Try New Things – With Old Friends

BTS shot of a Toy Photography session.

I am not sure where my interest in Toy Photography began. I grew up playing with GI Joe; Matchbox cars; Green Army Men (although we also had the opposing gray soldiers). Going way back I can remember my brother receiving a toy set called, “Fort Apache” dating back to the late 1960’s. That may have begun my fascination with all things ‘Old West’, I had Evel Knievel, we had, at least some of the ‘Johnny West: Best Of The West’ Toys: Johnny West and his horse “Thunderbolt”, Geronimo, Sam Cobra (Bad Guy – even dressed in black from head to toe; even his hair and goatee!) and others. My brother also had a WWII P-38 Lightning Fighter Jet (I’m pretty sure it was blue plastic) that I loved to “fly around” in our bedrooms, sound effects and all.

in the 1970’s, I remember having a toy called Stretch Armstrong; and something called the Shogun Warrior. This thing was 24″ tall (twice the size of GI Joe and Johnny West). He was menacing! He had a left fisted hand that had battle axes on each side of the wrist – that could be launched at an attacker! He had these yellow jet plane like rockets that launched from his upper stomach area. His right hand also clenched had a shield on top with a (Plastic) yellow spike poking forward. You didn’t want to mess with this thing. It’s name was Raideen (officially Raideen The Brave)! Apparently they were characters in Japanese Anime shows, who knew! Now my daughter is into some of the modern anime characters!

Now fast forward to my adult years. I am a parent and my young son loves Star Wars; and so I frequently find myself in the Action Figure aisle in Target looking for new releases. At one point he has over 100 figurines plus various ships and extra things. One day we decided to do a photo project using toy photography and adding them into Photoshop composites of things in my yard. In one shot, my son was taking on Darth Vader in a Light Saber battle; in another he was holding the checkered flag for a Pod Racer race with two Pod Racers zipping by! We did several fun shots like those. That was it for toy photography for a while. Then in 2020, I was walking around in a hardware store and saw a couple of toy cars on a closeout table and I thought, “I could use those for some light painting.” so I bought them, haven’t actually used them yet, but maybe soon.

Recently I have been following toy photographers and miniature diorama type photos on Instagram. I find it fascinating and mentioned to my buddy Chad that he should consider doing a toy photography session at an event I organize called the Black Hills Photo Shootout. He was reluctant at first, but quickly saw what I was seeing in the potential. Chad has been practicing his own Toy Photography now with figurines in natural settings and is creating some really awesome work (scroll down to Toy Photography.) Watching him practice got me inspired to to do some of my own. We were together for a speaking gig in South Dakota and when we had some down time, we went out to a park and created some really fun toy photography. In anticipation of doing this shoot, I went out into my garage and looked through the storage bins with toys and selected some with potential.

I have also discovered that hardware stores and Tractor Supply Stores etc. carry some really nice and detailed dinosaurs, wild animals, farm animals and more. Dangerous, as I go often to TSS to purchase food for our chickens! I have started to experiment with my subjects and choosing interesting and appropriate settings. That is what I enjoy about this, it’s something that makes me think about the end result that I am after and then building the scene to see what I can come up; telling a story in one image!

I encourage you to go dig out a few of your old toys and give this a try. Try to think of an outdoor spot nearby that you could use as a setting. It may be right in your yard; or maybe at a local park. Maybe it’s on a table top with other props. The important part is just to start, give it a try. use a smart phone camera or a digital camera, it doesn’t matter…just start. If you want to try this with other like minded people and a great instructor, I have a workshop where Toy Photography is one of the Sessions! Check it out at: under Black Hills Photo Shootout.

Thanks for following along, and go have some fun! Jay

Notice the Little Things

Thursday night I presented an on-line class about “Backyard Photography.” There were about a dozen photographers gathered to hear what I had to say. I really appreciated that they took time out of their day to learn from me!

