Bloom where you’re planted

There’s a phrase… “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” It comes from a poem written in 1785 by Robert Burns. He was plowing a field, and inadvertently turned up and ruined a field mouse’s home, and it was too late in the season for the mouse to rebuild his home – so clearly, despite all the mouse’s preparation and hard work, he was going to face a cold hard winter. In his poem, Robert Burns compares the mouse’s situation to his own life, and admits that whether you’re a mouse or a man, or anything in between, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men Gang aft agley” or as we commonly refer to it, “go awry.”

But what does “go awry” really mean? And why must it always have a negative connotation? Clearly the mouse’s situation was dire, so that’s different, but if my best laid plans go awry is it really such a terrible thing?

Yellow Wildflowers in Menifee // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsI had a great plan when I left San Diego County – I was moving to Los Angeles and live the glamorous photographer life! But somehow I never really got to LA. Let me rephrase that, I got there, but I got tugged back less than a month later for personal reasons, and somehow I never made my way back. Things evolved, changes happened, and my best laid plans seemed to be going awry, but I couldn’t really be unhappy about it. No matter what path you choose, good things happen – and they did!

There’s another phrase, “Bloom where you’re planted.” I don’t know where it comes from but the meaning is obvious – no matter where you end up, do your best, and live fully, and “bloom!”

My path took another turn recently, and rather than fight it, I’m embracing it! My Grandmother bought a house for an investment in Hemet, California – which is the town where she grew up, and the town next to where my Mother grew up – and we still have a lot of family in the valley. I’ve spent a lot of time in Hemet over the years, but I’ve never really lived there – but now I do! I’m going to be living in that house – and I’m going to prosper there – and I’m going to save to buy my own house. Sounds like a plan!

Blooming where you’re planted sometimes requires letting go of your “best laid plans” and that can be hard. But it can also mean opening yourself up to all the wonderful possibilities where you’re actually at – and that can be a beautiful thing!

So hey Hemet! I’m making my home here now, and I’m going to bloom like you’ve never seen – believe it!

Most Popular Posts

Photos by Cheryl SpeltsAs I blogged a little over a month ago, one of the reasons I redesigned my blog was because I wanted to showcase my Most Popular Posts – and if you scroll to the bottom of the page and look in the footer, you’ll now see exactly that!

The rankings are determined by a combination of factors – like how many times a unique visitor views the post on the front page of the blog, how many times a post is viewed on it’s own page, and how many times a post is viewed in a feed reader. I wish it also took the number of comments into consideration, but right now it’s not – but that’s okay, it’s still a pretty good representation of what is popular on my blog.

Since the feature is so new, and it’s only been collecting data for a little over a month, newer posts of course have an advantage. Every time a unique visitor views the front page, all the latest posts collect some points.

But are the latest posts really the most popular? Actually not. Because I can see my traffic stats, I’ve known for a long time that there are some older posts that get a lot of traffic. One old post in particular gets twice as much traffic as any other post on my blog.

Here are the top ten posts on my blog, if you only look at single post views – not front page views or feed views.

Single Post Views

  1. Backstage at MTV’s Rock the Cradle
  2. Fallbrook Film Festival, Adam McKay
  3. Just a little tease…
  4. Lukas Rossi | So This Is Christmas
  5. Fallbrook Christmas Parade
  6. Marty Casey in Pacific Beach
  7. Fallbrook Film Festival, Opening Night
  8. Hot New Band! Quietdrive!
  9. Marty Casey on the Sunset Strip
  10. Um, artists are different…

So what’s so interesting about that list? Well it’s heavily weighted toward celebrities, and nine of the top ten are posts with mostly photos and very little text. In other words, my visitors would rather see my photos, than read my thoughts – which I guess isn’t all that surprising!

The top slot is taken by my backstage documentary of MTV’s Rock the Cradle – and it generates twice as much traffic as any other page on my blog. Why? Well the show featured the children of Olivia Newton-John, Kenny Loggins, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, and other celebrities – and if you google for images of some of those celebrities, you’ll find the images from that post – which leads to traffic.

Next up is a post about the Fallbrook Film Festival, specifically the event with Adam McKay, who is an A-List writer and film director. His first big gig was as a writer on Saturday Night Live and he eventually became the head writer. Then he moved into films with writing partner and actor Will Ferrell, with Elf in 2003, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy in 2004, Talladega Nights in 2006, and Step Brothers in 2008. And once again, if you google for images of him, you find my images. Cool!

