Changing Directions and Getting Down to Business

Tour Arrow signals change in direction

It's been nearly a month and I'm not even close to breaking the surface yet. Mr. Palmer at the post has sent me a couple of friendly reminders that I'm straining the social contract that I have with all of you. Apologies for the silence, I've had a few things to sort out.

My time in France was an end and a beginning wrapped in sweet chocolate pastry. Early in the trip I decided I wasn't going back to the software design job that's kept me in tubes and kit for the past four years. I've spent a decade trying to refine the raw ore being mined in Silicon Valley... long enough to feel the effects of creative silicosis creeping in. Truth is I've never felt comfortable as an employee. A healthy paycheck is no substitute for the satisfaction of following your own ideas, which I managed to do quite successfully for thirteen years prior to being drafted by the dots @ com. I missed the excitement, the engagement and the success of that life while at the same time fully appreciating its costs. So I've resolved to suit up and get back in the game.

And if returning to the ranks of the self employed closes one circle, choosing photography as the means completes an even greater journey.

As a boy I grew up listening to my dad, photo editor at the Toronto Star, giving us the behind-the-scenes story of the day's news each night at the dinner table. We got to know all of his photographers as friends and he had some great ones: Boris Spremo, Graham Bezant, Ronnie Bull, Dick Loek, Andrew Stawicki and Frank Lennon head the list. They were all larger than life characters in a daily drama and their stories and antics could fill volumes along with their stellar photography. There's no doubt their work, most of which was in B&W, has been a major influence on my own photography and design... and there's more... my brother Craig shoots for the Toronto Sun and my recently retired uncle, Douglas was the photo editor at the Glasgow Herald. I suppose you could say that photojournalism is the family business.

It feels good to come home but now the real bootstrapping begins. I want to grow VeloDramatic Photography from those photojournalistic roots, capturing ride documentary, race and bike culture as it happens. More long-form assignments like the Tour for Kika and Specialized's Ride to Vegas are in the works, and now I can actively pursue editorial and dynamic product work for an expanded roster of industry clients and publications. I'd love a crack at a grand tour as a full-blown embedded shooter one day but that's a very exclusive club and far less glamorous than it might appear. Those guys work incredibly hard.

TdF Shooters in Rotterdam

So the "open for business" sign is up and I'm keen to get to work anywhere the light is good and the fee is right, that includes making the most of "head on a stick" jobs, portraits and the occasional wedding (which I really enjoy having done quite a few over the years). I'll put my 25 years of design experience to work whenever possible and can take an assignment from concept creation to final print/html as needed. OK, end of marketing pitch.

This blog is going to be an important part of the mix, but it's going to take a while to put all the pieces together. The past year has been pretty spotty in terms of posting. I hope you'll bear with me and whether you're a cyclist, a photographer (or both) you'll find content here that's interesting and visually compelling.

46 Responses to Changing Directions and Getting Down to Business

  1. Mark says:

    As an IT worker with stronger interests in cycling and photography I can understand the pull totally – and you’ve got a real talent Michael. Chapeau! I wish you every success.

  2. Matt says:

    Seconded. I can think of no better quote than “A healthy paycheck is no substitute for the satisfaction of following your own ideas.” The first step is not just a step but a leap of faith and it takes guts to take that leap. Chapeau!

  3. slate says:

    Congratulations on making the plunge Michael. You certainly have the passion and eye for it.

  4. Sean O'Brien says:

    Good on ya! How about a “cycling photography for dummies” post as you get up to speed?

  5. Awesome and good luck on the new venture. I ride all over in the East Bay and South Bay. Would be fun to pull some guys together and hire your for one of our long rides for the day. I’ll definately keep it in mind and looking forward to some of the great additional content.

  6. Paolo says:

    Best of luck, Michael!

  7. Tim Cox says:

    Go Michael! It’s great to see your ambition and drive taking root. Can’t wait to see what’s next. In the meantime, do you still have a bike, perchance? Feel like a ride somewhere in the vicinity? And how’s that training for the Gran Fondo coming along – need a training buddy?

