Mar 30, 2017, 10:33

This weekend I’ll be spreading my best friend’s ashes on a mountain top in North Carolina. Keith Gedamke was an avid outdoorsman and – before he died of cancer in January – requested this specific spot, which is a two-hour hike from the base of Mt. Pisgah National Forest. Dominique (my fiancé) will record video that we’ll edit and post on YouTube.

The song I’ve picked out for the video will be perfect; not because Keith loved the song (he’s never heard it), but because it’s going to flow beautifully with slow motion footage of the mountain skyline; because it’s sparse enough for Dominique to record some nice vocal “oohs” and “aahs” on top of it; and most importantly because YouTube won’t flag it for copyright violation. I don’t need that headache when sharing this with Keith’s family.

Here’s the song:

1st Place Winner (Pictorial) – South Carolina Press Assocation 2016 News Awards © 2016 The Sumter Item

Blue Skies And A Happy Heart | (#00536034) by Davis Harwell Music

My best friend was a photo journalist. For more than two decades, he worked on staff at a newspaper in Sumter, SC. We first met in elementary school so – honestly – he could’ve chosen a career in waste management and we still would have been buddies. In conversation, how we each chose to pay our bills was just “grown-up stuff”. There were always more pressing matters to discuss like relationships, sports, politics, partying, camping, etc.

I would imagine that most close relationships with artists are like that; you talk about everything but the art. To be completely honest, I’d only half-listen when Keith would occasionally mention an accolade he’d won or a football shot that turned out better than expected. When the hell was he going to settle down and have kids?

Photographer: Keith Gedamke – 1st Place Winner – South Carolina Press Assocation 2016 News Awards © 2016 The Sumter Item

It’s not that I didn’t recognize his skill, or respect that he took pictures for a living. It’s just that I assumed there would be many, many more pictures to come. And I took it for granted. Now I find myself hoarding every one I can find.

Two weeks ago the South Carolina Press Association commemorated Keith posthumously; not in a “you did something important decades ago; hope you’re enjoying retirement” kind of way. More like a “you took pictures six months ago while battling cancer that are of such quality that contemporaries half your age are deeply humbled; how could you even pull that off in your condition?” kind of way. Keith took 1st, 2nd, 3rd place in the Pictorial category as well as 1st & 2nd place in the Daily Feature category.

While these were taken, I remember Keith complaining about his hands shaking, making it difficult to shoot. I remember him complaining about equipment malfunctions. I remember him complaining about stomach pain. I thought, dude, go home and take a nap.

Now I realize…..he knew these pictures were the children that would survive him.

Photographer: Keith Gedamke – 2nd Place Winner (Pictorial) – South Carolina Press Assocation 2016 News Awards © 2016 The Sumter Item

For over 20 years his beloved town saw themselves through his pictures. And in the same way a dying parent needs closure with all their children before they can let go, Keith had more things he needed to say – through the images he captured – before he could let go.

In my next installment of this blog, I’ll share the actual video and talk about the editing/publishing process. Stay tuned….and hug the ones you love.


Mike Bielenberg is a professional musician and co-founder of, a production music marketplace with over 48,000 tracks online where media producers, video producers, filmmakers, game developers, businesses  and other music buyers can license high-quality, affordable royalty-free music from an online community of musicians.

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