Monday, December 31, 2012

Just Desert

Panoramic View
Sabino Canyon
Tucson, AZ

It doesn't take long to discover the real charm of Tucson. The city is surrounded by majestic mountains and rock formations. Both mornings and evenings are graced by spectacular views in the skies as the sun emerges and vanishes lighting the horizon like a glowing ember. This is Arizona a western frontier state. Descriptive words come to mind like spectacular, magnificent, and majestic. Feelings also come to mind such as the likes of awestruck and spellbound.

Each day, either on my way to work or coming home from work, I gaze contemplatively at ridges outlining the city. On occasions they are dusted this time of the years with what appears to be confectioners sugar. It's mother natures own blanket. She drops snow at those higher elevations. The snow quickly melts and races down the likes of Sabino Canyon providing water to the parched Sonoran desert. 

Here three elements, fire, desert and water provide a virtual harem of diversity and joy. If you are a photographer this place is for you. If you love nature and the outdoors you must come here and enjoy the views. If you need to feel alive again the mountains and high desert invite you.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Been A While

Still Waters Of Sabino Canyon
Tucson, AZ

It's been a hectic end of season. My travels took me back to Texas to celebrate Christmas with my family and then again back to Tucson. What was suppose to be a straight flight back, thanks to bad weather, turned out to be a hopscotch trip which included a flight to El Paso and a rental car drive back to Tucson. Weary but glad to be able to make my final destination, I limped back to Tucson by midweek.

A Desert Oasis: Sabino Canyon
Tucson, AZ
An abbreviated work week and the stresses of a new job added to my anxieties. By the week's end, I sorely needed not to think and to recompose. Someone mentioned Sabino Canyon to me and I thought about getting away for a hike.

The canyon lured me in with its many trails and the promise of higher elevations and outstanding topography. Even on a contrasty day, it's a photographer and painter's paradise. My eyes were open wide as was my heart and I was able to absorb what nature had to offer. What sweet visual and mental repose I was able to capture. A half-day and over ten miles of hiking later, my tired body meandered down the canyon side back to my parked car.

A note for the those who have followed my work, given that I didn't know what to expect and the fact that I started my adventure by midday, I chose to keep my photography simple by design. All I brought with me was two iPhones. It wasn't my intention nor did I believe that I would find images worth taking. Within a short distance Sabino Canyon proved me wrong. Thanks to my friends Dan Burkholder and Harry Sandler, I didn't let the limitations of equipment come into play. The iPhone proved to be an adequately sufficient too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Enlightened in the Desert

Down The Road at Dusk
South of Tucson, AZ

Have been in a zone lately. It no longer matters to me which camera I use my iPhone or my Canon 5D Mark II. Most of my focus has been strictly composition. The equipment is second. Post processing plays a significant role but without composition, there's no story to tell.

Every day I am inspired by what I see. I've become a student not only of the desert but of the light. I tolerate having to go into work before 7AM just so I can be home to catch fabulous light. Each day, I measure its intensity and open my senses to the myriad of image possibilities. My compulsiveness has found its value as has my sensitivity.

This stage of my life is not about what I have but rather of the images that I dream of still taking. It's all I want besides my family. It provides me with boundless joy. So as a fellow sojourner, I share my experiences with you. A photographic John The Baptist or Moses in the desert, either one, you chose. As I am awakened by my senses, I also invite you to see and know as I am reminded: we are here for the purpose to enjoy life not merely to toil, suffer, and endure it.

There are many more sunsets to catch and more light to see. Welcome to my new series Enlightened in the Desert.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cleansing Rain

View From Down the Road After the Rain
Tucson, AZ
I've missed you so much now I'm whole againCome, come tonightJust hold me tightThis desert rain you're my guiding light-Edward Maya

Like a bachelor I cleaned up my space just in time; before my girlfriend of twenty-five years arrived. Nature did it's thing too providing us with a cleansing rain. Dusty roads and desert alike needed the rinsing as did the late autumn sky. Rainbows ended and filled the skies at the end of the first passing storm.

A pair of neighbors dropped by before I finished my Saturday chores. They brought their rescue dogs and much needed cheer. For whatever reasons I've felt as if I been on the remote fort in Dances With Wolves. I found myself isolated from the world and listening for signs of civilization. Instead I found my self surrounded by the company of nature and few humans. My humans friends disrupted my cleaning but it was a wonderful break to speak with enlightened folks.

Headed to Bisbee again today, this time to share my discoveries with Kim. It's good to have the companionship of your best friend. Wont need to listen to the coyotes howl tonight to keep me company. Suppose it's true, we males were meant to be accompanied. My puzzle piece is here. I've got to run, she's not woke up and I have a coffee cup or so to drink before we start our day.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Desert Inspiration

View from Casita
Drexel, AZ

You don’t take a photograph, you make it.
-Ansel Adams
It seems like my creativity has come back. The countryside surrounding Tucson makes it difficult not to inspire. You don't have to look long and hard. It's a matter of sitting back a spell and enjoying the natural landscape that surrounds like a fully furnished home. Inspiration requires an open receptive mind.

