The Gift: A Physician-Photographer Speaks about Work, Life and Photography.
“There are two kinds of intellect; the first is acquired – You learn and your intellect grows superior. The other intellect is God’s pure gift; its heart is in the breast of the soul.” Rumi
Serendipity: the phenomenon of suddenly finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.
“Bridge to…Somewhere” was taken at Olbrich Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin. That is one of my favorite places to visit for photography. In this photo, I made everything black and white but left the color of the purple flowers on the trees. I usually don’t like to play around with Photoshop too much on my photos, but I thought it worked well in this case. M.Ejercito
“Grace Bay Beach Pier” was taken in Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean. This is one of my personal favorites. I went for a wonderful walk along the beach with my family and was fortunate that this wonderful pier was on the property right next to where we were staying. M.Ejercito
A while back, I had made a commitment to write a series of get-to-know-you short interviews, where I ask the same/similar set of questions of remarkable people I have met on a range of social network sites; men and women who cherish the interactions they have with others and share their gift of communication by joining the social media conversation – each in his/her own unique way. My goal remains to share insights and stories from my interviewees and present the real people behind the many usernames that greet us on myriad sites.
Today, we meet the remarkable, gifted physician/photographer – Michael Ejercito. I added the definition of the word serendipity at the top of this post because it aptly describes how I met Michael. I was searching for photos on Google Images when I came across the photograph above. I stopped, astonished at the simple, stark beauty of the shot; heaven meeting earth with no obvious lines of demarcation. It was stunning and I followed it back to its source on Flickr. Serendipity led me back to Wisdoc, Michael’s username on Flickr, where I was greeted by a panoply of spectacular photographs; a visual feast for the eyes.
I invite you to kick back and enjoy the generosity of Michael’s story and photographs. A very busy medical doctor by training, Michael still finds time to engage in one of his favorite pastimes – photography. He has “loved photography ever since I owned my first camera when I was 7 and wasted rolls of film taking blurry pictures of my model airplanes.”
“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.” Henri Cartier Bresson
“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.” Aristotle
Tell us a bit about your background: Who are you? Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
My name is Michael Ejercito. I’m 34 and married to my fantastic wife Karen Reed. We are parents to two wonderful daughters, Sierra (3 years), and Felicity (6 months). I was born in Manila, Philippines but my family moved to the United States when I was only 3 months old because my father, an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician, needed to complete his training in Virginia. We lived in Virginia for a few years then moved to Marshfield, Wisconsin; I was 4 years old and that’s where I grew up.
Marshfield is a nice quiet town right in the center of Wisconsin. Although my childhood roots were in Marshfield, I moved to Madison, when I finished high school, to complete undergraduate and medical school at the University of Wisconsin. After medical school, I moved to East Lansing, Michigan where I did my residency training specializing in Emergency Medicine; I met my beautiful wife – Karen – in East Lansing. Currently, we live in Janesville, which is in southern Wisconsin near the Illinois border.
What do you do for a living?
I am an Emergency Medicine physician. I work in 2 different hospitals in southern Wisconsin as well as in an urgent care center in northern Illinois. Most of the time, I really enjoy what I do. The difficult thing about my job is that I work all kinds of strange hours. I work some weekends and also work morning, midday, and overnight shifts and sometimes it is difficult to adjust to my ever-changing schedule. But, my work is never boring. I hear all kinds of interesting stories each day from all the patients I meet – some funny, some very sad…
Over the past few years, photography has become one of my passions and I would love to eventually make photographs on a professional level.
“Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.” Ansel Adams
“Paco Park” was taken in Manila, Philippines. This is a national landmark and a special place for me – that’s where my parents were married:) M.Ejercito
“Rays of Light” is also one of my personal favorites. I was actually on my way to a lake in Madison, Wisconsin to take a picture of the sunrise. But on the way there, I realized that I would be too late for the actual sunrise but was pleasantly surprised by the scene that I found. Another example of how it’s not the destination but the journey that is important:) M.Ejercito
Why did you choose the path you now follow?
