We’re Not Normal, and That’s A Good Thing

As we reach the end of this incredibly frustrating and problematic year, I was reflecting on our past 15+ years in business. In many ways, our little photography business is not “normal.” Our focus has not been on maximizing profits even though that is a generally-advised good business strategy. Instead, our business has been focused on serving the community, yes through striving for excellence in my photography and teaching, but also through simply trying to make our community a better place.

I just wanted to celebrate that decision to not be normal. We have helped so many local and national nonprofit organizations and other groups that are doing good things, and as I look over the list, I smile because the work we did made a difference, because we supported (and/or helped promote) others who are making a difference. Groups such as:

  • We Are Not Broken
  • Deaf Dreams
  • Girl Scouts of the USA
  • Darius Pettway Youth Leadership Conference
  • Progeria Research Foundation
  • Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure
  • Weekend of HOPE – Benefiting Austin SafePlace
  • Beyond the Lights Celebrity Golf Classic 2010 hosted by the Austin Community Foundation
  • PMDA Portraits of Love Program
  • Kidsave International and Kidsave Austin
  • Foundation for the Homeless, Inc.
  • Interfaith Hospitality Network
  • Fort Hood Earth Fest 2009
  • Creation Celebration 2009
  • Bass School of Music
  • United America Pageant
  • Oklahoma City University
  • Bethany House of Friends
  • The National Arts Program
  • VSA Arts of Texas
  • Bikes for Goodness Sake
  • Mobility Worldwide, TX-Austin
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas
  • Make-A-Wish Foundation
  • Helping Austin
  • Miracle4Megan
  • AdvocateWeb
  • Austin SafePlace
  • H. E. Butt Foundation
  • Foundation for Laity Renewal
  • H. E. Butt Foundation
  • Mobile Loaves and Fishes
  • Community First Village
  • Hill Country Institute for Contemporary Christianity
  • C. S. Lewis Austin Conference
  • Deerpark Middle School, Roundrock ISD
  • Great Oaks Elementary, Roundrock ISD
  • Laurel Mountain Elementary, Roundrock ISD
  • Westwood High School, Roundrock ISD
  • NYOS Charter School
  • United America Pageant
  • Bethany United Methodist Church
  • Summer Celebration
  • Pure Sound Youth Choir
  • Eyes of Faith – Austin, Texas Photographic Media Interest Group
  • Power of the Cross Festival
  • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Cattlemen for Cancer Research – Annual Auction
  • Youth2Seniors
  • Intergenerational Day 2012
  • LifeWorks
  • Partnerships for Children
  • Help-Portrait
  • Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Life Insights – In addition to all this, in 2018 we (with the help of some friends) started a free group that met on Monday nights at my studio, with the vision that we can make our world a better place if we intentionally take a little time to get to know more people around us, and sharing in this thing we call “life.”

Sometimes social media these days is trending to be quite anti-social, often fostering polarization and discord.   That is not what the world needs right now.  We don’t need more polarization.  So we started this group called Life Insights as a place where anyone can join us (for free) as we explore insights about life.

In a sense, our goal is simply to love our neighbors. 
Our “neighbors” are the people we encounter in our life, the people next door, the people in our city, our coworkers, our friends, and this includes the people who may or may not be like us at all.  What a world this would be if we could all do more to love our neighbors.  We are trying to do our part, at least in a small way.

We initially started out meeting in person at my studio in NW Austin.  We started with a book study of The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. From there, we decided to continue with more book discussions, and then we expanded our activities to include watch parties for TED Talks and documentaries followed by discussion time, and then we started also inviting a wide range of fascinating guest speakers including people who are striving to make our community better in some way, or are sharing from their life experiences with various disabilities and challenges.  We also occasionally hosted pot luck dinners or outings to area restaurants and occasional breakfast get-togethers.

When this COVID-19 crisis turned our world upside down, we didn’t let that stop us!  We switched to doing online meetings using Zoom video conferencing, just scheduling programs week to week. We are continuing into 2021!

From back when we first started our little group. What a wonderful group of people!

