New Zealand!

The adventure began Thursday, February 2. Ben and I stayed with his parents overnight, who live close to the airport, to catch our early morning flight beginning our journey to New Zealand. At 8am we took flight to Houston, then from Houston we flew 15 hours to Aukland on the North Island of New Zealand and then another shorter flight to Christchurch on the South Island. We made it! Well, we still had to make it to the town we were to hike out of, which was the purpose of our trip. Yes, we went to hike in Nelson Lakes National Park. A looped trail called the Traverse Sabine Circuit. I have to say, I really enjoy flying because there is really nothing else like it! but we were both excited to be done after 2 days of travel.

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 Our first look at New Zealand!

Our first look at New Zealand!

Next we needed to get 6 hours north to a town called Saint Arnaud where the circuit began. We soon found out the bus tickets were sold out for the next 2 days! And each ticket was $50 which seemed a bit much. I suppose we weren’t too worried though. God seems to always have something up his sleeve when Ben and I travel. So I recommended we should look into getting a car and drive it up for the day. Cars all seemed to be about $50 for the day and easy enough to rent so we thought it a good idea and experience to take. It seemed like a win win. Then we saw a car for rent at $9 NZ dollars a day. We figured it must be a typo or something! We bought it! We go to the car dealership to pick up our car. You know your getting a good deal when even the employees at the dealership are confused on the rental price and all whispering to each other and double checking everything. It turns out it was a car that belonged in Nelson, where we going! and needed to be delivered, so we gladly accepted and payed a whopping $6.85 for our new Toyota Rav 4. We laughed a lot haha. It was something. In New Zealand they drive on the left side of the road, steering wheel on the right. Everything is basically the opposite from the states. Oh, and I was surprised by how easy it was to actually rent the car. It took about 10 minutes from start to finish and we had the keys. We were off on our 400km journey!

We decided to drive along the coast since we were close and it’d be nice to be along the ocean or some time on the trip. New Zealand got hit hard by a devastating earthquake last year so a lot of roads were closed. We didn’t know! We drove for a few hours up the coast only to hit a “road closed” sign in the middle of no wheres! There are no major high ways going every direction which there seems to be in America.. So we had to back track 100km to get on the right track. Our 6 hour drive turned into a 10 hour drive.. It seemed easy to side with discouragement and frustration at the moment after traveling days on end… but we chose to laugh and be grateful we were in FREAKIN’ NEW ZEALAND. 

We arrived in Nelson around 10:30 and pitched a tent to sleep. We woke up early to drop off our rental car and catch a bus to Saint Arnaud to begin our hike! We were always meeting the greatest people along the way. One guy we met at the bus stop early in the morning stuck out to me the most out of anyone. His name was Beza. He walked by as some of us back packers were waiting for the bus so I said hello. Oh, New Zealander’s, also known as Kiwi’s, speak english! Pretty exciting because I love talking to strangers and every other country I’ve visited in the past was difficult to communicate. So! Beza says hi and makes a b-line straight for me to my surprise and starts talking like we knew each other. I found it the most fascinating thing for him to do this because no one does this. Haha so I was all in! He sat right down and made him self comfy. He was holding a grocery bag full of cigarettes and beer and I thought it so generous of him to offer me what he had almost immediately. It honestly struck my heart. I declined his thoughtful offer and we kept the conversation going. We talked for 15 minutes about the Super Bowl which he was excited for and also about President Trump. I was always surprised by how much this country across the world, and others we met, knew about American politics. Haha it was something..

We got our bus and sat for an hour long ride to Saint Arnaud. We began at the visitors center, picked up a few Hut Passes and began our hike! The huts we stayed in were small shelters with bunk beds, a fire place and a sink provided with water from a tank outside the hut. Basically a hostel without electricity imagine. 

We started along a huge lake and hiked through the woods,

 Our first lunch break location.

Our first lunch break location.

into grassy valleys and continued higher into the mountains. The first day we started around noon and hiked 28 kilometers..whoa.. until we reached the second hut into the trail where we slept and experienced the hut life for the first night! We hustled trying our best to escape the coming rain and were so beat! The hut was sweet. There was about 15 people from all over the world, different cultures and languages and sometimes nothing in common except for the trail we were hiking. It was a unique experience. The next day we hiked to the highest point of our journey which was over 2300 meters. It was physically demanding and I was honestly exhausted by the second night of hiking(the first 2 days were the furthest we hiked each day) and my body was like what the heck are you doing???! Haha but after the 3rd day it started understanding and began to cooperate more and stopped it’s aching and I gained a lot of energy. 

 On top of Mount Traverse. Way up there!

On top of Mount Traverse. Way up there!

I believe it was the third day when we visited Blue Lake. It is the clearest fresh water in the world! Yes. That is right. I can’t say I captured the clarity of the lake but nor did I spend much time trying. But you can google it! You should. It was a special place and Ben and I really enjoyed the time there. 

 Blue Lake

Blue Lake

We pressed on the next day and covered a lot of ground down in the valleys. We made it to a hut next to a lake and it was beautiful. But! Near water in New Zealand they have “sandflies” and they are vicious and unable to be ignored so you can’t sit for long in a single spot. Especially at this lake it seemed. 

The whole hut system was cool because you would meet someone one night, say your good-bye’s and nice-to-meetcha’s and then run into them again a few days later along some route. It is mainly just one circuit but many intersections and side trails so it’s cool. It’s like your all in there together hiking the same mountains just different stories to be shared. Super cool.

After this sandfly-infested-lake (no complaining! just a fact.) we hiked straight up this mountain side (I mean straaaaight up this mountain side. skeeetttchhhyyyyy!) and visited the clouds one more time before closing the circuit. We got out of the bush line and to the top at 2100 meters and were excited for the much talked about grand view of this particular walk but the clouds engulfed us!

 (This was the safe part)

(This was the safe part)

We laughed. It really was funny and unfortunate at the same time. And the land got so rugged and raw and the rocks were sharp enough to cut your shoes it seemed. We joked about getting close to Mount Doom and Sauron’s Lair. 

We knew that there was a large lake next to our destination hut according to the map, so after 7 hours of treacherous hiking we spotted water. We made it to the Angelus Hut. As soon as we got settled in, the clouds gave way and opened up to a landscape we could hardly believe. I can’t even explain it! It was too epic..

