It is only impossible until you do it.
This is the lesson I have been learning throughout my life both personally and professionally.
The biggest obstacle to my success and accomplishing things I never thought I could is my own mindset. If I think I can’t do it I can’t. If I decide to do it I can do it.
I love to hike and frequently hike locations like Watkins Glen State Park. I sometimes see people running the trails there and I think I could never do that. Well guess what? Today I did it. I went on a group run hosted by the Southern Tier Running Club. We ran the south rim trail at Watkins Glen State Park. I never thought I could and now I know I can.
Never thought I’d run for fun and exercise: Now I run regularly and have run 5k’s, 10k’s, a trail run, and a half marathon.
Never thought I could be a vegetarian: Now I have been meat free for over a year.
I never thought I could sell my photography in a gallery: Done.
I never thought I could be a published photographer and writer: Done.
I never thought I would have my own gallery show: Done.
These are just a few of the things I have accomplished that at one point in my life I thought I could never do. Once I changed my mindset about each individual goal and decided to do it I was able to succeed. Now I am trying to push myself to accomplish even more that I never dreamed of.
We have been so fortunate to have our dog Buck as part of our lives for such a long time. Buck is a 9 year old Bernese Mountain Dog. The average life span for a Bernese Mountain Dog is 6-8 years and we lost Bucks litter-mate Cami to lung cancer when she was seven. Cancer is relatively common in Bernese Mountain dogs. So Buck has already surpassed his “sister’s” life span and the average life span for his breed.
At this stage in his life we can see Buck starting to show his age. He is slowing down a bit and doesn’t get around as well as he used to. He has some other chronic health issues we have been maintain for a while as well. So with all this in mind we have been getting more worried that Buck may not have much time left with us.
We have always tried to include Buck in as many activities as possible. Buck loves people and loves to get attention from people. With his limited mobility, he can’t walk long distances, we often get sad thinking about all the events we used to take Buck to where he would literally be a show stopper.
This year we decided just in case it is Bucks last (maybe this is too pessimistic but we don’t want to have any regrets) we are going out of our way to include him as much as possible. Earlier we took Buck to Walk’n Wag (No Walking for Buck the way we roll) (insert link to walk and wag photos). We also took Buck to Thanksgiving dinner with our family this year, which we have never done. It was great because we are a family of dog lovers and all had dogs there.
One special event for us and Buck has been the annual Sparkle, Christmas celebration in Corning, NY. We have often taken Buck to this event. Its the perfect event for him. Its generally cold which Buck loves and there are people which Buck loves. The down side is that the event requires parking some distance away and then walking to where Corning has Market Street closed down for all kinds of vendors and exhibits. Walking to Market Street and down Market Street is something Buck would not be able to do at this stage in life. Enter the awesome garden wagon we bought for him. My amazing wife decorated it all up with Christmas goodies. There are strands of lights, garland, and Christmas decorations, and we got Buck a nice Christmasy scarf to wear. We were fully committed to making this Sparkle the best ever for Buck and our family of us and dogs. Buck was so excited to go see people he actually climbed into his cart on his own which he had not done in a few other uses of it and we didn’t even think he could do.
There are always tons of people at Sparkle. The challenge: How to navigate a thick crowd filling a street while pulling a large garden cart containing a 115 lb dog. We weren’t worried about ourselves but we didn’t want to be in other peoples ways or run anyone over. We just wanted to be able to make slow progress done the street to see the fun Christmas events going on and so Buck could see the people. And Make slow progress we did. It took us 2 hours to get from one end of the street to the other and the street is approximately five city blocks long.
It was slow going but it was the best slow going ever. It felt like we were in a parade. Everywhere we went Buck drew attention. People marveled at his cart with decorations and lights. His nice soft cushy bed in the cart. And the fact that he convinced his humans to pull him through the street. (Trust me no convincing required) Several people humorously pointed out “Isn’t the dog supposed to be the one puling the cart?” To which I replied, “Yeah, we’re kind of backward like that.
When you walk down a street and see people smiling at you and your dog, you hear people exclaim “Oh My God Look at that dog!” and it happens over and over again, its just a magical feeling. It makes me happy that Buck can make so many other people happy.
Every few steps (I want to say we but really its all Buck) Buck would draw a new crowd of onlookers and admirers. Some would look and point and smile. Many would come over and ask permission to pet him. To which our response is always of course you can. Buck loves to be petted. And he really does.
Once the small crowd would disperse we would hurriedly get on the move again lest we draw more attention from new people coming down the street and a new crowd form and we would remain in the same spot all night. We weren’t trying to avoid people but we wanted to get all the way up and down the road so Buck could have as many experiences and impact as many lives as possible and be impacted by as many lives as possible. (We never know if we will get to do this again)
Buck is such an amazing dog. He has always loved people and he is especially good with the youngsters. He’s a great dog for any child that might be afraid of dogs to meet. He sits calmly letting the child decide if it is safe to approach. Buck rarely Barks while out in public and doesn’t try to jump on or run over people and especially while riding in his cart stayed amazingly still and calm. He only adjusted himself from laying to sitting and vice versa as he deemed necessary.
So many people will come and talk to you and comment about your dog and ask you questions. Dogs are magical like that. I talk to more people I don’t know in one afternoon out with Buck than I probably do in a year. Dogs bring people together.
We talk about Buck. We talk about his breed, why he’s in a cart. We talk about their dogs, the dog(s) they just lost. What kind of dogs they have or want. We talk about dog stuff.
Its not just about Buck, but its about the people too. Seeing the faces on Children, teens, and adults alike as they see Buck pass by. As they come over and pet him. The happiness and joy on their faces is just over whelming. Only dogs can reduce children, teens, and adults alike to the same silly pile of mush that just falls all over themselves to be with that amazing creature.
