My summer begins today!

After a long absence from this blog (sorry, my ropes course blog has stolen some of my writing time), I’m back!

Today marks the 17th year I’ve been at Timber-lee for summer camp… over the years as a rock wall belayer, program assistant, coordinator, and currently director of their challenge course program. In just a few short hours, my seasonal instructors will be arriving, along with about 100 others as we begin preparation for serving thousands of youth in the coming 3 months.

Bring it!

Not gonna apologize…

IMG_5964Ok, my dedication to my personal blog has been, putting it politely… waning? I had to grin a bit as I titled this post. Little bit of “Dave Trivia”… While in 3rd grade, I came in 3rd place in the Oconomowoc School District spelling bee. The word that nixed my aspirations to be a true brainiac? Apologize (I spelled it with two p’s.)

Life has just been busy. I’ve been sinking more time into my professional blog,, so if I’m absent from here, check out my alter-site.

Spring is here… for a few days, at least. Gonna be almost 70 degrees tomorrow, so I have to take the motorcycle out before the temps drop later this week. I rode it up and down our street a few times before returning it to the garage.

Hiring staff for my summer team is going well. Out of twelve possible spots, only two openings remain. Every year, God assembles a great group of people to serve with me, and this year is shaping up to be no exception.

Alright, time for bed. Just spent the last couple hours finishing my Red Cross instructor recertification online. Nice to get that done and off my rather long list of spring/summer to do’s.

Where have I been?

I'm still here, still plugging away at home, at camp, enjoying my family, doing wild stuff. I recently read a tech article titled, “2013 – The Year Blogs Died” or something along those lines. I laughed as I read it, knowing my blog's been sitting like a turd for several months. Now it all makes sense. 🙂

Well, now that I'm back, where to start? Enjoying our winterXtreme weekends at camp. Had over 200 campers do our Zipline while the snow fell. Picture a Zipline in a snow globe and you'll have an idea of last Saturday was like.


Built my first major wood project last week. The workbench that came with the house was really beat up & woefully small. Took the better part of a day, but almost doubled the workspace, put in a lower shelf for power tools & cases. Now if I can just keep it from getting cluttered…


Still there?

Consumed by the craziness of life, I remembered the other day that (1) I have a blog, and (2) it's been a LONG time since I've posted.


It's not that there's not a lot to write about. To the contrary, I've had plenty of potential topics pass through my noggin over the past several months, but none of them have made it to the site.

Maybe that's a good thing? A bit healthy?

As I think about it, I think I'm ok with the fact that I don't feel compelled to share every significant experience or deep thought that gives me pause. In September, I walked Olivia to school for her first day of first grade. No pictures, no penning my thoughts. Just me & my princess sharing 30 minutes together. Sometimes it's ok to say, “it's mine.”

But… I also recognize the value in having this blog as a personal outlet, not to mention the privilege it is to have you the reader give of your time to read my posts.

Here's to balance 🙂


It’s been how long?

Good thing I don't rely on writing this blog for a living! Boy, how time flies 🙂

Will try to post more in the coming weeks, but in a nutshell…

– Bought a motorcycle

– Olivia's finishing kindergarten

– Building a 900' zip line at camp

– and much more!


Ninja Photography

You've seen it before – you're at a [wedding, baptism, etc.], trying to pay attention to the ceremony, watch the event unfold before you… and here comes the photographer. Gear bag bouncing, jingling, bounding loudly onto the platform to get a shot… and in the process, blocking the view of half the attendees.


For those of you who don't know, I'm a photographer. Besides providing the best images possible to my clients, I also work hard to provide the best services as well. When I'm shooting a wedding, the “stars of the show” are the bride & groom. I'm not supporting cast, not even a walk-on cameo. I strive to be as invisible as possible. It was years ago, as I was honing my stealthy skills, that I coined the term “Ninja Photography.” Plus, anything with ninjas is just plain cool! 🙂

So, how does one embark on the journey to true ninja photography? Here are some tips…

(1) Dress for the venue & tone of the event. Formal wedding? Wear conservative formalwear. Casual? Wear nice casualwear. It's the equivalent of wearing camouflage. When you blend in, you don't distract. There are exceptions to this, especially if it's not a private event. Rule of thumb – always good form to ask the client what they'd prefer… they are writing your check, after all.

