Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Beautiful Neighborhood

Last night just before sunset, I wandered the few hundred yards to the Albertson's to pick up some food for dinner.

A bit dazed still from the day's events, I took my time noticing the sky as the sun was setting. Since the day was humid (it reminded me of those late June and July monsoon days in AZ) you could get a sense that there was going to be a great sunset. I shot a few images of the strong light hitting a business sign and the sky above it and then went about shopping...coming out about 10 minutes later, the sky had begun to start getting good.

The past few days I have been traveling with a little Canon point and shoot that literally slips in my cargo pocket. It's such an odd sensation given that for so many years the notion of taking photos meant doing it in such a public way -- one or two cameras hanging off my shoulders, large lenses letting everyone know, yep that's a professional photographer.

But traveling with a little point and shoot is liberating in so many ways. Shooting it makes me look and even feel a bit more like the amateur that I really am (but it never hurts to be reminded). I was opposed to using the viewscreen on the back, fearing it made me look like everyone else with a point and shoot. Well, it does and that's not so bad.

I can take photos and people don't really give me much of a thought because I'm just some guy with a point and shoot camera.

In the 30s, 35mm cameras probably were viewed with the same disdain by "the pros" using their 4 x 5 Speed Graphics or other larger format cameras that I have shown for the lowly point and shoot, but that didn't stop some of the great photo icons of that day like Henri Cartier-Bresson especially from making photos that live even today.

A good friend of mine, Vince Musi, made the observation that he thought the digital point and shoots were the Leicas of our generation and they certainly haven't stopped great photographers from making great photographs (check out some of Alex Majoli's work also on the site -- fine work and most of it shot recently with an Olympus point and shoot).

But the ease and simplicity of this little camera helped me to capture two of the beautiful things I saw yesterday my daughter Kate, sitting contentedly in her car sit by the front window or the sky at sunset even if my little walk about made our dinner a bit late and made Nicki wonder just where was I??

Just a Matter of Time....

Yesterday was a tough day in our family.

The family decision -- which was really my Mom's decision to honor Dad's wishes -- was that no artificial means will be used to prolong my Dad's life.

No feeding tube, no IV, nothing.

Even though his hastening death is something that we have all been preparing for since his stroke in 1999, how can you really prepare for the death of your father?

I was hoping that the feeding tube might be inserted and there might be a chance for "recovering" from this latest episode, but it is not what Dad wanted and I am okay with that as is everyone in the family. As hard as it is for us here to let go, we all know, deep down, that it is for the best.

He knows too. He won't open his mouth to be fed and strongly shook his head NO when my sister Mary asked him if he wanted a feeding tube implanted.

After seeing him just a couple of weeks ago here, there was a side of me that sensed as we said our goodbyes at the airport, that this was the last time I would see him alive.

But that didn't prepare me for the torrent of emotions that nearly doubled me over while my Mom informed me on the phone that no feeding tube would be implanted. She repeated it in a strong but calm voice almost to reassure her that she was doing the right thing (she is, I think) but almost as a way to say, Don't argue with me on this one thing (I won't).

Poor Kate, laying on her mat looking up at me with her eyes wide in horror could only wonder why is Dad crying?

In some ways it feels like the man that was my Dad died with the stroke and yet the man that was left is now about to pass on.

But he hadn't died, he just changed, and deep down in his soul he was always the Dad the we knew and that's the reason for the sadness.

So we are preparing for his death, and we don't know when, though we will probably head to Wisconsin on the Fourth of July or close to that time. It will be the first time Kate will meet her aunts, uncles and some of her cousins. A good thing to come from the sadness.

I've been looking through some photographs and want to dig out some photos of Dad before he had the stroke, when he was younger, more vital, always a hard worker. I've got a picture that I want to find that I made of him amidst the dust and swirling seeds at his warehouse when he was mixing a ton of grass seed. I don't know how many of those tons I had mixed when I was a kid and in college and I remember being taken by the beauty of the scene and yet I felt a sadness that here he was doing this work in his sixties.