 Outside Angelus Hut

Outside Angelus Hut

That night I stepped outside at about 10:30 because I could not sleep (this was a much busier and noisier hut) and stepped outside to a complete calm. When ever you stepped outside you expected it to be windy. It was always windy outside of the trees. But this night was perfectly still. And during the day its freezing because of the wind. But as I stepped outside I first noticed the clear sky and not a breeze! It was surreal. I was around and stared at the stars. I noticed a bright light shining behind a mountain peak so I walked my way around to see this bright light and a blinding full moon rose before me. And right over this little glassy pond! I was the only one who was watching this! I was debating if I should go wake up the whole hut to see this. But I didn’t haha. A moment I won’t forget! 

The next day we walked our way along the mountain ridge to our last little hut under a perfectly blue sky.

 Ben. Our last view from our last hut.

Ben. Our last view from our last hut.

At our last little hut we met a couple, Sam and Debbie who we ended up spending our last day with in town and they even let us crash at their house! They were amazing and showed us great hospitality. We were welcomed right in! We went out for ice cream after Debbie’s delicious home cooked dinner and I got New Zealand’s favorite, Hokey Pokey. Caramel Vanilla goodness let me tell you.. Oh and Sam and Debbie also let us use their kayaks and we got to paddle around Saint Arnaud’s lake under the mountains.

The next morning we took an 8 hour bus ride and then another short bus to the airport and the journey home began. We started by flying from the South to the North Island, Aukland. We had a 22 hour layover there so we slept in the airport then ventured to a town outside of Aukland called Onehunga. It was a cool little town. 

Oh, random but on our 8 hour bus ride in the middle of no wheres New Zealand we sat next to this girl who grew up 30 minutes from Grove City, where I am currently living, in Butler! Every 15 minutes in our conversation I would pause and remind us of how bizarre of a thing this is meeting on the bus. She seemed much more chill about the whole situation but I was having trouble getting over the strangeness of what was unfolding haha. It was a good bus ride! 

After a few days of travel we made it home to Grove City! A trip for the ages we say..

 The map and layout of what we hiked. Blue Lake was the last arrow on the bottom.

The map and layout of what we hiked. Blue Lake was the last arrow on the bottom.

This is who I am

It’s important to me that I share some about myself before I picked up a camera. This blog post doesn’t have much to do with a camera ;) but more so of just me and what led up to the point of me ever picking one up! I believe it will give you the best foundational perspective on who I am. Though you may not know me personally, I hope this gives you insight into the heart of who I am and the reason I do what I do. Because it is ultimately the reason I create what you see!

I grew up in Northern New Jersey on a blueberry farm with 15 acres. I grew up with 2 brothers, 2 sisters and 2 parents. I am the middle child :) Through 8th grade I went to a private Christian school. My family and I went to church every Sunday. After graduating 8th grade I went to my districts public high school. At the time, that might’ve been the most dramatic change of my life. I went from a class of about 20 students I knew almost my whole life, to a school of 300 students I’d never met!

High school was a huge change and I needed to find my place in this sea of strangers. It was tough. It seemed everyone knew each other except for me coming from a tiny Christian school most kids never knew existed. I did eventually get to know some friends because of repeat classes together through out the days, but the relationships never went outside of the school building. After freshman year, 2 friends transferred and were no longer there. It was rough! 

I did find a new group of friends and spent my high school years hanging out with them. They are awesome and I’m glad I had the time I did with them. Our time together usually looked like having a skateboard under our feet and wandering the outdoors. 

Unfortunately, high school grew dull pretty quick and my desire to be there was about a zero. My effort was also failing and each year seemed to be worse. With a broken relationship three days before my 18th birthday junior year, I became a pretty sad person and bad decisions suddenly became normal. Somewhere along this time I began smoking weed and cigarettes and alcohol was there too. I formed a habit almost immediately diving into something I never knew anything about growing up. I did end up graduating high school, though it seemed to be a miracle but I knew I just had to. I always knew I was better than what my life actually looked like. I constantly thought about what I was doing and what I had done. I always knew this is not who I am. I knew I was made for more but honestly had no freaking idea what I was doing or how to stop this direction I was heading.. Or even why..? For what? If some one could give me good reason I might have believed them but at the time there seemed to be no hope. And because of that, my downward spiral continued.

I know life is unpredictable, but this seemed to be a stretch for my family. I was always a good kid and polite and joyful. I remember in grade school I got an award in my class for “having a great sense of humor and a wonderful personality”. Because of my habits, I distanced myself from my family. It was like I had two separate lives that seemed to have nothing in common. My parents did the best they knew how to help. I remember going to countless therapy appointments and psychiatrists and medicine doctors and pastors. Nothing seemed to help. I remember my mom took me to a pastor the day after I got arrested for the 3rd time for drugs and we sat in his office and talked. He talked, I sat. I don’t remember much but I do remember him asking me why I was doing what I was doing and I looked at him and said nothing. 

A month or 2 later I got arrested for drunk driving and lost my license. It was really bad. I never thought much about suicide until then but it was definitely a thought that came around more often. That happened in December and after going to court a hundred times for different things I was told I had to complete a 6 month drug rehab if I wanted my license back. Three days after my 20th birthday in March, I started the rehab. I passed all their drug tests and followed their rules but nothing inside of me changed. I graduated the program and received a coin with the Serenity Prayer on it. I still have it! I had my license again. I didn’t feel too accomplished.. A few weeks out I remember buying a big bag of pills for cheap and started using again like nothing ever happened. I did my best to keep my home life as peaceful as possible because it was much more so since going to rehab and not having a license and I really didn’t want to disturb it! 

Things on the outside seemed to be better. My fines were getting paid, I was getting off probation soon, I was staying out of trouble, my parents started trusting me again. But on the inside I was no more alive. I clearly remember nights in my room with lines of powder in front of me just praying if I ever knew how, God please save me. (When I was maybe 17, I remember reading this book called The Heroin Diaries. It’s basically this dude Nikki Sixx, from the band Motley Crue, writing about his life while addicted to drugs and touring and all the craziness that went with it, and in the end him conquering his addiction. I was inspired. Just to write. I thought it was the coolest thing that he had all of this stuff recorded, almost every day he wrote something. When I first lost my license in 2010, I started writing. I felt like it was the realest way I could express my thoughts. No one ever read it of course, so I would write anything and everything, almost every day). I still have everything from back then including those prayers written on the pages and all the thoughts I had during those times. 