I wanted to give them some of the basic ideas of composition and explain them in a way that they could grasp right away and start using in their own photography. It is a wonderful feeling when I can sense a light bulb going on for someone.

Something as ‘Basic’ as The Rule of Thirds might be basic to some, but others haven’t heard of it before and it has the power to change the quality of their images immediately.

I talked about how a person doesn’t have to go to far off lands to create images (although that is an awesome thing to do if you can.) A person can create images right in their living space; their yard; their local park. A key point is being aware to that fact and to start noticing the little things in those environments.

Notice which flowers are blooming now; which ones the butterflies and bees seem to favor; notice the rain drops or early morning dew on the flower petals. The key is to slow down and just observe your environment- and that can be very hard to do for a lot of people! I am sitting next to my wife’s flower garden right now just listening to the neighborhood; watching the plants in the garden – noticing butterflies; noticing how the late afternoon sunlight is landing on the flowers and leaves.

I notice the contrasting colors; the patterns; the leading lines. I am listening to the birds, wondering if one will come and perch in the bird bath next to me. I hear the breeze blowing through the trees….I am listening and watching. I teach that in my class.

This flower is an example of an idea called filling the frame.

Try some of these things for yourself and see if it helps, I hope it does ☀️.

Remember to Be Kind today. Jay Grammond.

Half Way Point, But First – January 2021!

It felt pretty good to have the year change to 2021 this year; probably more than has in past years. Was 2021 going to be an improvement? While there was a lot of good that came out of 2020; I sure hoped so.

January began a turning point in my photography business. things started to happen, and that felt so good! I am so thankful for the technology that is high speed internet; and Zoom. It enabled me to do some private photography coaching on-line. Another thing that happened is that I was able to offer on-line educational opportunities for my Black Hills Photo Shootout participants via my instructors to keep the community together and active over the Winter.

January also was the beginning of a journey for me in leading LIVE on-line classes for Community Education programs that are run through Minnesota’s Public School System. In the Spring of 2020, I recognized a need that was going to need to be filled – in a field that I had just spent the last 15 years working in. With things the way there were at that time, the programs were not able to hold their normal in-person classes. They suddenly had to pivot to an entirely new model of delivering their product, in my case, Adult Enrichment, or Lifelong Learning.

Recognizing the upcoming need, I set up a list of seven classes that I would be able to develop and offer. The first thing I did was to create images of plants, trees, butterflies, flowers, etc. in my backyard in the Spring with the idea that I would turn those images into one of my seven programs. It was a great way to keep my creative juices flowing at a time when business had seemed to have ground to a quick halt in March. Also that Spring, I decided to set up a studio of sorts in my garage where I could record myself presenting a one hour overview of the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862; that was an interesting project, and I was pretty pleased with the results -considering it was my first attempt. This became the basis for a 2-part class on the subject. The video was an hour overview of the story; the second part is a LIVE Zoom class highlighting the places and monuments of the event.

One of my favorite Winter images of 2021. © Jay Grammond

I kicked off the LIVE classes with: “One Last Time: World War II Veteran Stories“; and “A Cure For Cabin Fever: Backyard Photography” (the class I had started work on nearly a year earlier.) So, the on-line teaching train had now left the station, and it felt good.

Keep in mind that I was one year out from having left my office job; trying to navigate my own new path while also learning to navigate the new waters that involved my daughter at home in full distance learning; My son being a first year teacher; and my wife at home in full distance teaching (another shout out for our newly acquired High Speed Internet!), and did I mention that my MIL & FIL live with us? Keeping a balance with family and operating a photography business, while also working a FT career was the original intent of this blog. That balance changed in January to Family and FT Photography; not only did it change, it went into hyper-space! By the end of the month, my daughter moved back into a Hybrid model for school. Things were changing on a daily basis at home; and in a good way!

Remember to be Kind today. Jay

It Has Been One Year!

So it has been actually more than a year since I posted to this blog! What a year it was. 2020 proved to be a year of big changes; even bigger than I was planning on. I am writing this today to let all of my supporters know how 2020 played out for me. In order to do that, I have to first set the stage by going back to the Fall of 2019.

