Sunday, March 24, 2013

painful words :: part two :: soul searching

At this very moment are you asking yourself, WTF? Why is he posting a photograph of himself? Michael, have you lost your mind? What an egotist?!

Well, the only thing that I can agree to is that; maybe I have lost my mind.

Follow along today and you will see why I am not full of ego, in fact, in my humble opinion, I believe that I am very balanced in the id/ego/superego department.

As for pimpin' the self portrait, it is far from being a narcissist. In fact, there is much to be learned from sticking yourself in front of a camera. Moreover, if you are down a model, it is a great way to work with and practice light, if you are tired of using your pet hermit crab as a model. Wow, I've already gotten off track.

Hang a U-ey.

I'm back.

A few weeks back, I wrote a blog aptly named "Painful Words  -  Because the Truth Hurts  -  Read With Caution." If you haven't read, I recommend giving it a sit before proceeding here. Since posting that article, I've received many mixed responses. Friends, followers and acquaintances alike have either commented on the post, called or emailed me directly. You can find the post [here].

To recap the original article, I spoke of fear, passion and having some balls in this game in which we only get one time at bat. The bottom line was and is that we, as a human race, have got to stop doing things we don't love. Period.

Time for today's elaboration on that article.

Some have mentioned that article as being a bit intense. Let me tell ya, I'm well aware.

I've been reading and watching seminars of some great and inspiring individuals lately. Just to name a few, Chase Jarvis, Tim Ferriss, Chris Jordan, Gary Vaynerchuk, Robert Greene and many others, have recently crept into my psyche like a mental worm. In through my ears and into the brain, stuck with no way out. And I promise you that is nothing but a good thing. These guys are at the top of their games and the BTS of how they got there is what has driven me to the journey I'm currently on and what has inspired me to write that article just a few weeks ago.

Funny thing happened while writing that post and funny things happening since. And when I say funny, I'm not speaking literally. I'm speaking funny as in holy shit funny, what the fuck funny. Catch my drift?

Once I actually began to write and bring up these deep seeded feelings that were lurking in my brain, in my heart, I began to have much more passion for what I was writing, much more faith in the words that were pouring out of me. I've never doubted a single thought or vision inside but actually sharing it with the world to read has locked the feelings down, with Master locks and ten ton anchors. These feelings aren't moving an inch, ever.

In this past week, I received an email, one that, more than the article itself, changed me forever.

The email came about 6:30 in the morning, Eastern Time. The sender's name, Derek. Derek's location, Johannesburg, South Africa. I'm not going to share the email verbatim but I will give you the gist of what I read that day.

Derek mentioned that in recent time he had, more or less, been forced into early retirement. During the difficult time of transition, he is also going through a divorce. Talk about putting one's character to the test. Jeez.

Mind you, Derek is of the baby boomer generation.

Many in this situation would simply curl up and kiss their sorry ass goodbye, some literally and some in a figurative sense. Common in this situation are people riding that downward spiral, straight down the toilet. Some choose booze while others go a bit more hardcore. Self-destruction becomes the unconscious name of the game.

So what does Derek do? Does he take the tail pipe? Nope.

Derek has decided to follow his heart, to follow his passion and dreams. Derek has decided that there is no more time for excuses. Everyone has ideas, it's those who execute and take action, that succeed.

Derek, bravely, will be taking a long journey, originating in "Johannesburg, through Botswana, along the Caprivi Strip and down to Windhoek in Nambia." This journey will take him a month or so and will cover probably about a 1000 miles of African soil. Oh, did I mention that he won't be shacked up in any five star hotels? No sir, Derek will be living off the land and sleep in tents. Now that's some bad ass shit if you ask me. Damn. And in Africa. Hell, I don't like spiders and I could only imagine the size of arachnids that he will come across in the African wilderness. Scary stuff.

While on this journey, Derek's goal is to document his experiences along the way. And rather than simply write a journal, Derek is starting up a blog. AWESOME!!! Along with his writings of his experiences, he will also be incorporating his photographic skills to share the images he will be creating along this very long road that lies ahead.

Then, something floored me. He mentioned that the "Painful Words" article, MY little old article, is what inspired him to take this super brave action, to commence upon this difficult adventure that few would ever have the courage to attempt. More, to document and to photograph, to share with the world, to blog about each and every encounter.


I was at a loss for words when I finished reading the email. I felt that this meant more to me than any money in the world. If someone offered me a billion dollars for one of my photographs, I wouldn't feel as great as I have since reading that email.

I've written this blog on a weekly basis for a couple of years now. Each week I share a photographic or other experience. I educate about lighting, about life. I explain f-stops and funny stories. Over these years I've received many, many nice comments about who I've helped and who enjoys the photography. More than you can imagine, the comments go a long, long way. I've never once taken a nice word for granted.

Derek's email had and has taken me back a bit. Knocked the wind out of me if you will. As I've helped him change he has equally returned the favor without his even knowing.

So what do the images of me have to do with anything whatsoever? Really? Not full of ego?

