Who am I? Well, I’m not your typical Texan! I’ve never lived on a ranch or ridden a horse to school. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth in a city called Arlington. In fact, it’s where I still live today with my wife and son. Growing up, my grandmother inspired me to take interest in drawing and painting, which my parents also encouraged. It was a strange time growing up, as it was the transition from analog to digital. My dad made sure we always had the latest technology. From Pong to the Commodore 64, we were one of the first kids we knew to have these things. Dad also had this really nice Nikon film SLR. He would break it out on our family vacations to the beach or camping. The photography would rarely impress me though.
The pictures seemed to always come out kind of flat and boring. So I stuck with art. I was also into soccer and would be out on my bike every night until dark doing some type of activity. My interest in art continued through high school where I won a couple of awards. Computers were just beginning to become mainstream, unfortunately, as a rebellious teen, I rejected them in lieu of more traditional artwork creation. I really liked to airbrush and worked one Summer at Six Flags painting T-shirts. Eventually, at the Art Institute of Dallas, where certain classes forced my hand at computers, I embraced them fully when I was introduced to Photoshop 2.5. I was doing lots of painting and illustration at the time and Photoshop kind of mirrored the same process of cutting masks and airbrushing. I loved it, and, oh the joy when Photoshop introduced ‘layers’. So awesome!
Now, my parents will attest that a young Cliff Baise was rarely a perfect child. I was hyper and fearless. To my big brother this meant ‘annoying’. I think my parents were convinced I had a death wish. I’m pretty sure in this day and age I would have been medicated. I think I’m just a natural dreamer who doesn’t take life too seriously.
I had a really great childhood. My parents were always involved and did their best to provide my brother and I with more than just necessities. We had a boat and would go camping and skiing a lot during the Summers. I know I was not as respectful or appreciative as I should have been (I think the term for it is ‘little shit’)… but they were patient with me and know now that I am very thankful.
As a late teen, I got out of sports, which transitioned into trouble, mischief and partying. I hung out with all the other wild dudes and crazy chicks as we would rock out to heavy metal, and did I mention I liked to party? Anyway, the partying led to some really bad decisions and I wound up in a little trouble with the law. Luckily I was only 17 and after some probationary work release and a short stint in rehab, it was off of my record.
Whew! That experience was enough for me to realize that I had to make better choices. That was NOT the path I wanted my life to go. Besides, my poor parents raised me better than that! (Still sorry, Mom and Dad!)
I’ve always tried to keep my occupations art related. I met my wife just after graduating art school while working as a picture framer. Soon thereafter, I got a job as a proofer at a pre-press shop. It was there that I advanced into the role as a graphic designer. For the next few years I chilled out a lot and settled into the typical American Dream. I married my sweetie (best decision ever), we bought a house and did the 9-5 commute for awhile. Although this was a really stable way to live, I was simply unfulfilled and was becoming unhappy a lot of the time. The grind got very boring, very fast. And I was thinking adult life was pretty lame. After working for a couple of agencies, and really understanding the design/print process, I eventually traded my cubicle at the office for one at home. So in 1999, Cliff Baise Graphics & Art was born.
I’m so appreciative of the people who believed in me enough to help get us started. One of those people is Pam Minick, formerly of Billy Bob’s Texas. While doing some design work for her, she introduced me to the great folks over at Justin Brands.
They immediately recognized my services as an asset and a continued working relationship was established. This lasted relationship 16 years before staff changed over. Recently they decided to go fully ‘in house’.
Honey, I’m Pregnant
In 2000, just as things were taking off, I found out I was going to be a dad in December. We decided that Cher would continue to work in cosmetics while I became a stay-at-home dad who would continue to grow the business. Well, it wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be, but with lots of help from family and friends, we kept the business going. It was during the early years that my painting and drawing went into the back seat. Actually, I put it in the trunk.
I never imagined I would find myself in these roles. Most of my years I’ve been kind of a ‘lone ranger’, doing my own thing. Now I’ve got my own graphic design business, working out of my home studio and a new baby boy. I got busy enough to bring my wife on in 2005. It also helped that she was able to join the PTA and be a big part in our son’s school life. Becoming a dad has opened me up from selfishness and added responsibility. Plus it’s a lot of fun!
I didn’t seriously pick up a camera until 2008 when a client asked if I could ‘do photography’. I lied and said yes. I immersed myself into learning all I could as fast as possible. It was at the same time that I was going through a rough period in my life. Three out of my 4 best friends growing up had recently died. My Best Man from our wedding died from heroin overdose, another from prescription drug abuse, and another from military PTSD suicide. All under 40. Since I was in the midst of family life, these friends had become a little distant, however it didn’t mean I loved them any less. I had lots of questions and my current resources were not providing any answers.
I had been photographing product with my trusty D80 for about a year now and I was feeling more confident about it. I understood the photography triangle of ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture. This new found photography bug was keeping my mind off of other things.
