Where can you go from there? Eleven. Exactly!

With the new year kicking off I find myself in shock as I sit here and reflect on the last 12 months.
We all sit back at some point and wonder “where did the year go?”, but it took my friend Al to point out to me “John, you were never here.”

How very true.

My annual open-letter post is really the only time of the year that I share with everyone a little bit insight or details on my life. Ten months ago, in February, I lost a dear friend of mine. Juanita Lopez lost her battle with cancer at 26 years old. It was one of those moments for all of us that just left everyone in total shock. But what I’ve pointed out to many people since then, is that the moment Juanita found out her time was limited, she chose to live. She spent every moment she could enjoying all that life had to offer – from spending time with family, going out with friends, to marrying her best friend Robert.
If we all were to take any page from Juanita’s book, it should be that one. Realizing what’s truly important.

This is something I share because it had a profound impact on my year. From when January started, to that moment a month later, I had already traveled to Michigan and the Bay Area. I had the wonderful opportunity to shoot the Gerhardt wedding and spend time once again with the DeLand family (who I shot for last year, too).  I shot the Machallister wedding in San Jose, traveled to San Francisco with my car crew for a show that we took third overall in. And even had a few friends travel to Socal to visit me, too.

We all get so caught up in our lives and busy schedules that we put things off, or tell ourselves that “we’ll do it next time” and “next time” never comes.

I took a chance earlier this year by passing up a wonderful opportunity with a great company because I needed to take the risk of doing things on my own. To push myself and further new goals with my craft. This year I became primarily a wedding photographer. It was a wonderful chance to truly connect with my clients and those around me.

And without even realizing it, until I looked back and had try and pinpoint what defined my year, I had made sure to find and make every opportunity to visit or reconnect with old friends.
Sure, I didn’t get a chance to see absolutely everyone. But I sure managed to see a ton of people.

When I traveled to Michigan, how hard is it to wake up an hour earlier and have coffee with my old professor? When I flew to Vancouver, WA, what’s so difficult about extending the trip a few more days to see some old friends who were past clients? A three hour layover in Texas meant dinner with a friend in Dallas on my way home to California, from New York. On another trip to Michigan I wrapped a trip to Chicago around that weekend wedding to see an old friend there. And when I was booked to shoot a wedding in Florida, I made a short east-coast tour of it and visited friends in Baltimore and Boston – additional ticket cost was $150 more.. that’s it.

My point is that people don’t realize how easy it is to make time. I think that many people don’t try hard enough, or maybe they’re scared.

I could sit here and continue to write to everyone about what I accomplished in 2010. Believe me, they’re things I’m very proud of. My work was featured on CNN.com and AOL.com for Eryn Holl’s wedding. The K&N Filters calendar that I photographed was published for 2011 and is currently available to those interested. I flew all over the country to capture people’s wedding days because they wanted my work for their imagery and not someone local. Again, I have a lot of great things I can say about 2010.

But what was most important to me… was how many chances I got to spend with my friends and my family. From shooting my little sister’s engagement photos and months later being part of her wedding. To seeing all my old lifeguard and Disney friends in Florida that I worked with many years ago. We had a Nickelodeon and Paramount reunion dinner during one of my Bay Area trips. I spent more time visiting my family in San Diego. I extended every out of state trip I had to see local friends. I spent more time on the weekends out driving, riding, or going to the beach with my buddies here in Socal.

So I’ll end with saying Thank You to the person to had the biggest impact on my life this year…

Juanita. The stories I heard from you and Robert during all of 2009 inspired me to live a fuller 2010.

The wealth of our lives is not in how much we make, but the relationships we have with the people around us.

Here is to an amazing 2011.

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