We have done a bunch of different book studies:

… and a wide range of TED Talk “watch parties” and discussions

… and discussions about various documentaries

We have had some absolutely wonderful guest speakers:

We had a fun time at our Drum Circle and Picnic Around a Campfire at South Wind Equestrian Center in Leander!

We’ve eaten together, pot lucks, dinner outings to area restaurants

We had a fantastic study of the book “The Road Back to You” led by two licensed professional counselors,
Lisa Blackwood and Sherri Woodworth.

We can ALL choose to make this world a better place and love our neighbors a little more.

On this New Year’s Eve, as I reflect on all we have done through our little business, I smile. So many wonderful memories and great moments. I have discovered over the past decade+ that my business may be photography and teaching classes, but my real business is about loving people.

Thank you all for being a part of our lives. Gail and I both thank you so very much.

Wishing you a better 2021. We can all help make it a good year.

P.S. Please help us spread the word about our classes and my photography business. That’ll enable us to keep doing what we’re doing. 🙂

Kevin Gourley

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Photography Classes as Holiday Gifts! + New Classes Added!

YES, any class registration may be designated as a gift for someone else! (It is an option on the class registration form!)  A Photography Class may be the perfect gift for that photographer in your life! (Or maybe for YOU!)

Why choose Kevin’s classes over any other?
Read what class participants say! CLICK HERE!

Give yourself the best photography gift! Sign up for our FINDING YOUR WAY photography workshop! This class will benefit any photography at any skill level from beginner to full time professional!
We urge you to sign up for our FINDING YOUR WAY photography workshop!
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Black Friday – YOUR Best Deals!

Ok, I have to admit, I just HAD to post something about “Black Friday.” I mean, that’s what all the businesses are doing right now, offering Black Friday specials.

I have been offering something better than just a deal on Black Friday! Since this pandemic began, I have offered the best deals possible to all of you! Most of my online classes have been offered where YOU SET THE PRICE!

WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER: My thinking was (and is) that this pandemic has been pretty tough on us all, in different ways. For some, this has taken an emotional toll as we have been separated from “normal life” and maybe from our family members. For others, this has taken a financial toll. You may have lost your job or our business. For still others, this has not had a negative financial impact. We are all facing the same pandemic, but we are not all impacted in the same ways.

Even though this pandemic has had a severe impact on my studio photography business, I decided back in April to make my online classes available to all with a “suggested price” but YOU get to choose the price you pay.

  • If you can’t afford very much right now, pay what you can, and that’s ok.
  • If you can afford to pay a little extra to help out my little business, and are so inclined to do so, then do that.

Instead of my Black Friday special, maybe I should call this my Black Year special!

It kind of seems appropriate. 😉

CLICK HERE TO SEE MY UPCOMING ONLINE CLASSES!

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It’s All About You

A little about me: I have been an avid photographer for over forty years, a professional photographer for sixteen years, plus I have been teaching the art and science of photography, both professionally and with various community photography groups I have organized over several decades.

But it’s really all about you: Central to my pursuits has really been to connect with others, and in some way, help them along in their journey (whether it’s photography or otherwise).

I have found in my later years in life, my greatest fulfillment has not just been in the images I have created but rather it has been through the people I have met and have come to know as friends, and experiences along the way.

I love seeing others succeed in their photography and in their lives. My goal in my teaching has always been focused on you. It’s really all about you.

I have met so many photographers who have taken classes from other places and they say their teacher spent much of the time telling them how great they were or the teacher “spoke down to them” and they learned very little. This is unfortunately all too common.

More than anything, I think photography and really all the arts is about humility not arrogance. It is about awareness of the beauty in this incredible world. It is not about personal greatness or the ego. It is about appreciation of this life we have been given, and sharing in this journey with others.

A photograph captures a moment. In a sense it is a way of saying “thank you” for that brief moment, a remembrance of that instant when the sun first appears on the horizon and light rays flood across the sky into the clouds, or when a baby is born, or when the person in front of you just gets that perfect smile and their eyes light up, or when you suddenly encountered wildlife on a trail you were hiking, or when a dog leaps into the arms of its owner, or when someone is in their final days of life.

