Reaching Out.

As of late, I’ve been doing my best to reach out to long-time friends and loved ones. With the advent of social media, many of us, myself included, have overlooked the importance and joy of hearing a friend’s voice over the telephone or opening a handwritten note or card from someone you once shared frequent exchanges with. Just imagine if one of your hundreds of friends on Facebook ever got a call from you. Don’t worry. You’ll be struck by lightning while accepting your lottery win before that ever happens.

No matter how much time has passed, there will always be a place in our hearts for friends, family and loved ones — sharing memories and getting updates on their current or recent doings. In contrast, exploring a new way to see one another. Although, those first words, “Hey …, this is …” might take a little courage. There is almost always a reward on the other end of the line.

My First Photography Related Nightmare.

I had a dream the other night where I lost all knowledge and ability to take pictures while on a vital magazine shoot with my friend and photography mentor Kevin. It was a beautiful day, and shooting in natural light, instead of the pressure of shooting in the studio, added a lighthearted, stress-free element to the job. I began to run poses with my model and formed a bond to allow us to work in a more carefree environment. I completely shut down. Suddenly, the camera and the knowledge I had built over the years were gone. I confided in Kevin what was happening. His assurance that everything was going to be okay. That I just needed to relax fell upon deaf ears and disappearance of any prior knowledge of photography. Even with and despite his calming nature. My struggles continued until I woke up. If I was to guess, I would relate the dream to my recent health issues, and future doubts of my ability to photograph the things I love and those the fascinate me. In the end, that scares me more than anything.

Art Matters

It’s become quite evident that art is quite conducive to the mental health of others. Whether you’re creating art or witnessing it. The overall benefits are overwhelmingly positive. After stopping and taking in the creativity of Baltimore’a Graffiti Alley. I thanked my wife for always nourishing my soul by supporting and fueling my love of creativity.

Looking back, it all started as a young child and my Mom. She was a secretary at a rather large advertising company. Though she never made much money. She was always bringing home art and movie posters. Some of which I still have today. On the days I visited her at work. I’d find myself in the art room watching illustrators bring new characters and ideas to life.

I often look back at those times and my Mother’s influence as the gateway drug that inspired my long love affair with art, photography and the people who create it. Over the years, it’s help me process, heal and strive to create. Let art be your muse, the shoulder to lean on and that big blue pill that cures all.

Can’t Stop. Wont Stop.

Despite my medical issues getting worse and struggling with the challenges of having a progressive neurological disorder. I still, very much, think and see like a photographer. What I lack in balance, I more than compensate with my drive and passion to, for a lack of a better term, “find the light.” and while the day and the light still have a place in my art. I’ve become much more fixated on finding light in the darkness. No matter the subject or the struggle it might present. I’ve learned that obstacles will never curb my enthusiasm to create or disable my drive to learn and grow. Here’s to experimentation and the results that may come. (I shot the on a tripod at 100 ISO at a ’30 second delay. The F stop was 22. The photographer was full with the joys of Thanksgiving Happy Holidays.

Dear Dad

My Mom once (Okay, more than once.) told me to watch what I said in public and especially to be mindful of what I write. While being free to express ones self. We must also be mindful of what we say and share with others. A lesson I’ve tried to apply, and suffered from when not practicing. Yet there I was trying to write my Father a letter or email that will potentially mend fences in regards to a recent blowout between us.

And while I’ve spent a lifetime looking and often finding closure to many early traumas. I can’t help but open new wounds every now and then. In the days and weeks that followed. I searched and replayed the moments before the blow out. Could I have instigated the argument, said anything to bring on his storm of anger and hate. Or brought on his ire by perhaps seeming uninterested in his reasoning that Trump was a great president and world leader. “No”, “No”, and “No” I was assured by my step mother and wife.

