The other day Tony Sweet emailed a picture of his Mom. He made the image with his iPhone while taking his iMom to the eye doctor or iDoc as he calls her.  


Tony made a blog post about his thoughts on his image here.

These are my thoughts. Great photography creates an emotional response. This is a classic photograph that underscores the idea that it is not about the camera but rather about connection. Connection to subject, be it a person or a sand dune for that matter. This image is full of connection. Full of joy, silliness and fun. And that is clearly felt by the photographer and now by me, the viewer. Thus, Tony has created a very successful image, no matter the camera, because of the connection. I love this picture and can’t stop looking at it.  Tony emailed me this morning and simply said, “I’m still giggling”.  Me too!

To further cement my thoughts.  Our special guest instructor for the Eastern Sierra tour last week was the amazing Cole Thompson.  One of his most successful images is  “The Angel Gabriel”  Cole has given me permission to use it and his words below. Yes, the image is special but read the story and tell me that connection was not part of its success.

2006-5-20 The Angel Gabriel - Final 10-15-2007 750

The Angel Gabriel – Newport Beach, CA – 2006

This is the Angel Gabriel.  I met him on the Newport Beach pier as he was eating French Fries out of a trash can. 
He was homeless and hungry.  I asked him if he would help me with a photograph and in return, I would buy him lunch.
The pier was very crowded and I wanted to take a 30 second exposure so that everyone would disappear except Gabriel. 
We tried a few shots and then Gabriel wanted to hold his bible.  The image worked and the only
people you can see besides Gabriel are those “ghosts” who lingered long enough for the camera. 
Gabriel and I then went into a restaurant to share a meal; he ordered steak with mushrooms and onions.  When it came,
he ate it with his hands.  I discovered he was Romanian and so am I, so we talked about Romania.  He was simple,
kind and a pleasure to talk with.  I asked Gabriel how I might contact him, in case I sold some of the photographs and
wanted to share the money with him.  He said I should give the money to someone who could really use it; that he had
everything that he needed. 
Then the Angel Gabriel walked away, content and carrying his only two possessions: a Bible and a bed roll.



Now, with the idea of connection clearly in mind, pay attention to how you feel and respond to the images below. 








Eastern Sierra_2014Feb01_0104-Edit



This is a favorite image of Nancy Rotenberg.  My regular blog readers will know who she is and what she meant to me.  Now that you know who she is, does it affect your reaction?

The more you connect with your subject, the more those who view your image will too.

If you’re finding value in this site, might I ask that you share with your social communities?  Thank you!

[Tweet “Connecting – A post about Photography”]


This entry was posted in Cole Thompson, Creative, Inspiration, Nancy Rotenberg and tagged , , , , .


  1. Frank February 13, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    Great article. So much that is written in photography books, articles, mags, blogs these days is about megapixels, lens sharpness, dof, camera comparisons, what’s around the corner, etc, that it is easy to get caught up in tech talk like its the most important aspect of photography and forget what matters most—relationship with our subject. Thanks for the excellent post.

    • john8276 February 13, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

      Thank you Frank. Indeed we do get caught up in gear when in fact it is just a means to accomplish your vision. Sure some gear is necessary to make our vision happen, but in most cases any old camera will do.

  2. Celeste Mahmood February 13, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    Wonderful posting and the images…priceless…haven’t seen the fern leaves before…love that one, dancing, swirling…thanks to your friends for allowing you to share their images, too.

    • john8276 February 13, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

      Thank you Celeste. I felt good about this post too. Especially with Tony and Cole being so generous!

  3. daDa February 13, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    Exactly Bud!!!! This is what it’s all about!!!

    • john8276 February 13, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

      Graham did you get my email yesterday? Thanks bud!

  4. robyn February 13, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    Fabulous post John! So true! Connection is indeed necessary. I love your images of emotion and Tony’s image of his mother is fabulous! The image of Angel Gabrielle is one of my all time favorite images – I love Cole’s work! You are indeed an inspiration. Enjoy the snow today! Robyn

  5. robyn February 13, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    PS – Is Nancy the friend you wrote to me about the day you read my post “Golden Peace”? You touched my heart that day and again today seeing the image of Nancy. Blessings, Robyn

    • john8276 February 13, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

      Yes, Nancy is my mentor that passed from a battle with cancer. She was an amazing woman!

