Sunday, April 25, 2010


"It's something that I was good at and I just fell into. It started off with me just defending my friends, now its my calling," says Christos Piliafas. A cage fighter for only about a year, Piliafas has been training in the martial arts for over 20 years.

Christos Piliafas helps a student put on a pair of gloves before MMA training at the Great Lakes MMA Center. Piliafas is an instructor at the center in Traverse City and at his own gym in Flint. Certified in Russian Sambo, a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and an all-state wrestler, Piliafas is well rounded in all aspects of MMA.

"I work out with fellow fighters like York Ash and Rhyan Glezman. All of use have pro-debut fights coming up. We teach student's moves but also learn from each other," says Piliafas. During a typical work out with each other they practice holds, sparring, kicking, and blocking techniques.

"I've dislocated a knee, hyper-extended an arm and elbow, pinched nerves, and had tendinitis. My biggest dislike is cardio, but it is necessary, otherwise in the ring you feel like your hands are 35lbs weights," says Piliafas. With Piliafas's pro-debut on April 17th, he has been going full-force at training.

Christos Piliafas circles a 45lb weight around his shoulders during a station workout. Stations included crunches with a medicine ball, lifting weights, hitting a tire, kickboxing, punching, and grappling. Piliafas works out Monday through Friday, 4pm til 10pm and Saturday 9am til 1pm.

"I've got around 6 or 7 seven layers on right now, with a sweatshirt, some t-shirts and thermals, so that my body will feel cooler and lighter during my match," says Piliafas. The extra layers proved difficult Piliafas's sparring partner to get ahold of, and provided a good source of laughs at the end of the round.

"There is nothing greater to me than watching one of my students win a fight using a move that I taught them," says Piliafas. Christos teaches both men and women, and from teenagers to adults. All students go through the same stations and lessons in technique. After showing how to use the move, Piliafas watches each student to make sure they perform it correctly.

"So far as an amateur, I'm 8 and 0. I'm lucky to train with the people I do. We all watch each other and give good advice on what to improve," says Piliafas as he receives instruction on his pivot kicking, the week before his King of the Cage pro-fight.

"People call me The Mad Greek, or the Crazy Greek. They fan get into calling me that," Piliafas says. Fans cheered out Christos's name and nickname and he faced off against Jason Fish in his pro-debut fight at the Leelanau Sands Casino.
Piliafas led the fight the first two rounds, but after the third round officials called the match in Fish's favor.

"You know tomorrow could be my last fight, but as long as I live MMA through my students I'll be happy," Piliafas says. Ties to his students and to his fans keep Christos fighting and loving what he does.

For the Love of the Fight: Christos Piliafas from Rebecca Crawford on Vimeo.

For the Love of the Fight: Christos Piliafas (Stills of KOTC Debut) from Rebecca Crawford on Vimeo.


"When I started snowboarding, pretty much nobody was doing it where I was from. My friends and I just got a couple of crappy board together and tried to figure it out for ourselves," says Joshua Kodis. Kodis, 28, of Mt. Pleasant started off a skier in Alaska but has been snowboarding now for 15 years.
In love with the outdoors, Kodis is always trying new things.

"Here we go Norah!" Joshua Kodis tells his two year-old daughter, Norah, as he helps her skimboard across a puddle outside their Mt. Pleasant apartment. Kodis decided to bring skimboard fun to his backyard after a giant snow hill melted. Norah likes to watch what and try what her dad does, and Kodis hopes she will take on after him.

"I really wanted a kayak and it was on sale, so I had to get it," Kodis says as he carries it on his back toward the Deerfield Park river. Kodis's wife, Patty, and daughter, Norah, hike and play along the trail before meeting him back at their Jeep.

"I just bought this bike a year ago, but I've been riding motorcycles for 9 years," Kodis says while taking a sunny afternoon cruise. His first bike was a Honda CBR 600, his second a Yamaha TW 200, and now he enjoys his Harley Davidson.

Joshua Kodis practices doing kickflips and ollies on a longboard just outside of Mt. Pleasant. Having started off as skateboarder, Kodis is a skilled longboarder, able to not only carve hills but incorporate tricks easier done on a shorter board. After recently purchasing a new skateboard, Kodis looks forward to testing it out at skateparks.

"I've been going boarding just about every weekend this year. It's a pretty big part of my life, and a lot of what I do revolves around it," Kodis says. As a rider of around seven resorts in Michigan and more out West, Kodis says boarding's appeal for him is "just getting away from everything."

