Early this year, I began working with business owners opening a new gym and training facility in Tulsa’s Pearl District. Construction was nearly complete and they had a name, but needed a website, a logo, photography, content and a social media presence. It was an opportunity to truly help build a brand from the ground up. Forge’s concept is unique–yes, they have all the standard workout equipment and amenities you’d except from a gym, but they offer so much more. The goal of Forge is to create a community of individuals working together to better themselves and their community. Their philosophy is based on three elements: play, eat, and restore; each a critical component for a well-balanced life and body.

Their personal trainers at Forge use some conventional and many unconventional techniques, together known as somatic training to enrich the entire body. The unconventional side includes an outdoor training area filled with things like tractor tires, wheel barrows filled with heavy objects, while sledge hammers fire hoses, giant wooden boxes and ropes find their use during indoor sessions. Of course, they have the traditional side filled, too, with free weights, stair climbers and the like, but they also have a full boxing ring and a wall of TRX equipment. They even have space on the roof for sunrise yoga (with direct views of downtown Tulsa, I might add), and a room on the second level for relaxation and fellowship. Future plans include an infrared sauna and community garden.

So, how does one capture the unique essence of such a place? They needed a website that allowed them to share all these elements, including biographies for the trainers, information on the space itself, plenty of photos, a calendar for group classes, and blog space for each of the three philosophical foundations. Play is filled with workouts for the home, office, or on vacation; Eat is a wonderful collection of healthy recipes that anyone can prepare; and Restore includes articles on sleep, the importance of social gatherings, giving to charitable organizations, and even recipes for healthy cocktails to encourage fellowship.

The owners and I worked together throughout the development process, fine-tuning Forge’s message, developing a unique identity, doing rooftop photo shoots, and hammering out all the little details that are so important when starting a business. In no time, they became like family to me, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done together. The end result is simple and beautiful. Take a look for yourself. Visit Forge’s website and Facebook page, and consider becoming a member.

Don’t Steal Photos Online!

I’ve had a number of my photographs stolen from Flickr over the past four or five years; in fact, it’s more than I can count. This list includes urban planners working on Tulsa’s new comprehensive plan and officials on public boards of directors to (most recently) magazines and PR/marketing agencies.

These individuals and organizations illegally downloaded or captured (in a simple keystroke) my photos and then used them without permission or compensation. I don’t have the best equipment (it’s expensive!) but I still make beautiful works of art simply by my use of light, color, framing, angles, et cetera and they’re obviously desirable. I think it’s great that people are noticing my photos, and I’m flattered that so many people like them.

In fact, I’ve been published in many magazines, journals and newspapers, along with special publications through the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and the New York City Department of Transportation. One of my photos of Times Square was even used in a graphic novel a few years ago. Individuals and companies have sought out my photos of Tulsa to display in their offices and homes.

So what’s the difference? All those publications and individuals respected my rights as a photographer. They first asked if I would license my photos, and then would pay me for my work. Both parties sign a license agreement, files are transferred (or printed), then I receive a check and a copy of the issue the photo will appear in. It’s easy, it’s the right way to do things, and it’s the law.

That’s right; using photos without permission is against the law. It’s a violation of intellectual property law, which covers everything from technology patents to photos, paintings and other original works. If you violate my copyright, I have the right to pursue a lawsuit, and I’m good at finding my photos that are being used by other people.

People often ask, “how do you know they’re using your photos? How do you know it’s yours?” It’s the same as identifying one’s child in a playground… You know because it was once part of you. The lighting, the colors, the street life, the reflections in windows, and yes, the smells, were all experienced by the photographer, and as the shutter is pressed, that singular moment in time is captured and will stay with the photographer forever. Add to that the time it takes to process each photo, upload it, tag it with keywords, geotag it, name it and save it, and it’s easy to see how a photographer can know exactly which photos belong to them when they’re used on other sites without permission. Even though I have 12,000 photos online (and four times that amount that remain unpublished), I can still tell you about each one; exactly where I was, how the scene made me feel, where I was going next.

Bottom line: do not steal photos from the Internet. Don’t even think about it. It’s wrong, it’s illegal, and you know better.

Tulsa Rose Garden: All Around, Beauty Abound

Spring is officially here, and soon, our world will be a little brighter with the blooms of roses and other flora. Stop by the Tulsa Rose Garden in the next few months.

Downtown Denver

Downtown Denver, originally uploaded by dsjeffries.

After uploading over a hundred photos of Downtown Denver from December, 2008, I really would like to go back and spend more time exploring. Downtown was teeming with people–shoppers, visitors, workers–and its beautiful, historic buildings seemed to breathe life. It was beautiful, even though it was a mere 30 degrees. Denver, take note: I’m coming back.