Thursday, November 29, 2012

Creative Space

Cornwall Covered Bridge
West Cornwall, CT

Was wondering if a new job would alter my creativity. Thats something I truly fear. My creativity is what gets me through each day and smoothens the rough patches. It a place where I can withdraw from every care in the world. My creative space enables me to morph into my true self: a carefree person.

When I am in that place, I am filled with an inexplicable joy. It's an infatuation that I have with photography, it's more than a hobby, it's become an object of my spiritual affections. It's my true love, my passion. I not only choose to create but I have to create. My voice can't be stifled even though nobody maybe listening.

Each day for over a decade, I've devoted time to sneak away and give my passion special attention. Alone with my thoughts, I create. Each time trying to improve, each time trying to express with images what words alone cannot. This is how I see the world. It requires patience and the awakening of senses.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Road Trip

View from Drexel Heights
Near Tucson, AZ

After what seemed like an endless journey some 1,300 miles later I made it to Tucson. It was a journey which took me through the semi arid plains of Midland-Odessa through the Franklin Mountains of El Paso and on to a flat dessert stretch from Deming, NM to finally reach the volcanic formations of chiseled rock in and surrounding Tucson.

Simbury, CT
It's hard to believe that just a month ago, I traversed trough the mountains of Colorado in search of aspen groves while thinking of the fall foliage of New England. Different shades of yellows and orange have followed me for nearly a month and on to the desert. Color choices are not varied but the structure of the majestic formations of both rock and saguaro is enough to make any full grown man pause.

When it comes to nature, simpler is always better. If color is absent, then shapes and the cast of light, becomes more and more essential to defining beauty anew. Simple is good and a contrast to the hectic lives we lead. I've been fortunate to comprehend and experience that lesson first hand.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Headed Out

End of the Road
Mobitee, TX

The woods, are far lovely and deep,
but I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost

In a few hours my journey starts anew, will have an imposing nine hour drive from the outskirts of Fort Worth to El Paso, TX. Have a completely open road ahead of me before I make it to Phoenix sometime tomorrow evening. More than pavement lies ahead of me, awaiting me is uncertainty, adventure, and the promise of a new job. In a way, I feel like a corporate mail order bride.

For twenty four years, I lived here and with my wife of twenty five years raised our family. Through six different job changes, I've always managed to resist change and kept my family from being uprooted. Throughout it all, I've managed to shelter my family from the winds of change stable and strong like the post oaks that have always surrounded and the hickory trees whose shade I've enjoyed.

Tobacco Shed
Windsor, CT
This road is not that foreign to me nor is it as unfamiliar as I portend. It seems that I was on this highway when I left to check out a university some thousand miles away from New England and on the shores of Lake Michigan. Eight years later, I hopped on the highway again and made a similar journey through the plains of this country and south to Texas. I've been an American pilgrim not any different than those who left the dust bowl during the great depression to find a better opportunities in places the likes of California.

Don't know what awaits me but I will have my camera companion with me and a computer to register a few notes and ideas from time to time. With a very heavy heart, I leave my soulmate today and my friends; those who have stood by me especially these past three years.

The phone rings and I pick up to hear my a friend of nearly a quarter of a century who wants to have coffee with me before I leave. I say yes with a lump in my throat and several tears in my eyes. Got some things to do still before I go so I better start this journey. Hate to do this but I've got to go. You see I too have "promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Man's Best Friend

You Leavin' Me?
Palenville, NY

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” 
― Mark Twain

Today's is the final day that I will be in Texas for a while. Have procrastinated as much as I could and now I will need to scurry and pack. Don't like any of this but the reward is adventure. Change is not my thing as most of you know.

Was thinking of what I could post today that would express the feeling of someone leaving someone else behind. My canine friend Maggie (Dan Burkholder and Jill Skupin's dog) best exemplifies what I would like to convey. Maggie's face says it all. How and why can you possibly leave me behind?

Since I will no longer be available to wag my tail for my wife; Kim, has already made arrangements and found a canine equivalent. The other man in her life will be a young labrador stud named Grady. By the time, I return to visit, he will rule the house and provide the appropriate companionship during my absence.

Truthfully, I never understood the fuss about dogs. Thanks to Kim, our children, and friends like Dan and Jill, I comprehend what is so special about these creatures. They make us happy and fill our lives with joy. The world could be going to hell but these guys stand by you and are ready to please you. They cast no judgement and do not have political allegiances. No one knows which part of the 47% they lie in and no one cares.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Family,Thanksgiving, and Photography

Coffee Shop
Near Flint, TX

The love of family and the admiration of friends 
is much more important than wealth and privilege.
Charles Kuralt

We had an opportunity to spend our Thanksgiving at our daughter's home in East Texas. It's was a moment that truly meant that a torch had been passed. Our children are actually adults and can hosts their own banquets. The real significance also lies in the fact that we have grown to that age where we are now our parents. We are also getting older.