Joshua Kodis walks back from a Caberfae Peaks helicopter after shooting aerial photos of the resort. Kodis has been shooting since he was 14, and started his own company, Venture Pictures, four years ago. Kodis has geared its focus toward capturing adventure and nature photography all over the U.S.

For the Love of Adventure: Joshua Kodis from Rebecca Crawford on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

JRN 521 Working With Layers

I had a lot of fun with this assignment, and started noticing how just one extra bit of information (whether an item, person, or background) can tell the story better. I shot one of my final subjects as he made a day of skimboarding. I tried to include key bit of information beyond him and the board, such as the apartments to show that it wasn't a lake or pond, and his daughter's interest and disinterest in what he was doing.

Rebecca Crawford, Layers, Shutter 400, Aperture 6.3, and ISO 100.

Joshua Kodis, 28, lets out a tired sigh and a few censored remarks as he attempts to do a running jump onto his skimboard. As someone who loves to be doing adventurous things, Kodis finds ways to practice his hobbies wherever he is at and encourages his 2 year-old daughter Norah to try. The pair spent most of Tuesday evening outside their Mt. Pleasant apartment, deciding to only go in when it became too cold.

Rebecca Crawford, Layers, Shutter 320, Aperture 6.3, and ISO 100.

"Here we go Norah!" Joshua Kodis tells his two year-old daughter, Norah, as he helps her skimboard across a puddle outside their Mt. Pleasant apartment. Kodis, who is always doing adventurous sports and trying new things, decided to bring his skimboard fun to his backyard after a giant snow hill melted. Kodis and his daughter spent the afternoon boarding until it became too cold.

Copy Block:

Extreme sports and adventurous past-times are hobbies for some, but for Joshua Kodis they are a way of life. Kodis, 28, snowboards, rockclimbs, surfs, skimboards, rides motorcycles, and is up for just about anything. With the recent purchase of a skimboard, Kodis admits he is still new to it but is learning quickly and tries to practice with it as much as possible. Living in Mt. Pleasant, without a lake or sandy pond, Kodis decided to improvise as he normally does, by modifying his activity to fit where he is at.
“There was all the snow but it created this big pond when it melted, and so I’ve been skimboarding. Norah and all the kids in the complex were going crazy wanting to try,” Kodis said. As the apartment supervisor of the complex, Kodis has made friends with all the kids living there and his love for adventure and sports is proving to be contagious. The kids are always interested in what he is doing, and even Kodis’ two year-old daughter, Norah, wanted to give skimboarding a try.
“The other day Norah wanted to, but today she isn’t so sure. She’ll probably change her mind in a little bit,” Kodis said. His daughter usually wants to do what he does, and Kodis is working on teaching her how to skimboard and eventually snowboard when she is older.
Kodis spent the afternoon skimming across the puddle, watching the other kids, and convincing his daughter to give it one more try. He says her willingness and choice depends on if he or any of the other kids fall, or if they make it looks easy. The two decided to go back inside only after the sun began to set and it became too cold out to enjoy any longer.

Which One???? Layers

Having trouble narrowing these down- I'd love any advice. Thanks!!!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

JRN 521 Capturing Moments Assignment #2

For this assignment I wanted to practice my shooting both outdoors in bright light and snowy conditions and indoor fluorescent/dim lighting.I had a lot of fun with this assignment. I decided to shoot a snow shoe/cross country ski competition and a high school hockey game at the arena. Here is a favorite:

Moment of Concern:

Rebecca Crawford, Moment, Aperture 5.6, Shutter 80, and ISO 640.

Manistee Chippewa defense player Charlie Foley, of Ludington, gasps as his teammate Matt Rutkowski gets audibly slammed into the glass. Foley has been playing hockey on the team since freshman year, and now as a junior is a key asset to the team.
Despite Foley's efforts, his undermanned team lost to the visiting North Conference Cadillac Vikings 4-1.

Copy Block:

Charlie Foley has been playing hockey for years and is a key defense player for the Manistee Chippewa varsity team. Foley’s team is fairly independent, without a top division or conference spot, is composed of players from a handful of others schools within Mason County, and is undermanned by over half a dozen players. During a normal game Foley usually plays for all three periods, with the majority of his time in the first two, in order to keep the game stable. Pressure was riding high with the last game of the season at home versus the North Conference Cadillac Vikings. A win would possibly keep the Vikings from entering the playoffs next week.
In the first two periods, the Chippewas held their ground and scored a goal, playing good defense, with Foley making key plays. Then the Vikings struck back with hard checks into the boards and glass, and three goals. The Chippewa's head coach Jon Raatz began yelling, moving his players in and out quickly each time he felt they made an error. Foley was brought to the bench a few times but after talking with Raatz, the issue was minor and Foley took the ice again shortly to aide his team’s comeback.
The Chippewa’s fans cheered and set a high momentum for the last period, but the Chippewas did not recover and lost to Cadillac 4-1. Although Foley and the rest of his teammates were highly disappointed, after coach Raatz described their mistakes, he congratulated them on the game overall. Now the Cadillac Vikings will continue on to the D3 playoffs were they will challenge the winner of the Mt. Pleasant vs. Big Rapids game on Wednesday night at FSU. The Manistee Chippewas will return next fall, with Foley in a senior position to once again lead his team.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Longterm JRN 521 Project Proposal

