WITH EVERYTHING

colossians 3:23 / photo / video / graphics / music

A Wedding Without K

I’ve probably shot over 60 weddings so far, but I’ve never shot a wedding without my wife, Karissa. Until now.

We’ve been shooting weddings together for about four years and she has always been the point person, and I’ve always been the “second shooter”.

Her relational approach to photography earns the trust of her clients, and as a by-product they often end up relying on her to make sure the day goes as planned! And she’s great at it….detail-oriented, task-oriented, a planner…just fantastic. 

This time I shot a wedding with my friend Brad for his cousin, who got married near Springfield, Illinois. Brad and I have both been second shooters, but neither have ever really been The shooter for a wedding.

We had a blast, especially once we got into a groove and the day got going. But there were many things throughout the day that made me appreciate Karissa’s leadership and talents on a wedding day.

Here are the three biggest ones.

1. Posing

Karissa is fantastic at finding a way to make people look flattering yet natural. There were many times when I was in a moment where I was frantically trying to remember the things I’ve heard Karissa tell people to do for pictures. 

I’ve got my “stand by the window and kind of smile but not really” move and then after that a lot of improvisation. Karissa has a huge library of ideas, both reliable stand-bys and new things she’d like to try.

2. Relating to the women

Usually it’s the women that run the show on a wedding day, and Karissa does a great job of developing relationships with them throughout the day. She’s the kind of girl who brings out the best in other girls. They trust Karissa.

I, on the other hand, am a male….so…yeah, pretty much had zero relationship with the mother of the bride, mother of the groom, bridesmaids, and bride all day. That’s a big deal! I can do my best to be thoughtful and encouraging, but no matter how fun or friendly I am, they’re not going to let me past a certain point emotionally, and that’s another thing that Karissa does well. They let her in. And that allows Karissa to do things and get shots that I never could.  

3. Social strength

This is perhaps the most underrated aspect of wedding photography: managing a huge group of people. All day.

The grooms can especially be exhausting. Some of them wear out on pictures very quickly, and some of them don’t want to be in pictures at all, and then the bride has to try to act like he’s not always a butthead…and we’re never allowed to say, “It’s your freaking wedding day, could you at least ACT like you’re glad to be here?”

The photographer basically has to stay “up” all day. Always excited, always optimistic, always energetic. Because if they don’t, that will start to wear off on people and come through in the photos. It also will impact people’s view of the photographer and the way that they interact with them.

Karissa has incredible social strength, an ability to maintain a positive, engaging, forward-moving vibe through the course of an entire wedding day—often ten or twelve hours! 

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The expectations and tone of this wedding weren’t intense because it was basically a favor/gift for a family member, so I had a great time with Brad trying some new things and solving problems on our own. 

But at the end of the day, my take-away from shooting a wedding without Karissa is that she’s in a different class of photography, and the value that she brings to a wedding day goes well beyond what most people can see or know.

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I think these clouds are just glorious. 

I think these clouds are just glorious. 

It feels so good for me to see these shots all together.

When we made plans to vacation in San Diego with our friends, The Wards, I began to think about the photo opportunities we’d have out there, and I was both excited and anxious because I knew it was a great opportunity and I wanted to make the most of it.

Looking at these ten favorite shots (non-sentimental edition) of the trip I feel the way one does when they finally scratch that spot in the middle of their back and the itch is….satisfied. These shots may not mean much to anyone else but for me they represent a specific flavor of photograph that I’d had yet to take, until now. 

Spending time in California totally validated every song I’ve ever heard about how cool California is. California is so cool!

I was actually struggling with not wanting to leave, but on the last night I heard God’s voice very clearly say to me, “San Diego is great, but the work I’ve called you to in Hamilton County is greater”, and that was just what I needed to hear in order to feel ok about leaving such an amazing place. 

I’ll remember this trip for being just what I needed it to be: therapeutic time away with close friends and their adorable daughters.

That friendship is built into each of these shots that satisfy me so—in that, in many ways, these shots wouldn’t have happened without my friend Brad’s loving support and encouragement in my life. He orchestrated the trip, drove us around and set me down in beautiful scenes, called my attention to nearly-missed opportunities, and let me use his waterproof camera for the surfer shot. He understands and enables my thirst for new artistic opportunities.

So to Brad: thanks man, for everything. Here’s to many more nearly-missed photo ops!

