A Lenten Lesson

And so it begins! Ash Wednesday!  The preparation for the most important day of the year started today.  I attended mass near my office at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary here in Atlanta.  The priest provided a great suggestion on a Lent tradition.  The usual tradition is that we give up something we really like for Lent.  Our celebrant put a twist on that tradition.  He reminded us Jesus does not mind us giving things up that we like as a method of preparing ourselves for a spiritual journey...but what what makes him happiest is when we give up the things he does NOT like before we meet him!

That matched up pretty well with my daily devotional in the Liturgy of the Hours.  So I'm working on giving up a vice everyday (lets say improving my language and vocabulary skills)....and a an extra vice (coffee) on Fridays.  Accomplishing #1 on a normal day will be interesting....without coffee on Fridays?  Oh maybe I'll find a way to stay in bed and hide!

I hope and pray that you too will grow in faith and wisdom on this Lenten journey.


P.S. Fuji X-E1 with 18-55

Two years of Joy!

I'm two! How fast can two years go?  For child number four, my precious Kellie Marie it is like a stroke of lightening across the sky.  Here are just a few highlights....

Thank you God for every minute I have with each of these incredible people you graced my family with, and charged me to care for.  I can only pray I am doing right by them, and get to do it for a lot longer before you call me home.




Halloween 2012

Kellie Marie's first birthday party!

15 Months!


Reading Assignment

Christmas Present and helping Mom

Happy New Years!

A child's eye silent night

From a Child's Eye A great photographer I met once, and listened to often, Scott Bourne once said to explore the world creatively you need to see the world from the mind of a five year old.  Well I've been doing that with my now six year old. Today I reviewed photos he took over the last four months on my old Canon P&S.  My wife mentioned several times he imitates me when he shoots...he was actually doing quite well!  He does video much better than I do!  Well in his photos I did see the sense of wonder I often miss as I get older.

So tonight I set the tripod up and looked at the tree from the level of my two year old.  I just fell into the wonderful world of bliss.  I saw the lights, the shiny ornaments, the dark spots, the smiles on faces, the tassels and beads.  It was fun.  It was like my first memories of Christmas growing up...and when I made up the HDR images I just had to capture the feeling of the moment of when I can remember looking at my family Christmas tree a the age of four or five at Fort Devens, Massachusetts in 1974 or 75.

Then I thought about the most important part of the evening...the arrival of Jesus.  A hundred thoughts started running through my mind.  I can see so much of the story rushing together, and my mind is just too slow to understand or explain it right now.  I turned my lens on the family nativity scene, and turned of the lights.  I felt a peace come over me as I worked the light and tried a few different angles.  I began to reflect, that on a night like tonight I don't think Jesus wants us to think too deeply.  He wants us to look at his arrival like a child who can feel something special in the air, and now that in the darkness of the night a child was born who gives peace to our souls if we but choose to listen for the sound of his voice.


P.S. Fujifilm X-E1.  These are HDR processed in HDR Efex Pro 2..the second one got a touch up in Perfect Suite 8.

Away in a manger from a child's eye...

Getting Ready!

A simple street A few weeks ago I was able to walk around town and snap some images on a cold November morning.  Our town works hard to create an old city center worthy of visiting, and the business owners do their part to make it inviting.

In these final days of preparation for Christmas, don't forget the reason for the season of advent (and it has nothing to do with present lists or parties).  Do your best to ignore the last minute sale emails ,and focus on getting your heart ready for the arrival of our Lord!  Take a walk, dodge raindrops, and look at your fellow man for all the reasons he came to die for us!  Then ask yourself...have I made a home inside of me for him?  Have I risen to the challenge?  When I failed did I beg forgiveness and make amends?

Ok...time for me to get ready for church myself and get my own head in the right place!