The number seven slot is also from the Fallbrook Film Festival. Why? Well it features photos of Chase Masterson, who was on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for five years and General Hospital for four years.

There are also three posts about Marty Casey (1) (2) (3), one about Lukas Rossi, and one about Quietdrive – which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, since they’re also some of my own favorite posts.

Perhaps a little surprising is how high my post on the 2007 Fallbrook Christmas Parade ranks – but the 30 days measured were the end of December and the beginning of January, so that post is more likely to do well during that particular time period – and there are sites linking to my image of the Budweiser Clydesdales and to the image of the guys in the Mini Cars. Who knows? But it’s popular!

The last post, number ten, is the only recent post and the only one that’s all text and no images – so it will probably drop out of the top ten soon! But I love that it’s there now, because it’s cool to think that a few people are reading my words, as well as looking at my images!

So what does all this tell me? And how will it impact what I do in the future? Well actually not much. I mean, is it really all that surprising that people Google the names of famous people? Not really!

But that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s fascinating to find out what other people look at on my site. I love seeing what’s most popular!

Blog Redesign & My New Feed

A few months ago I redesigned my main site – but I left the blog as it was – since I still liked the design, and it was working well. Why change what wasn’t broken?

But then I started to want some new features – like a list of my most popular posts – I’d seen that on other blogs and thought it was really cool and interesting. I want to know what’s most popular on other blogs, so why shouldn’t I showcase that on my own blog as well? And I really really really wanted comments to appear on my blog, right on that same page – I had begun to hate that a user had to click and go to in order to read what others had written. Those were my big two desires – a popular posts feature and embedded comments – but there were smaller desires as well, like wanting the flexibility of having both categories and tags, instead of just labels…

So it was time to migrate from Blogger to WordPress! But I have one minor glitch that I can’t seem to figure out? My old feed was at feed:// or feed:// – but the new feed is at a different location, and I can’t seem to figure out how to make it all work together…

What that means is that if you subscribe to this blog, using the old feed, it will no longer be updated. I may only have 23 subscribers, but I don’t want to lose a single one because I didn’t leave a bread crumb trail!

So please, if you’re one of my 23 wonderful beautiful fabulous subscribers – please update my feed address to the following!

And if you’re not one of my beloved 23, feel free to feel the love and join up!

Edited on 12.20.2009 to add: I think I finally figured this out! The old blog feed is now redirecting to the new feed, so all is well again. Yay!

In my opinion, you all have excellent taste!

Photos by Cheryl SpeltsOne interesting thing about my new site design is that I can now tell which are the most popular images, because each is on it’s own page, so it’s easy to see how many clicks each image gets. Interesting!

The favorites from yesterday were these three, in this order…

The two of Marty Casey don’t surprise me a bit – of course he gets the most click action! But the other image was a really pleasant surprise – it’s of my nephew Nathan, taken just last month, and it may end up being one of my all-time favorite portraits of all time. It’s just magical…

In fact, all three of the above are among my favorites of all time. Guess my visitors have excellent taste!

Slick and Glossy and Modern

I just debuted my new site design! Yay!

About six weeks ago I decided to redesign a couple of pages on my main photography site – just a little minor housekeeping! Then I got swept up in it, and before I knew it I had a plan for a full-blown redesign of the entire site. Where my old design was an homage to fine art, I wanted the redesign to be slick and glossy and modern. I still wanted spareness in the design – I like the images to stand out, not the design. And I still wanted bright white and lots of negative space. Some things don’t change!

 // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

My old design was html with some Flash galleries – I used to do SEO (Search Engine Optimization) professionally, so for me an all-Flash site was never something I ever seriously considered – at least some html was the way to go! And for SEO purposes the old design worked just fine. It also worked just fine on the vast majority of computers – almost everyone has Flash installed. But then I got an iPhone in 2007, and not being able to see parts of my site on it was a little bit of an irritation. And as more and more people get smart phones with web access, I wanted to consider alternatives to my Flash galleries. So the new site has javascript galleries – which the search engines can and do read, and which works just fine on an iPhone, and hopefully other smart phones.

 // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

It’s not a perfect experience to look at my new site on an iPhone – the navigation, particularly the arrows are too small to be really useful – but that’s okay, because bottom line, you can see my work! You can get to the galleries, you can see my images, and they look beautiful! So while it may not be perfect, it’s a huge improvement over my previous site where you could navigate the site just fine on a smart phone, but you never saw any images – not good for a photographer!

 // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Something else new is a Live Concerts Portfolio – all the images in it were previously published elsewhere, but never on my own site – so that has now been remedied!

