A Beautiful Forgotten Time Capsule

On April 9, 2015 I stepped into what was once a beautiful country home, built by a loving and caring family. This home, like many others through the calm collective of broken backstreets and forsaken farmland, remains as nothing more than a pigeonholed box of garbage to almost all who pass. Many of us open books, and most of us will even look inside, but it’s important that we take a moment to read. I always do my best to truly see a place for not only what it is, but also what it once was, learning its full story. Sometimes, just as with many books, you can discover a wonderful world hidden inside these structures. So what will become of the places that life has vacated? In most cases, homes are swallowed whole by nature itself, but many of them can sit untouched for decades, simply collecting dust. As usual, I had no idea what I was about to walk into, but what I soon witnessed here could only be described as overwhelming; so overwhelming, in fact that I can’t even choose a specific word to describe the brilliance of it all.

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Upon entrance, everything was in such an untouched, pristine condition; I could almost hear the home breathe. I felt the forgotten life wrap itself around me, immersing me into a collection of vivid memories. I was almost able to envision the days spent inside these walls through forsaken fragments of a past life. Musty papers, books and knick-knacks sat at either side of me as I trailed my fingers along dusty tabletops, traversing this empty space once abundant with life.

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If you were to ask around, most of the neighborhood would tell you that one of the home’s former residents was quite a musician. Neighbors would stand outside in the warm, calm breeze of summer, hearing music fall from the house, listening as she played her organ at the open window. A harmonic connection fluttered through summer air and a delighted neighborhood would enjoy the show. It has now been years since any music has drifted from this home, as all has sat quiet since she passed.
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Collections of forgotten treasures fill the space inside this former home, now resembling a dusty time capsule. Spider webs scale across couches, arm to arm, while books remain balanced on their shelves, and like a rose pressed between the dry pages of musty storybooks, hand-written notes survive scattered throughout. They enclose one’s whole world, an entire life held between their pages. One year, all was left behind and decades have since passed, while the pages of each book remain pressed together from end to end. Flattened notes still cling to them on their insides, while like chalky, chapped lips, the front and back covers sit tightly closed, screaming inside, wanting desperately to share a life full of stories.

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In the backwoods, you never know what you might find left behind. These items remain situated amidst a mostly still environment, as dust and dirt continue to build up year after uninhabited year.

While searching through the attic, I noticed a lonely family photograph book protruding from a stack of papers, sitting atop a group of busted boxes. Normally, I feel as though if I could just reach into the pages of these books, I could become one with the lost lives they hold; in this particular instance, that was not the case. This photo book, just like the home surrounding it, sat empty. Growing more curious, I knelt before a stack of papers, my mind wandering one thought to the next as I sifted through signatures, notes and discarded doodles. Almost all documents inside this home date back to 1979 or earlier, with many items ranging anywhere from late 1800s to mid 1900s. Easter cards from 1979 rest perfectly preserved aside a living room chair, exactly 36 years since last Sunday, April 5, 2015.

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Upstairs, a woman and her husband had left behind a small book of hand-written notes. The first two pages contain jokes, along with quotes written by them both. A child’s doodle remains on the third and final page, while all following pages sit blank. The husband, whom we will call Henry, was born in 1896. Henry passed away in 1979, leaving Clara, his wife of 51 years to tend to the home. Clara was only slightly younger, born in 1908, and continued to live into the year 2000, when she passed away. Exploring this home, it seems that she may have been taken in by family or brought to a home shortly after her husband’s death, considering the many dates found inside. Their real names have been omitted, for privacy reasons.

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It seems as though every photograph or piece of art that had ever hung inside this home now lay scattered across walls, floors and tables. Even in the bathroom, fresh soap sits, just as it was when first placed in a dish. Journals, trinkets, sewing machines, word scrolls and more sit beside an old player piano in the attic – it’s like nobody has set foot inside for nearly 36 years.

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We have reached a strange point in our timeline, where more and more structures have collectively become abandoned over the years, leaving us with a massive collection to sort through. We are faced with a very real representation of “out with the old, in with the new.” As people move from countryside to city, an increasing number of homes will become abandoned, due to their location. These structures will not be here forever, so it is important to document what is being tossed aside, left behind and forgotten. These photographs and writings will provide meaning for future generations, showcasing what once was, and is now no more.

