Tag Archives: life

A Time For Reflection – In So Many Ways

Little Tree In The Window

Little Tree in The South Window, Arches National Park, Utah

I may very well have posted this image back in 2013, which is when it was captured. *This* image, however, is a reworked version and looks much better than the original. That’s not to say it looks different from what I actually saw when I took the photograph. It’s simply to say that this image produces *more* of what I saw and how I saw it. It’s true, the camera captures all of the data, but one may not necessarily see it from the outset, depending upon the original camera settings.
 
This, in turn, leads me to some thoughts regarding photography, the end of the year, and life, in general.
 
As each year draws to a close and people start looking toward the new year, it’s a tradition (or maybe just an assumption), that we will all review the old year, attempt to draw some conclusions from our experiences over that year, and make room for improvements during the new year.
 
In my case, I’ve got a number of conclusions and planned improvements.  For those of you non-photographers who read this, simply substitute “photography” for whatever it is you love doing (dancing, drawing, painting, writing, making jewelry, cooking, etc.)
 
1. I have improved my photo editing talents over this past year. Thankfully. This is because I continue to try and learn from others, either through reading, experimentation, or purchasing and downloading how-to videos. Example: I probably would have never learned how to use (or at least, correctly use) Photoshop’s Layers had I not started reviewing a set of videos from photographer Chip Phillips. I’d been reading about layers, but it all sounded so damned difficult. Chip is, without a doubt, one of my favorite photographers (ok, I really like Kevin McNeal, too), and his videos were a priceless learning tool for me. I also do alot of looking on Flickr for motivation as well as different ways to capture an image. I’ve been doing quite a bit of looking regarding panoramas, because I don’t have much experience capturing shots and creating panoramas from those shots, and I want to be able to do that. The message I want *you* photographers out there to get from this, is that you must continue to learn and experiment with your work. When I do my own browsing of other photographer’s Facebook pages or Flickr accounts, I see many with great potential, but they seem to be stuck in a rut. I look at their images and see potential that is there, but not unearthed because they didn’t try working with shadows, highlights, saturation, and all the other neat tools Photoshop or their preferred photo editor offers, that would bring a little special “oomph” or “wow” factor to their image. Sometimes, you just need to experiment for yucks and giggles and then see what comes of it.
 
2. I still don’t know a lot of things about photography or the business side of photography. And I *know* I don’t know this. So I need to make it my business to know what I don’t know. It’s the only way I am ever going to evolve from a semi-pro to a pro, in terms of business savvy as well as making a little more money with my shots. I recently was asked for an estimate (aka quote) on one of my images to be used on a product that will be mass-produced in a relatively small quantity. Now, I could have just sent a quick email with what I *think* would be a fair price, but that would have no way helped me at all. So, I’ve been sitting down and learning the business side of photography, including how to negotiate, how to set up a business (do I want to be an LLC, an S-Corporation, etc), the different licenses a client can purchase from me, and what kind of price is a fair price (there’s a great software program out there called fotoQuote that I and the authors of some books I’ve been reading highly recommend). These are just a few items. There is so much to learn, and it’s not all fun, believe me. But, for my future as a more serious photographer trying to pay my bills with my work, this is necessary and quite interesting, actually.
 
3. Life is going to get a little more interesting/challenging for me in 2018. I could say it will get “scarier” for me, but that would be the wrong mindset. So, I intend to be positive about it, as it will jump start me in a new direction. You see, the day job I have is planning layoffs in about 3 weeks. I’m not sure whether I’ll be kept or let go, but I have to make my contingency plans. I’m too young to collect social security and I really need to work a few more years before I feel I can retire within relative comfort (I’m gonna miss the company health insurance, since I’m too young for Medicare, and, under the present administration, may never be able to collect Medicare). So, my contingency plans include such things as updating my LinkedIn profile and re-writing my resume … something I haven’t done in 20 years! Oh, I also need to get better at selling myself at my age. Even though older people have experience, they sometimes are set in their ways and not quite as adaptable as the current generation; this is evidenced in the out-of-work coal miners who will probably never get their jobs back, but either are afraid to or simply don’t want to try and learn something new and adapt to today’s environment. 2018 will, in all eventuality, see me moving back out West, from where I originally came. Suits me. I never liked where I live but was here for my aging parents (now gone) and the job (possibly to be gone sooner rather than later). And I live farther away than desired from what is left of my family. Losing my current job will simply be a kick in the butt to jump start my new future. It’s going to be stressful, especially since I’m 20 years older than when I first moved to Texas. Making a big move from one part of the country to another is considered a life event. There is so much to plan for (packing, moving, looking for a new place to live, finding a job – and not necessarily in that order). That’s not going to stop me from achieving a life goal, though. Ever since my family moved from the mountains of Montana down to the southern part of the U.S., I made it a dream/desire/goal to move back to the mountains. And I *will* do it.
 