And to San Diego: you were everything I hoped and more. I hope to see you again someday. 

Creating Culture

One thing I really enjoy doing is using outtakes and bloopers as intros in my  videos to show people the personalities of our staff at Genesis Church. 

It humanizes them and makes them relatable, and it chips away at the squeaky-clean perception that some people can have about church leaders. In a small way, it creates a culture of authenticity and of being able to laugh at yourself. It says, “We’re not perfect, and we know that.”

And isn’t that humility what you want from someone who is leading you? Don’t you want to know that they have a balanced view of themselves?

We’re asking people to come and be vulnerable and open themselves up to others and to God, and even something small like leaving in the silly mistakes in the videos is one little way to create a culture of transparency.

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Danielle is fun, funny, and easy-going, but most of our church doesn’t get to see that because she’s always back in GenKids taking care of business! When I edited this little recap I decided to show people a little bit of her personality.

Kevin had just arrived from Kentucky to join our staff and this video was basically our church’s first on-screen exposure to him. I had already found him to be a sweet, charming guy and I wanted people to begin to connect with him. I thought that he showed humility in asking how to start, and charm with how he responded to my demand that he not say “ya’ll”

Paul is one of the best communicators that I’ve ever met. He rarely makes verbal mistakes and he usually nails his videos in one take, so I wanted to make the most of this opportunity to show people that even in his gifting, he makes mistakes, too!

We showed this video as a treat to our volunteers at our annual volunteer appreciation party that we call “The Big Event” and it was a HUGE hit! 

We decided to make it an annual installment—the content creates itself any time I shoot a video with a staff member! 

Enjoy :)

@iHeath88 + Shelbyville

Karissa and I got to shoot the wedding of our dear friends Isaac and Shelby, and it was such a wonderful way for us to finish 2013. 

There are two memories that stick out the most to me from their wedding day. 

One was when Isaac and I were walking to his car in the parking garage to head to the church. Isaac is usually super even-keeled and always in a good mood, and he seemed just slightly off. Ever so slightly. I asked him if he was nervous about his wedding day and he calmy said, “I’m not looking forward to being the center of attention”. 

It was a believable answer, coming from one of the most humble, gentle men I know, and it further endeared me to him.

The other stand-out memory was when I walked onto the stage at the beginning of the ceremony with Isaac. I had the honor of playing the one role that I had never played in a wedding before: officiant. There’s a little internal alarm that sounds and lets me know when I’m experiencing something extraordinary or for the first time…and when I got to my spot, turned, and looked straight down the aisle, that alarm went off. I’d been to many weddings, but this was the first time I’d ever had the best seat in the house.

All of these loving, supportive people who have poured into Isaac and Shelby’s lives, here to celebrate the union of this beautiful couple. Bridesmaids attempting to maintain a graceful strut as tears streamed down their faces. The sound of live music being played my some of Isaac and Shelby’s worship leader friends. A strong-hearted, faithful man to my left, awaiting his bride. A delicate, faithful woman, being led down the aisle by the man who had prayerfully raised her to be the woman she is today. 

At the rehearsal dinner Shelby’s dad said one of my favorite things I’ve ever heard anyone say. We’d had some “open mic” time for anyone to stand up and tell a story or two about Isaac and Shelby, and it was so fun to hear the way that they were loved by so many different people. At the end Shelby’s dad stood up and He talked about how we’ve all contributed to Isaac and Shelby’s life in some way and how we’re all, therefore, connected to each other. He acknowledged the joy and the love that had filled the room, and then he said, “This…is the fullness of life.” And you could almost tangibly feel everyone agreeing with him in unison with full hearts. 

That was what I felt, standing on the stage, watching this ceremony play out before me. It was overwhelmingly beautiful.

I’m very thankful for our friendship with Isaac and Shelby. I’m very thankful for the amazing group of people we got to go through that weekend with. And most of all I’m thankful for Jesus, whose love binds us all together.

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Constructive Feedback is Your Friend

An important part of my creative process at Genesis is the fact that nothing I make for Genesis Church gets all the way to the screens/public without being run past two or three sets of eyes for honest feedback. 

Two important notes about seeking feedback: 

1) Learn who to ask.

Certain people will always suggest you change something simply because they have stylistic differences. Certain people will say “looks great” because they don’t enjoy analyzing graphics. FInd people who are invested and have a purpose behind their suggestions! 

