Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflecting on things I did in 2011

Instead of making a resolution each year, I like to set goals or just write down what I would like to accomplish in the year to come.  When I turned 39, I set out to accomplish 39 goals during the year and amazingly enough, I completed almost all of them.  I try not to beat myself up too much if I didn't do something I intended to do or not do.  So here we are on the last day of's a reflective type of day (oh lookie, even a literal photograph for you) for some and for others, they just want it to be over for the chance at a fresh start.

This year, I intended to set out and write down 40 goals but each time I thought about it, I set out to do something else instead.  The nice thing about blogging important things or thoughts you might have is that you can go back and see what you were thinking at the time or remember what you did.  As I get older, it's nice to be able to look back on the computer instead of having to use my brain to remember what I did.  I can barely  remember what I did yesterday.

Based on cheating and looking back at my blogs, here's a list of 30 things I accomplished in 2011 (from January through today) You can click on the highlighted part to read the entire story if you feel like it...

1. I went bowling with my friends on a rainy day
3. I wrote out my best tips for traveling with your dog
4. I sorted through Family Photographs
5. Met two strangers in person (In Mexico) that I met online a year prior
6. Threw a surprise party for a friend and pulled it off!
7. Watched a street figh
8.  Had photographs published in the March issue of Trailer Life Magazine
9. Ate a date shake
10. Photographs made two spreads and my first cover of Airstream Life Magazine
11. Attended the Modernism Week Vintage Trailer Rally in Palm Springs
12. Did a photo shoot with two roller derby girls
13. Photographs published in a "camping with your dog" (including self portrait of me and Max in Yosemite) article in Dog Fancy
14. Was selected as the artist for the newly built transit mall in the heart of downtown Long Beach. 
15. Selected to be the official photographer of Alumapalooza for the second year in a row.
16. "Dissolve" was selected to participate in the Art Of Photography show in San Diego
17. "Brothers" was selected as a finalist in the Photographer's Forum "Best of 2011" hardcover book
18. Tackled the garage and finally let go of emotional things
19.  Photograph was selected for the Cover for Airstream Life Magazine's Fall 2011 issue (including a spread of 8 portraits inside)
20. Went to my brother's wedding
21. Photographs licensed to publish on Airstream, Inc. website
23. Photographed the people of Downtown Los Angeles
24. My "Bingo Culture" series was featured on Lenscratch website
25. "Dissolve" chosen for the Dreams exhibit at the Center For Fine Art Photography
26. "The Wedding Guest" was chosen for the Portraits Exhibit at the Center for Fine Art Photography
27. My blog was selected to teach American Slang in a textbook in Sweden.
28. I wrote my story of the past three years and it was published on
29. I wished Leonard Knight a happy 80th birthday at Salvation Mountain
30. I found out via video that I was selected to participate in Onward Compe

I am so thankful for the things I was able to accomplish in 2011.  I wouldn't have been able to do any of this if it weren't for the people in my life, and the people I came across in my life.  Since there were too many photo shoots to mention, I put some of my favorite photographs I took in 2011 in a video.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did putting it together.  

I look forward to what 2012 will bring!  Happy New Year everyone! xo

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Max and I would like to wish everyone a very safe and happy holiday season!

Be sure to spend time with your favorite people and animals.  They are worth more than any of the "stuff" that's passed around.

If you are going to drink, be sure to be the passenger so we are all safe on the road.

We are thankful for all of you and wish you a very peaceful Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Selected to Participate in Onward Compe'

 I knew that the winners were going to be announced today for the International Onward Compe' photography competition, judged by Todd Hilo.  Usually, I check email in bed before I get up to see if there is anything urgent to do first thing in the morning.  I received a bulk email from the Onward folks with a link to a video where they announced the photographers selected for the show.

I pressed play on my iphone while I was still laying in bed barely awake.  I didn't have my glasses on (which I need when I'm on the computer) so I was squinting to see the names on boards passing through the screen.  As name after name came up, I told myself that I was sure I didn't make it so my focus shifted to see if I knew any of the people announced.

All of a sudden, my name came up.  I was in disbelief.  I rewinded the video to watch it again and paused it on my name to see if the spelling was correct, to be sure that it was actually my name.  I played it again all the way through and then started thinking that it must be another photographer with the same name until they flashed all of the images at the end and I noticed my image, "The Wedding Guest" appear in the blur.