3. Family is more important than you might realize. I know, there are families out there that are horrible, and their children are better off distancing themselves from toxic situations. But for those with loving family relationships, here’s some advice: As your parents get older, they are going to need your help and your company. Living a great distance away from them may be ok when you are in your 20s and your parents are still in good health, but you are going to need to be prepared to make some difficult and necessary life choices as your parents age and their health diminishes. They may need someone to run errands for them, or cook for them or just keep them company when they are lonely. Don’t be the one to feel guilty after they are dead, wishing woulda-coulda-shoulda. Visit them as often as you can. When you can’t visit, call them. Doesn’t matter if you don’t have much to say. Your parents will be thrilled you called and they will generally fill up the silence with their own stuff. Trust me on this one.
 
4. Keep reading and keep learning. And not just about photography. I’m lucky in that I had a great education and a supportive network which originally instilled in me the desire to learn and continue learning. It begins early, folks: start reading to your kids. Now. Even if they are toddlers. Hell, even if they are babies. Read to them and instill in them the love of books and knowledge. I know a person who has younger relatives and those kids hate school and hate reading. They were never read to when they were little – probably because their own parents and relatives never liked reading because nobody ever read to them. So, the fires of curiosity and learning were never stoked. It’s a vicious circle. I have a great-niece who is reading at 4 grades above her current level, and a great-nephew who is reading at about the same speed as his sister. They both love books. My great-nephew, in particular,enjoys books about science and interesting facts about animals, space, food, you name it. My youngest great-niece also loves being read to.  She will often ask her parents (or Grammy) to read the same book over and over to her several times before she goes to sleep.  Their parents read to them and have always taken the time to answer their questions or help them find the answers to their questions. Be that parent.
 
4. Put down your damned smartphone. Talk to the people you are with. If traveling, look around you and stop thinking you need to send every little photograph to Facebook/Instagram/Twitter right at that moment. Take time to really *look*. Savor the view, the experiences, the fresh air, the smells of the environment, the interesting people, and the adventure of it all. And for fun, if you see someone walking along with their nose in their smartphone, stand still and see if they even know there is someone in front of them. Oh, and DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE. Beyond stupid.
 
5. Plan NOW. For whatever: a future trip, your college education, your 401(k). Half the fun (and half the learning) is in the planning.  It’s also prudent to start planning for something like your kid’s college education sooner rather than later.
 
6. Summon your courage to travel solo at least once in 2018. It’s a wonderful, freeing, sometimes scary, but always educational experience. Put away old mindsets, old worries, old prejudices. That doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind. Safety is always of paramount importance. But step out of that cocoon for just a little bit and experience a whole wide world (not a flat world, but a round world governed by the law of gravity).
 
7. It’s ok if you like living alone. It’s ok if you don’t like to be around people that much. It’s ok if you like animals better than humans. It’s ok if you would rather read than go shopping or go to a party. It’s ok if you don’t ever want to marry. It’s ok if you don’t ever want kids. Don’t let anybody else’s expectations infringe upon what you want to do with your own life. Don’t let anybody bully you or force you to do something with your life that you feel is wrong. Remember, it’s your life. I stopped watching “Say Yes To The Dress” because it used to drive me nuts that the bride (and it’s HER wedding) would get so upset that her parents/relatives/friends hated her wedding dress pick so they would try and choose HER dress for her.  Be brave and do your own choosing for yourself.  Don’t let others do it for you.
 
I guess that’s it. I’m sure I’ll think of other things, but since I thought of these first, then they are probably the most important.
 
Happy Festivus.
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Filed under Events, Life, Photography, Seasons

It’s Almost Year End

It is.  It’s almost the end of 2015 and I, for one, am ready for it to be done with.  Except for my boob job in January, it’s been a pretty shitty year I’ll admit.

N6A0653_Becky and Her Baby

My 89-year old mother became ill in early February and subsequently died on the 19th, one day prior to my elder sister’s birthday.  We can’t thank our lucky stars enough that we were both there to care for Mom at the end of it all.   From then on, life and work went to hell in a handbasket.  I’d break into tears every time I thought of Mom or thought of (or heard or saw) something that reminded me of Mom, My sister and I constantly second-guessed ourselves concerning Mom (woulda, coulda, shoulda).  I found myself working for a horrible boss who made my work life miserable.  I was not in the least interested in photography.  And my entire life revolved around being Executrix of Mom’s estate.

Poor Mom.  She thought she was leaving my sister and me with a nice little nest egg of her savings.  As it was, my sister and I spent every single penny of that nest-egg savings getting Mom’s house up to snuff so we could finally put it on the market; fingers crossed that this sale goes through smoothly so we can be done with it.  These upgrades included a total re-grade and re-sod of the entire front, back and side yards around the house (including the addition of what they call “French drains” to get the standing water to drain into the ditches around the house thanks to the horrid spring thunderstorms Texas constantly experienced all April and May); installation of more foundation pillars in the hallway; patching and repainting the cracks in the walls caused by the foundation work as well as the house’s normal settling issues here in southeast Texas; re-carpeting the hallway, one bedroom and the large den; getting the electrical issues worked out; installing a new roof to replace the one damaged by a freak April hailstorm; fixing the garage door, removing all of the high-tech hurricane storm shutters; and a number of other smaller issues  – all required by the home inspector’s and the structural engineer’s report and the current realtor’s suggestions to make the house more – well – salable.  This work has all taken two months shy of a year since Mom’s death.  It’s been an albatross around my neck and I can’t thank my sister’s husband enough for all of his help – his 30 years in the construction business has enabled me to keep from going mad and throttling most of the people and businesses within this horrid little Podunk Texas town in which I currently reside.  My experience this year has lead me to believe that there is absolutely no business here in this town that is totally trustworthy.  At least, not when it comes to dealing with a divorced, middle-aged woman such as myself.  Fuck ‘em all, I say.

As you can probably tell by now, this entire experience has given birth to the New Me:  Angry White Woman.

I don’t take shit off of anybody anymore and I’m far more vocal about my feelings, opinions and beliefs (this includes my political and non-religious leanings, much to many of my Facebook friends’ annoyance).  I have discovered I am also far more willing to stick my neck out at work and push back to the dirty politics I experience on behalf of myself and my friends who either cannot or will not push back themselves (it’s easier for me to do it since I’m close to early retirement and I don’t have a family for whom I must provide – this allows me to follow the courage of my convictions).

It’s taken me 54 years, and I’m absolutely certain Mom’s death was the catalyst to make me realize what is truly important in my life.  Hint:  it aint work.  Work is not my life and never has been – it just pays the bills, pays for my camera equipment and allows me to travel.  No, what is really important – to me – is family and people who love me.

Thanksgiving Dinner

I no longer have family here in Texas.  They all live out in the Pacific Northwest, and sooner rather than later, that is where I will move.  I am making my plans little by little.  I don’t want to grow old and spend my remaining days alone in a Texas nursing home, waiting to die, far away from people I love and who love me.  Besides that, I’ve never been a huge fan of Texas and am ready for the next adventure further west where the mountains and my family live.

I’m also trying to regain my photo mojo.  I’ve done a few small photo projects this year, including:

Storm Front On The Refuge

Portrait Of A Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night HeronAnoleSpiny Backed Orb Weaver

Using my new 11-24mm, 100mm macro, and 500mm prime lenses at Brazos Bend State Park, Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, and around my home and my mother’s home;

Jupiters Eye On The HelldiverWaiting For SunriseThe Rising Sun 2The Rising SunKnife Edge Fly ByAleutian P40K WarhawkGrumman TBF AvengerJapanese FighterTexas Raiders Taking Off

Spending a wonderful sunrise photo shoot as well as an entire day in the photo pit at the 2015 Wings Over Houston Airshow;

Pirate Spooks On Stage

Reaching Across The Stage For A Toast

Dessert At The Kings Feast

Preparing To Serve The Beef

Feast Staff 2015

Halloween Becky In The POW Pub

Pirate Spooks

A Witch And A Zombie

Performing my duties as staff photographer for The Merchant Prince and capturing images for his use out at the 2015 Texas Renaissance Festival;

A Crown For A Princess

Photographing my newest great niece whom I have never met until last year (for only 20 minutes before getting to the airport) and who is now almost 3 years old;

_83Q5951_83Q5973_83Q6720

And photographing my company’s annual gingerbread decorating event.

I haven’t really taken any photo holiday because almost all of my annual vacation days were spent caring for Mom and thereafter taking care of the estate.  I did take a short trip to visit my sister and her family in eastern Washington over Labor Day, spent a weekend in Santa Fe NM during the Memorial Day holiday, and visited my sister and her family, again, during Thanksgiving.

My main vacation is coming up and I hope it will be the jump start to much more photography in 2016:  I’m going to be spending 10 days in Europe (including Christmas and New Year):  8 days in London and 2 days in Paris.  Everything is paid for, I printed out all of my tickets, and I am all packed, including my camera backpack:

  • Canon 5DS body
  • Canon 5DS-R body
  • Canon 1DX body
  • Canon 11-24mm lens
  • Canon 24-105mm IS lens
  • Canon 24-70mm IS lens
  • Tripod, a gazillion memory cards, a small Canon flash, a couple of wireless shutter releases, and lots of extra, fully-charged batteries

I’m not taking my 70-200mm lens because it’s heavy and my backpack is already heavy enough (plus I’m taking two suitcases as well as my laptop bag with travel laptop, mouse, memory card readers, 2 external hard drives – 1 TB each, iPhone, iPad, book, and folder with all of my ticket information for the various venues I will attend).  I can only take so much – don’t even ask me what I’ve packed in the suitcases (grin).