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Check out the entire photo gallery here – http://bit.ly/1b8kHmS/

Building Falls to The Street in Cleveland

So this will be a bit of a quick post – but something crazy that happened today. I mean, it’s not everyday that you see some wild stuff like this happen, which is why I ALWAYS bring a camera with me wherever I go. As a photojournalist of any kind, I feel that’s probably the most important thing to remember. It’s also important to remember that anything can happen at any time.

I was headed out to Cleveland to meet about a photography job downtown. After speaking to whom I was initially meeting with, I decided to walk over and photograph The Arcade. (Of the numerous times I have been to Cleveland, I have never once been inside there.) Since it was a very short walk – basically across the street – that is where I headed.

The Arcade was pretty relaxing. Only a couple of people were wandering back and forth, including one man who I had met at the Cleveland Museum of Art earlier this year. After sitting around inside the arcade, shooting some photos, listening to smooth jazz and talking to people, I packed my stuff up and was headed out to my car.

As I wandered from The Arcade’s doors, I turned a corner and “BOOM!”

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I see a car smashed beneath the wall falling from a building on E6th street. Apparently the parapet became weak, turning to basically sand from acidic rain, and due to heavy winds was just pushed, literally, over the edge. The sound was like a bomb going off, as a massive 20 foot section of wall came crashing to the streets. Meanwhile, my car is parked about 70 feet away. I’m quite glad my car wasn’t smashed, but I am very sorry to the man who was parked here. Ohio is ridiculous.

“Here’s some 80 degree weather! And a wall. Followed by a storm, with cold wind and rain.”

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Thanks Ohio.

Other than that, I did actually get some photos of the Arcade. I can successfully check that off my list of “why the f876 have I not visited these places?”

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The World Sits Frozen

The world sits frozen, as skeletons of tree branches reach up toward the empty white sky. Deep sighs leave the air clouded with a crystallized haze of my breath as I sit, facing the broken glass of a rusted bus window.

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I wonder – why do the good things have to die, and sometimes seemingly before their time? Not only people, but the entirety of life that surrounds us?

In the distance, a scattered image of death paints the horizon, but to my eyes…to my eyes, this death can be beautiful.

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Spring brings us rebirth – flowers push from dirt, reaching upwards toward the trees towering over them. The Earth displays life, and as these trees are now covered in green leaves, do you see? Can you see that this world is still beautiful? Do you see that death does not end a living thing? All continues to breathe – physically…spiritually.

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Let us look past these seemingly sad days, the clouded skies and cold winds. Without darkness, we would not understand the light – we could not comprehend these important emotions. Use these emotions to learn, and push them away as you use them to create.

– Written during winter of 2013

Abandoned Abbeys – Good Friday

(Scroll to bottom of this article for a full photo slideshow)

All across the country, these former houses of worship now sit empty. As I lean back beneath the crumbling ceilings, behind altars covered in dust, all I can wonder about is the life it must have seen. How many people must have spent so many days inside, walked the aisle or were even wed here? Below, I will share a section from my first book “Empty Spaces” which will be out April 21st – all pre-ordered copies will be shipping on that date as well.

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I’m always taken away by the architecture of old churches. There used to be so much thought and work put into the sculpting of these beautiful designs.
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As we stood static beneath the crumbling mural of the apse, a cold wind fluttered in through the openings surrounding us. Where once stained glass was held in place now remain bare frames circling the upper walls, pouring chilled air into the desolate chapel, and down towards the altar like waterfalls into a small oasis. The fluttering of birds fills the space high above the altar, and even higher up through the towers that remain, slowly collapsing in the chapels front.

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This church was completed in 1933 to serve a part of Cleveland’s  Carpatho-Rusyn population. The Rusyns are an Eastern Slavic ethnic group originating from the Carpathian Mountains; primarily near the borders of modern day Hungary, Ukraine, Slovakia, and small parts of Poland.

Come the 17th century, after having practiced Orthodox Christianity since the 9th century when brought to the Slavic people by saints Cyril and Methodius, they had now become part of the Catholic Church. In the late 1800’s, many Rusyns came to Cleveland, and had established many ornate Byzantine Catholic Churches throughout the area.

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This beautiful Romanesque-style temple, designed by Polish-American architect Joseph E. Fronczak, now covering a smaller structure previously built in 1913, lies tucked away within a small Cleveland neighborhood. Symmetrical bell towers peak from the tops of trees, overlooking the streets that run along its sides. Two flanking side isles run along its interior, supported by beautifully decayed columns, topped with Corinthian-inspired capitals. Various biblical scenes remain painted, faded by rain and the elements, within the barrel vaulting. Crumbled plaster hangs from the archway as the sun shines brightly through the opening where a door used to sit. So what has become of this 80 year old architectural landmark?

