Category Archives: General Commentary

The Smell of Rosemary

In these crazy uncertain times, I know many of you are under such stress maybe due to your business being shut down, or you lost your job, or you are in the COVID-19 “high risk” health category, or you are fed up with people arguing “mask” vs. “no mask”, “shut down businesses” vs. “don’t shut down businesses”, and the seemingly unrelenting bickering by the immensely politically polarized world around us.

I am frankly tired of the “noise” of it all. We can focus so much on what we have lost, that we lose sight of what we have in abundance all around us.

Gail and I go for a walk every morning, usually 5-7 miles or so. I call these my “sanity walks.” They are my escape from all the chaos. Since we are not around others, we walk without masks, and the world just feels “normal” as if we were not even in the midst of a major pandemic disaster. We talk about life. No tweets or posts popping up. No emails or news notifications. We are just walking.

Occasionally, we have a special treat of having our 4 year old granddaughter Addison spend the night with us. She likes to go on walks with us in the late afternoon, usually around 2 miles (and for a 4 year old, 2 miles is a long walk). Addison brings along a little bag, and she calls these walks “nature walks” as she’s always finding a leaf or twig or acorn to put in her bag.

Every time we pass by a rosemary bush, Addison stops, rubs her small fingers on the fragrant needle-like leaves and breaths in the wonderful smell of rosemary. She smiles and says in her cute little 4-year old voice “I love the smell of rosemary!”

That is our routine. Every time we pass rosemary bushes, Addison has to stop and smell the rosemary again, and remind us yet another time, just how much she loves the smell of rosemary.

I also love the smell of rosemary, and every time I pass a rosemary bush, I think of Addison and how thrilled she is to encounter a rosemary bush.

There is so much about this world around me that reminds me that this world is still a beautiful place, and I have SO much to be thankful for.

In spite of the chaos. In spite of the uncertainty of each day. In spite of all that is “wrong” in the world, there is so much that is beautiful, so much to be celebrated, so many sights, sounds and smells of nature that are wondrous. If only we would pause long enough to appreciate it all.

I love the sounds of the birds. I love the bright array of colors of the flowers. I love the slight cool breeze in the morning before it gets hot outside. I love the sunshine. I love the rain. I love the deer we sometimes encounter. I love seeing the other neighbors out walking as we say “hi” each day. I love holding the hand of a 4 year old while I walk. (Those are special occasions.) And yes, most especially, I love the smell of rosemary.

Since we have been doing these walks, I have been taking snapshots with my iPhone of some of the sights I have encountered on my morning or evening “sanity walks.” The point isn’t really about “great photography,” at ALL. I am not on a mission to photograph. I am on a mission to escape and simply walk. It’s about SEEING the world around me, and simply affirming the beauty I encounter each day.

I encourage you to take some time to experience the world around you more, pushing aside the distractions and chaos. Don’t miss the beauty that is ALL AROUND YOU.

Look for some rosemary bushes. Smell the rosemary.

Kevin Gourley

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When Life Feels Totally Out of Your Control

I can definitely affirm my life is “not going as planned” for this year. I bet most of you can relate! There is so much going on in the world around us right now, so much stress, so much hardship. We face so many unknowns about our health, our future, our jobs, our businesses, our economy, our lives.

Basically all we can really do is make the best of the situation, whatever it is. The truth is, we never really DID have control over most factors in our lives. Sure we have control over the choices we make, at least to a degree. But really, most of the time, we move along with an illusion that we have things under control. We assume life will go on, but it might not. We assume our loved ones will be with us, but they might not. We assume we will have the same job tomorrow we had today, but we might not. We just assume so much will be the same tomorrow as it is today.

Then something big happens. We lose our job. A pandemic hits. We are diagnosed with cancer. Whatever it is, we have those moments where we suddenly face a new reality. Some refer to those times as a “rude awakening.” I don’t know about you, but I would prefer “soft gentle awakenings” rather than the rude awkenings.

Either way, maybe it is a good thing to be “awakened” from time to time. We might just start to see how much we have taken for granted in our lives.

We need to find ways to navigate through these hard times, and we don’t have to do it alone. For me, my faith is an important part of my life (I’m a Christian). I find God really has to slap me on the side of the head from time to time to get my attention. And usually if I pay attention, I learn something I needed to learn. (Maybe I am a slow learner.) 😉

For others of different faiths, I suspect your faith is an important part of your life also. And for some, if that’s just not something that’s a part of your life, I respect that . We are all different.

I think we all have opportunities where can agree the world would be a better place if we loved one another more and I think we ALL need each other to get through these challenging times.