But I was just kind of plodding through life. Some days were better than others. It just depended on what was happening around me would determine my mood. Most of the time I was not happy. I really just wanted to be left alone and get back to making art. (Traditional stuff like sculptures, paintings and stained glass.) Working on the computer all day seemed so hollow. To this point I’ve spent thousands of hours honing my skills doing illustrations and graphic designs on a computer. My clicking arm was showing signs of carpal tunnel. It makes me remember that we are the first generation to work this way, so there are not many long term studies on daily extensive computer use.
One day that March I googled ‘photography techniques’ and a certain website was the first one that caught my eye. It was Trey Ratcliff’s Stuck in Customs. I clicked on the link and was blown away. I couldn’t believe the images he was creating with a regular ol’ DLSR. It looked kind of like stuff I had painted back in the day with vibrant colors and dramatic scenes. It was great that he had this free tutorial and his daily posts were funny and insightful. I combed over everything. I studied his tutorial and read every post. This guy had a different way of thinking that resonated with me and actually filled a void that I was missing from my friends that had passed. I loved that he traveled so much (as I hadn’t been much of anywhere) and somewhere along the line I felt like he gave me permission to bust out of my self imposed cubicle and explore the world like he did, rather than just living vicariously through his works. So I did. I started taking the 3 brackets my D80 would allow everywhere I went… the park, the racetrack (RC was my main hobby before photography) on vacations, to church, in the backyard. I actually then traveled all by myself, hundreds of miles away, to meet my cousin in Taos, New Mexico for a week. This concept was unheard of before in my life. So I packed my tripod and the two kit lenses I had then, and headed out strictly for landscape photography. I fell in love with it.
When I got back home my wife and I were going to watch some Netflix. We were combing through and came across this movie called The Secret. It was so interesting to me and it is the idea that you create your own reality based on the Law of Attraction. It is the name given to the term that “like attracts like” and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results. This belief is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from “pure energy”, and the belief that like energy attracts like energy.
I immediately thought that must be what Trey uses because that’s the way his life is happening. He is creating his own life experiences using deliberate intention rather than just letting life happen to him. (Later I found out that he had never heard of this concept, but was glad that his default process was confirmed in my explaining of this.)
So I decided to try it out for myself. I said, ‘Universe, I’m going to meet this “Trey Ratcliff” and we are going to hit it off and become friends. Then, we’ll travel to exotic locations and shoot together.’ (what the heck, I had to aim high, right?) ‘And one day I’ll also be a world famous photographer and see the beauty of the entire world, and create tons of beautiful art that will bring joy and awe to millions.’ Well, one out of three isn’t so bad. The latter two goals are still solidly ‘in progress’!
In the Summer of 2009 Flickr was one of Trey’s main outlets. I found out he was hosting a photowalk in Austin, just a couple of hours South of me. My wife and I headed down and there were so many people. I had just upgraded to a D700 and got a 14-24 f2.8 lens. I also dropped more cash than I’d like to think about on my carbon fiber tripod. But I felt like I had the equipment to really make something happen now. I met him briefly at the Driskill Hotel in Austin. I described my profile picture and he said he remembered seeing my comments on his photostream. I doubt he remembers that encounter. I posted a photo to his Flickr community and got a comment from him… too cool!
So I continued throughout the Summer making really bad and intense HDR photos.. but I thought some were pretty good. I think every photographer interested in HDR must get these clown vomit photos out of their system.
That Fall, Trey announced that he was going to do a workshop in Austin. It was a pretty big investment of $1000 dollars, plus hotel, but my wife and I decided it was worth it. She could see that I was really finding happiness in creating these photos and wanted to support me in furthering my art. So after his server crashed, I clicked and clicked refresh until I was one of the lucky 11 to find my way into his workshop. It was a great workshop with lots of learning, shooting and having fun. He and I seemed to hit it off pretty well. He shared one of my photos from his workshop on his blog which blew up my Flickr stats. Sweet!
When I got back home I started joining Meetup groups and getting more involved with photography wherever I could. I went to this thing called OpenCamp in Dallas for bloggers where Trey was speaking. I got to hang out with him a little bit there and it was nice that he recognized me right away. A few months later Trey announced another speech he was giving in Austin. I jotted down and we wound up having dinner together we talked a little about life and our families. We discovered that we had boys the same age who were really into Minecraft, so we hooked them up and played every. single. day.
In the Summer of 2010 I got really brave and drove to California all by myself strictly for photography. I hit the Pacific Coast Highway, Yosemite, and Mono Lake. I was originally headed to Mono Lake because of some photos I had seen on Flickr, but Yosemite was on the way so I decided to check it out. I was absolutely stunned by the beauty of Yosemite and it took me all day to drive through. I was stopping so much. I even did a 2 mile hike to an overlook, and it was in that moment I realized how incredibly out of physical shape I was in. You see, the last few years I had been sedentary, playing video games and eating whatever. I had a computer job, so sitting at it was my main activity. I didn’t work out or exercise in any way and I ate whatever. I came to the realization that I was 50 lbs overweight and if I was going to be a landscape photographer, I needed to make a change. Little did I know how many changes I would soon be making… mentally, physically and spiritually.