In September, I returned home after a twelve hour drive, from organizing and implementing my first Black Hills Photo Shootout and was on a great high as it went really well. The night I returned, my world was rocked by news of a potential Cancer scare with my wife, October and November had a new focus. I had been thinking about making the leap of faith and to leave my career to become a self employed FT Photographer. It was a well thought out and researched decision; and I had decided on my long drive back from Deadwood that I would Make the Leap in October. That suddenly became a back burner thing for me.

On December 6, 2019, I turned in my notice at work on my 15 Year Anniversary of my start date! I gave them a one month advance notice to help with the transition.  Friday, January 3, 2020 was my last day at the office. I was sent off with a very nice party and well wishes.  It was one year ago today that I said goodbye to my co-workers and friends at Handke Center.

January saw a lot of time planning for my second Black Hills Photo Shootout (a weekend Photography workshop generally held somewhere in the Black Hills of South Dakota), which was planned to HQ out of Sturgis; working on taxes; and planning some other projects. I was formulating a plan to be an exhibitor at the MMEA (Minnesota Music Educators Association) Conference. Part of my plan was to provide photographic services to Band; Choir, and Drama leaders so this was a great opportunity. I also worked on a plan to set up an exhibit with a small business in Elk River.  One other big thing on my plate was to go through the process of getting myself licensed as a Substitute Teacher in Minnesota. This was my plan for an income stream as I built the business. Early in 2020 prior to the Pandemic I was fortunate to make some art sales that really gave me a great boost having just made the leap!

In February, I started to get involved with some professional development on-line (not knowing that there would be a lot more of this happening soon, and for the rest of the year.) My Mom had gone through some extended hospital time prior to Christmas; and now my Dad was facing the same thing; and I was glad to have the availability to help much more than normal with that. Mid-February rolled around and I found myself setting up a booth in the Minneapolis Convention Center for the exhibit hall for the MN Music Educators Conference. I was also the Official Photographer for their event, and that was a fun experience. I got to connect with several music professionals. Many new and old friends were there. One big surprise was that my friend Chad Coppess, Photographer for SD Tourism, was in the same building attending a different conference from the one I was at! I had made a Social Media Post that I was there; he saw it and told me that he was there also. We met for Supper in Minneapolis that night and talked about the Shootout event for Fall.

I had my first Substitute Teaching gig on Feb 19th in Princeton. Towards the end of February and the beginning of March, I met with some people to see about getting my photography into buildings, and about setting up some Photography jobs for Fall. I also applied for a certain grant during this time. None of those turned out at that time, but I had to try! On Friday, March 13th, I was Substitute Teaching in Princeton, and something was certainly in the air, and it was the first time I felt as though something was about to change due to COVID-19.

A lot going on; I was able to set up an exhibit of about 1 dozen large Canvas Images in the lobby of AJ’s Complete Automotive on Sunday the 15th with the intention of holding an Open House event for the exhibit and the business; that wasn’t meant to be in the Spring of 2020; but the canvas’ look great on their walls! The week of March 15th, the pages of my planner became very open.

Everything was cancelled at this point and no one was hiring for Photography in the areas that I work in. I had to find my way. I started to work on personal projects. I had actually started to work on a personal project in early March involving old church buildings, but that also came to a quick stop. I had to think of other projects that I could do during the early days of the Pandemic. One of them was to go to one of my local cemeteries and create images of and record info for every Veteran Marker that I could find. Then I would take that material and create a 3-4 minute video. The idea was that at the time, there were travel suggestions or restrictions etc. and people were mostly staying in their homes early on. I wanted to make these videos and encourage people to get out and get fresh air by walking in the cemetery and looking for these Veterans and saying their names out loud as a way to remember them. This would be a way that they could get outside under the current conditions. The other project that I worked on was to go on my own nature walks in my own yard, and at local parks and record the sites and sounds. My intention was to create short videos that people could watch as a mental break if they are confined indoors; and if people just needed a break from their current reality, they could watch and listen to these videos for a short escape.

