Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cascade Meditation

Serene Cascade
Hunter, NY

"Do not go where the path may lead,
go instead where there is no path
and leave a trail."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's the tail end of summer here in Texas and I am already dreaming about the cooler weather; somewhere up in the Catskills of New York, not to far from Woodstock there's a place where I like to meditate while white cascades drown the noise of the busy wheels in my head. The constant roar of the rushing flow direct me to a life channel that otherwise I would not hear.

For a moment, as I close my eyes and drift and free fall with the natural shower, I only think about how I want to be carefree and just be. The soul thing I wish to strive for is to drown out all the other distracting noises and to enjoy my outdoor spiritual oasis and retreat.

I think about the times misspent trying to control things and outcomes and associated needless worry. The worry was inversely proportional to happiness forgone. I know I can't change what was but I think about letting go at least for a while choosing to follow the currents and cascade. Both have their own direction and seem naturally to know their preordained purpose to flow adventure around the stones and boulders along the way and ultimately to the sea.

I know that I am a part of this process and the only way for me to find myself is to truly go with the river and the current and to where it leads. My destiny is not to control and own but rather to let go in preparation for my final journey. On that journey, I will take very little more than what I was born with. There's no point in worrying about hoarding now, its time to enjoy. Time to float. Time to live.

Represented by the Simon Gallery of Fine Art, Tucson

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Waiting for Wedding Debut
Dallas, TX

"When we are children we seldom think of the future.
This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can.
The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind."
-Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

Last week on the spur of the moment a friend of mine realized that her bride wanted a second photographer to shoot her wedding too. Fortunately I happened to be on FaceBook when I saw her distress message to other local photographers for help. Given that I really had nothing else going on that Saturday, I volunteered to help.

When I got there I could see the relief on my friend's face. As I turned and looked at the bride, I could see that the bride was shall we say "intense".  I made my cameo appearance in front of the bride to assuage the situation and proceeded to go about my business of taking photos from a different perspective. 

Two of the subjects who completely got me relaxed and in the moment were two little girls in the wedding party. They were happy and content all dressed up daintily as if they were ready for some form of impressionist portrait session. I could not help but notice the pure innocence on their faces and simple beauty. They were totally wrapped up in the present and not in the least bit as fretful as the bride. Had I my druthers, I would have simply spent  my time with the two precious girls. The girls were simply playing make believe but as themselves: little princesses and Cinderellas.

The clock was moving and reality was setting in. It was time for me to find my perch in an unfamiliar Catholic church. Had to find out what the rules were for flash and if so when. Had to digest quickly what would work and what would not. My mind was busy and I could feel my stress and anxiety creep in.

St. Thomas Aquinas
Dallas, TX
The only thing I could do was to start looking through my view finder and taking test shots to determine what would work. The lighting of course was poor and mixed between tungsten and some natural light. It was time to jack up the ISO and pray for the best; after all, it was a Catholic wedding so I should have plenty of time and notice in between homilies and communion and God knows what else. I began to shoot from my perch near the pipe organ. Scoped out my subjects: the bride and groom. What can I do to make this work?

Keeping in mind that for me I already had taken my best shots; I focused on the actual ceremony and worked my real assignment. Compared to what I had just captured it seemed somewhat anticlimatic. I focused and pressed the shutter release and kept looking for other drama to unfold. It was good it was all good. I kept thinking about the innocence of the little girls and I thought of my own grand daughter who now was walking and how soon she would grow up. No I didn't want to think about that.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Of Walls and Windows

Window and Adobe
San Elizario, TX

Begin challenging your own assumptions.
Your assumptions are your windows on the world.
Scrub them off every once in while,
or the light won't come in.
Alan Alda

Been fascinated by details my whole life. To that extent my photography suits me well as I get to showcase my curiosity. Simple details found in architecture and landscapes remind me of the value of observations. All details trigger my curiosity and act as catalysts for my imagination.

