10-year Retrospective…Where Passion Was Reborn

Ten years ago…to the minute, to the day…my passion and obsession with photography was reborn. With this shot.

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“Grinnell Point” on Swiftcurrent Lake in Glacier National Park

The Early Years

My journey into photography reads like a tome you’ve heard before…received first camera (which I still have) from my grandparents has a young teenager which set off years of shutterbug activity that nearly broke my family with film and processing expenses until I was legal working age at which time I made myself broke with film and processing expenses.

With this camera, I photographed the world around me…fresh snow on the Central Illinois plains, my dog Beau, sunsets over corn fields, fallen trees, raindrops on the clothes line, dew drops on roses. These were a few of my favorite things to shoot. (see what I did there?)

This led to photographing the rotunda of Illinois State Capitol building (which is remarkable, by the way), the setting sun rays on the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, my first portrait session with high school girlfriend from another town (hi Susan!) atop a park hillside, earning ribbons in local photography competitions, and so on. All natural light; no supplemental/studio light. Didn’t really know what I was doing, but I had a knack for seeing and composing the shot. Occasionally, I lucked into a proper exposure, though I couldn’t tell you how or why the image was properly exposed.

Still the Early Years

I put the camera down for a couple years upon entering college as an accounting major. Feel free to laugh. Me. Accounting. Yeah, that didn’t last long. One year and three weeks to be exact. Intermediate Accounting took me out of the accounting world and into the business management degree. Subtle shift which enveloped more of a conceptual knowledge base and involved people. Still, the one and only official photography schooling I had included an elective photography class in college which produced more of the same kind of images, except they were shot on black-and-white film. That was the only change. No increase in skill or image artistic quality.

So I put the camera away, completed my BBA degree, and moved to Nashville to work in the music industry with that camera packed somewhere in a box that I moved from apartment to apartment to condo to house to apartment then unpacked for our honeymoon in Maine, which netted a whopping five mostly-usable images because I didn’t know photography. I owned a camera, but I wasn’t a photographer (I also own a guitar, but I’m also not a guitarist). I knew how to load the film, compose the subject, press the  button, and manually wind the film. That was it.

So I put the camera back in a box for several more years.

The Road Trip

Twenty years after receiving this camera as a gift, Meghann and I began planning a road trip through Montana, my second time there, her first.

Remembering the lack of images from our honeymoon, there was no way this camera and my lackluster technical skills were making the trip together. It was time to dedicate some time and energy to learning the basics so we could collect our Montana memories in rectangles. I bought a semi-pro camera and applied cursory attention to what the dials and buttons did, became frustrated, and put the stupid thing on fully automatic and headed to the airport.

Revisiting my early shutterbug days, I shot pretty much everything in sight…a plane on the tarmac, an old schoolhouse, docile horses, rural gravel roads, “entering grizzly country” signs, just stuff. All to confirm that “point, focus, press button” worked. We reached St. Mary, Montana on the eastern entrance of Glacier National Park in early evening after a full day of travel then found ourselves at the lodge restaurant for dinner and huckleberry pie (pie!) before crashing into bed for the following day’s exploration of God’s back yard.

The Awakening

Something happened during that sleep. Perhaps it was the crisp Big Sky air in June. Perhaps it was Glacier National park itself. Perhaps it was the profound feeling of being small amidst the magnificent mountain grandness. Perhaps it was the huckleberries. The following morning, I set out to move beyond taking pictures and making pictures. I wanted blue skies in our Big Sky personal postcards, and I was determined to make those happen.

After breakfast, including huckleberry scones (blissfully underbaked), we trekked into the park and found ourselves at Many Glacier Lodge resting on the banks of Swiftcurrent Lake, and there she was…Grinnell Point.

Her reflected presense stopped me in my camera-hanging-around-my-neck-like-a-nerdy-tourist tracks.

This time, instead of swiftly raising the camera to my face and clicking mindlessly before continuing along the shore, I stopped. Mental recollections of iconic Ansel Adams photographs bounced around my head, and I breathed it all in. I studied the scene (which is awe-inspiring…go, if you’ve not been there). This is the moment. Compose, reject. Recompose, nah that’s not it. Look again. Stoop low and look from a different perspective (thank you, Mr. Keating). Yes! There it is…before my eyes in the viewfinder. Click.

Chills.

Got it. And, man, did I get it. I got a shot of adrenaline. I got the thrill of making a picture instead of merely taking one. LCD screen gave me a high-five that I got it.

Lots more to learn still, but this time it clicked. And this set into motion the past decade of my life, fueled by this soul-chilling passion of photography through which I’ve seen the world with new eyes, passionate purpose, and improved technical skill, and I’ve met hundreds of amazing people. That’s the real magic.

And it all started with Grinnell Point. And huckleberries.

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P.S. To read how, and why, I moved from photographing places to people…read this and this.

P.S.S. Purchase a signed, limited-edition print of Grinnell Point, click here. Cheers!

Umbrella: Revisiting An Old Journal Entry

Written by Gregory Byerline on June 8, 2015 at 9:43 pm
Filed under Inspiration • Tags: , , , , ,

Today it rained. As I walked across the parking lot, memories of another rainy day back in Fall 2001 returned with the wind. Those were pre-blog days, yet the urge to write consumed me, and here’s what I wrote that day. Later that year, I printed a mini-poster for family and friends (pictured below; click to enlarge).

Revisiting it tonight feels like it happened just yesterday. Or today, even. Good to know some things never change. Just thought I’d share again here. Perhaps you too will find a helpful reminder.