During all this time, I was also continuing with planning work for my photography event; but now; new decisions were needed regarding the safety and wisdom of holding or not holding the event in late September. A new project developed for me to work on and it involved creating some images from around town that the Local HS Choir director could use in a video he was making for his students….a new and exciting use for my images that helped people deliver their message to help people to cope with not being at school. Another thing that came up was that I was interviewed for a video podcast called The Fotobug Podcast; talking about the Black Hills Photo Shootout. Throughout Spring, I was also creating images in my yard and in local parks for a Backyard Photography class that I will begin to teach in 2021!

Around this time, several of my virtual mentors in photography started to offer free live discussions including: Art Wolfe; Scott Kelby; Dave Black; Rick Sammon and others. these talks mostly ended up on different days or nights and really gave me something to look forward to during that time of trying to find a way forward. I also listened to Podcasts that tought me something or that motivated my creative spirit, one of those was one called Daily Boost. The host posed a question one day asking, “are you going to Thrive during this pandemic, or simply survive?” That really flipped a switch for me and I became much more focused on moving forward.

I was commissioned to record photographically the entire story/process of a new house being built for some friends. It was an exciting and fun project to work on. I now had a project to work on for a client; and I found myself visiting the site several times per week to record progress. I had previously lined up a speaking engagement at a local library and so I had also been working on building images for that. That also gave me some direction, but in the end that event was cancelled.

A few more opportunities presented themselves. I offered socially distanced Portrait shoots outdoors for any kids that had just had their prom cancelled; a couple of people took me up on that and I was very appreciate of that. Because the All Night Senior Party was cancelled, that committee decided to create individual banners featuring each Senior and hang them on Light Poles throughout town; I was commissioned to create images of every banner once it was hung. I then took those images and created a little momento book for the kids and parents. Then, I was approached by the High School about being their photographer for a “Drive-through Graduation Ceremony”, of course I accepted. This was an unusual opportunity in unusual times! It was also during this time that started to create a video about the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862. I set up a recording studio in our garage with my studio Lights, backdrop and all!

My weekly planner pages were started to get filled up again! Summer saw one of my biggest achievements of the year. Less than five months after leaving my office job; I signed a book deal! It is a work in progress, and it will be about Ghost Signs/Fading Ads of the Twin Cities! So needless to say, I spent a lot of time in Minneapolis and St. Paul in the Summer and Fall of 2020, and it has been a blast! A decision was made to not hold an in-person photography workshop in SD in the Fall. Rather, I decided to hold a Virtual event! I made sure that some of the instructors would be on board with it and then announce to the past participants. This was probably my crowning achievement business-wise in 2020. I hadn’t ever done something like this but just knew inside that I could pull it off; I had to offer my participants, and instructors some sort of creative release, and this was the way. Planning went full steam ahead.

I was fortunate in 2020 to have a couple of prints purchased and hung in Hospitals in the Avera System. That is always exciting, and hopefully soon, will be a big part of things for me. During the Summer, I applied for and was selected for a Grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board to attend two different Virtual Photography Conferences and learning opportunities. Things worked out for me to get a new-to-me vehicle which really helped with the driving I was now doing for the book project.

Fall arrived and I found myself attending the Virtual Landscape Conference through KelbyOne over a couple of days; then was interviewed for The Fotobug Podcast again, all in the week leading up to my big virtual event. September 15th, began a 10-Day event with 33 virtual sessions: included photographic education, a Keynote event; and two other special events. It went so smoothly and I received so much great feedback.

I was also able to do some Family, and Senior Portrait Sessions this Fall. In addition to those things; I was hired by Richfield Community Education for an all day photo shoot to build a library of images for use in their class catalog. During the time of the Shootout event, I made a couple trips to the Campus of the University of Minnesota, Morris to create a couple of Videos, one for their Virtual Homecoming message; and one for a recruitment effort. Again, it felt great to help people in a real time of need. I also presented my U.S. – Dakota War of 1862 video that I had created earlier, that went really well.

