I’m writing this story at Gate 26 of San Francisco International Airport, somewhere I never thought I would be until last week. Over the last 4 days I had the opportunity to attend a phenomenal conference due to the generosity of four totally unrelated people. Two of which I had never met before Tuesday of this week.
Let’s go back a few weeks. About a month ago I saw an announcement for the Google+ Photographer’s Conference in San Francisco and something told me I needed to be there. I’m a deeply religious person and I believe that God sometimes speaks to us and puts opportunities in front of us for a reason and I felt that this was one of those opportunities. Often these opportunities require a certain amount of faith to come to fruition, so you need to trust in God but you also need to get off your butt and take action.
A couple of weeks go by and northing happens but I still know inside that I’m going to this conference but I have no way of knowing how this is going to happen. On May 10th I notice Scott Kelby is giving away a ticket to the conference on his blog. I entered the giveaway and then promptly forgot about it, because I never really win stuff. The following Thursday, the 17th, I open my email and there is a ticket to the conference. I’m thinking, WOW, I won a ticket. Then I’m immediately aware of the very real fact that buying a plane ticket to San Francisco 4 days before departure is going to be extremely expensive.
I figured if I was supposed to be there I needed a little faith, paired with some action, so I posted the following post on Facebook.
Ok, friends I need some help. I’ve been praying about going to this conference in California and I was certain I was going to be able to go but I didn’t know how it was going to happen. Well, God is amazing because I opened my email this morning and I had won a ticket to the conference. That is a $349 ticket! Now I need to get to San Francisco. Pastor Steve Robison at Church of the King said recently that we need to step out in faith and back that up with action so I’m taking some action here and asking for some help. If you will cover my roundtrip ticket to San Francisco I will pay you back in trade with any skill I possess (photography, SEO, copywriting, social media management).
Shortly after posting it Jeffrey Lyons of, myPhoneMD, responds with “I got it. Email me tomorrow. I’m happy to help”. Now, I’m really blown away. First, by the generosity of others, and then by the doors God opens for us.
The next challenge was figuring out where to stay in San Francisco. First I tried to think of who I knew there and that was virtually nobody. Then I thought about SmugMug (I’m the NOLA Smugmug Leader and they are based in San Francisco) and emailed the community manager to see if I could crash at their office or with one of their employees. I also posted a request on Google+ and in the Smugmug Leader group on Facebook. Then I decided to reach out to Karen Hutton and see of she knew someone I could stay with in San Francisco.
I didn’t pick Karen out of the blue. I had corresponded with her previously in a chat room as part of the Phototalk Plus webshow and at that time extended an invitation to come to New Orleans for JazzFest, so she knew who I was. Karen graciously agreed to share my story with the 1,341,439 people who have her in circles! A few hours after she shared the story, and a few other people reshared it, I got a message from Alan Allum.
Alan offered up an extra bed in his room and when that didn’t work out, due to an issue with his hotel, he went to the San Francisco Downtown Hostel and booked me a room and covered the bill.
Ok, I think it’s time for a recap. Scott Kelby gives me a conference ticket, Jeff Lyons buys me a plane ticket, Karen Hutton shares my story, and Alan Allum hooks me up with a hotel room! All of this would not have happened without Google+, Facebook, and social media. I was blown away by the generosity of these people and how willing they were to share their time, credibility, and ultimately financial resources to help someone they didn’t know get halfway across the country to a photography conference.
I made it a point to connect with all these people at the conference and shared the story with everyone who would listen. Why? I think this best exemplifies how powerful these communities are that we are building online. In the past, when you helped someone the story probably ended there. Now you can actually trace that story and see the ripple effects of what that one act of kindness did.
Let me tell you what it did for me. I was able to meet all my photography idols: Trey Ratcliff, RC Concepcion(who did a photoshoot of me in a bar in San Francisco!), Matt Kloskowski, Scott Kelby, Pete Collins, Catherine Hall, Nicole Young, Brian Matiash, Peter Hurley, Scott Bourne, Petra Cross. Telling the story also opened other doors. You may be reading this post on my blog or the SmugMug blog because they wanted to post it. Bay Photo was so impressed with the story that they gave me a free 16×22 metal print, BorrowLenses gave me a t-shirt, Brian Matiash gave a OnOne Software, but the best of all is that Peter Hurley gave me a new career.
That’s right, based on Peter Hurley’s inspiration and motivation starting TODAY, May 24, 2012, Chris Johnston Photography is now doing headshots for actors, models, and business people in the New Orleans area. I am taking bookings immediately at the super low introductory rate of $150. Call me now at 504-208-1766 and book your shoot.
UPDATE: When I got home Peter Hurley contacted me and gave me a free copy of The Art Behind The Headshot.