Unlucky Number '13

Each year I preface this post with the following disclaimer : These are favorite images, not images I necessarily consider to be "best."  These are images that set a certain way within me that "makes sense."

A decent part of this year has been an absolute shit-show.  Massive changes have happened.  Aspects about my life changed that I thought would always be in play.  Foolish, I know.  Nothing lasts forever.  Life is ever-changing.  

In light of the losses there have been so many substantial gains this year.  The change in my mindset, my approach to life, my approach to relationships.

I'm so thankful for all of the wonderful people I have met this year and have come to call family.  I'm thankful for the support my wife continues to provide, even through difficult times.  I'm thankful each time my phone rings with the possibility of work.

Before you start to question where all the Krav Maga photos are, if you haven't already, there is a separate post coming soon just for that.

One more image that I'm going to share holds such meaning for me and this past year.  To me it symbolizes my shift in thought regarding the country in which we live, dealing with loss, the happiness and importance friendship brings, knowing where you come from, selflessness, determination, sacrifice... I could go on and on.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year and that the coming year is full of success and happiness in all that you pursue.  

Don't Let the Smiles Fool You...

This room is full of dangerous people.  Dangerous people trained to cause harm with no hesitation.  Dangerous people that I'm coming to call family.

I have a confession... My entire life I've struggled with social situations.  I'm an introvert.  Just the way it is.  When it comes to large groups of people, I don't fare so well.  I get anxious.  I get the urge to leave.  I get the feeling that I've gotta' escape.  Walking into this room with all of these people put me at ease.  People that I have sweat with.  People that I have shared pain with.  People that have pushed me, motivated me and taught me.  

I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season and I consider your friendship such an incredible gift.

Disclaimer : If you're reading this and you were there and you're not in an image... Well... Too bad.  I was either having awesome conversation with you or some tomfoolery was distracting me.  

Warmer Than You'd Think

I'm going to preface this post with the following words : There will be only one photo in this post and I didn't take it.  I'm not nearly as good cultivating and arranging words as I am photographs, so please bear with me.

 

0600 comes pretty abruptly when you're accustomed to an 0800 wakeup call.  It's cold.  It's snowing.  It's blustering.  It's one of those days when you'd just love to lay in the comfort of your warm bed.  You have an idea what the day has in store for you but the cold cuts through you more than you had imagined.  The heated seats in the car have since stopped warming and the coffee has turned cold.  You're sure the doors on your car and house are locked, the windows closed, the heat at the appropriate temperature.  You find yourself in what is to be a place of regeneration, strength and encouragement surrounded by mounds of clothing and like-minded people willing to leave the comforts of their lives for a few hours to help make a difference.  You find yourself with a few that you call family.  That you're proud to call family.  That you're honored to call family.  

Outside, the cold comes quickly.  Briskly.  Abruptly.  Enveloping your body with its icy fingers.  You're prepared.  You've got your layers, your boots, your hydration and snacks.  You've got a group of people with you.  You're not alone.  In your hands are jackets, hats, gloves, scarves, hand warmers.  

A blue and silver rain fly on a poorly designed tent is flailing in the wind and snow.  A voice, barely audible, comes out from the tent with thanks for the items left.  It's too cold to come outside.  There are strange voices and it may be dangerous.  It will be investigated later.

An overpass looms above, providing shelter from the elements.  The monochromatic landscape dims just a bit, maintaining it's lack of color as you approach.  Others sling their legs over a barricade, carrying bags of cold-weather clothing.  As they call out and wait, no one comes to the opening in the roll-top door but they're there.  You follow suit, swinging your legs over that barricade and unload what you've been carrying in your arms.  You're doing what you came out to do.  

The jacket that I was carrying had been hanging in my closet for two and a half years.  My brother would wear it to the race track.  He loved it.  He loved the silly circular patch with the yellow chicken holding a checkered flag in its beak.  Moreso, he would've loved to have seen it on the back of a veteran who really needed it.  

A freighter seemingly floated in the mist along the Detroit river as minute crystals of snow seared our faces.  Old Glory snapped and cracked as it led us into the wind and around Detroit.  People passing by honked their horns and asked what we were doing.  Why we were doing it.

What we were doing was this : Roger organized a 10 mile, silent ruck through Detroit in honor of those that have served this country and are homeless.  Not only was it to draw attention and be seen but it was also to take direct action.  It was to make a difference in the life of someone today.  Not tomorrow.  Not through an agency.  Not through a corporation or business.  From our hands to theirs.