Later that year, it was 2011, my younger brother Cody wrote me a letter saying he was praying for me and explained that there really is a God and he loves me no matter what I do. I was still going to church every Sunday in all this craziness but treated it something like school. It’s not like God and Jesus were someone I’d never heard of. I heard it constantly actually, my whole life. But I thought it was awfully nice and thoughtful of Cody writing and I remember jotting in my journal how he is such a good brother. I saved the letter too and taped it in my pages. I can’t remember if I ever wrote him back? It was around that time I noticed a change in Cody. I remember him telling me stories when he visited home from college of a recent missions trip he took to Africa that really changed his life. And it really did! My whole family noticed and we were like, “what the heck happened to Cody?”. He suddenly talked a lot about Jesus like they were buddies and he talked about the Holy Spirit and he prayed and stuff. It was weird. But he was serious. I didn’t think of it too much but it was interesting hearing him talk about something I’ve heard my whole life and now in a way I’ve never heard before. 

So now it’s at the end of 2011, Cody is home for his Christmas college break and I am still stuck in a rough place. (Oh, just so you know, I am 20 years old at this point and also, I worked with my dad after high school and we built houses. He’s a carpenter and has his own business. That’s how I made money.)

I remember a few nights I came home late high as a kite, and Cody and I had these conversations. They were much more intentional and I wasn’t just observing his “changed life” from the outside, but he invited me in to talk about it. I remember him sharing what God was doing in his life and this new found community of Jesus followers he was hanging with out in Grove City, Pennsylvania where he was attending college. There were a few conversations that happened and I enjoyed them. 

New Years Eve, my friend and I went to Philadelphia. Our plans fell through and we went back home and to the movies into the New Year. So exciting! Haha not really. I dropped him off and started my way home. At this time, I was pretty high off prescription pills, higher than normal I suppose (I mean, it was a holiday…) and I knew there were tons of cops out, especially in this one area I needed to drive through to get home because there always is.. but now it’s New Years and there are cops everywhere! But nonetheless, I started my drive. Within 5 minutes I passed a cop car. This is about 1:30AM and there is no one on the road..except for me..on New Years Eve..The cop turns around and pulls me over. I am totally under the influence, have drugs in my shoe and thinking my life might be coming to an end for real. After all, things “seemed to be going well” those days and if I had to start another cycle of probation, fines, court, mistrust and who knows what..I don’t know if I would make it! 

So he pulls me over, a second cop pulls up behind him and they walk up to my window. He asks, “Have you been drinking?” At that time I had a breathalyzer on my vehicle to start it as a consequence of the DUI a year previous, so if you blow into it with alcohol on your breath it won’t start. I was pleased to tell him “no” as I showed him the breathalyzer. They didn’t say much more than that and walked away. I drove home peacefully. 

The next day, January 1st, 2012 my life was changed forever. I can’t tell you what I did that day, but that night was most significant. It was around 7 o’clock and Cody asked me if I wanted to ride out to Walmart with him to grab whatever he needed to get. I said yes. On this drive we had a conversation that quite literally changed my life. He shared the story of Jesus in a way I’ve never understood before and I soon realized this is what was missing in my life the entire time. I can’t say I remember God ever speaking to me before but that night he made himself known in a way I knew. Cody and I sat in the parking lot of Newton, New Jersey’s Walmart and my life was changed. We talked for hours and never actually made it into the store; that was clearly not the purpose of our drive out there together, so we went home. When we got home, we prayed in my driveway and I accepted this Jesus into my heart. 

The next morning I woke up and thought, “what the heck happened the last night?”. I thought, wow, well I guess I am a christian now, what should I do? Read my bible or what? Then I thought..you know, if I am a christian I should probably get rid of my drugs because I am sure no good christian does drugs. At this time I still skateboarded a lot and went off to skate with some friends. It’s just what we did all the time. I brought my drugs with me, that’s also just what I did. This decision wasn’t an easy one but I thought if I really want to be a christian, I know I need to get rid of these drugs. I know what happened last night was real. “What if I just finish these then be a christian?”. It was so real. Then I remembered something Cody said in the car on the drive home from Walmart. He said, “the devils going to come to you and tell you to forget about this conversation and keep doing what you’re doing, don’t listen.” I remembered this and said, “God, I’ll trust you but if you don’t work, I’m not going to follow you.” So after some debate, I opened my window and threw out what I had and trusted him. I remember I turned on the one christian song on my iPod and sang it and I felt a peace in my heart that was undeniable. 

A month later I drove out to Grove City to spend time with Cody and meet this community of christians he was a part of called AOX. I didn’t know my life could change so much so quick but it did! There was absolutely no turning back and my previous life had disappeared. I went home and had a hunger to know who this God was. Seven months later I met a new friend named Jen who I led to accept Jesus. I shared my story with her on top of a mountain in Vernon, New Jersey and for the first time ever I felt the Presence of God fall on me like heavy blanket and I started crying. Haha, I remember her face so clearly while I shared my story and I knew God touched her heart. I asked her if she wanted to accept Jesus and she said yes. I turned to her and held her hands and we prayed and she accepted Jesus. It was crazy.

A year later I went through a summer internship with AOX in Grove City called Summer in the Grove. I spent about a year there and went back home for 6 months. I made a decision to go back to Grove City and moved to stay in January 2014 and am still here today! I’ve learned following Jesus is not for the faint of heart. I’ve also learned it is what I was created to do and it is him I was created to know. 

When I became a christian, some of the first things that God spoke to me about were the arts and creating again. I was always creating when I was young but it faded in my teen years and was just about forgotten. I am so thankful for photography and the gift Gods given me and that I even discovered it! I really believe it’s been given to be shared with the world around me so I do my best! I am excited about my life and the turn it’s taken and am confident that following Jesus can only result in the best life lived. Here’s to the 5th year!

