Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tip of Hat

Tip of Hat
Photographer and Mentor: Dan Burkholder

Many photographers post their work online. Few give credit to their information sources. One of the godfathers of iPhone Artistry is world renown fine art master photographer and instructor Dan Burkholder. Dan's work spans both the wet and digital worlds. His students receive the benefits of his experience in both worlds, his Brooks Institute fine art training, and his sense of humor.

Dan teaches students to throw fear aside, pay attention to composition, and to experiment with perhaps the only photographic tool they might have at their side, the iPhone. He claims and proves that within their grasp, they have a powerful device which can produce masterful pieces of art. He teaches his students the core applications that are out there to render both serious and at times not so serious prints. For those of us infatuated by photography, he eliminates the excuse to not take a photo.

If you not able to take a workshop with Dan, please pick up a copy of Petersen's Photographic Digital Photography Guide. It's a special issue now available on the newsstands , iPhone for Photographers, featuring exclusive tutorials by Dan Burkholder.

Dan has been a personal friend of mine since 2000. He has mentored me ever since then and I am very proud to tip my hat to him any opportunity I get. In Texas we say: "Dance with the one who brung ya". I agree photographers need to respect those who have taught them their skills. Let's give credit to those that have earned it. Personally, I am curious as to what techniques, tools, and processes he will pioneer next.

Friday, December 30, 2011


Hummingbird and Breakfast

A little short on words this morning, I suppose my brain needs a pause. As I browsed through some images, this one adequately describes my mood. Like the humming bird, breakfast awaits and I am stuck in time near my meal.

It seems like I've been defying gravity for a while. Been doing the impossible arduous hovering trying to sustain myself to earn a meal. It must be my nature I reckon. Several days ago, I declared we were born with the following abilities: to create, to survive, and to cooperate with each other. Today, my focus is on survival. As you can imagine, I am eager to resume my other two mandates creating and assisting others.

Today, I simply hover, frozen in time awaiting breakfast.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vintage Thoughts

Vintage Bench and Tree
Keller, TX

There are some thoughts and images that I find myself constantly going back to and reworking them like a writer crafting the final chapters of a suspense thriller. I don't know if its the solitude of the scene that draws me or whether its the serene pastoral nature of a lone bench underneath a barren tree. It could even be that I long to simply sit and meditate underneath the tree.

Once I had a poster which extolled the virtues of silence. The poster read: "the deepest thoughts come in silence." There are times I would choose to be virtuous underneath the virtual shade of a barren tree. 

The biggest challenge we face at times is simply to find meaning out of nothing. As a photographer living in an area void of topography, this is my constant challenge. Meaning I find comes from personal introspection, by interpretation with the soul's eye. It's the eyes collage interpreted via the mind's experience set from where we derive meaning.

My shoes are almost warn from all the times, I have journeyed past this bench and tree. It seems each time I see it differently and am better off for it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Acquisitions and Dispositions: "Forget You"

Niño con Paleta
San Miguel de Allende, GTO, MX

We live in a society that thrives on and encourages lifetimes of acquisitions. For a brief moment, during the Christmas season, the focus shifts to dispositions, not simply of gifts, but of making smiles. While many of us can think of what we don't have few of us truly live in misery.

A couple, I know called me each separately within the same week. Their tune was the same. They both gloated about their fantastic tropical vacation and how good they have it. The husband talked about how wonderful his new year was going to start with some fantastic big deal. When I switched gears and talked about how Congress appears to lack compassion like the C in Christmas. He took offense. It's all Obama's fault he said.

No this is not about politics. I was simply talking about caring and showing compassion and consideration for our fellow human beings. I argued this is not about right or wrong ideology, this is about doing what is right.  We do not have the underprivileged solely so we can say that they are "blessed and shall inherit the kingdom of God." There's more to it than this.

The wife was equally at fault telling me about her indulgence and how their vacation was well deserved. Given her ebullience, I asked her for a very simple favor. I could sense by her verbal dance that the answer was no. Before she could finish, I told her that unlike the similar favor I did for her where my $2,000 lens was stolen, I would pay her for assisting me. The answer was filled with excuses and I withdrew curtly my request.

