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Best of ASMP 2009

Life — like a river — sometimes takes unexpected turns. In Greg Smith’s case, a graduate degree he started in 1983 got sidelined in favor of paying jobs and a family life. In 2006, at age 49, he returned to graduate school to complete a Master of Arts in Visual Communication. His multimedia thesis project, for which he received his degree in June, is an intricate look at the challenges facing wildlife along the rapidly developing South Carolina tidal river that he calls home.

Greg Smith


Project: Keeping the May River Wild multimedia piece for MA thesis from Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication.

ASMP: How long have you been in business?
GS: I formed mediaSmith in 1988. I then spent a couple years working on launching two publications, and another five working for a national PR firm, operating mediaSmith some in the background. I went full-time with mediaSmith in June 1995.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?
GS: Since 1999.

© Greg Smith
All images in this article © Greg Smith

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?
GS: Fluid situations: Wildlife, nature, photojournalism, travel and lifestyle. I like to stalk and I like to connect with my subjects, whether animate or inanimate. While I am experienced and trained at posing and orchestration, I am at heart a documentary photographer, doing my best to capture interesting and revealing moments that contrive without intervention or manipulation.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable piece of equipment?
GS: As my photojournalism professor Chuck Scott used to say: What’s between my ears, meaning my mind and eyes. Everything else, as much as I like gadgets, is just there to enable my expression.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: What is unique about your style/approach or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers?
GS: I am a “Platypus,” in the sense the word was first coined to describe still photographers also shooting video (meaning we were neither fish nor fowl) but more: I have always set out to be a complete communicator. Long before I began making video, I was writing, editing, designing publications, even producing them — on presses, copiers and my own printers. I have had both my words and my pictures published around the world. I’m a co-author of a book published by a top university press. I have started several publications.

I’ve also been very involved in communicating the changes in photographic and communications technologies, along with efforts to manage the implications of those changes — from my PR work for Kodak to my editing for UPDIG, PLUS and SAA’s Photo Metadata Project. I understand not only the needs of a photographer but also those of others in the process of public communication, whether it’s printed, projected, transmitted or broadcast. And I bring that understanding to making every picture.

Although my interests are diffuse, my compositions are formal and tend to be simple, with high impact — even as I continually explore layered images with more visual elements. And every once in awhile, I’ve been known to tell a visual joke or hide a surprise within the composition.

My wildlife efforts have been mostly from a kayak, seldom from any kind of blind. And while I work with long lenses, I can only go so long. This requires the animal to effectively give me permission to make her picture. She must be comfortable enough with me to stay, hopefully acting naturally while I do my work. Hours sitting close to skittish birds, and occasionally mammals, have taught me to be very sensitive to visual cues, to nuances of light and posing. And they’ve reinforced the manners my momma taught me.

As I find myself photographing people more often, this helps me see better into the entire frame, understanding and recognizing when moments combine definitive poses, light, expressions and context.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: Please describe the processes and techniques central to the making of this work.
GS: Patience and persistence. Digital technology, of course, makes it easier — indeed, possible, in my case — to package different elements and deliver them to audiences. But the scope of this effort had to be contained, focused and managed.

I had to target the story carefully, in this case, on the issues facing wildlife on a single river. This tapped other issues of development, pollution and so on. But I kept the focus on the critters amid these changes. And I set limits, as detailed below, on the technologies and equipment I would use.

But aside from a few, older film images, everything was digitally captured and compiled.

I had to research my subject matter — some of which I did just by living here for nearly 30 years, reporting issues and working some on the activist front.

I also needed a couple puzzle pieces from others. I had some aerial pictures of the river, but I needed to show viewers where the May River is. I loved the effect of Google Earth, and some research showed me Google might just let me record and use its imagery in my project. But when you zoom in on the May River with Google Earth, half the river and surrounding area is washed out in the satellite image.

What followed was a long journey of internet image searches — consuming several days over several months — through Microsoft’s Virtual Earth and the company that supplies its imagery, NASA’s cryptic files from the Landsat and other programs, and a few satellite and aerial imaging services. I had to see what the latter group had (not quite what I wanted) and what it might cost (way too much). In the end, I used two outdated NASA images (the latest Landsat bird is crippled, generating images with spiral gaps) to ride behind a 1.5-minute narration, animating them and adding labels.

