33 Tips to Find Inspiration for Your Photography

There are times when we don’t feel like taking any photos. You see a great scene and go ‘meh, I’ll pass.’ I know that feeling because I’ve suffered from it over the years. Finding inspiration for your photography work can be hard at times. I don’t believe in forcing creativity at all but what I believe in is creating a situation where inspiration finds you!

Here are 33 tips on how to find inspiration for your photography. I’ve organized them based on their categories and I hope to add to this list over time when I find more to share. If you find this post useful, please share it on social media.

Physical Activity

The first set of inspiration generators that I wanted to share is something that you wouldn’t normally associate with finding inspiration, it’s exercise. Getting the blood pumping helps focus the mind and it helps me be more creative afterward.

Tip #1 — Exercise

Any type of exercise helps get my creative mind going. I just returned from a swim to finish this article. Whenever I regularly exercise my creative juices flow and inspiration seem to hit. Sometimes it takes a few days of regular exercise to focus the mind but when it does, you’ll generate a lot of great ideas and photos!

Tip #2 — Go for a Walk

A simple low-impact exercise is walking. I like walking around a lot because you are slower than a car and more attentive to what you see around you. Walk around your neighborhood, visit your parents and walk around their neighborhood. Just walk around but make sure to take your camera. It doesn’t have to be a big DSLR, it could be your mobile phone. Just walking around outside can help inspire you to take a photo.

Tip #3 — Go for a Bike Ride

Another great low-impact exercise is biking. The best part about biking is that you could a lot further than walking and ride to some interesting places. Make sure to take your camera with you, preferably a light one. I took this shot with my phone while on a bike ride in Cape Cod.

© Thomas Ott

I would’ve never taken this shot if it wasn’t for me riding my bike around there and being inspired by what I saw.

Travel

The next category is traveling. You don’t need to travel far, you can walk to it, bike to it, drive to it, or even fly to a new location. No matter how you do it, you have to leave your house and go somewhere else. Just a change of scenery can inspire you to shoot more.

  1. Go to the next town over

One of my favorite things to do is just go over to the next town. There are different shops and buildings to look at it and possibly shoot. I’m a big fan of closed or abandoned buildings, I’m pretty sure every town has some. The way the town and buildings are laid out might give you opportunities to catch interesting light. The best part? Your neighboring town isn’t that far away, hop on your bike and head over.

  1. Visit the nearest city

One of my favorite things to do is get a group of people together and go on a photo walk in the nearest city. My nearest city happens to be New York City but I’ve visited smaller cities like Minot or Williston North Dakota. There’s a ton of things to see and shoot if you just head over to their nearest city.

  1. Visit the countryside

If the city isn’t your thing, then maybe the countryside is. I live in New Jersey so there’s a strong farmland component to several parts of the State. I come across old barns, rolling fields, and abandoned grain silos. There are a lot of things to be inspired in the countryside, just grab your camera and head out there.

  1. Go camping

Want to get away from all the crowds and get closer to nature? Try camping. Some of my favorite personal shots were when I was camping out in the desert, woods, wherever. Sleeping under the stars, being a bit uncomfortable, and waking up in a new place can be inspiring. If you’re going camping that’s accessible by car you can bring more camera gear or you can go light by bringing a point and shoot with an extra battery.

  1. Go backpacking

Another extreme to the camping theme is going backpacking into the backcountry. You can visit places that only people dream of and you might see things that no one has ever seen. That, right there, is inspiring to me. Just make sure to carry only the camera equipment you need because backpacking 10 miles with a lot of gear, your tent, food, etc can get heavy!

  1. Visit a new country

A more expensive way to get inspiration is to go visit a new country. It doesn’t matter where you go just that you go and see new things. Visiting Rome with unadulterated eyes can give you a shot of inspiration over the everyday Roman person living there. Just make sure to take extra batteries and ensure your equipment, thieves strike everywhere!

Reykjavik Iceland Viking Boat Sculpture

  1. Go Vagabonding

Vagabonding is the method of traveling around countries and places for an extended time. Usually, when we visit a foreign country it’s because we’re on a holiday or vacation. We’re there for 5 days or 10 days and we don’t see all the non-tourist stuff. I find that the good stuff is usually where the everyday people live and work.