The truth is that I no longer have the time nor the resolve to put up with people who feel that compassion is not their responsibility. Some feel that its the responsibility of United Way, some churches, and a select few agencies God forbid government. They are simply too busy enjoying their borrowed opulence and borrowed time. To those I apologize and say like Celo Green: "forget you." Keep your money to yourself but please don't ask me for a favor. I am too busy trying to make a difference but don't ask me for a favor down the road. 

The same that argue about saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, overlook making them Merry or Happy for their friends and neighbors. That's the guilt burden than many in our society must share. It's a shame that it has come to this. Do what is right based on your heart's conviction. This is independent from your political and religious ideology.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Wish

Keller Christmas
Keller, TX

Got up early this morning only to find out that Santa had left the fireplace screen open which made the house a little drafty. He must be getting a little advanced in years too because he left the stocking stuffers behind but had not placed them in their respective stockings. Being a good citizen, I completed what Santa had neglected.

Hanshan Temple
Our home is filled with life this Christmas: two dogs, Charlie( an old English sheepdog) and Buckley (our Australian blue heeler), Justin Lauren and her husband Travis, and our son Steve. Everyone is still asleep. No one heard the rooftop commotion. It could have been because they all stuffed from our food shipment of pasteles and arroz con gandules straight from Puerto Rico.

My father-in-law will probably arrive around breakfast time and begin to wake everyone up. My dad is in Puerto Rico visiting family at Christmas for the first time in probably over fifty years. Mom has been sleeping since July in a mausoleum facing the perpetual morning sun. It's a pity I won't be able to wish her a Merry Christmas. Mom did speak to me last night and the night before in my dreams. I miss making her laugh.

Suppose, I should get busy now. Before, I leave you, I want to thank all of you who have extended your hand of friendship, warmth, and comfort to me and my family this past year. You really understand Christmas and you practiced it all year long with your kind words, support, and encouragement. You have taught me that the C in Christmas not only signifies Christ but also compassion.

As we end this season and welcome the next, I wonder how differently my world would be if I practiced my humanity and exercised compassion frequently and abundantly. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you, from a very grateful and changed person.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gentile Mitzvah

75 Prospect Street
Winsted, CT

Seventy-five Prospect Street, the address where I grew up in Winsted, Connecticut, left me with many memories, most were really good, and there were some I would rather forget. Life was tough, not exactly pretty, filled with many challenges for my parents who were desperately trying to make a better life for their three ambitious children. We lived on a street that had lost hope for its children.

While I have many stories, there's one that always comes to mind this time of the year about our landlord Miles Stowe. He was an old man when we met him. Silver haired, smiling blue eyes, and nearly crippled by arthritis that he walked at the end with two canes. Each year around Christmas, he would come by and knock on our door to wish us a joyous season. Then he would give us his gift, free rent for that month. Then without saying a word he would climb up the side stairs between our house and the next and to go visit his longtime friend Blanche Pendergast.

Why Miles did this I don't know. All I can tell you is that he did it with a smile and the warmth that would  melt the snow around the entrance to our home. Miles gave us something special each Christmas from his heart. He showed compassion and he felt a need to share what he had with his "neighbor".

My father always accepted the gift of this generous old man. He himself would later on in life practice taking care of those less fortunate than he. In fact, Dad has spent the rest of his life helping others whenever the opportunity arose. Dad believed in gentile mitzvah as do I.

There are many of us who wish for a better world. We seek religion and other things to make us feel better about ourselves and about life. I am convinced that if we shifted our focus from ourselves on to the needs of our neighbors, we like Miles would have reason to smile. Some of us however, cannot see beyond our needs. I admit that I've been like that but the past two years have brutally humbled me.

During this past year, the Southlake Lions Club conducted a fund raiser for Dallas Weins, a man who had lost his face as a result of an electrical accident. We were raffling tickets for a brand new Harley Davidson and I was having troubles selling them in an affluent community. Finally, I put aside my pride and said: "I will be honest with you. I was feeling sorry for myself because I had lost my job, but this man lost his face! I can recover but he will never fully recover." 

This season as we approach a new year, think about what a difference your compassion can make. Think about how you can make a difference. Think about Miles Stowe. Give with your heart don't wait to hear it on the news that someone needs your help. Regardless if you are a Republican or a Democrat, this is not about who is right or wrong, this is about doing what is right. It doesn't matter whether you love Jesus, Heavenly Father, Mohammed, Krishna, or Buddha. Without compassion and mitzvah your beliefs are hollow. Those in need are not necessarily far away from you in Africa or India. Open up your heart, eyes, and mind.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Whatever It Takes

San Cristobal
El Condado, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Just a few thoughts this morning before I dive into my work. Dad leaves for Puerto Rico tomorrow to gather his thoughts, spend time with his siblings, and perhaps find new friendship. The fact remains that Dad is willing to launch on a new journey despite his advanced age, eighty-eight.