I have a lot more content to add in the coming weeks – there are only 150 images on the site right now – I plan to add more and more and more. I want lush full portfolios, where the viewer can get lost looking. Most photographers believe in only showing their most current work, but I have a portfolio of images dating back over 14 years – work I’m proud of and want to showcase. If you think about Annie Leibovitz or Georgia O’Keeffe or Frank Lloyd Wright would you expect to only see work from one period of their lives, or would you expect to find a full body of work? In my opinion, a full body of work shows off an artist in a way that a selection of images never will – and I want to show work from every phase of my artistic life. It may take a while to get it done, but that’s the goal!

And I have one other surprise, that I can’t reveal yet – but it’s going to be great fun!

“Say goodbye, say goodbye to the way I was before…”

Am I Idyll? Or am I Wild? How about neither! My stay in the mountains lasted longer than I originally intended – Idyllwild’s a beautiful place, who can resist it’s charm? But as of this week I’m officially back to civilization, and loving it! Up in the mountains I had no cell phone reception, I got snowed in for days on end, and I was two-and-a-half hours outside of LA. On the upside I saw more deer than I could count and I made friends with at least one squirrel – we’d chatter back and forth at each other, and he told me stories. I may not have understood the details, but I understood the underlying emotion. Really! Get the right squirrel, and you’ll get an earful!

So onto the new!

First, I shot a new/redux band last week in LA – one of my favorite things to do! I think they’ll be debuting the images soon in a couple of different ways.

Second, I got an email this week from a fan who noticed some of my images on The Alexus Records site at Some of the images have been enlarged and/or stretched, so it’s not the best place to see my work, but even so, I always love seeing my images show up in new places! If you want to see the original images, go to or for the slideshow.

Third, I’m getting ready to debut my new web site AND a new site dedicated just to high school senior portraits. I’m really looking forward to working with seniors soon!

And finally, I wanted to mention Michael Jackson, and how sad I am that he’s gone, and that I never got to see him perform live. I always meant to…

I was making the final trip from Idyllwild to Riverside on Thursday, my car packed with my computer, cameras, and my cat – the three big “C’s” in my life – and I texted a Tweet that read: “Say goodbye, say goodbye to the way I was before. Say hello, say hello to a new way…” Just some lyrics to a song I blogged about earlier this month, referring to my move, and my very happy, fresh-start mood at that moment. Then a few minutes later the DJ on the radio blurted out that TMZ was reporting that Michael Jackson was dead, but that it hadn’t been confirmed by any other source at that point. So I pulled over, and went directly to Twitter on my iPhone. Later it occurred to me that two years ago this week I would have raced home to jump on the computer to learn more – since the iPhone didn’t debut until the very end of June 2007 – and I would have gone straight to a news source. And a year ago, I would have been able to pull over, and check right then, but I would have still gone to a news site to look it up. But this week? This week Twitter was the choice, and it didn’t even require any thought. I just knew that if something was happening, then Twitter was the place to be, and it was the right choice. I got immediate confirmation, along with disbelief, great grief, and straight from the heart sadness. When bad things happen, as humans we want to connect, and the immediacy of Twitter was the perfect vehicle. At first I felt guilty that my last Tweet had been so happy and frivolous – I hadn’t known when I tweeted – but still, it just felt wrong. But then I noticed that people assumed it referred to Michael, and I realized that while I hadn’t meant it that way, but that it could indeed refer to him too.

So Michael this is for you! “Say goodbye, say goodbye to the way I was before. Say hello, say hello to a new way…”

Site Update

So why am I posting screen shots of my current web site? Well the word current might be a clue…

I love my site as is – it was designed with my fine art background in mind. If you ever spent hours cutting mats for prints, bright white mats, four-ply, with sharp perfect corners, and never exactly square, always fuller at the bottom – then you get all the white in my current site. And if you ever signed your mounted prints with pencil, then you really get it. Even the little square images that repeat throughout the site are an homage to the square images on a medium format contact sheet.

But things change! And artists evolve. And it was time for an update. So that’s coming, soon. But today I just want to post a few screenshots, as an archive, because I like looking back! And soon, what you see below, will be the past.

Catching up…

Several unrelated things to share today!

First, back in January I got my first billboard! It’s long been one of my dreams to see my images on CD covers, magazine covers, and up on billboards. I mean, how cool would it be to be zipping by on the freeway, and see one of my image over ten feet tall? Very cool! Well I didn’t get to see this particular billboard in person, since it was located in New Zealand, but I can imagine what it looked like, and in my mind if was magnificent! It was an ad for Marty Casey’s New Zealand tour, and featured my favorite image of him ever. Click here to see the image!

