Hidden Worlds


I can still remember getting my first camera. It was an all-manual Vivitar film camera with a 28-70 mm lens. It was all black and had some weight to it. As I opened the package I was like a giddy like a kid on Christmas.  I loaded the film that day and headed down to the park to photograph a very icy White River in Anderson.  I didn’t know much about photography then and in my excitement chose to shoot on a bright sunny day. Unfortunately, with all of the white snow the images did not come out as I had hoped, but what I was drawn to was the idea of capturing nature.  As long as I can remember I have loved being outside and getting dirty. When I was a kid I would create dirt tracks for my mini machine trucks, which were the  little cars with the big wheels.  If you were a boy in the 80’s you probably had them.  I can remember distinctly the smell of the dirt and the pine trees that surrounded us.  After college I was invited by my good friend Matt Toth on a few I’ll say…Adventures!  We took some kayaks to a remote Indian village in Mexico and paddled for several days on the Sea of Cortez. I woke up eagerly each morning and captured the beautiful early light on the ocean.  Some of the images from that trip are still in my portfolio.  As a young photographer I watched documentaries on Ansel Adams and dreamed of having a career in Fine Art.  After my first show I quickly realized that there was not much money in this business for me.  It wasn’t long after that show when someone in the commercial world hired me to photograph an event. I then sold a few images to an architecture firm and a few musicians had me take there album cover image. I realized that I was probably more valuable in this commercial world than in the fine art industry.  To be honest, I have enjoyed every bit of learning commercial photography and I love working with people and creating marketing materials.  It brings me great joy to see my images on someones website, magazine or sometimes billboard!  Most of the time when I head out in the back country these days the camera is left behind.  I deliberately separate my “work” from my time off.  I find that I am more present in the surroundings without my camera.  However, on occasions I decide to pack my old friend to see what I might see.  My wife and I set out this fall to a beautiful place in Michigan called Nord House Dunes. We backpack in for a few hours and set up camp on the beach. We typically don’t see a single person for days.  Most of the trip was just spent relaxing, throwing rocks and trying to stay in the water as long as we could stand because it was 60 degrees.  I took a few photos here and there but mostly just enjoyed my time with Jules.  However, as we were hiking out I noticed the sand.  It had this really amazing texture and shapes that appeared like mountains.  I grabbed my little camera and started capturing these images.  They looked like hidden worlds to me.  I was transported back instantly to that young giddy kid with a camera.

SineWave Audio


One of the great things about my job is working with people I know and respect.  I am lucky to be good friends with the fellas at SineWave Audio.  Not many people probably know that in the little town of Anderson, there is a company that goes out weekly and provides production for some really huge national acts.  Last week I got a sound bite from my buddy Ben at the Philadelphia Symphony featuring Steve Martin on the banjo.  I met Ben and Micah at Anderson University many years ago and have continued a friendship with them throughout the years.  Ben and I traveled for many years in several bands, he as a sound man/road manager and me as a singer and guitar player.  We drove thousands of miles together in vans and then buses.  We started out using home made speakers and pigtailing boards together to get sound.  He now has much better equipment!  Ben called me several weeks ago and asked if I’d like to photograph a production his company was in charge of at Bankers Life Field House. It happened to be with Chain Smokers and Back Street Boys.  The job was to photograph the production and the overall "wow" factor of what their company provides.  They have lots of big speakers and cool lights! You’ll notice that my interest in these images are not with the bands but with the overall technical direction of the event.  Thanks Ben and Micah for the cool work and a great night. 