I also learned to animate a previously colored map, extracting the colors into Photoshop layers, then adding them in the video timeline to show area growth.

And I had one big problem solved going in: My musician brother, Rob Smith, had just the right music for my soundtrack, and he was happy to let me use it.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: What initially inspired you to expand from still photography to multimedia work?
GS: I spent the first half of the 1990s working for a national PR firm. Our primary clients were divisions of Eastman Kodak Company, and our single largest was Kodak’s Motion Picture Division. I spent long hours interviewing and photographing directors of photography and producers for everything from educational shorts to major feature films.

I would find myself immersed in talk about lighting tricks and film technology, sequencing and managing edit-decision lists. One-hour interviews would stretch to three, plus lunch. My transcriptions of interview tapes would wear me out.

At the same time, writing about technology, especially imaging technology, I saw the convergence coming. I love the still image. But I learned the storytelling powers of “movin’ pitchers.” I also interviewed successful commercial photographers, such as Al Satterwhite, and I saw them turning to film and video in growing numbers. Other DP’s told me how important still photography was to their vision.

When Dirck Halstead, whom I also interviewed for Kodak when he was working for Time in the White House, announced his first Platypus Workshop to teach still photographers the language, tools and techniques of video storytelling, I knew I wanted to be there. With help from Dirck and a scholarship from Canon, I spent two weeks at Oklahoma University in March 1999. I was teamed as a producer with Peter Turnley, competing and learning with other teams that included three Pulitzer Prize winners in a room full of creative talent. It was an extreme boot camp that showed me I had skills and proclivities — as an experienced photographer, writer and editor — that fit well in the video world.

When I returned to South Carolina, though, I had two sons finishing high school, an active daughter, a busy newspaper editor for a wife, a struggling photography business and an aged mother next door, with a two-acre jungle to care for.

I purchased a simple Canon Optura DV camcorder to replace my old Hi-8 Canon. I made videos of some local theater productions, experimenting with some other projects. I also attended The Visual Edge 2002 workshop at the Poynter Institute for Journalism, another multimedia boot camp. But it took a return to Ohio and my master’s project to get me truly immersed in learning video, especially editing in Final Cut Pro.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: You mention that you started grad school 26 years ago. What amount of the degree did you initially complete? Where, in what year and in what area of study did you complete your undergraduate work?
GS: In 1983, with infant twins and an underemployed wife, I returned to Ohio University with a scholarship and small stipend, aimed at a Master of Science in Journalism. I had been one of the first Visual Communication graduates a few years before, when that new program was straddling the colleges of Fine Art and Communication. My undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, and I had worked several years as a photojournalist. I saw the effort as my bridge to an editing desk, and eventually, teaching.

My scholarship was for one year of classes on campus. A thesis was to follow. Mine was on the adoption of graphic standards for online, interactive communications, something we called “videotext” at the time. Now we call it the Internet.

Unfortunately, without the scholarship or a job that would pay my MBA wife (or me) more than the cost of childcare, we couldn’t stay in Athens, Ohio. I took a job as a copy editor in Birmingham, Alabama. That part of the world lacked the communications library and other resources I needed to complete my thesis. I tried, however, to move forward. But a move to South Carolina, with a new editing job in Savannah and a house to build pulled me further from my work. The off-brand computer I purchased for the thesis turned out to be a futile project of its own. Other jobs followed. Our boys grew. We launched two new publications. Our daughter arrived. And the time allotted to complete my thesis evaporated.

I was left with about two-thirds of my credits (a couple of professors failed to turn out grades for work I completed on “PRs”) officially on my transcript. I tried several times during the 1990s to find a way to complete the degree, but each time we (I had the director of the Journalism school helping me) ran into roadblocks. In spring 2006, I presented a business seminar to VisCom students and Terry Eiler, my old VisCom professor, now director of the School of Visual Communication, told me he had secured approval for a program to clear up unfinished degrees, such as mine. I think I am the first to complete a degree under a plan he called “Operation Closure.”

