Reflecting on 2019 and Looking Forward to 2020 (Podcast 691)

Reflecting on 2019 and Looking Forward to 2020 (Podcast 691)

As I sit in my studio on New Year’s Eve, 2019, writing the post for the last Podcast of the year, I’m feeling somewhat overwhelmed as I reflect on the year, and try to figure out where the last twelve months have gone. My plan for this post was to share my personal top ten photos for the year, but by the time I’d finished writing what I expected to be a few short paragraphs of reflection, I found myself with a full episode, so I’ll share my top ten next week.

2019 wasn’t a bad year, but as 2018 ended, I remember telling myself that 2019 was going to be better, and it was, although I was hoping it would be much better, not marginally. You might recall that I had issues in Morocco in 2018, both with the bullies on the Customs gate, and with a mysterious illness that knocked me for six towards the end of the tour, and kept me from doing anything at all for two full weeks after I returned home.

We never did find out what it was, but it took a seven-day course of antibiotics to rid me of the cough and congestion, and I was still as week as a kitten when we finally got rid of it by around the end of the first week of December. A doctor would later look at my blood test results and tell me in hindsight that I should have been hospitalized. I was really ill, my wife and I both knew that, but the doctor that I did see apparently didn’t have it in him to read my blood test results.

As weak as I felt though, here in Japan, it’s customary to clean the house before the year ends, so that we leave our dirt in the previous year and enter the New Year clean. One of my main jobs in this period is to clean our windows. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I only clean our windows once a year, at this time, but like the elderly Japanese men that make their wives cry by saying thank you very seldom, it’s always really nice to see the crisp winter sun shining through our freshly cleaned windows as we wind down for the year.

I was so weak at the end of 2018 I recall really struggling to clean my windows, and I really only started to get my strength back as I embarked on the first of my three winter tours here in Japan. I’m setting off for the first of the 2020 tours in less than a week now, and I am looking forward immensely to meeting this year’s groups and spending some time with Brian Matiash on our Landscape Tour, which is going to be a blast. I intend to take my new Rollei TLR camera and a box of film too, and I hope to get some nice medium format shots of the winter landscape, as time allows.

The tours went great in 2019 as did my Namibia Tour in May, and I’d looked forward to spending the second half of 2019 completing my new Mentorship system, but a number of hiccups prevented me from completing the final steps, so that’s coming in the Spring of 2020 now. Despite my not planning an autumn tour to make time to complete it, that time ran away from me due to various personal issues. I’m not going to go into detail, but let’s just say that the mid-fifties for turned out to be very tough on my wife and I as we came to terms with getting older.

I’d also had a runny-nose after my Moroccan malaise, and thought it was some kind of allergy, until a hospital visit between my second and third winter tours resulting in us finding out that I was leaking cerebrospinal fluid. It turns out that there’s a hole in my dura mater left by the brain tumor that I had surgery to remove nine years ago, and the coughing in November and December had torn the wound from the surgery at the back of my nose, allowing the fluid to leak out.

The doctors wanted to operate to block it up, but I asked them to get my historical yearly MRI files from their main hospital and when I returned from my third winter tour an inspection of the files shows that I’ve been leaking CSF for around five years now, and I’ve been fine, the main problem was the tear from the coughing, which I opened up myself, so I figured I could also close it up, and so that’s what I did. I took it easy for a few months, and by April the leak sealed itself. That was a bit scary again for a while, but all is good again now, so nothing to worry about. It’s going to take more than a hole in my brain to stop this photographer from enjoying life to the full.

I did learn a few things from this last year though, and apart from the importance of not coughing too hard and too often, I learned that I need to spend more quality time with my wife, and I also learned that my time management skills are going to pot. There’s probably a disorder name for what I have, but I tend to work way too hard on projects that I dream up, and they completely consume me until I reach a point where I can back off from them again.

My latest project started around 10 days ago and has pretty much kept me down-periscope until today. I was working on a shell script to update the EXIF data in images that I’ve shot on film and scanned into my computer. I am relatively accustomed to updating EXIF data with ExifTool by Phil Harvey but remembering the commands and keeping snippets for the various things that I do is tedious and error-prone.