For me my three main people are Steve Wallen, Robin Lee, and my wife Karissa.

Steve is great at analyzing what something communicates subconsciously, and he’s great at seeing things from a 30,000 feet view, within the context of our work as a whole. For example, he’ll say, “Didn’t we have a lot of orange in the last series graphic?” or “That swirly shape in the corner looks a little too much like a swastika.”

Robin is our Director of Operations, and she’s a great test for how a normal, unartistic person would respond, and she’s also great at making sure that pieces don’t get so artistic that they lose their function. She’ll say things like, “It’s cool, but I don’t know if people will get the point”. 

Karissa is somewhere in the middle—she’s an artist who also sees the world in a very practical way. 

2) Don’t take it personally

The most important part is that I trust all three of them from a relational standpoint. We have healthy, strong relationships and I know that nothing they say is based on how much they value me or like me.

So yes I’m a sensitive artist and I still take it personally at first when they criticize my work, but I’m learning to shake it off, clarify what they’re saying, and try to adjust the piece to reflect their suggestion.

As an example, I wanted to post an in-depth look at the process for the graphic I made for our series called “The Secret to Being Rich”.

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2013

Last year I made a recap video for 2012, and while it was cool to see a lot of my best shots all in one place, for me the real value of that video is that it reminds me how blessed we were with relationships and opportunities. 

Truthfully I wasn’t looking forward to making the 2013 video, even though I knew I’d be glad I did someday. 2013 was a tough year for Karissa and I…it was good, but it was hard. Between shooting 25 weddings and dozens of other engagement, family, and newborn shoots as CarisDesign, Karissa was in pedal-to-the-metal survival mode all year, which took a big toll on her. 

And between shooting weddings with Karissa, learning how to manage the changes that come with being a growing multi-site church, and trying to help Karissa cope with her overwhelming feelings of busyness, 2013 took a toll on me, too.

So when it was time to make this video, I thought, “I’m not sure how much that of that I want to remember!”

But I’m so glad I decided to go ahead and do it, because this video reminded me again how rich our lives are. It was a tough year, but we came out on top because of the incredible community of friends and family that we have supporting us. 

I wanted to give just a little insight on a few of the shots and why I chose them:

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I love this one of Karissa because this trip to Sarasota was one of the only times all year that I saw her really let go and relax and enjoy life for a few days.  

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All of the bicycle shots are from South Haven, Michigan, where we spent our anniversary for the second year in a row. That was the only time all year that I really felt like I could exhale and just sit still for a few days, and it was fantastic. The bike rides through the neighborhoods of South Haven was one of the most therapeutic things I did all year.

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This shot makes my heart heavy. This was my friend Scott’s last Sunday at Genesis Church before he moved his family to Arizona. They had been there a week when his 5-year-old daughter Ellie was rushed to the ER after they found her unresponsive when they went to wake her up. 

On the right in the picture is my good friend Nate Miller, who is very close with Scott. Nate and his family were in Michigan at the same time we were, so they came to South Haven to hang out with us for the day. Karissa and I were with them on the beach when Nate got a phone call from Scott informing him that Ellie had passed away. 

It was a surreal moment, watching Nate’s body language from a distance as he took the phone call. It was awful. We were so glad that we were with the Millers though because K and I got to play with their daughters Gracelyn and Ainsley as Nate and Angela walked away to process everything.

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The shots of Ainsley swinging and Gracelyn doing down the slide were shortly after that, and to me they represent innocence as the girls had no idea what had happened yet. Their playfulness was such a stark, but necessary, contrast to what we were all feeling.

As tragic as it was, it was a very rich time also, because I never felt closer to many of the people in my church. We were unified in our grief for the Kaschner family. 

The three guys in the picture, Jeremy, Scott, and Nate, were core members of the team I inherited when I came to Genesis, and they loved the guy I replaced, so it was kind of an uphill battle to win them over! I’ve been so humbled as they’ve accepted and loved me, and I felt the reward of our relational investment as we navigated that valley together. It made me realize how far we had come as friends.

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This sequence of dancing shots was intentional—Hillsong United (in the first shot) have inspired and taught me to have more expressive freedom and to be more undignified in worship, and now that’s something that I get to inspire and teach others to do. The third shot is from my amazing trip to Haiti

Also, we had front row seats for Hillsong United, which is how I got that shot. It was awesome.