Wire Rope and Adobe
San Elizario, TX
Although I've been many times to San Elizario, TX ( a mission town to the south and east of El Paso), I had never noticed several adobe structures near the center of the town plaza.  Both the window and adobe wall made me think of the history of the settlers who once stood there. The adobe walls looked as if they had been riddled with bullet holes (perhaps my imagination) I supposed. It could easily just be weeping holes too, but my first story sounded better.

On an another wall, I saw hung some carefully rolled wire that looked like a cowboy's rope on a saddle. My imagination continued to roam. Suddenly I thought about some lyrics..."out in the west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl..." Was this the home of Rosie's Cantina? Could Marty Robbins have sung about this place and the young maiden named Celina? Was I standing in his place?

Looked down at my cell phone and noticed the time. Realized that at this moment I was just passing through. Still had five hours left before journey's end in Tucson. Reminded myself "just passing through not my final destination" and gathered my memories and pressed westward back on my trail all the while thinking and singing "out in the west Texas town of El Paso... ." Can't seem to get the chord out of my head, just maybe I not supposed to either.

Represented by the Simon Gallery of Fine Art, Tucson

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Todd Dodge
Head Coach
Westlake High School
Autstin, TX

Had an opportunity to take a few snaps of coach Todd Dodge now head coach for Westlake High School in Austin, TX. My neighbor Greg Hoy has been doing some freelance journalism and he invited me to photograph the piece. 

Todd Dodge, Chase Hargis, and Brandon Murdock
Since Greg had already written the piece he filled me in on Todd's story on our four hour trek to Austin. Greg said that that the former Southlake Carrol coach would return home on August 29th (his first game as head coach of Westlake) to play against Southlake and that the story would be featured in "Southlake Style" magazine in September. In fact, the coach and two of his former Southlake players and now assistant coaches would be coming home too.

With a sketch of the story in mind and knowing that we would be pressed for time; I tried to think of the best ways to tell the story. It was almost noon and the worst possible time of day to shoot outdoors and shooting indoors was not even a viable option. As we rolled in to the parking lot, I spotted an interesting hallway with reflective light that could help me. So I started to think of groups and a story: coach and prodigies.

"Oh don't forget to tie into his father-in-law's story too." Greg Added. Lots of work for two
Ebby Neptune Field
guys who 
are allegedly out of work, I thought. Over the hill and over qualified my ass; I smiled as I quickly rehearsed and choreographed what I was going to do.

Tell the story Al with the photo's. Stay true to the assignment. Get it done quickly without interrupting their first day on the job. Pick the lenses and locations. Use depth of field. Keep subjects out of the sun. Make the locations work for you. Try to be creative. 

This is sure a hell of a lot different than my corporate career and decades of cajoling clients to buy and or sell to me. Think quickly on your feet Al. Be precise and get it right the first time. There will be no do over. Tell the story. Get it done. 

Got it all done. Overcame my trepidations as I remembered that in Texas football is a religion. In Texas, stadiums are churches that all Texans want to attend and partake in holy communion.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Goodbye Friend

Trusted Friend

We were in Oahu, HI when we got the news that our son Steve had adopted a blue healer whom he named Buckley. Given that our son was alone back home and eighteen, we were relieved that in our absence and his loneliness he had not eloped and gotten married!

The cute little puppy was quite entertaining. He had a very distinctive walk but even more pronounced were his beautiful markings and his fur coat. He was discrete with his toilet habits and thanks to his dingo heritage would find the high grass to do his business.

As he grew older his true instincts took over. He was a cattle dog by nature who spent the remainder of his life herding his master, Steven and family surrogates, Kim, Paw Paw, and myself. We enjoyed him except for the fact that out of sheer instinct he would nip at your heals if he felt that you were encroaching on his turf.