If your life feels totally out of control, or if you are like me and the isolation we are all experiencing is getting old and you just need to talk to others. I want to invite you to join our LifeInsights group that meets (virtually) on Monday evenings. ALL are welcome, regardless of your world view, religious affiliation, race, gender, sexual orientation, or political leanings. We just get together, put aside differences, and do book discussions, TED Talk watch parties, invite fascinating guest speakers, or sometimes just hang out together in a virtual “happy hour” and share what’s going on in our lives.

We’d love to have you join us, any time!

Want to know more about our
LifeInsights group and current schedule?
CLICK HERE!

Stay safe my friends. Remember you don’t have to go through all this alone.

With gratitude for each day, even the hard ones,

Kevin Gourley

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Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day my friends. My photo on this blog post is actually from almost 3 decades ago, when our daughters were little. Nothing in my life has mattered more to me than being “Daddy” to these little girls who are now “all grown up.”

I am so grateful to have photographs to help remember these moments in our lives. At the time when we take a photo, we might not even realize just how much we’ll cherish that image years later.

Keep that in mind with your photography! Capture those special moments. Celebrate and honor this beautiful experience we call life.

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Enjoy Today

Here is your public service announcement for today:

As you wait for better days, don’t forget to
ENJOY TODAY, in case they’ve already started.

– Robert Breault

These have been stressful times. Let’s make the best of it. Do good for others. Take good care of yourself.

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Washing Away the Chalk Art

It’s a rainy day in Austin, Texas.

Just a few days ago, we were making “chalk art” on our front sidewalk with our granddaughter. Since then, every time I walked by her artwork, I smiled.

Then the rains came and washed it all away. Gone are the precious creations of a four year old artist.

Life has its moments when we smile, when we create or experience something beautiful, and moments when the rain comes.

We can either focus on what we lost, or see this is an opportunity for a clean slate, new opportunities, new experiences, and a new set of memories.

That is the lesson of life. Appreciate the moments as they happen. Never take life for granted. In an instant everything can change.

All we can do is embrace change as a part of life, and not lament the passing of what was, but instead look with faith and anticipation for what comes next.

For now, enjoy the rain.

Get your chalk ready.

Kevin Gourley

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another imperfect day

Happy Mothers Day to all of you mothers on this special day.

I wish this day could be better for you and for all of us. Due to our COVID-19 pandemic, our situation is far less than “ideal.”

If your mother is still alive, you might not be able to take her out to lunch at a fancy restaurant. You might not even be able to visit her. Maybe the best you can do is make a phone call.

It’s just another imperfect day as we deal with this pandemic.

For Gail and me, this is our 40th Wedding Anniversary. Last year, we thought about maybe going on a cruise to celebrate our 40th anniversary. I am SO glad we didn’t book a cruise! That would have been a big mistake. So how did we celebrate today? We went for a walk (as we do every day).

It’s just another imperfect day as we deal with this pandemic.

We all have choices to make in how we deal with this time of crisis. Regardless of the hard times we face, the limitations we encounter, and the disappointments of all that is not going as we planned, we can pause and remember to see the good in the midst of it all.

There is still so much to be thankful for. This has all been a huge reminder that we are really not in control, and all of our life plans are “subject to change without notice.” That is a reality always, not just in the midst of a viral pandemic. We can always find things to be thankful for. Let’s do that. Let’s be thankful for what we CAN be thankful for, and just make the best of this.

I wasn’t sitting on the deck of a ship watching the sun rise over the ocean as we celebrate our 40th anniversary. I was walking hand-in-hand with Gail on a street in our neighborhood. The morning was beautiful. The weather was perfect. The birds were singing. We are alive. We don’t need a cruise ship to celebrate.

My mom left this world 15 years ago. I can’t call her to say Happy Mother’s Day. I wish I could. I wish I could hear her voice one more time. I can still celebrate Mother’s Day by living in gratitude for the gift of life Mom gave me.

I could list so many other ways life is very “imperfect” right now for so many of us. But you know, I think life is still beautiful, even in the midst of the imperfections.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

Live in gratitude. Celebrate life.

Today (and every day), celebrate Mothers.

On this beautiful imperfect day, Happy Mother’s Day!

Kevin

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Photography is MORE

I have been a photographer for many years, as a professional, and before that as an avid hobbyist. Many of you who have taken classes from me know how much I believe photography plays a vital role in our world, and we can use our photography talents to make this world a better place. That is why I have donated my time and energy to a wide range of causes over the years.

