This Story is About William Beem, and This is My Blog
I started this site as a personal project in 2007. The idea was simple. I missed writing.
I used to write for computer magazines, which I enjoyed. My work appeared in magazines like these:
OK, so I wanted to write, but what topics? My choice was photography since it’s been a passion of mine over the years, and it seemed natural to share my photos and document my journey.
Oddly enough, the computer geek inside of me enjoyed the technical aspects of creating a blog and configuring it to my platform. That combination of technology and creativity seems to be a lifelong battle about what to do with my life.
What Should I Be When I Grow Up?
I’m a Florida native who grew up in Orange County. When I was a child, you couldn’t toss a squirrel without hitting an orange tree. All the orange groves are gone now. There was something nice about cycling through the town and smelling orange blossoms and other citrus.
I got my first SLR film camera in high school and became the kid that was always taking photos. That got me a first-place award in a photography contest.
It’s a photo of a rickety old wooden bridge in West Virginia, taken during a hike with my Boy Scout troop on a summer trip. My parents were proud of my win in the contest and had the photo nicely framed for me. Decades later, it’s still here in my home office.
My mind was made up that I’d become a photographer. I investigated the best photography schools and had it narrowed down to a couple of finalists. It was either Brooks in California or Daytona Community College, not far away from Orlando.
Then something completely unexpected changed my career course. Personal computers became a reality.
The Computer Craze of the 1980s Hit Me
My brother is a musician, and a guy in his band got an Apple computer. Then one of my high school teachers brought a TRS-80 into the classroom and tasked me with figuring it out.
I was hooked!
That put me on a course of buying my own Apple computers and getting them online. Before the Internet, we had things called Bulletin Board Systems. I ordered a separate phone line in my parent’s house and started my own BBS.
After high school, I worked at General Mills Restaurant Group, now Darden Restaurants. Working in the mailroom was a good way to meet people in every company department. That continued when I moved to the supply room.
This was an era of executives and secretaries. I knew every secretary and started developing relationships in the office.
That paid off when the Management Information Services (MIS) department needed a new computer operator on the midnight shift. I got the opportunity to start my IT career on the bottom rung of the ladder because I was nice to some secretaries who recommended the kid in the supply room who knew how to use a personal computer.
That completely stopped my photography career and education before it got started.
Navigating a Technical Career Path
When I started in MIS, we used IBM systems with tape machines resting on raised flooring over a snake of cables underneath. Now I have more power in my iMac M1 than the folks working there could dream about.
Starting at General Mills with the folks there taught me some valuable lessons.
There’s a Process for Everything
Working in a computer room was all about following processes. We had a Lazy Susan filled with manuals and documentation for everything we knew and we did it all by the book.
Processes prevent problems.
If something came up that we hadn’t experienced before, we had a process for troubleshooting. The very first lesson they taught me still applies today.
Seriously, that was the lesson, and it works. Problems in technology usually occur because one component isn’t talking to another. Solve the communication problem, and your work is usually over.
When a problem occurred during the day shift, all MIS execs would come into the computer room, stand behind the monitors, and look out at the machines on the floor.
Oddly enough, that didn’t fix anything.
Then I’d walk out on the floor, find the right cable to jiggle, and everything worked. The suits praised me, wiped the sweat off their foreheads, and left us alone.
They were very impressed if I had to use the suction cups to lift the raised flooring panels to jiggle one of the big cables.
From Operator to Engineer
My career progressed through different corporations. The challenges transformed from big IBM mainframes to setting up local area networks and managing a fleet of computers in various businesses.
That meant I couldn’t just follow the documentation someone else wrote. Now I had to be the system architect and engineer to create new environments with emerging technology.
Over the years, I did it all.
As I progressed, I became certified in various fields. The one I liked best was becoming a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and working to protect the information assets of my employers, including:
While doing these jobs, I started writing for several Ziff-Davis magazines, including PC Magazine. I became a columnist for Corporate Computing, though that magazine didn’t last long.
I was successful because of my early training to rely upon processes. If one didn’t exist, I’d write the process, so everyone had a guide to follow.