PS-Fujifilm X-E1 with 18-55mm.  Cropped in camera using the square framing option.  It is fun to see the world in different framing formats than the standard 2x3.  It think it really allows you to do some extra mental calculus, and come closer to making the final product in your camera.  If you spend less time behind the computer the better off you are!

For my Babcha!

Babcha's Flower Each year, right now, the gardenia's bloom in my back yard.  When we moved into the house I was drawn to their complete package of beauty and fragrance.  If I had seen these flowers before, I had no memory of them.  I just knew they were something important to capture and enjoy.

Last year I shot a few of these wonderful flowers and sent them off to my family, only to hear a wonderful love story.  See paternal grandfather, DjaDja, brought these to my Babcha (grandmother) when they were dating since she loved them.  This was expensive during the war, especially up in the cooler climate of Boston.  My Babcha enjoyed them so much, they made up her bridal bouquet!

That love story took place during World War II, but I only found out about it the day I sent her the photos some seventy years later.  For years that lovely story laid dormant, untold and a my connection to these flowers unknown.  Only by sharing this image, which cannot compare to the real thing, did I learn how they are part of my story.

Since that day last year, when my Babcha sent me a lovely note, I've found myself anxious for them to reappear.  I've also shared other flowers with my wife a little more impulsively than in the past.  With each gift I think of my Babcha and DjaDja as I knew them as a child around thirty five years ago.  Two people very much in love, smiling together, and loving each other through the better, poorer, health and sickness parts of life.

So with the gardenia bloom I think of those two people in love, and try to show my wife the same devotion I remember my DjaDja doting on his bride.  That is a legacy I don't want to ever forget.

So as i used to tell him....Thanks Dja


Angel Flight

After a week of rain the sun broke through and lit up the angels! As the new year dawns I hope some light can break through the storms and make your days a little happier!  It was just what my wife's guardian angel would order up to make her smile after such a run of doldrums.

We were joking at work that with the storms it seemed like the Mayan calendar was a few days off...Thankfully we had a break in the weather today and the sun buoyed up our spirits on an almost warm winter day.


Brotherly Love

Big Brother gives Baby Si a love on Christmas Day Just a quick picture to illustrate something the great Tony Corbell said at Skips Summer School.  5.6, Auto Flash and be there.

I know i-TTL or e-TTL for those of you shooting the big brands..or me with P-TTL on the Pentax...is supposed to be "the solution."  Well I think it often is, but sometimes a little "old fashion" goes a long way as well.

In this case I ran the whole day with the camera on Aperture Priority, ISO 100, center weighted metering and flash on Auto.  This is a sample of what I got right out of the camera.  I only cropped the photo a bit for the web.  I think exposure was pretty good, the reaction time of the camera acceptable and I could understand why it happened.  The last part is most important to me since if I understand what happened, I can either modify my work to change the results or repeat it if it works correctly.

Either way I got a photo that really summed up Christmas Day with my four kiddos and loving wife.  It was fun, relaxed, family and God centered.


PS Go visit Tony Corbell at http://www.corbellproductions.com/

Five Year Old Saves Christmas

20121224-151139.jpg My five year old saved Christmas!

The last few weeks pressed me from every angle. Work, not being able to get my dream moving, the evil at Newtown and in my own town..All felt like a bone crushing weight on me. Even my picture taking, my refuge for sanity, was falling flat. The spirit of Christmas felt as far away as the moon. I could recognize the evil was in a person's choices, not the wonder of creation.  I was just overwhelmed by the amount of darts thrown at good people of late.  I had closed myself off to the spirit of Christ's power because I was letting things other than keeping God foremost in my thoughts and family's development matter.

All this started to change when as I put my head down, my lovely wife said...make small changes and the change will come. I slept on it, and through the night the weight of everything started to feel workable. I got up and walked into the living room to watch the sun rise on the Christmas tree. It was then that my five year old came down the stairs and plopped himself right on top of me.