Thanks so much for reading!! I’d love to hear your thoughts! :)

This is what it became

After I had a few cool photos under my belt, I built up the courage to share them. These were photos from my camera, I was still using Instagram with my iPhone of course but nothing of better quality from the camera had yet been revealed! I created a Facebook artist page called Life in a Lens. I was excited about the idea and nervous at the same time. I had good feedback as I progressed with a camera and learned different skills and techniques.

Somewhere along the journey, not too far, I thought that these photos would look amazing printed. It seemed like such a great idea. I didn’t know much about printing photos, but it seemed to me that it wasn’t something that people did any more with everything being digital. But I thought a physical photograph in someone’s hands was able to connect deeper. This idea came because of the memories connected with old family photos honestly. There is nothing like looking back on old family photos and remembering the days. They seem to have more value than a file on your computer screen…maybe it’s just me? but because of these thoughts I decided to get a printer and print photos into physical pieces of art. I started printing on a printer called Canon Pixma Pro-100. It was amazing! I couldn’t be happier.(that is, once I found out the not-so-simple tricks of printing high quality photos of course) I remember showing my friend Katy, perhaps the first person to see, or maybe just the first explosive reaction to one of my printed photos, but she was SO excited(Note:she is very expressive)… “wow, Mike…what, wow, this is amazing!” If Katy is excited, why can’t anyone else be?!

A few months later I participated in my first art show right in Grove City with these newly printed photographs from my fancy home printer. It was the Grove City Autumn Art Walk on September 19th, 2015. And not only my first art show, but the first time my work has ever been on display and seen by more than a few friends. This was also the official launch of my business I Am Mike Weber. It was one of the most exciting days! I didn’t know what to expect. 

The reactions I got from strangers passing by was the best! I was so encouraged and I knew I was doing something right. I was in the right place! It is cool to know that so many people from that day are still connected and follow my work. It’s been such a fun journey and the best possible beginning I could ask for. Oh, and the art show that day was also judged for a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prize, and to my pleasant surprise I won first place! A day I’ll never forget!

The beginning of 2016 I had my first very own art show in Grove City’s Artworks Gallery that also went really well, and after that I continued with a few small craft shows. The first few craft shows I did were a humbling experience. I stood at my table for 6 hours and 30 people walked through all day, about 8 of them talked to me. Three of them my friends who came to say hello! Throughout the summer I participated in a few 3 day festivals and around a dozen smaller art and craft shows. My hope is to get a bunch of big ones in 2017 :) The planning has begun! I’ve learned you get what you pay for in the festival world haha. I absolutely love them!

It’s important to me that people see my work. Not so I can show it off, but I truly believe it’s a gift God’s given me that needs to be shared. I take no credit! Photography was just about the last art form that I would have chosen and it’s come most naturally in the shortest amount of time. But I do plan on running after other arts throughout my days. The dream is to paint murals. Biiiiig colorful pieces on big walls. It is something I’ve dabbled in and just feels so good..brush and spray! And I would love to create music also, and write (don’t judge me based on this blog post) (: and actually a bunch of things bahah.

But for now! the plan is to stick with photography and focus and do the best I can with it. As well as my business. Hopefully do some more traveling and continue to explore my creative eye ;) I am really excited to see what 2017 brings. I am also really excited share with you some of my personal story that I believe has just about everything to do with where I am at right now. It will be out January first! Thanks for reading :)

This is why it progressed

When I first got my camera I noticed it was a whole lot different than my phone… It was challenging and at times discouraging because I knew my phone so well.. but I did my best to put these thoughts behind me and press on!

I remember watching videos explaining the functions of a DSLR camera. (Oh, if you wondered..DSLR means Digital Single Lens Reflex, aka the kind of camera with detachable lenses ;) It was overwhelming and I paused every 30 seconds to understand what the heck was going on haha. I remember one video specifically, the guy ran through all the different shooting modes and what they do and at the end he talked about “manual mode”. Having full reign over the camera. I thought..”that’s exactly what I need to learn! How to control my camera fully!” 

Having been shooting in “auto” for the time being, I knew it was a must.

I went cold turkey. I turned my camera dial to Manual and never went back even when it was painfully difficult! It wasn’t long after I got it. I’m thinking only a few weeks in that I made this decision. If I wanted to do what I imagined doing, I needed to know how to make my camera do what I wanted. And I soon found out I needed to understand the three main components that make up a photo: shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

It honestly confused me for weeks. But for the first few months I spent almost every day with my camera. Sometimes for hours at a time, just experimenting and getting familiar. I didn't have to many fantastic shots at this time haha.

I even read the manual! A lot! And watched more videos and tutorials and how-to’s. But mostly, I was outside taking pictures determined to understand why my photos came out too dark or too bright or why the photo was blurry. What the heck? I needed to know!

I remember one day specifically at a place I am familiar with called Leesburg Falls, it clicked in my head how the aperture worked. I realized that when I focused on these little yellow buttercup flowers(not joking) with a low aperture everything else in the background will become blurry so my subject would stand out and in focus. Haha it might not sound like much but it changed my life! You know those moments when you don’t understand something and then, vuala! Yeah, that was it. 

The shutter and ISO and all 3 components together soon fell into place and it made sense! and I gained a comfortable control over my camera through trial and error.

There was something I was always learning, and still am even within my cameras capabilities, but one thing I always wondered was how to photograph the stars?!?!

It honestly blew my mind that you could actually capture stars in a photo. And not only the stars but the Milky Way Galaxy! Like what? Haha I had no idea! So after researching how I might be able to do this, I went in to the back yard of my home in New Jersey, pointed my camera to the sky and soon found my camera screen lit with stars! (After a few trial runs of course). This quickly led me to explore this “new” photography during the night! It’s so different. It was as if a new door opened for me to walk through and see something I’ve never seen before. Whoa…There’s nothing else like shooting the night sky. It’s my absolute favorite and always a challenge working when it’s pitch black out side.. It's also cool because you can add your own light to the photos unlike the day because the sun has so much light you can't really add much of anything comparatively. 

The reason my photography progressed was because I put in the time and had the passion for it to move forward. I had vision and imagined. And because of that I was determined. Practice makes perfect!* 

Next week : This is what it became

Until then, thanks for reading :) let me know what your think!