© Greg Smith

ASMP: What was the biggest challenge you faced in returning to school at age 49?
GS: Nearly everything from the mental, to the emotional, to the physical. Becoming a college student, two-thirds of the way through the year, in an incredibly competitive program, away from home and family for three months was my first daunting challenge. Then I had to come back to life at home and complete my project, learning my tools as I did, under the shadow of my previously failed effort to complete a thesis after leaving campus.

During my time on campus, I learned that even though I exercise daily, I have lost some of the stamina, reflexes and proclivities of a 20-something. It was hard to leave home for three months in the spring of 2007. It was hard to live in the basement of a rural home with folks I met through the classifieds (who turned out to be wonderful). Two of my key instructors were much younger than I. I straddled between my roles as student, colleague, and occasionally, teacher. Socially — yes, I really liked the social aspects of college — I wasn’t young, and I had a wonderful wife 600 miles away. I had two sons in college and a daughter who was a junior in high school. It was surreal, and sometimes, lonely.

After some adjustment to being critiqued weekly, I found my experience of 25 years helped level the playing field a little, and it became incredibly fun. The other students were top notch in so many ways. I was proud to just keep up with them on occasion.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: Besides the obvious technical advances from photography to multimedia, are there any other aspects to your education that you found to be substantially different between when you started grad school and the present?
GS: The same changes in technology that give us multimedia tools have revolutionized education, I believe. Personal computers, a novelty I was exploring as a grad student in 1984, are now ubiquitous. We lined up before class, checking e-mail and completing projects in the hall on our MacBooks. We instantly looked up answers to questions raised in class. Everyone had his/her portfolio (and outtakes) handy in electronic book bags (now on iPhones). We had video and audio chats with experts around the world. Every ear sported headphones. Cell phones seemed to change everything, making us all instantly available and morphing social interactions.

When I was a grad student in 1984, I attended a weekend seminar on computers and education. One pundit, a pioneer in programming, said then that computers were “solutions waiting for problems” in education. It was interesting, 23 years later, to see the dichotomy of how they both enabled and hindered better education.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: You mention that you only spent a quarter on campus. Did you do the rest of your studies via distance learning? Are there specific resources that you found to be most valuable for this kind of study?
GS: It took some effort by the university IT department to extract my complete transcript from a “legacy” computer system. Rulings by the College of Communication helped me resurrect something like 28 credit hours from my previous graduate studies in Journalism. On campus, I took a challenging course with Bruce Strong (now at Syracuse) on documentary photography and a course in Flash programming with Zach Wise (now at The New York Times). I also worked on an independent study course in newsroom management with Terry Eiler, focused on The Roanoke Times, which was winning awards for its multimedia work.

We rounded this out with “thesis hours” (I believe five are required) leaving one hour for me to register (and pay fees for) during the quarter I graduated, which turned out to be Spring 2009. There was no room for me in overflowing video production classes. But I did audit several class sessions, gaining at least a passing awareness of Final Cut Pro.

And Terry turned me on to For $25 per month, I have access to video tutorials on most popular software, as well as several tutorials on overall techniques and creativity. I spent long days listening to Larry Jordan explain Final Cut. And I turned to colleagues — often through e-mail lists, among them Platypus Park and ASMP Video — for specific advice.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: How did you fund your graduate studies and what did you do for income? Were you actively running your photography business? Please describe any strategies you put in place to balance the needs of your business with your educational pursuits.
GS: First, I have an understanding and still-employed wife. I also received scholarship and work-study funds that together paid my tuition and fees. The latter put me in the equipment room for 10 hours a week, checking out cameras, lights, stands, lenses and other toys. It was a nuisance in what seemed a packed schedule, but it ensured I got to know some undergrad students. What remained was room, board, transportation, tools and toys. I lived cheap, traveled back and forth only a few times, and kept the accoutrements to a minimum.

My business was already in flux. I had devoted too many volunteer hours to groups such as NPPA, ASMP, UPDIG and the Imagery Alliance, while the business climate here was changing rapidly. And I was in the process of focusing more on my personal projects, building toward a commercial marketing push and transitioning away from local, retail photography.

My one trip home during spring 2007 was to exhibit at an outdoor art fair where I had previously won awards. Trying to prepare for and follow up on that one was a massive effort. But unlike shows since, I did rather well, winning another top award and effectively paying most costs of cheap living in Ohio, including buying education-discount software.