I created Three different calendars this year: one for Shootout Instructors; one for Shootout Participants (A Contest); and one for J Grammond Photography; all did well. To finish the year off I ran several Facebook Ad Boosts to promote a class I have coming up in January; and on the 30th, I hosted a virtual event called, “An Evening of Gratitude” with a special guest, and friend of mine, Scott Kelby.

“An Evening of Gratitude” with Scott was the perfect way to end the year. We talked about the good things that happened in 2020, and there were a lot of them!

Remember to Be Kind to others, every day! Jay

Podcasts, Have You Tried Them?

MoosePodcastI don’t know about you, but I like to listen to Podcasts as a way to Self-Improvement, and Professional Development. There are several that I like; and am always on the lookout for others. One that I really enjoy is: “Moose Podcast” by Photographer Moose Peterson. Moose is an artist that creates amazing images. Maybe even more impressive to me – than his images – is the research and learning that he does prior to ever pressing the shutter button. I recently did a review of his top podcast episodes (according to iTunes) by month in 2019 between May and November, and here they are:

May: Episode #135 “For Competition” ~ The general concept here is, “Who are you taking the photographs for?” Are you doing it for others approval, or to win competitions, or are you taking pictures for yourself, always trying to get better?

June: Episode #137 “Grave With The Ends Knocked Out” ~ The general concept here is, “Have you hit a wall with your photography? or are you in a rut with your photography? What can you do to get out from under those things.”

July: Episode #141 “Road Trip” ~ The general concept here is, “Preparing for a photo road trip” Great tips based on lots of experience. Get off the main path is a big one. Make sure you pack some “fun” in the bag!

August: Episode #146 “Imagination Needs Fuel” ~ The general concept here is, the idea of “What fuels your imagination?” Passion. Learning. Looking at other photographs. Letting go of fears.

September: Episode #153 “Complacency” ~ The general concept here is, “When your photography isn’t growing” Ideas for getting through complacency. Shoot outside your comfort zone, is one idea. Photograph in a different subject area. Shoot what excites you.

October: Episode #158 “Answer Why” ~ The general concept here is, “Are you moving forward with no direction?” Why did I get the equipment I did; why do I shoot the subjects I do; Why do I listen to certain Podcasts; Why do I like certain locations? Take a deeper dive into your “Why” and learn more about yourself and why you photograph.

November: Episode #161 “Photography Goals” ~ The general concept here is, “Move your photography forward” Work towards goals with personal projects. Short term (next 5 days) – midterm (build a body of work towards a project) – longterm goals (i.e. Documentaries).

There is a thread of ideas for making you a better photographer that weaves through all of these episodes, which is interesting; and probably why they are top ranked episodes from the past half year.  Listen to these episodes, soak the advice in…I bet your images will improve; and so will your motivation in photography.

Excitement Overload

“Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Yourself” ~ Tim Wallace. This is a quote that helped me to decide to register for, and attend a Photography Conference half way across the country last Summer with the goal of taking my photography and business to new heights! Think Big! I am pleased to announce that I will be attending Photoshop World again this year ~ made possible through a grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board, thanks to funds provided by the McKnight Foundation. The images included here represent just some of the reasons I just had to go back!

I had to make a commitment of time, money, and effort to do this. I had to be Bold and Brave. Taking off to Orlando on my own….making all the correct time sensitive logistical actions; attending a huge conference where no one really knew me (there were three guys there that I had met previously at other conferences).

I went down there armed with a set of goals for during and after the conference. One of the goals was to introduce myself (Be Myself) to specific people (not easy for an Introvert)….I accomplished that goal….and more. I met others that were not on the list at that time.