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The St. Joseph Byzantine Rite Catholic Church will sit abandoned on its 80th birthday as it has spent half of this life in ruin. For the past 40 years, rain, wind, snow, and time have begun to paint over the beautiful murals throughout the structure. Summers burn through into autumn; while in the same way, autumn falls to winter. Some of the murals have been faded by the rain, as others have fallen to the floor, crumbling with the passing of time; ceilings caving to the weight of heavy snowfall, and strong winds of winter.

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The most preserved mural as of today, is that residing in the apse, above the cracking marble altar pallet. It depicts the Christ child, joined by his earthly parents Mary and Joseph, for whom the church was named, on either side of him. Above and behind him dwells God the Holy Spirit as a dove, and God the father as an aged man bearing a glowing, triangular halo. To the further left, we find Moses holding the Ten Commandments and to the right, John the Baptist.

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A beautiful red-bricked facade showcases the St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church, topped with incredibly tall, narrow bell towers reaching towards the sky. These architecturally superb steeples tower over us like a giant as we stand beneath the entrance to this Neo-gothic masterpiece. Built around 1890 as a German Roman Catholic church, it housed (and still houses) one of the largest organs of its kind in the country. Above this organ, the wall is fitted with an alluring rose window filled with captivating color. The church was rebuilt after a fire in1909 with some interesting cement over the red brick. As we journey through time to 1964, we find that famous actress Susan Hayward and her husband were baptized under the apse of this chapel. A multicolored brick school house resides in the back lot, and atop the floors of that sits a large gymnasium. Parts of the famous movie, “Dogma” were filmed outside the front of this church.

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These structures will continue to crumble beneath the pressure of destructive elements as long as we let them sit uncared for. Temples will become tossed to the hands of Mother Nature, sanctuaries will sink into the Earth as she consumes the beauty we have left behind.

View the entire gallery with even more photos below:

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Empty Spaces: Photojournalism Through The Rust Belt

It’s been a little bit of a wait, and I apologize to everyone for how long it has taken, but wanna make sure everything turns out awesome! I know many have ordered my book, and have been waiting for them to ship out. Things have been hectic, but everything has been set and as I have announced they will be shipping out April 21st! I can’t wait for everybody to receive their copies. I’ve been working on quite a lot since writing this first book, and have made some insane progress with some awesome stuff that I can’t wait to share with you a few months from now!

Thank you all again for being so awesome and thank you for your patience in waiting for these to ship out! You’re all the best!

I will share below some pieces of sections that will be included in the book!

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PHOTO # 140

The Abandoned Paramount Theatre of Youngstown, OH

This Adamesque architectural masterpiece was built during the year of 1917, finally opening its doors as The Liberty Theatre in 1918. This theatre was a monumental, ornately brilliant structure designed by Detroit architect C. Howard Crane along with associate architects Stanley & Scheibel, overlooking the streets of Central Youngstown. The exterior was lined with white glazed Terra Cotta ornamentation, complete with swags and pilasters, while inside, a beautiful mezzanine hung over the wide and elegant auditorium. A catwalk once lifted brilliantly above the stage now only collects pigeons and rust.

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A lot of us buy into the “new thing”, to become hip or trendy, to create a sense of happiness in having the shiny, brand new products that are available to us. Some people create a false sense of happiness for themselves by flaunting what they have at the time, and most of us are no exception to this. But what happens when that area of time has been phased out, along with all of its treasures? Out with the old and in with the new, right? We leave our past possessions behind, once those new and more advanced items become available to us. This market sits forgotten, crowded with now relics from the past years strewn throughout its interior. We leave behind our days and then look back on them with a sense of nostalgia, wishing that we could have those days back. So why did we bury them and let them rot away under the rubble in the first place?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Let’s now take a venture down Taylor Road of East Cleveland, about 4 miles from Case University. This curving hill of a road once housed one of Cleveland’s greatest space observatories and schools; The Case School of Applied Science, or better known as “The Warner & Swasey Observatory.”