There were some other small jobs, including copy editing for photographers’ groups, something that has become one of my specialties, and a retail project or two. After returning home, I’ve accepted a few assignments, sold my art prints, worked for more photo organizations and done my best to keep up with urgent needs at home — all while trying to finish, and now market, my project.

Another key to making things work was that I set tight limits on the tools I would use for my master’s project.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: What kind of audio and video equipment did you use? What do you find to be the most challenging element to work with?
GS: Besides my Canon still cameras, I invested $300 in a Samson Zoom H4 audio recorder that helped both with my class documentary project and with my master’s project. But I resolved to shoot all the video on my old (original) Canon Optura camcorder. I added a Canon G9 to help on several fronts, making it easier to take some of the pollution and development pictures I made, since I could move around more freely without looking “professional.” I also used its “time lapse” feature to record the tide rising, an important visual element in my project.

I already had an inexpensive Sennheiser shotgun mic (MKE-300) and a small Sony stereo condenser mic. But the Zoom accommodates XLR connectors, and I wanted my interviews clean. I added an Audio Technica omni lavaliere for these.

And I made a MacBook Pro work for me on the computer front, albeit with maxed-out RAM, external monitor and keyboard, and plenty of external hard drives. I did, however, upgrade to a 2.2 GHz machine from my original 1.83 GHz machine, giving the older unit to my daughter. This turned out to be a shrewd move (financially for sure, and likely otherwise) offered as appeasement for keeping her from having her own automobile during her senior year in high school.

Keeping equipment (not to mention me) safe and functioning in the middle of a salt marsh is always a huge challange, involving dry bags, zip locks, rubber bands, careful movements and lots of luck. Moreover, animals don’t often respond (naturally, and that’s what I want) on cue. When do you start recording? When can you expect an eagle to make her distinctive mating call? (Successfully recording that call, by the way, took me about 10 trips, mostly at dawn and dusk in the buggy or cold late fall and early winter.)

Besides salt, water, sand and mud, I had to battle summer heat and winter cold. Even more vexing are the sand gnats that come with good weather. With a hood tightly tied around my head, sleeves ending in gloves, I would still go nuts with them chewing at small gaps near my wrist band, nibbling on my eyelids and occasionally choking me as I tried to breathe among clouds of bugs. Truly gnasty beasts.

My camcorder solution also meant I had to sync audio and video for 10 interviews. It seemed simple enough to have my subject clap his/her hands at the start of each. I could then, I figured, match the visual clap to the waveform, and sync precisely. That works. But there’s a bit more to it.

First, you can’t capture to computer just the portions you need from such an interview. You need to bring it all — video and audio — into Final Cut. That has meant I’ve had to manage upwards of 200 gigabytes of project data, plus the still images. I also found there can be drift between the initial sync and latter parts of the interview. This was particularly bad with a couple of sessions, where I had to go in and re-sync lips to words throughout. And then I found, once I synced an interview in a Final Cut sequence, I couldn’t make the audio and video stay together when I tried to cut it into smaller clips. I quizzed the email lists to no avail. VisCom folks couldn’t help me. Then I found a telecommunications professor who pointed me to a simple solution that I — having no experience completing and exporting a Final Cut project — had feared was complicated: Just export the synced sequences as Quicktime Movies and reimport them. But in doing so, I created a new set of Time Codes, unrelated to the original tapes, a worthwhile sacrifice, but one I would have preferred not to make.

Besides the need to upgrade to HDV or a better HD format, I will want to work in the future with a camera that will record the sound I need right with the video. I’m now playing with a Canon HV-20 camcorder, but it is still a toy, and I’m ready for more.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: In making your multimedia piece, which did you find harder to capture, the human interviews or the documentation of wildlife? Why?
GS: My first reaction is the wildlife are far more difficult, requiring so much time to get close to and catch their decisive moments. Good things happen with wildlife during the classic “magic hours” we love — the shoulders of the day, when I’d rather be in bed or eating dinner. These are the hardships mentioned above. And the technical hurdles to working in a kayak with sophisticated equipment are substantial. I have had to build a unique skill set.

Moreover, I have years of interviewing experience. When I worked in PR, several times I was sent cross-country to interview folks the boss considered reticent subjects. I’ve second-guessed many a reporter who failed to ask the next question. I’ve learned the thrills of asking the right one myself.