This is how it started

 

We all need an outlet. We all have things inside of us only put there to be expressed with the world around us. Photography is one way to uniquely express how I see the world. I’m so thankful I discovered it! Truly. Growing up I was always on creative endeavors from building forts and building legos to sketching Dragon Ball Z characters. I remember I was first noticed as an “artist” in grade school when my class mates saw my drawings..and of course the grades my teacher would give me on my homework sketches. But drawing pictures did not suffice my minds capacity to fulfill it’s creativity!

I never discovered picture taking until I started taking pictures. That first happened when I got my first iPhone. The iPhone 4. It had a camera and the quality was pretty darn good! Everywhere I went I had this new camera with me. I started an Instagram account and what really encouraged me was the feedback of my friends! I remember friends would message me outside of Instagram just to tell me that my photos were awesome. It wasn’t because they were just good friends. I believed it for myself. Confidence grew and creativity thrived. My imagination ran with new ideas and I ventured to discover what was around me. I don't know how to explain it exactly but my eyes started seeing, or maybe searching this way for the first time.  The gears were turning.

I was told multiple times I needed to get a camera, but the idea of getting an actual camera still seemed too “risky”. I knew nothing about photography…like..nothing. The only thing I knew was that it was an expensive art to get in to. “What if I invest all of this money into something I get bored of after a month? Will I actually take the time to learn how to use a camera? I hear cameras are complicated..” These were the things I pondered when I thought anything more than my safe and simple iPhone 4.

Excitement grew and conviction arose. It was time to look into cameras…2 months after Hawaii, I remember I got a text from my friend Saria mentioning a great deal for a camera on Groupon I should take a look at. I didn’t purchase anything from it but for the first time ever the idea of “buying” a camera was introduced.

It got me thinking. I did my research. It quickly became the greatest idea I’ve ever had(haha)…to get a camera! I pitched the idea to my parents and shared my thoughts. They knew how hard I worked and how passionate I was with the potential I carried. I never went to college but my mom said this is my “college tuition” haha. In combination with my birthday on March 18, they invested into me. They bought me a Canon t3i that came with 2 lenses. They also bought me a Macbook Pro. And even then I had thoughts thinking, “I hope this is a good idea.” But I believed it was right. It felt so right. You know that feeling when you know? That was it!

In March 2014 I got my camera.

Next week : This is why it progressed

Check out a few photos taken on my iPhone before the camera. Click through the arrows to see them! The beginnings :)

If you have feedback, please share your thoughts! I'd love to hear.

a blog about not blogging

A blog about not blogging: 

Friends. I have realized that I committed myself to sharing my story and journeys through blogging some months ago. I have been slacking! Hold me to it. They are coming. But I have a plan this time. I believe it can work and will even succeed! I’m really shooting for consistency here, that is my goal. Consistency is a great trait and I am always inspired by those who are consistently consistent. If I fail I hope you still like me haha. 

For the next 3 weeks..ish. I am going to write about my journey with photography. I am really excited about this because I love sharing my story. And it gives me this cool and unusual opportunity to look back at the past with good reason and to share what I got! I hope you like it.. because it’s all I got! I’m gonna write 3 posts about my photography specifically. The first:

#1 - This is how it started

#2 - This is why it progressed

#3 - This is what it became

And theeeeeen, I need to share my story before I ever picked up a camera and found myself where I’m at. It's necessary and the most important story I have to share with you!

#4 - This is who I am

Stay tuned!

Create Better Together

I suppose I was a pretty independent person growing up. And I still am but I'm realizing the greatest things can only be accomplished together. And memories as well! What is life living alone? I've discovered it's not as good! The more I know people, the more I have to love people. About three years ago I entered in to a close knit community of Jesus followers in Grove City, Pennsylvania and my life is forever changed. I've learned we were made to be together. I have a lot to learn honestly haha but the journey continues. I've been thinking of my friends and family a lot these days. Looking back on some photos of past ventures and travels, I am so thankful!

Saria, Alex and I asked a nearby farmer if we could take photos in their field. We told her if we got a cool shot we would print it and bring it back to her. We did, she was so happy and surprised I think haha almost speechless!

My family at Thanksgiving in 2014.

Worship on the beach under the stars in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Ben and I in Chile, hiking Patagonia's mountains.

Anna, John and I in front of Taughannock Falls in Ithaca New York.

Anna and John, and me spinning fiery steel wool.

Alex and I freezing our butts off on Moraine Lake.

Katy posing in an epic church for a shoot we did in Pittsburg in June.

Alex in a triple exposure called Collapsing Constellations. 

John, Alex and I celebrating 2016's Leap Day.

Micky And Jenny wandering a frozen tunnel.

Out there!

Jes and I discovering Grove City at midnight.

Anna, John and I in Ithaca, New York.

2015 Summer in the Grove crew in St. Petersburg Florida.

Alex and I standing still for a long exposure on Moraine Lake.

Ben and I near McConnell's Mill shooting the stars. 

Cooks Forest

Our little 2 bunk cabin we stayed in.

Camping seems like the thing to do these days. Two weekends in a row! This time I stayed in a little log cabin, not a tent...or a Hilton Suite..but a cabin out in the boonies. My friend Alex and Doug and I drove about an hour and twenty minutes out of little Grove City Friday night to the giant Cooks Forest State Park. We arrived just as it started getting dark.

We fired up our little out door grill and cooked kielbasa under the stars.

A whooooole lot of stars.

Me winning Settlers of Catan ;)

 We got settled in, strummed the guitar, made a funky beat, and played Settlers of Catan. 

The next day we hiked a trail just a few miles from our cabin to the biggest pine tree on the east coast called Longfellow. The trees in this area were huuuge. I thought it was funny that they didn't even mark out the tree though! I was waiting to turn a corner and boom, Longfellow! Doug had to point it out to us because some one had shown him on a previous trip. He said it is so people don't write on it and damage it. Understandable. 

Doug in front of Longfellow. 

Up up and awayyyy. Just some trees on our hike and a nice sunflare :)

Liquid gold. This place is beautiful.

Alex has a flying drone with video and it's awesome. It has a gimbal on it which gives the video a reaaaally smooth look...even running with it in hand. Some how we ended up chasing Doug through the woods and filmed a short video out of it.