The second part of my goal was to be open to whatever experiences presented themselves at the conference. One of those most memorable moments is shown in this pic that shows a panel of photographers.

L to R: Dave Black, Tim Wallace, Glyn Dewis, Lindsey Adler.

I don’t think that that session was even in the original schedule, but it ended up being probably my favorite session, a casual discussion with fantastic photographers. It was an early evening session after all the other sessions of the day. It was after this presentation that I met Glyn Dewis, third from the left, and we became quick friends. The thing about Glyn was that he was so engaged in our conversation. Not looking at his watch, or looking for someone walking by as a way to move on (like can happen at big events) He was truly Present…it’s something that I really remember and appreciated! There were other great moments: meeting Tim Wallace, second from left, and having a bit of a chat after one of his talks (Tim Wallace!) This man is a First Class guy. Yes, the work he does is simply- ‘off the charts’; beyond that, I am more amazed by his dedication as a husband and Dad to his family. I really like that!; having Rick Sammon recognize me – by name – in the gathering areas and actually stop to talk with me and thank me for being so supportive on-line. (Rick is often referred to as ‘The Godfather Of Photography’; but I think he should be called ‘The Prospector’ or ‘The Miner’ because when he goes on Photography outings/trips, he always comes back with Gold!

Recognizing an opportunity to sit and talk with Dave Black 1:1 about creative visualization 🤓 – even if it meant missing a scheduled session (that WAS my session!). It’s interesting that I actually visualized this scenario playing out – and then it did! I called my wife and told her, ‘you won’t believe what just happened’; talking to Scott Kelby in the hallway; meeting Moose Peterson; even shaking the hand of Dave Clayton at the very end of the Conference! That’s why I needed to get back!

This was one of the slides used during Moose Peterson’s talk. This image is so spectacular in my opinion.

I had some downtime one evening, so I went around the hotel to see what kind of images I could make with my iPhone. This is a staircase on one end that led to a restaurant.

One afternoon, I ventured away from the hotel to find someplace interesting for lunch. Miller’s Ale House was that place. It was a long walk, but so worth it. It had kind of an open air Island feel to it. I will go back this year.

One of the great things on the Exhibit floor was this display that was set up to look like an old Filling Station. They had models posing in front it and people were crowding around to get their photos. I honestly waited until the models were gone and got close ups of the props 🤓 – no lie!

The big opening and closing ceremonies had a Beetle Mania vibe to them…and it so awesome and memorable!

I am so glad that I decided to be bold, brave, and myself. I was able to meet personal goals and meet people that I would end up communicating with throughout the rest of the year, including as recent as tonight!


“Sharpen The Saw” Top 5 Professional Development Podcast Episodes.

Sharpen the Saw is a piece of advice from the late Stephen Covey, actually, it is the Seventh Habit from my favorite personal development book of all, “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People.” The idea behind sharpening the saw is to seek continuous improvement and renewal professionally and personally.

One way that I do this is to listen to the wisdom of others through Podcasts. The podcast that I want to talk about today is: “The Picturing Success” Podcast hosted by Rick Sammon, and Larry Becker. These two guys interview the best photographers in the world. They have been in the industry a long time and therefore have a lot of amazing contacts. The podcast is about the art and business of photography.

The episodes are very informative, as both of these guys are educators when it comes right down to it. Rick travels the world leading photo workshops, giving talks to huge audiences; writing books; recording training videos, and doing podcasts. Larry is a very successful trainer in many areas, including Photoshop, and a gear review Guru. He currently is very involved in video work – helping still photographers add video to their tool box; and of course is involved in teaching through podcasts and his own work at

I recently re-listened to the Top 5 most popular podcasts from 2018 as ranked by iTunes. (Not sure if they are actually the Top 5, but maybe so!) and wanted to share with you a snippet of who they are interviewing and some of the topics:

5) Lewis Kemper. Episode 62 posted on Aug 16, 2018. Lewis is a photographer that worked with Ansel Adams! What an experience and opportunity that must have been! Lewis actually inspired Rick to use a tripod back in the day. He also gave Landscape Photography tips (hint hint: he once worked with Ansel Adams!) see his work at:

4) Scott Bourne. Episode 63 posted on Aug 20, 2018. Scott is a Wildlife Photographer – specializing in birds, Author, Lecturer, and is Senior Advisor with Skylum Software, photography software. There is much much more to Scott, I will let you explore that. The podcast episode gave a good review of the Skylum software, what’s going on, what’s coming up, etc. See his work at:

3) Kevin Newsome. Episode 30 posted Apr 26, 2018. Kevin has over 30 years of experience experience as a portrait and event photographer in the Tampa area. He talked about keeping things fresh in the industry and keeping ahead of the crowd. Some advice: Do the work; keep changing; be creative. See his work at:

2) Unmesh Dinda. Episode 90 posted on Dec 24, 2018. Unmesh is a commercial retouched and Photoshop Educator based in India. He has a popular Facebook page and YouTube channel called, “PiXimperfect.” His YouTube channel has 300 videos on Photoshop and Lightroom. In the podcast, he gave many helpful editing tips; and ways to ruin an image. See his work at:

1) Scott Kelby. Episode 18 posted on Mar 15, 2018. Scott does so much and is so much to so many in the industry that I will use the condensed “about me” from his website. Scott is a Photographer, award-winning authorand the original “Photoshop Guy” as well as the CEO of KelbyOne, an online educational community for photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users (and I would add…for creatives in general). In the podcast, Scott urged beginners to learn these three things: Exposure, Shutterspeed, ISO. He also gave a lot of great advice on getting great Landscape images. See his work at:

So, if you feel like you need to “sharpen the saw”, and who doesn’t? Please check out this podcast. Their website is at: and the podcast can be found on the website, on iTunes, and on Spotify.

Life Is A Mystery!

Saturday, February 16 was a day that just kept taking so many interesting and wonderful unplanned directions.

The events of the day were really kicked off by something that happened (or didn’t happen) on Valentine’s Day. I had been scheduled to drive out to Morris to attend my son’s College Choir concert. The weather was so sketchy, especially out in West Central Minnesota – that I decided not to drive out (much to my dismay).

So, because I had some items to deliver to Gunnar and his girlfriend that I wasn’t able to deliver on Thursday, we made arrangements Friday night to meet them in Alexandria on Saturday morning.

That brings us to what turned out to be an amazing Saturday, one for the books….and the kind of day that you just can’t plan and have it play out the way it did! I woke up Saturday morning and took a look at my Instagram feed to see what the latest was. This is what was on my page:

This was quite unexpected. Glyn is a recently made friend who is from England. I listen regularly to the Podcast that he does with Dave Clayton, called ‘He Shoots He Draws’ – a Photography and Graphic Design Podcast. After their Friday episode, I posted a positive message about this particular episode, and then woke up Saturday to this post. I should have known this Saturday was going to be interesting!

We made arrangements to meet our son and his girlfriend in Alexandria mid-morning for brunch at Perkins. That went well, and it was wonderful seeing them, even for such a brief time. After the items we had brought were transferred to their car and good-byes were said – we were in our way NW.

At some point a short while later, we received a message from our friend Trina saying that she had seen Gunnar and Kaitlyn at Wal Mart. We also received a message from Gunnar saying that they had seen Trina. Apparently Gunnar had mentioned our plans to go Cross Country Skiing at Glendalough State Park. Trina told us that she was actually driving up to that same area to visit another mutual friend, Jody and that we should get together that evening. We were planning to meet our Sister-In-Law and her three kids at Glendalough, and had been invited to go back to Fergus Falls afterwards for Chili. We had declined because it would be going in a different direction than where our hotel was for the night.

In the meantime, Trina and Jody had talked and must have talked about where we were headed. It turned out that Jody and her husband and two of their kids were already on their way to a ski area, that was much hillier than where we were going – so they decided to come to Glendalough as well! So now our group of three had grown to seven, and finally to 11!