But humans are the ultimate prey. And they’re daunting. I’ve worked alone most days for most of the past two decades. Stepping out and asking tough questions of, in many cases, my neighbors, using a rinky-dink rig I was still learning to operate, required some courage. Would the equipment work right? Would I screw up the audio? (I did in a couple cases —- and I survived.) Would my passion for the river skew the interviews and my project toward propaganda? What would spread through the small-town rumor mill?

Considering those challenges, perhaps it’s easier to endure the routine of prepping my cameras, packing breakfast, water, sunscreen, proper clothing for the day, paddling gear, a bottle for drainage, dragging the kayak down the dock, launching near dawn and seeing what happens. I did this three days a week for several years to build my collection of wildlife images. This left me with nearly 100,000 pictures to edit, manage and store. And though it was plenty difficult to figure out how to help folks experience sitting in a kayak and paddling, or the rapid rise of our extreme tides, it was fun creating camera and tripod rigs that would do this — and then using them.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: How did your graduate studies and multimedia skills alter your vision and your visual vocabulary?
GS: Subtly, but surely. A couple little compositional tricks — or definitions — helped me clean up my act. I’ve also learned much better how to think in sequences, rather than in just moments.

I’ve long been a generalist in many ways, juggling multiple specialties, including word skills that have fed me at least as well as photography. The reach into multimedia is a natural progression for me.

I have to say I feel more confident in my vision. I can see my style better. I understand better how it relates to others. And more than at any previous time, I like it.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: What kind of study did you do in scriptwriting and what did this teach you about storytelling in general?
GS: As an experienced writer and editor, I’ve had to boil down lots of information, including some very technical matters. I brought this with me as I approached the script.

My first study, as a documentarian, was the subject: the wildlife of the river. Then I had to study the material — pictures, audio, video — I gathered about it.

But 10 hours of interviews, a “tight” edit of some 700 images, hours of kayak-cockpit video and about 100 selected audio clips from the river were a daunting mountain to compile in the first place and then condense into my 22- to 24-minute package. I completed transcribing the interviews, and I was exhausted.

My adviser and professor, Terry Eiler, suggested I boil the entire tale down to three or four minutes. And he recommended the book from which he learned this trick: Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434. I read it. I produced this trailer And I saw the path to my eventual tale, told in three acts: An introduction about what the river habitat is and why its residents are so wonderful; an examination of the challenges it faces; and a conclusion that looks at its prospects.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: Do you have any specific tips to offer about being succinct in telling a story?
GS: Judging from the length of my responses here, no. But this is not a finished project, just an effort to make sure that I complete your understanding.

Compiling any story is much like visual composition: If it doesn’t help advance the story (or complete the picture), get rid of it. You must get your viewers’ attention, hold them and advance their understanding. Every element needs to build toward that goal.

Make lists. Of everything. What you need to bring on an interview. What you learned from one. Quotes from different people on the same subject. Build a story tree, like a family tree, including all the story elements you can think of and how they relate.

Realize, as painful as it is, you must transcribe every interview, log every minute of video. You can farm this out and read others’ typing as you listen and watch. But nothing will help you understand what you have as well as typing the transcripts yourself. You can’t make circumspect story decisions without fully understanding your material. This also means doing research, seeking out different perspectives, then deciding which are most relevant, perhaps which are most accurate.

Again, it’s not that different than covering an event as a photographer. Think: overall, middle, close up. Look for decisive and transformative moments, along with layered images that help folks understand what it was like to be there, how that feels and what it means.

In storytelling: Hook people into paying attention; give them something interesting; make them care.

ASMP: What was the most valuable thing you learned about editing your work?
GS: Let go. My images and any amazing quotes I gather are things I hold dear. It may be the best picture I ever made. But we have a story to tell. Does it tell that story better than the alternative? What if we leave it out? You must bleed a little to distill out the best. I guess that’s not a new lesson. But it’s a tough one to ever get done learning.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: Please tell us about your final thesis project and any response it has received. What are the options for distribution of this type of completed project?
GS: I defended a 23-minute master’s project (technically, not a thesis, but an alternative to one) in early February in Athens, Ohio. My three professors were very supportive, describing almost all their comments as “suggestions,” not requirements for my final submission. Despite having some minor trouble with the DVD the project was playing from, the session turned into almost a collaboration, rather than critique.