Considering he read it (I confirmed this with my step mom.) and he never bothered to return or acknowledge my olive branch. I’m guessing we’re done. After a lifetime of trauma, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, and a whole lot of fun. I’m ready to move on. As bad as that night was, I did my best to reach out with no hate, anger, or blame. I’m sharing the email i sent because I wanted to prove to myself and anyone reading this, that I tried. I tried and I did it by taking the high road. Over and Out.

“Dad, how are you. More than a week has gone by since Kay and Me visited and we had our blowout. The arguments only show our beliefs have grown stronger with showing how different we are politically and socially. We always have been. However, the times have changed and I guess we have to. I just wanted to reach out and say, our beliefs should never overcome the fact that you’re my father and I’m your son. After a week of unpacking I’m finally enjoying going to the gym every day and enjoying the deck and the common areas. Also, after all this time, it feels good to sleep in our own bed.”

Best,
– James

Learning to Fight.

Through recent conversations with family and grade school friends. (yes, I still have those.) I was reassured that many, if not all, of my early childhood memories, happened. My doubts surfaced a few years ago during a neighbor’s daughter paid a visit. After examining the six-year-olds hands and soft knuckles, I began to think some of my memories and tales were something of folklore. For better or worse, those stories remained in the memories of those who were there to bear them.
Whereas many of my memories remain detailed and almost sharp, the most formidable ones start around the age of four.

While kindergarten was a great introduction to socializing and learning to communicate, it was also an education on dealing with bullies. To state it boldly, it’s when I first learned to fight.

I remember it clearly, and with detail. During that morning, there was what was, without any doubt, most kids’ favorite event of the week, ‘Show and Tell.’ At the same time, I may not have been the most popular kid in the class. Bringing my G.I. Joe with Kung Fu grip and authentic (Fuzzy) hair was both a hit and the envy of some male classmates.

As the half-day came to an end, I found myself waiting in the nose bleed seats of the school auditorium. Suddenly, the Cruz brothers, Carlos and Eddi, intended to take my G.I. Joe and give my ass a proper beating. Their plan to attack from both sides was a good strategy. However, they surely underestimated my intent to hold on to my prized possession. Despite their two-prong attacks of kicking and punching, I stood my ground and did enough damage to hold on to said action figure.

When I got home, my Father noticed the scratches and red eyes and asked what had happened. I remember telling my Dad about the incident and commenting they used karate on me. (At the time, I considered any form of kicking to be karate or kung fu.) He told me to never back down to bullies and began to teach me how to fight.

A day later, I found myself in the garage with my Dad learning the ropes to not only fight back but win and even disable my opponent.

A year later, I was in the first grade, despite how handsome and charming I might have been. There were even more cruel kids looking to target and bully me. And just as I was learning how to defend myself properly, my Father was slowly but surely gravitating towards loansharking and numbers to make a living.

By the early school year of the second grade, my parents headed for a messy divorce, and I was processing my anger and newfound anxiety. A lesson, for better or worse, was taught that would set me on a course.
My Father got down on his knees and asked me, “Do you want to win a fight?’ I nodded, “yes.” “Do you want to win a fight quickly and be sure he never comes back at you?” I agreed again. Nodding, “Yes.” That’s when he took my hand gently yet firmly and taught me a lesson I’d never forget.

The first thing he taught me was pressure points and how to throw a punch properly. “Hit somebody directly in the chest, and they can’t breathe. If someone can’t breathe, they can’t fight.” Punch someone in their throat, and they can’t breathe.” “They can’t breathe. They can’t fight.” “There are two ways to punch someone effectively in the nose.”
“While an uppercut can cause a nosebleed, but if you come down on the nose hard enough, you can break the bone. Either will take your opponent out of the game. That was gouging one’s eye out with my finger—a tactic best saved for mortal combat or some soldier of fortune adventure in Uganda. Now luckily, the last and most gruesome lessons I learned, that day would never be called on, let alone thought.

Now, bear with me. I’ve gone over the inappropriate nature of a father or any parental guardian teaching their six or seven-year-old son how to disable their opponent both physically and mentally. For me, and perhaps in my Father’s eyes, learning pressure points was like learning how to play chess. The streets and schoolyards were often battlegrounds, and bullies came in all shapes and sizes. One day I might be fighting for more than an action figure or my lunch money.

In the week, months, and years that followed, I stood my ground in countless altercations in the schoolyards and on the streets. The lessons my Father taught helped me navigate and win fights with people older and bigger than me. I quickly learned that school administrators and police officers rarely judged who started the fight—often seeing the more damaged or bloodied person as the victim. Looking back, I take great pride in the fact that I was never a bully. In contrast, I was quick to throw a punch. Yet, I never once started a fight. Often leaving one teary-eyed, asking why they made me hurt them. Except for one that sent my friend to the hospital, and the exception of my first school. I never fought a classmate.

Within Reach

Though my legs and the rest of me remain strong. My balance, or lack there of have made many things I once took for granted, difficult, nearly impossible and downright dangerous. Though just a few blocks from me. There comes a point where the steep incline is so extreme that, know that attempting to navigate it would risk irreversible damage, or even death. Risks my wife, keeps me from attempting. Whereas my first days and weeks living in Seattle had me walking and learning the local bus lines. It’s not as if I haven’t already explored the pier and whatever else the downtown area offers. There is still a desire to revisit and photographs aspects of the area. As Rudolph Steiner once said, “One can ascend to a higher development only by bringing rhythm and repetition into ones life. Rhythm holds sway in all nature.” Thanks again to my wife for granting my wishes while keeping me off the steep incline.

10 Stop Neutral Density Filter

I’ll fully admit to having some sort of learning disability. Being that i’ve never been able to read directions or follow through with the many projects I become involved with. That said, the decades I’ve spent taking pictures and picking up knowledge wherever and whenever I can have been quite rewarding. Figuring things out as I go and learning many lessons from try and do, or through trial and error can be difficult and even maddening at times. However, when I finally do get it right, it feels like a major breakthrough.

ISO 200 f/29 ’30 seconds 10 stop Neutral Density Filter.
7:06 Western Time. About forty minutes prior to sunset.

All Things Considered.

With the pandemic still raging and a lack of traveling options available. There really haven’t been a lot of opportunities to get out in the wild and take photos to share and talk about with the small community created here.That’s not to say that there isn’t a whole lot of things happening here in photo geek territory.

About a week back, a woman who used to model for me asked that, due to an upcoming job review, I remove any suggestive images of her. (Which I was more than happy to do. ) After removing any and all images or history of her, I was asked to remove a number of tags and categories. Some of which made me think that, maybe it was time to call it a day and shut down the blog for good. All good things must come to an end and there’s no shame in calling it a day when that day comes is, more than not, a good thing. Yet, here I am, still holding on and holding it down. With Spring coming in the not so distant future and Covid vaccines being distributed as we speak. There’s hope for new adventures, stories and pictures. And while I have grown bored or capturing images from my balcony. I still find myself springing to action and racing outside to capture the beauty that shows itself on a daily basis.

With a Little Help from my Friends.

I’ll admit it, I know nothing, nor have I ever spent much time working to up my photoshop game. If you’re a photoshop fixer-upper, I applaud you. Leave your contact information and rates in the comment section. Sooner or later, I’ll be contacting you. I never had the time, patience, or skill s to master the art of retouching. Instead, I try to get it right the first time and make any needed adjustments in Lightroom later.

While unearthing images from my earlier days, I surprisingly still find pictures I love. The image below is a long time favorite. Shot in NYC on Pier 84 just blocks from my apartment on W48th st. Over the years, the tag on Charo’s bra became more and more of an eyesore. So much so that I put in a call for a photoshop minded editor on one of my social media pages. Luckily, a long time friend, one who’s friendship predates this ’97 photo. Stepped in and remedied a twenty-plus year issue in a matter of minutes. In the end, I wanted to thank that friend while sharing the before and after. If I ever find myself in a bind with a photograph or anything in general, I won’t hesitate to reach out.

Before
After