Just visiting the backways or off the beaten paths of a place – if you have a month to spend there – makes for great inspiration. I highly recommend reading Ralf Pott’s Vagabonding book (affiliate link) to learn how to travel the world on a shoestring budget.

Cameras

  1. Take your camera everywhere

Take your camera everywhere, you never know when a great shot appears in front of your eyes. Ricky Powell has something to say about that around the 3-minute mark of the video. The more you take your camera with you, the more you’ll find inspiration AND get the shot.

  1. Rent or buy a new camera

Shooting with a different camera can be inspiring in itself. There are new settings, different technology, etc. I like shooting with different film cameras in different formats. I love a clunky old medium format film camera that can give me a 6×7 image.

  1. Rent or buy a new lens

The same applies to renting a new lens. Maybe you live near a park and want to try a 500mm lens to photograph the birds in the trees. Or you could try a lens that gives you great bokeh for portraits. Sometimes the lens (and camera) will drive your inspiration to try something new.

  1. Try film (analog) photography

I learned on film and I still love this medium. Nowadays digital photography is the norm and so are post-processing images after you capture a RAW file. With film, you have to do a lot of upfront thinking and minimal post-processing afterward. This could be liberating for some but also inspiring because of the different film looks you can get automatically! Try analog once or twice, it might get your creative juices flowing!

Burlesque Dancer Ivory Fox

OPA – Other People’s Art

  1. View Other people’s Work (Instagram/Flickr)

I’m a big fan of looking at other people’s art (OPA) or photography work to get inspired. Sometimes to can make derivatives of their work, for instance, this image inspired me to make this image.

There are tons of great photographers sharing work on Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr. Spend some time on those sites and you’ll be sure to find something that’ll inspire you.

  1. Borrow or buy photography books by the Masters

I’m a fan of buying books by well-known and not-so-well-known photographers. I’ve bought PDF books from street photographers, a treatise on the Road to Seeing (affiliate link), and much more. The best part is that you are supporting the local photographer if you buy directly from them.

  1. Copy the photographs from the Masters

Similar to what I did with this image, I copied someone I admired to learn how and what they were feeling when making it. I then personalized to how I was feeling back then. If you’re a fan of Bresson, try to copy some of his photos but with your twist to it. You’ll not only find a ready source of inspiration but might make a great photo too.

  1. Read Photo Blogs

Part of keeping your creative juices flowing is to feed your head. Read photo blogs (like this one), read books, do whatever you can to feed that brain of yours so it can start making neural connections to inspiration!

  1. Change your perspective

Instead of shooting portrait or landscape style with perfect focus, try blur and shake. Tilt the photograph, forget perfect focus, just take the photo! Get on your knees and get low, try climbing a tree and getting above it all (safely). Changing the perspective on how you see things and scenes can inspire you.

Mix different Arts together

Everyone has that song that puts them in a good mood, makes them crank up the volume, and sing. Some people feel deeply connected to written words, poems, sonnets, or even stories. Other people look at paints and feel moved. Whatever other art moves you, look to it to inspire you.

  1. Complimentary Work

Often when I work or go out to take pictures I listen to my favorite artists. Sometimes I like to take a song lyric that has a meaning to me and make a photo of that. Someone else’s inspiration rubbed off on me and that’s a great thing to feel!

  1. Write poetry, haiku, gogyoka

I like to write poetry, especially Haiku, Haibun, and Gogyoka. When I pen a new piece I think about an accompanying image that I could create to compliment the written word. Other times, an image I take inspires me to write a poem!

  1. Listen to music

I wrote about it above but listening to music is my number one way of getting inspired to shoot photos. Just listen to the lyrics and how the song makes you feel. If it’s loud and angry my photos tend to be daring or dark. If it’s peaceful and mellow then my images tend to turn out that way too.

Photo Groups

Taking photos can be a solitary event or even a big social event. Granted the Covid19 pandemic killed a lot of social gatherings and prevented a lot of my shutterbug friends from getting together too. Now, with vaccines, things will be different in the summer of 2021 and onward, fingers crossed!

  1. Join a photo group

I’m active on Flickr, which is by far the best photo-sharing website out there. Sure Instagram and others are popular now but Flickr has the best groups. You can 100’s of groups that cater to your interests and interact with people there.