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This shot was from the day my old sandals finally fell apart and I walked out to the car barefoot at the end of the day. I wrote a post about what I felt like God was teaching me that day. I accidentally recorded it with vertical video (don’t ever do that!) and had to rotate it and stretch it, which is why it looks like crap. I still included it because I wanted to remember how God was growing me in 2013.

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I love this shot of Keenan…the whole experience of riding this ride is everything Disney World is all about, forgetting your worries and just having child-like joy for a little while. This was from our Disney Oz Fest trip.

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In January our good friends Josh and Heidy Tandy left Genesis Church to go plant a church in Northern Kentucky. We only got to see them a couple times this year. This shot was in December when we went down to help them with their first Preview Service for Movement Church. Heidy has been a huge support to Karissa, even from a distance, and I love seeing my wife so celebrated and loved.

I’d had Karissa film some footage of us driving up to where we were going, so the camera was out and available. When I realized that Heidy was giving Karissa such an enthusiastic greeting I grabbed the camera and filmed this from the driver’s seat. So glad I did…I love the pure emotion on Heidy’s face. 

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These are my friends Andrew and Melissa from our connection group! Their wedding day was wonderful and I had the honor of doing videography for it.

I also love this shot because we see Pastor Steve Wallen’s silly side. He does a great job of being an emotional person without letting emotions get the best of him, and of being a wise person without taking himself too seriously. He’s a great leader and I’m so grateful to have him as my boss and our campus pastor.

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After years of wanting to be parents, my sister and her husband adopted a baby boy! You should check out this video I made telling the story…it’s a good one.

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We had Mam in Indiana with us for the holidays for the first time in years, and she brought all the warmth and charm that we remember from our childhood. We still miss Grandaddy (he passed away July 2012), but Mam is healthy and vibrant and we love seeing her this way!

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I love this shot because it represents how we’ve found people that we “get” who “get” us. Karissa and Shelby are a lot alike, and they were both thrilled to be going to a haunted corn maze! I wasn’t at first, but I knew Karissa wanted to go, and it ended up being a blast.

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Many of the shots in the video are from our “Connection Group”…some churches call them “small groups”…either way, this group of friends has been our primary support system all year.

Every Monday night we could show up just as we are, whether we’re bouncing off the walls with optimism or we are so empty that we barely decided to even show up, and we were accepted and loved. 

We prayed each other through job changes, cried with each other through losses, celebrated as several couples got married, and we laughed a LOT. It’s amazing how we can go from a serious moment to a hilarious, crying laughing moment back to a deep moment again. These people are everything we could ask for and more as friends. 

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We feel like we clawed our way through most of 2013 but we emerged stronger and more grateful, and we couldn’t have done it without the love of so many wonderful people in our lives. That’s what this video celebrates.

Click the “vimeo” logo in the bottom right to watch it bigger and in HD!

2013 from Cameron Sprinkle on Vimeo.

Just a quick note I thought I’d share!

I was taking this photo of a school where a friend’s church plant is meeting, and I wanted it to loom a bit larger…the first shot was ok, but when I crouched down and shot up (from the exact same spot) it made the edges distort ever so slightly and created the snap that I was looking for in the shot. It works best on wider lenses—I was using a 20mm on a full-frame sensor for this shot. 

I haven’t done a ton of architecture/exterior building photography, and I’m certainly no expert, but I have learned that it’s amazing what a difference a few feet make. Get low to the ground to create more drama!

Three Years, Part 1

My first day of working at Genesis Church was three years ago today. I remember that Lead Pastor Paul Mumaw was gone that day and I started my morning working with our Director of Operations, Robin Lee, who I was a little intimidated by because she’s a very confident person, and I don’t understand confident people.

I was there to “replace” the previous Creative Arts Director, Ben Crouse. These were big shoes to fill because Ben had the heart of his people. It was a little bit like trying to replace a bald, acoustic-guitar-toting version of Braveheart. 

For a while I joked that no one was allowed to say his name anymore, calling him “He Who Shall Not Be Named” and pretending to have a profound disdain for him…but truthfully I admired him greatly, and he knew that.

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Ben was so sweet and gracious in welcoming me to the Genesis family on his way out (he left to serve as an associate pastor at a church in Michigan) and he and I developed a long-distance friendship. I’d call him every so often to ask questions, and he’d call every so often to ask how things were going. Ben was always more concerned about how my relationships were developing than what songs I was playing, or what software I was using.