  6. Sharen Rawes February 13, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    Love that photo of Nancy, John! I was thinking of her earlier this week when I was up near PEEC. What an inspirational person she was!

    • john8276 February 13, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

      So true Sharen. She was inspirational indeed!

  7. David February 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    What a great lesson–illustrated perfectly with beautiful and meaningful photos.

  8. marty golin February 13, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    I’ll second daDA’s comment. Without feeling a connection, there’s little point to it.

    • john8276 February 14, 2014 at 1:00 am #

      I think I’m finally getting that Marty! 🙂

  9. Michel Taupin February 13, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    Nice set of images John. You are so right about making the connection. The part that is a challenge is that different folks react in different ways to different images

    • john8276 February 13, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

      Very true Michel. We cannot predict how another will react or if the will at all. BUT, if we connect the chances that our views will goes way up. Don’t you think?

  10. mrsammy7 February 13, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    Well you know how I feel about your images, but I think you left out one of my favorites, the boxer’s daughter in the tire…
    and of course the images of the cutie, my first reaction was,’thank G-d she doesn’t look like her grandpa… She’s a cutie.

    • john8276 February 14, 2014 at 12:42 am #

      I agree Ellery! Thanks bud.

  11. Danielle Kennedy February 14, 2014 at 12:03 am #

    What a great post John…I was moved by many of the photos, but especially by Nancy. She touched so many…we are so fortunate to have been her friend.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    • john8276 February 14, 2014 at 12:42 am #

      Thank you Danielle. She was very special.

  12. Stephen McCullough February 14, 2014 at 1:57 am #

    Great post. Insightful.
    My reaction to the photograph of your friend Nancy (before I read anything) was a strong sense of warmth. It’s a beautifully made photograph and it just captures a great deal emotion.

    • john8276 February 14, 2014 at 2:03 am #

      Thanks Stephen. Nancy was a warm spirit, thats for sure.

  13. Felice February 14, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Great post, John!!
    All around great connecting images, and I love the story with Angel Gabriel.Thank you!!

  14. Rad Drew February 14, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

    Such a beautifully written post, John. Great to be reminded of the importance of connection. The images you present illustrate the point perfectly. Thank you for this!

    • john8276 February 14, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

      Thanks Rad. Much appreciated.

  15. Ts February 14, 2014 at 11:39 pm #

    Well said, bossman, but To be honest, the connection with mom wasn’t clear until after the shot.
    I was too busy getting her to stop laughing and keep still, and look at me!

    • john8276 February 14, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

      Ummm Tony, I totally DISAGREE, your connection was made with iMOM WELL BEFORE this shot was taken. Connection does not have to be a conscious thing. In fact, most times you are not thinking…. hummm, I will try and connect… and then get the shot. Rather, you are connecting for what ever reason (different for all) and then responding.

  16. Bill Tongue February 17, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    Nice post. The cubano in the doorway is processed completely different than the same shot by Tony. Two different connections with the same individual.

    • john8276 February 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

      Yes, Bill and that underscores my point. The connection will NOT be the same for everyone. Thank goodness! Pablo is who I think you are referring to. He has become my friend. I was invited into his house this last trip which was very humbling. The picture you see on this post was taken on the first trip. I plan to visit again next year and bring pictures again to give he and his wife. Treasures to them.

  17. bob towery February 18, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    Wonderful post and it’s nice to share your photographic journey. I connected the most with the pics of your granddaughter!

  18. Elaine Radiss February 19, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    I was so moved by this post, John. Thank you. Looking at Nancy’s image I felt like I was in her joyful presence. I am still crying. I still miss her with all my heart. I am so excited to be with you in June!

    • john8276 February 19, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

      Thank you Elaine. I didn’t mean to make you cry! 🙂

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