A Father’s Day Thank You

Most Father’s Days I place a phone call or card in the mail to my Dad to wish him a Happy Father’s Day but this year, I’m fortunate enough to get to spend it with him in person.   He has given me so much over the years and I, in return, have given him countless shirts, bow ties, robes and slippers for Father’s Day.  Somehow all the store-bought gifts don’t seem to add up to very much in comparison.  This year, however, I’m giving him my time.

This casual portrait of my Dad was made during one of my visits with him last year.

I feel it’s the most I can do for a guy who’s done so much for me throughout my life.  It’s hard to even begin to tick off all the things that he has done for me–things like helping me learn to tie my shoe, to ride a bike,  to throw a ball, to grow a flower and how to take a good picture with my little camera.  My Dad has been not only my Dad but my best mentor in photography passing along his love and vast knowledge for the art.   I worked alongside him in his portrait studio and camera shop from the time I was 12 through most of my college years until I moved away.

Working in the camera study with him, I learned the principles of good portrait photography–composition, lighting, proper posing techniques and how to bring out a person’s best features.  I also learned how to do everything that came after the image was on film–to develop, print, spot and retouch–but it was in the camera room where his love for the art came into sharpest focus.

This portrait of my father was made by my brother, Brad, also a photographer, before my Dad retired at age 70. He’s standing beside the 8×10 back camera that we used in his studio to make thousands of beautiful portraits.

Each person who stepped before his camera presented a new challenge, an opportunity to try a new idea or a different approach as to how to best capture that individual on film.  And I learned that each and every one deserved the best you could give because what you were creating for them wasn’t simply a picture, it was a portrait that would become part of their family–an heirloom if you will–for a very long time . It was a priceless education, one  that continues today as I still ask for his opinion and critique of my professional work as I strive to improve and grow as a photographer.

At 92, he remains my most valuable and toughest critic.  I am lucky to still have him with me to phone whenever I need to ask a question, to consult when I need help with a problem and to console me when I think I could have done something better.  Yes, he’s my Dad and I have so much to thank him for.  Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Hail to the Kings!

Los Angeles waited 45 years for its first Stanley Cup so when the L.A. Kings captured hockey’s top trophy the townsfolk gathered there in the arena on Monday night went crazy!

After the final championship game, which his team won, in the College Scholarship Tournament in Vancouver B.C. Marshall was the only U.S. player chosen for the invitational tournament.

The city’s love affair with the Kings began about the time that Wayne Gretzky, the Great One, stepped onto the ice in 1988.  His time with the team coincided nearly exactly to the  years my son, Marshall, spent as a young boy in Los Angeles.  In fact, Marshall’s early interest in the sport, at age 4 and nurtured by his grandmother,was what introduced my family to ice hockey.  To say that he was “interested” in hockey is an understatement.  Passionate is more accurate.  He still has years worth collecting of hockey cards to prove it, as well as a love of the game that continues today even though he no longer plays.

Marshall began playing hockey,
like a lot of Southern California kids,
on roller skates and blades.

Marshall was like a lot of kids in Los Angeles at that time who became excited about a fast-paced, hard-hitting, highly skilled sport that was taking the city by storm.  A large part of hockey’s popularity in a city where it seldom snows was due to the invention of roller blades.  Kids no longer needed ice to play, not with all the parking lots available throughout town.  Teens, like our babysitter, Andy,  for example, would leave his evening  job with us about 11 p.m. and head directly to the Target parking lot just in time for a pick up hockey game with friends.

Our son too started in roller hockey, playing in organized leagues that faced off in parking lots as well as in local rinks.  But when we made the move north to Bellingham, he switched to ice hockey so that he could play with the local minor league team, the only one in the country that plays an entire schedule against Canadian teams just across the border.  He was no Gretzky, or even Luc Robitaille who was his favorite Kings player at the time, but he became an accomplished player  ending up among the top ranking high school players in the Western U.S. and Canada.

During Marshall’s hockey playing years (our son, Tim, also played for a short time), my husband and I learned a lot about hockey and are now avid fans.  I also learned how to shoot the games while the boys were shooting pucks.  I now take my trusty point and shoot with me to most of the Canucks games and manage to capture some pretty amazing images with it, despite it’s limitations.

Canucks goalie Cory Schneider and defensemen foil a goal attempt by Kings Captain Dustin Brown during a game this season in Vancouver.

Marshall’s hung up his hockey sticks for now, trading them for drumsticks, but he continues to be a big fan of the game, as does our entire family, and joins us whenever he can for Vancouver Canucks’ games.  Even though our loyalty to the Kings isn’t as strong since our relocation, we were thrilled by the team’s win on Monday.  I even wore my old Kings sweater as I watched the televised games.  So a hearty congratulations to the Kings.  Maybe next year it will be the Canucks turn…..

Something Wonderful This Way Came

Author Ray Bradbury shown here
in a photo by the Washington Post.

Author Ray Bradbury died this week at age 91.  His life was eulogized all week  long by the media, as well it should have been.  He was a prolific and prophetic writer who penned 27 novels and hundreds of short stories.

Mr. Bradbury and I met once when I was on the Board of Directors (and one of the founding members) of the Los Angeles writer’s association, Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC). *

At the time, we were putting together an Advisory Board of prominent Los Angeles writers to help give our relatively young professional organization more visibility and credibility.  Bradbury was one of those writers.  He graciously accepted our invitation to join the Advisory Board, lending his name and reputation to forward the mission of the organization.  He seemed to understand that writers, particularly “freelance” or “independent” writers faced considerable career challenges and was supportive of our efforts to bring economic, educational and networking opportunities to our members.

He showed up late at his office for our meeting.  He had been delayed, he explained, but not by traffic because he rode his bicycle to work from his home in nearby Cheviot Hills.  His office, at the time in a building in downtown Beverly Hills, was small, cluttered and not particularly memorable, except for the typewriter on the desk.  That he wrote on a typewriter for most of his career now seems odd considering he dreamed up many technical devices in his fictional work that have now come into existence.  (Personal computers, at the time I met him, were just coming into use.)   Bradbury was charming and listened with interest as I explained to him what IWOSC was attempting to do.  He seemed to understand that ours was a daunting, yet noble, undertaking.   Trying to unite fiercely “independent” writers of all sorts in the Los Angeles area was geographically problematical in itself.  He must have been convinced that we could do because he agreed to join us as one of our “advisors.”

Before leaving, I asked him if he’d sign my paperback copy of his book, “Dandelion Wine,” one of my personal favorites of his work.  He did and I still have the book today although its more tattered and yellowed.  (Note to future author signature seekers, use a good hard copy, not a cheap paperback.)

This Advisory Board role didn’t require much of Bradbury’s time but, back then, just lending his name, along with author Irving Stone and writer/entertainer Steve Allen and others,  was a major contribution to our fledging group.  IWOSC has continued to flourish in Los Angeles for nearly 30 years now.  I have long-lost count of the number of writers that it has served but it continues to provide support and services to its current membership.   It’s likely that IWOSC would have survived and thrived even if Mr. Bradbury hadn’t agreed to be on our board, but I’ve never forgotten that he, a successful, best-selling author, remained sympathetic  to the working writer’s struggles.

Thank you Mr. Bradbury for all your wonderful words and thank you from your fellow writers for helping us further our efforts to better the freelance writers’ world.

You can learn more about IWOSC at its website:  http://www.iwosc.org/pastevents2006/index.html.

*Before launching my photography business in Bellingham in 1997, I was a full-time freelance journalist based in Los Angeles, writing for, among other publications, TIME Magazine.  I also had the privilege of being one of the six founding members of IWOSC.