The cold was bearable for us.  The folks that we were aiming to help struggle against it day in, day out.  They don't have heated seats, expensive coffee, climate control or doors to lock.  They don't have moisture-controlled base layers or waterproof boots.  Warming up afterward with a big meal isn't an option for them.  They live every day doing what we did for a few hours, much less prepared than we.  It was a small gesture on the grand scheme.   It wasn't about us.  It was about guys like John who wander the streets of Detroit in search of warmth on frigid days like today.  Folks who could really benefit from something as simple as a decent pair of gloves.

I'm so thankful that I have the ability to go do things like this.  I'm thankful that I'm physically able to.  I'm thankful that I am able to take some funds and purchase items to donate and that I've had the fortune of owning items I no longer need that can be passed on.  Something else that I'm incredibly thankful for, that is still very new to me, is having a family to do it with.

It is such an honor to stand beside these men and women.  They inspire me, guide me and encourage me.  Bring the cold.  Bring the wind.  Bring the storm.  Bring what you may.  With a family like this, there is nothing that isn't possible.  

Thank you.  For your acceptance.  For your welcoming attitudes.  For being my family.

The Walking Dead (Times Two)

It's been a while since I've posted, so I figured I'd catch up.  Included in this post : A zombie defense seminar (yes, seriously.  Walking dead, one.), a couple images from the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon and images from the State of Michigan Boys' and Girls' Cross-Country Championship (Walking dead, two.). 

Now... Before you think and after you look at the following images, please consider something. It was absolutely inspiring to see these kids put everything they had into these races.  They poured their hearts and bodies into every foot, every inch, of ground they covered for their season-ending race.  I don't view these photos as heartbreak, though it may be, I view it as an achievement.  To know that nothing was left over, to know that every bit of what these kids are was put on the line, was remarkable.  Also, to see the fantastic sportsmanship that was displayed by so many of the runners was, plainly, incredible.  To see teammates inspiring others, to see runners helping their opponents gather their feet again after completing the course... fantastic.  I previously spoke with a high school photography class and I was asked how I deal with situations like this, I really had to think about many things.  You feel like a vulture of sorts.  You feel you're exploiting the emotions of the people you are photographing.  You're in their personal space with a big, black machine at your face, clicking away.  You get over it.  In this case, for me, this wasn't a documentation of defeat but of triumph.  I know, it's just high school sports, this isn't third-world suffering, however, it's still people at a vulnerable moment.  Anyhow...

It's also fun to run into a couple of crazy photographers while on assignment.  Nice to finally meet Grant and Sam.   I don't think "The Gauntlet" would have been nearly as fun.

I also was sent on a "boring" assignment.  I tend to absolutely love those assignments.  Nick DiNunzio was trying to bring Halloween back to his neighborhood in Detroit.  He was helping folks replace porch lights and get them treats to hand out to the kids.  It was a success.  I also found a little success from this story...

Thanks to my friend Jarrad, a great shooter for the Freep, I was given the heads up of my very first 1A lead image for the Detroit Free Press.

And to add to the greatness of all that is the freelancer life, a new assignment car that gets nearly 50mpg.  Keep your eyes on Instagram for #onassignment photos of the new Jetta.

Good Livin' - KMD & GRC

According to GORUCK Good Livin' is this : "...when life is actually tough but you love it, your attitude is great, and you smile."

This last week has had a bit of Good Livin'.  Krav Maga Detroit held their annual 9/11 Memorial Fundraiser, benefitting Operation HomeFront on Wednesday evening.  Slightly inspired by the GRC, what service men and women have to do during training and interspersed with Krav Maga techniques, the fundraiser was an absolute blast.  Three hours of Good Livin'.  Driving rain and hail, low-crawls through sand, obstacles, defenses, drills... If only I'd been able to photograph all of it.  I was too busy having fun.

Saturday night I met up with Pawel from KMD and we shadowed GRC 771 through the darkness and into the light.  Watching this group of people - nay, team - persevere through obstacles, self-doubt and the constant weight and watchful eye of the cadre was inspiring.  It excited me and motivated me to keep moving with them.  To squish through a few miles with wet boots.  It made me glad that I'm registered for April.  I'm excited to share that experience with friends and those who will soon become friends.

 

In the spirit of moving forward, this is the beginning of my new website and new blog.  A fitting post.  Tomorrow... Perhaps there will be a little of the cadre.