Colorful Past
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
My father left Puerto Rico in search of opportunities and a better life for his young family. At the time, there were no opportunities for advancement in Puerto Rico and no industry. The agrarian life was in shambles; sugar cane and coffee were no longer capable of sustaining the island's economy. Those who returning from their WWII military tours of service quickly turned their sights towards the promises of the US mainland. 

My father joined his oldest brother already in New York. Dad with nothing more than a vision and a promise left his comfort zone and was prepared to do "whatever it takes" to support his family.

Decades have past since that time. Today, I lean on Dad for his advice and wisdom. He stands on my sidelines and reminds me that I too have to do whatever it takes. There's a time for pride and there's a time to put your pride aside. Dad did both and so will I.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I Wrote You A Letter

We Know When He's Sleeping
Near the North Pole

Met a familiar face at DFW airport. After taking several undercover shots, I finally got the nerve to ask the the gentleman what he did for a living. With a twinkle in his eyes, he said to me that he's Santa Claus. Now I've had many things go wrong this year and we are close to Christmas, but I didn't want to challenge my Santa beliefs.

Mr. Claus told me an interesting story which provided me with a much needed chuckle. A little girl, he said, sat on his lap and so of course he asked her the perfunctory "what would you like for Christmas?" She responded, "I wrote you a letter."

For those of you who might have forgotten, even Santa needs to be reminded every now and then. Please don't be to sassy with Santa, he's getting up in years and the flying may have taken its toll. Regardless, he's still Santa for goodness sake!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'm Back

Festive Toy Australian Shepherd

As some of you might have gathered, the pen has been idled by year end Christmas orders. This is extremely encouraging. Yesterday my routine was disrupted some more, I have an interview in Denver. During my flight up, I had some time to work on an image that I had taken just several days before.

You see, I fully understand my own mantra. We are born with the following capabilities: to survive, create, and with the capacity to help one another. My goal regardless of whether I go back to a "regular" job is to continue on my personal journey and to remain true to my mantra. 

Few of us dare to venture outside of our comfort zone. In my case, I was forced to grow and hone my creative skills as a photographer. In the process, I also became aware that I was sorely remiss in serving others. I had the capacity to serve but what not willing. Its too easy to focus on my own plight. 

Nearly two years have passed since my corporate imposed exile transpired. Since September of this year, I've found a new attitude and renewed purpose. By no means has this been easy. All I know is that I have to continue my photography business because it is a part of me. Although I am pragmatic enough to know that by itself, it will not sustain the lifestyle I was accustomed to, I know that it will emotionally sustain me through the current global crisis. You might say "I was born this way."

Whatever, happens, I am ready to move forward and embrace my life fully. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Cheer

Texas Christmas Ya'll

One of my patrons suggested that I write a narrative about some of the cards that I am selling. She wanted to know what made them special and perhaps what motivated me to take the image to begin with. There are times, I must confess, that I assume others will immediately know but that's not the case.

This year, I am featuring three separate fine art card prints: Texas Christmas, Yankee Christmas, and China Christmas. Today's feature is Texas Christmas.

We lose our leaves much later than our counter parts up north for obvious reasons. Our deciduous trees are much shorter in stature and when they lose their leaves their shapes become quite interesting against the plains and grasslands.

Typical mornings in late December are clear and crisp. Frost occasionally nips the remaining green grass before the sun awakens the plains from a winter nap. Every day, I walk past this field along my hiking trail. This tree fascinates me all year long from every angle. The bench represents a place that I wish to be. Its a place of solace and joy where all you have to do is sit and observe the life that thrives around you.

This particular morning, I chose to stop my routine and observe the tree before the sunrise like a person just sipping his first cup of brewed coffee in the morn. It was quiet, brisk, and beautiful. All I had was my iPhone and I composed my shot with my flair for painting. A year later, I decided to interpret the tree and bench with my new photographic skills. It finally spoke to me and I think it describes how we feel in Texas about our often snowless Christmas.