I apologize for not publishing more blog posts.  I know one is supposed to do that to keep readership and to keep one’s writing skills in tip-top shape.  I’ll get back into the groove, I promise.  I’ll have free WiFi in my London and Paris hotels, so I know I’ll be editing photos and writing about my experiences, uploading to both my Facebook photography page as well as my Twitter account.  I may even publish a post while there.  For now, stay tuned to forthcoming imagery from my 2015 trip, as well as the trips I have planned for 2016.  I plan on making up for lost time.

N6A3701_Seahawks Becky Cap

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Filed under 1DX, 5DS, Attitude, Aviation, birds, Brazoria NWR, Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Canon 11-24mm, Canon Lens, Equipment, Landscape, Life, macro, nature, Photography, Texas, wildlife, Wildlife Refuge

Feeling “Off”

MomWarPortrait_0002

Everything feels “off”.  By “off”, I mean not only as in “powered down” but also off as in “off kilter” or “askew”.  I go home to my apartment and it doesn’t look or feel the same.  Naturally, it wouldn’t look the same because it’s a total pig sty right now, complete with undusted surfaces, unwashed dishes in the sink and stacks of boxes filled with items taken from Mom’s home.  Those boxes are in every room of my 2-bed, 2-bath apartment.  I have no idea where I will put everything, but I’ll handle it because those items are now all that are left of my mother and father.  Those items are all that I wanted to keep. The rest have either gone to my sister or they are to be sold in the estate sale this coming week or will be donated to charity.

My 89-year old mother passed away in early-mid February, a little less than 5 years after my 86-year old father died.  She was in the hospital for a week and then I and my sister took her home to care for her with the help of Hospice.  After Mom’s death, my sister flew back to her home and family in the Pacific Northwest and I began the duties as Executrix for my mother’s estate.

This has been one of the hardest, most physically- and emotionally-draining things I have ever done in my entire 53 (almost 54) years of life.

In addition to my full-time job, I am handling Mom’s estate.  All by myself (ok, I have the attorney working on probating the will, but you know what I mean).  And my sister and I are sooo very thankful that Mom had the means to pay for everything and that she had the foresight to put me as a signer (signor?) on her checking account.

You see, here in the U.S., you can’t die for free.  Not unless you are totally indigent, I guess.  Mom was not indigent, so of course there was a fee for the cremation, and another fee for interring her ashes in a little niche at the local cemetery.  Then, there’s the filing of the income taxes.  And the costs for probating her will.  Plus, I can’t do much of anything without the Letters of Testamentary (part of the probate process) but that will only occur after the 10-14 day waiting period while the Court publishes notice of the probate in the local paper to let any creditors know of Mom’s demise.  Luckily, Mom’s house and car and everything else were all paid for.  Nonetheless, I can’t sell her car or the house or get the taxes done or do any other of the myriad tasks dealing with Mom’s death without those Letters.

I wrote the obituary.

I informed people and agencies of Mom’s death.

Everything I have done is a reminder of the demise of her existence.

I talk to my sister on a daily basis – sometimes more than once – particularly if there is some sort of emergency (which there usually is).  I, who never wanted any more responsibility than that of work (which is why I have not yet ever remarried, why I never wanted to buy a house or why I don’t even own a pet) now shoulder more responsibility than I sometimes feel I can handle (but I’m an Aries, so you can damned well be sure I will handle the responsibility and I’ll handle it successfully).

I have very little vacation time left for this year, and it’s only March.  Most of my free days were spent caring for Mom or attending to her estate matters.  I will have to take a day off to attend court in order to get the Letters Testamentary.  I will have to take a day off to go to the local Social Security Office in order to inform them of Mom’s death and get a tax form to take to Mom’s accountant for taxes.  I’m sure I’ll have to take another 2 or 3 days off regarding other estate issues, as well.  I *am* taking a couple of 3-day trips during national holidays (Memorial Day and Thanksgiving) to spend time with my sister and her family; which reminds me, I still need to find out if United Airlines will allow me to carry the cremated remains of my father in checked luggage since I want to leave them with my sister for a future trip with her to Montana to spread Dad’s ashes over his favorite place there.  Thankfully (right now, anyway), I also have enough time left to take a 10-day trip (including weekends and holidays) to London in December to see the Christmas lights and to watch the New Year’s fireworks over the London Eye and to just escape from everything I will have had to deal with over the year.  I want to recharge my photography (’cause I haven’t felt like taking photos at all and still don’t feel like it) and I want to explore that wonderful city.  Who knows – maybe I’ll meet an awesome Brit of my dreams there …. Stranger things have happened, right?