Pen and Paper


I’d like to reflect and explain the inspiration behind some of the drawings I have been posting to my instagram feed lately.  Many years ago while I was in school I tended to have a difficult time staying focused while sitting in a lecture.  I would often times find myself getting lost in my thoughts and it didn’t seem to help to “try harder”.  I remember experiencing frustration in classes as I would tend to miss out on most of what my professor was teaching and I always seemed to be behind in my classes.  I remember a Teacher in High School mentioned some letters to me, A-D-D… and informing me that there was medicine to help this focusing issue.  I had no desire to take a drug to fix my “problem”.  As I continued my education however, it didn’t just get better or go away.  Because of my not so incredible GPA when I reached College I was awarded the opportunity to take a course for the underachievers.  Lart 2000.  However, in this class someone actually took time to talk with me about different styles of learning and gave me a few tips on staying focused in a lecture hall.  I remember specifically someone suggesting that I doodle on a piece of paper. I didn’t quite understand why this would help but I gave it a try.  While I loved drawing, I had always felt frustrated with my attempt at what I thought was art at the time.  I compared myself to my brother who was an Incredible realist and when you’re a kid you tend to get things written on your DNA.  So Art in drawing form was not a talent that I had.  I leaned into music and decided my brother was the artist in the family, I was the musician.  Later on in life I pursued art again and found a love for drawing and painting.  Though I was not an accomplished realist like my brother, I enjoyed impressionism very much and enjoyed taking courses in College learning about lines, shapes, lighting, and color.  These principles have helped tremendously in my pursuit of Photography.  Still often times while drawing I would experience anxiety and feel pretty worn out because I put so much focus and pressure on myself to make something interesting and accurate.  These drawings that I have been posting do not feel the same. Over the years I have been doodling all over homework, books, and whatever is available to help keep focused.  I don’t understand the science behind this practice but it actually seems to work for me.  In the last several years I’ve decided to keep some order to my scribbling.  I have dedicated journals for these unconscious drawings, without them once again I am easily districted by my thoughts.  I believe in all things we can look at ourselves and make judgments.  I am attempting in my older years to accept my challenges and my “disorder” in a different light. I don’t really know what Art is but I know that the process of being present in a learning environment and also being free while making these drawings have been life changing and maybe that pursuit, in and of itself, is the real art. 

Indy On The River

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One of my favorite clients to shoot for is Visit Indy.  Though many people would know me as a bit of a country boy who tends to keep things simple and slow, my wife and I love to take a trip to downtown Indy, especially to shoot some photos.  This particular job was to highlight people enjoying the White River downtown.  If you don’t know to look for the river you might not know that it runs right at the edge of the City and is quite beautiful.  I hope some of these photos will inspire you to get down to Indy and ride a bike, take a walk or just sit and enjoy both water and skyline! 

Black & White


I got the opportunity to work with Marisa for her new album, produced and recorded by my good friend Rick Singleton of Slick Studios.  I wanted to post and write a bit about black and white photography today.  These days with the use of digital cameras I typically will shoot in color then decide in post how to tone the image.  All that said, I still love to see in black and white.  Many times when I'm looking at a shot I will actually shoot the image with the intention of turning it black and white.  These shots are good examples of this process for me.  I would say my favorite of these three images is the top vertical image.  Composition and context are extremely important to me when making an image.  I had noticed that the shadow created by the falling light acted as a reflection to the adjacent building.  This totally makes the image for me!  Finding these little gems are what makes photography really fun and worth coming back for.  The black and white tone really enhances the mood of theses photos for me.  Thanks Marisa for a great shoot and being so laid back and fun to work with. 

Family Photos

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I often get asked if I shoot family portraits, my typical response is, "only when asked."  The truth is I love working with anyone who is up for having fun and being flexible and it also helps when people are up for something maybe a little different.  I'm happy to shoot smiling faces of kids looking at the camera but it really is fun to try and capture them in their environment...moving, playing, and being a kid. This session was with some of my favorite friends, the Noel family.  We started off shooting pictures of the kids just being themselves then went inside to photograph their home life. When shooting a family portrait I am often perplexed on how to make the photo look interesting.  Dad goes here, Mom sits here, and the kids go here….. blaaaa.  I had this idea in mind to conclude the session...Ryan is an avid music lover and I had the idea of creating their family portrait subtly based off of an album cover I remembered from the Beatles.  This set of images is meant to be displayed in a block of 4.  They happily obliged my idea and these were a few of the images from this session. 