Just to make sure, I had some coffee and looked at the video again.  To my amazement, my name was still there.  The video I woke up to is embedded above.  My name appears at second 54.  I am just thrilled to be included!  Opening reception is February 11th In Philadelphia.  Click HERE for more information.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Art Show, Snow and Findings in Fort Collins, Colorado

As I mentioned in the last blog, I spent a few days in Fort Collins, Colorado to attend the "Dreams" photography show at the Center of Fine Art Photography.  I was fortunate enough to have one of my images chosen for the exhibit by judge, Aline Smithson.  The center is a beautiful art gallery full of photographs that changes every month or so.  My image, "Dissolve" is currently on display and available for purchase at the center, just in case you were wondering.

I am taking photography classes in Los Angeles and signed up for one taught by Aline.  I submitted to this show without knowing her but once it was time to take her class, I knew that name sounded familiar.  I finally put two and two together and on the first day of class, I showed my work including the image she chose.  I have now taken two classes with her and I have to say that she is one of the best photography teachers around.  I am not the only one who thinks so, either.  She is listed as one of the best workshop instructors featured in PDN (Photo District News) magazine.  Be sure to take a class in Los Angeles or Santa will be glad you did. It was nice to be able to hang out with her for a few days during the show and before the show we went out and took some photos of snow. I think it's the first time I've seen snow in a few years.

After the show and art events the following day, I decided to take a drive around the city and the outskirts to get lost and see what I found.  For the most part, people stayed indoors where it's warm and who can blame them?  I found some interesting lawn art, took some self portraits, and visited the locally famous Swetsville Zoo. Bill Swets is an artist and has been building "zoo" creatures since 1985.  All of his creations can be found around his property.  It's open to the public to walk around to view his art and if you're lucky you might get a glimpse of the artist himself, as I did when I got in the car to leave.  It's quite the sight to see if you are in the area...I would recommend it.

The town is also full of great restaurants and shops located in the heart of downtown.  Here are some photographs I took during my weekend in Fort Collins.  Oh, did I mention Bingo?  That had to be the highlight for me.

Bill's Creations:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bingo In Colorado

If you didn't know already, a project that I have currently in progress is called "Bingo Culture."  I am traveling to different bingo halls across the country to meet players and document the game as it is played in different states.  Throughout my journey, I've documented halls in Maine, Georgia, California, South Carolina, and Massachusetts.  I have just now visited a hall in Colorado.

I went to Fort Collins Colorado to attend the opening of an exhibit I was selected to participate in at the Center for Fine Art Photography.  After the opening and events throughout the weekend, I had a day to spare so I thought it would be nice to visit a local bingo hall to meet the locals.

I wanted to get there early because most players arrive long before the game begins to claim their playing space to start setting up their game cards.  In this case, many brought tape to secure several cards into one big sheet to play on the table...spread out like a poster.  I am always interested in the lives of the players and sometimes they are open to meeting a stranger.  I was in luck this time since all of the players at this hall were so sweet to me.  I sat down across from Beatrice, or "B" as she wanted me to call her.  She said, "My name is Beatrice but don't call me that." I asked her about her life and when she started playing bingo.  She told me about her grandkids and kids and her late husband.  She is 89 and started coming to the bingo hall after her husband died to get out of the house and be social.  As she put it, she said, "Well, it beats sitting in front of the boob tube!"  Indeed it is.

Sometimes I get emotional and reflective when I look back at the photographs I've taken of the players.  Partly because it's a dying breed.  There are very few young people here playing and as "B" and I agreed, it will die off as the players die off.  This is why I am documenting it.  Well, more than just that.  I miss my grandparents and when I meet these players, it makes me feel good that they are out doing something fun and social.  I enjoy talking to the players and learning about their life.

There isn't just a bingo game going one at the hall.  They serve home made food (I loved the deviled eggs), have side games of a bingo equivalent of a lottery "scratcher" and one of the players makes these beautiful dolls that are raffled off each week.

Yes, "B" certainly beats sitting in front of the boob tube.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thanksgiving Day With My Family

The American tradition...Thanksgiving.  A time to get together with friends and family to participate in the annual tradition of finding out how much food you can eat before you feel sick.  This year, my Aunt Lynne decided that we should all meet at the San Diego Zoo for a thanksgiving meal.  I had no idea that the zoo was open on Thanksgiving, much less that they were serving meals.  I joked to everyone that they would most likely be serving the animals that have died that year at the zoo.  Many people took that seriously so I stopped saying that.  However, it wasn't far from the truth. They were serving other animals that weren't fortunate enough to have residence there.

