Snow Falling on Desert Mountain

I hadn’t planned to post yet another piece on my blog this week, but the snow that fell in the Arizona desert cancelling the day of PGA play in Tucson and making national news was just too much to resist.

I once lived in Phoenix where I worked as an arts reviewer and editor for the then Scottsdale paper and the Arizona Republic.  Can’t say that I ever recalled it snowing in the “Valley of the Sun” during the five years that I resided there but there was always plenty of the white stuff further north on the Colorado Plateau.  I think Sedona’s red rocks are even more gorgeous when trimmed in snow. And the Grand Canyon is absolutely spectacular when it looks like a beautiful Boston creme layer cake.

Snow tires aren't very common in Phoenix and neither are snow plows so driving on any roads covered with snow there can be hazardous with even a tiny bit of snow.
Snow tires aren’t very common in Phoenix and neither are snow plows so driving on any roads covered with snow there can be hazardous with even a tiny bit of snow.

One year,  I went up in early December with my cousins for the purpose of  taking a Christmas card photo for them.  We spent the night in their camper and nearly froze.  The milk in the refrigerator did, in fact, freeze!  But I got some great pictures for them and one for my own Christmas card that year.

So many tourists just go during the summer months and miss the beauty of this time of year there.  The North Rim of the canyon is closed throughout the winter but the South Rim usually remains open.

Seldom do you see the saguaro and ocotillo cactus surrounded by white.
Seldom do you see the saguaro and ocotillo cactus surrounded by white.

The grand old log El Tovar Lodge becomes a wonderful retreat from outside.  You can cozy up by the big fireplace in the lobby and have a hot buttered rum to take off the chill.  And while I haven’t checked lately, I’ll bet the room prices are considerably less this time of year as well, making it an even more appealing destination.  But look at road conditions before you go because it can be pretty dicey and change suddenly.

The barrel cactus would be a great foundation for a snowman if it weren't so prickly!
The barrel cactus would be a great foundation for a snowman if it weren’t so prickly!

Unfortunately, none of my photos from my treks north during that time have been digitized so I can’t share those with you here.  But thought you might enjoy a few taken two years ago when snow made a guest appearance while I was visiting the Phoenix area.  The cacti always look so spectacular and statuesque in the snow!

These little desert quail looked like they were out for a good, but slippery, time.
These little desert quail were out for a good, but slippery, time.

Small Swims Big Time

I like learning what my senior portrait clients are doing at school and in their lives afterwards.  It’s what makes my work as a photographer even more fun. Take Andy Small for instance.

Andy had just come from a day’s work lifeguarding at Bayside Pool in Bellingham when he met me last summer for his senior portrait session.  We had talked earlier about what he might like to do during his session and, particularly, where he wanted to go.

Given that he was  on Sehome High School’s swim team and also working as a lifeguard, it seemed only natural that a waterside location might appeal to him. And it did.  He also liked the idea of finding a place that was quintessential ‘Bellingham.’  I suggested a spot down in Marine Park in Fairhaven and he liked it.

Andy showed up after a lifeguarding job with a bright yellow shirt and a big confident smile to match. We 'warmed up' on the shore before moving down to the water for his senior portrait session.
Andy showed up after a lifeguarding job with a bright yellow shirt and a big confident smile to match. We ‘warmed up’ on the shore before moving down to the water for his senior portrait session.

We did what I call a few ‘warm up’ shots on the shore to start with before moving closer to the water.  The evening couldn’t have been more ideal. He ended up with many great images which we put into a beautiful, customized ‘memory book’  for him.  One  was chosen for a wall-size canvas print for his family’s home which his mother, Elaine, says changes its look with the light in the home.

As we worked,Andy and I  became better acquainted.  I learned that he was looking forward to his last swim season in the winter with the Sehome team.  Being a swimmer myself, we had a lot  to talk about.

This last Saturday, Andy’s high school swimming career came to a close as the Sehome Mariner’s competed in Federal Way for the state Class 2A title. Sehome’s team has long dominated the sport in its class.  For the past four years, it brought home the first place trophy.  But this year  the title was taken from them, but just by a mere 30 points, to Seattle’s Archbishop Murphy’s squad.

I love this image of Andy and so does his mother who says: "This portrait is absolutely beautiful and depending on how far you turn the dial for the spotlight (that shines on it), it can range from something that looks like a sunset, to a scintillating sunrise to full daytime."
I love this image of Andy and so does his mother who says: “This portrait is absolutely beautiful and depending on how far you turn the dial for the spotlight (that shines on it), it can range from something that looks like a sunset, to a scintillating sunrise to full daytime.”

Andy, however, secured a first place spot of his own with his Sehome teammates Patrick Gregory, Isaiah Grambo and Isaac Day in the 200 medley relay.  He also clocked in faster on the final day of the meet in the 100 backstroke to take fourth place at 56.77 seconds.   There’s a great shot of his launch in the race \on the Bellingham Herald’s website.  (I’d share it with you here but, for copyright reasons, I can’t.)  And he, along with teammates Grambo, Larson, and Curran Wilbour came in fourth in the 400 meter freestyle relay.  Altogether the Sehome swimmers garnered 237 total points, just 30 short of Archbishop Murphy and well ahead of most of the other teams.

So while the team didn’t bring home the title this year, they didn’t fall far.  And for Andy, it was a good finish to a senior year.  At the team’s banquet this week, he received the coveted Coaches Award. Congratulations, Andy!

Here’s the link to the Herald’s article and photos:  http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/02/17/2883420/sehome-swims-to-second-place-at.html#storylink=cpy

HEADS UP:  If you a current or past senior portrait client of mine,  let me know what you’re doing.  Not only would I love to hear but I’d like to share it with everyone on my blog!

The Joy of Running

One of my favorite things about my work is having the opportunity to get to know my clients.  It’s important because the client-photographer relationship is one built on trust.  My clients place in my hands a large degree of trust in that when they step before my camera I know  just how to make them comfortable and relaxed, not self-conscious or embarrassed, in order to capture  the essence of their unique personality and beauty in each image.  That’s a huge responsibility!  Consequently, I do my best to live up to it in every photo session.

And, as I said, in the process I really get to know my client.  Joy Robinette, a young woman now attending  University of Stirling in Scotland, is a case in point.  Joy came to my attention the other day when I read an article about and by her in the local paper, the Bellingham Herald.

While this image was actually made in Bellingham, I always thought it had a feel of the British Isles, which as it turned out, was perfect for Joy.
While this image was actually made in Bellingham, I always thought it had a feel of the British Isles, which as it turned out, was perfect for Joy.

I photographed Joy for her senior portrait.  She was a striking young woman, poised and confident, with a vibrant personality and a smile to match.  Her beautiful burnt red locks of long hair tumbled down her back in a carefree manner giving her a spirited look.  Yet, upon meeting her and, especially, as I worked with her, I came to understand that she was deeply caring person, full of compassion and hope.

Sure, we talked about her accomplishments on the soccer field, which were many. But as she spoke about her plans for the future, about her desire to study abroad, I could tell that there was far more to this young senior than what met the eye.  So it should have been no surprise to read in Herald that Joy, along with her university soccer team, was undertaking a marathon run in Barcelona in March to help raise money and awareness for the  Association for International Cancer Research.

The day was gray and chilly but the water was a perfect setting for Joy with her plaid flannel shirt and red, wavy hair.
The day was gray and chilly but the water was a perfect setting for Joy with her plaid flannel shirt and red, wavy hair.

She’s established a website where you can contribute to her effort.  All the money raised is being done in memory of her own grandmother who died of cancer.