In life I believe that you are not truly experiencing living, unless you love what you do and pursue the things that make you feel alive. My project, Extreme Limits, will show this through the experiences of three individuals who put their health, relationships, and lives in danger each time they take part in what they love. Ultimately, I want the audience to feel the passion and rush that each person gets from their sports, and to understand that when you are so involved in what you do it becomes who you are. What you do with your day, what you do with your friends, what you talk about, and your career are all intertwined with what you love, train, and sacrifice for.

The project is formatted into parts based on each of three individuals’ lives and is centered around the central theme of extreme sports. The first subject I will be focusing on is Luther Kurtz, who is a main tandem instructor for Skydive Harbor Springs in northern Michigan. I plan to show that a lot of work and planning goes into skydiving and that the instructors and pilots are like a family. They do everything together. I plan to show the planning until the jump season, and the preparation that goes on with the gear and making sure the equipment is ready and safe. I plan to show what Luther’s role is in the business, how he got into it, what he felt like the first time jumping, and why he decided to make it his career. I will show how he uses his love for skydiving to calm nervous first time jumpers, how he takes on the pressure of training other people, how he calm’s the jumper’s families, and the worry and joy he has during preparation and after landing. I plan to show how even outside of work, he still is involved in skydiving by talking about the jumps, going jumping with friends, and spending time with fellow employees after work. I want to show how jumping affects his relationships, and how his girlfriend and parents feel about it. I plan to interview him about his experiences, film him with his friends, interviews his family, cover his preparation and training, and get in the plane with him for the jump to capture the rush.

The second subject I am focusing on is Christos G. Piliafas, who is an undefeated Ammy Cage Fighter. He is the owner of Great Lakes MMA in Traverse City and is opening his own training camp in Waterford in a few weeks. He also has a pro debut at the Leelanau Sand Casino in April. I plan to focus on why he got into the sport, how hard he trains and how often, why he loves the sport, how his girlfriend and family react to him fighting, how he is a mentor for younger fighters, past injuries, and the stress he faces fighting as he gets older. I plan to go to his camp, the opening of his new facility, his fights, and his hanging out with friends and family. I want to show the emotion, anger, and joy of being a coach, and his reaction to his and their victories or defeats. I want to focus on the physical and mental exhausted and the strain/bonding between fighters and family.

The third is Josh Golden who is an avid snowboarder and an employee at Caberfae Peaks Ski Resort who is very involved in trick riding and occasionally competes. I plan to cover any competitions, his teaching of other boarders, the tricks and jumps he does, injuries he has sustained, and show how hard he works at improving his boarding. With making his passion also his job, he also gets to be out on the courses, and so I plan to cover how often he actually rides, the relationship between friends, the competition between other boarders, future plans, and the good and bad of doing extreme snowboarding (including crashes, trash talk, and the strive to feel the rush but to realize how far to push it without getting hurt).

As for the action and how these things will emerge in the story, I have it scheduled that I will be covering Christos Piliafas every weekend from now until the end of the semester, Josh Golden, at least 1 time a week, and Luther from Harbor Springs starting in March every other weekend, spending the most time at the end of March and April when then begin the jumping season with the public. Each subject will be covered in similar ways but I am planning my schedule accordingly so I can attend things that come up that are unplanned. For each subject I plan on covering how long they have been involved in their sports, what got them interested in it/what other things they wanted to do first, how they got involved, what their friends and family had to say/how they reacted and still feel, the training and preparation, the losses/defeats, the joys, the time spent outside of what they do (that still involves their sports), how they mentor others, how they inspire others, injuries, and where they see their future. As with any project, any other categories to cover and show develop and change with where the person and story take you, but this will be the framework.

For the interviews I plan to interview each subject about their sport, process, training, preparation, facts, emotions, reactions to past experiences, goals, worries, fears, reasons for the sport, why it is their career, and their reaction to the pos/negs. of their sports, and how their comments on what people say about what they do. I also want to include interviews with those they mentor, the people they work with, best friends, parents, and their significant others to dig deeper into the roles they play. I want to cover their reactions and worries about what each subject does, their initial reaction, how it has changed their life, and the pos/negs. that have come out of being around someone who does an extreme activity.

