Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell.

This book is for any leader out there.

On my second family trip to Orlando we skipped Disney parks, having done the experience a year earlier we aimed at other attractions. That being said, we still swung by Disney Springs (formally Downtown Disney) for an evening. Every single level of staff working, all the way down to the kind gentleman sweeping the walkways were professional, polite, and maintaining the magic that is Disney.

How. How is it possible that EVERY SINGLE employee that we encountered *including the previous year when we stayed at a Disney resort* were so pleasant. I would love to take a guess at how many staff (cast-members) we encountered, and not a skipped beat.

This book lends some insight on the culture of Disney, and it’s not impossible tricks that only work in a multi-billion dollar organization. I plan on using some of this wisdom in my family life.

A lot of leadership books talk about “getting the right people on, and the wrong people off the bus” or ‘hire slow but fire fast.’ If you work for a governmental organization this is nearly impossible, sometimes taking years. In Creating Magic, the strategies apply even to the careers where letting people go is extremely difficult.

I’m not a fan of the podcast by Lee, and am very glad I read the book first and would like to read a book about the dark side of working at Disney (I’m sure one exists) but personally, *I* didn’t experience it.

This book describes how they created the most magical place on Earth.



Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash – Book review

Upon finishing Sketching Light An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash by Joe McNally I felt a range of reactions… rejuvenated, fascinated, curious, and excited.
This is a light book but not a lite read (rim shot). Joe McNally is very wordy but not in an off-topic sort of way, in a ‘sit around the campfire’ sort of way. Many of the books I have recently read have been very point A to point B and then includes a short blurb on theory.

Joe takes you on the photography shoot with him. You will hear why he chose this light package over the other options, where he or the situations might have gone wrong and how he adjusted. There are fantastic doodles/sketches with enough detail to satisfy the tech-minded crowds as well. “What settings are you using?” “What kind of flash is that?” Gets asked of photographers ALL THE TIME. As if those are the magic numbers which make you an artist. That’s only a small piece of the puzzle, however, it is a piece. And these sketches are fantastic.

If you have one strobe or a fleet, this book will work for you.

Even if you are looking for a quick 2-4 page how-to this book can satisfy your needs. Personally it took me a LONG time to get through Sketching Light and flipping through it again now that I’m done… I kind of want to read it all again! Seriously, regarding flash, this is a must have.

The most important emotion I fill now, is excitement. I always strive to have my next project my best. Now, I can’t wait to push my use of flash even further. Thank you for the masterpiece Joe.

Side note: I’m a Canon shooter, Joe is Nikon. This book will still apply 🙂

If you are looking for a photographer, please feel free to contact me today!

You can skip the Power of Habit

Book review for: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
If you generally have good habits and understand that habits can indeed change (be reprogrammed) you can skip this book. The first couple chapters are decent and the appendix is really good but there is a TON of fluff here, in my humble opinion. A large portion of the book is used to discuss how Target predicts who is shopping for what. Got it. So there are buying habits when a lady becomes pregnant. Nothing revolutionary here.

If you are struggling with habits it’s not going to tell you how to break them other than replace the reward. Example: drink too much? Your reward is feeling good, well… try a bell-pepper. Play too many video games, try a bell-pepper. A lot of stories about people relearning habits in situations where doctors thought impossible.

I’m certainly in the minority, given that I’ve heard a ton about this book and it’s fantastic Amazon rating.

Sorry 2 stars.

2015 SEA LIFE Arizona – I love my job.

If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

That’s a fun quote to toss around for entrepreneurs and there is some truth to it. Running your own business is a lot of work. Work hard, work smart, and strive to be the best then you will be lucky enough to land some amazing clients.

In 2013 I was asked to create an adoption video for a family looking to grow. In 2014, I aimed to give back, and out of those ‘give back projects’ my favorite was the Planet Comicon Free Cosplay Photography project. Last year I was honored to work with the fantastic crew at SEA LIFE Arizona to document the rescue of a young Green Sea Turtle named Cora. Kansas City Photographer Videographer creates Video Project for SEA Life ArizonaKansas City Photographer Videographer creates Video Project for SEA Life ArizonaCora was hit by a boat and rescued by the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. It was determined that this youngster was unreleasable to the wild. SEA LIFE Arizona stepped in to give her a permanent home where she will be cared for and serve as an ambassador for the endangered species.