As Joy puts it: “…maybe together we can give some family in the future the best gift they could ever ask for — the gift of life.”  I am honored to know Joy.  I hope you’ll take a minute to help out by going to her personal link for the upcoming marathon at:  http://www.justgiving.com/user/37665232.  She needs only a few hundred pounds more to reach her goal of  £1,000.

You can read more about Joy here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/01/20/2843026/bellingham-student-hopes-to-run.html#wgt=rcntnews#storylink=cpy.

A Model Mother

This is the first post I’ve written since my Mother died in November after several years struggle with dementia (see my blog post May, 15, 2012 “Do You Remember Mother’s Day?”  http://bit.ly/12o0OBx ).  While her passing wasn’t totally unexpected, the loss has been tremendous. She would have been 91 on Wednesday, February 6.

It’s been said that the current Queen Elizabeth of England is the most photographed woman in the world.  I think she’s second; my mother had to have been the most photographed.  During a 65-year marriage to my father, a portrait photographer who owned a studio for 40 years until he finally retired at age 70, my Mother patiently and graciously posed before his camera whenever my Dad asked.

This is one of my father’s favorite portraits of my mother, made in the early 1960s. It is a ‘brush oil’ which gives it the “painted” appearance.

All artists tend to have favorite models; my mother was undoubtedly my father’s.  She was a classic beauty of the 1940s, when in her twenties.  They met after my father returned from the Army in World War II. She was 23 and working as an executive assistant to the president of a savings and loan in my father’s hometown of Parsons, Ks.  My mother had moved to Parsons from Missouri after high school to attend the business college in town.  My father fell in love with her upon first sight.  ‘She was so beautiful,’ he says.  After dating two weeks, he told my mother if she didn’t marry him he would rejoin the Army.

Apparently, she was as much in love with him as he was with her because she agreed. When her boss wouldn’t give her the two months off to join my father and marry him in Phoenix, Az., where he had gone to race greyhound dogs for his brother-in-law and sister, she quit and went anyway.  Thus began a long and devoted marriage.

My parents were married in Phoenix, and, as is obvious in this photograph, were very much in love.
My parents were married in Phoenix, and, as is obvious in this photograph, were very much in love.

Their wedding photos are charming and demonstrated my father’s growing interest in photography.  Upon returning to Kansas, my father decided to study photography for a career.  He had picked up a camera while in Europe during the War and took pictures of the places and events he was seeing whenever he could, developing his film in creeks and his pup tent and storing his rolls of negatives that needed to still be washed in jars.  He made it home with the pictures that he taken, pictures that now offer testament to the perils of war  as seen through the eyes of a young farm boy turned soldier on the front.

I suppose he had seen enough ugliness to last a lifetime during the 2 ½ years that he was overseas as when he finally decided to make photography his career, he chose to make beautiful portraits of people.  My mother proved to be a perfect subject for many of them.

This portrait was made for one of my father’s early photography classes. He tried his hand at the ‘light oil’ technique to colorize it.

As a young apprentice learning the art of portraiture, he studied the Old Masters of art—Rembrandt being his favorite—along with mastering the technical skills a photographer must know.  Whenever he needed practice perfecting a lighting set up, posing techniques or trying out a new idea or new equipment, he asked my mother to serve as his subject.  Consequently, her life was well documented through his portraits.

You can see the changes of fashion in clothing and hair and make up through the years as my mother changed along with them.  She was always interested in keeping up with the latest styles, although the ‘mod-ish’ looks of the 60s era wasn’t to her liking.  Hers was a much more ‘classic’, almost Grace Kelly look, with soft, feminine haircuts and clothing that always flattered her.You can also see in these many portraits the love that existed between my parents as the years continued to pass.  Certainly, there were times when my mother wasn’t thrilled with sitting still before the camera when there were accounts to balance, a dinner to cook, or because she was just tired from a day’s work.  But more often than not, she granted my father’s request.