In the meantime, though, I feel sad and lonely and a little out of place.  I get teary often; I was never one of those sentimental, sappy kind of people, so this teary thing is a nuisance and an emotional drain all at the same time.  I miss Mom.  I keep feeling like I should have / could have done more.  I’m always exhausted.  I’m still sick with a lingering cold.  I’m now dealing with the wet carpet in the sunken living room all by myself; heavy rains and a crack (or two) in the foundation slab contributed to the issue and the house now smells while the carpet dries. I need a hug and there is nobody here to give me one; actually, I could use lots of hugs.

Everything just feels off.

I walk through Mom’s house, checking on the damp living room carpet to see how much more it has dried, looking at all the things set up by the estate sales agent in preparation for this weekend’s sale.  It doesn’t feel like Mom’s house anymore because Mom’s not there any longer.  It’s just a house now filled with loads of stuff collected over a lifetime of 89 years for Mom, and 86 years for Dad.  And I feel empty.  I know things must be “off” if I feel like going in to work is the same thing as taking a vacation.

I guess the best thing that can be said is that I am busy.  I am busy with work (bless my co-workers for being so patient while I take off days here and there to handle this stuff), I am busy with the estate, and once all of this is over with and done, I will be handling my own messy apartment and initiating the process of researching places to live around and within Houston, much closer than where I currently reside (moving won’t happen until 2016).

Before all of this occurred, I was rather emotionally detached.  Now, I find that I am sympathizing more with people and their situations – especially if they are going through similar experiences.

Right now, it all sucks but I know that this, too, shall pass.  I know that somewhere at the end of this long, narrow tunnel there is a pinpoint of light; I don’t see it yet, but I know that it’s there.

Mom-Kath-Becky-Hats_U9A4160

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Filed under Attitude, death, family, Life, love

Of Red-Tailed Hawks and Taking Advice

H5T1140-3_Juvenile Red Tail Hawk

A recent incident regarding one of my photographs made me think about how I act toward others concerning advice.  This, in turn, brought to mind the idea that it might serve as a good blog post, tied to some recent red-tailed hawk photographs I captured during an evening visit to the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (since the hawk photos are the main reason for all of this in the first place).  My blog posts are like photo ops: I’m always trying to find another great reason to put one out there for public consumption.

I’m horrible at taking advice.  Doesn’t matter from whom:  my mother, my sister, my best friend.  I’m  an Aries woman with a strong Type A personality ; all the women in my family are a  bossy lot with strong opinions, so I don’t know if it’s a gender thing or a familial thing.  I readily admit to having  doled out advice without being asked for it.  I’ve been on the receiving end too; I was once married to a man who used to attend a weekly evening group session where people just listened to each other’s stories/rants/issues with the objective of being better listeners and not advice givers.  This same man – my then-husband –  would afterwards come home and start giving me unasked-for advice – apparently those group sessions didn’t help him much….or else this was his way of getting it all out of his system because he couldn’t impart his ” learned “ advice to the others in these group sessions.

I recently was once again on the receiving end of some unasked-for advice from a well-meaning (and very good) photographer who I met once through a mutual acquaintance and who owns a very expensive Nikon camera and a lens as big as I am.  I did not take his advice very gracefully, I’m afraid.  As a matter of fact, I did a slow burn over it for the remainder of the afternoon.

That being said, after I got home, I went through the hawk photos (the object of the advice) and actually did re-work several of them, following that unasked-for advice.  I do like the reworks, as a matter of fact.

This whole episode was a good learning experience for me and the gist of it all is knowing when to keep my own mouth shut, no matter how much I might want to say something. Oh, I’ve screwed up plenty in that department, believe me. I’ve had the temerity to ask probing questions then dole out unasked-for advice to people whose photography blogs I follow. What the hell was I thinking??!  If I don’t like unasked-for advice, then why would anybody else like it coming from me? Sigh. Lesson learned.

So, while it’s one thing to ask for advice, it’s another thing to get unasked-for advice. I now make every attempt to keep my mouth shut.  I am learning what a friend of mine calls “The Power of Shutting Up”. This doesn’t mean I won’t probably slip up at times to say something I perceive in my own little mind as being well-meaning. But I’m trying to not do that.

For you photographers out there, I promise I will keep my mouth shut tight and only give advice to you if you ask. For those of you who have been following my posts for a while, you know the photographic advice I impart here is more on the instructional level and not geared toward any one person or entity.