The adventure started with a speedbump as United pulled us out of our boarding line to inform us that we cannot bring a Sea Turtle onboard for our return flight. The SEA LIFE employees had the federal documents and spent over an hour confirming and re-confirming that this was ok. Yet, here we were at hour one problem solving. I suggested, we could drive Cora back to Phoenix. I HAD THE MIX TAPES READY FOR A 27 HOUR ROUDTRIP! That being said, it was a last resort and we would search for better options.

Upon landing in Jacksonville, FL we immediately went to the Southwest booth and tried to get a week’s worth of approval in 12 hours. The next morning, we had the greenlight to fly with Southwest. While reviewing and editing the footage I will say there are at LEAST half a dozen high ranking Southwest employees shaking our hands with smiles. An amazing staff, an accommodating airline, and wherever I fly from now on, if Southwest has a route, they have my business. After we got the go ahead from Southwest, it was smooth sailing and Cora got home without a hitch!Kansas City Photographer Videographer creates Video Project for SEA Life ArizonaIf you are in the Phoenix area, you can visit Cora in person. Swing into the theater room and I believe the video I produced is playing in a longer form story of her journey, but for now you can see the highlights here:

SEA LIFE Arizona Turtle Journey 2015We are so excited about our new sea turtle here at SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium! Not only can you now watch her journey, but you can also help name her through the following link

Posted by SEA LIFE Arizona on Wednesday, 25 November 2015

If you are looking for videography services to get your company’s message out there, contact me today! Visit my company’s webpage at to see more work. 2015 SEA LIFE Arizona – I love my job.

Jonny Hackett

I would like to take some time to acknowledge my favorite photographer of 2015. Jonny Hackett’s work is so much fun to admire. Jonny Hackett is the man behind No. 9 Photography and I strongly recommend visiting/liking his Facebook page: (his ‘official’ website can be found here

I met Jonny when doing my ‘giving back’ project ( at the 2014 Planet Comicon and at that time his stuff was good, really good. But following him throughout 2015, you see his work go from really good to flat out awe-inspiring. His work keeps my jaw on the ground and continues to inspire. If I could use two words which describe Jonny, they would be talented and humble.

Great work in 2015 Jonny, seeing where you came from and the path you have taken has me pumped for what you will accomplish in 2016. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better photographer!

Of all the photographs I have seen and studied, from ALL photographers… this is my Favorite Photograph of 2015:

I’ve been looking forward to doing a shoot with a fire performer for such a long time now and it was well worth the…

Posted by No. 9 Photography on Saturday, 30 May 2015

Business Practices

Every new year one of my business practices is to improve my accounting system. For reference I’m the only full time employee in my business. This spreadsheet is exactly what I’ll use in 2016 and thought I’d strip out my personal finances and share. The numbers included are just placeholder text. Get your copy to modify here: business practices income expense recording

I will highlight the rows once the money has exchanged hands. For me, the expenses stay on top and I highlight the row (A-E columns) and change them to blue once paid. For clients and income (A-E columns) I highlight gray once they have been fully collected.

You might not need this much info; you might need more. Once your business practices become habit your year-end freelance finances will be much easier than they were last week *wink*.

Also note a busy month FOR ME might include 10-15 invoices. That being said, if you have more, maybe check out FreshBooks or intuit. For me, these business practices have worked fantastically. My accountant likes to fluff my ego and tells me I’m one of the most organized clients he has.

Again this is the business practice of my company 29 Pixel Studios.

How big of a Star Wars Fan are you?


My wife asked on a scale from 1-100… how big of a Star Wars fan I was.
This bothered me a ton. How do you measure a fan? So I created this quiz.

Score of 1 point would represent “Saw the movies, and they were ok”
A 90-100 I would probably see a psychologist. 

How big of a Star Wars fan are you?