While a full time job occupies most of my wake time, I do find the time to sneak a few images in between the workdays and weekends. The iPhone makes that both plausible and possible for me. There's no need to carry my fancy gear around. All I do is keep my iPhone handy and use its many photo apps to render what i see on the fly.

Misson San Xavier del Bac
Tucson, AZ
Yesterday was a tedious day for me. It seemed like nothing was going to get ccomplished. Rather than sit and wait for something to happen, I set out to meet and greet a few more customers. My drive took me just south of Tucson to Suaharita. Along the way, I found a prize, Mission San Xavier del Bac.
While Arizona is known for its desert and bright clear skies, this afternoon mother nature blessed me with the advent and promise of rain. The skies were cloudy enough to provide wonderfully diffused lighting.

There's an expression amongst photographers: "f8 be there." It's cryptic for seize the moment or be prepared. The best photography is with whatever camera you have available and a state of readiness. After waiting for the tourists to remove themselves from my view, I bracketed two exposures with my iPhone. Later I merged them in my iPhone. The results were extremely pleasing given the equipment and obvious contrast.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Utilizing Light

Bisbee Doors
Bisbee, AZ
The higher elevations provide a bright and intense contrasty light. While its perfect for those with seasonal disorders, its super challenging for photographers. A bright sunny day is great for somethings. Here in the desert southwest you learn to work promptly both in the early morn and at dusk. 

On my recent trip to Bisbee, I looked for opportunities to even shoot in the taboo photographer forbidden mid-day. The various allies afforded me the luxury that I needed enough light bouncing off of walls to take decent shots without harsh lighting.

My walks in the late afternoon also give me a chance to study light. The light moves quickly as a magnet drawn to steel behind the mountains that surround my temporary lodging.
Referee Cactus Keeping Score
Outside of Tucson, AZ

Truthfully, I've no axe to grind with the sun. It's simply an adjustment to my style. We walk both in shadows and in light. Our journey takes us through both. We react and adapt accordingly. To capture the images we think we see, we must do both.

Life is a journey they say, an adventure. There are times where I pine for the status quo but thats not what the journey has in store. The road is not straight it has many curves, detours, and dips. And in my case, I find myself going down unpaved roads to get to my final destination. 

In some ways, Robert Frost's trees have become my cacti. Either way, I still have "promises to keep" and "miles to go before I sleep."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Welcoming Staircases of Bisbee Arizona

Just a Step Away
Bisbee, Az

Spent a fantastic Sunday finding adventure in Bisbee, Az. Everywhere I looked seemed like a visual cornucopia. Although I anticipated a quaint mining town of hills and small homes, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this town and the large number of artists who now call Bisbee home.

Staircase in Full Sun
Bisbee, Az
Arizona is a land of contrast and contrasty skies. The high altitude and bright sun makes photography a challenge most any day except for at dawn and dusk. In order to capture many of my images, bracketing with my camera was a must. 

Everything about this town appealed to me. From dining to shopping for art, Bisbee in my mind has all that someone like me wants. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I will head back next weekend, but this time with my wife.
For those who have been to both Santa Fe and San Miguel, you should add to your bucket list Bisbee. You will be glad you did and surprised by what you will find.

Tread Lightly

Tread Lightly
Bisbee, Az

Spent all of yesterday in Bisbee, AZ a place that artists and left over hippies alike call home. It's akin to Santa Fe,but real, it's a kin to San Miguel de Allende. This old mining received a renaissance about a starting in the '70's and again in the 90's it is awash with color and colorful people.

As I walked across the town and sought nooks and crannies to photograph, I happened to spot this bumper sticker on a beat up old truck. The wording drew my attention: "I am not the enemy". 

At a time when patriotism is questioned by virtue of which party you are aligned with or which gender you choose to marry, I found that these words resonated with me. The flag next to it made the point further. 

Patriotism comes in all sizes and colors and transcends our personal political preferences and even, for that matter, sexual preferences. That fact that we can be different and can vote differently makes me proud to stand beneath our flag on any given day. We may not agree on most issues but on one we can: we are Americans.

While this is not one of my prettiest images, there's a story to be told. Americas history is behind it but it's future is right square ahead of it. First and foremost we are Americans. Americans can set aside their differences and rally around this flag. Our flag like the statue of liberty in the New York harbor is inclusive. It's important that we not forget. We should tread lightly and respect each other and in so doing we honor those that paid the greatest sacrifice, their lives.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Refresh Your Cache

Saguro National Park West: Petroglyphs
Tucson, AZ

After two dynamic weeks, I took some time this weekend to enjoy the surroundings near Tucson. Let's face it, Dallas/Fort Worth has many things going for it but natural beauty is not one of them. If you enjoy outdoor photography and landscapes the terrain of Arizona beckons.

