Monday, February 28, 2011

How Sweet It Is


My friend Carter and I have been working on an assignment for another friend of mine who makes exquisite cakes.  Normally, the assignments don't take much time other than to set up.  We shoot quickly at the cake setup location before the wedding party arrives.   However, this became a very difficult task as we began to focus all of our attention on the chocolate groom's cake.  A word to the wise don't shoot anything chocolate on an empty stomach.

Chocolate Temptations
As we practiced our trade and took tight close up shots, it became apparent that we were subjecting ourselves to an inordinate amount of torture.  The details of the chocolate covered strawberries glistening their decadent seduction into our lenses was more than most could bare.  We held steadfast.  We did not partake of the forbidden fruit savoring it only in our minds and recalling it with our digital captures.

I am sure that one bite would not have been enough.  Adam more than likely was seduced by Eve with a chocolate covered strawberry.  Like Adam, I would have succumbed to the pleasure of the moment.  Sometimes you just have to savor the sweetness of the moment and indulge.

Friday, February 25, 2011

In a Wink

Thanks for the Memories

There's a hole in the world tonight.
There's a Cloud of fear and sorrow.
There's a hole in the world tonight.
Don't let there be a hole in the world tomorrow.

Whole in the World by The Eagles

Our friend Joe left us late Wednesday evening  to join his wife Ginny.  He died peacefully at home "with his eyes closed and his heart wide open."  He was surrounded by those that loved him and those whom he loved.

Joe was a crooner and a romantic gentleman who at 93 could still sweep ladies off their feet.  He knew exactly what to say and had vaudevillian timing.  So Joe, we would like to sing with you and say:  "Thanks for the memories."

For those of us who knew Joe, we know this to be true;  Joe embraced life, like lovers embrace each other.  He held on to her and cherished the long embrace.  He had no quarrels with his life, it was good and it was always getting better.  "Boy this is living", he would say.  Followed by, "I wonder what the poor people are doing."

My wife, Kim, and my daughter, Justin got to see Joe one last time the evening before he died.  I was away in Las Vegas.  Kim told me that although he appeared to go in and out of consciousness, he heard her  voice and Justin's voice and winked at them.  It was his last flirtation in this life.  It was also a signal for all of us.  It's going to be ok.  Joe in his own way told us so.

Love endures and we will keep Joe's love and memory alive in our hearts.  I would be remiss however to say that there's going to be a tremendous whole in the world tonight.  We will miss our Sunday breakfast buddy.  We will miss his loving voice and his heart warming smile.  Thank you Joe so much for touching our lives and enriching them with your love.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stuff on My Mind

Reading Glasses at Rest
Somewhere between Dallas and Las Vegas

Saturday was a busy day.  I had a list of things I wanted to get accomplished before leaving to attend on Sunday morning a wedding photographers convention in Las Vegas.  My list to myself included:  go to bank to deposit and withdraw money, pay bills, help son move, see old friend Joe (perhaps for the last time), make portrait print of Joe on glossy metallic paper, go with Carter and shoot practice wedding cake, and to pack clothes and camera gear.

The most important thing on the list was to visit Joe.  It won't be long now.  He was at his daughter's home resting before he leaves on his trip.  It's been an amazing journey for my friend.  I visited him but he was not awake.  I could hear him breathing shallowly and coughing occasionally.  I don't think he was in much pain.  He still was the center of attention surrounded by the women who adore him.  I'm sure its exactly the way he wants.  He's been in the driver's seat all along.

If Joe is ready to leave then I have to be willing to let him go.  I owe that courtesy to my friend.  My final tribute to Joe will be a very simple  print.  Joe knew I was capturing him for all of us not to forget him.  Truthfully, it's hard to forget his smile.  That's the man I became friends with.  He befriended all of us with his smile and his humor.  Rest up Joe, you have a long trip ahead of you.  Thanks for stopping by and making us all feel better with your presence.  We will always think of you and we will name smiles after you.

I am in Vegas now and I need to think of how I can capture smiles and essence.  That's my job to tell and archive visual stories that others can enjoy.  

Pray for those that Joe will leave behind.  Pray that we all find our Joe smiles again.  I will miss my breakfast companion, mentor, and friend.  When I die, I also want to be surrounded by friends.  I want to be like Joe.  I've got to go, I've got things to do and stuff on my mind.  Hope to make some more friends though, just like Joe.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Happiness at Hand

Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances. 
Benjamin Franklin

In the movie classic, The Four Seasons, one of the characters going through his midlife talks about his personal happiness.  In the middle of his life, he claims to have found the fleeting intangible.  During the middle of his discourse, his friend (played by Alan Alda) challenges his notion of happiness.  Happiness he says is like a wave and sometimes you are in a deep trough.