Since then, I offered up the project for critique at the Northern Short Course in News Photography in March, as well as to several colleagues. Good reviews, including suggestions, have come from almost all. A few have led me to tighten a few areas, replace the imagery in others, move some clips around.

And I’ve been sharing it with our community. I’ve had premiere presentations in both Bluffton and Beaufort, S.C. I showed it to a leadership class and a few other small groups. People have been very supportive, silent for a time afterward, then eager to discuss everything about our amazing local environment. Local elected officials have shared it with our congressmen. I was interviewed last Sunday on four local radio stations. The county is set to air it over their cable television channel. I’m set to present it to the Hilton Head Rotary Club next month. Our ASMP chapter has tapped it for viewing during a picnic in July. The Bluffton Historical Society is considering a fundraiser based on screening my project. Hilton Head’s Coastal Discovery museum wants to have a showing.

The complaints I’ve had are from those who asked why I didn’t interview them.

Since defending and submitting the project to Ohio University’s archives, I have made several changes in the documentary, based both on others’ critiques and a few proclivities of my own that differ from my professors’ advice. I’ve added an epilogue, of sorts, in the form of several screens of white type on a black background, explaining how our oyster beds will close next year and that a key area developer is now in bankruptcy. These changes put the copyright to the current version clearly in my bag, and I plan to share this as widely as I can. The video now runs about 24 minutes.

After completing a few more tweaks, I will begin the process of submitting to film festivals, contests and public television. DVD copies are now available for $25, shipped. Before long I will post a version on the Web, but I’m being very careful about this.

And as soon as I can — hopefully within a year — I plan to insert a DVD inside a picture book about the May River. This will allow me to boost the book’s cover price and its printing quality.

© Greg Smith

ASMP: Now that you have your degree, do you have a specific plan or strategy for putting these skills and credentials to use?
GS: Not exactly. I have several parallel paths I need to travel.

I’ve wanted to teach since I first returned to OU in 1983. And I have — some — as Business Practices Chairman for NPPA, as a guest lecturer to a few college courses and as an artist in residence at K-12 schools across South Carolina. My master’s degree is a key credential needed to join a college faculty. Unfortunately, given the crisis in the news biz, there is no shortage of 50-something, male, white, experienced photojournalists looking toward academe, where our demographic is the least desirable. While I think I stand out from much of the crowd, I must, for now, for family reasons, continue to base myself here, between Savannah and Hilton Head Island. There are only a few such positions available locally, and I’ve yet to find an opening that would work.

All this may change soon. And I’m just beginning to look in earnest at my local and regional options. I’m confident that I will eventually teach.

In the meantime, I’ve been very busy (re)finishing my project, sharing it and mopping up the mess I left when I shifted my focus toward school nearly three years back. I’ve also been working more than half time for several months as an editor and event coordinator for the SAA Photo Metadata Project, underwritten by the Library of Congress and industry partners.

My next personal push is to build a new Web site and new portfolio, including tight integration with an online Photoshelter archive. This will tap all my new skills and more. I’m eager to more effectively market both my existing images — as both fine art and stock — and my value as a versatile communicator, with the specialties noted above. I will be looking particularly toward non-profit, educational and corporate clients. But I remain open to open to editorial work I can afford to do, as well as interesting commercial and retail (portrait, etc.) projects. I’m now ready to market some video skills with my others.

I also have my ear and eye to the ground (and Web) for opportunities editing or producing a news publication or program, printed or electronic, possibly working for a non-profit. With my broad background, I love such work. I’ve launched several publications in the past, and I won’t rule out another entrepreneurial adventure.

And I have another local documentary project in mind, produced with few, if any, still images. Then there’s both my May River book and a long-planned, black-and-white tome about the (d)evolution of Bluffton from a small, rural community to suburban sprawl.

Each of these tracks will hopefully have their time. I’ve learned that life can reroute the best plans. And with my 88-year-old mother living next door on our jungle-challenged waterfront property, in the heart of hurricane country, during a time of rising sea levels and plunging economic indicators, I try to remain flexible.

If only my joints didn’t hurt so much when I flexed …

© Greg Smith