Life lessons through the lens " South America "

What do photographers do on vacation? Take pictures of course. Looking through a lens becomes a way of seeing things that just don’t look the same in regular vision.  The feel of what is in front of you becomes more intense and focused.   All of this was brought back to my attention over the last three weeks, during a sixteen day trek across the equator in Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru including Machu Picchu. Several lessons were relearned on this voyage, beginning in the Galapagos. We were aboard the “Nemo” a 60 foot catamaran along with eight other guest and five crew members. Leading us on our voyage was a naturalist, “Ruly” who’s passion for this particular corner of the world was infectious. He has spent most of his life on the islands, some by himself for as long as eight months studying the endemic marine iguana. His teaching started out with giving us the lay of the land, rules of the boat and what we were to embark on in the next four days. Respect for nature poured out of this guy in every sentence, totally dedicated to his mission of preserving the beauty and integrity of this water wonderland. Ruly’s lesson for me came the second day on a hike of Santa Cruz Island, home of the blue and red footed boobies, a bird much like a large seagull with amazing color. One mile into our four mile trek we came upon our first “Boobie” on a nest  with the male close by watching over. All the hikers, including myself, scampered to get in position to take pictures. It sounded like a photo shootout with ten cameras going off at the same time.  The bird immediately thought it’s world had been invaded and showed itsrestlessness. Ruly belted out "Wait", then his voice lowered as everyone turned toward him, “Stop…slowdown… back off.. find a spot.. sit-down and just watch. Respect the animals space, let him get comfortable with you  then honor him with a picture". It hit me like a brick, for in every-day news life, a lot of times, is fast-paced, you shoot and move on to the next one. Respect for my subjects time was what had faded from my own work. Lesson one, learned.

      The second half of our journey was spent trekking across Per including Cusco, Machu Picchu, Puno and Lima. I would say my second reawakening realization came from myself, as my wife and I would walk through the various cities looking at all the massive cathedrals and watching the people interact in their own world. I would steal shots of natives from the area, shoot the stone pathways and landscape shots but was feeling something lacking, just another tourist with a camera. My inhibition to interact with my subject was largely due to the language barrier which always creates some distrust from foreigners, and without that trust you don’t get the real deal of wherever you are. Just as this feeling had climaxed one evening, I met Victor in a back alley of Puno, something snapped back into place as we made eye contact. Victor was a seventyish Peruvian gentleman with the native look and a great charisma.

t He was standing against a pastel of old crumbling stucco walls, surrounded by three younger kids, one with a old typewriter,typing as Victor dictated, the other two kinda framing the ends. I was drawn in, I had to know more, this was not a grab shot. In my best broken Spanish and his best broken English we struck a happy medium, interacted about fifteen minutes,  I walked away not only with a image that he was happy to give but the story and a true feel for the people for the first time since our arrival. .I think Victor trusted me with his time because I had given him mine and a non-verbalized barter was struck. My confidence was back just that quick.  I continued the rest of the trip interacting with the same advice for the people as Ruly had given me for the bird's lesson>>> Photographers don’t just take pictures, they create images by feeling what’s in front of the lens.

More life lessons to come from South America 


The Cover Shot


Planning and brainstorming a idea for cover shot or special section has always been my favorite part of the process. Where you start is always a long way from where you finish. In this case, we were shooting for the new magazine "Connect" by the Wise County Messenger. Everything went very smooth, except I had one issue to deal with, I had a class to teach at the same time. Work around... take the class and include them in the shoot. While I was shooting the scene, the upperclassman would hang out with separate groups of students, sending me a couple at a time to assist and absorb my way of shooting. We finished the set and continued class in downtown Bridgeport after dark.  The whole class said that was thier favorite one of all.

  The shoot... I had used this background on Bridgeport Lake several times and most recently on the blood moon eclipse, so I knew pretty much what to expect on the lighting. I just needed everybody to show up early enough to get them all in the water and comfortable in their roles before the light was gone. Everything went as planned with fifteen minutes to spare.  There were a few adjustments I had to make in camera as the sun went down. I set up a Profoto 600 barebulb, full power on the shore at camera left 60 feet, a nikon 8000 on full zoom to open up facial shadows and final camera settings ...Nikon D5, ISO 200,F10@250 SS.


The traveling eye

For me traveling is a must to keep my eye sharp. when a photog is traveling everything is fresh and new,you are constantly looking and framing shots in your mind. This image comes from a extended stay in a NY while studying under the great Jay Maisel. Walked 88 miles in eight days took 4500 images and had a blast. Like a kid in a candy store I searched every back alley, bar, church, anything that pulled me. The people on the street was the real draw for me and interacting was spiritually filling me up.

For more favorites from NY


The ones that don't make it.

Imagine shooting a softball game, you have shot six innings with not much action or close call shots. then a Boyd softball player hits a grand slam to go ahead of Paradise girls and you think...celebration, here's my shot!


The next at bat, Paradise knocks in two runs to win the game, my celebration will not be used because it no longer tells the story. Bummer!



Same situation her at Sanger on Tuesday, Decatur dominated the first five innings and II've got a bunch of winning shots already running through my mind about witch one I'm going to send to the paper. And then...Decatur loses in the final out of seventh inning. the three hours I had spent earlier shooting in what seemed like football weather with a 30 MPH wind were useless to the gamer story. Double bummer.


Head -on collision

So imagine if you will... 12 hours of shooting day to day stuff for the paper on one of three press days and your tethering on the edge of I want the shot but I'm almost ready to be done. Then if you would have blinked you would have missed it entirely, my day was made in that split second. Although a heartbreaking loss for the Bridgeport Sisses, for this guy the action was nothing short of enormous. Congrats to the lady bulls on a great season.