I want to start off each piece with an opening action shot capturing the action and rush, cutting to a still or video shot of the expression on the subject’s face, followed by an interview about who they are, what they do, and for how long. Then an interview with family about their fears and worries, a section on accidents and injuries, the possible risks, and then take it from there. I want it to follow a logical flow of time, starting with the preparation for the activity, worries, fears, with the middle involving the actual sports and its risks (with the family and significant others views), and the ending being the outcome and how they react with their friends (support) and where they see themselves going (plans for the future/what next).

I plan for this piece to impact my viewers by showing the rush, the dangers, the relationships, the fears, the effect they have on those around them, their passion, and their drive. I want the viewer to understand that loving a sport is like loving anything or anyone: you take risks. Despite the risks, you still are willing to do anything to continue doing what you love.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Photography Inspirations

When I first started taking photos I had the idea in my head that I wanted to take beautiful portraits or maybe shoot fashion. I’ve found lately that my true passion lies with telling peoples’ stories and showing the stunning complexity in nature. As my world of photography has been expanded through my years at CMU, my constant travel, and viewing exhibits, I have come to admire many photographers. Though many photos make me think and keep me on the creative path, there are a few photographers whose body of work and talent I wish I had.

One of my main inspirations is Art Wolfe, who is an international photographer and instructor. He and his work give me the desire to travel and explore everything around me as opposed to just stagnating. Wolfe photographs people, buildings, animals, landscape, and anything that catches his eye. He has a good sense of composition, lighting, moment, and detail. Perhaps his best work involves animals and nature as opposed to people and their environment. Like Wolfe, I want to refine my work so that I can specialize in a certain type of photography, but still be skilled and versatile enough to do all kinds of work. I admire his ability to wait for certain situations to arise in nature and his knowing of when to click the shutter. Wolfe inspires me to explore my camera settings, be patient for good moments, and be quick to capture them. His website is And clips of his show Travels to the Edge is on Youtube.

Another of my main inspirations is Unembedded. It is a book and national touring exhibit by four independent journalists who spent years photographing the Iraq war. The group was made up of two woman and two men who work outside of the U.S military embedding program in order to get closer to their subjects and shoot the war from the view point of the Iraqi people. This collection of photographs gave me the ambition to be a war photographer. The summer before my junior year at college I did not have enough money to return to CMU to finish my degree. My loans had been denied and although I was working two jobs I wasn’t getting anywhere. I met with NAVY recruiters who told me about Combat Camera and that the program only accepts 1,000 people. My chances at that point of getting trained in that field were slim so I decided to wait to join. However, the work of Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, Kael Alford, Throne Anderson, and Rita Leistner still makes me want to travel and show the world people’s stories behind the conflict. I want my photographs to have the power to give the world a wake up call.

The website for Unembedded is Each photographer's gallery is listed under index. Their work inspires me to get more involved with the subjects to the point that there are no longer just subjects but are human beings. I want to learn that fine line of becoming too involved but to be able to let my passion show through. All of the photos are dynamic, make you think, and want to stare and look away at the same time. This inspires me to have my work make people want to gaze at it for a long time and contemplate the stories of the people. The access in unbelievable and inspires me to stop being shy and push my limits. And all of the photos of people show emotion. This is what I really want to be able to do. I want to be able to convey that happiness, anger, sadness, and shock as well as these photographers.

And last but not least of my inspirations in National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg. I admire him because he started off not even going to school for journalism or photography and eventually started working for a few papers. After less than a year he submitted photos to National Geographic and started working as freelancer. Awhile later they accepted him as a contract photographer and he has done that now for around 30 years while also having work published in magazines like Life and Newsweek. He inspires me to just stop doubting and waiting for the right moment but to get out there and just take risks and do all I want to do. Brandenburg also has good control of light and a good eye for composition. He works at many angles to get his shots and takes photos at all depths of field. What I take from his work into my own style is that I want to experiment with my angles, heights, focal lengths, and settings to achieve the best photo. Brandenburg’s photos have a style to them so that they look very skilled and technical but at the same time like an un-posed piece of life. I want to keep in mind all the elements in my photos and control my settings but not be too busy to just shoot. He also has mastered taking pictures in all kinds of weather. I admire this and would like to perfect the shots I take on cloudy, rainy, snowy, foggy, and any other less than perfect days. Brandenburg’s website is: