Monday, February 1, 2016

In Memoriam of the White Orchid

 The orchid I bought last Fall is going into resting mode and the flowers that have been so lush and beautiful are drying up and dropping off the stem. But even in that state, they are still so beautiful to me. So delicate and fragile. I had to save them so out came the camera. I played with the pinhole lens, the close-up lens, the 90mm f1.8, the 70-200mm 2.8 lens. I played with different arrangements, and depth of field. Black and white and of course color. I made a lot of images and had a great time.

I may have to ask friends to save their dead flowers for me to photograph. I certainly would not be the first photographer to photograph fading flowers but then what hasn't been photographed before.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Hope, Prayer and a Dream - 2016 Biennial Fotofest International

I am honored that three of my images have been included in the A Hope, Prayer, and a Dream exhibit. Over fifty photographers have joined for a collective photographic exhibit encompassing an entire city block on Main Street and will be on display throughout Houston’s 2016 Biennial Fotofest International.
If you are in Houston between March 3 and April 24 I hope you will visit A Hope, Prayer and a Dream.  You can see the show at 3600 Main Street in Houston,Texas. Opening Reception is Thursday March 3, 2016 at 5:00 PM.
 Many thanks to Laura Corley Burlton and Marti Corn for curating and organizing this event. Special thanks to Judy Sherrod who is the driving force behind Shootapaplooza Thursday March 3, 2016 at 5:00
Many thanks to
Laura Corley Burlton and Marti Corn for curating and organizing this event. Special thanks to Judy Sherrod who is the driving force behind Shootapaplooza.



Friday, January 1, 2016


Yesterday I headed out for a walk. Not planning on a long walk, just a walk, but I think about things when I walk, solve problems and maybe sometimes it is even a meditation. Suddenly I found that I had walked through Rice Village and was starting to walk on the wonderful jogging/walking trail around Rice University. All the way around the University is almost three miles plus what I had already walked and I'd still have to get back to my son's house. Oh well, I thought, I'll go a little further and cut across the parking lot to head back.

My thoughts were about 2016. I just had a birthday and I'm starting my 80th year. Eighty years old. It is hard to believe. I remember when I thought 80 was old, really old and the people I knew in their 80's acted old. Do my kids, my grandkids, think I'm old? I dare not ask. Especially the grandkids. I might not like the answer. But here is the thing, I don't think I'm old. Yes, I do make some concessions for some things I use to do in my 40's, I'm not climbing ladders or moving bedroom furniture from one room to the other by myself, but I don't feel old. I feel healthy and happy.

When I thought about how happy I am, I remembered a TED talk I recently watched. It was a 75 year study of men from Harvard and men from slums and it had followed them for all 75 years asking questions about their lives and how happy they were. It wasn't money or fame that made them happy but it was family and friends and community that brought them happiness. I'm glad it wasn't money! I'm so blessed to have family, friends and community.

While I was striding along, I also thought about how good it feels to put one foot in front of the other, legs  strong, arms swinging, feeling the cold wind on my face and seeing the trees and traffic and other joggers and walkers. Last week a friend asked me if I was going to be younger in 2016. He was teasing about me writing about the book Younger Next Year. It will soon be three years since I read that book and I have to tell you I AM younger now than I was before I took some of the recommendations in the book to heart.

I really don't have time to be old. I still have so many things I want to do. Just this year, I want to join the Shootapaloosa friends I made last year in Port Aransas in Galveston for another B-12 shot of creativity, maybe a trip to Big Bend National Park with long, long-time photography friends, a trip to Nashville and beyond and hopefully a trip to Ireland. I bought a travel book on Ireland today. I'm doing some repair and remodeling work on my house and this year I want to finish the project I've been working on in Port Aransas. That project needs to go to the publisher.

So I'm walking and thinking and wondering, what word would describe how I am feeling about 2016 and the word I kept seeing in my head was JOY.  It is going to be a joyous year. And then, I realized that I'd passed the parking lot that I was going to cut across to head home. In fact, I'd almost gone all the way around the University. I laughed and kept walking. I walked 6.5 miles. Not too bad for someone heading toward 80.

PS I'm not sure how the picture above will look but I'm trying to coordinate several devices to add a photo. I think it may be dark but I can't tell for sure. I felt joyful looking at it as I walked along the walking trail. It isn't dark or dreary to me at any time of the year. At any rate it is a part of the campus at Rice University and I've always loved this forest of oak trees in the middle of the city.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Photographs Don't Lie. Or Do They?