It truly was fun to spend time with she and her husband and pets and his family. It had been six years since the last time we all spent it together on their wedding day. I must admit I was definitely more confident about my daughter's choice. In fact, I am very pleased about her choice and the life they lead together. They have both love and friendship in their lives. As a father, it simply provides me with joy.

This morning, I had a few moments to myself before everyone else was fully awake. On my way to their house, I had spotted a unique looking coffee shop that I promised myself I would photograph. With nothing more than my iPhone, I set out to find the joint "Kickerz" a coffee shop that looked like more hat than store. It truly belonged in Texas. I took the liberty of some me time.

Knowing that I have a long trip ahead of me, I thought about what else I might find on this next adventure on my journey. The answer is that I don't know and I possibly can't imagine all I will encounter. Regardless, I should be eager and willing to see all that comes my way. Then the sick feeling came over me knowing that I would be further away from the ones I love, my family.

It felt good to spend the time with my daughter, my wife, and my father-in-law. As I got back to her home from my side trip, I thought about all that had happened that week. My father spent a few days in the hospital and for a moment, I wasn't sure if I would be making a detour to Florida instead of East Texas. At some point, it will be time to say goodbye to Dad but it wont be soon, I hope.

My thoughts are all over the place right now. Family, Thanksgiving, and Photography these elements are all part of me. How do I sort them all out? It's actually easier than I might always first.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dream Fruition

Amish Dreams
Near Greenville, PA
October 2005

"I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light."
-Helen Keller

Decided to enter another of my landscapes in competition last week. It won second place at Dallas PPA. This image also has a sister image which really complements the style and mood of each. Both images were shot within six months of each other, one in the autumn and the other right before spring. Although I completed my first renditions by mid 2006, I was not satisfied with the results until I learned new techniques. It took me a span of five years to achieve the final results. To me the images were complete when I felt that I could superimpose Andrew Wyeth's "Christina" into either scene.

Vision de Doña Cristina
Near Greenville, PA
March 2006
As a young person, there were two things things that I wished: to paint like Andrew Wyeth and to be surrounded by a plethora of good friends. As a man, full stride in the middle of his life, I've found that  I've maintained my course although it has been far from steady or straight. My wife, Kim, and my friends have at times signaled the way when my own compass was misguiding me or lost. While I do not feel that I have achieved my goals, there's an underlying feeling that it will happen. My hope stems from the conviction that my journey is far from over.

While my mother and father were not artists they influenced me heavily to the extent that I feel compelled to always add warmth to my images. This warmth is nothing more and nothing less than the friendship they taught me to extend and to value. It was via their friendships and their faith that they were able to endure and rise above difficult times. I've been the recipient of a kindred friendship from many of you. Many of you, I've not even met.

Whether is belly dancers or landscapes or portraits of families, newborns, or brides, I endeavor to express my gratitude and my hope by adding a touch of warmth to my images. It's simply my way of saying thank you. By the way, thank you for your concerns and thoughts and prayers for my father. He's in good spirits and that will certainly help him heal. The world certainly could use more healing friendship.

You can view these and other fine art images on my website. Please contact me for information regarding sales orders and pricing.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Moving Forward

Dancer with Blue Veil
Saritza Velilla-Jenkins

Trying to write this morning is a challenge. Still haven't packed anything for my pending trip to Tucson where new adventures await me. Have many mixed emotions leaving my wife behind is weighing heavily on me. In addition knowing that my father is in the hospital also tugs at my heart.

My responsibilities are clear. Take care of yourself first, if not, you can't take care of anyone else. Enjoy your life as best as you can and do try to take it one day at a time and one step at a time. This is something that I must learn to do. I've so much to be grateful for and I need to accept the good things in my life. Photography is one of those good things. It's my safety valve, sanity, and reality check.

For several weeks now, I've veered from my normal landscapes and have chosen to showcase three dancers. Like me they find joy in their creative outlet. It could very well be that I enjoy showing the kinetics of artists enjoying what they do. I wouldn't know what that experience is like because I've never really been photographed doing my passion, photography.