I’ve made many friends that have inspired me to become a better photographer. I routinely meet up with fellow shutterbugs and do photo walks. Join a group and meet new people that will inspire you.

A Day in NYC with Friends

{{< resize-image src=”friends-nyc.jpg” alt=”Photog Friends in NYC, (c) Thomas Ott 2021″ caption=”Lee, Ann, and Me in NYC, (c) Thomas Ott 2021″ >}}

  1. Take part in a photo challenge

One of the great things about Flickr groups and meeting people is the random photo challenges they have. I’m currently in American Photographer where each group thread is a subject that anyone can post to, like a game. For example, the New York City thread is all about New York City whereas Joker’s Wild builds on some similarities from the previous photo, and so on.

  1. Join a voting game

A great but defunct Flickr group was F/64. Whenever a new game was to start, photographers would sign up and you’d be randomly paired with another photographer.

There would be a theme and you had 24 hours to submit a photo on that theme. Your opponent did too. Then people would vote and whoever got the most votes would move on to the next round. This kicked your inspiration out the door.

  1. Organize or Join a Photowalk

Joining or organizing a photo walk with a bunch of shutterbug friends is extremely fun! Most of the time these happen in cities or at a studio, but it’s a great way to get inspired by other people shooting photos. Plus, you make it a social affair too! Photowalks have always inspired me to take more and better photos.

Get out of your Comfort Zone

We all get comfortable and tend to shoot the same type of subject with the same camera settings over and over again. Here are some tips on how to switch things up and get inspired by pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.

  1. Try a different genre

Do you shoot landscapes or portraits? Why not try street photography? Scared to shoot a model, get together with a friend and hire one for outdoor lifestyle shoots. Try a new genre and it might inspire you to shoot some great new photos.

  1. Put yourself as the subject of the photo

This one can be scary but instead of you always being an external view of a scene, why not put yourself into it? I’m a big fan of Rebbekka’s work where she puts herself in her photos.

Reconstructed Tom
  1. Make a personal project

If you start thinking to make work on a project your inspiration will automatically kick in. Want to make a personal project about your dog or cat? You can start shooting where they sleep, how they interact with people, etc. The ideas will become endless. Just think of something close and dear to your heart and make it a project. The inspiration will flow!

  1. Create a photo documentary/essay

Likewise with the personal project above, creating a photo essay or documentary about something that you find interesting from a historical perspective could be inspirational. The historic NJ canal system, which was built during the Revolutionary War, exists in my area. I’ve always wanted to trace the original path and photograph what it looks like now. It’s been abandoned and some parts still exist, but making it a documentary would be pretty cool.

  1. Volunteer

Another idea to get your creative juices going is to volunteer your expertise for a cause. I know a friend that helps take photos of shelter dogs and cats for adoption. Her ability to make the animals look great has increased the adoption rate at the shelter, a win-win for her and the animals!

  1. Create a website or blog

Another great tip is to start writing and posting your thoughts with your photos on a website or blog. This way you start thinking about creating content and what images you need to support your

  1. Take Your Camera Everywhere!

Taking a camera everywhere is easier than ever. We have smartphones in our pockets and the best camera is the one you have on you. If you have a point-and-shoot (P&S) camera (mine is the Ricoh GRD or Canon G11), even better. You get better battery life and IQ from point and shoots, although the iPhone is starting to surpass a lot of P&Ss’ now.

You never know when you see a funny scene or something that makes you go “I should take a picture of that!” If you had your camera with you, you could.

Tom and a *big a$$* camera

What If No One Ever Saw Your Photography?

I came across a curious YouTube video a few weeks ago where the creator went into a philosophical discussion about creating photos and having no one ever see them.

He referred to Vivian Maier, a woman that died in 2009. She had let her storage place lapse two years prior and all her contents were “won” by John Maloof, Ron Slattery, and Randy Prow. In her storage space were decades of developed and undeveloped film of her street photography work.

© Wiki Media Commons

Vivian spent all her free time photographing over decades and never showed anyone her work. It was only just before her death that her work was shown and took the world by storm.

Can you imagine a person like her in today’s world with an iPhone, Instagram, and Facebook?

I can’t.