My goal in teaching is really not about me. It is about you, helping you move further along in the skills you need to be better at creating the kinds of images YOU want to create.

Worry less about whether other photographers are better than you. Art does not have to be a competition. Sometimes in doing so, it can take the joy out of the art. Find what you love in photography and do that. Forget what others think. Be the best “you” you can be. If I can be of help in you reaching that better place in your photographic skills, then I have succeeded. Find the fun in photography. If it is not fun, you’re not doing it right. 😉

At some point, I will be retiring, but not just yet. I have a few more years where my passion is still leading me to continue doing my photography and teaching others. This pandemic has hurt my business tremendously, but I am still here, adapting to the madness as best I can. In the midst of it all, I would be honored to be your photography instructor.

Let’s Do This: If you are just starting out, consider my Photography Essentials class, or check out some of my other classes. The lineup of classes is continually changing. Or maybe consider my private instruction options. For now, all of my classes are online, but I can do one-on-one personal instruction (socially distancing and masking of course).

Bless you all. For Thanksgiving this year, especially give thanks in the midst of the challenges. We’ll get through this together.

Kevin Gourley

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Major Change of Plans

That phrase pretty much sums up 2020: “Major Change of Plans.” For all of us, we never imagined what this year would be like, one year ago.

The truth is, we never know what lies in our future. We make plans. Plans change, as we perpetually are confronted with new realities, new challenges, unexpected events that cause us to push aside our plans.

In fact, we all face moments where we are reminded of just how little we really have control over in our lives. At best, we embrace illusions that we are in control.

So many people are looking at this pandemic as a disaster of epic proportion, and granted it is painful to see how hard this has been on everyone, with businesses failing, many people getting quite sick and some dying, people acting out of panic, various forces with political agendas to sew seeds of mistrust.

In the midst of all this turmoil, people’s anxiety levels are rising, and more and more people dealing with depression.

My hope is that we call can step back a bit from all of this chaos and turmoil, and focus on this moment.

As Oprah Winfrey once said “Living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift.

We can’t live in the past. We can hang on to good memories, but we can’t go back there. Nor can we predict or control the future. All we have is right now. If we live with our minds focused on the future (which we can neither predict nor control), we will likely be perpetually disappointed that the future didn’t go as planned, all-the-while missing out on the present.

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and my hope is we can ALL focus on doing more thanks giving this Thanksgiving.

Embrace this moment for what it is, even in hardship, even in disappointment, even in pain, even in tragedy, even when it seems impossible to find ANY good in this moment.

This moment is where you exist. Tune out the noise. Intentionally assess what all you ARE grateful for in this moment, especially the things you are taking for granted. Make it a long list. If your list is short, you are not done. Keep at it.

We will always have moments where there is a sudden major change of plans. We adapt. We move on, even if it is hard to do so. Often our “plans” are focused on a destination, but our lives are lived on the journey. Make the best of the journey.

An idea for photographers: Start a project photographing the things YOU are grateful for in your life and share them on social media.

Kevin

P.S. On my “gratitude list” are all of YOU. I love my job, although these admittedly have been VERY tough times for my little business, but what I love most about my job is having met all of you.

P.P.S. Support local small business! Sign up for my classes!

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Start Your Photography Learning Here!

Ready to learn photography & master camera skills to produce the images you have been wanting to create?

Start with my Photography Essentials class beginning in December! There is no better place to start your photography learning journey!

Morning Class Tues+Wed Dec 1-2, 2020 10am-Noon CST
or
Evening Class Tues+Wed Dec 1-2, 2020 7pm-9pm CST


My best endorsements are the comments from my class participants!