But the real pictures of my Dad that were never photographed with a camera only rest in the back of my mind as great images of who he was.

The first image is of Dad tossing me the baseball as we did all through the summers of my childhood after the sun had dropped below the trees. The ball, black from being tossed on the grass and bounced off the cement all summer (we only got one new ball a year) is now almost dangerous so we toss it against the sky (sometimes barely missing a winged bat) until it gets to be so dark that we can barely see. We head in, he puts his arm around my shoulder as we go in to make a root beer float.

The second image is of him coaching me in Little League when I was 10. It was a Saturday morning game and it was the bottom of the sixth -- our last chance to win. Somehow, the center fielder decided to play in on me and I smacked that thing over his head and he was still chasing it as I rounded third and then slid into home (I didn't need to, I just wanted to). We won, a walk-off home run and I remember looking up and seeing Dad over on the third base line, dancing like an warrior. One hand on the clipboard that held his scoring book (they're probably still at home somewhere) and the other hand punching the air, happy we won and probably more happy (he never said) that I hit the home run.

Finally, I will never forget the image of him at the train station at home in Columbus, as he was putting me on the Amtrak to return to Marquette for my last semester after five years of college. I was 22, and just could not wait to get out of school and into the workplace (I had lined up an internship in Chicago that summer that would turn into a job later) and I just didn't relish the thought of the 18 credit hours required for me to graduate.

I was ready to quit to just say enough. I half expected an argument, but instead I got a look of fatherly concern and support.

I know how you feel, it's been a long haul, he said. And I know it doesn't seem like it will ever end. But trust me, it will. You have come so far and it's going to be a tough semester but then it will be done and you will be able to look back on this and realize that you did it. You did what you set out to do. And in twenty years if you quit I think you'll always regret that you didn't just stick it out just a bit longer.

There was no anger, no threats, no intimidation, just a man talking to his son, who was now becoming a man. It was a turning point in our relationship and he was so right. I would regret it if I didn't, and that last semester was a struggle.

But I did it. And he taught me in those instances what parenting is about and they are the lessons I'll take with me, add my own twist and pass along to Kate.

Thank God she met him twice in her first sixth months. She may not remember it, but she will have the photographs and she'll have the stories of her grandfather, a man who's father died when he was five, who survived the depression, put himself through college by sleeping in the University greenhouse to save money, met a woman one night, told his best friend the next day that she would be his wife (sounds kind of familiar?) and they married and would be happily married for 50 years, fathered four children, grandfather to six and a good and decent man.

I'd say that is an amazing legacy.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Please Say a Prayer for My Dad

My Dad went back into the hospital tonight.

He's had a rough month starting with an infection while he was visiting us here, early in June, for Kate's baptism. He was treated here and we thought he would be fine (as much as that would be possible), but apparently not.

When Mom and Dad went home just before Father's Day, their plane bound for Minneapolis was rerouted to Des Moines due to thunderstorms and he and Mom were forced to spend the night on National Guard cots at the Des Moines Airport.

When he finally got home he had become so dehydrated that it was necessary to transport him to the hospital by ambulance.

Doctors discovered that he had suffered a small heartattack and needed to stay in the hospital to recover. He stayed there until last Friday and then was transferred to the local care center for rehab and because he needs full-time nursing care. Mom just can't provide that now.

He's having a difficult time swallowing so he may have a feeding tube placed so that he can get some nutrients. Due to his age and his condition, it's still very risky and I hope and pray for a successful surgery if it takes place.

Dad suffered a stroke in 1999 and has been in the care of my Mom since then. He has Alzheimer's and so it's tough to know if he remembers us when he sees us. Some days he is more alert than other days. I saw him last August when I was back to teach a class in the midwest and he looked incredibly feeble.

One month later, when I came back for my parent's 50th wedding anniversary, I was amazed at the recovery he had made. I think he rose to the occasion. He seemed sharp and alert and more engaged than I had seen him in a while. He wasn't the Dad I knew before the surgery, of course, but there were glimpses of him.