Built in 1919 by Worchester R. Warner and Ambrose Swasey, donated to Case in 1920, the observatory which sat atop the hill looking out over a once thriving city housed a 9.5-inch refractor (currently known as ‘the rooftop telescope’) which seems to be the popularized named it has adopted.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On Sunday, August 5, 2001 a report was filed for 30 center residents escaping from the institution. The patients were now free to roam the streets and yards throughout the city, leaving civilians in a state of panic, fearing for their homes and safety. It was common for residents to carry police scanners with having the establishment located in the center of their own neighborhood.

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Images of blighted, broken industry, through the decay and destruction of nearly post-apocalyptic scenes have become a much greater intriguing subject for the people of our world in current time, it seems. Flashback to the 1960s, or even the 70s when life was a bit more free, lacking technology and the constant grinding chatter of an online social networking presence. The general outlook on our future world was a wondrous one, filled with smoothly operating hover cars, tall chrome and glass buildings, complete with an incredibly perfect networking community nearly free of depression, or half of the issues we are facing today.

Fast-forward 30+ years later, and here we are stuck in a madhouse.

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We wander these classrooms, where students would have joined for lectures and schoolwork to strengthen their minds, as well as the gym, where they would have practiced and disciplined themselves through sports. In the early 90’s, school sports teams, cheerleaders and families would fill the auditorium and gym for functions. A school where students once would sharpen not just the fresh pencils, which remain, left behind in debris, but also their minds. Now a crumbling, yet beautiful mess of decay, destruction, and street art through its walls from the main auditorium, through every locker remaining within the bays, to the very depths of its boiler room.

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Why were these places vacated? And why are they left to sit, uncared for? The remains of a person’s bedroom, bed still intact, covered in a layer of mold and dust. Walls surrounding with cracked complexions and vivid, yet transparent voices telling a story of time. Living through the history of abandonments as you explore what once was an entirely different scene; now transformed into a desolate, yet incredible, stimulating image of complex patterns and great detail.

You can purchase my book “Empty Spaces” at www.emptyspacesbook.com

Mechanical Centipede

Have you ever woken up, and in a groggy, clouded state of mind had the slightest thought that it might be an incredibly fun experience to set up camp between rusted relics atop a ground coated in glass shards, surrounded by 80,000 spiders risen from hell, sizing closely to the width of your palm from leg to leg, and swarms of bees so loud you’d think Skrillex was lost in a frenzy, trying to escape through the brush of a forest? Now, we’re either a set of especially deranged individuals, or an oddly adventurous group, because to us, this was the perfect expedition to accompany the following two hot summer days.

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Like a large mechanical worm, this collection of forgotten streetcars sits sprawled out, wrapping and curving its way through a forested alley of trees. A slim break in the canopy overhead creates a narrow valley of light, allowing the evening sun to shine onto this stationary parade of cars, frozen in time.

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We had just begun setting up our tents, when we noticed that the entire ground, or most of it surrounding us was covered in layers of glass, busted from streetcar windows. Deciding that it would be far from a good idea to lay tents out on top of sharp glass, the search for other spots began. Eventually, after much scattered debate, a final decision was reached to set up camp directly in the middle of some old tracks, leaving us a good distance from glass, and more importantly, a great distance from any mammoth spiders of the apocalypse.

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Setting up camp, in most normal situations is a relatively easy and safe activity, until you are faced with the dangers surrounding an area such as this. See, where much human interaction has been lacking for years, nature begins to mix in whatever it sees fit, and in this case, the choice was a bed of towering, flowering plants stationed aside the front row of passenger trains. The flowering foliage surrounding the cars was quite impressive, looked very beautiful, smelled of fresh, natural life coating the air and sounded like…bees? As I stopped, silencing my footsteps, standing between the flowers, a loud buzz filled the air around me; an angry sound, like a large-scale honey robbery had just taken place in the Hundred Acre Wood. It had finally hit; the true reality of what we had been walking back and forth through with our gear, a near mosh pit full of wasps and honey bees…this would make the next few trips a bit more uncomfortable. Being faced with two options, either walking through the center of each connected passenger train, which would ultimately take us past the wasps outside, or to man up and push through the bees, we continued with the opposite of what you would think. Wandering back once through the cars, it was realized that even inside here did not shelter us from wasps. These large metal containers had now become home to the bees, coated in massive nests spanning across ceilings of each piece. The small doors connecting each car furthered the difficulty of transporting our equipment and it was settled that we would rush through the tall plants just a couple more times. With each passing between the towering plants, it seemed like the buzzing continued growing louder and louder, but we had finally collected everything at the campsite.