I’ve worked with so many photographers since I don’t just do photography, I also teach photography. The first photography class I ever taught was in 1978. Since then, I also have organized several different photographer groups in the Austin area. I love photography and I love people.

In the midst of this COVID-19 Crisis, I have scrambled to try to adapt to this ever-changing situation, to keep my little business going. The escalation of this crisis was so abrupt, I frankly wasn’t ready for my studio to be totally shut down. So, I’ve been scrambling to start offering online classes, especially while my studio is totally shut down.

I have also been going on longer walks every morning, just to clear my mind. I call them my “sanity walks.”

This whole experience has really caused me to pause and reflect on just what my purpose is in life and the purpose of my little business because I was (and am) having to navigate through some tough times to keep my business going.

Granted it is hard for my little business to compete with large companies that do continual multimedia radio, television, Internet, and print ads. But the truth is, I do not compete with them at all. My focus is different. It is 100% on the individuals I serve, whether they be my photography clients or my students. I have never really had a sense that I should grow this into a larger retail business with multiple employees and larger facility.

I think the main point I keep coming back to as I reflect on all of this is that my purpose is really tied to YOU, all of you. Not really photography. It is more than photography.

I have been blessed to meet and befriend so many wonderful people through my little business. I really cherish that. I can honestly say I have loved that part of my business. I really do love you all. We have had some great experiences together. We have had many laughs, and some of us have shared in some deep sorrows. Our lives interconnected at least for a brief time. My life was made “better” by knowing you all.

I guess I am really just fully embracing that my business isn’t about photography. It is about you. It is about life experiences, and that is true about photography in general.

Photography is more than just being about photography, if that makes sense. It is more than just getting caught up in buying new gear, new cameras, new lenses, tripods, etc. Sure there are some folks who are really into high tech gadgets, but still for most people the deepest value of photography is capacity to express art through our each individual perspective, to capture memories, to tell stories, to celebrate the beauty of this world, and to remember and share our experiences for a future generation.

Photography is About Love
If you are not photographing what you love, try to make some changes. Really reflect on what and who you love, and photograph those things and people.

Photography is About Fun
If you are not having fun, you are doing it wrong. Do what is fun to you.

Photography is About Emotion
As I have told many of my students, perhaps the most meaningful photograph you will ever take is one where there are tears in your eyes when you took the photo.

Photography is About Life
It is about documenting your story about your life experience.

Photography is About Individuality
The greatest gift you will ever give yourself as an artist is permission to be you. Don’t just copy what other people are doing. Find your own unique artistic expression. Seek more innovation and less imitation. Boldly be you, whatever that is, be you. Many of the greatest artists in the world stood out because they didn’t just copy the styles of what other artists were creating.

Photography is About Perspective
One thing I have loved about photography is that it has given me a purpose in seeing the world a little more “deeply,” to pause and take it all in more fully, to not walk on by too quickly.

Photography is About Personal Growth
Over time I have grown in my skills and perspective and inspiration. Photography just gave me an excuse to focus on those aspects.

Photography is About Gratitude
Sometimes we overlook the things closest to us. We overlook the things we take for granted (and that includes people, not just things). The best practice of photography is through a lens of gratitude. What are you grateful for? Photograph that. If you don’t, you will regret this years later. The amazing thing is, the more you focus on a perspective of gratitude and express that gratitude, you will find a deeper joy and happiness in life.

Photography is About Sharing
Unless we live in a total vacuum (granted during these COVID-19 times, with self isolating, we might feel like we’re living in a vacuum) ultimately the images we create we share with others. Photographs are meant to be shared.

Photography is About Making a Better World
We can share our photographic talents to help others like nonprofit organizations, community service groups, churches, etc. If you are gifted with photographic talents, gifts are meant to be shared. Share them.

Photography is About Artistic Humility
On occasion, I have encountered a photographer who was quite arrogant about their work, and what they talked about the most was how great they are. Arrogance hurts the artistic world and it hurts the artist. Arrogant teachers silence questions from students eager to learn. Arrogant artists think they have nothing to learn, and that stifles their own creative growth. Always remain “teachable.” Seek to always learn. I may be a teacher, but in my heart I will forever be a student. Art doesn’t have to be a competition. Don’t think about how good you are in relation to others. Just strive to improve in your own artistic pursuits. Other artists aren’t competitors. Make your only goal to be better than the photographer you were yesterday. That’ll suffice.

Photography is About Relationships
Some of my most fun photographic experiences were really the relationships, the activities, the fun we had as a group. Yes we took photos, but man those experiences were fun.