I had always considered myself religious and continued to attend church regularly (although I never really felt comfortable… kind of like a fish out of water). I do remember at one point arguing with my friends that they were going to Hell. Yes, it got that bad. My wife and I were fighting one Sunday after church (and since we never fought except for Sundays) we stopped and wondered why. We determined that the day was completely stressful from the time we awoke, just to get to church. From getting ready to wearing uncomfortable clothes and trying to get our kid ready to do something he didn’t want to do. Once we were at church, we had to put on a fake smile and pretend everything was great. Then we had to give up the little bit of extra money we had for tithing, then all the thankless volunteering and artistic type work we did, then there was the guilt for our behavior etc. etc. etc. I never chose this church or this (so called) spiritual teacher (the pastor) for myself. My grandparents attended, my parents attended, I and I was also to attend… miserable or not.
So one Sunday we decided not to go. Wow, what a great day! We slept in and made a nice breakfast. The best part was, no stress! We didn’t fight and really enjoyed our family time. (I didn’t mention how much my son disliked the church. He is of a new generation where he can discern if what he is being told resonates or not. Plus he couldn’t stand the music.) So we haven’t been back since.
I know we all have different beliefs, and that is what is great about the world. Variety is the spice of life. So please be open minded about my journey as I will be about yours. If you are religious, I honestly have no problem with it. I have simply chosen to stop living with concept of ‘sin’ or the fear of an ‘eternal damnation’. I have since chosen new spiritual teachers. Sure, they may be unconventional, but I am happier as a person and will share them with anyone who might be interested. This is all relevant to my photographic journey and I’ll explain why shortly.
So I really started getting into this Law of Attraction idea. I started focusing positive thoughts on what my desires were and things started happening. I was already forging a friendship with Trey. I decided to apply it to my business and was having triple the income in just a few short weeks of applying this practice.
Of course I was still following Trey daily on his blog and he had just started posting photos from his first Burning Man. I had never heard of Burning Man before and was amazed at the stuff he was getting from out there. During another photowalk in Austin he invited my family and I to stay at his house for the night. We all hit it off so well, that we wound up staying the whole weekend. It was then that he said I should come to Burning Man the next year and so I did.
I started planning for my Burning Man experience by photographing fire dancing meetups and getting more involved with that community. At my first Burning Man in 2011 I got to hang with Trey a lot. I think the most I ever learned about photography was in that week… seeing him do his thing for hours on end. It was one of the best weeks of my life. It changed my life. I met so many people who were awakening to the idea of a positive energy consciousness shift. Texas was no longer my home…Black Rock Desert was. And I came away with a new, really close friend named Trey.
So life is fun now. I was doing all I could to get back to Burning Man in 2012. I went to Death Valley for a G+ meetup and hung out with Thomas Hawk, Scott Jarvie, Lotus Carrol, Sly Vegas and lots others. I’m studying photography tutorials and joining Lynda and Creative Live. My images were improving for sure and I was having a blast doing it, getting to know all kinds of awesome people along the way. I won a contest and was awarded a trip to NYC for the Auto Show. I got another gig to travel to California, Colorado, New York and Canada to shoot some events. Some of the work was stressful, sometimes I was unprepared, but it was all a growing experience… and I was happy. I was deciding to make choices to better my Earth experience… and I was beginning to travel more, exercise and make better food choices.
I made another trip to California for photography, to meet with Trey in Monterey and then spend some time with my new friend Sly Vegas (who I met in Death Valley) Trey was so nice… he got me and Karen Hutton into this really neat conference where he was speaking… and he let me crash in his hotel room. What a guy!
Fast forward to 2016 and photography has become a major part of my life. Even though I don’t have a steady major client, at the moment, work is still coming in. We have focused on growing our new business called Piczzl Photography where we specialize in Senior and Portraits.
And so it goes on. I wanted to own an RV to travel and use for Senior Photography. I got one. I wanted to improve my art. I’m doing it. I wanted to go to New Zealand… I stayed with Trey and his family there for three weeks. I’ve been to Burning Man five times. I’ve been to New York City, Venice, Italy during Carnival and to some amazing National Parks in the Southwest US. It’s kind of unbelievable. I’m not trying to brag, I’m just saying that any of your desires are attainable if you just start purposefully leaning toward that direction. Make the plan. Book your reservation today, even if it’s a year or two in advance. The only catch is, you have to do it with positive thoughts and joyous feelings. Feel the happiness of having whatever you desire now, and the Universe cannot stop itself from delivering.
So, what is the purpose behind this blog? It is because I know how some key people have improved the quality my life in so many areas. And if I can just give back a slight percentage of that to someone who needs it like I did, then I will feel like a success here. I enjoy sharing my art and giving some tips and tricks along the way. We’ve also begun putting together some photography workshops that you can sign up for here. Now I don’t take myself too seriously. I really simply just go with the flow and purposefully stay in a state of zen. I look for ways to have fun, look for beauty and create interesting things. I hope you will stop by often and enjoy them with me.