I decided to write myself a shell-script so that I could easily recall commands and apply changes to my scanned film images, but after writing that for a day, I had something that I realized would be useful for others shooting film, and the following nine days disappeared down a black hole as I wrote over 500 lines of code to enable the script to ask the user for answers to some generic information about themselves, like their name and camera model etc. and then store that in a file for future use, before moving on to ask information about each individual image.

MBP Exif Updater
MBP Exif Updater

The script now traverses a directory of images and asks for shutter speed, aperture, and ISO information as well as focal length, date and time and then embeds the information into the EXIF data before automatically moving to the next image. There are a few finishing touches to be coded, but I intend to start selling the script for a small payment over the next few days, so stay tuned for that if you shoot film and have been looking for an easy way to input your shooting information. I know that there are other tools available, but none of them work the way my new script does, and I personally prefer what I’ve created, so I hope others find it useful too.

Back to my point though, I am going to back off from this for the next day or so, to ensure that I enjoy the year-end and New Year celebrations with my wife, especially as I’ll be leaving her alone as I travel with my winter tour groups, and that’s always somewhat stressful for her as well.

As I’m talking about my wife, I wanted to mention one last thing related to my reflection of the last year, and that is that someone emailed me during the year to say that they were disappointed about the fact that I’d said that my wife isn’t able to help much with my business. They felt that I’d been unkind in my remark because there must be ways in which she helps me. I sent a detailed reply spelling out the reasons for the comment, but didn’t receive a reply, so I wanted to mention it here in case that person is still listening, but also, in case I happened to offend anyone else with my remark.

I’d basically said that I’d really like to be able to hire someone to help out because my wife can’t help with much of what I do. To hopefully avoid misunderstanding, I wanted to add that my wife cannot use a computer. She can send text messages on her phone and knows how to use some of our electronic appliances better than me, but when it comes to computers, she is not able to use them, at all. I’m not saying that to put her down. I’m just stating a fact. And it’s that fact that prevents her from being able to do many of the tasks that I would like to get help with. Financially, I’m still not in a position to hire anyone full-time, but if I was, realistically why would I hire someone that cannot use a computer when 90% of the work I need help with is performed on a computer?

Having said that, in my brevity I upset this particular listener by not going on to say that there are things that my wife helps with and that I am incredibly grateful for. She keeps our receipts in order to take them to our accountant. I have to input the information into our accounts, as that’s a computer job, but she makes sure that they are all in order and nothing is missing. On the rare occasion now that I do a commercial shoot, she does a great job of helping me to set up studio gear, and there is a certain amount of paperwork that we do each month that involves handwriting documents. Although I can read and write Japanese, her hand-writing is much neater than mine, so it always looks better if she does this. We pay her a part-time salary for her time and I do really appreciate the work that she does, so I’m sorry if anyone else thought I was disrespectful with my comment.

I do wonder if this person had listened to many other episodes though. I would hope that a long time listener would also have heard me talk about how much I respect my wife’s opinion on my images. When I have an important image selection process to complete, I always ask her opinion before finalizing the edit. She is not only impartial, but she also has a great eye, and most importantly, she is not afraid to tell me when something sucks. In any creative pursuit, it’s vitally important to have a trusted critique to provide advice, and in my life, that is one of the rolls that my wife is great at.

Having said that much, I should also go on to say that she’s also my best friend. We have long talks, which we both enjoy, and she sometimes makes me laugh so hard that we both end up crying. And sometimes she is so deep and profound, that we once again both end up crying. If I ever made anyone think that she’s anything less than amazing and the most important thing to me on this planet, then I apologize, and I assure you, it was purely unintentional. Unfortunately, like my late father, I sometimes have trouble talking properly because of the foot that ends up in my mouth a little more than most people.

Anyway, we’ll wrap it up there for this year. I hope 2020 brings us all everything that we hope for, and more importantly, that we and our loved ones enjoy good health throughout the year and beyond. All the best!


Show Notes

Music by Martin Bailey


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Ibarionex Perello on Making Photographs (Podcast 657)

Ibarionex Perello on Making Photographs (Podcast 657)

Today I bring you a chat. between too old friends. I sat down with Ibarionex Perello, with no manuscript, and no overall objective except mentioning Ibarionex’s new book, and we just talked, for an hour. I really enjoyed this conversation, and hope that you do too.