Just some happy campers.

Posted up near Longfellow. We chilled at this spot for awhile.

Dougs got upssss. No he actually tripped on the log and almost fell on this one haha but we made him do this like a million times so his legs were just about failing him at this point.

Then Alex, just for fun.

We were pretty pooped after a day of running..Doug especially haha. But we did manage to take some fun photos on our way out!

We cooked up these delicious steaks and potatoes.

Some serious potato cutting.

mmm.

Cooking in Cooks. Delish.

Cheers!

Doug had to head out a few hours early, but the next morning Alex and I explored a nearby fire tower

The fire tower and Alex.

and then headed for the Grove. It's been good Cooks, we will meet again!

The Adventures of Lake Erie

I have this friend named Alex. He is (no joke) one of the coolest people on the planet. The more I get to know him, the more I realize it’s true. He’s been wanting to go camping for the past few weeks and I suggested Lake Erie. It’s not far, it’s gotta be beautiful, and we’ve both never been there. Last Thursday we decided it was a good idea and left Friday night around 6:30. It was bound to be a good trip. We’re both photographers, we both love people, we laugh a lot. Bound to be good! 

We started our journey and got to Presque Isle on Lake Erie just a few minutes before the sunset dropped below the horizon. Presque Isle is a peninsula that goes 6 miles out into the lake. It’s the coolest and so beautiful! The sky was so clear and has been for days. Not normal for western PA. On the drive out, we were really excited to use a flying drone Alex has to get some epic video! Arriving in the parking lot, we started getting our gear out but couldn’t find the drone batteries anywhere. There was a lot of stuff in the car so maybe they got misplaced. Then I had this gut-wrenching memory of placing them on the roof of the car while we were packing up to leave…not good. Haha not good!! Yes.. they were on the roof and yes, we lost them. It was a devastating moment for about 8 seconds, but heckkkk no it wasn’t going to mess up our weekend. Though it really sucks! it turned into something we laughed about for the next two days.

We strolled on the beach with a minute to spare as the sun dropped in the water. We met a wonderful woman named Monica who inspired us with her travels. Our plan was to camp on the beach, but the locals said it was a bad idea and we’ll get caught. We were determined but eventually agreed it wasn’t a good idea. There was a campground...but there were sooo many people with it being Friday and the first nice weekend to camp, it wasn't too appealing.

We didn’t do too much planning for this trip, which wasn’t a bad thing. We were hoping for an adventure and that’s what we got! But we did need a place to sleep and we were thinking we could do better than the car. Or a Walmart parking lot…though that was our plan it seemed for hours. We messaged friends in the area, we talked to some locals, we got a couch surfing profile hoping to crash at someones place nearby, all sorts of things to find a place to stay...Walmart was looking pretty good. 

About 11:00 or so, we came up with a great idea. We decided to go to the nicest hotels in the area and tell them our plans fell through and see if we could get a cheap last minute room. We agreed that $30 each would be our budget. After all, we were hoping to camp on the beach for free! So we went, 3 hotels deep...denied! We came to our 4th, which we were planning on skipping because it was by far the nicest, it was late and we had no luck with the last 3..but we went! Homewood Suites was it's name. It had these big white pillars for an entrance, a second floor balcony and a super nice pool and hot tub and dining area up front. We walked in to meet our new friend Sarah! She was the coolest. We talked for probably 45 minutes about traveling and photography and how she lived in New Zealand for a year. It was awesome! She was determined to help us find a place to stay considering our situation and budget, and that the rooms in her hotel were $200 a night! She dropped her price down significantly but we stayed true to our budget! She called 10 different hotels in the area trying to help us out and gave it her all. We decided Walmart it is! But we really appreciated all her help! And last minute she says, "F it! 60 bucks!" Alex and I were pretty floored. She insisted Walmart was no option. Haha we were pumped!! So kind! 

At this point Alex and I haven't eaten dinner. It was midnight. We bought some groceries and a little portable throw-away grill earlier in the night, and asked if it would be ok if we grilled and cooked some food outside. We were trying to have at least a little camping experience. Haha. And she says, "oh, you guys have a kitchen in your room!" And not only a kitchen, but a full fridge, dishwasher, living room, kind size bed room...We laughed. It was great! We spent the night in our suite, ate our free breakfast in the morning and took a quick dip in the hot tub before we left. We were off to the Lake!

We spent almost the whole day on the beach. We filmed some and took pictures and enjoyed the sun. There was joy my friends, we laughed so much!

The sun came down and we used our little grill to cook up dinner. It was the best!

That night we ended up finding out that there was camping on the beach just on the other side of the road from where we saw originally. It was confusing honestly, but it worked out! We ended up sleeping on the beach after all. We were a little rusty putting up the tent but we managed.

We had a goodnight sleep and woke up to beautiful calm Erie. The end had come and we packed up to head out. Alex had a friend not far so we stopped to have breakfast and made our way back to Grove City. It was funny, trips like these, you expect a 12 hour drive back, but it was only an hour! Not the last time we'll visit Lake Erie! 

Slow And Steady

This past year has been crazy! For me I suppose. So many unexpected events. Some times I hear other peoples stories and I think...wow. what is my life...haha my last blog post I talked about my trip to Patagonia. It might sound impressive until you meet the people lodging with you. I remember talking with a woman in the hostel I stayed in one night and she said she just got back from a tour of this guys boat who is literally sailing around the world...haha what?! Who sails around the world? People are so inspiring. I met a new friend last night and hearing his perspective and seeing what he sees through his art was fascinating and refreshing. 

A lot of times when people are viewing my photos at a show or gallery, I ask them if they have a favorite...one that really grabs their attention. And it's funny to me, because my favorite is rarely mentioned. People shrug it off when I point it out. Then they point to another and I'm just like huhhhh? I find it hilarious honestly because we all see things so differently! It's great. 

Like, two years ago my friend Tim and I took a trip to Portland, Maine. The place is sweet. It's on the coast and has an amazing rocky shoreline. Being from New Jersey, this was pretty exciting because what all New Jersey has is beach is seems. The city was cool too. They didn't have stop lights. Tim and I heard about a park on the water with a lighthouse so we went. The Headlight is what the locals call it. The place was incredible! I need to travel more.. The rocks had the coolest patterns and shapes. It was like a photographers playground. That's how I saw it anyways haha I was pumped!