Jon McLaughlin

Todays blog is about one of my favorite people… Mr. Jon McLaughlin, who is playing this Friday in his home town Anderson, IN at the Paramount Theatre!  He has been a good friend for years.  I have played music with him, shot photos for him and spent much time laughing about things that probably aren’t that funny.   Yes he is exactly who you hope he would be…talented, funny and just simply a really nice dude.  This image was shot several years ago at his house.  It’s one of my favorites because of it’s simplicity.  Simple lighting and a cool idea go along way.  Best luck on Friday Jon.

the Kissing Rocks

“Why do we love the sea?  It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.”  -Robert Henri

Hilton Head Island, SC was the destination of my first trip of the year…Hint if you desire less crowds Hilton Head is a great place to be in February amongst the friendly retirees and scarce beaches.  This shot was taken early morning after a sketchy bike ride at dawn with little available light…and yes, coffee in hand.  There is a spot left untouched by the large surrounding hotels and condos, home to many Osprey, Blue Herron, and Egrets.  Myself, my wife, and daughter Bella arrived at this spot called "the Kissing Rocks” just as they were turning blue.  The legend goes that if you kiss the rocks it brings one good luck.  However, I think if you kiss your loved one on the rocks you already have good luck… Most of my time this morning was spent watching my 9 year-old study the land scape, watching the birds and learning how to compose a photograph.  I took this photo in the meantime.

deVerdier Wedding

This was one of my favorite weddings from last fall.  Chaz and Barbara were prepared, fun, and laid back for their big day.  I enjoy shooting weddings because it's about creating emotion and feel as well as being present and capturing a moment that is authentic and beautiful.  At times I'm bringing lights out and creating a scene to control a shot and other moments I'm sitting back and capturing the day as it happens, both approaches can be beautiful.


I have had the privilege of working on several shoots for GX Magazine. This article features Sergeant Linsey Williams, who is making her way in the MMA fighting circle. She was photographed on location at her gym in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This issue also features a page on contributors to the magazine, including myself. This is what they wrote:

"Cliff, who lives in Markleville, IN [population: about 500], has photographed among others, Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts and Josh Kaufman, winner of season 6 of "The Voice." Starting on Page 84, you can see his shots of another rising star: Sergeant Linsey Williams, who, Cliff says, "is the type of person you want serving your country." At the photo session, her power was on display. "Shooting some action shots, I asked her to give me a sequence at about 70 percent of her actual force.  It was not long before I realized I needed to ask for 20 percent," Cliff says.  He was also struck by Williams' humility and depth in talking about topics such as philosophy and bioethics. "Sergeant Williams is more than the sum of her ferocious uppercut," he says."


To take the camera, to not take the camera?

This is one of my favorite shots from Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.  I wrote this blog years ago in reference to this photo and thought it was worth posting again here...