Carrie on the left, with her friend Jodi at Glendalough S.P.

When we arrived at the Trail Head parking lot (which was surprisingly full), we got out of the truck, started walking to the building to see where we could rent skis for others in our group. Carrie turned to me and said, “look who’s here.” She was referring to a van that had signage on its side for “Minnesota Trails and Rides”….a paper for which I was the Editor for once upon a time….a job that I was, let’s say, “let go” from once upon a time.

There has always been some level of disappointment for me, with the way that job ended, and so now suddenly, I was thinking that my boss and publisher, Dave would be there. What was I going to say when we inevitably came face to face at this small trail head, some 15 years later? We got inside the building and discovered that there was a ski event going on. There was a women at a desk signing people in….”are you here for the race?” She asked. We were somewhat confused about what to do and to what was going on at this point! It was then that I saw a poster for the event on the wall that featured a headshot of Dave, my former boss/publisher. My first thought was it was an event that he was organizing. Well, as it turned out….I read closer and discovered that it was a Memorial Race for Dave! He had died suddenly last year at this time. Wow! I had NO idea. And here we were “randomly” at this park, on this day, there to ski.

We finally got all organized and were fortunate that the Sons Of Norway were there for the event, and were loaning ski equipment at no charge. We had a great time on a nice flat trail.

Shortly after I created this image, my phone pinged with a message. I had “checked-in” on Facebook before we hit the trail and our friend Linda had seen the image. Her message said that I should call Paul. I waited until I got back as I was almost done with the trail.

Paul and I became friends back in 1987 when we were both students at Fergus Falls Community College. I got back to the truck, and before we got going, I gave Paul a call. It turned out that he lives nearby, and was wondering if we had time to meet. He mentioned that maybe we could meet at a certain place in the nearby town, called the Shoreline. I told him that is exactly where we were already going as we had just made plans to go there for hot chocolate. Now, I haven’t seen Paul and Linda for just over 12 years! Yet another great unexpected occurrence on this day. We enjoyed a great talk over appetizers and hot chocolate….talked a lot about ancestry, and it turns out that his wife and our sister-in-law are related! Paul told me that when he heard that we were at Glendalough SP; he assumed it was because of Dave’s memorial (knowing that I had worked for him). It also turns out that Linda was also related to Dave. I hope we can meet again soon!

So in one last interesting turn, we were invited to meet with Jody and Trina at Jody’s house for supper…Sister-in-Law, Leisha and her kids were also invited and so we all went there for a great spaghetti meal. There we were….friends and family enjoying each other’s company. Five of the kids roughly the same age hanging out; High School friends catching up; spending time with family…..what a day!

If You Are Going Anyway…

My son went off to college a few years ago and he became a part of both the Symphonic Winds, and the Concert Choir. We do not miss any of his concerts, unless it just can’t be helped, like if he is on a European Tour, or something like that!

It didn’t take more than a concert or two before I realized that I needed to, and wanted to – be making images with my Canon! I quickly offered my services and it has been a wonderful three years so far.

This is a piece that I hade made of a special event that the Choir was involved in. I was able to get a live action group photo during the performance.

I also had this created for the Choir Director to hang in his office.

So in doing this I get to create images and experience great music while doing so. And, I was going to be there anyway…

Make Time For Yourself

In the day to day “grind” we are always trying to fit more in, do more, do it faster, more, more, more! Starting today, try to be more mindful about making time for yourself….to re-charge the batteries.

Go for a walk. Look up and notice the clouds in the sky; the tree branches. Enjoy it, soak it in – create an image that you can look back on, and even share with others.

You might be surprised at what you see when you slow down and start noticing.

Another thing you can do to help yourself is to slow down enough to sit down and read a real book! Try some professional development like I did with this book: “Evolution of An Image” by Rick Sammon.

I hope that you will now take some time for yourself, and discover something new! Jay