmates as friends still!! Check out highlights in my blog about "After All These Years"!!!
It's not normal for me to wish away time, but November couldn't get here quick enough for one very special reason...I was heading back to Ireland with my Celtic family to join The Elders on their final tour. What can I say? This was going to be the best farewell tour ever. We traveled all over Ireland; along the Wild Atlantic Way, to the southern coast and back up to Dublin. There are so many photos to share, so many memories and highlights, that I cannot possibly include them in this reflection post. But don't fear, these moments will get their very own blog and highlights. Until then, here are a few teaser photos for those of you who love the emerald isle.
The remainder of the month of November I dedicated to my clients. I had wedding packages to deliver so they were my main focus. Some think this life as a photographer is glamourous. I am here to attest, although it's very fulfilling, you need to love what you do because it's so much more than pointing a camera at a subject and clicking the button. There are numerous conversations with potential clients, research and inspiration boards I create ahead of a shoot to help guide the session, the travel and preparation for the shoot, the shoot itself, and then numerous hours of editing and delivery of the photos. Then there's the update of the webpage and social media marketing and if it's music photography, there's also an article and/or blog that accompanies the photos. So, November was definitely a catch up period for me.
In November I also officially became a member of the Great American Irish Festival's committee. A volunteer for years, I was officially voted in and made part of this dedicated hard working team! I look forward to continuing my work with them and look forward to the new year with the festival, and the newly built Cultural Center.
As December rolled in, I had one more little adventure planned...this time with my sister and niece!! And there is no better place to spend the holidays than in New York City. If you've never been to NYC at Christmas time, you are missing something special. The city itself has an energy about it year round, but add Christmas time to it, and the energy and Christmas spirit is off the charts. There is so much to do and see, that you can spend days just wandering around enjoying it. I won't go into what we did those three days, as that's a whole blog in itself, but I must say, sharing this time with my niece and my sister was the best way to conclude an amazing year of @emptynestadventures travel. Here are a few sneak peeks from our trip to tide you over till I can write and share the blog with ya'll.
When I began this "2018 Reflections" blog, never in a million years did I think this would become a novel. But as I began to write down a few highlights for each month and add photos, and it just grew! I've actually condensed it, if you can believe it! I guess I was pretty busy this past year, and I must say, I enjoyed every single minute of it.
As I reflect back, I see things I would like to change for the coming year to help become more of a well rounded photographer, parent, grandparent, and friend. I won't be heading over any large ponds this year on any adventures, but I do have a few excursions planned. There are a few things I wish to focus on and I will list them below. It's easy for me to become complacent and just put off things till I don't have the time to do them. By listing them, it's like a checklist and helps to stay on track.
Things I Would like to Focus on for 2019
Update photos more often on webpage and Pinterest - you want to see current work...not the same ole same ole!!
Develop a storefront on my website for those who may wish to purchase prints and packages (let me know if this is something you would be interested in)
Separate personal and business Instagram/Facebook/Twitter - needs to be more cohesive and focused - portraits, music photography, and travel photography on one - Babies , puppies, home, and food photos on the other
Do more live videos so you can get to know me on a more personal level (note this is totally outside my comfort zone...hate the camera being on me...so this is all for you guys!!)
Organize and focus more on my blogs -highlighting this year not only the travel I do but also the projects and clients I work with
Learn new methods of shooting/editing/etc.
Include more parents into senior photo sessions - why haven't I done this before now...I have in a few past sessions...but will insist in the future
Show my appreciaion to my clients more (you'll see what I mean if you are a current or past client)
Offer more mini shoot sessions around holidays to make capturing family moments more affordable for those who may not be able to do a full session
Travel of course...but destinations this year...will focus on family and friends!!
Less music coverage...more music listening - share with you my current musical moods
Focus on becoming more community oriented with my photography - not sure how yet, but have a few ideas
Finish outstanding projects...a must do!!! I have so many things I need to still do
Organize Photo Library..another must do!!!
Organize family history in photos. I've inherited boxes of old photos I would love to do something with
Appreciate other art forms/learn from them (Lynn are you ready for more adventures?!!!)
On the same page, I would like to take more time to just go shoot photos with other photographer friends!!! Anyone game?
I know there is so much more I need to do in the next twelve months, but this is a good start.
I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart, if you've made it to this point. I wish I had a prize for every one of you! What a long read!!! I can attest that this will not be the norm this year!! I promise!! I said so in the list above...so it has to be done now!! I thought it was important though to share with you a little about each month, and then, it just grew, and grew, and grew. So thank you for taking this journey through 2018 with me. It was a remarkable year, and I hope to share a little more on a few of the trips through my Emptynest Adventure Blogs.
And now on to 2019! Let's do this!!