Most people will agree that happiness is a state of mind defined more by how we think and react to external circumstances.  If you truly want to be happy then decide to be happy.  Think about how you want to be.  Choose how you wish to react to the world around you.

Yes you might have genetics and chemistry working against you, but you can make choices that can lead you to happiness.  Think about what makes you happy, chase your dreams, live your life, and become a proactive participant.  Don't just sit there, do something.  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Try Again

One who fears failure limits his activities.
Failure is only the opportunity to more
intelligently begin again.
Henry Ford

One of my favorite pass times in both Santa Fe, NM and in San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico is photographing doors.  The doors all have different characters, color, textures, hardware and stories.

In time, as we progress along our journey, we also encounter many doors;   most appear to be shut, few are wide open.  Shut or open, we will never know unless we put forth the effort, approach the doors and turn their door knobs and handles.  Those that are indeed closed may have codes and keys that lie underneath not to distant doormats.  You will never know unless you try.  What do you have to lose?

Think about the doors in your life.  What appears to be obvious may not be as obvious as you think.  Try opening the closed doors.  Don't simply stop because it looks closed.  Remember doors are meant for opening and to pass through.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Live the Life...

View From Franklin Mountains into Juarez

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
Henry David Thoreau

The playground of the Mary P. Hinsdale Elementary School faced the "Gilbert High School" which was perched on a hill above.  On indian summer days and in the spring, while others played, I dreamed about how some day I would also go to that school and graduate victoriously on my way to college.  That was my dream.

I didn''''t '''''think about how I would achieve my college goal.  I didn't wonder about the financial impediments or even the academic challenges.  I simply visualized going and nothing was going to stop me.

Many years have gone by since those days of day dreaming about that hill.  In hindsight the obstacles were pretty formidable but the reality was that without that dream, I never would have achieved my goal.  Without vision followed by action, we can never achieve what we want.

As adults many live lives of voyeurs.  We entertain ourselves wishing and fantasizing of what might be.  Few attempt to try to turn ideas into realities.  We hold ourselves back.  How differently would things be if you just resolved to pursue your passions?  What would happen to you if you just abandoned your shackles and lived the life you have always imagined for yourself?

I don't claim to have all the answers but I am not afraid of asking the questions.  There's lots of living that I intend to do and the only thing holding me back has always been me.  Again I find myself looking at the hill; I can feel the momentum pushing me forward again.  "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Success and Disappointments

Navigating in Mist
Zion National Park, UT

Men's best successes come after their disappointments.
Henry Ward Beecher

Some of the subjects that I once failed, I now know best.  With the help of some very patient teachers, I mastered my weaknesses and turned them into strengths.  Solving for the unknown in Algebra was not easy for me.  At that time, I couldn't think abstractly and the logic baffled me.  Once I caught on to the logic, it became a game where the object was to find the hidden answer.  The same held true for subjects like calculus and finance.  Subjects that I not only learned to master but that I also learned to excel.  None of it came naturally to me.  I simply did not want to fail.  I wanted to learn.

Many times after months of having composed an image, I go back to only discover, that what I had discarded or ignored was worth processing in a different fashion.  I might not have known the technique at the time of the original capture.  Armed with different tools, knowledge, and experience, I may find that I can not only salvage the composition but also turn it into meaningful art.

Time affords us new skills.  It is not our enemy.  There is wisdom in going back to an image and seeing it with new vision.  You can turn your failures into success.  You will become stronger for it.  Failures, the ultimate F word, become bright beacons of success along the journey.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Failure & Success

Them Apples

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.
Theodore Roosevelt

Which is worse, failure or never trying to succeed?  Apparently more people are afraid to succeed;  they stop all attempts at the very notion of failure.  What will happen if I don't succeed?  What happens if I fail?

We all enjoy watching a toddler take his/her first steps.  Invariably they stumble and fall usually hard on their bottoms.  Miraculously they do not give up their will to stand up.  They raise themselves up again with more determination.  They do not worry about falling down and the consequences of failure.  Learn from the toddler.