She was a Socialist, a Feminist, a movie critic, and a tell-it-like-it-is type of person. She learned English by going to theaters, which she loved … She was constantly taking pictures, which she didn’t show anyone. via Wikipedia

She never posted her work on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. She never did it for the likes, recognition, or adulation.

If the right people didn’t find her work, after letting her payments lapse, she would’ve died in obscurity. No one, except her living relatives, would’ve known who she was and her odd quirks.

My initial reaction was “OMG, how lucky we are to know her work” but how many Vivian Maier’s are out there? And how many will we never know?

Why Shoot if You’re Not Going to Show?

In today’s FOMO world and siloed social media, we’re driven to create content and share our photographs. If our creative work is well received we might get a like or a comment. On the surface, this instant feedback is good. You can learn faster and course-correct as needed.

But the darker side to instant feedback is that you get hooked on it. You might tie up your entire self-worth or voice as a creative in little likes and hearts.

I find that incredibly upsetting. We are more than just social media likes and hearts, at least I’d like to think we are.

Plus, developing your style and your voice takes time. It takes making mistakes, falling, and getting back up again, time after time, to develop who you are as an artist and photographer.

Perhaps it might be a good thing NOT to show your work for a long time or even at all. You need time to find your voice and develop your style if you want to be an artist.

Some find themselves faster than others, and some — like yours truly — can take decades.

Here’s a mental exercise. What happens when you do show your work and it’s not well received? Do you then change your style to match what general society likes or wants? If you were to change, what is the reason why? Is it for the likes and hearts?

If you couldn’t care less about the likes and hearts then it begs the deepest and hardest question to answer, why do you shoot at all?

This, dear friends, is a question I struggle with. Why do I even shoot at all? What is my voice? What is my style? What is my message? Do I even need to have a message?

Box of Positives & Negatives

My partner and I moved our entire family to a new house 5 years ago. When we did I boxed up all my old positive slides and negatives in a box and promptly forget where I put them.

A few weeks ago I found them again and was amazed at some of the old work I did. Granted, I have to scan them in (and I’m lazy that way) but I held the positives up to the light and remembered.

© Thomas Ott

I found my old landscapes from New Mexico and my 3-week exploration of the desert Southwest. I found my scrap metalwork at Port Newark. I found my old flower work.

And I found 100’s of negatives that need to be sleeved and stored. A lot of work that I will reserve for the winter if I have time.

© Thomas Ott

That box of positives and negatives reminded me of Vivian Maier. She photographed and stored her work, never to be seen again. I photographed and stored my work and forgot it. Did Vivian forget her work too?

A Life Worth Living

If I died my family would probably throw them away, a large part of my life gone. I would hope they would at least look at them before they tossed them away, but the probability of that is very low because everyone lives digitally now.

My images, good or bad, are pieces of my life. They provide a window into my past life, a place where I’ve been.

Then there are photographs of me that other people have taken. One day when they die and their work gets thrown away, that photograph of me will be thrown away too.

Will my life have been meaningless? Watch this NY Times video, it hit me hard.

In a world where photography is cheapened, a world where we hustle, a world where we live and die by the likes and hearts, is there any true meaning to photography left?

I say yes.

Its meaning can take many forms but its first and foremost’s meaning is what it is for you.

This is you. When you snap that shutter, it’s you.

A self-portrait is you. A photo of that rock you took, is you. A photo of your loved ones, it’s you. A photo of your lover, it’s you.

This is it. This is your life, the wonderful meaning that is you. Photography is just another way to bring meaning to your life if you let it be.

If you let photography be the avenue for your self-discovery and your meaning then the likes and hearts don’t matter. They become noise around you, and you are the signal.

Your work matters, if it’s only for an audience of one.

Iceland 2015

The raw power of the Icelandic landscape is breathtaking. I took these shots in July 2015 when my family and I did an extended layover in Iceland.

We rented a car and drove around the “golden circle” and took a ton of photos. The ones I’m sharing here are shot with my Ricoh GRD, a fantastic travel camera with a fixed 28mm lens. It’s a camera that’s designed for landscapes and street photos.

You can take portraits with the Ricoh but I left that to my iPhone.

The most powerful thing about this little camera is that it can shoot raw, in the DNG format, which I like better than Canon’s CR format.

It creates razor-sharp images and fits into your pocket. When I travel for an extended time I carry two extra (and charged) batteries with me as well as the USB charging cable and an extra one or two SD cards.