Marty Casey for Canteen // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Second, once again, thanks to Mr. Casey I had another first this week… I was a web developer for a long time, and designed some pretty high-profile sites for Sony while I worked there, and developed ROCKBAND.COM into a fairly big deal before I sold it – but I never once entered a web awards competition. I had planned to enter into the Webby’s this year, but wasn’t able to make it happen in time, so I figured that was that. But I was wrong! Marty Casey’s web team entered his site, and I was listed as a photographer, so in a very small way I helped a site win a Gold at the ADDY® Awards. Maybe this will encourage me to get with it next year, and enter myself?

Third, I just watched a repeat of Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane on The Style Channel, that originally aired a couple of weeks ago, and in it Kimora decides that she’s going to shoot an ad campaign herself, because she’s a model, and a pretty good amateur photographer. The whole show totally cracked me up! But despite the premise designed for a half-hour TV realty show, there was a real pro on scene, coaching her. Jerry Avenaim gave her lessons, helped her to see that she needed to use medium format with a digital back, since the intended use was magazines, and I would bet he set up the whole shoot at the location – even though that wasn’t explicitly shown. So Kimora’s role technically was minimized, and as a model I’ll bet she was a natural at finding the perfect angles when dealing with the male model. So the premise was not as crazy as it initially sounded – but it was still a very funny episode – for me! I also loved it because the location they choose is one I recognized immediately and plan to use myself someday. It’s a magical place, overlooking the whole city, with great light.

Fourth, I had a dream a few nights ago where I woke up thinking about a little run down old house in a place I’ve never considered living in, and I had a strong sense that this imaginary little house in my dream was my new home. And my immediate reaction was NO! That’s not my plan, my plan is to move to LA. But I felt a little haunted by how right that little house felt. I really do want an old house – the older and more authentic the better. And run down is fine. I can paint! I can landscape! I can refinish wood. I can pay a handyman to replace a hot water heater. My dream is a little craftsman cottage from about 1910 or a Victorian cottage from about 1895. But in LA, not this little town I’ve never even considered living in before. So I wanted to dismiss this silly dream, but it felt so right, it was hard to dismiss… Then it occurred to me that this little town is only an hour away from Los Angeles. And real estate prices are so much lower there. So now I’m not sure. All I know is that I’m not dismissing that dream anymore, I’m going to let it stay in my thoughts for a while, and see what happens. Sometimes we work stuff out in our dreams, so maybe I should listen?

Fifth, the radio station in San Diego that hosted the party I went to in December, Sophie @ 103.7, has been playing Ryan Star’s song Last Train Home, all week. He’s won head to head challenges this week against Butch Walker, then Saving Abel, then Seether, and now he’s up against Third Day. If he wins this round, he goes up against Depeche Mode and then The Killers. It’s a big deal, and I love that my hometown may be the place where Ryan gets the kick to push him into mainstream radioplay across the nation. It could happen! So if you have time, go vote!

Sixth, yes I’m sad that JD Fortune and INXS are no longer going to work together. I’m just glad that I saw as many concerts as I did! I saw them over a half-dozen times in California, once in Vegas, once in Missouri, and then three shows in Canada, so I definitely had fun! And I’m looking forward to new projects from both INXS and JD. Yes, they’re breaking up, but it might mean twice the musical output this way, so it’s not all bad.

Seventh, it’s soooooo beautiful today! It’s warm, and the sky is bright blue, and there’s promise in the air. I feel lucky to be here!

And last but not least, I get to go to a concert this week! Juke Kartel, Toby Rand’s band from Australia will be in Los Angeles on Monday at The Troubadour. If you’re in town, come down. Toby is amazing, and it’s bound to be a lot of fun!

Happy New Year!

“Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible. BELIEVE BIG.” – Anonymous

As satisfying as 2008 was, I am so ready for 2009!

Artistically, the past year was amazing – I love my body of work from 2008. I shot some images that will be among my favorites forever. Iconic, beautiful, powerful images that I fall in love with every time I see them. That’s what I hope for every day, and it was gratifying to find so much of that particular kind of satisfaction in one year. It was just a great year!

And 2009 is looking even better, if that’s possible, and I believe it is. I believe in believing big – even if it is a bit of a twister to say and even twistier to comprehend. But try…

Pale Pink and Orange Bougainvillea // Photo: Cheryl Spelts