His first words were, "Dad we have a wonderful tree. It is magic." God was speaking through the mouth of a babe. For ten minutes we sat still, and quietly talking about favorite ornaments lest we wake up the other four souls in the house to early. Then he said, "Dad we need to take some pictures of our tree." That was all I needed. Out came the tripod, the light for my first light painting attempts, and photographic direction from my five year old. My soul was alive, and responding to the cuing from God to live and enjoy Christmas in the present.

Every year I look at the Christmas tree form a new perspective. This year I took it from my five year old. Christ does bring grace if we let him. I pray that you and yours can do the same.


PS These photos are from perspective of my five year old...his height I hope conveying some of the awe we felt as kids before the Christmas tree.


Palm Tree Christmas

Decorations of South Georgia Being born in Hawaii...I should be use to this site...but I was three when I left so I'm not!

Palm trees are fun to look at.  To my mind it is like peeling back an onion that is 60 feet tall!

The moral of the story is that anything can help bring out the Christmas spirit!


Christmas Ball

Christmas Ball on a tree at Church We enjoyed another evening at church with my service and fraternal organization, The Knights of Columbus, at the annual Christmas Dinner.  We enjoyed being with other families, good food, and a festive atmosphere.  During the day my family went to church to help decorate for the holy day coming up, and my wife and four kids decorated two trees in the church.  I was pretty impressed when I heard my wife had the 11 month old on here back while stringing lights!

Well they inspired me to take a look at the trees for something fun to snap!  The hardest part of this was getting me out of the reflective surface of the ornaments.  So this took a  few minutes....and caused my wife to come rescue me from my photographic obsession!

This is yet another photo with my hip bound Oly XZ-1.  Processed in Perfect Photo Suite 7.  Just a note for you tech junkies... I am shooting RAW with my Point and Shoot.  So my files are typically the RAW flat, so I need to post process them.  This is just my normal preference and gives me more control over the product.  If I had no time to process them, I'd really have no problem with the on board jpeg engine or effects filters.  Olympus colors are just great.  I often use filters when I am on the road to get an effect without the post shoot work of RAW.

I am leaning to picking up a M4/3 camera as a slightly bigger "hip" camera.  That way I'll have a few accessories that can be used on either camera.  We'll see what the future will bring.  For now this is a good tool for my mission.



Christmas Bird

Christmas Bird...Tree! At the same concert I saw the string of lights...I saw a set of trees made from bird feathers!  The lights backlit the feathers and it really was cool.

I wish I could borrow one for a full day to experiment with. It would be a really good project to play with this type of soft, glowing light!

For this photo all I did was do a simple import preset in aperture, and custom built an S-Curve for some pop.  I wanted to give the photo depth, but still convey the fragile nature of the soft diffused light.


Sting of Stars

Stars and Lights on display These lights were part of the decorations at a small dance company's holiday show.  They mesmerized me, so I tried to get at least one good shot of them before intermission ended.

For the techies...shot in RAW on the Olympus XZ-1, edited in One Perfect Effects 7 using a Surreal HDR effect.  I used some blurring effects in Aperture to make the bokeh a little more attractive after the HDR provided a lot of detail in the small lights I did not want.


Southern Christmas Glory!

Southern Christmas Preparations...lights and pine in an almost tropical location! The lights were on in St. Mary's as they prepare for Christmas last week.  It was a combination of lights, pine wreaths, and palm trees!  After so many Christmas pasts up north, this was a new perspective on the season for me.

Thankfully the symbols of Christmas are all there, and it was those symbols that tied me in with every other season I've enjoyed.  The round Christmas wreath of pine symbolizing the eternal God, the celebratory red has many other joyful meanings, and the lights fighting back the darkness as we near the winter solstice all made me feel like I could be anywhere preparing for the Lord's arrival.  Those common symbols are so important since they convey a message from one generation to the next.  They made me feel right at home in their midst.

It was a lovely night for a walk amidst such splendid sings of the season.