So to my dear patron in Hawaii, you now have the story about the tree. All cards are 5 x 7, printed by me on archival Red River card stock. Each is a fine art print that can be easily framed. The card box set of eight is available for $32 plus tax shipping and handling (if applicable). Shipping is free on all orders of three or more boxes. If you order four or more boxes, I am extending a 15% discount provided you place your order by December 15th. (If you wish to place a personal greeting please let me know otherwise the cards are blank in side.)

To place your order contact me at  Please leave me your phone number and I will contact you. I accept all major credit cards and PayPal.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Photographic Homily

Me and Coffee
Mount Vernon, NY

It feels like I've been hibernating this past week. The weather provided much needed rain to Texas, but lingered like a clingy somber cloud. It lasted about four days bringing with it temperatures in the the 20's and 30's.  My lethargy seems to have disabled my walking legs and my spirit has been less than festive. Today, is a new day, and the forecast sounds promising. The sun should once again shine its countenance upon me.

Lots going on right now. The photography business has been picking up. I sell my fine art prints, canvases, and cards, in addition, I do family portraits and events, as well as teach camera and Photoshop skills. This all ties in nicely with my philosophy that we were born to create, survive, and help.

My best state of mind is when, I transcend beyond what is at hand and move into my creative place. At that point, I don't have a care in the world. What happens on Wall Street, in Washington, or in the world has little significance to me.

The bottom line is that though I led a successful corporate life, I really hated keeping score. The real fun for me has always been coming up with an idea and seeing it through fruition. Photography and the printing of photographs provides me that unique pleasure. It requires my patience and provides me with the freedom to create and interpret.

Today's image was taken with an iPhone 3Gs while I was on a trip visiting a friend in NYC. The vignette that was on my night stand intrigued me so much that I chose to photograph it. The rest of the image came to me and fit in nicely with what I felt and saw at the time.

It feels good to create. We should give thanks and praise.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Joy of Finley

Mr. Finley

Canine Rock Star
Had an opportunity to catch up with a friend that I made in Estes Park, Adam Diesi. Adam and his wife Stefanie decide to move from Houston to Colorado. They made a rest stop in Dallas on their way. It brought back many memories to me. He called me to say hello and to chat for a while. We both enjoy photography.

While we met another group of Adam's friends joined us and brought their new puppy with them, a shitzu named Finley. Finley stole the show and I quickly decided to take a few images of the canine miniature celebrity.

It was fun watching the interaction between the newlyweds, friends, and puppy. Puppy love took hold as to be expected. Yet something else happened. I found a renewed confidence that there were lots of wonderful young people out there that were going to make the world a better place. It was a good feeling to have on a dingy rainy day. I walked away a better, happier, and more optimistic person. Thank you Finley and thank you Adam and friends!!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


In Loving Memory of Our Friend:

Can't say I have much of a sufferance tolerance: human or animal. Then again, I don't know many folks that could say they do. Today we put to sleep our longtime friend and companion, Daisy, a black female lab mix

For nearly fifteen years,  she served our family in various capacities: watchdog, nocturnal companion, family peacekeeper, life guard, groundskeeper, retriever of all things, work companion, roommate, and friend.

It was never my intention that she become part of my family, but then again this "trial" dog was not one whose puppy face, I could look away from, let alone the faces of my children and wife who clearly conspired againgst me. They appealed to my soft spot and won. The deck was stacked against me.

Daisy brought complete joy to my children, my wife, my fatherinlaw, and even Daisy's surrogate family, our next door neighbors, the West's. In her last seven years, she served in the capacity as my fatherinlaw's canine companion. She watched carefully over him and was there as he recovered from several knee surgeries. 

It was not uncommon to see Daisy riding through her neigborhood in Grapevine in Bobby's golf cart. The two road through their "hood" as a team. Sometimes they were also chaparoned by best girlfriend and neighbor Sammy. The canines definitely had tales to tell and tails to wag.

In the end both my fatherinlaw and Daisy limped throughout the house. Daiy more so than her loved friend. She did not let him disuade her from always being by his side.

Daisy taught us about friendship and unconditional love. It's a shame that this dog was more human than some of the friends I've known over the years. For Daisy it was never about what we could give her but rather what she could give us. This year, we have grieved over the loss of friends and family. Daisy, sweet friend, you proved to be both. You were the best and we will miss you. Thank you for your comfort all these years. Good girl Daisy.