Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why Can't We All Get Along

Getting Along

We Can Get Along
Sometimes I truly don't have much to say.  My friend, Harry, and I decided to browse the Fort Worth Stockyards.  We really weren't to inspired to shoot.  Suddenly we spotted this man with a rat, a cat, and a dog.  At one point the cat and the rat were sitting together on top of the dog.

If a cat, a rat, and dog and a dog can learn to get along, there's hope for all of us.  We can change our nature, can't we?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Down the Trail

Down the Trail
Bear Creek Park, Keller, TX

We had a second cold overcast day.  Today offered a combination of both mist and rain.  The good news is that I was able to get my four mile walk in before it started to pour.  The temperature held steady at about 47 degrees and I had to pull out my sweats hopefully for the last time of the season.

There are lots of things racing through my head.  I have several job opportunities on my horizon.  I have day trading on my mind too.  At the current pace, I should earn more than my prior salary.  (Time will tell if my luck holds.)  My friend Harry Sandler arrives this evening and I will be picking him up at the airport. Besides working the John Mellencamp tour, Harry and I will get to photograph Caddo Lake one more time.  I need to block all non photography issues out of my head and only focus on what is clearly in front of me.

At the end of this month, I am off to New York, to do a wedding shoot for Harry's son, Jessie.  I am super excited about collaborating with Harry on this.  We will be shooting in midtown in a two story penthouse with views of the Empire State Building.  All of this excites me.  Then I am off to the Catskills to meet my other other photographer friend and mentor, Dan Burkholder.

Life keeps moving forward and I keep participating.  Things abruptly changed for me last year.  I confess however, that I have been able to make it a very productive creative period in my life.  Now I need to start selling my prints and 5x7 cards.  Please don't hold back.  By the way, I accept all major credit cards.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Keeping Busy While You Wait

Waiting at Airport Terminal
Jacksonville, FL

Patience is not one of my virtues.  However, it is quickly becoming an acquired skill for me.  Rather than sit and wait killing time, I fill my down time with creative activity.  You will always find me doing something because I recognize you will never get time back.  Our predetermined clock ticks.

As a business man, I spent many nights away from home.  The days were filled with work and the evenings were spent waiting at airports and in hotels.  It was typically unproductive time.  One day I woke up to the fact that time after work belongs to me and that it was up to me to do something with rather than lose another day of life.

Time is a precious gift.  I choose to spend my own time reaffirming my creativity and thereby refreshing my soul.  All that we have in this world is limited time.  It's time to do something with your time.  Don't let someone or something rob you of your time.  If you work for someone else, work hard, but cherish your own time and make the best of it.  There are no second chances;  will never get yesterday back.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Simple Things

Spending Time on Beach

Americans spend billions of dollars each year consuming their way trying to become happy.  Judging by our stress levels associated with our debts, I think its safe to say that for most happiness is illusive at best.  Yet as complicated as the pursuit of happiness sounds, it seems obvious that to achieve happiness,  its rather simpler than we might imagine.

Daytona Beach Boardwalk
Early this week, my wife and I spent time with my two sisters and my parents in Florida.  We celebrated my mother's 90th birthday twice, once at home and at a local restaurant.  It was all time well spent.  We didn't do complicated things.   My siblings and I decided to also spend some time at Daytona Beach to heal from our stresses and to reconnect.

Simple Pleasure
It turned out to be fantastic fun.  We walked on the beach, listened to the waves, watch the gulls and pelicans soar, families fish, and young people sun bathe.  We had an opportunity to become children again as we posed for pictures, laughed, and played with each with each other.  It was a prescription for happiness and joy.

As we walked on the boardwalk and approached the static beach carnival, my sister could not contain herself when she saw the soft ice-cream concession.  She left the pack and came back all smiles with her frozen temptation in her grasp.  I took my camera out and quickly captured her scientific approach to devouring ice cream.  Happiness was truly at hand. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

E Tu Brute?