At that time I recently started experimenting with different shutter speeds on my camera and long exposure photography. I was scoping the area for some cool composition. There were people all over and I was hoping they would all move haha. I saw this one guy walk out to a high point on the rocks. He stood right above the horizon on the point and I thought..yes! 

I set up my shot and waited for the coast to be clear(haha) and voila!

Being pretty new to this whole technique, it seemed like magic. Walking back and seeing the photo, a phrase immediately came to me, "in the chaos theres a calm". I've never heard or thought these words before but I thought it was a good name. I was super excited with it. This photo set a standard for me and has always encouraged me to push myself.

For some reason, more than ever this past year, I keep getting hurt! Like, physically injured. I write quite a bit and always jot down the story and I'm excited to look back in ten years and read about this year. Haha. Last May I was in Africa, and I burned my feet and broke my toe. A few months later I was on a deck at a party and it collapsed and my leg got messed up and I couldn't walk! In December, I got hit by a car riding my bike and broke my wrist. Oof. And just this last Saturday, I got elbowed in a basketball game and cracked a rib! Haha like what the heckkk?! All I can do is laugh. It hurts! But I strive too.

Last night I just so happened to be talking with a friend about this photo ^. (she was a shrugger) haha.. and thinking about it reminded me to find the Calm in all the crazy things that happen. Whether its a physical, a relational, spiritual, or maybe financial situation. Gotta press on! Isn't there a saying..keep calm and carry on? Yessss. There's a rapper I've become a fan of recently...We might use this line in different context, haha but he says at one point in a song, "if Gods got us then we gonna be alright!" Yeahhhh lets go! When I got hit by the car the song was stuck in my head for weeks, well just that line actually haha. I think I started singing that like mid-flight before I hit the ground. Haha no, but I did sing it everyday afterwards! and I am believing it! Getting hurt seems to be frustrating because it slows me down. But if I believe Gods got me! then I shouldn't have a problem with being slowed down. Maybe he's not interested in going fast and more interested in going slow?

I remember back in the day, my siblings and I played this video game on Playstation called Rayman. There was a level with a slippery floor and my sister would repeat over an over "slowwww and steady, slowww and steady!" cause if you weren't you would fall and have to start over haha I'm laughing about it right now as I type this. It was hilarious! My brother and I wouldn't listen and we'd always slip and fall to our doom. haha she would get it. Let's use this as a lesson friends. Hahah. but seriously.. Slow and steady.  

The End of the World and Back!

I’m currently sitting in my car waiting for a friend to get out of an appointment, thinking of what I’m going to blog about. I have a good story for you! I’m thinking of the time my friend Ben and I decided to travel to the end of the world. Ben is privileged with the ability to fly on guest passes for US Airways, but turning a certain age the privileges change. So with things changing soon, he thought it would be good to make one last epic adventure and invite me along. So December 2015 we embarked on an adventure we will never forget!

Trying to discover an epic location, I am sure that Ben googled phrases like “big mountains”, “the end of the world”, “where humans don’t exist” to find this place… I remember him calling me one day and asking if I wanted to take a trip to "the end of the world" in Chile and hike a trail in Patagonia with him. He told me the mountains were “calling him”, haha. I’m almost always down for an adventure and this sounded like none other. Dientes De Navarino is the name of the trek he found so I googled it wondering what "the end of the world" could possibly look like. I didn't find too much information, but I did find one man's journey and maybe 5 photos. Some words I saw repeated through out the post were windy, desolate, cold, isolated, punishing climate, beautiful, rugged, windy, windy, cold and windy. Sounds great! 

It was early December and we were off! We planned to go for about 7 or 8 days. Traveling with Ben is always an adventure. And using guest passes with plane tickets that don't actually exist until about 3 minutes before lift off,  nothing like it! But we were off! We had 5 flights one way, all the way from Pittsburg Pennsylvania to Chile!

Its pretty exciting to land in a new country for the first time. You really don't know what to expect. I remember flying into Rio De Jinero in Brazil and seeing the greenest place I've ever seen. It was beautiful...and covered with a landscape that you could seem to only imagine... Green rolling hills for as far as the eye could see! As soon as we landed the adventure began. 

With all of the quick planning and, well, the lack of...we somehow managed to get into Brazil with out visas. I haven't done too much traveling in the past so I really don't know much about them, so it never crossed my mind...or Ben's. So we got off the plane and the first thing we came to was a line to check our passports and visas. Immediately, there was a lot of confusion, not much English, and tons of waiting. It really was the strangest thing talking to countless people and guards and officers and managers, all asking the same questions, "how did you get here?", "why are you here?", "where are you going?". It was like everyone there was suddenly discombobulated by us entering there country. About 12 hours in, some ladies who worked there took our passports. It was really nothing new, different employees asked us all day for them. By this time it was night. We were tired. The women didn't return. The glass box turned into a ghost town with only a guard to watch us try and sleep on the tile floor. Don't think we were upset though!...Ben and I have shared our greatest laughs in those moments. 

The sun rose the next morning, and the women returned with out passports! We found it funny how casual everyone was and how there was so little communication about what was happening and where our passports went for the night. They were nice though! They even spoke good english...and we clearly understood them when they told us we needed to pay $500 for a visa to continue on through Argentina. We were determined. There are so many details from phone calls with the embassy to flights being changed..I honestly cannot type it all haha. But we managed to continue our journey after 40 hours of being stuck in Brazil. We ended up flying through Argentina and making it to the bottom of the country to a city called Ushaia. From there we took a boat from Ushaia to a drop off point in Chile, and from there, an hour long van ride along the coast to a little town called Puerto Williams. Far far away..

 Ben and I off the boat first getting in to Chile.

We stayed in a hostel in Puerto Williams for one night to rest and get ready to start our hike the next day. The landscape that surrounded the town was incredible. Snow capped mountains next to the ocean was the scenery displayed. The morning of the hike we met some guys who just finished the trek so they were able to give us a map and some tips on the trail. We were off! Our bags were heavy. Really heavy. This is another story, but a year previous Ben and I hiked a trail in Hawaii and our bags were not nearly the weight! We were ready for cold weather. 