Photography is an Excuse to Do Something Different
I recall all the times photography has led me to the most amazing places, like standing 50 feet way from a bull moose feeding in a pond, or standing on the side of a mountain in darkness waiting for the sun to rise, or standing on a scissor-lift 30 feet above the ground photographing a group of 500 people, standing right at the edge of a stage as a performer was singing, … just so many stories, fun moments I would have never experienced had I not had a camera in my hand.

Photography is About Legacy
We don’t always even realize at the moment when we are creating a photograph that it might have much deeper meaning to ourselves or someone else later. In my studio photography, several times, I have taken a photograph of someone, only to find several months later or a year later they died and that photo was used for their obituary. We just don’t always know what we are really creating when we create it. Just know some of your photos are really going to matter to someone later on.

Photography is About Life Insights
I believe we have a LOT to learn by spending time listening to others, hearing their stories, and learning about different life perspectives. I truly believe that actually helps us as photographers. That is why we created a group that meets on Monday nights at my studio for free called LifeInsights. At least we met in person before this COVID-19 crisis hit. So for now we are meeting online on most Mondays, though we occasionally take a break. It is place where you can share with others, get to know others. No fee to attend. I believe we can make this world a better place if we do more to “love our neighbors” and this is my small attempt at doing just that. I am happy to share my studio for free for this, and I am looking forward to when we can open our studio again!


And Lastly, Photography is About Apertures + Shutter Speeds, etc.
Yes, you need to know how to use your camera (and I have classes for that). But photography is so much more.

Go out there and create great images.

Kevin Gourley

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Find the rainbows – A photography challenge

I have really been inspired by the number of people out there in the midst of this COVID-19 Crisis who are going the extra mile to make this world better by reminding us that we will get through this, and look for the positives.

Let’s do all we can to make this situation better. Sure “social distancing” is important. Yes, people in “non-essential” businesses should stay home. Of course, help in whatever way makes sense.

Also, when you think of a friend, pick up the phone and call them and ask them how they are doing! Or send a text, or an email. In the midst of our social isolation right now, let’s still stay in touch.

But let’s also be encouragers!

“I’m continually inspired by nature, and the rainbow is one of nature’s greatest optical phenomenon. The sighting of a rainbow never fails to bring a smile to people’s faces. They signify optimism and positivity: with them comes the sunshine after the rain.” – Matthew Williamson

Neighbors have been doing chalk art on their driveways as a means of encouraging others who walk by. I love it!

Let’s do more of this! Others are putting out Christmas lights or decorations. I am sure there are other creative things happening out there. Well let’s SEE!

Show us what you are seeing in your neighborhood! Even better, go outside your house and YOU get into this as well. Get your kids involved!

THE CHALLENGE: Take photos (with your camera, your smartphone, whatever you have!) of the many ways we can (and are) encouraging our neighbors to see our way through this together. Chalk art. Rainbows in the windows. Positive displays of encouragement. Be creative! Let’s find the “rainbows” in the midst of our current challenging circumstances. Send your photos to me at and I will post them on this gallery. Let’s be inspired and let’s inspire others!

P.S. You don’t have to send me pictures of rainbows (although you can)! Send photos of ways you or others are inspiring and offering encouragement to your neighbors and the community right now.

Encouragement Photos

Rainbows in Nature

OTHER IDEAS: My friend Ashley is doing a campaign on facebook to share happy dog photos!

Stay safe my friends! We’re gonna make it through this together.

Kevin Gourley

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To My Fellow “Non-Essentials”

As I went on my morning walk, I saw a few cars driving through my neighborhood. Some were probably going to the grocery store. Some were heading out to do their job that has been deemed “essential” in the midst of this COVID-19 Crisis.

These folks in essential jobs are to be praised. Some are serving on the front line in fighting this virus, caring for others, or keeping important parts of our infrastructure running. Some are working in health care and so many other critical fields. Some are staffing nursing homes. Some are putting their lives at risk by just doing their job. I say THANK YOU.

And then there is all of the rest of us. We are scrambling to find a way to survive with our “non-essential” businesses, small or large. Everybody is being sent home, to work from home somehow. (Many also have kids at home now too. Trying to work from home when the kids are home, now that’s a challenge.) Suddenly the whole world is doing Zoom and Skype teleconferencing (to the point that many of us are already growing weary of teleconferencing).

In the midst of this, ALL of us are facing uncertain times. Many of us are facing isolation like we never have before. We have lost our jobs. Some of us are scared because we have a friend, family member, loved one who has contracted the Corona Virus, or maybe has even died from it, or maybe some of you are about to have a baby, or maybe you are battling cancer, or …

If you are a “non-essential” you are still so very essential.