In February when they came to visit to see Kate at six weeks, he again seemed pretty alert and seemed to connect with our girl if only a bit. That was good to see. Kate will at least know her grandparents and perhaps through the images I have shot of her with my Dad and later this year when she meets Tony, Nicki's Dad, she'll remember the time that they first met her.

This last trip though was rough to watch. He slept a lot, and just seemed disconnected. I think a good bit of that was his body's reaction to battling the infection. Thankfully he was in pretty good form for the baptism itself and seemed to connect to Kate and the meaning of the event.

So please keep him in your prayers, if you pray, or think good, healing thoughts and send them his way.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Holly & Roy's Engagement Portraits

Roy and Holly will be married in July at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana and so we wanted to get together before the wedding for an engagement session (giving us plenty of time to get a print ready for display on the day).

Roy suggested that we do the session at the Artist's Village about a mile or so from the Bowers and it's a great little historic district that is blocked to vehicle traffic. Lots of neat old brick buildings, some outdoor cafes, and a bit of an urban feel.

These are 3 of my favorite images from the session which I thought was fantastic! Roy and Holly are very comfortable in front of the camera and they are both very photogenic. I am looking forward to the wedding, I know it will be spectacular.

We planned to meet around 6 pm the day of the shoot which turned out to be just about the right time. Now, with sunset around 8 pm, shooting later stacks the deck in our favor from a photographic standpoint. The light tends to be lower in the sky, and the actual color temperature of the light is warmer so it's very flattering.

We also had some great areas of shade in which to work and that is also flattering light for pleasing portraits.

If you would like to see more of the images from the session, please go here

Zach & Chase Portrait Session

Stephanie asked me to photograph her sons Zach and Chase and last night I placed the sneak peek from the session on line.

They're such good kids and they have both grown up so quickly!

I photographed the boys late last year and it was definitely a chilly, winter/fall shoot. Chase was in a Baby Bjorn for most of the time, and he's much more active now that he just turned 1!

The opening page of the slideshow (linked below) is a grouping of details of toys and the location that will one day create a photographic toybox that will trigger memories of what they played with, and where they were on this day in time.

To view the sneak peek slideshow, please go please go here

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Kate Eating and my first post on the Blog!

Kate has become quite a bit of a messy eater of late.

This evening, when Nicki was feeding Kate her baby food, she called me down to see the mess that Kate had become. After seeing it, of course, I ran upstairs to get my camera and find a clean compact flash card. This kid is already highly documented. Hoping it'll come in handy at the wedding day slideshow.

Getting her to laugh, we're able to see the two new teeth that popped through just last week. After those teeth came through, she immediately started feeling better--no fever though before, just a bit cranky -- and now she's doing well.

I spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday doing Daddy DayCare as Nicki was back at work on those days. Next week we'll have a nanny on those three days for a few hours so I'm able to do some work between stopping in and giving Kate a hug.

I have to say it was a great week being around her. Sure she had her assorted meltdowns, but we are very fortunate that we have a happy and gentle little child. We want that to continue (like forever). I am really fortunate that I work from home and have flexibility so that I am able to really spend some quality time with Kate (as Nicki gets to in the evenings and on Thursday and Fridays).

This afternoon Nicki took Kate to the pool along with a couple of her friends from her work at PSB (all new Moms) and they all proceeded to tire out their children (Kate went down for the count tonight -- she was exhausted).

The morning marine layer (June Gloom) burned off before noon and it started to heat up, but it didn't seem quite as hot as yesterday. This weekend is supposed to be a cooker, but even when it's hot here, it pales in comparison to the heat of Phoenix. I do not miss that summer heat there. Plus our home faces west so we usually get this slightly chillly breeze that winds up the hill to our house from the ocean. It's pretty tough to take.

So this is my first official blog entry and of course it's about my daughter. I'll be updating frequently and sharing images of us as well as images from my photo assignments (assuming my clients don't mind).

My sister Ruth has been a very active blogger for almost two years now, I think. She tries to post something -- even a brief paragraph -- every day and the result is that we really get a glimpse into her family life in North Carolina.