That’s when I learned how to teach.
You Don’t Truly Know Something Until You Explain It
My wife says that I’m a natural teacher. While I’m comfortable teaching now, it wasn’t always the case.
I used to get frustrated trying to explain a technical topic to someone outside the field, usually someone in corporate management. A few of those executives had a bit of an ego and didn’t want a subordinate to know they didn’t understand the technology they managed.
Fortunately, I had a great boss who made it simple for me to understand how to explain something that he didn’t understand. Here’s what he said:
That changed everything for me. It meant I had to find a way to relate what someone needs to know to something universally understood. Again, it was about building relationships to achieve an objective.
In other words, his brief statement helped me develop a process to explain technical concepts to anyone.
I ended up working as IT Director for a couple of organizations. Technology changed, but some things remained the same.
I can’t say that it was always fun. Some corporations thrive on anger, and that’s always due to the environment their management creates.
Photography is Stress Relief
This IT career took over my life for a couple of decades, and photography got put on the back burner.
Then the worst thing in my life happened. My father died from a brain tumor.
Nothing reorients your life and priorities like the death of a parent. It was an unimaginable blow.
Strangely, it’s also how I got back to photography.
A trainer at my gym was also a friend. She invited me to join her on a cruise in Alaska, and I decided to take her up on the offer.
My camera for this trip was one of the first Nikon digital cameras. I decided to take it along to get some memories. For some reason, I wanted photos of whales.
This is when I first learned the phrase “shutter lag.” Do you know what happens when a whale breaches, you click the shutter button, and the camera doesn’t take the photo until 3 seconds later.
That’s right, the whale goes back underwater, and you get a photo of the ripple where the whale used to be.
This is my most successful whale photo of that trip.
Do you see that diagonal black line in the water? That’s what was left of a flipper before the while entirely submerged.
The camera was good for a few trip snapshots but not much more.
Apparently, I took to glacier climbing very well. The lead guide offered me a job after seeing me keep up with him after he thought he had left everyone behind while he scouted for a suitable location for part of the trip.
I was tempted when they told me how many calories you burn working in an ice-cold environment.
It turned out that I was also good at rock climbing and rappelling – which I think is a French word for falling off a cliff while attached to a rope.
I still have that jacket I bought from Eddie Bauer for this trip.
My father died in September 2002. This trip was in June 2003 and marked another turning point in my life. I held on to my father’s death for all of those months, but this trip showed me how to live again.
It also showed me that I needed a much better camera to capture the next stage of life.
Travel Photography and Learning to Fly
My parents never took family vacations to any place where we couldn’t drive. Mom feared flying, so every trip was a road trip.
Traveling alone, I decided the best way to take a road trip was on a Road King.
My father used to race Harley-Davidson motorcycles when he was young. One of his best friends was Dick O’Brien, the race director for Harley-Davidson. After every Daytona 200 race, dad would take me down to the pit row, where he’d catch up with Dick.
It was pretty exciting for me to visit pit row as a kid. Sadly, Dick O’Brien passed in 2003, about six months after my father.
I bought this 2003 Harley-Davidson Road King Classic to take some road trips. I managed rides down to Key West and up to Tennesee on this beast. While I loved riding this motorcycle, my father would’ve called it an old man’s bike.
He was used to stripped-down racing bikes in the 1950s. I also bought one of those for a while, but I liked my old man bike better.
I managed to combine my road trips with travel photography, but I still had much to learn.
For example, the weather in my Orlando home during April is quite comfortable. So I decided to fly to Salt Lake City in April, rent a Harley, ride it to Las Vegas and take photos.
This is how it looked at the Harley dealer in Salt Lake City when I arrived to pick up my rental.
That was quite a shock to a Florida boy in April. Nevertheless, I feared nothing and headed off into the snowpocalypse that I could not fathom.
I rode over an hour into an ever-increasing blizzard until I could not see more than 6 feet in front of me. I didn’t pull over before that because I worried a truck would run over me due to low visibility.
There is a little town called Nephi where I finally got off and took shelter for a few hours as the storm passed. Then the Harley wouldn’t start.