Recently when I was in Port Aransas on a rainy day, I decided to take the ferry over to the mainland and drive over to Ingleside. I have been on that road before but it was a long time ago. I thought I might find something to photograph in the drizzly rain. In Ingleside I saw a sign that said Ingleside by the Bay. I turned left on it thinking I might get a shot of Port Aransas from the other side of the Bay. For about ten minutes there was no sign of the Bay just the road through the wonderful wind twisted oak trees. And then, there was a sign pointing to the right, Ingleside by the Bay. I turned right and I was in a little community about four streets deep rising from the water's edge of a little inlet and maybe a three-fourths of a mile long until the streets ended at the bay front that faced Port Aransas.

The street I was on ended at this sign. Ingleside Beach Club. I did a double take. Beach Club? Sand and a couple of covered picnic tables. I'm sure the overcast sky had some influence on me but I was thinking what a sad excuse for a Beach Club. I pulled over and stopped the car and I made several pictures of the sign and the picnic table. I had to capture this sad scene. I put the camera up and got back in the car and as soon as I turned left, I saw another building inside of the fence but about the equivalent of two blocks away. As I drove toward it, I saw posts for volley ball nets and space for parking and a pier. As you have probably guessed by now the building I saw was the Club House. It wasn't grand but it was nice. I stopped again and closed my eyes and I could see families fishing from the pier, playing volleyball, horse shoes, picnicking, eating on the veranda, New Year's Eve Parties in the Club House, Fourth of July cookouts, wedding receptions. This was not a sad place, it was a place where families made wonderful memories.

If I only showed you the image above and I had not given the whole story, would that image be the truth about the Ingleside Beach Club? I didn't Photoshop anything in or out of the picture. It is a "true" picture.

Ever since I made this image I've been thinking about it and this week I saw an article in Shutterbug about six professional photographers who were assigned to make a portrait of the same man but each of them were given a different story about the man and they had 10 minutes to make their portrait. At the end all six of the photographs were hung and the differences in the portraits were astonishing. The way the man was posed and light was used was highly influenced by what was in the photographer's mind from what they had been told.

Now I can think back to how I was feeling the day I made this image and why I had to stop the car and take this shot. For me it confirms what the article is saying, "The photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than what is in front of it."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Different Halloween

I innocently went into town last night with my camera and a bag of candy. It was Halloween and I was remembering all of the Halloweens when Ned and I made reservations for dinner and after dinner went to the San Francisco Hotel and sat in the bar where we could see out the door. The first few years there would be a few children who painted their faces or wore a costume that they probably also wore in the Locos parade. They were out looking for candy from the gringos. Sometimes it would be three or four boys about seven to eleven years old running in a pack. Or it might be an older sister shepherding her siblings and that might include a wide-eyed three year old on her first Halloween adventure. So cute. A few of the groups would notice us sitting inside the bar having a margarita and they would rush in holding out their plastic grocery bags for candy afraid that the management would rush them back out before they got their treat. We wanted to talk to them but all they wanted to say was 'hola' and 'gracias' and run back out to collect more goodies.

Then we started to see a few adults who were on their way to a party dressed in Victorian costumes with painted skeleton faces. But basically the Jardin was maybe a bit more crowded than most nights but not much.

Well, friends, things have changed and changed more than I realized. Now there are any number of Calaca events. Calaca is a colloquial Mexican Spanish name for skeleton or skull and you see it used mostly during events for the Mexican Day of the Dead festivals. Here in San Miguel it has turned into a three day holiday of events that are mostly initiated by the gringos. That is not to say that the Mexicans don't participate as well because I saw a lot of school children and young people wearing the calaca makeup but the gringos do seem to having a great time with the costumes and parties.

As I said, I innocently went into town about 5 PM expecting last night to be about the kids and candy. The Jardin was already very crowded. I can't imagine what it was like by 7 PM. I didn't stay. I walked on out to Fabrica Aurora for their art event. Surely if the Jardin was that full of people the Fabrica would not be so crowded. I was wrong again. It, too, was packed with people and Calacas. I had a great time wandering from studio to studio, looking at the art and stopping along the way to talk with friends.

Just about the time I decided that I better try to get a cab and head back across town I met my foto friend, Sally. She was ready to leave as well and invited me to join her for dinner at Don Lupe Grill with some other people that I knew. It was a fun Halloween but very different than what I expected.

In some ways I'm sad about the changes that are happening around Day of the Dead. As I thought about it after I got home last night I also remembered that I had gone to the cemetery yesterday morning and the traditional things were starting to happen. Trucks were coming in loaded with flowers, food and flower venders were setting up their tents. Families were starting to clean graves and repaint the names on the tombstones. Families were greeting friends and walking with each other to their family gravesites. The vendors of the sugar skulls and little animals are set up in town, the bakeries are baking the traditional bread and families are getting ready to make their home altars to honor and remember their loved ones.