That being said, let’s take a look at some recent images I captured during a late afternoon visit to the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (the whole reason in the first place for this longer-than-usual diatribe from me).

U9A7613-2_Sunrise Landscape

(ok, this is a morning shot, but it was so pretty I just had to post it here)

During this time of year, as I am zipping home from work in the evenings, I see all sorts of birds of prey looming over the highway, either perched high atop trees or else on signposts right next to the road. They are such beautiful creatures, but to try and photograph one while driving home is impossible.   I am driving fast, there are other commuters tailing me at a fast(er) rate, and if I pulled over and stopped rapidly, said raptor would fly away…..This is also not to mention that the only camera I have with me on a daily basis is one with a 40mm lens attached .  Yes, I always carry a camera with me – my “purse” is actually a Lowepro messenger-style case into which I store a camera with attached lens, hairbrush, extra pair of glasses, wallet, USB flash drive, pens, etc.

So this past weekend, I took a late afternoon drive out to the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge to see what was going on. The day had dawned chilly and warmed up to the mid-60’s. The sky was blue and the atmosphere was clear. The first sight that greeted me upon reaching Olney Pond within the refuge was a red-tailed hawk riding the currents against the backdrop of the deep blue sky.

H5T0768-2_Against The Clear Blue Sky

H5T0796_The Skys The Limit

From there, I found another red-tailed hawk perched atop a covered picnic area opposite of Cross Trails Pond.  After allowing me to get within a certain distance of it, this hawk flew away too (always use your Servo focus mode when photographing birds that may take flight, so you can keep them in focus as you pan your camera to follow their flight path).

H5T0983_Nice Vantage Point

H5T0988_On The Fly

After spending a little more time in that area, I returned to the car to head back toward the visitor center and out of the refuge toward home. I was driving reeeeaaaalllllyyy slowly and had glanced down at my camera on the passenger seat. Looking back up, I suddenly saw to my right this beautiful juvenile hawk perched on the metal post. I slowed the car to a stop. Lucky for me, the windows were already down. Hefting my camera/lens combo (without one of those window bean bags – I’ve used one before and personally find that it gets in my way), I rapidly and happily snapped away  for as long as this raptor was willing to pose for me.

H5T1136_Hello Becky CROP_Orig

This is the original photo.

H5T1136_Hello Becky

This is the photo after I applied the advice over which I had such a knee-jerk reaction.   In truth, I like the change….although I’m fine with the original, too.

H5T1173-2_The Look CROP

After the hawk flew away, I continued my slow trek along the auto-tour road, and spied another red-tailed hawk (could have been the same one since its leg was also banded) sitting high atop a pole specifically erected for perching purposes. This time, my 6-lb camera/lens combo was aimed through the open window of the passenger side to capture this awesome creature (thank goodness for image stabilization).

H5T1221_Hawk On A Perch

H5T1214-2_Hawk On A Perch

After this bird flew away, I knew it was time to go. I drove all the way home with a smile on my face.  Open-mouthed smile

H5T1234_Evening On The Refuge

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Filed under Attitude, birds, Brazoria NWR, Life, Photography, Texas, Wildlife Refuge

What I Did During My Christmas Vacation

U9A0620_Christmas Tree Magic

I had planned on a relatively quiet Christmas, with 9 days left of vacation time to use up.  I figured I might venture out to the nearby national wildlife refuge and maybe a nearby state park to check out the birdlife, but other than that, I had no big plans.

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Back track to December 2010.  I was visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and assorted family members for Christmas in eastern Washington. We were standing around their kitchen island conducting a whiskey taste testing (Redbreast Single Malt won hands down).  Andrew and Julie (the sister to my niece-in-law) turned to me and said how much they would like to have me photograph their wedding…..whenever they set the date. I told them that would be awesome.  We resumed our whiskey tasting.

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Fast forward to late September 2012. While talking to my sister, she mentioned that Julie and Andrew had set the wedding date for sometime in early December. This was the first I had heard of their pending wedding, and I knew I would not be able to make it because my remaining vacation days were already committed to those last two weeks of December. Sigh.

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Fast forward to early October 2012.  I received an email from Julie telling me they’d set the date for December 28 in Tacoma, Washington and would I be able to photograph their wedding if  all expenses – including the plane flight – were paid?  December 28 was during my vacation, so I was beyond thrilled to be able to say “YES” after all! (It heartened me mightily that Andrew and Julie felt so strongly about having me as their wedding photographer).

We made the plane reservation with enough time for me to first spend several days before and after Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law, and assorted relatives in eastern WA.  I had a white Christmas Eve and and a White Christmas Day and a wonderful time while there.

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H5T8437_Chimanea

H5T8433_Joe

H5T7671_Santas

H5T7748_Crystal and Bokeh

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H5T7792_Looking In The Window

H5T8190_Casey and Logan

H5T8230_Grammy and Savanna

U9A0235_Stockings

H5T8881_Christmas Dinner Setup

H5T8911_Christmas Dinner Tablesetting

H5T8942_Second Christmas Dinner

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Lights and ornaments and tinsel and pretty presents.   No arguments, lots of laughter, non-stop eating and a little bit of egg nog.  I soaked in the love and closeness and humor of family and the joyful screams of my great-niece and great-nephew  as they opened their gifts.  “This is the best gift ev-oh!   You actually listened!” (this coming from a 4-year old who received a pair of  Stompeez slippers).

It was a great Christmas!

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H5T8732-3_Becky and Friend

What did you do for the holidays?

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Filed under Christsmas, family, Holidays, Life, Photography

Light The Night!

H5T0312_Light The Night

In my previous post, I told you about my friend Tammy’s battle with lymphoma; I spent the morning with her, photographically chronicling one of her chemo sessions.  On the evening of that same day, Team Wooo Girls (Tammy, her family and friends, of which I count myself lucky to be a part), joined in on the Light The Night benefit walk in The Woodlands, TX, sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Following are scenes captured from the walk.

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Tammy, our Wooo Girls Team Captain

H5T0303_Lots of People

Lots of people and more to come

H5T0293_Decorating Her Chair

Decorating Tammy’s chariot

H5T0326_Wheel Decoration

Glow-stick wheels

H5T0321_Mark and Tammy

Tammy and Mark

H5T0352_Wooo Girl Becky

Wooo Girl Becky

H5T0410_Vanessa

Wooo Girl Vanessa

H5T0376_Wooo Girl Group

Some Wooo Girls (and a couple of Wooo Guys)

So many different reasons for doing this walk:

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H5T0450_Reason For Walking

H5T0381_Star Spangled Banner

Our National Anthem

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Gold balloons in memory of loved ones

H5T0422_Market Street VERT

Market Street – the Start and Finish point

H5T0454_Wooo Girl Tammy

Love those specs!

Time to walk!  Wooooo!

H5T0468_Starting The Walk

H5T0496_On The Walk

H5T0503_On The Walk

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H5T0512_Light Reflections

A quiet moment away from the crowd

H5T0371_Wooo Girls and Guys

Walking to kick cancer’s butt!!

WOOOOOOOOO!!!

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Filed under Life, low light photography, Photography, Texas, volunteering

Fight Like A Wooo Girl!

H5T0269_Fight Like A Wooo Girl

“….the good news is, nobody ever died from this….”  so said the nonchalant quack  doctor (during two different visits) as he referred to my friend Tammy’s symptoms, believing a nice round of antibiotics would cure it all up.  This doctor never once thought to schedule bloodwork or scans for Tammy….ever.

Down the road much later, Tammy still suffered from the same sinus infection-like symptoms as well as some swollen lymph nodes that wouldn’t go away.  That was when a much better doctor actually diagnosed and informed Tammy that she had B-cell lymphoma.  It took a year for her to be correctly diagnosed.  Now, she is literally fighting for her life, and chemotherapy is part of her arsenal.

Curious, I wanted to find out what goes on when a person must undergo chemotherapy. Of course we are all sorry whenever we hear a friend or friend’s family member must have chemotherapy, but unless we are very close to the cancer sufferer, we don’t quite understand the process. I wanted to try to understand (at least, a little better than I currently did). So, with Tammy’s permission, I brought my camera with me to chronicle her 3-hour session – a moment of time out of her Life Journey. She joked to the nursing staff that she never went anywhere without her paparazzi.

I spent the morning at MD Anderson Cancer Center with Tammy and her sister-in-law &  best friend Sarah.

H5T0211_Sarah and Tammy

MD Anderson is one of the best places in the world to be if a person is diagnosed with cancer; people from all around the globe come here. The staff are top-notch and the doctors are the finest.

After several months of treatment using a trial drug, the name of which I still cannot pronounce and which ultimately did not work for her, Tammy began her rounds of chemotherapy:  each round consisting of  3 days on treatment with a 28-day break in between.  I visited on Day 2 of Round 2.

Tammy’s treatment morning begins early – typically 8AM.

H5T0205_Morning Arrival

Her first day of treatment lasts 8+ hours because she is given 3 drugs via IV drip on that day.  The other 2  days (where she receives 2 drugs) last an average of 3 hours – depends upon how fast the veins accept the IV drip.

Once through the admittance door, Tammy is taken to a room for weigh-in and temperature.  The nurse hands out a wonderfully warm blanket (I know, because the nurse handed the blanket to me, first) and assigns Tammy a room number.