She became a pro at posing, knowing just how to place her feet, hold her hand, or tip her head. And, of course, she always had the most lovely sweet smile.

My father made this portrait in his studio and it's one of my personal favorites. As you can see, he became a master of dramatic lighting and knowing just how to have my mother pose for him.
My father made this portrait in his studio and it’s one of my personal favorites. As you can see, he became a master of dramatic lighting and how to pose my mother. The print itself is a ‘gold-tone” print, a rich toning techniique no longer in use.

All those portraits are now cherished family treasures; beautiful, visual memories of my mother who died this past November after years of struggling with dementia.  I see her everyday in the framed portraits I’ve placed around my home, the wallet-sized prints I carry with me and on the digitized images that I uploaded to my computer.

I know my father, now 93, misses her terribly as their lives were intertwined for 65 years in an enduring love story of a photographer and his favorite model.

The Legacy

In the small Kansas town where I grew up, almost everyone who attended church went to a Christian or Catholic church.   There certainly weren’t any Jewish temples or synagogues in town.  The nearest was 60 miles away in Missouri. In fact, I knew of only two families of Jewish descent–the Lelands and the Bowmans.  And I didn’t know either of those two families until I entered junior high school where I met the sons, who were my age, from these families .

To many of us, being Jewish meant something that all those people in the Old Testament of the Bible were before Jesus came along and convinced everyone to leave behind those practices and start a new religion based on his teachings.  I’d heard of Passover (a pretty bloody event if you asked me), but who the heck knew what a Seder was?  And Bar Mitzvah?  Was that the name of some new tavern on the edge of town?

Once in a while the boys from these two families would be noticeably absent from class.  Sometimes to celebrate a holiday that none of the rest of us had ever heard about; or to attend lessons at the distant synagogue in order to learn a foreign language known as Hebrew.   “The Diary of Anne Frank”  was probably our greatest source of information about Jewish traditions and life, but we didn’t even read that until eighth grade I think.

Frankly, most of us knew little of the Jewish religion.  It wasn’t that we were necessarily prejudicial, although I’m sure there were those in town who were, it was just that there was no one else like them to expose us to the culture and traditions. That all changed later for me, of course, once I went to college and moved to larger places.  And it has changed in the town itself which now has a greater diversity of residents but still no temple or synagogue.

Marla Bronstein's daughter, Zoe, also has pursued her love for theatre in Bellingham and in San Francisco where she attended college.  She's shown here at the Bellingham Theatre Guild where I photographed her for her  high school senior portrait.
Marla Bronstein’s daughter, Zoe, also has pursued her love for theatre in Bellingham and in San Francisco where she attended college. She’s shown here at the Bellingham Theatre Guild where I photographed her for her high school senior portrait.

When my friend, Marla Bronstein, told me she had been asked to direct the play ‘The Legacy” at the Claire vg Thomas Theatre in the nearby community of Lynden, I knew I’d have to see it.  I find it interesting, yet commendable, that the theatre of this largely Dutch-Reformed Church conservative community decided to stage this play. The play, by Mark Harelik, is set in a small Texas town where only one family of Jewish descent live.  When their only child, a son, reaches the age for Bar Mitzvah, they must figure out how exactly to do it.  They struggle with spiritual questions and theological arguments.  Their story, apparently, is not unlike Harelik’s own, who grew up in Texas.

Marla often directs in our local theatres.  This is a play that she has wanted to direct here since first seeing it in 1996 in Seattle.  I suspect it will have much to say about the kind of small town where I grew up and provide a look back at what it might have been like for those two lone  Jewish families.

I have yet to see the play, so I can’t give any insight as to the production itself.   Local reviewer, Christopher Key has written:   “…this is not a ‘Jewish’ show. Nor is it a  ‘Christian’ show. It’s an American show in the same way that Our Town is. It helps us understand who we are by taking a close look at who we were. Or at least who we thought we were.”

The play opens Feb 28 and runs through March 17.