Old Discarded Friend
Mt. Pleasant, TX

At best I had a restless night of sleep after watching the movie The Social Network.  The velocity of the opening dialogue kept you on the edge of your seat.  You could see from the onset that the main character, while a genius, had no emotional IQ.  The character was so driven and obsessed with succeeding that he was completely insensitive to any of the needs of others.

What became clear early on was that he was so focused on himself that he could not truly be a friend.  He had no means to emotionally reciprocate friendship.  The bottom line is this there are some people out there that you can't be friends with.  They simply cannot give you back anything; they are dysfunctional sponges that absorb from you but they can't be squeezed when you need something back.  They do not see the consequences of their actions nor do they care.

Quite frankly I find that way of being truly amazing.  I can't imagine a life void of at least a few good friends.  True friends stick by you in good and bad times.  They support you and enrich your life and encourage your dreams.  True friends do not question your integrity or your intentions.  Friends help each other out.

Many of you know that I worked for a steel company.  The biggest lesson that I learned was that in order to insure safety, we had to be responsible for each other.  One of my favorite images that I shot while at that company was of two employees kneeling side by side in front of the furnace peering in.  You could tell that each had the other's back.  Their partnership insured the other's well being.  That image remains etched in my head.

The betrayal of friendship and trust is a harsh reality.  Shakespeare captures the ultimate betrayal since Judas betrayed Jesus, in dramatic portrayal of Julius Caesar.  In the final scenes a wounded Caesar cast his eyes on his friend Brutus and says "e tu Brue?"  You too Brutus?  

Don't betray your friends.  Stand by them.  There will come a time that you will need them too.  We all need good friends.  Nurture your friendships and cultivate them.  Don't let things get in the way.  Let go of your ego and insecurities that keep you from being a better friend.  The difference between friends and family is very simple;  you can't choose your family but you can choose your friends.  Reach out to a friend and enrich your life.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shoulds, Woulds, and Coulds

Las Vegas, NV

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. - Henry David Thoreau

The hardest lesson to learn this past year has been to focus on the present.  My finance training taught me how to analyze and make sense of historical data and trends and to forecast into the future.  Unfortunately, there were no courses readily available on how to handle right now or living in the moment.  Please don't misinterpret my remarks.  There is value learning from the past and in preparing for the future.

What I am referring to is that it is equally important to just enjoy today.  That you should live today and handle that fraction of time you can do something with, today.  Each of us has a measured amount of time before us.  It's important to value what is happening in your life today.

My father-in-law has mastered this concept.  He enjoys the company of his friends and revels in their fellowship.  Although he keeps up with current events, he doesn't obsess with planning for the future.  He drinks his beer, watches Nascar races, and enjoys old westerns on TV.  Financial planners would be appalled that he can live with less than what most of us are told we need.

Imagine for one moment that you were living in a northern coastal town in Japan.  You didn't know that in a few hours your life would be imperil and that you might not survive.  How would you choose to live the remaining minutes you have in front of you?  Would you spend them dwelling on the past or would you make plans for tomorrow?

Go ahead and sing that tune as you drive down the road.  Don't worry about who's listening and even if it's off key.  Enjoy your life each day at a time.  Put it all in perspective.  Tomorrow is nothing more than stitched up today's.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No Plan B

Problem Solving

Several weeks ago, I had the good fortune of attending WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) in Las Vegas, Nevada.  It was an opportunity to mingle with other photographers, exchange ideas, attend workshops, and interact with thousands of vendors.  It was truly exciting and overwhelming at the same time.

One of the highlights of the trip was meeting and making a new friend, Jim.  He was a man in his late 60's and appeared to be average at first glance.  You know silver hair about five foot eight and of scottish ancestry.  There was nothing in particular that would have jumped out at you about Jim.  We met at a breakfast counter at the MGM Grand and after about five minutes of me playing on my iPad with my bluetooth keyboard, Jim spoke to me.

"Do you mind if I see your iPad?" He said.  "I've been staring at it and how you are using it; I gave mine away because I didn't think I would use it."  I love talking to tech stuff to strangers and told him that he could see it and play with it himself.  In a matter of minutes we struck up a pretty good conversation.