They say you don’t know what you don’t know. As a Floridian, I didn’t know it snowed in April. It seems I was wrong.
I survived, had a wonderful time in Las Vegas, and caught a flight to Washington, D.C., for more photos.
Photography is More Than Taking Photos
I knew I wasn’t a good photographer at the time, but I also knew that I needed to practice, make mistakes, and find out where to improve.
Over time, my experiences taught me the lessons I needed.
Those technical things played well with my technical background, but the emotion was still missing.
Perhaps the most important lesson I learned, and one that I like to share, is that every photo should evoke emotion from your audience.
You’re rarely going to have a photo that creates an emotion in every person who sees it, but you can try to pique emotions from people with specific interests.
So I started looking for photos of people, places, and things that could tug at someone’s emotions. Sometimes I hit the mark, and other times I missed.
As I gained more experience, I shared those lessons on this blog. That caught the attention of someone across the Atlantic.
My Wife, the Stalker
Lee lived in Scotland and had an interest in photography. She and her daughter, Tové, also traveled to Orlando to visit Walt Disney World every year.
We connected somehow on Flickr and a Disney-related forum. She found my blog and really got into it. She bought one of my old eBooks on Disney photography and printed it out as a guide on one of her trips. She tells me it made a big change to her results.
We chatted online occasionally, and I was completely oblivious to the idea that she was interested in me. That’s why I called her a stalker after we got married. She knew, I didn’t.
At the age of 51, I got married for the first time. I told her she’s the best wife I ever had, which seems to make her happy.
I also told her I’m never getting married again because this is a lot of work. She seems to like that, too.
Lee and I started our podcast together and ran it for five years. Actually, I started a few episodes without her and soon realized I needed her on the show.
It’s a perfect combination of different ways to get the desired result. Lee approaches her art by the way it makes her feel, whereas I have a more methodical approach to my results. It gave our audience options to do what they needed and understand why they could make the choices that suited them.
We shared episodes about visual storytelling – a method of approaching your photography with the knowledge of who you’re trying to serve with your photos and what emotion you want to make them feel. We encouraged people to concentrate on Their subject, light, and background to create a photo their audience loves.
We had another website with a podcast about Orlando, but that show didn’t last as long. Podcasting can take a lot of time if you let it.
The Backside of Blogging
Operating this blog gave me a combination of technical and creative issues to resolve. Although I’ve always run it on WordPress, I changed themes and plugins quite a few times. I had a few redesigns and pivoted a few times with the blog’s purpose.
That led me to start a website agency business to design and build blogs for others.
I started to share articles on yet another blog about operating as a small business website, including issues like:
All of those issues came from this blog. I created ebooks and courses here. I needed to build an email list here. Naturally, I needed a support ticketing system for my customers.
As previously discussed, I started a podcast and had to develop the tools to record, edit, and host those shows. Later, I started a YouTube channel that brought a plethora of video experiences to learn.
Creating those shows needed processes to keep sharing week after week, and that played top my old background in IT.
Through it all, I’ve tried to share what I know about photography issues and tools with those who are perhaps a few steps behind me. I like to share the things I wish I knew when I started each of these ventures.
This Blog Will Keep Growing
That’s why I decided that this blog I’ve called William Beem Photography needs to encompass more than just photography. I have decades of experience that I’d like to share on this site.
The reason is pretty simple. It makes more sense to grow one site than to juggle three or more sites. So I’ll start to share more about business tools and services. I have some things to help businesses, including many photographers.
One thing that differentiates me from other WordPress designers and builders is my background in information systems and information security. I see many well-intentioned people creating systems that are pretty easy to violate.
I’m still a photographer, just like you. Not that I try to be a professional photographer who takes on clients. That’s not what I enjoy.
However, I’m fortunate enough to occasionally sell some photos for stock, corporate art, and commercial work. I even have one of my photos hanging in the Congress.
One thing that’s important to me is to share and pass on what I’ve learned. This site isn’t about William Beem, but rather what I can share from my experiences to help you reach your own goals.