A wise man once said that we should observe children and that we should be like them.  When I think of failure, I know I have to be childlike and free from failure anxiety.  A child does not think about falling, instead the child thinks about the success of walking and the independence it offers.  In order to walk a child knows that he will fall.  Failure is not the fall but rather the investment required for success.  It is nothing more than a research and development cost.  It is a success expense and an investment in yourself.  Know that you can fall but that it is a means to reach your walking goal.  Keep your eyes focused on success.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Take a Step: Move Forward

Grazing Longhorn

Every artist was first an amateur.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many years ago, I was an avid jogger;  today, I walk four miles every day instead.  Whether you are jogging or walking, the most difficult step is simply putting on your shoes.  Without this step you can't move forward.

Most of us are underachievers simply because we don't allow ourselves to grow.  We are afraid that we aren't good enough.  We are afraid to fail and we are our own worst critics.  

As I contemplate putting on my shoes this morning for my morning constable, I wonder about how many barricades I've created over the years that have kept me from doing truly what I really want.  No one other than me has held me back.

How do you know you are not good enough?  Why do you insist on holding yourself back.  How many omens do you need to point you in the right direction?  What will it take to follow your passion?  How would your life change if you enjoyed doing something every day?

This morning as I was looking for inspiration, I found this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:  "Every artist was first an amateur."   It's ok, take a step and move forward.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Cup of Joe

Our Friend:  Joe

For those of you who live near near me, you've probably heard me talk about my friend Joe McCombs.  Joe is a very special friend.  At 93, he is my oldest and dearest friend.  For the past two years, Sunday morning breakfast has been filled with Joe.  We pick him up at his home and usually my father-in-law, Bobby, and my wife, Kim join Joe at our breakfast hangout, Dove Creek Cafe.

It's been a tradition to hang out with Joe on Sunday mornings.  He thinks that we are doing something special for him but in reality he brightens up our lives with his cheer, sparkling eyes, singing, stories, and laughter.  Joe is a poster child of what good living ought to be.  He gives us back more than what we could ever possibly give him.

Several days shy of his birthday at the end of last month, Joe slipped and fell down some stairs at his son's house.  He underwent surgery to repair a slightly fractured hip, now he is in a great deal of pain and convalescing very slowly in a nursing home.  We hurt for Joe and none of us is ready for life without a decent cup of Joe.

In my heart, I hope that Joe is not planning on leaving us.  My thoughts are purely selfish because I think my life would be bland without his smile.  If he's ready to leave,  then I will have to resign myself to the fact that he just might be ready to join his departed wife and wants to rest eternally in her company.

Love is important.  Telling those around us that we love them is one thing.  Making them feel loved is truly harder and requires time.  In the short time I've known Joe, he has made us all feel loved.  I hope that he feels the same in return as we visit him in the nursing home.  

Selfishly, I want to believe that Joe will join us for breakfast again at Dove Creek.  I want to watch Joe smile as he receives his weekly hug from Beverly.  It always seems that Joe doesn't want to let go of her.  Maybe Joe wont want to let go of us.  We are not ready quite yet.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Three Bears: A Parable

Three Bears
Keller, TX 

Once upon a time in a land near Dallas, TX, there were three bears.  These bears had a happy life playing and hoarding lots of berries and filling their caves with lots of stuff.  Their bellies were full, they were content.  All three, best of friends, until one day something happened to forever change the bears.

An unusual winter storm happened to fall on Dallas.  First came the ice and then the snow, the bears who had vowed to be friends just weeks and months ago, separated.  Each worried about their own survival forgetting that they had flourished working together.  How were they going to eat?  Being male bears, instead of working together, they headed out on their own way each trying to find what they could no longer find by caring for each other;  each forgot about the other and only looked out for himself.

The storm was worse then they had expected and soon the bears fell into deep despair.  Each was now alone and no one cared.  "How am I going to eat"?  Each thought out loud to himself.  "My cave is filled with fine twigs but there's no one who one cares for me. I have left my other companions and my hunting skills were better when we were together."  Although they could see each other from a distance and hear the painful grunts stemming from weeks of hunger.  None bothered to heed the other's hunger pangs, but their caves were filled with nice twigs.

One of the bears was wiser than the rest.  He paused and thought about the rest.  "Oh my, we were never hungry when we hunted together and cared for each other.   I need to find my friends and help them out.  I believe if I don't we may all starve separately.  Our three pair of eyes certainly together again find more food and see more possibilities.  Together we can sleep in one cave and keep ourselves warm with our body heat."

So the lone bear set out on his journey to find his companions.  One by one, he found them famished and lonely.  They banded together again these bears and found more berries then they could have or would have by working together again.  Each reminisced about the lesson learned.  If we do not learn to bear each others burdens and choose to look away,  life becomes unbearable.