The Question: To take the camera or to leave it home? This is something I really thought through for this trip. Sometimes I just need to get away and have time to relax and enjoy myself. To fully engage in in the place and, for lack of better expression, be one with my surroundings. The other more practical issue is weight... I am a bit of a minimalist on my adventures. Now, I have yet to resorted to cutting the tags and straps off my bag and equipment but I do try to keep things simple and lightweight. If you haven’t done any backpacking it may not sound like much but a few pounds means quite a bit over several hours of hiking. To take a full camera with lens and tripod is a significant weight to my pack. Knowing that I may not get this opportunity again I decided to take both. It also helped when I realized that doing so could make the trip tax deductible!!!
Lesson learned: My typical routine is to pack my bag then go through and decide which items are essential and which items are comfort items. I had brought two batteries but last minute decided to discard the extra. We had hiked in on Friday through Cascade Canyon which is the valley at the Northern base of the Tetons. We would be supporting ourselves for the next four days. The trail was moderate but the newness of the pack always takes a bit to get used too, “Pull straps tight to for weight on shoulders loosen for weight on hips.” A mixture of snow and rain made for beautiful scenery and a pretty cold hike. About seven miles in on the first day we turned to the south fork trail and made camp a mile in. As we made our way up the hill snow started to gain intensity. We made camp on a bed of snow packed down by numb feet. A warm but quick dinner followed by an early retreat to the sleeping bags. As I laid my head down I noticed the illumination through the top of the tent, it was still light. I felt my feet start to warm up going from numb to tingly then I was out. Rumors of bears kept me light with sleep. It’s not so much a fear of bears but the fear of being eating by a bear that seemed to be present in my much active mind. Morning came and the weather broke making it clear and chilly. Coffee.... Thank you starbucks for your one shot coffee packs. Light weight simple and ooo so good. After breakfast I pulled my camera out and noticed the light would be perfect for a few shots of the canyon. Light was shooting through the canyon, hitting the side of the mountain in front. Clouds diffused the light perfectly. As I put my rickety cheap tripod up and turned the camera on I noticed the my battery was reading ONE BAR. How could it be? It showed full power the day before and I had yet to shoot anything. I ranted for a bit then gathered myself and realized the opportunity I had. One of the reasons I debate taking my camera is that it monopolizes my thoughts. I spend so much time looking for a perfect shot that I loose focus of just seeing and looking around. I can shoot too much!!! With only a small amount of power I would not be taking many shots. I would be forced to be patient. I would also be forced to conserve power by not looking at that o so tempting screen on the back. No this would have to be shot the old school way– without the quick viewing of the image–Bringing me back to the days of film. I took three or four images making sure to bracket my exposure then turned off the camera. Making do: Saturdays hike was a day hike we took only the essentials. We continued on the south fork to Hurricane pass. The maps we had were very basic and tough to determine distance. We had estimated two hrs to get there and two back. After trekking through a foot of snow for three hours and several conversations of stopping short, we reached the base of hurricane pass. As we sat and looked at the intimidating climb we decided to fuel up a bit before attempting the final push to the top of the pass. As we ate our lunch we noticed a speck of a person slowly making their way to the top. We had been following his size 11 prints most of the morning. Well his and a few large bear prints... We finished eating then decide to give it a go. The trail was steep and each step sunk deep into the packing snow. there were roughly five big switchbacks that made the assent possible. Im not sure how the guy ahead of us found the trail but we followed each step. The last bit of trail was very thin but after about forty minutes we had reached the top. You could see for miles and miles. It made every bit of the trip worth while. I set my tripod up and looked for a good composition paying attention to our time. Shooting with bright sun is never the best option but thats all I had. I had trouble finding a composition that I really desired but I would have needed to hike half way around the ridge and another hour for that shot. Sometimes you just have to make due... Snow had turned to slush on the way back to camp. We sat on the rocks ate our dinner and I watched the sun change color on the rocks. Orange then a cool blue the the light was gone. The stars were brilliant that night.
The waiting game: Sunday worship was spent engaged in the sounds of nature. Water was rushing from the mountain and forming streams to our left and right. The Picas were gathering leaves and grass for winter storage. This was our short day. We got to our camp early and the sun was blazing! We were in shorts and t-shirts and looking for shade. A welcomed contrast to the previous day. We pulled our gear out and started to hang sleeping bags shirts wet socks and boots on the surrounding trees. Dry cloths are a great luxury in the back country. Half way through our routine. I laughed and sang a christmas carol. Our cloths looked like giant ornaments Hanging from the jack pines. After an afternoon of resting in the sun we made the decision to hike further to Solitude lake and make our dinner on it’s banks. As soon as we got there I hiked around the lake looking for a good shot. I found a few compositions but the light was too harsh and the contrast was too much. I made a few mock shots through my lens and anxiously waited for the sun to go down. After about an hr I realized that I was no where near the time it would be for appropriate lighting. My stomach was growling and I made the decision to abandon the shots and get some dinner. After worrying that I would be taking too much time and not wanting to keep the guys waiting I simply asked if they would be ok waiting a bit longer so I could take the shots I had planned. What else did we have to do. The guys patiently walked around and waited on me to finish the shots. It was still a bit early but I knew I would be able to bracket the exposures again and get what I needed. After obsessively walking back and forth lining rocks and trees up with reflections. I finally found my shots.
That’s all she wrote: We knew that we would be pushing it to get out on time so we decided to hike the next day over paintbrush divide and finish our tip at String lake where we started. It was a difficult day. The divide was at 10,700 ft and we descended on some rather slippery technical areas. Slowly but safely we made our way down to dry trail. On the way down I finished out my battery taking some fun shots of the guys and the terrain. Nine miles and several blisters later we were at the car finding relief by removing our packs. We drove through the night a total of thirty hours and were finally home! This is the first image from the trip took the morning after the blizzard. 