I miss actually seeing my friends, colleagues, family, etc. in person. I miss being able to teach my photography classes in person. I miss all of you fellow non-essentials, and have to affirm just how totally essential you are.

About halfway through my walk this morning, I came across this:

All I can say is yes, yes, yes. Even though we “nonessentials” are on “lockdown” we face opportunities every day to be encouragers of one another. Someone simply taking the time to go out and make chalk art on their driveway made my life better today.

Let’s spend our time doing creative things to be encouragers of one another. Let’s practice loving our neighbors in ways we might not have ever though of (you come up with your own ideas). Beyond just teleconferencing with people, maybe put into practice just calling a friend when you think of them, just to talk, and see how they are doing.

Find the positive in the midst of the trials we are facing. Encourage others to do the same. In doing this, we are ALL ESSENTIAL.

Stay safe my friends,
Kevin Gourley

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We’re In This Together

Even one month ago, I really didn’t imagine just HOW MUCH all of our lives could change so drastically in such a short period of time. 

As I scramble in my own business to reschedule classes, rearrange or clear my calendar, I know many of us are in the same boat.  My friends who own or operate restaurants and other small and large businesses are all having a tough time, and we are all facing total uncertainty about how to deal with the challenges before us, both in our businesses and our personal lives.

I went for a walk this morning…

I go for a walk each day, but usually in the evenings. It was such a beautiful morning, clear blues skies, 59 degrees, I just had to get out and enjoy this weather. Along my journey, I loved the cool air and couldn’t help but notice the various flowers blooming in people’s yards.

It was good to step back from all of the “Corona Crisis stress” and just walk – Breath – Listen to the sounds of morning – Feel the cool air – Enjoy a few moments of respite from the crisis drama.

You know, this morning, I felt JOY. That is the best word I can come up with to describe my walk through the neighborhood: JOY.

Funny, it’s as if someone forgot to tell nature that the sky should be cloud-filled and somber, the flowers should not be blooming, the weather should not be pleasant, because we are in the midst of a pandemic.

Shouldn’t all of life be gloomy, given we are experiencing an unprecedented crisis?

Actually the answer is no, all of life does not have to be somber. Yes, it’s scary times, but in spite of any of the hardships we face in this COVID-19 crisis, there is still good in the world. Beauty still exists. There is still so much we should be thankful for.

One thing this crisis has done is remind us we have taken so much for granted in life.

We can go through life thinking tomorrow will be about like today, what we have now, we’ll still have tomorrow. The truth is, we never know what tomorrow will bring. When we take things for granted, it’s as if we don’t see them. Then something major happens and we lose something important to us, and we then realize we just assumed we would never experience that loss. We take for granted our loved ones will always be here. We take for granted we will still have a job tomorrow. We take for granted we will even wake up tomorrow and experience another day on this amazing planet. Heck, we take for granted we’ll have access to toilet paper!

We Need Each Other

In the midst of our social distancing and the sense of isolation this creates, we still really do need each other to get through this. We are all in this together. We can help each other. Even just being connected and talking to others helps combat the sense of isolation we experience if we try to go through this alone.

During my morning walk, I passed this driveway:

That pretty much sums it up. We do indeed need each other to get through this.

Let’s stay connected. Let’s be there for each other. Let’s defy this imposed isolation by reconnecting in other ways such as email, phone, text messages, social media, video conferencing, etc.

This gets back to that thought about “gratitude.” Think about all of the people you are grateful for in your life. Check in on them. Call them, and just say you were thinking of them.

Devote some time to remember to be grateful for cool sunny mornings. Be grateful for flowers. In spite of all that you might have lost in the midst of this crisis, be grateful for all you still have.

Love your neighbors. Seriously, love them, because
we truly are in this together.

Another Way to Break Through the Isolation
Our LifeInsights group that is a free group that has met at my studio on Monday nights for the past couple of years is still meeting. We just have switched over to online meetings using Zoom teleconferencing (which is VERY easy to use and works great if you have a stable Internet connection). This past Monday and for the next couple of Mondays we are hosting a “Virtual Happy Hour” just BYOB 😉 If you’d like to join us, just let me know and I will let you know how to connect to our meeting. Here’s more info about our little group: LifeInsights All are welcome any time.

I am grateful for all of you. This crisis has especially reminded me of that.

Let’s go out and make the best of this situation. Stop taking so much in our lives for granted. Appreciate the flowers.

Be there for one another.

Kevin Gourley

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