Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Calendar Project

"When are you going to do another Calendar?"
"You should do a calendar just of your balloons / fireworks / waterfalls / art cars / Ethics Follies Photos (pick any one topic)

" I liked the last Calendar you did so much that I just kept it up on the wall - but I have been off by a day all year!"

These were the nudges, subtle hints and pleas that ultimately sent me back in to my files to see if I had enough "good" stuff to create another calendar for our family, friends and selected supporters of Lemmings Walk. (I have to admit that  the prospect of sending Miss Andrea forward into the darkness of 2010 with a displacement of  2 days on her calendar was almost a sport worth watching...but I digress.)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Claus is Coming to Town...

It is Christmas Eve...and we are all in full Elf Watch mode here at Lemming's Walk. Catie and I will be making our rounds today, hoping to spread a little Christmas cheer to a few family and friends. Tomorrow we will rest a little and spend the day together as our Christmas gift to one another before we are joined by Ms. E on Saturday. To many , this season is about receiving...I think we need to also remember that Christmas is all about the giving.

As much as the big box stores would have you believe that you need to get the biggest and best gizmo out there because little Johnny has to have the same thing that all the other little hob goblins in the neighborhood will also have them (what ever happened to Keeping up with the Joneses, anyway?), Catie and I have found that the best gifts we receive...and give on an annual basis are the gifts of  time...or attention...or special knowledge. And for that, we around here at Lemming's Walk are the richer this Holiday Season.

(Please note - there will be presents under the tree around here this Christmas...and Ms. E will see something from the big box stores...The Lemming is not completely daft!!!)

It has been a wonderful year, full of great surprises and opportunities to grow...I hope that you and yours have a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years!!!

Keep the faith.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Shelf Elf for Ms. E

"I need to get a Shelf Elf like my friend Sydney has." said Ms. E. "A Shelf Elf? What is that?" responded her weary father, not realizing the momentous change in his daughter's search for self awareness that was upon him.

She explained..."A Shelf Elf is always there to watch you ...and sometimes you can see them...but you can't speak to them...and every year at Christmas, they can just tell Santa whether you have been naughty or nice...and what would be a good gift for you...and stuff..." And with that, she drifted back to the task of coloring the back of the children's menu at the restaurant where we were eating dinner. She had a satisfied smile on her face, knowing that there was really nothing else that needed to be said.

I smiled.

And I took one of those pictures that every parent does with the camera that is their mind's eye - the eye that will remember everything as it was at this very special moment...forever. You see, this is that moment of sentiency where my child is making the transition from believing in Santa Clause as a singular being to believing in the concept of Christmas as a spirit to be shared amongst all mankind.

At least, that is what I think.

I think that her floating the concept of the Shelf Elf is the first step on her journey to understanding what Francis Church laid out for Virginia O'Hanlon in 1897. There really is a Santa Clause...and he lives and breathes in each and every one of us. The same can be said of Shelf Elves...we all need one...and we all have at least one.

So, fear not my darling Ms. already do have a Shelf Elf...and he is me!!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

'Tis the season for thanks...

I know this is a little late. It seems everyone whose blog I keep up with has made it a point to publicly note what they are thankful for. It's not that I haven't been doing this as well - I am just a little more private about my thoughts in this area. This particular Thanksgiving, I have found myself buried with personal and professional commitments to the point that I am physically and emotionally wrung out. I even had a minor emotional event on Thanksgiving morning that I think really worried Ms. C and my Mother to the point that both have kept a closer eye than normal on me this weekend. I think it was safe to say that I was tired!

So, after managing the workload of a half dozen people Monday through Thursday of this week, and then getting up early on a "holiday" Friday morning and spending a few more hours at a project worksite that I am responsible for, I came home to this simple trophy prepared for me by my lovely 8 yr old daughter:

 A single impromptu act by an innocent. Or maybe a prescient act by an angel. Whichever it was, this simple gesture from my child made me stop...breathe...and let the worldly pressures that were weighing down my soul pour away. It was then that I realized that I needed to take stock and share with you a few things that I am most thankful for. So here they are.