Not at all. Look, if I had a chance to sit with Derek and shoot him, here in the U.S. or there in South Africa, it would be his mug plastered across this post today. Unfortunately, that's not the case. I couldn't think of anything else to post but my ugly nugget. Call it a mirror if you will. While I'm sitting here typing away, I have to stare at my melon, only to look deep inside of myself. The soul searching.

So how has Derek helped me change?

Rather than write that single post, only to be lost in the archives of the blog abyss, I've decided to reach further, to push harder.

What exactly am I pushing for?


The next morning you get into your car, during rush hour, on the interstate, take a look around. Not just a localized look but a big old wide view of the thousands of sheep, I mean cars, that you are surrounded by. Yes, I did say sheep. Have you been trained, from the time you left the womb, to act  like an obedient little sheep, to follow the status quo, to thrive upon mediocrity and blandness? If it makes you happy to be unhappy then shame on you.

There are those in life who have and love the path they have chosen. Those, unfortunately, are the minority.

There are those who go through life, and could care less about happiness. For those, the bare minimum will do. Those have no passion. Those I pity. Those will only swallow the blue pill. Those are the sheep.

Then there's the black sheep. Us. We, who want the red pill. We, who have passion. We, who are tired of the status quo. We, are the ones that follow no path but make new paths, changing the world and history for the better. We, are the ones I admire most.

Until recently, I too was on that monotonous path of the mundane. It has only been recently in my years that I have decided to make the big leap.

I mentioned in the other [post] that we are a fear driven race. But really, what is fear and what should we fear?

Fear is a survival mechanism and I think as we have evolved fear has been protecting us from the unknown more than is necessary. Sure, fear can come in handy if a shark is after your ass. Not a time I'd want to have a low heart rate. In that case fear will bring on the fight or flight response and save that ass of yours.

As for fear to go after dreams? COME ON PEOPLE!

Writing that even makes me feel strange. Yes, people worldwide are afraid of chasing their dreams. What do they fear the most? Failure. Truth.

So what? So millions upon millions just bury their dreams and become the "happy to be unhappy" group. You should all choke on that blue pill. You know why? It's poison.

How about this my friends? If you never fail then you will never know the truth.

Over the centuries or millennia for that matter, humans have been taught that quitting is bad. I beg to differ.

Have a passion but are stuck in a 9-5 that you despise? Quit that shit! Have a marriage that sucks? Get a fucking divorce! Harsh? You bet.

Am I crazy?

Think about it. People may think the words I share here are a bit much. I urge you to look at this from a new and better view.

The crazy ones are those who, for the next 20 years or more, will get up day after day and go to a job they absolutely hate. That's crazy.

The crazy ones are those who, for the next 60 years or more will stay in a miserable relationship. That's crazy.

So, how to start this revolution? Balls people. A set of big heavy balls.

Derek is about to take on one enormously admirable adventure. An adventure, a journey, that few on the planet would ever muster the courage up to take. How does Derek do it? A set of balls.

Derek faced his fear and knocked it out with a solid right hook. Take no prisoners attitude. You know what? It may have been the hardest thing he's ever had to do but I bet you once on the road, he will never, ever look back.

We build things up in our head way too much. We create fear that, in some cases, probably shouldn't even exist. We've all been there. No matter how little the situation. Fear to get on that roller coaster only to sigh at the finish that "that wasn't so bad."

So is life my friends.

Derek has taken that first step. He got on the roller coaster. Now he's on his way up that first big hill.

I titled the post, "Painful Words  -  Part Two  -  Soul Searching." Take a deep look inside of yourself. Actually look in the mirror if you have to. What do you see? Are you everything you dreamed you would be? If not. Why not? If the answer is fear driven that there is work to be done.

We should all take a look at Derek's actions. He's a hero.

If he's the one and only person that I've truly helped, truly inspired, then I've done my job.

Thank you Derek and good luck on your incredible journey. I know it will be nothing less than extraordinary!

Oh, duh. I'm sure the regular photographer readers want a tutorial of the self portraits. Ok, ok. Short and sweet though.

Camera left was a 285hv firing into a 28 inch Westcott Apollo, hard to the right and slightly forward of my head. This strobe was gelled 1/2 CTO, if I remember correctly, and firing somewhere around 1/2 power. I think this strobe was about three or four feet from the center of my melon.

Camera right was another 285hv but firing into a 45 inch brolly, closed down a bit to emulate the light of the softbox. This strobe was gelled 1/4 CTO. It too was also firing at the same power and distance as the the Apollo.

Originally, I thought these two strobes would be enough to rim my sides and wrap around the front of my head. Unfortunately, the look was not what I saw in my head. To get the photos closer to my vision, I added a third strobe. This one was a Canon 430ex ii, firing through a 45 inch translucent brolly. I only needed a tad of light to fill in my nugget a bit. I believe this one was firing at 1/16. This setup was in front, slightly camera right and on a 45.

All of the strobes triggered via Pocketwizard Plus ii transceivers. I heart Pocketwizard.



-david duChemin