I have to apologize for the lateness of this episode, essentially missing a week, as it became obvious that my web server was no longer keeping up with the web site, and the next level of server with my old provider was too expensive, so after ten years, I spend the last week migrating to a new server in a different company, and then all the fine tuning to that has been necessary to get things running again has taken me the entire week. If you came by and saw everything in a mess, or completely down, sorry about that, but the new site should be better and faster, and ready to take us to the next level, so I think it was worth it.

Conversation with Ibarionex Perello

We didn’t have a script, as this was simply an impromptu conversation, so you’ll have to listen with the audio player above or via our Podcast feed to actually hear what we talked about, but here are some of the key points, in the form of notes that I made as I relistened, preparing the episode for release.

Both veteran Podcasters, with our shows now being around 14 years old, we started with a discussion of how we got started and how Podcasting has enabled us as photographers and creatives. This has opened doors for both of us, and thankfully we both stil thoroughly enjoy doing this.

Ibarionex also recalls how he struggled to overcome a stutter as a kid, and I note how I similarly have times when my voice “drops out”, possibly related to what should have been a stutter, and we can both get ahead of ourselves as our mind work faster than our mouths. I also am starting to believe that I am probably dislexic to a degree, and Ibarionex has also been diagnosed as having ADHD, which I’m sure I have too, and sharing notes with Ibarionex certainly helps to put things into perspective.

Ibarionex Perello's Making Photographs
Ibarionex Perello’s Making Photographs

Making Photographs

Developing a Personal Visual Workflow

Ibarionex has just released a new book, Making Photographs – Developing a Personal Visual Workflow, and we talk about Ibarionex’s goals in writing this book, and go into depth on our own workflows, and how we see and react to the world, and our photography experiences. You can pick up Making Photographs from Rocky Nook here and use the promo code PERELLO40 for a 40% discount!

We also get into the frustration that can often set in as we develop as photographers, and how we overcome that by developing a solid shooting workflow, and building experience in our craft which leads on to my take on originality, as I discussed in my post “Be a Creator Not a Collector of Photographs“. Ibarionex accepts that he isn’t going to come away from every location with a definitive image, but challenging himself to move past his comfort zone and taking risks is more important.

Nikon Days

Ibarionex gained a lot of experience and started his 25 year body of work from Los Angeles during his days working at Nikon, when he was encouraged to grab a slab of film and go out and shoot as part of his job! He recently went back through his slides from these days and was happy to see that he was creating quality work even in his early days.

New Opportunities

Ibarionex also talks about how new opportunities are now presenting themselves to him as his mother-in-law has moved in with him, and this has led to photographing familes in their homes. He also encourages people to photograph more in their homes and immediate vicinity.

Ibarionex’s Work

You can see some beautiful and compelling images that Ibarionex was kind enough to send me for this post in the below gallery. These are also available in high-resolution in the Member’s eBook that I created for this post as part of the MBP Pro Membership subscription.

Links

You can catch up with Ibarionex via his awesome podcast The Candid Frame here: http://thecandidframe.com/

And the Tokyo Tour and Workshop that Ibarionex will be doing with George Nobechi can be found here.

Ibarionex Perello

Ibarionex Perello is a photographer, writer and educator who has been involved in the photo industry for over 25 years. He is also the host of The Candid Frame, a popular photography podcast which features conversations with the world’s best emerging and established photographers. He has authored several books on the subject of photography with his latest being Making Photographs: Developing a Personal Visual Workflow. He lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife and their dog, Zooey. 


Show Notes

Pick up Ibarionex’s vastest booking Making Photographs – Developing a Personal Visual Workflow here.

Ibarionex’s Tokyo Tour with George Nobechi can be found here: https://www.nobechicreative.com/tokyo-explorations-in-the-metropolis-with-ibarionex-perello-and-george-nobechi

Music by Martin Bailey


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Jack of All Trades, Master of Some (Podcast 396)

Jack of All Trades, Master of Some (Podcast 396)

I touched on this in another Podcast episode a few months ago, but today I wanted to take a little more time to reflect on how I’m finding it necessary to be a bit of a Jack of All Trades! Of course, to succeed, we need to master (or at least strive to master) some areas of our work, but more and more I’m feeling like we need a very wide range of skills to succeed today. This topic also feeds nicely into a discussion on the sustainability of doing work that you love, so let’s jump into this.