Don't have that much to say today but I suppose I will soon. Thank you all for being supportive of both my family, my art, and of me. In a world that is fraught with despair and bad news, its good to receive and hear the loving voices of those that care. It's all about loving and caring for each other. As I've mentioned before, we are on similar journeys. Plan on adding more smiles to miles we have left to travel. There truly is very little we control other than pieces of our own happiness. Hope and the promise for a better tomorrow is all we have. It sustains us all.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It Almost Didn't Happen: Photo Shoot Four

Lidia Dalida
From: St. Petersburg, Russia

What started out as an idea, photographing belly dancers, turned into much more. Unbeknownst to me the project would turn into a story. The three dancers whom I met happened to be from very different parts of the world. This added a completely different dimension to my photography. It added both meaning and purpose to my self-imposed artistic endeavor.

Lidia Dalida
Through fellow photographer Russian born Elena Cone (also from St. Petersburg, Russia), I was introduced to dance instructor and recent Dallas Baptist University business graduate, Lidia Dalida. Lidia invited me to attend a rehearsal/class session in Plano and I agreed. My thought was that by observing, my shooting intuition would be heightened if I learned both the music and watched the dancers.

Vickylin Malak
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
That evening proved to be quite interesting. Things seemed ok and I shot for about two hours or so. In the process, I also met with Saritza Velilla-Jenkins (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and was introduced to Vickylin Malak (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). Then it dawned me. My story: three women from three continents dancing on parallel journeys through belly dance. Belly dance, in fact, brought together three people from distinct and cultures and distances. Dance was their common denominator and their chosen form of self-expression and recreation. 

It was an epiphany for me. Suddenly the elements started taking shape in my head. This art form was not about the erotic, but rather the exotic. These dancers do not celebrate their differences but rather they embrace what the passion they share.

My enthusiasm quickly tempered. Lidia came up to me and handed me some bottled water. Later on she confessed that she could tell that I was not feeling well. At that moment nothing seemed wrong to me other than the typical aches and pains that accompany getting in awkward positions to shoot. In a matter of minutes it hit me. Panic struck me as I realized that I was going to be sick to my stomach. It was time to cut my visit short. My body was not going to allow me to stay. It was the most horrible sensation to know that I had a stomach virus and still had a forty-five minute drive ahead of me to get home.

Saritza Velilla-Jenkins
San Juan, Puerto Rico
After gathering all of my gear, it was time to drive home. Half way home on a high way the overwhelming torque of my stomach took over. It wasn't pleasant and this scenario wouldn't leave me during the drive. It was completely humiliating to lose control.

Once I got home, I washed up and through myself in bed but the virus wouldn't leave my body. The thought of being sick alone was almost as much anguish as the discomfort of my stomach. Kim had left for a long weekend with the girls. At times, I felt that what I needed was an exorcist not a doctor. Wave after wave hit me for most the night and the early part of the next day. The whole time the belly dance music would not stop. It played for nearly two days in my head, the same strains over and over.

Passion is a funny thing. At first, I thought that I would never be able to pick up the camera again and shoot another belly dancer.  A week pass but still the association between the dance, music, and virus overwhelmed. The truth was that I didn't think I would be able to proceed with the vision of the shoot. However, something beyond fear drove me to proceed with my idea. My love for photography transcended my deepest fears and motivated me to try what I normally would have avoided.

It's difficult to explain, but I am compelled and driven by its force within me. This is part of who I am regardless of what I do. My desire to create and express myself is greater than the sum of all of my anxieties and fears.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dance Instructor: Photo Shoot Three

Lidia Dalida

So many good photos from my last shoot. Hard to just pick one to further process. Lidia Dalida was nice enough to take time to work with me. She has a great stage presence. She was dancing while I took this shot thus the slight blur of the hands. It worked for me. Lidia has a trademark smile which she keeps through out her performances and bright warm eyes.

Over the past several months, I've had the opportunity to both meet with both her and her dad. They gave me renewed hope that the world has more good people than bad. It made me realize that when politicians, religious leaders, governments and some corporations make us enemies at times; we all lose out.

The universality of belly dance affords us an opportunity to put aside our differences and celebrate together what we enjoy: music and dance. These art forms are essential to our happiness. Melded together they orchestrate and choreography joy.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dancer With Wings: Photo Shoot Part Two

Dancer With Wings
Saritza Velilla-Jenkins
McKinney, TX

For several months, I've been contemplating photographing belly dancers. Like any other commercial photographer, I realized that were several aspects of this shoot which included the clients wants and needs and my own artistic vision.

Saritza Velilla-Jenkins
Like the dancers, I also envisioned my own choreography and story board. The location would add to my canvas as would the dancers and their colorful costumes. My objective was to shoot two types of images: one for them and one for my own project, two very different voices and styles.