I come from a strong lineage of people who have worked or still work in the medical field. Both of my parents are physicians, as well as my maternal/paternal grandfathers, and one of my uncles. I always knew that I wanted to be a physician too. I had a difficult time choosing a specialty and so I chose Emergency Medicine since it encompasses a broad range of medical problems. I see all kinds of people as patients every day – from newborns to people over 100 years old and I cherish the great satisfaction I get from helping each person.
When did you decide to make key changes in your life?
I think that a key moment of change in my life was when I finally became a parent. After spending years focusing my life on improving myself (schooling and working), becoming a father made me significantly shift my priorities from myself and my wife to our first daughter; we had a new family dynamic. I had to sacrifice my already limited spare time and put my time and energy into helping raise my daughter. So far, it has been a wonderful change. We now have two beautiful daughters whom I love very much. We do have some challenging times, but a sweet smile or beautiful laugh makes all the trouble worthwhile. I cannot imagine life without them.
“Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.” Matt Hardy
“Larkspur Star Trails” was taken at my sister-in-law’s home in Larkspur, Colorado. I love long exposure photography. This particular photo was exposed for about 25 minutes in order to capture the motion of the stars as they rotate around the North Star. M.Ejercito
“Ramona in Motion” was taken when I was experimenting with panning photographs. My dog Ramona loves to run and I wanted to capture her speed as she ran. This photo was taken with a shutterspeed of 1/25 of a second. While taking this photo, I had to swivel my camera to keep Ramona centered while the shutter was open to achieve this effect. M.Ejercito
Share your world view: How do you live your life and manage your household?
Our household is a very busy one. I work full-time and my wife, who is a Family Practice physician, also works full-time. Thankfully, we have a wonderful nanny who helps us out quite a bit when we are working. Juggling schedules is a daily concern especially with both of us being physicians with shifting work schedules; but we somehow always find a way to make it work. My parents live a few hours away and are usually very eager to help take care of our kids when something comes up. Despite our busy schedules, I do feel we get to spend plenty of quality time with our daughters. We also have a wonderful gentle Labrador retriever, Ramona, who completes our family.
“It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter, because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the ordinary.” David Bailey
“Bond Falls Tranquility” was taken in the upper peninsula of Michigan. “Water Under the Bridge” was taken at Mulnomah Falls in Oregon. I love waterfalls! M.Ejercito
What motivates you to get out of bed?
Most of the time, it is usually one of my daughters who wakes up and ushers in the new day. I’m not a morning person, but when I see them smile, I feel much better about starting the day. I think that, in general, the world is a beautiful place and there is so much to see and explore. Photography is also another reason to get up early and there is nothing like sunrise and the early morning light. It is a miracle watching the earth wake up from its slumber. Whether it’s coming home from a long overnight shift or exploring a beautiful scene while on vacation, being outside with nature in the morning is magical.
What makes you happy/laugh?
There are plenty of things that make me happy. Getting to spend quality time with my family is wonderful. Being active makes me happy – going for a nice run, biking, rollerblading, weightlifting – anything physical makes me happy. Of course, taking a nice picture makes me happy too. I’m also a huge sports fan – cheering for the Green Bay Packers, the Milwaukee Brewers, or the Wisconsin Badgers teams makes me smile. A yummy meal with good friends or family also makes me happy.
What makes you sad/mad?
I think that one of the things that make me sad is realizing how quickly time goes by. It makes me sad to think that my little daughters will not stay little forever. It’s hard for me to deal with the fact that everyone that I care for will sooner or later grow old and die. I try to treat everyone I am in contact with throughout the day with respect; however, if that respect is not returned it upsets me.
“Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited and the wealth and confusion man has created.” Edward Steichen
“Cannon Beach” was taken on the coast of Oregon. I think the Oregon coast is one of the prettiest places in the world. This particular image was an 8 second exposure which I needed to capture the sense of motion of the waves there. M.Ejercito
“Piano Light Paint” is an example of a photographic technique called light painting. My mother was kind enough to be the model for this photo:) This photo was taken in a dark room. The camera was set for the shutter to be open for about 10 seconds. During this time, I used a flashlight to illuminate the piano. The hands were illuminated for about 5 seconds and then my mother removed her hands from the photo to achieve the ghostlike effect of her hands. M.Ejercito
What would you do differently with your life if you had the power? With the world if you had the choice?