    • Hey Tim,

      We definitely need to catch up. My mileage has dropped off dramatically since France and with all the work that needs to be done, it’s going to suffer for the next couple of months. I’ll give you a call this week.

  8. soxiam says:

    best of luck to you.

  9. Stephen says:

    Grats! Takes a lot of courage.

    You’ll have to pretend to commute to work every now and then so I can meet up with you on the road. :)

    • Stephen,

      I’ve actually done just that several times, as a mindless way to get some much needed mileage. One of these days we’ll cross paths.

      ::M

  10. kurt says:

    Velo,
    After a well deserved rest you drop a bomb. Courageuos leap for sure. Happiness seldom flourishes when fitted with collar and chain. Sometimes we can trap ourselves into doing what we know. It is the truly courageuos that release themselves to pursue a passion.

    It doesn’t hurt to have strong support from a spouse either.

    I can say that I am not surprised in the least and really saw it coming as I (we) observed the progression of your projects.

    Keep finding the story within the story.

    Time for bed, tommorrow I start a four day climbing camp in Georgia. A little suffering in the mountains will be on tap and flowing nicely.

    Bon Courage!

    • Kurt,

      Good luck with the climbing adventure.

      You’re so right to point out that my wife Juli is a big part of this. She’s totally supportive and just wants me to do what makes me happy. Great girl, lucky guy.

      ::M

  11. Elmer Rietveld says:

    Good to hear from you Michael. My last image of our time in France is somewhat hazy, I remeber a bustling dancefloor an many bottles of wine…

    I’m afraid in not of much use on the short term to get some “long-form” assignments. But in the coming months we will try to get the Tour for KiKa formula adopted by a major organisation, and we can consider you part of that formula.

    Best of luck, or indeed: courage!

    • Hi Elmer,

      That was a great party (and so well deserved). Interested to hear what you’re planning re: the formula and very happy you’re thinking of me as part of the team.

      ::M

  12. Michiel says:

    Senor,

    Congrats! I am happy to see that you put “the money where the mouth is”.

    It was great to have you around in the Tour for Kika and you made so many amazing photos. I am confident that the combination of being a great photographer and a great person will make you succeed in this new excisting journey.

    Good luck!

    • Hi Michiel,

      thanks for the good wishes, hope to see all of you again down the road. How are things in London, are you back on the bike and enjoying the fitness that comes with a three-week grand tour ?

      ::M

  13. Bills says:

    I thought the blogging had stopped, but this more than makes up for the month of absence! Congrats, and look forward to seeing more photos here.

  14. Thijs says:

    Michael, congratulations! A brave decision, and I sincerely wish you the best of luck. Although you won’t need it, your work speaks for itself!

    As one of the Tour for KiKa team you’ve followed this summer, I want to thank you again for the extraordinary pictures. You won’t believe how many compliments we have received about the pictures!

    Can’t wait till the book’s finished!

    • Hey Thijs,

      Miss all of you. I’m still in editing mode at the moment and looking forward to turning the corner into layout for the book by end of the week. While you are waiting for the book you’ll have an enormous web gallery to look at (expect more than 2000 images). I’ll be in touch soon.

      ::M

  15. Veeral says:

    Hey Michael,

    Congratulations on the career change. Your decision resonates with couple of blog posts Zack Arias did last year on jumping into the world of photography. I was looking forward to this post for a while since you made a comment on FB.

    All the best for your future endeavours and looking forward to more photos :-)

    cheers
    Veeral

  16. Congrats Michael. Good luck to you. I recently jumped to do my own thing too so I know the feeling. Looking forward to see more of your photography work. You are talented.

  17. Mike Dudgeon says:

    Good luck Michael. I’ve been following Velodramatic for over a year now and enjoy your passion for cycling and the great journalism produced. Go get ‘em.