That value would continue to reveal itself as a crucial one as the years passed. 

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As I look back on the things I created in my first days here at Genesis I’m a little embarrassed. Ok, more than just a little. My graphic design work had all the markings of someone new to Photoshop, and my videos (shot in Standard Definition on the church’s tape-based Canon GL2) were unimaginative, poorly composed, and awkwardly edited. 

I didn’t know who Genesis was, and I didn’t really know who I was yet. 

Over the last three years I’ve been given the time, the resources, and the grace to develop as an artist. My friend Dane Benton graciously spent time with me to teach me the virtues and benefits of Adobe Illustrator (HUGE improvement in efficiency), and the leadership of the church empowered my videography by giving me better tools and letting me experiment with new ideas.

I think I’ve also developed as a communicator. Hanging around Paul Mumaw for three years will do that to you! Though I still have a lot to say (this is a two-part post, after all) and can be long-winded sometimes, I’ve learned to be confident in using fewer words. And in my speaking segments during worship I’ve learned to “put a period on it”, as Paul would say. 

It’s been fun and rewarding to develop as an artist and a communicator, but I can whole-heartedly say that the biggest and best way I’ve grown in the last three years is in compassion.

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Compassion for the sheep that the Lord has entrusted us with as shepherds of the church. 

Compassion for the moms, dads, husbands, wives, daughters, and sons that volunteer their valuable time to serve as volunteers. 

Compassion for the older generation that longs for the simplicity, familiarity and richness of a good hymn.

Compassion for the non-believer who isn’t sure who they believe God is but likes a church where they wear jeans and play modern music.

Compassion for the life-long believer who thinks they’ve seen it all, but struggles to see past themselves and their own needs.

Compassion for the husband whose wife is all in, but who just comes to church just to appease her.

Compassion for the car-less guy who attends because our church is within walking distance of his apartment, and it’s the only shot he has for social interaction all week. 

Compassion for the band member who would rather listen to Led Zeppelin than Chris Tomlin. 

Compassion for the person who doesn’t “get” Gungor but does relate to The Beatles.

Compassion for the college graduate still living at home and trying to figure out what they should do with their life.

Compassion for the mother of four who finds a way to round up all her kids and serve in GenKids on the same morning that her husband has to be at church early to play bass guitar. 

Compassion for the person who has been coming for years but never talks about Jesus, and you’re not really sure why they’re here. 

Compassion for the mother who thinks that if her teenage son or daughter would just get involved with church, they may turn away from some of the temptations they’ve been dipping their foot in. 

Compassion for the father who is concerned about his son or daughter’s “love” interests.

Compassion for the awkward middle schooler who doesn’t really know how to carry a conversation with an adult.

Compassion for that couple that finally had a baby after years of trying.

Compassion for the single mom of five kids who is giving church one more shot after years of feeling judged and rejected by Christians.

Compassion for faithful Christ-followers who don’t worship the way I expect them to.

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The truth is that when I came to Genesis, my mindset was typical of most young worship leaders: Why won’t they just do what I think they should do?

Why won’t they sing this song with me?

Why won’t they raise their hands?

Why won’t they just let the hymns die?

Why did what I said before that song seemingly have no impact on their response?

Why aren’t they as excited to worship Jesus as I am?

Those are selfish questions cleverly disguised as honorable pursuits.

I have a lot of answers to those questions now, which I’ll answer in part two of this post, but the over-arching theme of what I’ve learned in three years?

Knowing, and being known.

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When I came to Genesis Church, I quickly realized that I didn’t have compassion for the people I was leading; more directly, I didn’t know the people I was leading. 

I prayed for compassion, that God would mingle the roots of my heart with the hearts of the people of this church, that I would feel what they feel, and they would feel what I feel.

Do you think that my examples of the kinds of people I’ve developed compassion for seem a little specific?

You’re right, they are.

I’ve got names.

I’ve got faces.

I’ve got stories. For each one of them. 

I’ve shared tears, laughter, joy, heartache, success, and failure with the beautiful, flawed people of Genesis Church. And as a leader in this church, there is nothing I have accomplished or experienced in the last three years that has been more valuable than that. 

Love Your Neighbor

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Every year at Genesis we do a special outreach push for the holidays where we partner with local ministries to provide gifts for those in need in our community. 

I’m increasingly motivated by the question, “What do we want them to feel?