Solution Finding Focus
Originally from Cambridge, MA, Jim was an entrepreneur who had sold his invention and missed the competition of his business life and "work".  He had invented a laptop cooling device called the "CoolPad".  Apparently, it became such a hit that Jim now resides at the MGM Signature hotel and plays his passion, poker, on the weekends.  He told me he plays because he loves the competition.

When I asked Jim about how came up with his invention, he said that he just stared at the laptop for two days.  He said that became his job to find something that he could make for that product.  That was it.  His job in life was to figure out was before him.  It wasn't complicated.

The next day I thought more about Jim's story and I decided to send him an email: 

I was the fellow you sat next to for breakfast, the fellow with the iPad.  You made me think about the direction, I am headed.  It seems that my job is to figure that out and not stop until I get there.
Thanks for speaking with me and sharing your story.
Jim was quick to respond and sent me a brief email back:

          Hi Al,

          Go for it, there is no plan B


Monday, March 14, 2011

Bread and Butter Too

View on the Strip
Las Vegas, Nevada

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. 

Robert Frost 

There are certain aspects of our personalities that manifests themselves early on in our development. My sister and I were talking the other day and she happened to remind me of one of them. As was my father's custom, he routinely prayed and thanked God for his daily bread.  She said that I would interrupt his prayer and include the butter.

That's right folks from way back, I've always wanted just a little bit more:  the icing, the spice, and the gravy of life.  It seems that wanting just the basics was not enough.  It was in me to work and think a little harder than everyone else to obtain something extra.

Later on in life, I recognized that not everyone wanted more out of life.  Quite a few were simply satisfied with just bread.  I don't knock those that simply want bread.  Whether its bread or butter or bread and butter, it's a matter of being content with your life.  For me, I still want more intangibles:  memories and adventure.  There are still many things I would like to experience and see.  Life with simply bread and no butter would be drab for me.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Archival Memories

Someone's Special Day

Just Details
Photography has never been about just taking the shot.  To me, the art of photography lies in archiving the details of the moment.  The photographer interprets what his senses witness.  The print is the testimony of what he saw according to his perspective.  As such, it is not necessarily meant to be factual.

Chocolate Temptations
The world that we sense is at times more interesting than the factual.  We are constantly deluged by facts each day.  The advent of the internet compounds the overload.  Many times we are left numb by the facts and void of feeling.  A full life requires the use of all of our senses.

Some photographers take perfect technically sound images.  Unfortunately, we never gain any insight as to why the photographer took the image to begin with.  What was his motivation?  Without motivation images are really no more than Xerox copies, flat without passion and void of emotion.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Move On

Magical Horse at Bellagio
Las Vegas, NV

Don't waste your life in doubts and fears: spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour's duties will be the best preparation for the hours or ages that follow it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

My academic training was in business.  I learned the arts of both finance and marketing.  Over the years, I learned to master both and incorporate them into my career.  I was never to removed from either one;  I wove them into my corporate personality.

Both disciplines taught me the merits of planning and strategy.  However, it does a person harm to focus solely on future what if scenarios and not paying attention to what is immediately on hand.  There are opportunities still in front of us.  The world keeps spinning on it's axis.  We die and others are born.

This past year has been extremely difficult but I remain optimistic that I will figure out how to survive.  The fact is that I seem to have a gift of writing and communicating emotions.  I've also been blessed with the ability to capture images that make others feel warmth.

It's time for me to step out confidently and just be everything that I truly am.  The financial rewards will come as I pursue my passions.  I care deeply about people.  I believe in the powers of love and friendship.  Furthermore, I believe that we were put on this earth to help each other.  That is our purpose.  This part of my personality, I refuse to change.

Years ago, my mother would place me in the shopping cart and I would sing the Life Buoy soap jingle:  " I like people and people like me."  As I think about my childhood enthusiasm, I recognize that I still love people and I sure hope a few like me too.

There's nothing I can do about tomorrow.  Even my best financial plans may not work.  I can work hard, process my images, and weave my words.  I still love people and nothing will stop me from loving more as I move on my journey.  "I love people and people like me."