1. I don't know about being the best Dad in the world, but I know that I am the father of the best daughter in the world...And I thank the stars above for every moment I get to share in her life.
2. I am thankful for the love and support of a truly fine woman...who one day I hope will realize how special the skills are that she shares with the world every day.
3. At a time when 1 in 10 are unemployed in this country, I am not only working, but thriving in an environment where my counsel is sought and my skills are utilized to the benefit of all.
4. I am thankful for the men and women of our Armed Forces, including my college roommate, who stand watch over our freedoms so that we don't have to.
5. I am thankful to be a part of a free society where talented professionals and rank amateurs can gather in a free exchange of ideas that builds the skills of many and broadens the minds of even more.
6. I am thankful for the love and support of friends and family who tolerate the imposition of my photography on their lives. I hope that I give to them even a fraction of the joy they give to me.
7. I am thankful for the strength of my little buddy Kirk as he kicks the butt of the big C one more time. Vaya con Dios, my friend.

Most of all, I am thankful for the opportunity to be a father and a loved one...A leader and a follower...a friend and an allie..and sometimes just to be. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Random thoughts ...

There is a lot going on as we head into the always hectic Holiday Season. There are just a few thought that seem to be stuck in my consciousness. I need to get them off my mind...
                                                        * * * * *
With all of the vilification of overweight and obese persons in this great country of ours, I have to wonder how much longer it will be before those who have made it their mission to form the nations populace in their own skinny image take on the national holiday of Thanksgiving? You know, the holiday where we celebrate the bounty of the harvest by feeding our families, usually to gluttonous excess , as a means and excuse to gather them all together and enjoy their fellowship?

There will be walks to support the conversion of those afflicted by media imposed gluttony rituals. There will be telethons directed at getting you to donate money to support their efforts to just "Say no to the Bird". And I am sure that there will be some lame duck half-wit in either a state or federal legislative body who will decide that he/she needs to champion a resolution, or, God-Forbid, a binding law requiring government intervention in mandating an exercise program, or some other punitive action for attempting to overbuy the groceries for this annual family feast.They will of course point to this action as a means of validating their legislative acumen and efficacy as an elected official.

For the the interest of full disclosure...I must point out that I am a P.O.S. (Person of Size). That's right - I am overweight - morbidly obese - FAT! And I am a fully functioning member of society, who, save for his weight , has no appreciable health problems. And I have only one question for those six or seven people who read this blog -

When did being FAT become a crime?

                                                        * * * * *

The 2010 calendar project is almost complete. All that is left is the self portrait that I will use on the back page of the landscape calendar. There are two calendars this year - one that is primarily focused on the people who I am able to capture in interesting moments with my camera. This calendar is titled "Spirits of the Soul". It will mostly be distributed to families and close friends who will be able to appreciate the images of the people involved.

The second calendar will get a little wider distribution. It is titled "Hauntings of the Mind's Eye", and it is dedicated more to the landscapes and events that I have taken my camera and my vision to over the last two years. I don't think that anyone who gets either of these calendars will be disappointed!!!

                                                      * * * * *

We are going to be the hosts of Thanksgiving dinner for Ms. C and her family. We will be short three out of the full house of 14 for this event. I know that Ms. C and I wish those three were here also. It is going to be one heckuva feast, and I can guarantee all who are going to come that there will not be a single critical path schedule for dish preparation presented during this dinner, and anyone who deigns to mention calorie count shall be banished from the premises. Dishes on the menu will include :

Cajun Fried Turkey
Honeybaked Ham
Cranberry - Apple Compote
Ms. C's World Famous Garlic Mashed Potatoes w/ giblet gravy
Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potato Pudding
Sheila Partain's Sweet Sourdough Rolls

Goode Company Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie
Apple Pie (From the House of L. Belan)
Pumpkin Pie

The after meal snack (to be served during the annual Texas A&M - t.u football game) will include ham and turkey sandwiches on Sheila Partain's Sweet Sourdough Rolls and will be served alongside my famous Turkey Bone Gumbo.

Let the skinnies eat tofu...

                                                     * * * * *

Since Thanksgiving is near and Christmas is close behind, it is inevitable that I will get asked for a "Dear Santa" list. I usually refuse to generate one because I never have felt that this was in the spirit of the season. A Christmas gift is to be given from the heart - it should never be a box checked off of a list that you take to your local mega-mart so you can feel that you have satisfied your obligations to the gods that be. Of course , that is just my opinion. I will, however tell you what items I am trying to accumulate in the next year or so in order to further fill out my photographic kit:

(2) Nikon SB-900 Speedlights
(2) Cheetah Lightstands
(1) 2'x3' or 3'x4' softbox for use with speedlights
(1) 1'x3' strip light for use with speedlights
(1) Boom kit to use with my light stands
Nik Complete Collection for Photoshop
Nik Capture NX2 Software
Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 Software

I am also planning on upgrading my computer to be able to do a few more things as I expand my skills in post processing my photo images. I am looking at a Sony Vaio with all the trimmings, including a 3.0 GHz processor with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Now I just have to find the scratch to buy that bad boy!!!

C'mon , lottery!!!

Keep the faith.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just...

The last month has been a whirlwind of activity for me and my camera. I thank my lucky stars that I am able to do some of the things that I do, and that I have a broad group of family and friends who support my efforts at finding an artistic voice. To all of them, I say Thank You.

Today is a special is the day where the moon and stars align and smile in the knowledge that their favorite spirit...the inimitable Miss C...has begun another solar cycle. With respects to W.H. Auden, I find that part of one of his great quotes best describes what she is to me...

She is my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song...

I won't bother you with the rest of the quote, because it is somewhat fatalistic, and not at all how I feel about my Catie. Happy Birthday, Dear...many happy returns!!!


I have had many requests over the last year for another Lemmings Walk calendar. I have to tell you that the reason I have skipped a year is that I just did not think I had enough material to do a calendar at the quality standard that I have set for myself. After taking a little bit of time to go through the last couple of years of material, I have to tell you that I think I may have been wrong.

My first pass through the file archives of the last two years left me with between 50-100 images that I would and could use for a top notch calendar. As I started to develop the calendar concept further, the road I was going down sort of ...forked. So, instead of one calendar, the effort sits right now at two calendars. Miss C thought that I had outdone myself. I had another dear friend stop by this past weekend and I showed her the current two concepts, and she was polite in her praise, but she correctly pointed out another thing to consider that may make this project take another turn yet.

This year's calendar is titled "Hauntings of My Mind's Eye"...And I am working toward my goal of delivery on or about December 24th.

Keep the faith.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Albuquerque International Balloon Festival 2009 - Third Times the Charm!!!

I have made the trip to "the most photographed event in the world" two times before only to be thwarted by bad weather. I was hoping this time around to take the things I had learned about the venue during the previous attempts, marry them up with a dose of good weather, and end up with some images to last a lifetime.

It didn't start off well, as our flight leaving Houston was delayed by a strong early season cool front that touched off enough weather to delay our departure by over an hour. Since we had only originally planned to have two hours on the ground in Albuquerque before the first evening event - the Special Shapes Balloon Glowdeo - we knew we were in danger of missing our first of 4 possible sessions at Balloon Fiesta Park.

As luck would have it, we walked onto the field just as the balloons that were assembled had finished their inflation, and the announcer was set to begin the evening event. After such a stess filled start o the journey, it is always nice to be calmed down by a smiling face:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ol' Will had it all Wrong...

"First thing we do is kill all the lawyers."
Henry VI (Part 2)
William Shakespeare

Last week I had the opportunity to do some photography of a stage production called "Misbehavin' at the Menger" at the Empire Theater in San Antonio, Texas. I was curious about this much so that I volunteered my services a year in advance! There were several reasons for my fascination.

You see, this is a production, going under the umbrella name of "The Ethics Follies", that has been set up as an alternative means of conveying continuous education credits for Ethics Training to legal, accounting and medical professionals seeking to earn credits toward renewing their professional certifications/licenses. I have had to attend my fair share of ethics training seminars conducted in the classic download method, and I have managed to catch up on a lot of sleep while doing so, while retaining little information that might be used to keep me out of the clutches of these legal eagles. So, the attempt at making the topic fun and enjoyable is, by itself, a noble undertaking.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fair weather dreams and broken legs...

About a year ago, the beautiful Ms. C's sister sent us a link to some pictures a friend of a friend had taken at a stage show that she took part in. We talked about those photos a couple of months later and I told her that I thought that I might be able to provide a different point of view if they did it again. Flash forward about 6 months, and I get a call from the Lady M,and she inquires if I am still interested in the gig...

Am I interested??? Hold me back!!!

A couple of months later, I decide to book a trip to one of my favorite photo friendly events - the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. I neglected to check the two dates. It turns out that I am doing these two events only two days apart. My camera hasn't been this busy all year!!!

Damn , I am psyched!!!

I will post some shots from each event as they go live. It is going to be a great week.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Cowboys Still Ride High...

More years ago than I care to remember, I started a small casual social group that has come to be known as the Cowboy Cooking Club. There were three of us then, and there are three of us now...albeit a different three. Our mission , as it were, is to provide exceptionally good food and wine for small dinner gatherings that we put on at least a couple of times a year. Spouses, significant others and honored guests are invited to share in the bounty of what can be anything from a couple of hours to a full week of preparations leading up to the main event. Nobody goes away hungry. That just wouldn't be hospitable.

A few years back, one of the original Cowboys drifted off to live his life via a different set of rules. My buddy Skip and I held the fort for a couple of years on our own, and the quality didn't suffer any, but we both knew there was something missing. And the x-factor that made the whole cooking club what it is today was right in front of us the whole time!!!

Skip had been in the insurance business for the better part of the first 15 years that I had known him. When he got out of that industry, he turned over his customer base to his friend Kirk, who had a business that was positioned for the long haul. It was important to Skip that he turned his clients over to someone who would look after them like he did. Kirk was one of the few people in this life that had earned that kind of trust from Skip. And that was good enough for me. I had known Kirk for a few years by this point in time, and he and the lovely Miss Sue were frequent guests at Lemmings Walk (my humble abode). They had even managed to attend a few  of the Cowboy Cooking Club dinners.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

AIBF - A Target-Rich Photography Destination

If you really want to expand your photography skills, I can think of no better practice ground than the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. This years event will be held October 3-11, and will showcase over 700 extraordinarily colorful balloons of all shapes and sizes launching from a single location. You get to tackle all manner of photographic challenges - low light to high dynamic range lighting situations, confusing and jumbled composition challenges, grandiose vistas with intriguing minute details, etc. There are as many solutions for all of these issues as there are people who take them on. You really ought to give it a try.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A little help From/For my Friends...

This past weekend I decided that I would try to employ some of the lighting techniques using different light sources in order to generate decent  headshots of a willing model. I have read about and studied the techniques used by such stalwart pros as Joe McNally, David Hobby and David Black...but I never have seriously tried to translate the books into real life. I also decided to take advantage of some wonderful natural light in a favorite studio setting of mine to create a nice image of my friend Robyn.

The thing you need to understand about most of the models that I will be working with in the near term is this: They are all strong women with a certain presence and gravitas that is not wasted on the young. They are mature...with beautiful countenances that speak of character built through real experience. As it is with such goddesses (my own partner in life, Ms. C, also falls into this category), there are nuances that they choose to address with a little makeup...and a few touches here and there that can take the makeup to a whole 'nuther level - while keeping it real.  The image you see at the left here is pretty much straight out of the camera. I have used Adobe Camera Raw to convert the raw image from my Nikon D3 into the starting point you see here. You can see that there are a few issues (no doubt created by poor posing set up by the photographer) that, if addressed properly, will turn this good photograph into a really nice image suitable for framing.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Lemming Muses on Labor Day...

It was to be a glorious end to the summer. At the last minute, my best friend had changed his plans from a mid-week visit to visiting for the long weekend. My Mom and Dennis had decided that this would be the weekend that they would make their journey to visit us and pick up those last belongings that hadn't fit into the moving van last November. And it was, in the vernacular of the household, an "Emily weekend"...and a long one at that.

What more could anyone want? What more, indeed...


Thursday, September 3, 2009

You have to be there

The photographic forums that I participate in are chock full of people asking questions about camera technique, gadgetry, lighting techniques, etc. Invariably , the discussion will lead to an example photo that illustrates the point of discussion, and suddenly you start seeing the lights turn on that the tools should never be the point in photography. Photography is literally “painting with light”. If you are not following the light, or shaping the light, or using the light to paint a particular scene in a specific locale…then there will be no image for you to discuss, share or improve upon. In other words…you have to be “there”. You have to put yourself in position to pursue a particular scene that has captured your imagination.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Why listen to me?

Before I get to deeply into this blog, I might as well tell you a little about myself and where I sit in the universe of photographers. You can then use that to evaluate whether or not you think there is any value in anything I might write on the subject. I think this is only fair.

Let's start with who I am not. I am not a professional photographer by training or experience. I do not hold a degree in photography. I have never been a photojournalist. I do have a profound respect and appreciation for the guys who developed their passion through these time honored channels, and I hold them in the highest regard. Many of these guys are excellent teachers, writers and mentors to folks like you and I...the masses who bought their first camera to take pictures of kids, pets or other forms of flora and fauna in order to fuel other passions in their life.

Who I am is a little more simple.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Happy 50th, My Brother...

I sometimes go places to practice my photography: sometimes I travel to further my photography practice. And sometimes I travel for a higher purpose, and my photography just follows. This weekend was an opportunity of the latter persuasion. You see, this weekend was a celebration...of the highest order. My buddy Les passed the mid-century milestone on August 28th.

He is my oldest friend - that is, I have been friends with him for more than 35 years. We first met in Jr. High School. Our friendship survived High School, College and our entire adult lives (so far) without any major falling out. Given that my record of maintaining personal relationships has been less than ...stellar...I have to attribute this accomplishment to Les' undying loyalty to his family - and the fact that he and his family decided long ago to pseudo-adopt me as their 8th child (an honor and a privilege that I cherish to this day!).

Growing up, he was convinced he would die he lived every day to its fullest and siezed the day like nobody I have ever known. I personally have survived more than a couple of potential Darwinian episodes that began with Les yelling "Hey this!!!" He didn't die young - He enters into the middle years of his life going stronger than ever. I am sure he will outlive us all.

At times like this, photography is secondary. I brought the camera and a lens for shooting in low light conditions. I left the flash in the bag because I didn't want to be a distraction - we were here to clebrate my friend and his life. They indulged me so that I could get a few shots to remember the occasion. This photo was shot with a Nikon D3 w/ the 85mm F1.4 lens. You cannot pick a better combo for low ambient light photography.

I have always been told by my Mom that if I made it through life with one true friend, that I would have lived a blessed life. We were there for each other during some of the brightest and darkest moments of our lives...and we always will be. That is what friends do. And he is my oldest and dearest...Friend.

Happy Birthday, my brother. Many happy returns.


Friday, August 28, 2009

How I Do Star Trail Photography

From the very first time I saw a star trail image, I knew that the challenge was for me. You have to be able to visualize your composition in pitch dark, do a lot of little simple things right without forgetting any of the steps, and hope that your camera performs the way you expect it to. I say hope, because once you push the shutter button, you are committed - you can't change on the fly like you can in many other forms of photography.

This style of photography can be beautiful, and extremely rewarding if you just do a little preparation ahead of your shoot. The following information represents the things that I do when I pursue star trails. It isn't a panacea, and it may not work for everyone. But if you choose to follow this methodology, I am pretty confident you will come back with something that will work for you.

Seriously, let me offer a couple of other things to think about for the next time you decide to give this a try:

Welcome to My World

This is my first attempt at a blog. It is intended to be a forum to share thoughts and to share the output of what has become a tremendous fascination with me - photography. The images you will see here come directly from my mind's eye. They are intended to invoke emotion. Sometimes they will be just pretty pictures - sometimes they might pass for high art. This one is a pretty picture (I think)

I have been frustrated all my life by the inability to find a medium that I could transfer my vision and still have someone refer to it as art. I may still be in search of that medium...You decide...and let me know about it.