  18. Jon Moss says:

    Congratulations Michael! Doing something you love, with people you like is the holy grail for work, and something that is not rare, but rarely acted on.

    Having gone from the corporate world, to running my own business, creating a community and launching a series of conferences, it is the best thing I ever did.

    Although not needed in any way, I wish you every success!

    Jon

  19. Josh says:

    Mike,

    Are you going to Interbike this year?

    • Yes Josh,

      I’ll be there Wednesday and Thursday, though I’m not sure what my schedule will be yet, I expect to be doing some meet and greet in addition to my normal “touring” about, but I’m keeping in mind how fried I was last year coming straight off the Specialized Ride to Vegas Shoot. I’m doing that again this year and will arrive with the group at Outdoor demo on Tuesday afternoon.

      How about you? Maybe we can say hello.

      ::M

      • Josh says:

        I’ll be there Wed – Fri. We should definitely meet up if you have time. You must know Rich Bartlett then right? He’s my local Specialized dealer.

        • Sure do. Rich is a “monster” on the bike. He was one of the three hard men on last year’s Ride to Vegas that managed the 135 mile last day through cross winds and climbs by the arrival deadline. I think he rode his bike home from Vegas. Hope he’s along again this year.

          ::M

  20. What a pleasant surprise when I logged on this morning to find this great news in blak & white Michael. Another chapter in your book of life opens and full of good wishes for the future pages. There wil be many who will envy you the opportunity to do what you are doing. Lucky man indeed to have such a loyal and supportive wife to back you in this new venture.
    Doing well comes naturally to you, especially when you are so interested in the subject you’ll be chasing. No more negative thoughts to hold down the enthusiasm as each day dawns. Working at what you enjoy was my lucky break too, and after 49 years in photography, I now spend my time doing landscape photography for fun.
    I know that your commitment to photography is complete and you’ll do well. Let’s hope that happiness helps carry the camera bag for the rest of your working life and beyond.
    My Best Wishes to you & Juli and All the very best,
    Douglas

    • Thanks Douglas, you’re a big part of the inspiration. Not many people spend their whole working lives at something these days, far less take early retirement to do more of it. Your landscape photography and our trips through Scotland really contributed to this decision. I owe you big time and look forward to the next time we get out shooting together.

      For those of you following this conversation take a look at Douglas’s beautiful work http://www.douglassalteri.co.uk/
      He does Scotland proud.

      ::M

  21. Dad says:

    Hi Mike: Now comes the hard work — though you’re not a stranger to that. Great to see all the support coming your way. Juli, as those of us who know her well, will continue to provide that love and inspiration. For the rest of us Go gettim son!
    Love Dad and Shelley

    • See what you started!

      Thank you both for the good wishes… now if only there was a way to get Lynn, Sacha, Aileen, Susan and Jenn down here working on a new studio.

      ::M

  22. Alright then Mike.. as we musicians can attest.. less gigs = more riding time/family time/adventure

    welcome to the chronically underemployed no boss world..
    a great first cup of java at 11amish is in order…

    All the best,

    Willy

  23. William says:

    I thought you were already doing this for a living!

    You make specialized bikes look better than Alberto does as far as I am concerned.

    Good luck with it, I am sure you’ll make a success of it becuase the quality of your work is exceptional.

    William

  24. BR says:

    …you’ll poke your eye out!

  25. marco roy says:

    Congradulation Michael, good moove, live with PASSION, I’m in the same situation, I dmisionn my work as representative in April 2010, I saw my passion for the bike this time and I’m looking for new Préjet pasion! If you’ve got to come to the Photo-Pro tower Qubec Montral and 10 and September 12, 2010, there are some beautiful pictures do. I Feraios pleasure to visit and I’ll be your ho ^ te for your city / tourist Qubec.De my ct I left for California on September 23 to 30 days Vlo and caravanning. Do not hesitate to contact me. Good luck in your new Departure of!! Marco