Here are some of my favorite, reprocessed, shots of Iceland (taken from my Travel Diary album on Flickr).

Iceland Gyser
(c) Thomas Ott

If you didn’t know, Iceland is very active or geothermal stuff. Geysers, waterfalls, bubbling hot springs. You name a geological feature and I’m pretty sure Iceland’s got it.

Waterfall in Iceland Forget Where This Was
(c) Thomas Ott

There were tons of waterfalls, rivers, and water features everywhere.

Iceland Landscape
(c) Thomas Ott

Gorgeous landscapes with stormy and clear skis where your eyes can roam for hours.

Skógafoss Waterfall in Iceland
(c) Thomas Ott

Majestic waterfalls from ice melt.

Field of Lupine in Iceland
(c) Thomas Ott

Fields of blue lupine flowers as far as the eye can see.

Rock Cairn on Black Sand Beach in Vik Iceland
(c) Thomas Ott

Famous black sand beaches at Vik, Iceland

Looking back at Vik Iceland from the black sand beaches
(c) Thomas Ott

Looking back to the famous red church in Vik Iceland, the landscapes are gorgeous.

Reykjavik Iceland Viking Boat Sculpture
(c) Thomas Ott

Artwork to pay homage to Iceland’s Viking heritage.

My daughter running on a wide open field in Iceland
(c) Thomas Ott

Stormy and cloud weather across open fields where you can run far and fast.

Iceland Horses
(c) Thomas Ott

And wonderful horses. So many horses!

I believe I’ve open-sourced all these images, so feel free to use them if you like. I just require attribution (a link back).

Print Your Photos Out

My father passed away unexpectedly at the beginning of November 2021. He had some severe health issues and we knew he was living on borrowed time, we just didn’t know how short that time was.

While preparing for my father’s memorial and eulogy, our entire family searched for photos to share and use as a tribute to his life. My mother searched through her photo and wedding albums and found some beautiful photos of my father as a young man.

These were photos of him when he first came to the United States, their wedding, and when my sister and I were born. My mother had it easy to find those photos, my sister and me? Not so easy.

I realized that all our photos live online or on some backup device. It’s hard to troll through Facebook and by accident, and I mean really by accident, I found a wonderful family photo from Christmas 2019.

That was the last time our small family was together for a family gathering. As I printed that photo out I scolded myself that I should’ve printed that photo out before. As I pasted it onto the white paper board I scolded myself again that I should’ve made a second copy of it and framed it.

My son and daughter helped paste the images on boards and created a collage of their grandfather’s life. My mother cried when she saw the photos of my father that we snapped but never printed out.

It was at that moment that I realized what a travesty it is not to print out photos. It’s an affront to your family and all the loved ones in your life not to make a physical reminder of your time together.

Is this not what we do with lovers and cherished people in our life? Make reminders of our time together? Reminders of love for one another?

Why have I become so dismissive of this simple act? Why have we, as a society, chosen to share our lives on social media only to have them buried in a timeline?

Why don’t we print out those photos of us with friends, lovers, and parents? Why don’t we print out every single silly photo of us laughing, when we were young and wild?

Why don’t make tangible, tactile, and physical reminders of a time that was slowed for just that instant? When we were in states of ecstasy and happiness?

I don’t know why we don’t but I dare us to do so again. I dare us to print out our photos and put the best ones in a frame or album, and then give them away.


My partner and I hosted Christmas dinner this year, after skipping it in 2020 due to Covid19 fears. My sister and her family couldn’t make it but we gathered again and we took a family photo.

I printed it out and put it in a frame, right next to the Christmas family photo in 2019, when everyone was alive and happy. I see smiles across everyone’s face and I am reminded of that evening.

I can hold that picture frame a look at my father one more time when he was in better health, and with life in his eyes.

Print your photos out. It’s the only way to hold onto your time.

Fighting Toxic Masculinity One Boy At A Time

“Dad?”

“Yes, son?”

“Can I go with you to the Dojo? I think I want to learn Karate.”

“Oh? Did something happen?”

He pauses. That’s a clue to me that something did happen.

“No, I just want to learn how to defend myself.”