  • “This was the first time I took Kevin’s class “Photography Essentials”. The online format he designed is very interactive, the “follow along” presentation slides are easy to understand, and you get to keep them for future reference. I am absolutely ecstatic about the experience. Kevin’s teaching style is great, I could finally understand the technical concepts I was struggling with. I was able to figure out all that was wrong with my photo taking after this class. I will definitely be taking more classes, and I highly recommend it. I also have his book ‘30 Practical Tips for Better Photographs‘. Great resource!!”
  • “I had the opportunity of participating in one of Kevin’s online Photography Essentials classes.  … He has an excellent command of technology and prepared very well to be able to present via Zoom.  Time spent in a chair at a computer was perfect for hearing his explanations, which were a perfect combination of some of the science behind photography, basic principles, and operational tips to put it all into practice.  …  Kevin is a solid photographer with clearly excellent depth and breadth of knowledge.  Yet he is able to perfectly tune the information he shares to fit the class without being overwhelming or too simple.  EVERY person at the end of the class made some kind of comment about understanding better than they did before. “
  • “Kevin is calm and patient in his teaching and NEVER makes a comments about having said something before.  He meets photographers where they are and instantly shifts the level of teaching to meet the needs of individual students, even with a broad level of experience in any one particular class.  As I don’t live in Austin, this has given me a great opportunity to learn from Kevin online.  I’m off to sign up for more classes…”
  • “I enjoyed the presentation and the class really helped me bring some concepts into focus.”
  • Kevin’s expertise, material and presentation techniques all work very well with Zoom. I won’t hesitate to take additional classes via Zoom.”
  • “Kevin has done a great job in organizing the class content. He makes great effort to ensure we understand before moving onto the next step. Kevin doesn’t just provide some tips, he makes sure we know how and understand why, which is very helpful. Thank you so much, Kevin!”
  • “Kevin has so much experience and great tips for every issue you could possibly think of. He doesn’t only teach the theory, I could really tell that he actually DOES what he’s talking about – these are real tips from a real photographer.
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Just Be Grateful

This has been a challenging time for us all.

I could list all the reasons this year has been so painful… the devastating impact to so many small businesses, people who have lost a loved one to COVID-19, not being able to visit aging family members, tough decisions about putting kids in school, etc. but where do I stop? The list would get quite long.

Then add to this the terrible ways people are treating each other in the midst of this outrageously polarized political season. I am amazed and a bit heartbroken in seeing how people are treating each other. This has all made a bad situation worse, as if the pandemic alone was not bad enough.

And then there has been the unprecedented wildfires in Colorado, burning nearly half a million acres of my favorite place on Earth, in Rocky Mountain National Park.

And then there are friends who have been battling cancer, some having already lost their battle, plus a dear friend recently died unexpectedly in a car accident.

I must admit I have been struggling to deal with all this lately. In a sense, I guess I am suffering from 2020 depression. I find myself just emotionally depleted.

And then I remember all the truly beautiful friends in my life. I am so blessed.

And then I will never forget how so many people responded to help us and our small business through the GofundMe Small Business Relief Initiative and other ways they helped. This helped us survive this unexpected pandemic. It has all been so humbling. We still have some tough months ahead, but this GofundMe campaign and other generosity of friends and clients is proving to be a lifesaver for us.

Our Sanity Walks
Every morning, Gail and I go on a 3.5 mile walk which I have been calling my “sanity walk.” We usually walk through our neighborhood or on some of the nearby hiking trails in the hills near our home. While on our sanity walk, I will often photograph something that catches my eye, using my iPhone. The point isn’t to create some amazing photograph. It is more about simply appreciating the small things in life, the things I might be tempted to walk on past and just take for granted.

Gratitude
Anyway, on this day where “melancholy” perhaps best describes my feelings about 2020, I must remember to be thankful because in spite of all that has been hard, I have seen the beauty in the world around me and in the beauty of all of you. I will focus on the acts of kindness I have experienced from you and on the ways I can devote myself to acts of kindness for others.

We take so much for granted, even when we don’t mean to.

I think the key to a well-lived life is to focus on being grateful.

Recently on one of my sanity walks, I stopped looking at the “things” we walked past, and just looked up at the sky. I mean, how often do we give thanks for the sky? Sure we might notice a pretty sunrise or sunset, or maybe an interesting cloud formation, but what about the rest of the sky?