It’s been a bit of a crazy six months for me. My Iceland tour turned out to be a wonderful photography break in the middle of a very technical period that kept me way too busy, and fighting for time to work on other things that are more important, but all relied on me completing the ground work I was doing, so it’s been a bit of a viscous circle.

At the start of the summer I made a conscious decision to update my Web site, and bring all of the various domains I’ve created over the years into one place. I’m not quite there yet, but most of the ground work is now done, and it’s just a case of making time now to do the final changes in the coming weeks.

Invest Time to Save Time

There are a few reasons for the changes, but the biggest reasons are that I needed to reduce the time necessary to maintain my sites, and I also needed to implement a solid eCommerce back-end in my main site. Not having this was one of the reasons I had multiple sites, so both issues needed to be solved before I could move forward.

It’s ironic that I’ve spent a so much time each week for the last six months doing web site related work, so that I don’t have to spend so much time doing web related work, but sometimes we have to invest time initially to save more time later. I’ll go into a little detail on what I’ve been doing because I know some of you are interested in this stuff, and then we’ll move on to my general thinking about all of this.

Generally, I quite enjoy working with Web related technologies, and so over the years, have not found it difficult to invest time in setting up various Web sites for various reasons. The problem with doing this though, is that they all need to be maintained. A lot of the stuff I pieced together had to be heavily customized to meet my requirements, and this means that whenever an update for a base component came out, I had to spend multiple days migrating all of my customizations over to the new version. Sometimes I’d fall behind, and I’d just finish this work and another update would be released, and I’d have to do it all again!

The more sites you build of course, the worse this problem becomes. Trying to overcome this, a few years ago I started using WordPress and themes that I bought to create the Web sites, because WordPress is well maintained, and with the aid of the community of developers that create various plugins for it, WordPress can be customized quite a lot without the need to jump into the code.

One of the most frustrating things that I found with WordPress is that some of the coolest themes were not created to conform to WordPress standards, and I ended up jumping back in and having to customize the hell out of them to achieve what I wanted. I tried to avoid this when I bought the current theme called Rhapsody, which I switched to just before I left for Namibia in May.

The creators of the theme seemed pretty professional and have a great line-up of themes, but a component of the theme broke with the release of WordPress 3.6, and I’ve been waiting for an update for more than three months now. I actually figured out that the incompatibility was with a plugin that they bundled with the theme, so I bought a new copy of that plugin from the original developers and so I was able to update WordPress anyway, but it’s annoying that ignitethemes can’t get their acts together and release timely updates.

Of course, this leads to two issues that I’d like to quickly mention before we move on, but firstly, as you see, you can end up relying on third parties that are often not fully invested in their products, which can be frustrating, so looking for a professional theme that is well supported is an important step that I thought I’d cracked, but it turns out I haven’t.

The other part of this is that as you customize a WordPress based Web site, you can come across all kinds of incompatibilities and third party issues that most of the people developing WordPress plugins or extension have no control over. This is another reason that I’ve had so many problems this summer.

WooCommerce is the Bees Knees (Mostly!)

I decided to go with an eCommerce back-end called WooCommerce, developed by a largish company called WooThemes, that seem to do a reasonable job of their support and they’re pretty professional which makes a nice change. WooCommerce itself is basically free, and is very powerful straight out of the box, but WooThemes charge for their themes and various plugins for WooCommerce.

To enable me to take payment in multiple currencies I needed another third party plugin called WPML which stands for WordPress Multi-Lingual. Setting all of this up took over a month, but I got it all working and then setup a store with some fine art prints for sale, and that all works nice and smoothly now.

What I hadn’t anticipated is that WPML really slows the Web site down, so I had to also setup a new caching plugin and tie that into a cloud based CDN or Content Delivery Network, which took another week or so as I ran into more problems. Then, just as I thought I’d got it all working, WPML released an update that broke part of my Japanese Yen payment workflow, right as we were receiving a lot of payments for my 2014 Winter Wonderland tours!

Once again, I was painfully reminded painfully of the importance of compatibility between plugins, and despite promising to work on the draft of my third Craft &Vision ebook, I had spend an extra three weeks working with WooCommerce, WPML and even PayPal to fix a critical issue. After a lot of back and forth with all three companies we now know what needs to be fixed, and I knew enough about the problem to implement a workaround to keep things moving until the fix materializes.