This shot is of Mt. Bromo, an active volcano on the island of Java in Indonesia.  I had fourteen days to explore several of the Indonesian islands and my time there was just incredible.  We spent a night on the beach at an idyllic lagoon that looked as though it came straight out of the movie "the Beach”, though I never did see Leonardo DiCaprio.  We spent a few nights in Bali, and after a long crazy drive and little nights sleep we woke up early to make our way for the morning view of this beautiful volcano.  People from all over the world make their way to this spot to get a picture.  As people pushed and made their way to the edge of the lookout to get a selfie with Bromo, I stood my ground so that I would get this composition.  I watched this shot unfold and felt grateful for such beautiful moments to remember such power and beauty.


True friendship...

This week I'd like to exhibit some images from an event I was fortunate enough to shoot for Sunking's annual Canvatational. This was a really fun event where some of the best of the best in Beer was invited to show off their cool cans and tasty brews. You know its gonna be a good shoot when you get handed sample cups as you walk through the gates.  I was smart enough to wait to sample such wonderful drinks until my job was finished but had a blast watching people and photographing on such a beautiful day.  Thanks Sunking for having us!

Right time, right place


Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to work for some really cool organizations.  I tend to get really busy taking photographs and have little to no energy posting or telling anyone that I am still a photographer.   So what I'd like to do for some of my blog posts is a bit of a review of some of my favorite photography moments.

This is one of my all time favorite moments in photography.  I have a love for creating light and a mood by dialing in all my nerdy devices to make some one stand out.  I can spend hours thinking and making light perfect and composing a solid composition to create an image I love.  However this particular moment had none of the above.  It was the opposite of creating and manipulating. This was a moment just handed to me because I made myself available and was present.  This shot was taken on a project in Fountain Square, the job was to capture the feel and vibe of the area for Visit Indy.  As I was walking around watching people interact I see these two older gentleman spot each other.  I have no idea if they were good friends or complete strangers.  I saw the man walking hold up his hand and the man on the bike smiled and give him a high five as he rode past. Neither one looking back.  I quickly grabbed my camera and got totally lucky to be in the right spot at the right time. I got two shots off and this was my favorite. 


Visit Indy 2016

Visit Indy 2016

Visit Indy 2016

I am writing to announce that after many years of prolonging … I have finally finished a new web site!  With the help, and to be fair all the help, from Jules we are proud to launch it today.  The work on display is from various mediums.  Everything from:  my favorite personal trips, to commercial work I’ve done for large and small businesses and event photography, to some of my favorite musicians and the beautiful people I have been fortunate enough to photograph on their wedding day. I will be posting new blogs and some of my previous blogs in the upcoming weeks so be sure to check back now and again for updates.  Though I keep a fairly sparse on-line presence I continue to be passionate in my work as a photographer and artist. Here are a few shots from Indianapolis this past summer. 

Thanks again for following!