TO TAKE THIS QUIZ… you MUST have watched all six movies and at least said, “Those were pretty good.”

Why I’m not buying a Canon 5D Mark IV.

I’ve only shot Canon cameras my professional tenure. The revolutionary 5D Mark II was a Godsend to artists that do video and photo. So when Canon announced the 5D Mark III, like all Canon fans, I screamed, “TAKE MY MONEY!”

Felt the price tag was a bit high for the new features and improvements but it was a push. The dual slots, more focus points, larger screen, faster/bigger/stronger bits and pieces were enough. I thought the video improvements were worth the upgrade, the photography improvements felt less of an impressive leap.

With the 5D Mark IV release date right around the corner, the fan boys (and girls) are starting to get as excited as a lightsaber-wielding-thirty-something watching the latest Star Wars trailer!

For this Canon shooter, I’m pumping the breaks.

Given the price hike trend that Canon started a couple years ago, it’s a safe bet the Mark IV will be close to $4,000. The rest of this will be based off that assumption.

Here is my current position. I have a 5D Mark III as my main photography camera and B-roll cinema style camera. For more video horsepower I’ll use my C100 (mark I, no auto-focus… me= early adapter, maybe another reason I’m not happy with Canon) along with a bag full of L series glass.

I’m completely satisfied with my Mark III. Trust me, it’s a better camera than 99% of us are photographers. Honestly, the Mark II is also. I don’t need better low-light, faster shots per second, more focus points, or more megapixels for Pete’s sake. Wifi and GPS would be nice but not a game changer (and something Canon should be ashamed of themselves for taking this long). I love my Mark III but would only pre-order if they did something drastic like add a medium format sensor (no way that’s going to happen). Would like to see every focus point allow for spot metering also.

A good portion of my work is video and for that, the Mark II and III are a dream to work with. So I ask, how on earth can Canon compete with other ‘DSLR-killers’ 4/3rds or other brand DSLR video beasts like Sony?

The only thing Blackmagic and Sony seem to do these days is innovate at affordable prices. So when Canon announces the 5D Mark IV will shoot 4k at $4k… I’m going to sigh.

Here’s an idea… take that $4,000 and invest it into Canon stock a week after the Mark IV releases. It will probably drop 2-3% and as of this writing you will get about 140 shares… then a year later when they release the Mark IVc buy it for $1,000 less and hopefully in that year Canon will announce something innovative and the stock goes up. Boom, just saved you $1,500. You are welcome internet.

Proud moments of 2014

Took my family to Disney World! A trip that included a few days at the Ocean! Also a trip to Omaha for the weekend. A trip to Branson and a few trips to Caldwell.

My nephew was born and given the middle name Nicholas.

Ran our first 5k as a family.

Coached a couple individuals financially, helping them get back on track.

Exceeded 29 Pixel Studios revenue goals for the year.

Hosted a dinner at the Ronald McDonald House and then later in the year cutting a check for $1,000 to the charity.

Booked twice as many weddings in 2014 than my goal amount. And then hearing the couples say…

“I am driving myself crazy going through them trying to narrow down which ones to print. Soooo many good ones. I almost want to get married again it was so much fun. Will you be our photographer again!?!?!” – C

“THANK YOU! I’ don’t remember having that much fun that day hahahahah” –M

“AMAZING! Thanks again for making our day so special! LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE all of our photos and your team was incredible to work with!” – T

“Nick did a fabulous job photographing our wedding. We had a gorgeous day to work with, but it was extremely windy! Nick was able to work with the wind and take some amazing shots. Definitely worth every penny!” – R

“I love the pics, I couldn’t help but already go through them :)! I can’t thank you enough for the work that you did, both on the big day and all of the behind the scenes to make us look great in the final pics. You are awesome!” – L

“Ahhhhh! I love them! Thank you so much!!!” – T

“Omg Nick! Some of these are EPIC”- J

“I blame you for the lost sleep tonight as we went through the photos *smile” –C (I sent a digital copy of their photos late in the night)

“You’ve also successfully brought production at my office to a stop.” –J (they received the photos while at work)

“ahhhhh!! i love it!” – L

“The photos you took of Rachel’s wedding are amazing. And I am an art snob” – L

For all weddings, I hire a professionals as assistants. One, whom who’s work I respect and admire, was available to shoot with me for the first time this year. After sharing the final photographs, I received this note, “…they turned out FANTASTIC!  In fact, I’m blown away… …If it isn’t too daring, I wanted to ask you if you had a special secret…” and later in the email “I’m in love with your B&W processing.  Love all the tonal range.  Well done, sir!”  