Petroglyphs: Saguro National Park
Tucson, AZ
Andrew Ford,the gentleman who owns my casita, shares my same passion for the outdoors. He was kind enough to act as my guide recently at nearby Saguro National Park West. He told me how the native American relied 100% on their senses to determine their bearings. By expanding their peripheral vision and allowing their senses to guide them they developed very strong reliable internal compasses. They also learned to rely on the information their animal companions provided. Animal tracks and sounds all proved to a plethora of natural guidance.

Saguro Cactus Close Up
Today, few of us have developed these instincts. We certainly would be better off to listen to our own judgement than to accept blindly the guidance of others. Experience and nature willingly teach those who wish to receive and heed its advice. We should choose to listen if not observe.

The desert teaches more than patience. Its desolation enables to see further. The lack of detail forces actually forces us to notice them. We focus intently on everything thing we see. Our senses become sharper as we try to make sense of the barren landscape. In short time, we notice every bit of detail as is we were in a lush tropical rainforest. It takes an arid space to teach such valuable lessons. It takes an open refreshed mind to receive and process this information.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Photographer: Al "Long-Shadow"

Photographer and Shadows

After spending some time in the high desert, it dawned on me that I should consider adopting a name more descriptive and suitable to my environs.  Given that I shoot mostly early in the AM and right before dusk, the name that best suits me is "Long-shadow". This is me now.

The desert forces me to find different subject matter. To most its natures scrap yard, not very pretty. To me however, it makes me notice details even further. I work in the fringes of light before its either too bright or dark. In fact you might even say, I work in the shadows of the morn and dusk.

My work is swift and precise. There's lots to accomplish before the coyote's howl and their pups chatter. The light is warm gentle and sweet but it moves quickly and dances by the nearby mountain peaks. It's either get the shot now or try and wait for tomorrow, it's my choice and my preference to get it all today, while I can.

It's the desert now remote and barren. Perhaps I've too much time on my hands or not enough time left. So many questions to answer. I just have one to ask God himself, why? There's an answer out there somewhere for me. I'm sure it is as obvious as the thorns on the cactus I see.

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. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Splendid Moment

Shelby Cavallaro Thompson
Highland Park Presbyterian
Dallas, TX

Had an opportunity to photo witness the union of Shelby and Jon at Highland Park Presbyterian. Now I am trying to recreate what transpired. That's what a photographer does with his photographic two dimensional piece of history.

After viewing and selecting this image, I wondered how best to tell the elements of the story. As I was shooting the image, this idea came to me. Shelby's mom, Laurie mentioned out loud that she didn't have a bridal portrait. It seems that the bride was very self-conscious and didn't see what the big deal was. Not only was it her wedding day, but Shelby looked absolutely stunning in her regal gown.

It took most of yesterday to work on this image. I even placed a call to a Photoshop guru, Katrin Eismann, to help me with issues with shadows. In the end, after experimenting, my decision was to create my own style. The results, I feel were both dramatic, dreamy, and bold.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

From My Perspective

Wedding Pageantry Fit for a Princess
Highland Park Presbyterian
Dallas, TX

Last week was hectic to say the least. At the beginning of the week, I was chasing leaves and waterfalls, by the weeks end, I was perched on a church balcony positioning myself for a different kind of landscape. Either way, I aim to photograph and archive what is beautiful and add a third and fourth dimension of my feeling. It's my way of reaching out to you the viewer. I want you to feel the same as me if not more.

Shelby & Jon
Some feel that the job of wedding photography is thankless. I think that if its left to up to the point and shoot photographers who just happen to have a camera, it is not only thankless but meaningless. The value lies in the experience and sentiment placed during the post production process. Images about emotion must convey it. It's not just about getting the perfect exposure and sharp detail. The real details are in the intangibles.

For nearly a half a century, I've left room in my heart for passion, romance, and feelings. These elements define who I am as a person, husband, and a friend. My photography conveys what my words otherwise cannot.

Like I learned years ago in my latin class, I still feel, amor vincit omnia. Love truly does conquer all. For some "love changes everything."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Scenery Change

Saguaro Trinity
Ballantine Trailhead
Maricopa County, Arizona

Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

Can't say most love change or for that matter embrace it. However change is a part of life, we change, life changes us, we age, the world spins, seasons change, days change, the world changes. Change accompanies us in life. To some extent its the seasoning that makes life different and stimulating.

When you travel in the desert the changes are drastic and exacerbated by the contrast of light and shadows. Instead of noticing the green life, we notice the shapes of landscapes, rocks, and sparse vegetation. We notice the distant because we can see clearly for what appears to be endless miles. As a photographer, we notice life changes.

There's no doubt that the changes facing me are more of what I want out of my life. What I want to experience through my senses. How I want to live each last breath that I have. I want to chronicle it and  jam my life full, no regrets. 

In the movie the King's Speech, the stammering sovereign struggled to find his voice. He knew and felt in his soul that he had something to say. That inner struggle is something I can empathize with. 

Finding one's voice is the most difficult and most meaningful thing in this life. At that point, the point where and when you find it, your life feels complete and full of purpose and meaning. My photography aids me in expressing my voice, my passion, and my feelings towards a life I want to completely experience without fear but with with enthusiasm and joy for each day that the universe provides me.