I just started thinking about the beautiful blue sky in the cool morning air. All I could see was the light blue, but beyond that, beyond my ability to see, is the expanse of the universe. That thin layer of atmosphere is what protects our planet from the harshness of space. It is what sustains our life. Yet another thing I normally just take for granted.

I guess I just felt like writing this, at a time when 2020 is getting me “down” and wanted to intentionally remember that this world is surrounding us all with so much to be grateful for. Don’t take ANY of it for granted.

Hug your family. Hug your friends. Go out and hug your neighbors (maybe a virtual hug for now). Hug your dog or cat. Go out and even hug a tree.

Go out for a walk and devote the entire walk to thinking about all the things you are grateful for. That is, if you can walk. Remember even the ability to walk is something to be grateful for. If you can’t walk, you still can find so much to be grateful for.

Once you LOSE one of those things you have taken for granted, you will be reminded once again, you have been blessed by so much more than you realized.

Just be grateful for it all.

Kevin Gourley

P.S. If the isolation of COVID-19 is getting you down, join our LifeInsights group! All are welcome and invited.

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Loving Rocky Mountain National Park

I have been leading photography workshops in Rocky Mountain National Park for years and I have been in love with that park ever since I was a child. Watching the recent fires sweep through portions of the park has been deeply heartbreaking. So many of us Rocky Mountain National Park lovers have been watching news reports, posts on social media, and getting text messages and photos from friends in the area, holding our breath as we witness the place we love burn.

We are so grateful for the heroic efforts of the thousands of firefighters who fought valiantly the raging fires to save structures and to try to hold back the spread through the park. We are so sad to see the damage in the Kawuneeche Valley, especially in the Grand Lake area. Our hearts go out to the people of Grand Lake and Granby. The town buildings of Grand Lake were saved but still so many homes were destroyed and so much of the area around the town burned.

While the fire spread through the park, carried by high winds, and fueled by so many pine beetle damaged trees, there is still so much of the park that has not burned. The fire is still not under control but at least has diminished quite a bit because of the much welcomed heavy blanket of snow.

Several people have asked me if the places we visit in our Rocky Mountain Photography Workshops have all burned up. The answer, thankfully, is no. In fact, MOST of the places we visit were spared by the fires. The hardest hit area that we do visit is the Grand Lake area.

What about 2021’s Rocky Mountain Photography Workshops? Yes, most definitely we will be doing the workshops again in 2021!

Currently we have reduced the size of our group as part of a COVID-19 restriction, but we could enlarge our size again, depending on how this whole COVID-19 thing pans out by next Summer and Fall. We consider your safety to be important and we believe we can do these workshops within local and federal guidelines. (We’ll always err on the side of precaution/safety rather than carelessness.)

In spite of the pandemic and in spite of the fires, we have an even greater resolve to ensure we do the workshops again in 2021 to help support the local economy for our friends in Estes Park and Grand Lake.

We pray the fires get under control and further damage is limited in our favorite place on earth.

Kevin Gourley

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Learn Photography – Private Sessions May Be For You!

I have many years of experience in photography and in teaching the art and science of photography to photographers ranging from beginner to full time professionals.

Maybe it is time to take your photography skills to the next level through private one-on-one instruction. I have many students who take advantage of this option!

  • We can focus on your specific needs
    • Photography skills
      • Creative and fun photography projects
      • Photo editing and organizational skills
        • Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom Classic
        • Computer configuration and setup (if that intimidates you)
        • Help with problems you’re experiencing
    • Scheduled at times that best fit your scheduling needs
  • Online via convenient Zoom sessions or in-person (conforming to required “social distancing”)
  • Different price options available depending on the amount of time you need
  • New this year: Special “Teaching on Retainer” option where you can save even more by booking a larger block of time and use me as your “go to guy” for photography help all throughout the year.
  • Want to do a shared session with a few of your photographer friends?
    • We can arrange a small group session on any topic or fun activity!