In this case, we wanted the visual communication of this promotion to make people feel…human. We wanted people to feel a sense of genuine humanity, to sense the vulnerability that comes with an actual person-to-person connection. The people we’re trying to help are real, living, breathing, fallible human beings just like us. 

I was pondering how that would translate visually, and then one day my friend Andrew tweeted this photo of a hand-drawn lettering project.

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I thought it was so fantastic, and I realized that part of what I liked about it was that it felt real. It was obviously drawn with human hands and a pen, which communicated a vulnerable humanity—fonts on a computer don’t make mistakes, but one slight miscue can screw up anything hand-drawn.

I started sketching and busted out cursive hand-writing for the first time since sixth grade. I thought, “I’m artistic, I have good hand-eye coordination…how hard can this be?”

Um….pretty hard!

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I got the opportunity to do photography for the Passion: Let the Future Begin tour stop at Anderson University, led by Kristian Stanfill. It was a great night, and I learned a lot both about worship leading and about photographing a worship event. 

The last show I’d shot at AU was Alanna Story & John Mark McMillan, and it was a much different atmosphere for that than for this evening with Passion. One difference was that the Passion experience drew out a lot more audience participation and engagement from the people in the seats, because the songs are more familiar and congregation-friendly than most of John Mark’s music. Also there were just more people in attendance for Passion. 

This impacted my approach because it heightened my sensitivity to those around me. Whereas John Mark’s show was a little more like a concert (that’s not a commentary on his music—it’s just that people in general are less familiar with his music, so there’s more standing and listening) where I felt like I could sneak to the side of the stage and get shots without feeling like I was intruding on a moment, Passion’s event felt much more like an experience that everyone was unified in and caught up in. The things they did with the lights, music, and their words were very intentional to create an environment where people could open themselves up and experience Jesus, and I didn’t want to be a distraction or cause their moment to be interrupted. 

That made me grateful for my Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, but when I got home I realized I may have made a mistake by shooting that lens on the full-frame Nikon D600 instead of the cropped-frame D7000, because I could have had a longer focal length, which would have helped a lot since I never went up close to the front of the stage.

Another thing I learned is that I have to remind myself that the 70-200mm lens isn’t just a 200mm lens. It’s addicting to crank it all the way in and get the closest shots possible, but sometimes the best shot is to pull it back and shoot at 70mm, or somewhere in-between. That finally crossed my mind when I was on the side balcony stairs towards the end of the show.

They were about to do “God’s Great Dance Floor” and I knew it was going to be the most high-energy moment of the evening. I wanted a shot of both the band and all of the people in the seats dancing. My wide-angle was too wide and 200mm was too close, so I regretted leaving my 50mm in the camera bag in the back of the room. Then I remembered that my Sigma pulls back to 70mm, and that turned out to be a great focal length for where I was standing on the stairs.

It’s just really hard for me to get out of the mode of thinking of that lens as being a “get as close as possible” lens. I do this at weddings a lot too, and I have to keep reminding myself not to. Like many things in life, just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

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I didn’t get to talk to Kristian for very long afterwards, but I did get to talk with Chris, the bass player, and Alex Nifong, one of the electric guitarists. Both were very gracious with their time and with me as I sought answers to questions:

"Why did the keyboard player wear DJ headphones instead of in-ears like the rest of you?" (His other ones broke two nights ago)

"Is that bass a Reverend Rumblefish?" (Yes)

"Why was there toilet paper on the drum throne?" (It was a prank on the drummer, and they thought it was funny that someone saw it)

"What’s the green pedal with a Z on it?" (Custom-made overdrive)

"Who’s your least favorite member of the Passion family?"

Ok so I didn’t ask that last one, but I wanted to just to be funny. We didn’t just pepper them with questions, though. We talked about the complex issues regarding congregational engagement, and Chris empathized as a worship leader because he led worship at a small church before coming to Passion and joining the team as a bass player. 

One other moment that was really cool was when I was backstage behind the curtain and I realized that all I could hear was the guitar amps that were set up back there—it was neat to be able to hear exactly (and only) what the electric guitarists were playing!

I’m so grateful for opportunities like this to get an up-close look at some of the worship leaders and ministries that I look up to, and for the opportunity to develop as a photographer.

When my friends Alanna Story announced that they’d be opening for John Mark McMillan at Anderson I offered to do photography for their set, and they graciously agreed to let me. I knew it’d be a cool show and I also hoped I’d get a shot at taking pictures of John Mark’s set.