If this is the last Sparkle we have with Buck I will always remember all the smiling faces Buck leaves in his wake. The strangers he never new and never will. The family, friends and acquaintances we run into along the way. But most of all the smiles he has given to my wife and I. We will always have that.
I wanted to share a little bit from our experiences on our #OptOutside not #BlackFriday day after Thanksgiving.
My wife and I took one of our dogs, Brynn, up to Ithaca for a hike and a visit to the wonderful dog park they have there.
This is a series of photos of Brynn trying to chase down a ball someone threw at the dog park.
She always puts in full effort but she does not always successfully catch the ball. Check it out.
Brynn puts forth maximum effort on every attempt to catch the ball but on this one she just missed the ball and wiped out when trying to turn back to grab it. So sometimes Brynn has crash landings, but it never deters her. She gets right back up and runs full out again the next time.
We all have our own little idiosyncrasies. Sometimes we don’t really know why we do the things we do. Other times it’s pretty obvious why we do them. I know exactly why I do some of the things I do.
The things that really move us, the things that are important a to us, the things we love. This is what causes us to do some of the strange things we do as humans. As a photographer, something I love, I carry around enough gear that my car tells me the passenger needs to put on their seatbelt when I set my bag on the passenger seat. I often have these multiple heavy cameras dangling from my neck while I look ridiculous. I can be found laying on the ground or just staring at something just waiting for the perfect moment to take the photograph. Most non photographers would think these behaviors are a bit odd but to me they are the things that allow me to do what I love.
Over the past several years I have also become a fairly avid runner as improving my health has become important. Avid, not good or fast just avid. I get up at 5:00 am on my day off to make sure I get my run in before it gets too hot. I run for over an hour at one time. I run in the rain. I plan my days around trying to make sure I can get a run in. These are not things that very many non runners would typically do.
Over the years both my photography and running have grown in importance to me. Each becoming an increasingly significant part of my life.
When you live for photography and live for a healthy lifestyle you do increasing odd things. On Sunday 10/4/2015 I ran my fist ever half marathon. And my enthusiasm for running crashed headlong into my passion for photography and they merged. I decided the best way to make the most out of this situation would be to find a way to photograph the half marathon as I ran it. In years past I never though this would be possible because A. I could never have run a half marathon and B. I would have had no idea how to go running with a Nikon D300 around my neck. But thanks to my relatively recent decision to begin experimenting with a Nikon 1 system in my photography I was able to find a way to make it happen. I was able to find a small snug fitting elastic belt pouch that stretched and was marketed to be used to carry ones phone and keys while running. As luck would have it the pouch would also fit a Nikon 1. I was able to tuck the Nikon 1 into the pouch and wear it to the starting line with my regular running gear no problem. It was hardly noticeable. I got it out and took a few pre-race photos.
I considered getting the camera out at different times during the race. But in the first six miles I was maintaining a pretty good pace for myself and I didn’t want to risk getting off my pace and slowing down to monkey with the pouch and get the camera out and then try to put it away again. I hadn’t had time to practice with it before the race. That was a big mistake.
In the last four miles I was too tired and spent to consider using any energy work a camera. All my mental energy was going to focusing on running and making sure I finished the race. I was getting very tired and very sore. It was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Then as I neared the finish line probably inside of a mile I knew I was definitely going to finish. I had slowed considerably so my pace wasn’t an issue. I wouldn’t have to worry about putting the camera away I would just carry it to the end. So I decided now was the time to see what I could do with this little camera I carried all the way for 13 miles.
I was able to unzip my pouch and get the camera out without impacting my running or dropping the camera. Now that’s a small victory in itself. I kept the camera strap on the camera even though it could make it more difficult to put away on the run, which I ended up not doing, and in glad I did. This freed me from worrying about dropping the camera while trying to looks round for something interesting to photograph and running. I could just simply throw the strap around my neck and that was that.
Now it was time to try to figure out how to actually take some photos while running. I decided to try to experiment and try a few different things. Having the camera strap on allowed me to try something similar to having a GoPro strapped to my chest. I allowed the camera to essentially dangle from my neck and just tried to keep it straight. I thought I’d be able to get a photo as if directly from the runners perspective this way. I think it was difficult to make sure the camera was oriented properly to capture a decent image of what was in front of me. I am not sure any of these images turned any good. I think I often ended up with too much road in the photo and not enough subjects due to how low the camera strap hung and a wide-angle lens and not angling the camera up at all.
I tried glancing over my shoulder to see what was going on behind me. I was able to get quick looks at my fellow runners as they usually approached and passed me. I then tried to position the camera over my shoulder facing the runners behind me so I could get a view of runners approaching me. It was a challenge to get the camera aligned right to be pointing straight and at the runners while also running however slowly I may have been going.
I also attempted two other ways of taking photos of what I was seeing as I ran. I experimented with alternatingly holding the camera up in front of my face in a more traditional position to view the image and at other times just holding the camera out in front of me arms fully extended towards my intended subjects.
This is where having the live view LCD screen of the Nikon 1 was invaluable. I don’t think I could have gotten decent photos of I had to try to look through a viewfinder. I was able to quickly select a subject and compose the image using the LCD and click the shutter all without compromising my safety by blocking most of my vision with a bulky camera that I had to hold up to my face to see through the viewfinder.
I was even able to take a selfie style photo one-handed and I crossed the finish line, which was announced to the crowd as I crossed. I certainly couldn’t have done that with my Nikon D300.
Overall this was a fun experience on all fronts. I challenged myself in many ways physically, mentally, and technically in both my running and photography. Trying something new is always an opportunity to learn and grow and I think I did.
I also think I captured some nice images if I do say so myself. I think I will try this photography experiment in other running events and other experiences.