(2) Know the venue. If at all possible, scope out the location prior to the shoot. For fast-moving events like weddings, this is imperative. When I shoot weddings, I insist that I attend the rehearsal. Besides being a sneak preview of the ceremony, it familiarizes me with the layout of the area, I can note ideal locations for capturing critical shots, any hallways, alternate entrances, etc. that will facilitate my movement once the game is on. I'll never forget working one wedding as the sole shooter. There was one point in the ceremony that, to nail the shots I wanted, required fast movement from the rear of the church to backstage in under a minute. I took my last shot from the rear, ducked out a nearby entrance, ran through a utility hallway to a backstage doorway & discreetly fired away. When reviewing the prints with the couple a few weeks later, the bride looked puzzled & asked, “how did you get this? I didn't even see you…”


(3) Check your pockets & silence your kit. Keys, loose change… there should be nothing in your pockets that jingle. Might as well wear bells. Make a self check part of your pre-event routine. Don't forget your shoes. If at all possible, ditch the dress shoes that “clack” on hard floors. They're loud and slippery. Instead, look for the tools other “stealthy” pros use. Besides other pairs of soft-soled shoes, I have a pair of polished black tactical boots. Hey, if they're good enough for sneaking up on bad guys, they're good enough for getting close for a critical shot.

Couple other things to consider regarding noise discipline. Velcro is the enemy. Quiet sanctuary, officiant is leading a prayer… RIP! Yeah. Buy bags that don't use velcro. Some quality bags actually have velcro “silencers.” Me, I took my favorite bag, a seam ripper, and just removed the velcro tabs from covers & pockets I need to access while in action.

Side note on bags. Don't be afraid to stash your bag in a secluded spot during the action when you need to move fast & quiet. Just because you own it doesn't mean it has to be on your hip every second. They're big, make noise, and slow you down. You shouldn't sound like a paratrooper carrying a 70 lb. rucksack trudging down the isle. Very non-ninja!

Oh, and for the love… TURN OFF ALL BEEPS! Mute everything possible. You've seen (and heard) this – Bride and groom, exchanging vows while the autofocus churns away. BEEP, click, BEEP, click. When I buy a camera, one of the first things I look for in the settings is how to silence it.

So, there ya have it. Practice your skills, be the ninja, and take your services to the next level.


Glimpses of God from an exasperated dad

Ok, I had a difficult day…

The eightieth time I reminded Olivia to pick up her toys. The umpteenth time I had to tell the girls to stop arguing about how many My Little Ponys each was sharing (Hattie was upset about how many Olivia had, though according to an impromptu pony census, Hattie’s herd actually numbered greater.) Don’t even get me started about the copious amount of oatmeal that had made it to the kitchen floor under their chairs, practically requiring a pneumatic hammer to chissel clear.


It was close enough to naptime that I sent them to separate rooms… they truly needed the rest & I needed the break.

As the quiet of the house helped lower my blood pressure & my primitive fight/flight response was replaced by more reasonable thought, it made me very aware of how little patience I actually had with my girls… especially when they started behaving like normal 5 & 3yr olds. By extension, it made me extremely appreciative of God’s patience with me, especially when I start behaving like a… well, a normal, flawed human being incapable of living a God-pleasing life apart from His grace.

Two milestones!

Just realized that two milestones coincide with this post… the first being that this is my two hundredth blog post.

[brief fanfare, golf clapping]

Second, all those weeks of training paid off & I completed my first 5k race on Sunday. I wasn’t first – evidently my young daughters were upset when the first runner crossed the finish line & it wasn’t me – but I wasn’t last, either. To celebrate, I bought one of those 5k oval stickers you see on car windows. Hey, I earned it! 🙂

Made a rookie mistake by starting too fast. In training, my running pace was around 10:45 – 11:00mi. Not so on Sunday. Jen & I ran together at the start… yeah, my wife the marathon runner. Suffice it to say I kept up with her for the first mile at a 9:30 pace – set a personal record for the mile, but beat myself up for the remaining 2/3rds of the race. UGH!