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The start of the hike went straight up a mountain through thick forest. We got to the top, beyond the trees and were in awe of the beauty. It was incredible to say the least. We were on top of the world looking down it seemed. Nothing but mountains for miles. There were white markers every kilometer that we followed. As the sun went down the first night, we were determined to get to the first camping spot the guys we met in town recommended we reach.. Besides that, the trail was so steep we really had no choice. We reached our mark and set up camp for the first night around 11:00pm with light to spare. It never got completely dark at night. I remember the first night, Ben and I sleeping in a tiny two-man tent, woke up and looked at each other with the wind howling, and went back to sleep. I thought we were going to blow away! We woke up to a calm morning, and clearly saw the view before us for the first time. Incredible! Towering teeth like mountains; there was waterfalls, ponds and lakes all over.

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My favorite thing about the landscapes in Patagonia, is that there was water everywhere! Lakes and rivers around every corner. Literally hundreds of them throughout the hike. I was hoping to see some cool wildlife out there, but we saw nothing but a bird. I remember Ben and I, a few days in to the hike, noticed the hawk like bird and we had to stop and enjoy it. We hadn't seen a sign of life for days! No animals live in those mountains because of the harsh climate. It was a strange place to be at times because of it..but no less beautiful. 

We continued our journey through mountains and snow and thick forest and rivers and broken rock and shale and mud for 4 nights and 5 days. We endured the freezing cold temperatures with wind that would sit us on our butts, we hiked with heavy bags up and down steep rocky slopes, and we managed to navigate over 30 kilometers of the roughest terrain you could ask for. It was the hardest hiking we have ever done but it was well worth it. It's what you would expect at the end of the world!

After hiking through otherworldly landscapes and seeing beauty we will never forget, we completed the Dientes De Navarino trek and returned to Puerto Williams. Getting back to a small amount of civilization, we had to confront reality and hope for a smoother journey home. You would think it couldn't go any worse than our trip in..but I'm not sure if it went any better.. After some car rides, a boat, hostel, and airplane, we arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As soon as we got to the airport a similar scene started to unfold than the one entering Brazil. We did our best to be patient. Fortunately for Ben, he was "higher up" on the guest pass food chain, being a pilot's son and all, and he was able to transfer flights and do things I could not. He said he had somewhere he had to be the next day and it was important and he had to go. We made quick plans of how I was going to get back to America. A few hours later Ben was off. We hugged and he probably said something like.."see you on the other side". 

I soon found out I would be stuck in the airport over night. This time I brought an air mattress to sleep on. I was prepared... We had no communication with anyone from home so I was wondering what people were going to say when Ben arrived by himself. I can't even explain what happened to get me home, but it was a miracle. I didn't think getting out of Argentina would be more complicated than getting in. It was but I made it! and when I entered the international section of Rio De Janeiro in Brazil, all the familiar faces recognized me. They were excited to give me my flight to the states. I'll never forget the feeling of taking my seat on my last flight back to America and finally know I am heading home. I am thankful for the journey and excited to share the experience :)

Thanks for reading! 

Welcome!

Hello there and welcome to my blog! I've realized that I really enjoy sharing my stories and experiences with others. It's something I've recently rediscovered and I am getting so much life out of it! Through this blog my hope is to give you a more in depth look at my journey with photography and where it's taking me...and prooobably along with some other creative endeavors like video, spray painting, rapping, beat making and just more of me...we'll see! But yes, story telling! I actually remember when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I would come up with and create these completely unreal stories involving me and some friends. They all loved them and would encourage me, "In the next one you should write about...!" I remember the times even so young of how much I enjoyed it! Unfortunately, I never payed too much attention to it in 4th grade...haha which isn't too surprising, but I am super thankful it's been rediscovered through writing the stories of my photos!
 

Photography started for me when I got my first iPhone! It was the iPhone 4, you've probably all had it haha but it had good picture quality so it sparked my creative side. A friend told me I needed to get Instagram, back when it was iPhone exclusive, so I did! I was encouraged and inspired by my friends and followers to get a camera..mostly from their "likes". Haha no, actually their comments! So a year or two later I did. I looooved it! I was definitely into the sunsets and waterfalls and outdoor landscapes more than anything else. I make sure I see the sunset every day! And I've recently become a huge fan of the moonrise. But what the real game changer was for me, was when I got a wireless remote for my camera. I had the idea of adding people to my photos, but my picture taking is pretty spontaneous, depending a lot on the weather and a few other things so it was hard for me to have someone whose constantly on call at my leisure. So with the remote I could put myself in the picture and take it wirelessly..and it honestly changed everything I did with a camera and the way I saw things through a lens. Below is a picture from the first time I set out with my idea and new remote. When I took this photo and drove it home, I was lit! Something inside me came to life and I felt confident in what I wanted to do and the direction I wanted to go with photography.

Last year, September 19th, exactly a year after this photo was taken, I launched my business I Am Mike Weber and participated in Grove City's Autumn Art Walk, exposing my photography for the first time ever! I was completely blown away when I found out I won Best In Show for the event. I could hardly believe it actually. Crazy crazy crazy. Haha wayyy up I feel blessed. It felt so good to be recognized in something that I myself believe in. Confirmation. So good! I'm thankful. So today, about two years after getting hold of a camera, the journey continues and I love it and continue to explore my creativity! 

Also! 

Besides photography, I love people! Some like cats or dogs or horses, once I heard dolphins, but I reaaaally like people! They can be a lot more work to enjoy than a cat or dog, but people are so worth it! Earlier today, I walked out my front door and passed a girl sitting in her car with her hand in her face. She looked at me so I waved and she waved back and I kept walking..I walked for a moment and thought I should turn around and go talk to her. So I did and I asked if she was okay and found out she was in a pretty rough place. I ended up sitting with her and spending some time with her and encouraged her. We exchanged some stories and laughs and she read me some writing she's done, and I was on my way. It was the best. People are so priceless and worth getting to know and share and experience life and relationships with. So I love people! And with that said, I would honestly loooove to talk to you and hear your stories and see your art and see your photos! You truly inspire me. I am thinking I will blog at least once, maybe twice a week, soon to be on a set schedule :) so until then.. thanks for reading!