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Cars from Boston, Tennessee, Ohio and more all lay in rusted waste around us as we find ourselves in need of dry supplies to start a fire, so we did what anybody surviving in times like this would do, we began scavenging train cars. Earlier in the evening, during a run through some cars, we noticed a roll of dry toilet paper, and figuring this would work perfectly to ignite a flame in our fire pit, we set out with flashlights in search to find it once again. Dodging sleeping wasps, we were finally reunited with the savior paper, allowing us to finally start our fire.
Like a large metal vein stretching through the trees, these cars have begun to exhibit a space where many creatures of the surrounding forest now make their home, not limited to bees and spiders, but birds and raccoons as well, and as the night sky laid itself overhead, all sounds of surrounding nightlife became louder and louder. The starlight glittered in a black sky above, it felt as if we were lost. The thought that we are nothing more than a simple pin prick inside the black ink of our galaxy, simple specks of stardust floating along inside an ever expanding universe, but surrounded by such massive destruction, it’s difficult to imagine the planet after the end of life, but this hits pretty damn close.

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Waking up, we were greeted by the loud ‘tip-tap’ of falling rain pelting our tent roofs. I unzipped the tent, and stepping out, glanced down the line to see a faded and fogged image of a scene much different than when viewed in sunlight. The entire forest had an overcast grey, ghostly feel as if I had entered the tent at night only to be transported to a separate, otherworldly zone come daylight. The chilled rain dripped between empty frames, which once held windows, from top to bottom in sporadic splashes. As I walked by our fire pit, I kicked about the few remaining bits of sizzling embers, hissing in the rain like an angry cat as the drops crashed upon them. It was one of those moments where you could feel completely alone in the world, more or less, a moment where you couldn’t shake the feeling if you tried.

The Aurora Over Erie

Wait a minute, the Aurora over Lake Erie? You mean the Northern Lights? Near Cleveland? Like, the Northern Lights in the sky? Dude…

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On March 17, 2015 I set out for an adventure with my camera in hopes of witnessing something I have always wanted to see – the Aurora Borealis. Most people in my area remained doubtful that it could even be a possibility to truly see this phenomenon give where we are, but when I heard about this huge solar storm, I prepared for any and every bit of this adventure. The photos I had captured have received some wild attention, from hugely positive, to very angry negativity from those who stick to their belief that something of that nature could not possibly happen over our very own Lake Erie.

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The Kp level, or Geomagnetic Activity level during my viewing began at around 6 Kp, later rising to a level of 7.3 when the light began dancing, showing off in the distance. A lot of people, including myself (even though I personally witnessed it) are still having a hard time imagining that it was viewable to our eyes at the Southern end of Lake Erie. Normally never viewable this far South, especially in such a vivid display, the extreme intensity of the recent solar storm blew that thought straight out of the picture. If someone tells you that something isn’t possible, don’t listen.

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I have been confronted numerous times, being accused of Photoshopping these images. Now, why would I do that? I believe in capturing nature how it is, sharing the beauty that it can display on its own. Of course I know how to use Photoshop, and I am not saying I won’t mess with some photos here and there, but those are completely separate from any of my photo portfolio images, and I will ALWAYS make a special note to say that it is Photoshopped.

It’s so hard for people to understand beauty such as this exists in today’s society because many of us refuse to GET UP and see, learn and experience things. Trust me, I know it’s a wild thought, but nature can produce some magical scenes, all it takes is a bit of adventure to seek them out!

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Below are two photos taken during the night of the aurora, straight from my camera’s screen.

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I kept at it, waiting at the frozen water until I began to see it – great beams of light dropping from the sky, dancing incredibly across stars on the horizon. I’ve never seen something so wonderful, naturally displayed through our skies right before my own eyes. It was amazing to have this chance to witness it on our very own Lake Erie.

I hope that some of these adventures urge people to get up and get out, to see the world and find things they might have never noticed existed even in their very own towns. I hope to inspire people to learn and witness the amazing beauty our world has to offer. Things are always changing, and if you don’t take a moment to see your surroundings, you might miss some really great stuff.

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I’m the type of person who doesn’t care what others might say, I will still reach for what I hope to achieve. I believe that through being a photographer or an artist of any kind, it’s something that you should make sure to practice. Despite people drowning me in a sea of negative input such as “yeah, I doubt you’ll be able to see that over Lake Erie” to “oh, the news said it’s going to be far too cloudy,” I still went for it. It’s not an adventure without possibility of failure.

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