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Umbrella by Gregory ByerlineOutside a trendy natural food market (Wild Oats Market, for those who remember the pre-Whole Foods days), I munch on an organic lunch that satisfies the palette and somewhat reaffirms the idea of eating well. These reflections hearken back to an hour or so before this healthy helping. I started my car only to remember that I, rather absent-mindedly, forgot my reading materials for today’s solitary satiating. The sky is blue. I find myself in my car again…mere minutes later…with reading material in hand and raindrops speckling my Old Navy-special shirt. Sky still blue, but now it’s raining. How odd.

Fast forward to this moment. Seated at a patio table with a panoramic view of parking lots filled with every car imaginable…from a rusty blue VW bus to a sleek, black Lexus SUV…I dive into my massive slice of “healthy” pizza and a recyclable cup of soup du jour. The sky grays then soaks this panorama with rain. Shoppers scurry across the pavement wondering why they could possibly need an umbrella on a sunny, blue-sky day. It’s rather amusing. “Geez. It’s only water,” I chuckle. Sure, that’s easy for me to say, tucked nicely under a covered patio, sheltered from the elements.

Something about today’s rain stirred my soul to move the pen. Is it the years of repressed reflections running over? Is it my natural smugness to the nouveauriche as they run in the rain? Only God knows. At times I wish I knew my heart so well, but then again, maybe I’d be frightened out of my mind.

Hey, lady, the rain stopped; put down your umbrella.

In this brief moment in time, rain clouds cooled the air and washed it clean, producing that familiar aroma after a steady Spring rain.

Such diversity of people is rarely seen in this upper-middle-class, vanilla part of town. In a sweeping glance, you can see white collar and blue collar, soccer moms and earth mommas, teens and seniors, bathed and un-bathed, western and eastern, straight and non-straight, bearded and clean-shaven, just and unjust. And the rain is falling (again) on all of them, er, us. I’m in there somewhere.

In church lingo, we say that God “pours” His blessings on us….that He “showers” us with His love. Much like this rain that waters the earth that grows the grain that feeds the just and the unjust. Sadly, though, there’s life-giving water soaking the lifeless streets and parking lots where man and auto trample it with no regard. There’s so much water to make it “OK,” I guess. Even more sad.

Yet that’s how we treat God’s blessings and love. We are so inundated with God’s blessing and love that we’ve become familiar. This familiarity has bred contempt. Made to wonder, we’re prone to wander. Yes, we. All of us. You. Me. Them. The Just. And the Unjust. Only a God as big as Jehovah God would generate such grace and love and blessing as this–even when He knows we’ll likely disregard it. Only Jehovah God would shower the world with boundless love even though He knows we’ll walk through life under an umbrella of self.

I’ll remember this the next time I see an umbrella blown outward by a strong, swirling wind. Maybe that’s God’s way of breaking through our self, as if to say “I’m gonna love you and bless you whether you want Me to or not!” Only Jehovah God.

My soup is gone, and the pizza is now cold. What a lunch.

Hey, lady! It’s raining again; put down your umbrella!

 

 

Leading Me Farther On

Written by Gregory Byerline on May 28, 2015 at 9:07 am
Filed under Inspiration,Life In Our World • Tags: , , , , ,

“I believe in brilliant song lyrics. Beautiful words matter to me, even when they are written by others.”

That sentence appears in my Perspective page highlighting inspirational elements of muse. Yesterday, I re-heard a beloved song for the umpteenth time, and the lyrics resonated deeply (again).

So much that I had to share them here because, well, life is hard sometimes, and sometimes “I’m a frightened, angry boy in grown-up’s clothes…I long to learn, but I’m so slow at being taught.”

Now that I have a son (welcome to the world, Miles!) in addition to his two older sisters, fatherhood means even more than it already did. Life has a musical soundtrack. Mine includes this gem…hints of who I am and why I do what I do. Cheers to a wonderful day in your world as we all move farther on.

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“Farther On” by Russ Taff from The Way Home

I hear you have a soft spot
For fools and little children
And I’m glad ’cause I’ve been both of those
I shook my fist up toward the sky
And at most of those who love me
A frightened angry boy in grown-up’s clothes

chorus:
But a father’s eye can always see right through
And a father’s heart can tell when tears are true
Now I’m standing on this road
Your hand has brought me to
Your faithful love will lead me farther on

Life sure has its choices
You left those choices to me
And I’m glad but sometimes I feel caught
It’s hard to know which bridge to cross
And which bridge I should be burning
I long to learn but I’m so slow at being taught

When Poetry & Purpose Converge

Written by Gregory Byerline on August 25, 2014 at 12:50 pm
Filed under Inspiration,Sophisticated • Tags: , , , , , , ,
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… … …

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been reading through collections of poetry, with an intensity I haven’t seen since college literature classes required as part of my “get a well-rounded education” degree. Requisites I now find inspiring and valuable again.

And what I’m reading is full of technicolor screenplays rivaling most feature films I’ve seen. They simultaneously paint the picture and leave much up to the imagination.

A couple years ago, a colleague challenged me to identify ideas/things/ideals that mean the most to me (these eventually became my Perspective page).

One of those perspectives applies directly here: I believe…in brilliant song lyrics. Beautiful words matter to me, even when they are written by others.

I have a deep affection for a well-crafted song. Music has always been a rich part of my life, then it has become even more so after 22 years of living in Music City. Songwriters here are deeply inspiring modern-day poets sharing their perspective and stories in carefully selected words like the great poets of ages gone by.

That’s the context for a poem I read last night that immediately resonated with why I do what I do, and that short poem is posted here just for you.

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

This is a big part of why I believe bridal portraits are the most important portrait of a woman’s lifetime. My hope for the bride is that she calls (or will call) herself beloved and that she feels beloved on the earth.

Cheers to you.

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