Throughout the week, I watched traveling stories of horror on the news about how backed up the freeways were so I decided to travel on Thanksgiving morning.  I drove to San Diego to meet my cousin, Wendy at her house in Linda Vista.  Earlier in the week, she posted pictures on Facebook of a dead raccoon on the side of her neighbors house.  For days it laid there and she was completely disgusted that nobody properly disposed of it.  After a while, it didn't smell so she figured it was a taxidermy raccoon.  Once I saw a photo of it on Facebook, Mr. Raccoon had to participate in their family portrait. When I arrived, Wendy and I took a walk to the neighbor's house and I knocked on the door.  The music was blaring and once the door opened, I didn't see who was on the other side from the metal screen door but I said, "Hi, we're your neighbors and I am a photographer...may I borrow your raccoon?" The voice on the other side said, "sure" and the door closed.  Mr. Raccoon fit in just perfect with the family of Wendy, Don, Pasa, Goldie, Colin and Jennifer! The following day, we went back to the house and Wendy asked if we could adopt the raccoon.  It is now a part of my family.  It's me, Max and Mr. Raccoon!

After the family portrait photo session, Wendy and I headed to the zoo to meet up with my mom, her mother and their partners, Allan and Erick, respectively.  After our meal, we wandered around the zoo looking at some of the animals.  I am fascinated with people watching animals at the zoo.  It's a bit sad and makes you wonder if there are any other species on this earth that have pets like humans do.  I know the animals at the zoo aren't considered "pets" but do other animals have pets?  Anyway, as I walked by the gift store, I saw some animal masks that would be perfect for  some "couples portraits" of my mom and Allan as well as Lynne and Erick.  They were good sports to play along, even though it might seem a tad creepy.

After the zoo, Wendy and I headed to her father and step mothers house.  I don't get to see Dick and Judy very often so it was nice to spend some time chatting and having a piece of pie.  Dick makes me laugh and this photograph of him taking a photograph seems to fit his personality well.

I am thankful of my loved ones on this holiday, as well as every day in between.  I know we are all nuts (perhaps I may be the freak show leader), but I wouldn't want it any other way.

Here are some photographs from the day...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Story On

I was asked to write a 2,000 word essay on my story.  I've written blogs here and there about how I started on my journey and all of the steps I took to get here.  Today, published my story that I wrote about the past three years of my life and it ended up on the front page of their website.  Needless to say, I am thrilled and a bit wary at the same time.

I don't mind writing personal things here and there about myself (which I do) on this blog, but I couldn't believe the amount of support as well as criticism I received for it.  Everyone has an opinion and not everyone can do, is willing to do, or even wants to do what I have done and continue to do.  There is a lot of talk about the money I made at my job in the corporate world.  The fact is, my first job after college (and many jobs after that) was minimum wage and I never in my wildest dreams thought I could make six figures.  At one point, I told my boss that I thought I was making too much money.  I am certainly not in that situation today, but it's the choice I made and yes, I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to be in that circumstance.

In any case, it's a summary of quitting my job and quitting alcohol to gain a life.

A sincere thank you to all that have followed me, and continue to follow me on this journey and for all of the help I've had along the way from the kindness of strangers.  I enjoy sharing my experiences with you.

To read the full article, click HERE

Monday, November 28, 2011

Leonard Knight's 80th Birthday at Salvation Mountain

This wasn't my first trip to Salvation Mountain, but it might be the last one seeing Leonard there.  A few weeks ago, he had his 80th birthday party at the mountain and I knew I needed to make the three hour trek to see him again and to wish him a happy birthday. Leonard Knight has touched the lives of so many by building this mountain out of adobe clay and donated paint.  His motto that surrounds the mountain is, "God is Love."  You will see  this phrase all over the mountain and surrounding vehicles. He welcomes everyone to visit and appreciate his work of art.  As many have seen and experienced, he greets everyone by saying, "Welcome, make yourself at home." The photo above of Leonard was taken during my first visit a year and a half ago.

Throughout the day, there were stories of how Leonard's creation and philosophy have helped them through difficult times and they would in turn, share this with him.  One by one, people came to take a seat next to him for a moment to express gratitude.  He has a hard time hearing so you can see him struggle a bit to understand what people are saying.  Several people enjoyed telling stories to Leonard about how he has touched their life in some way.  He always keeps a positive attitude with his signature "thumbs up" gesture.

My first visit to the mountain and to meet Leonard was in March of 2010.  He was still living at the mountain but since he is slowing down a bit, he is currently living in a home in a nearby town.

Salvation Mountain is a sight to see if you haven't already.  I hope it will be preserved over time so future generations will also be able to enjoy it.


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