As I approached the finish line, with volunteers & spectators cheering us on, I have to admit that I got a little teary. All that time, hard work, runs in the dark, in the rain, etc…

…or maybe the watery eyes were due to the 25mph southerly winds. All I do know is that I dug in for the last 50 yards & sprinted faster than I thought possible. May have even growled a little. 🙂

35 minutes 44 seconds

Jen asked how I felt when we reconnected near the finish line. I smiled & said it didn’t feel real, so I’m gonna have to do it again.

Next 5k: November 25th

Why I run…

Good morning, readers… been over a month since my last post, so I figured it was about time to end this drought. If you haven’t figured it out by my twitter/ Facebook status updates, I’ve been running for over a month. I think it’s sticking this time – enjoy the feelings of accomplishment with each new PR (“Personal Record”… learning the lingo :-)), getting closer to my first 5k event & beginning to realize I may actually be able to do this. I’m even starting to entertain thoughts of going further… 10k, half marathon? Why not?

So, why do I run? I was mulling this over as I approached mile #2 in the rain last night (running gives you lots of time to think.) Here’s what I came up with:

(1) Personal health. I want to be around for a while. I want to actively play with my girls as they grow up, walk them down the isle on their wedding day, play with my grandchildren. I feel good when I run. Plus, some of you may be familiar with my family health history. To borrow from Dave Ramsey, Jen & I want to change our “family tree” in this area. I love the fact that regular exercise is a normal part of our everyday lives.

(2) Personal accomplishment. “Whoa, wait a minute. don’t you bike?,” you may ask. Painful honesty moment – in actuality, I’m probably closer to being a “poser” cyclist. Sure, I’ll hop on my road bike & pound out a 45mi ride, but I didn’t really train for it… and my body protests for days afterward because of the abuse I subject it to. There’s no coasting in running, you either move or you stop. To do this, I had to start at square one, and I’ve had to kick & claw for each milestone. It’s actually those achievements that have spurred me to keep going.

(3) Inspire others. There’s no bragging here, no “check my twitter feed for last night’s run stats [‘cuz I’m AWESOME]” intent. Social media makes my running “public” and adds to the accountability. Not so easy to drop off the radar just because it’s “hard.” People comment because I’m running, pretty sure they’ll comment if I stop. Don’t want to see my stats? Block my status updates, unfollow me, etc. You won’t hurt my feelings because I’m not doing this for fame & glory. First & foremost, I’m doing this for myself & my family. For others, I hope my running updates simply show that a 43 year old sedentary guy with 40-50lbs to lose can actually do something like this. Only four weeks ago, as I was chugging & gasping during 90 second running intervals, the thought of running several minutes was crazy to me. Tomorrow night’s longest run interval is 9 minutes, and in 3 weeks I’ll be running my first 5k. That’s crazy… BRING IT!

DAVE RUNNING FUN FACT #1 – You may notice my run posts are almost exclusively made at night. Nike+ refers to me as a “Night Owl.” This is intentional, because it’s colder at night (I am preparing for a winter series, afterall), helps me unwind at the end of the day, but was originally chosen because it was harder for others to see me gasping, snorting, and struggling during those early weeks. 🙂

Gear Review: SLXtreme iPhone 4/4s Case

Ok, this thing picked the perfect day to arrive. I helped fund this product on Kickstarter several months ago. This thing is a dream for outdoors folks who use technology in remote settings. Today, I was able to make weather-related decisions for our activities without fear of damaging my phone.

The SLXtreme case is waterproof (I shot video during a downpour today – it works), shock resistant, has a 2000mAh extended battery… AND it's got a solar panel on the back so you never run out of juice!

I believe retail for this cool case will be around $150.

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