Had my first national commercial spot, quickly followed by a second commercial airing in the Midwest. And then getting this in the mail:

“Thanks so much for everything on the commercial! We all agree it is fantastic – and that includes our brand team in the UK who has reviewed it.”

Having photographs in the NY Times. (Then it was used in Renewable Energy Magazine)

Getting this after performing a lightning quick turnaround for LHS:

“I know it was your video that clinched it. We are going to state. The kids are on cloud nine. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have given these kids a major opportunity. You did indeed make magic happen.”

Had 14,000 minutes watched on my YouTube channel… for some reason that makes me smile.

Performance evaluation snippets, for the contract work I do for the Army:

“Extremely difficult customer and very strong performance. Arguably unsurpassed in CADD.”

“Without question, 29 Pixel Studios is the expert in this area.”

“Superlative effort. Well done.”

Hosted 10 KCVideoCore meetings and gave away well over $10,000 worth of door prizes to fellow video and photo professionals. Thank you to our sponsors!

Every year, in addition to all the little improvements and resolutions, I focus on one big target. Overall I believe I achieved 2014’s big focus point of improvement, hiring help and outsourcing. Looking at the 1099s I’ll be filling out feels like an accomplishment. Looking forward to 2015!

Freelancer lifestyle design.

Freelancer lifestyle and designing a life with the golden years in mind.

Now that you’ve started, where do you want to go?

It has been over a year since leaving the full-time grind to focus on my business. It has been a huge asset to build my client list and experience part-time since 2003. I would recommend that those looking to make the leap from their ‘job-job’ to something they love should absolutely test the waters before diving in. (Probably not necessary to test the waters for ten years though!)

Recently I was shooting a wedding in Southeast Kansas. To arrive at the wedding fresh, I asked a very talented photographer/videographer friend of mine in Girard, KS if I could crash at his house. I’ve offered advice and guidance to this friend for the past few years, trying my best to help him grow as an artist and as an entrepreneur. Late into the night we were talking about ‘big picture’ things (no pun intended) and I asked the question, “What would be your dream job?”

His answer was clear. “Compensated for sports photography,” which is a fantastic answer because he is pretty darn good at it. I suggested putting a plan in action to arrive at the ‘level’ of sports photographer that he would want to become (high school vs. professional level, etc).

Then after further discussion, I fully admitted, I had no plan for myself. Is my current business my dream job? Not sure. On the journey home I reflected on that part of our conversation. What was Nick Schale aiming for?

Retirement! YES, that’s it, that’s the end game. After all, I’ve been saving since the mid-90s for it. Smart thing to do, but stupid answer. “Retirement” to someone like me is going to be a hard pill to swallow since I struggle to slow down in general.

So here is a thought and a fun exercise to do whether you are an entrepreneur, student, or even a full time-grind kind of person. Take a sheet of paper out and write out your dream WORK day (as an aside, this is also fun to do for your retirement ‘day’). Maybe write out your dream week, or quarter, or even year. Then look at that plan. How far are you from having that be your itinerary? How close are you to some elements? How hard would it be to get parts of it right now? Which parts are you a month away from achieving?

Here is a piece of my plan. I’m planning to combine two things I love: travel for leisure, and photography for business. My dream quarter includes one 5-day trip for travel photography (with a lovely assistant of course: my wife). I’ll be sharing my journey to becoming a travel photographer later as this is a five to ten year plan.

Exercise for at least three times a week, read a book a month, meditate daily… these are all elements to my perfect lifestyle design. They are also elements I can implement immediately.

Visualize your perfect day, week, and year. Write it down. How far are you from living your perfect life?

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
–Chinese Proverb