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Tammy knows the drill, so once she gets into the room, she adjusts the bed to her liking, settles in with breakfast and drink, and lets the attending nurse administer the drugs.  We live in a time where wonderful anti-nausea drugs now exist, allowing Tammy to eat and drink without that horrible urpy feeling.

H5T0223_Tammy

So….first thing they do is remove a piece of netting “tube” from her arm (looks like a piece of Goth clothing decoration that Tammy wishes came in black, since “black is slimming” ) .  Wads of cotton are then gently removed to expose the the IV hook-up embedded  into her arm for the duration of the 3-days of treatments.  Because of this “hook up”, Tammy can’t shower or bathe – she just takes what I refer to as a “spit bath” and what she refers to as something I can’t print in this post.

Upon removal of the netting and cotton, a saline/alcohol “flush” is administered via syringe.  I asked Tammy if any of that entire treatment ever hurt, and she mentioned that the flush is usually a bit of a shock to her system, but none of the other IV drips hurt (thank goodness); Tammy has to go through enough other painful things (physically, emotionally, and mentally) associated with this disease (bone marrow biopsy, lymph node biopsy, side effects like exhaustion).

H5T0232_Administering The Flush

H5T0249_She's A Lymphomaniac

Do ya like her “I’m A Lympho Maniac” shirt? My friend has a nicely skewed sense of humor. She can’t drink any alcohol during her entire treatment process, so she joked the next time she and her entourage return for treatment, she’s bringing a large sugar-rimmed margarita glass filled with a 7-11 lime slushy just so she can watch the reaction of the nurses.

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Once the Flush syringe is empty,  the other drugs are attached to the IV drip, and then it’s  a matter of waiting while everything gets into her system.

H5T0260_The Drugs

H5T0254_Treatment Room

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I asked Tammy a lot of questions about her cancer and her treatment.   Like many if not most cancer patients, she wants to know what she is up against and how to battle it.

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Lymphoma is a type of cancer of the blood cells (not as readily recognizable a brand-name as breast cancer).  Tammy explained in simple terms for me.  Think of a normal blood cell as a round or oblate cell (she made her hands into fists to illustrate a normal blood cell).  When normal blood cells start grouping together because they are in a tight squeeze, they die off to make it a little “roomier” for the other normal blood cells.  Cancerous blood cells, on the other hand, are irregularly-shaped, so to speak (at this point, Tammy made the UT “hook-em horns” hand sign to illustrate her explanation), and instead of dying off when they get in a confined space, these cancerous blood cells meet and greet each other like old friends, grouping together and growing to create swollen masses of lymph nodes as well as causing other problems for their human host.

Even after the doctors get this current bout of cancer to go away during her treatments (Tammy says she can feel them shrinking, woo hoo!), the oncologists will still have to keep a close eye on her for the rest of her life, because there is a very good chance that this form of cancer may re-occur.  According to Tammy, as long as her bone marrow makes those kind of (“hook-em horns”) cells, then in all likelihood, she may have to return for further treatment in the future.  This is a treatable cancer,  but not a curable cancer.  I forgot to ask her about the possibility of a bone marrow transfer.  I know that they are very expensive, and sometimes finding a match is tricky.  I’ll have to ask her that the next time I see her.

Thankfully, Tammy is a healthy 40-something young woman who has a strong fighting instinct and is totally focused on “kicking cancer’s butt”!  She also has a fantastic network of friends and family.  Because of this she is always in good spirits and constantly joking and never goes to a treatment alone.  There are so many out there who must undergo the same thing, but without anybody to be there with them or for them.

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This day was going to be a busy day for Tammy and the rest of us.  Treatment in the morning, some time to rest during the afternoon, then participation in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night benefit walk at Market Square in The Woodlands, TX.

So, what is this “Fight Like A Wooo Girl” thing, you ask?  Well, Tammy, Sarah, and I are some of the founding members of the Wooo Girls (check us out on Facebook, we have three “o’s” in our name).  The Wooo Girls is (are?) a group of ladies (and a couple of guys) dedicated to the enjoyment of life, with plenty of good times, good friends, and lots of laughter (not quite like that How I Met Your Mother episode, btw).

On this night, October 21, 2012, The Wooo Girls would be walking for, and in honor of, our friend Tammy, as well as for, and in honor of, other friends and family members battling the disease.

H5T0272_Down The Hall

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I wandered around the web for information regarding the type of lymphoma Tammy has (and because I couldn’t totally remember everything she told me, even though I tried to write it all down).  During my fishing expedition, I found this link to an interesting online article written with the question in mind: is lymphoma curable?

I’ve added a couple of links for the American Cancer Society and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, for further information and if you are so inclined as to make a donation to helping find better treatments and ultimately a cure.

Next Post:  Light The Night!

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Filed under Attitude, Houston, Life, Pain, Photography, Texas