I’m a proud father. I have two wonderful children, a daughter, and a son, and I often think about the world they’re growing up in a world. A world that on the surface appears different from the one I grew up in but suffers from the same problems of my time. A world that is suffering from a threat so severe that our world is dying from it. I’m talking about toxic masculinity.

I fully believe that toxic masculinity and the patriarchy are what are holding humanity back. It’s destroying our children’s ability to “awaken” into true emotionally mature and competent humans, regardless of their gender.


“We were in the lunch line, waiting to get our food.”

I nod my head, listening.

“And this senior cut in front of us, he was on the football team.”

“Oh? That’s pretty rude of him,” I say.

“Yeah, and I said he should wait his turn and get on the line like the rest of us.”

“That’s fair,” I say, “What happened then?”

“He told me he was going to ‘wreck me’ if I didn’t shut up.”


One of the best things that happened to me in my life was the day I became a father and not just a sperm donor. There are huge differences between a male sperm donor and a father.

A woman becomes a mother the moment she conceives, the moment her body accepts the fertilized ovum and it attaches itself to her body. Once that clump of cells attaches to her uterine wall and her body nourishes it, she is a mother. Always from that day forward.

For a man, it’s a bit different. The moment he becomes a father is the moment he chooses to invest time, resources, and emotions into the child. Whether it’s unborn, born, his genetic seed or not, a man can be a father to his child, the mother’s child, be an uncle, or in general a fatherly role model to boys and girls.

What happened to my son that day showed me that the father of the boy, the one that pushed his way to the front of the lunch line and threatened to ‘wreck’ my boy for speaking up, has failed him.

That father has failed his son. He knowingly or unknowingly raised his son to be a part of the vicious cycle of toxic masculinity. One where boys will be boys.

Boys will be boys. How I hate the phrase ever since I heard it from the parents of a boy that bullied me in grade school.

“Oh, isn’t that what all boys do? Boys will be boys.”

No, boys will not be boys if you raise them right.

This is why the infamous Gillette commercial so resonated with me. I was that boy, the one that was chased and harassed by other boys because of a lame excuse of boys will be boys.

I keep coming back to this video over the years. Why? Because it exposed the root of the problem. We men have been ignoring a screaming monster right in front of our faces. We got so scared that we speak the sacred words of a spell to chase it away, we say over and over again “boys will be boys.”

Except the monster doesn’t go away, it grows quiet with every chanted spell we say, it feeds on those words and grows bigger and more dangerous.

“How did you feel when he said that?” I ask.

“I was angry,” he pauses, “it was so wrong.”

I nod my head, “Go on.”

“Well, what if he decided to ‘wreck me?’ I don’t know how to defend myself.”

“Defending yourself is a good thing to learn,” I say, “Is that why you want to go to the Dojo?”

He nods yes.

I was on Twitter the other day saw a tweet from Aubrey Andrews. I follow her for her sarcastic biting wit and in this tweet, she posted a screenshot from an alleged Tinder profile.

What a sad profile. Sad in so many ways, but above all, I feel bad for this young man. I feel bad because the father figures in his life have failed him.

He’s probably in his 30s, horny, very emotionally immature, probably has problems talking to women, and most possibly on a negative path toward violence.

He feels like this is what life is like, women are there for a man’s pleasure, she needs to conform to some outdated religious requirement of chastity, and the root of all problems are immigrants.

This is a man who has fallen prey to toxic masculinity and the crushing patriarchy, a system that affects both men and women in different ways.

I never knew that it was that system that affected me so negatively growing up and how I was conditioned to excuse it as “boys will be boys.”

I’m here to say, not my boy.

I will shout this from the rooftops, NOT MY BOY!

Then I heard another voice. More men were screaming it from their rooftops.

I’m not alone.

There are other fathers out there that feel the same way. They actively take their time to make a difference, to invest in children through organizations, through Dojos, through the boys and girls in their families, and make a difference.

Being a father, whether it’s your biological seed or not, is a SUPERPOWER. Yes, we can never grow a life inside us but we can guide a life. We can shape the world, be the builders of a new world.

Men can actively father so many children that in the short span of a single generation can usher in a new world.

A world where there is no one is ‘wrecked’ because they asked for fairness. A world where women can feel safe to walk down the streets. A world where boys and girls can be who they are and not be bullied. A world that is built on kindness, respect, and emotional maturity.