So, in a sense, the Calaca festivals are like another layer on the traditional celebration of Day of the Dead. And I think I like the Calacas better than the connotation that Halloween has of haunted houses, malevolent ghosts and goblins who are sinister. The Calacas who walk among us in San Miguel, although they do remind us of death, are not evil spirits who are out to do us harm. Well, no harm unless we have one to many drinks with them at the festival.

I'm working on an altar for Ned. Yes, I have the tequila bottle sitting on it. I still need to buy some Snickers. I can't have him dropping by and not have Snickers for him. Snickers and tequila. That was my Ned.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Photographs from Sicily

Finally I have it. My book about my trip to Sicily in May. It is a 137 page Blurb book designed via the book module in Adobe Lightroom. Now those of you who do not have Lightroom and don't plan to make a book with it, may want to jump right to the end of this blog entry if you just want to see the book and not clutter your mind with Lightroom stuff you are not going to use.

 If you have Lightroom, you really should explore making a book. I'm not saying that because it is easy because there is a learning curve. And the book module does have limitations. I would like more templates from which to choose. I would like an easier way to add pages of text that would flow from one page to the next. I would like that the text didn't disappear when you change the template. And, of course, I wish the cost of one Blurb book wasn't so expensive. On the other hand, I haven't found another source that is cheaper and offers the color management that I've had with Blurb.

I care a lot about color management. I want what I see on  my screen to be the same as what my printer produces or what shows up in my books. Blurb is pretty much spot on with color and I am always watching my histogram to be sure that I do not have any clipping of the whites or blacks so that I also control the contrast.

Another thing I like about using Lightroom is that I can work with my RAW images and if one image needs a bit of adjustment to make it work better with its  two-page spread partner, it is no problem. Just jump back to the develop module and make the adjustment. When you go back to the book module the image is there with the adjustment. It really does make it easier to not have to worry about making the image a certain size JPG to fit an image window, not to worry about margins, gutters and cut lines. I mean, you are aware of them but the module does a good job of managing them for you. I've done a couple of books as PDF's outside of Blurb and it was a lot of work figuring all those measurements out. They made nice e-books on Issuu but I have a lot of MB's on my hard disk with the RAW images, the PS layered images and then the flattened and sized images that finally went into the books.

The Lightroom book module has been working for me but I have a couple of more complex books in mind. Now that I've cut my teeth, so to speak, on making a book, I may be ready to take on a more sophisticated design program.

Here is the link, if you would like to see my book, Sicily.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Transitory Life

A few things have happened recently to friends that remind me that we are mortal and life is transitory. I don't think people in their 40's, 50's think too much about the transitory part but when you get to be my age you think about it. I'm not saying that you spend your days worrying about dying but when you have lost a spouse and dear friends, you wonder about what is going to happen. About how you are going to get from living to being dead. I know that sounds weird. Still, I don't know anyone who wants to suffer or their families to suffer with them through a long illness where there is no chance of recovery.

I recently read Atul Gawande's book, On Being Mortal; Medicine and What Matters in the End. Gawande is a surgeon and has written several books about medicine. He also writes about medical issues in the NewYorker Magazine. Gawande apparently has struggled in his own medical practice on how to handle patients when he knows that medicine can not heal them. He wrote this book after his Father, also a surgeon, died from a rare form of cancer and as Gawande was with his Father through his illness, he saw medicine from the standpoint of the patient and his family.

The book is about the end of our lives and how to manage when our body begins to fail us. He writes about assisted living and nursing homes and why many elderly people are not happy living in these facilities. It is because they lose control of their lives in order that their families feel they are safe and the facility can operate efficiently. Losing control of when you want to get up in the morning, eat, take a bath, watch TV and  giving up privacy is hard to accept no matter if you are old and your body is failing.

The last half of the book about medical care in the last part of life brought back memories of so many doctor visits with Ned as we negotiated his last months.

Gawande writes:
“The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And, in a war that you cannot win, you don't want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don't want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knew how to fight for territory when he could and how to surrender when he couldn't, someone who understood that the damage is greatest if all you do is fight to the bitter end.”  
Fighting to the bitter end, Ned's last couple of months were overwhelming with visits to specialist who couldn't help, radiation that left him even more exhausted and more tests.

How do we find the right doctors that do not keep offering medical procedures that may prolong life but make it impossible for us to live our last days as we want, a doctor who can help us understand what is happening, ask us what is important and coach us through rational choices.

I think this is a great book for those of us who are in the "third age" as we call it here in Mexico but also it is a good book for our adult children to read as well.

The image of the bottles that once held medicines and potions is from the Port Aransas project.