And the three bears lived happily ever after and never parted company ever again.

Friday, February 4, 2011

View From the Cave

View From Cave
Zion National Park

My cave is very comfortable.  It's so easy for me not to venture out.  The view  however, is beautiful from my perch and it beckons me to venture out.  Although I am fearful, I am equally curious about what awaits me.  Fear holds me back and curiosity and faith propel me forward along with a swift kick in the ass by my best friend and soulmate Kim.  She sees in me what I don't see or comprehend.

I've been content in my cave all these years, but necessity and my own desire to live and explore are forcing me to journey onward.  The journey's final destination is our own mortality.  The clock ticks regardless of weather we are standing still or moving forward.  It makes more sense to move forward.  

Today, I choose to move forward along my journey.  Time does not stand still.  The hands mark the seconds, minutes, and hours that turn into days, months, and years.  This cave dweller needs to move on and experience life outside of the cave.  It truly is an act of faith.  This morning I said a prayer and asked for guidance as I allowed my GPS to recalculate.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cabin Fever

Lone Dog in Meadow
Keller, TX

We've been hit by a cold Arctic blast here in North Texas.  For the last two days, we've not been able to budge from our homes.  Most of the local streets still have solid patches of ice glazing their surfaces.  Sidewalks and roads remain very treacherous to navigate.  Temperatures in the teens plus gusts of wind have turn our mild winter into full blown Yankee weather.  We would have been much better off if we had just been buried in snow.

Two days  of lock down and now possibly three have left me with tremendous cabin fever.  My body wants to start moving again and I feel as if I have to get out of the house or go crazy.  I don't mind working from home but I have to get out, get exercise, and socialize with the rest of the world.  I can't create without stimulus.  I feel lost without new ideas.

Today, I will try to venture out and walk to Starbucks.  Then after a hot cup of brew, I am going to work on my business plan.  Hey, I am a little slow and methodical, but I know its time to draw up my blue print of how I intend to reach my goals.  It will happen but I have to go through the exercise.  By the way, I even ordered my business cards, a tremendous step in the right direction.

If I really get bored, I suppose I could start getting rid of things that are cluttering my office.  I am sure there's plenty of needless paper that I've archived over the past year.  I've got cabin fever but I need to turn the hysteria into something positive today.  Let's see what the day will bring me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pursuing Passion

Taking It In
Zabriske Point, Death Valley, CA

For a great deal of my life, I've done what  was expected of me and worked towards saving for retirement.  My plan was to do what I wanted at age 66.  I was going to sacrifice my life and in the interim look forward to weekends and vacations taken as extended weekend vacations.  Not once did did it cross my mind to follow or chase my passion and dreams right now.  Not once did I pay attention to what I wanted to do.

It seems that I buried my self many years ago.  The writing stopped as did any of my other creative pursuits including photography.  Now, I find myself challenged to pursue not only earning a living but also pursuing my passions.  You might say, I am living a very real life chicken egg scenario where the money will follow if I pursue my passion.  

As frightening as all of this sounds, I feel compelled to let go of my self imposed exile and fear and move forward in the direction of my dreams.  My father did the same as he left his manufacturing trade and apprenticed as a baker.  For the first time in his life, he got to enjoy his creativity from start to finish.  Dad wasn't truly successful until his early 70's.  He was however very happy working his dream.  

We are educated to work for others.  Our skill sets are molded to meet the expectations and requirements of  the corporate world.  In the process, we sublimate our creative selves, our core and identity.

My sisters are very talented and educated.  The oldest sister is a retired Spanish language teacher.  Her passion has always been sewing, knitting, and now quilting.   Prior to retiring she formed a club the high school where she taught.  She and her students boys and girls knitted caps for premature babies and donated them to the local hospitals.  My other sister has always been a prolific writer, organizer, and chocolate maker.  She makes all kinds of chocolate treats that turn frowns into decadent smiles.

All of us have creative talents.  Could it be that all of us would be happier if we simply pursued what we are good at instead of what we were taught to do?  Is it possible that our unhappiness stems from suppressing our personalities and passions?  If we are passionate about something, wouldn't we be motivated to succeed at it?  I don't have the answers but I am ready to put it to the test.

By the way, March will mark my one year anniversary of writing this blog.  The photography continues as well.  I've been thinking of putting all of my blogs and images into a book.  All of my images are for sale and available as prints and affordable gift card sets.  Please contact me.