We can do this in One. Fucking. Generation.

But we men need to own this. We need to take concrete steps to slay the monster.

But how?


Three months later I sat in the audience to watch my son test for his yellow stripe belt. Testing at our Dojo is always a boot camp style with the instructors yelling at the students, putting them under physical and mental pressure. He completed the test and ‘ranked up.’

Covered in teenage sweat and smelling like one, he smiled at me when the instructor put the tape on his belt.


A handful of men can’t slay this monster by themselves. We need is the majority of men across the world to look in the mirror and say, “It stops with me, no more.”

It will take the majority of men to stop and actively listen, with an open mind, to what women have been begging for us to hear for decades. It will require us men NOT to feel like it’s a criticism directed at them, but to understand the problems and help solve them.

Yes, we will need help from the women in our lives but it’s up to us men to start this.

I’m not here to stop you from still doing your “man stuff.” I’m not here to take away your fishing, your hunting, your boxing, your guns, your race cars, or sports. You know, all the stuff that I enjoy too, but I want to take away the lies we’ve been fed.

I want us men to undo the conditioning that has kept us in the ‘man box’ for generations. I want us to do the hard work of becoming emotionally mature, to see the system that not only holds women down but us men as well.

I want us to tear it all down because we were the ones that built this in the first place. I want us men to partner with women to architect a new world, a better world, one where boys and girls can become whole human beings.


“I’m tired and I think I’ll go to bed,” he says.

“Goodnight son, I love you.”

“Goodnight dad, I love you too.”

Freshly showered and with a belly full of food, I watch my boy climb the stairs to his bedroom. I notice that he keeps getting taller every day, his body is becoming more like a man with every passing week. I think about how he’s growing into a fine young man, a very compassionate and emotionally mature one. He’s light years ahead of where I was at his age.

I think about my nephews and how I came down on the oldest one recently, how I called out his shit one day. I remember how he grew quiet at what I said rattled around inside his head. I think about my youngest nephew, how he’s growing up with a non-engaged father, and how my sister once told me, “you are more of a father to him than his bio dad.”

Part of me is proud that my sister sees me as an important influence on her children but another part of me is sad. Another man is failing to guide, failing to lead where it’s most important, the raising of a new generation of men and women.

I pause for a moment. The words, “It stops with me. No more” echo in my brain as I climb the stairs and go to bed.


Make Photos That Make You Happy

So many times people ask me to take their photos with their smartphones. They ask me what pose or location would look like for a nice photo for their Instagram or Facebook page.

I don’t mind doing this at all. I direct them a bit, tell them to move over, look up, look down, whatever I think is best to get a good shot of them. Then I snap the photo for them and hand them back their phone.

Her smile just lights up the photograph.

One time I shot my friend and his banana yellow car. It was many years ago and before the days of Instagram but I do remember it was a BMW. He was really proud of the car and he had been working out lately, so it was a man and his machine photoshoot. He was happy with the medium format images I gave him and he paid me with beer and pizza.

Another time I set up a chair in my partner’s garden that was in full bloom and hosted a BBQ. My family came over and some friends. I took this awesome photo of Monica. Her smile just lights up the photograph.

Then there are times when I take snaps of my family, take photos of cute mushrooms, or even photograph nude models.

I do this because it makes me happy.

The act of taking a photograph is a little slice of happiness. It’s a shot of dopamine into all the pleasure centers of our minds. It’s no wonder we live for the “likes” and “hearts” on social media. We crave the validation that we matter.

Other times you make a half-assed shot and the world goes crazy and loves it.

When you make a photograph you are working to make a slice of your happiness. Sometimes your happiness and what the world thinks is happiness don’t coincide.

There are so many times when I make a photograph and think that this is a great photograph, and the world laughs at my pitiful attempt.

Other times you make a half-assed shot and the world goes crazy and loves it. You end up getting on Flickr’s Explore or ride 500px to the top of the heap.

Whatever.

Ultimately I look at my photography as therapy for all the crazy thoughts that run around in my head. It’s my watering hole, my sounding board, my way to deal with the trauma of life. I make photos that make me happy first.

That’s what you should do, make photos that delight you. Make photos that make you want to sing. Make photos that make you happy first.

Then share them with the world and let the chips fall where they may.