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Merry Christmas! (or Happy Tuesday!!!)

We’re nearing the end of the year and of a decade, which is a natural time for reflection, 2019 was an interesting year for me.

As you may know, around October or so I decided to take a step back from making weekly YouTube videos. Up to that point I had been making weekly videos for nearly a decade, and honestly, the grind of it all has gotten to me.

Not the sharing what I’ve learned in photography, that part I’ll always love, but all of the other grind and bs that comes along with running a YouTube channel and trying to sustain it as a business.

For now, my plan going forward is to make videos if and when I feel like it. I’m not going to make it any more complicated than that right now.

I’ll still be sending weekly emails sharing photography tips and tutorials, so it’s not like I’m going to disappear.

I’ll also be working on some new courses in 2020 (if you haven’t filled out my super fast new course survey, click here to do so.)

As far as 2019, all in all, I had a pretty great year. I taught at WPPI for my second time (I’ll be there teaching again in 2020!), taught at the first annual ClickCon in Chicago, and created some AMAZING work collaborating with some incredible people.

With that in mind, I wanted to share my favorite photo from each month of 2019, which you can find below. 

I hope you’ve had an amazing year. Once again, I want to thank you for allowing me to be part of your journey in photography. It’s truly an honor….

…now get out there and take some damn photos!
(Don’t forgot to put down the camera and enjoy the time you’re spending with your loved ones!)

This was a super fun shoot. The initial inspiration was ice queen, but like all ideas, it evolved as it went. Angela May modeled, and Noelle Hetzel did the fabulous body paint and horns, and we landed here!

Ah, Vegas! We were in Las Vegas in February for WPPI, and we wanted to shoot something that screamed Vegas. The best place to do that is down on Fremont street, so Erin Leigh Pribyl, Kylee Kienitz, Pierre Stephenson and I all headed down to shoot this. Erin and Kylee are the models, styled by Groovy Groupie, and Pierre was a huge help with lighting.

March was a self portrait. This whole journey into creative portraiture started in 2009 with a daily self portrait project that was both brutal and incredibly fulfilling. Since then I haven’t shot many self portraits, and it felt good to get back in front of the camera in a more creative way.

April. HOLY SMOKES! This was the first time I ever worked with Cecilia Ballantyne, and we had so much fun creating together! We connected on facebook and brainstormed this concept based on Delirium from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic book. Cecilia did the makeup and the entire cosplay look, and together we hand painted the backdrop and dressed the entire set. We made a HUGE mess, and had an incredible time in the process. So much so that we decided to shoot all of The Endless characters from Sandman, which we did over the course of 2019 (you’ll see several more pop up below!)

I met Anjali Feanaro at Wizard World Madison back in 2018. I had a booth set up to take cosplay photos, and Anjali had done her first cosplay, as Rey from Star Wars! She came to my booth for a photo, and then at Wizard World 2019, she came back again with two cosplays, Carmen Sandiego and Scarlet Witch. After that, she came to the studio in May where we did another version of Carmen Sandiego as well as her fantastic Poison Ivy.

This is Desire from Sandman, with Cecilia Ballantyne! We again hand painted the backdrop, deciding to keep the painted theme throughout the entire series of photos, essentially committing to creating giant messes every time we shoot! (who doesn’t like making a giant mess finger painting! 😊). Part of what I love about working with Cecilia (aside from the fact that she’s a wonderful human being),  is that she is so incredibly versatile as a model, she can work any kind of look you can imagine, and she brings incredible expressiveness through her posing.

This moon goddess concept was an idea that Trisha Tovera-Baron had, and I am so happy I was able to work with her to create this! Trisha is INCREDIBLE. She made the entire dress she’s wearing, the hair piece, did her makeup, and made the moon and the clouds and all of the candles we used to dress the set. I built the set (including the blue walls and floor) and together we created this masterpiece!

More Sandman! In fact, this was the pinnacle of the series, Dream himself! Dream is the principle character of the Sandman series, and Cecilia and I saved this one for last. We again hand painted the backdrop and Cecilia created the entire Dream cosplay, and can I say we NAILED IT!

Having finished the Sandman series, Cecilia and I decided to step into Wonderland! Cecilia again (she is so versatile!) created the entire look she’s wearing. I went to the local compost site and got a mess of branches to create the foreground, and we both painted the backdrop. We wanted to create a levitation look, and I daresay we achieved it!

In October Noelle, Angela and I got together again, this time for a pumpkin head halloween shoot! We laughed so hard, and had so much fun with this shoot that I’m amazed we even got any photos! Noelle did the fabulous face paint, and helped with lighting and managing the smoke bombs, and Angela as usual was a fabulous model!

When you get to be part of making a dream come true, well, nothing is better than that! Amber Page had had this idea for a shoot in her head for years. She’s retiring from modeling, and wanted to go out with this as one of her last shoots. So Amber, her husband (and fellow photographer) Shawn, Noelle, my wife, and myself all went to work to make this happen.

While Noelle was working with Amber on makeup, Shawn and I assessed the candy situation, and my conclusion was, “we’re gonna need a lot more candy.” 

So we ran to Walmart and bought candy, cereal, whatever we could find, and created this amazing (and tasty!) set! And my god, the laughter. I say this a lot for my shoots, but honest to god, this was the hardest I’ve laughed in a LONG time. We had so much fun, and created some amazing photos!

If you can’t tell, I worked with Cecilia a lot this year. It’s been incredible creating with her, and I can’t wait for 2020, when we have even more plans for creating together! For this we went simpler. I wanted to play around with compositing and “smoking” away, and I’m absolutely thrilled with the results of our efforts!