Fortunately for me, Lidia Dalida, Saritza Velilla-Jenkins, and Vickylin Malak were all willing to assist me with my project as was my friend and photographic assistant, Del Maclaren. All three dancers were equally interested in my artistic pursuit. Like me they were passionate at what they do. Like them, desire to express oneself outweighed fear of reproach. That voice was louder than the many voices of insecurity.

Originally, the objective was to demonstrate the difference between a point and shoot photographer and one that creates art. However, in the process of studying and doing my research, the art of belly dance, the costumes, music and movement awakened more of my creativity and curiosity. At times, the feelings of an artist made me comprehend my own dormant desires to find my artistic voice.

As the shoot progressed with each dancer, not only was I able to comprehend them but also their desire for self expression. Belly dance is about feeling pulsating rhythms that lift the spirit to dance, celebrate life, and transcend beyond. The dancer literally takes on wings as she entertains both the audience and herself. It's her stage to do as she pleases and the music dictates. Music, life itself, choreographs the dance and she dances in essence to the melody of life. Learning to dance life's melodies is learning to live and to enjoy life. It was certainly not what I expected to learn.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Shoot: Part One

Lidia Dalida
Belly Dance Instructor
Plano, TX

Lidia Dalida (stage name) is a Russian native from St. Petersburg, who now resides with her husband in Plano, Tx. Her passion is dance and her vocation is belly dance instructor. Whatever stereotypes you might have about stern Russian women, Lidia is just the opposite.

Lidia Dalida
Lidia's wardrobe ranges from yoga pants to elaborate belly dance costumes and fashion. One thing however, you will always notice Lidia wearing is her trademark broad smile. She speaks softly and succinctly with great purpose and zest. Politics do not interest her. She is idealistic and simply wishes that all people get along. There's a lot to be said about Lidia's style and passion for living.

It's been exactly two months since we've been acquainted. Truthfully, I didn't know if I would earn her trust. I was a complete stranger with an idea to photograph her and other belly dancers. 

This hopefully is the beginning of a longer term project and not its conclusion. All the hard work and dedication that go into the dance preparation amaze me. My fascination with details as well as the choreography and music only adds to my photographic passion and peak my curiosity.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Post Script

View From Haines Falls
Near Palenville, NY

Although our journey starts the moment we are born, mine truly started in earnest nearly two and a half years ago, when I was laid off. Even though I knew it wasn't just me who had been laid off, it sure felt like it. It seemed that I allowed myself to become the center of my own universe. Nothing else mattered, as far as I was concerned it was all happening to me. The fact was that it wasn't and thousands from my former company were let go. Simultaneously, hundreds of thousands were let go across many industries as corporations began to hoard cash and adjusted to the financial global Tsunami. Consequently, I was pushed further along my journey caught in the surf and pulled by the global economic tide.

Jokingly, in the past, I've thought and suggested that people should retire between the ages of 35-55, while they still have lots of energy. They should continue to work between 55 and 75 and assume jobs when they have less physical energy. All of this was said tongue in cheek, but there were some small morsels of truth in my statement.

Kaaterskill Creek
Palenville, NY
This was a full blown mid-life crisis. No, it wasn't filled with fast cars and faster women; but it was filled with accelerated change. Enough change to make your head snap and provide you plenty of sleepless nights and restless days. Rather than allow myself to feel helpless, time enabled me to accept the energy of forces: surf and tide. I chose to do something while I waited out the storm and continued to look for work. It was great advice from Kim, my wife, and a few close friends (Harry Sandler and Dan Burkholder) and my sister, Zaidy.

Work, that four letter word which most despise but sorely miss when it's not available, became my challenge. So I found my own work; created my own business. For two and a half years, I wrote about my experiences, photographed my adventures and archived weddings and other commercial events. In that span of time, I worked as a manufacturers rep, went on personal trips to China, Death Valley, Zion National Park, Las Vegas, Palo Duro Canyon, Canadian Texas, Taos, San Miguel de Allende, Puerto Rico, Daytona Beach,  the Catskills , New York City and Coney Island, Connecticut and Vermont. Last year, I added selling scrap to my list of enterprises and this year, I launched my photography business in earnest and my website During this  year, I also started driving retirees part-time. In July, I also became president of the Southlake Lions Club.

Ironically, just like when I met Kim, my wife, I again worked three jobs. Each job fulfilled a different personality need. In doing so, my true discovery is this, that we do whatever it takes to survive. Now my dictum is this: "The journey is all about survival and the adventure it brings." You have to live today fully, don't wait until retirement.

In a few weeks, I start a new adventure and a new assignment in Tucson, Arizona. You will have to wait and stay tuned. There will be more stories and more places to photograph.