Ever the Craftsman

Although there was a lot of stress towards the end of getting all of this implemented, I do feel pretty satisfied that I was able to handle all of these issues, and get to the point that I’d been working hard to get to. I enjoy being able to turn my hand to various jobs. I have always enjoyed making things, both physically and digitally now as well.

I think this is partly why I enjoy making my own gallery wraps, although this is after all pretty much laid out for us. But just the act of printing out the canvas, then laminating it, then selecting the bars, putting it all together, and now also stapling the canvas to the back of the stretcher bars. I just find this sort of thing fulfilling.

This of course is one of the main reasons that I enjoy printing so much too. I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy it when I wake up to find a print order has come in, and spend the first part of my day creating that print, then trimming it down to size, as I sometimes print on roll paper larger than the actual size of the print required. When I hold up that finished print it just feels so good, especially when I think that it’s going to be sent off to someone somewhere in the world who will get it framed and give it a home on their wall. This is quite a humbling yet exciting experience.

Trimming Prints

Trimming Prints

Thinking about it, the fact that I often print smaller sheet sized prints on larger roll paper led to the the creation of my Photoshop Fine Art Border Scripts that I not only enjoyed making, but having made them available to buy with my new WooCommerce back-end, have now become another source of income. Hopefully you can see the pattern evolving here.

I came across a problem and had fun creating something to overcome that problem. I enjoy the Web work, so I now have a powerful and flexible eCommerce back-end on my Web site, so I’m able to sell pretty much anything I want without much additional work. The scripts have sold pretty well, thanks of course to some of you, and that helps to keep the roof over my head so that I can continue to do what I love doing.

This is similar to what I’ve mentioned before about my main business model now. I enjoy doing the photography tours and workshops, and working to help people get amazing images in beautiful locations, so I’m gradually building out my tour program. On the tours I get to shoot my own images which I can sell as stock images as well as fine art prints. I also get to illustrate my own ebooks and magazine articles with the prints, and use these images to illustrate blog posts etc.

People then read my articles or blog and see the images and some are inspired enough to join me on one of my tours and workshops. It’s all starting to bind together very nicely in self-perpetuating business cycles.

Do What You Love and Never “Work” Again

That really brings me back to a point that David duChemin and I discussed in our last chat in episode 362 of this Podcast, when we talked about what David had said in one of his books, that there is a difference between a job and our work. Most of us use the phrase “going to work” to mean that we are going to a certain place to do our “job”, and yet a job is really something that we do to earn money to live.

We use the word “work” on the other to mean our photography, or doing some other activity that often brings us satisfaction and pleasure. The difficulty of course, as with any art, is in getting people to pay you for your work. Some, if not many artists, work their entire lives without finding a way to make a living from it, and yet we sometimes call the result their “life’s work”. If we can figure out how to do what we love to do and find satisfying, and get people to pay for it, in whatever size increments, we can realize the artists’ dream of living a life doing what you love.

And that kind of brings me back to the point, in that there have been a few times during this summer where I’ve come across issue that have taken week’s to surmount, and for the first time since I gave up my old job to become a full time photographer, I actually felt stressed. I have a tendency to get little bald patches in the little beard that I grow on my chin when I’m stressed, and for the first time in three years, I found two patches when I trimmed it recently, which was kind of a surprise, but kind of wasn’t really. It had been a rough month or so.

Now though, finally, the issues that I was fighting are behind me for now. I can proceed with the writing of my next Craft & Vision ebook, and launch a new micro-sales product that I’ve been planning for a while soon too. It’s all good stuff, and I’m having fun. Even the troubles I had with the system seem pretty insignificant now that it’s behind me, and I’m looking forward to plugging away at my task list again, advancing step by step.

I guess I should also mention once again, that I still feel very fortunate to have been able to calve out this life for myself that I’m still working hard to make easy, but nevertheless finding very satisfying. From the start I made a conscious decision to not do jobs that I don’t want to do, and not do jobs that I want to do for less money or alternative compensation than I want to do them for.

Ignoring both of these fundamental strategies will lead to dissatisfaction and the work often becomes unsustainable. Basically, if you do stuff you don’t want to do just for the money, you can find it difficult to put your heart and soul into the work, and if you don’t put your heart and soul into the work, it becomes a job. I know I didn’t leave my old day job just to do another job, so I think it’s worth putting some guidelines in place to stop it becoming one.