It was that habit which actually created a bond between the nipper and me. You see when everyone else was gone and we were exhausted from playing an indefinite game of fetch the ball, we would talk. I would look at him he with the silver coat and me with the silver goatee. We had things in common besides the obvious silver exchange, he like me nipped at people but meant no real harm. If you step out of line we both were likely to nip at your heals, say our piece, not break any skin, and set you on your way.

It's befitting to pay tribute to such a noble family friend, Buckley. He was a steadfast friend and true to his master, Steve. The most intelligent dog we've ever had and a companion, a cantankerous curmudgeon, and a distant cousin. Suffer no more pal, you've been a "good boy".

Monday, July 21, 2014

Not So Common

Common Sotol
Pima Canyon
Tucson, AZ

For the great part of nearly two decades, I've been fascinated by the high desert ranging from San Miguel de Allende, GTO, MX to Tucson, AZ. The Sonoran desert has had its own special allure. The shapes of both mountains and sparse vegetation made me appreciate the order that dots it. The not so barren desert and sustains life and at the appropriate time, the desert blooms and serenades us with flowers for the eyes and nourishment for pollen seeking hummingbirds.

For months on my hikes, I walked by the "common sotol". It's symmetry  caught my attention along with the tall pipe like stalk which holds its bloom at some point after spring. The desert utilizes shapes from both planes and terrain as paint to a canvas. You can't help but notice the contrast against the sparse vegetation.

The image you see above is really not above its color but rather about the shape. I deliberately inverted the image to a negative like quality, and rendered it in black and white. The results yielded the real reason my eye was drawn to it. The light and the detail of the symmetric plant withstand my manipulation.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

La Volada

Sabino Canyon Oasis
Tucson, AZ

"I had to live in the desert
before I could understand
the full value of grass in a green ditch.
Ella Maillart

Today is a day that I've been long on advice. For my own benefit, I've decided to jot down some of my euphoric experiences that I witnessed during my desert exile. At first it was extremely arduous and lonely. I complained about my drama: the ordeal of broken job promises on my very first day. The idea of having to take a position far away from friends and family was not what I had envisioned. In my mind the job was supposed to be in Dallas. It wasn't.

Saguaro With Ample Breasts
Sabino Canyon
It took me a while but after many lonely nights and lonely days of solitude, I discovered why I was there. It gave me an opportunity to find myself in the canyons and mountains of Tucson and its outlying areas. So I began to hike each day. On weekends, when I had more time to kill, I hiked endlessly for nearly five hours on a Saturday or on a Sunday.

Some asked me if I minded being alone. The truth was that I found companionship in the inanimate bosom of canyons and the shapeliness of saguaro cactus dotting the mountains during my hikes. It was as if I had found my own non human companion.

My relationship was only consummated by my eyes and the explosive images that they beheld during long sessions of impassioned lustful hiking always wanting to reach my summit. There were times when it seemed that every object which appeared to me exposed itself sensuously seducing me with siren like melodies arousing all of my senses. I keenly became aware of my place in the universe and I  enjoyed my new found organic and earthy sensuality. My desire to acquaint myself with my passion became emotionally insatiable. At times, I found I could not stop even when I was exhausted by my sustained emotionally driven hikes.

By the time I reached my summit(s),  I was exhausted from my interludes and foreplay and the visual stimulation prior to reaching my summit(s). While the treks up were arduous coming down them
Peson de Pima Canyon
Tucson, AZ
were equally treacherous as exhaustion and weakened limbs made my body uncooperative and unsteady. My body was relaxed and tired. On the way down, I would consider my good fortune of finding such an accommodating mistress that would accept me and still leave me with more desire than what I had originally started out with. I found my purpose and to some extent my happiness in the shapes and forms of nothing, nothing but desert.

Perhaps it takes losing everything to find the basics of life and to restore passion and purpose into your life. What if what we thought we wanted fails to provide for us emotionally or transcendentally? What if what is required of us is to be willing to change or to accept change? What if instead of changing everything else, its really you who has to change inside? Just what if?