Student Comments – Rated 5-Stars! *****

See what Kevin’s private instruction students have been saying…

  • “You have been so helpful, Kevin! This private learning was the perfect option for me! My schedule is often crazy but you did a great job helping accommodate my needs. I learned so much from you. I finally understand “metering modes” and “exposure modes” and your help in teaching me about Photoshop and Lightroom has been fantastic. Thank you!!”
  • “I have learned so much from you about how to more effectively use Adobe Lightroom Classic! I can’t believe how many things I was “doing the hard way” and now I am able to work so much more quickly when organizing and editing my images. Thank you!!!”
  • “I absolutely love Kevin’s teaching style. As someone who is a hands-on learner, I felt especially grateful for all of his practical examples.” – Meredith Yinger
  • “I am the definition of a beginner when it comes to photography but Kevin was extremely kind and patient. I was worried that the amount of information would be overwhelming but the way he structures his lessons and the manner in which he teaches makes it not only easy to understand but keeps you focused and wanting to learn more. His passion for photography coupled with his wonderful teaching style make his classes the perfect addition to anyone starting out in photography or for those wanting to expand their skills.”
  • “I loved how Kevin listened to my questions and the specific issues I wanted pointers on. As a photographer with moderate skill level, it was amazing to learn so many new things.” – Taylor Montgomery
  • “It has been such a pleasure to get all my questions regarding LR’s Organization module answered by Kevin through demonstrations with my files. He is very good at explaining every step he is taking, and why. He is responsive to all questions with clear explanations, and a sense of humor. All in all, a great coach!”
  • “Thank you again for the great classes! I was quite intimidated by my Sony A 7rII camera that I received as a gift from my husband. Not having any experience with a “real” camera (just my iPhone camera), I thought that this camera was so far over my head that I would never be able to take it off Auto mode. I was not sure where to start. Thankfully I found out about Kevin’s photography classes and signed up for 2 private sessions. I have learned so much in those two classes! His method of teaching is very easy to follow and understand. I feel that I learned a lot more about photography in general than just the functions of my camera. This really helped me process the information and has given me the confidence I needed to enjoy my camera. My second class was today and the first class was about 5 days ago and I have used my camera more in this last week than I have since I got it 2 1/2 months ago. I know I have a long way to go but at least I got going! I highly recommend Kevin’s classes to anyone who, like me, needs help getting started. I plan on taking more classes from him like Lightroom in the near future.” – Lynn Rome
  • “I have loved photography my whole life and recently have taken a couple of group classes (with another photographer) so I could switch completely to manual mode. The group lessons left me with more knowledge but many questions. I did some research and found Kevin and signed up for private instruction from him. It was the best thing I did. Kevin is very organized, detailed oriented and easy to work with. His studio is great and he has all the tools required to demonstrate what he is teaching. He listened carefully to my questions and then began to go over in detail and in a manner I really understood not only the answer to my questions but things associated with my questions that I didn’t even realize I didn’t know. Since my private lessons I feel my photography has gone to the next step, I have more confidence in what I am shooting and my pictures are better than ever. I would recommend Kevin if you really want to learn how your camera works and you want to improve your pictures.”   – Emily Spencer
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TED Talk Watch Party: “America’s Native Prisoners of War” – Photojournalist Aaron Huey

Monday October 12, 2020 7:00pm CDT
Columbus Day / Indigenous People’s Day

© Aaron Huey

TED Talk Watch PartyAmerica’s Native Prisoners of War – Photojournalist and National Geographic Photographer Aaron Huey
Join our online Zoom session and we’ll watch the Aaron Huey’s powerful TED Talk and discuss.

Aaron Huey’s effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people — appalling, and largely ignored — compelled him to refocus. Five years of work later, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson.

Contact Kevin (kevin@kgphotoworkshops.com) to get the link to the Zoom session. This is part of our LifeInsights Group which hosts many other activities, TED Talk discussions, inviting occasional fascinating guest speakers as well. All are invited and it’s always free!

All images below are © Aaron Huey.

Check out our other upcoming
activities in our LifeInsights Group!

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Kevin Gourley Photography Workshops, Austin, TX – Austin Photography Classes