An important thing to bear in mind here though, as I’ve said before, is that you of course have to do work that pays the bills and turning away job after job without some other form of income is a recipe for disaster too. I was able to build up enough various revenue streams that I am making a living now. My tours, my Craft & Vision ebooks and magazine articles, my prints and other digital products now, and stock image sales are all adding up to keep a room over our heads.

It’s because of this that I’m afforded the luxury of turning work down that doesn’t totally mesh with my strategy. If I had not been able to develop at least part of this business before I left my old day job, I’d have been doing more work that I don’t like as I build my business, but this is exactly what I recommend others do. You have to do something to live, and if that means doing a job that you aren’t fully invested in while you build the business that you would love to do, then there’s no shame in that.

Billions of people around the world do jobs they don’t want to do every day. There are obviously a very, very small percentage of people that actually get to do what they love and make a living at it. As I say, I still have a lot of hard work to go before I will be comfortable and I’d be a liar if I said that there aren’t still time when I get anxious because something doesn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but at the end of the day, I’m confident that I’ll succeed. And I think this confidence is what you need to give you the courage to turn down the jobs that would pay you something, but not enough to make your chosen life and work sustainable.

What does all of this have to do with Photography?

So, what does all of this have to do with photography? Well, I’m going to add the Going Pro tag to this episode, because I think it has everything to do with setting up a business in photography. To come back to the title, I really believe that to succeed in business these days you have to be a Jack of all Trades, and be the master of some. The areas of mastery are the core competencies; the backbone of your business. Without excelling in these areas you aren’t going to succeed anyway.

But you have to be able to turn your hand to other areas or have the capital to be able to hire someone to do this work for you. I for example hire a tax accountant. He costs me $300 a month, and I pay much more at year end etc on top of that. Why? Because I don’t have a clue how to do that stuff myself. Sure, I’ve learned a lot about accounting and running a business in Japan over the last three years, but I never intended to try to do this myself. Not only because it would be too difficult, but because I don’t want to handle this.

I’m also fortunate that I have such a technical background, and can handle the sort of work I’ve spent a lot of time doing this summer myself. That can be a bane as well as a boon of course. It saves me the money required to hire someone to do it for me, but it takes up time that could have been used in other ways. This hasn’t been a huge problem this year, but as I develop more tours it will become one.

Get Help / Outsource When it Makes Sense

This is partly the reason I attacked the issue this year, but there will come a time over the next few years where I will need to start and hire people more regularly. I don’t think I’m looking at hiring full time very soon, other than my wife who is already on the books, but there will be more long term relationships with people like Michael Rammell who’s kindly helped with the old Podcast episode posting for example. As I continue to grow the business out I’ll definitely need help with tasks that regularly take up my time, and free me to work on other things that only I can do.

I think running a business has become as creative an exercise as being a photographer these days, and I’m having a ball working on mine, and hope that you find it interesting or useful to be kept in the loop like this from time to time.

PHOTOGRAPH Issue 5 Now Available!

Before we finish, I did want to mention that the Craft & Vision magazine PHOTOGRAPH, Issue 5 was released earlier this week and it is beautiful! There are amazing portfolios to look at and a wealth of knowledge from some of the best photographers on the planet in the various articles. I’m humbled to be a part of that, and actually have two columns in year two, so you get a double dose of Martin if you should pick up a copy. You can see some screenshots and more details before you buy on my blog at https://mbp.ac/cvp5 and I’ll put a link in the show notes if that’s easier for you.

You can buy Issue 5 for just $8 or subscribe for a year at $24, which gets you four issues for the price of three! You might also want to check out all four issues from year one for just $24 too!

PHOTOGRAPH 5 Cover

Thanks very much for listening today. Remember that you can find me on Google+, Twitter and Facebook etc. and links to everything that I’m up to are at martinbaileyphotography.com, so do drop by and take a look. I’ll be back next week, with another episode, but in the meantime, you take care, and have a great week, whatever you’re doing. Bye bye.


Show Notes

Craft & Vision PHOTOGRAPH Magazine Issue 5 Now Available!

Music from Music Alley: http://www.musicalley.com/


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