There really isn’t very much that I’d do differently with my life – I’m very content with where my life has taken me. I wouldn’t mind working less and getting to spend more time with my family. I also regret not having the chance to play football when I was in high school. My parents were very protective of me and I definitely understand their concern for me getting hurt while playing; their concern is now underscored by what I see as a physician especially when patients come to my ER because of injuries from playing football. But I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have played…
As far as changes with the world, I wish that people in general would be more tolerant of each others differences. Someone once suggested to me that the root of all wars in this world is intolerance of others. I wish people could look past differences in race, religion, and culture, and realize that we all have more in common than we are different.
What guiding principle(s) do you follow to make your life meaningful?
The Golden Rule: I’m always a firm believer of doing unto others as they would do onto you. Whether I’m interacting with family or friends, or whether I’m dealing with patients in the ER, I try to put myself in their shoes and treat them the way I imagine they would want to be treated.
I know this is another cliché, but I do believe in enjoying the journey of life and not necessarily the destination. I do find that I struggle with that sometimes. For example, when I am dealing with two screaming kids in the middle of the night, I realize that I need to just smile and treasure the moment. Time passes in the blink of an eye and before I know it, those screaming kids will be in college and I will miss the chance to see them at all hours of the night!
“No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer it has chosen.” Minor White
“The End of the Road” was taken on Highway 128 near Moab, Utah. To me, this is one of the most scenic highways in the United States. M.Ejercito
“Patrick and Eamon on the beach” was taken while we were visiting the Oregon coast a few years ago. Patrick is my brother-in-law and Eamon is his son. Sometimes wonderful moments can occur when you least expect it. In this photo, a wave had just washed ashore and I was fortunate to capture their reflection – a moment later their reflection was gone. M.Ejercito
What word(s) of advice would you give to others today?
Yet another cliché – life is a marathon, not a sprint. When I was in high school, I was a sprinter on our track team and that was how I looked at life; one huge sprint. I worked hard to accomplish my short-term goals. But as I’ve grown a bit older, I’ve come to realize that life is hard work. If you want to accomplish your dream, you really do have to put in the time and energy to get to where you want to be. And it won’t necessarily happen overnight. However, through persistence and focus, you can reach your goals. These days, I have converted my running style as well as my goals in life to a more “long distance” mentality.
How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as a good person overall. I’d like to be known as a great husband and father. I’d like my colleagues to remember me as intelligent, hardworking, and easygoing.
“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.” Diane Arbus
“Bohol Beach” was taken on the island of Bohol in the Philippines. Last year, I was fortunate to get a chance to visit the Philippines with my family. Although I was born there, I was 3 months old when we moved from the Philippines to the U.S. I’ve only been back to the Philippines twice since then. I’d love to go back and spend more time there! M.Ejercito
Getting to snuggle in bed with my wife and two daughters all cuddled up together on one half of the bed. It is always wonderful to come home after a long day of work and get a nice hug and kiss from my wife, hear the excited voices of my daughters, and be greeted with plenty of licks from our dog Ramona. Happiness is also getting the opportunity to enjoy Nature’s beauty – from the mountains and oceans, sunrises and sunsets, and the changing seasons – it is wonderful being able to experience it all!
Michael and his beautiful family live in Janesville, Wisconsin where, in between the grueling demands of a physician’s life, he finds time to pursue his passion for photography. You may connect with him via Wisdoc on Flickr.
Do you have a hobby that has grown into something more? Share your thoughts and comments on Michael’s piece or your own efforts at the creative process. Thank You!
Here’s wishing everyone a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING holiday!
All Photographs above taken by Michael Ejercito ~ via Wisdoc on Flickr
Happy Thanksgiving bountiful basket postcard ~ via zazzle.com
Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©