I was given permission to go pretty much wherever I wanted, which actually felt a little intimidating because I didn’t really know where to start. The nature of the event allowed me to feel free to move around though, because it was a little more performance-oriented than sing-along oriented.

The highlight for me was “Death in His Grave”…John taught the crowd two different background parts for them to sing during the intro and vamps during the song, and it was really cool. Plus I just love that song. 

At the end he came out to the edge of the stage with Jude Moses and they sang “How He Loves” with an acoustic guitar completely unplugged, no mics or anything. It was a neat way to end the evening. 

The Tricky Task of Re-Branding a Student Ministry

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We decided we wanted to step up the marketing and promotion of our student ministry, and we knew two things: we wanted to keep the name “GSM” as the header over both middle and high school ministries, and we wanted an additional word or phrase to make it compelling to students who didn’t know what “GSM” was or meant.

If you’re not familiar with student ministry branding, many churches are simply naming their student ministry the initial that begins their church name and then “sm” for “student ministry”. So “GSM” stands for “Genesis Student Ministry”.

I worked closely with our Student Pastor José Torres, wanting to create something that identified with him, Genesis Church, and our students. It was a long process that was ultimately worth the hard work, as we’re really pleased with how things turned out!

I started with trying to design a relatively simple logo for “GSM” that would accompany any external communication. It’s really interesting to see how the square format of Instagram and Twitter/Facebook profile pics have guided modern marketing, and I had to keep that in mind throughout the process.

I sent this demo page of all the best ideas I’d come up with so far (you don’t want to see the “rejected ideas” page) and asked him what he thought, and the black circle in the top right was the one that jumped out at him. 

I liked it too because I felt like it had more longevity than the rest of the ideas I’d come up with. For a couple of them I tried to go for that southwest look that’s in right now, but that would age quickly. And the blue circle one turned out cool by accident, but I think the solid color circle will be easier to use across multiple applications.

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The next part was much harder. We had three tough questions to answer:

1) How do we differentiate between the high school and middle school ministries? They meet on different nights, so we wanted a concise way for people to know the difference. 

2) If we give them each a different “brand”, how do we come up with a name that doesn’t sound ridiculously lame in two years? 

3) Who is the branding for? Students currently involved with the ministry, or students who are not currently involved?

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Again, working through those questions wasn’t fun. But it was necessary, and I’m glad we did it, and I love the solutions we came up with. 

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Sometimes Church is Like a Pair of Sandals

This past Monday my favorite sandals finally fell apart. 

I really liked them. I had purchased them on my honeymoon after forgetting mine at home.

I have a cycle where I get sandals and wear them for about four years, and then I keep wearing them long after I should have thrown them away. I do this with a lot of my clothes. 

In this case four years of absorbing my apparently unbalanced gait resulted in wearing out the big toe area of my sandals, and my left big toe was actually touching the ground with every step I took. The bottom of the sandals were worn smooth, which was a lot of fun on stairs. On several occasions the lack of traction had resulted in a minor injury, either to my ankles or to my pride. 

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In spite of all that, I still wasn’t ready to let them go.

So on Monday the strap of the right sandal finally snapped. It was towards the end of the work day, and I walked out to my car barefoot. It coincided beautifully with what I was experiencing in my ministry at Genesis Church, and as my bare feet made full contact with the warm concrete of the sidewalk I felt like the Lord was teaching me some things about life in ministry.

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Becoming a Multi-site Church: One Year Later

A year ago Genesis Church became a multi-site church: one church in two locations.

We play the same songs, we have live teaching of the same message at each campus (not video or simulcast, although we’re not ruling that out for the future), we serve the same bagels and coffee, and we have the same children’s ministry curriculums. We’ve gotten great feedback on how people feel like it’s the same experience at both locations, which was really important to us.

The truth is, going multi-site has been tough. It’s like marriage: a lot of hard work and worth every bit of it.

It’s been a whole new way of thinking, and personally the Lord has had to shear my identity away from so many things about Genesis. It’s been very humbling for me to be confronted by the fact that I’m just one Cameron, one location. I’ve had to get better at giving leadership away and investing in people, because I can’t control things anymore. 

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"I won’t get to see my friends at church anymore".

That was one of the concerns I heard early on after we announced that we were going multi-site.

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