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  • Writer's pictureTomAMcDonald Photography

Adjusting My Focus

Updated: Jun 18

l started my photography career in Chicago. For well over 10 years, I shaped my craft and found my style shooting images from everything from cake smashes at 1yr old birthday parties to well wishes at retirement parties. I've photographed every kind of wedding imaginable. From the low budget backyard ceremonies to the most elaborate event weddings on the 91st floor with a hell of a view. Cityscapes, street photography, wall art for clients, portraits, collaborations, after 10 years I felt like...

I finally had my photography career in focus.

Then came the abrupt news we were moving to Florida. Boca Raton to be exact. Kim had gotten a new job offer for a job down there that she couldn't turn down. She earned this position and opportunity and I couldn't have been more proud of her and all the hard work she put into getting it. So on we went to Florida, getting to Boca and moving in by the end of August of last year. Kim soon started her new job and I took the first few weeks to unpack and take some walks around getting to know the area. I was excited to have a new place to photograph. I wanted to see what the different locations, beaches and trails had to offer visually for me to snap.

Problem is, growing my craft and career mainly in and around the Chicagoland area, yeah I learned a lot, but I also realized very quickly in my time down here in Florida, that I got too comfortable in my own style. I felt "jammed". Have any other photographers or creatives felt like this? I felt like I completely lost my mojo. My images were trash, my editing was not working, it was weird. I had spent so much time learning to shoot creatively against the backdrop of skyscrapers, concrete and steel. Very rarely have I had the opportunity to actually have the access to shoot beach environments and lush green environments. Instead of having tall skyscrapers outside my front door, I have tall palm trees. Instead of the lakefront bike path with people scattered all over it, I have the El Rio Bike Path with iguanas scattered all over it. Don't get me wrong, it's gorgeous here, it truly is. I just didn't know how to photograph it and it frustrated me.

I had completely lost my focus.

I had basically given up photography for the time being. One, to basically try to figure out why my mojo died. And two, I needed some mental me time to figure some stuff out. To be honest, I have had a lot of sudden changes in my life from losing a parent to cancer and a year later the other parent dealing with her own cancer diagnosis. Add that to within 3 months, Kim and I suddenly lose a pet and I went from being fully to overbooked for the last six months, to having to start all over again 1,100 miles away. Don't get me started on probably the worst drive of my life either: in a large U-Haul, dragging your entire life's belongings, as well as towing a car through the Tennessee mountains. I still get the shakes thinking about it.

But along comes Christmas and Kim absolutely knocked it out of the park. She registered me for a photography course at the local art museum AND got the big new expensive lens I've had my eye on for three years. I slapped that new lens on my camera and off I went shooting to try it out. I was excited to see what kind of images I was going to get with it. And I was excited to edit them because thanks to the photography course, I realized how good of a photographer I really was. I also started trying new edit styles. I was so used to editing against the backdrop of a large city. I wasn't used to editing against vacation-esque vibrant, bright and colorful and endlessly different venues South Florida has to offer.

Not only was I adjusting to living in a new state and city (hell, let's be honest, a whole new ecosystem!), but also had to adjust my own photography habits. My entire process got overhauled down here. I've changed the way I think about how I frame a shot to how I edit down to the smallest use of a gradient filter.

I completely readjusted my focus.

I would like to say it was my resilience that was the hero of this story, but it wasn't. Though my resilience showed, it was all thanks to Kim. Without her nudge of her encouraging words and thoughtful gifts, I was able to get a good reset. A good reset to get TomAMcDonald Photography finally settled into it's new groove in the Sunshine State. It wasn't necessarily the fact that I had a class and a lens make me snap out of it, it was the way it was presented to me. Her thought, her time, her passion and her belief in me. It was those things I couldn't see that really did it.

So thank you, Kim. That's why I'm dedicating my Boca Summer '24 Collection to you, as it represents the 6 month journey to getting back in the saddle and getting back in it even better. Thank you for being there, encouraging me, sticking by my side and showing me that I didn't need that course and new glass. That I had this in me the whole time.

So stay tuned as I release more of these blogs where I will discuss my photography career, upcoming projects and releases, how I captured and edited some of my favorite images and when I'll be in a city near you.

Hello everyone. I'm TomAMcDonald Photography.

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1 Comment

Kimberly Bennett
Kimberly Bennett
May 23

The World doesn’t deserve you babe… I’m so proud of how far you have come and can’t not wait for you to finally show everyone what I see. Not just how amazing of a man you are but how your photography can change even the novice inquirer into a lifelong fan, as I have become. I love you and your work…♥️❤️💋 Thank you for being you.

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