About

Photo: Christer Svensson aka @c68s on Instagram

I’m a middle aged guy from California living in Sweden with a passion for photography. I have the dream of being able to make a living taking pictures but I’m not really expecting that to happen. I enjoy it too much to have income or the lack thereof to persuade me from stopping.

I’m a father of two wonderful young ladies who have made my life so good. I’m married to the best woman on earth who has always been my main supporter in every aspect of life.

We live quite away from a city and are surrounded by wildlife and nature. I couldn’t live any other way.

I grew up in Orange County, California where I spent my time surfing and wishing I could get away from city life. I never expected to wind up in Sweden. In fact, seeing life outside of California was pretty much nonexistent.

I was very discouraged to continue college when I found out by a friend (professor) that getting a job as a marine biologist studying dolphins and whales was a nearly impossible dream due to the lack of those jobs and the huge competition to get those jobs. I’m not a competitive person and tend to avoid competing. Which is why my sport of choice was surfing. I only competed against myself within the environment nature provided.

I started working for the California Conservation Corps with a thought about possibly working for the forest service. It was great work and I was stationed in Northern California, the heart of the redwood forest. It was my first time away from home and I felt that environment was good for my soul. These were confusing times. What I thought I really wanted to do was out of reach. I had no real idea what I would do now. The forest life was good but there was something that really didn’t click for me and I felt I was spinning my wheels and not going anywhere so I quit the job and went back home.

I decided to go back to college but this time I had no direction. After a while, my wheels were spinning again and I had to find an exit out. I got a message from God that I should join the Coast Guard. I looked in the phone book and wrote down the recruiting number and went to bed. The next morning I saw my mom. We started talking and she suggested that maybe I should join the Coast Guard. I thought this was weird and so coincidental and I pulled the number out of my pocket and showed her. We both knew it was a message from God. So I immediately called the recruiter and within a couple of months, I was off to Cape May, New Jersey where the Coast Guard has boot camp.

A lot happened while I was in the Coast Guard. The greatest impression was being stationed on Kodiak Island in Alaska. I loved it! It’s exactly the environment I wanted to live in and the best part of all, I could escape people. My soul is charged by being alone in nature. Not hearing or seeing people. Don’t get me wrong, I like people but I just need to get away from civilization and crowds.

A once in a lifetime experience happened to me while I was in the Coast Guard. I had the opportunity to get on a ship and patrol the Persian Gulf. I didn’t have much to say about this but I wasn’t about to try to avoid it. It seemed like a great adventure and there was danger involved. It was the longest deployment I made. We visited many countries along the way. One of those countries was Singapore which we visited twice, once incoming to the Gulf and the other when we were headed home. It was our home visit that would end up changing my life forever. Here is where I met the lady who would one day be my wife and then the mother of my children.

I met this fine lady on Orchard Road in Singapore. She was sitting on a bench with her good friend and they were trying to decide what they were going to do. I was with some of my friends on the ship and we were headed to the zoo where they had a “Nighttime Safari”. We approached the ladies and asked if they wanted to come with us to the zoo and they agreed to meet us there. We spent that night looking at the weird animals that were locals to Singapore all the while discussing with the ladies the differences of life in Sweden vs the US. In the end, we exchanged addresses and promised we’d keep in touch. Keep in mind, during these days, there really wasn’t an internet. There was but it was very basic and email was pretty new and not commonplace. So by “keeping in touch” we meant postal letters.

Long story short, the internet started getting usable. Email became free and I got myself an address. I thought about that girl in Sweden and thought how cool it would be to be able to communicate with her whenever and it would be both instantaneous and free. So I wrote her a letter with my address included and she replied after a week or two to my email account. Emails led to phone calls. Phone calls led to visits. In the end, I faced another crossroad in life. It was time for me to reenlist or get out. After a long discussion during her last visit, we decided to give love a chance. So I ended my service to my country, filled up my backpack with as much as I could take, and moved to Sweden. I’ve lived here for 20 years now and I love it. I do miss home and I miss my country very much. Sweden is a great country but the culture is different. Not in a bad way, but I do miss being around my own people, my friends, and of course my family. It has helped since we had kids. I do feel more at home here with them but I can’t help but miss the US.

After living here for 5 years, my wife and I decided it was safe to tie the knot. She could put up with my irritating idiosyncrasies and behaviors, and I hers. We had a nice, small wedding at the local church which was built before time started. A few years later we had our first child and almost two years after her, we had her sister. Fatherhood has been the best experience in my whole life and my only regret is not having enough free time to have more kids. I’d have a hundred if I only had time to give to them and raise them.

Pretty much my whole life I have been taking pictures but it wasn’t until 2012 that I really started getting the fire for it. It’s been an integral part of my life since then and I have had very few periods where I haven’t had a camera in my hand or nearby. It’s a hobby I love and is a great means to force myself to get outside and be in nature and recharge and take pictures at the same time. Win-win situation for me.

I have also begun taking pictures of weddings. I’ve been to five weddings since I moved to Sweden (not including my own) and only twice as “the photographer” (for people I know personally). They were very pleased with the photos and I was pleased that I didn’t disappoint. That’s my greatest fear and why I didn’t like the idea of being the wedding photographer. The great expectations from the wedding pair and the stress of failure for myself. But it has worked out and I get more and more comfortable shooting weddings. So if you need a wedding photographer, let me know.

The biggest issue (besides the expectations) is the amount of work involved afterward. Because it’s a once in a life time experience, the photographer takes a billion pictures as to avoid losing a shot due to a blink or a nervous smile. The same holds true for a group picture of many people. There’s always someone unable to keep their eyes in the boat or open. So to those of you getting married and getting a photographer, be patient with how long it takes to receive the photos. The photographer is surely spending many hours or weeks processing and editing the photos. Now I see why wedding photographers cost so much. It’s a huge time suck but so worthwhile when the customers are happy. The couples I shot for were totally patient and appreciative and never even questioned the status which was something that took some of the stress away.

That’s pretty much all I have about myself. Thanks for reading.

Jay

The best moments in life are often times reflected upon.

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