'Kim Kardashian of Photography' Nets $6.5 Million for Antelope Slot Canyon Pic

Well, now I feel special!  Yes, I've photographed the same Antelope Slot Canyon but haven't had a payday like that.  Aussie photographer Peter Lik reportedly just sold a black and white shot of light streaming into the upper Antelope Slot Canyon in Page, Arizona for $6.5 million to a private collector.  Here is his now famous shot:

Photo by Peter Lik.

Photo by Peter Lik.

Peter Lik has a reputation for being a self-promoter, a great salesman and the master of promotional hype but not everyone is impressed.  Guardian newspaper art writer/critic Jonathan Jones calls the picture "hollow, cliched and tasteless black and white shot" resembling a "hackneyed poster in a posh hotel."  Ouch.  Jonathan Jones has other issues, apparently with photography itself, saying,

"Photography is not art.  It's a technology.  This record-setting picture typifies everything that goes wrong when photographers think they are artists. It is derivative, sentimental in its studied romanticism, and consequently in very poor taste. It looks like a posh poster you might find framed in a pretentious hotel room."

Whoa!  Perhaps Jonathan Jones was traumatized by a photographer as a child but that's taking it a bit far.  Say what you will about photography enhancement, but photography is indeed art, and photographers artists.  There are varying levels of expertise but that doesn't take away from a photographer who is able to take a well composed image from RAW image to gallery allowing the viewer to see it as he saw it in his heart through the lens.  Peter Lik's image is black and white, which is even a more primal statement than HDR or other forms of post-production photography.  

But I digress. I say "Well played Mr. Lik!"  Art is subjective and obviously someone really appreciates your interpretation of the Antelope Slot Canyon.  

(c) 2014 Amy Proctor - upper Antelope Slot Canyon in Page, Arizona 

(c) 2014 Amy Proctor - upper Antelope Slot Canyon in Page, Arizona 

Visit my Arizona Gallery for my Antelope Slot Canyon images.

Zion National Park: Fort Bliss Serves as Great 'Base of Operations' for Trip to Utah

Last week's article in the Fort Bliss Bugle:

ZION NATIONAL PARK: Fort Bliss serves as great ‘base of operations’ for trip to Utah

By Amy Proctor, Special to the Fort Bliss Bugle:

This iconic view of the Virgin River attracts visitors at sunset and is located at the Southern Gate entrance to the park.

This iconic view of the Virgin River attracts visitors at sunset and is located at the Southern Gate entrance to the park.

As an Army wife of more than 21 years, I’m always looking to make memories at each new duty station. Some wives call their new home their “Army base,” others their “home base,” but I refer to it as our “forward operating base,” or FOB. It is the new location from which to launch fresh adventures and to start yet another chapter in the pages of my family’s story.

As it turns out, Fort Bliss happens to be a great FOB. I was skeptical at first and had heard things here and there that weren’t flattering to the base. I rejected those critics, however, understanding that things are subjective and sometimes life is what you make of it, and I decided to see for myself what this part of the country has to offer. And I hit pay dirt.

Fort Bliss is just a day’s drive from some of the most spectacular spots on Earth. One of those just may be the most beautiful place in the United States. I’m talking about Zion National Park in Utah, often referred to as “the Promised Land.” It is jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Nestled in Springdale, Utah, Zion National Park is just under a 12-hour drive from El Paso and located in Utah’s southwest corner. That may sound like a long drive, but you’ll pass through some gorgeous scenery, including the Grand Canyon, so you may want to divide the trip up to see that iconic location as well. If not, you’ll nonetheless get some good quality time with your family.

The Upper Pool cascades over the beginning of the Emerald Pools Trail. Hikers can often walk close to the wall to avoid getting wet from the waterfall.

The Upper Pool cascades over the beginning of the Emerald Pools Trail. Hikers can often walk close to the wall to avoid getting wet from the waterfall.

If road trips aren’t for you, it is a short, inexpensive flight from El Paso International Airport to Las Vegas. With a round-trip ticket in coach costing between $212 and $250 with two to three hours in the air, depending on whether it’s a direct flight or with a stop through Phoenix, this is a great option for the single Soldier or unaccompanied family members looking to maximize the time in Zion. It’s a perfect trip for the next four-day weekend. Zion is only a two-hour drive from Las Vegas with a great midway stop at the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.

Why Zion National Park? Three million visitors a year is a hint: It’s spectacular! This national park claims some of America’s most breathtaking scenery with a wild array of highs and lows, mountains and valleys, colors and bizarre natural wonders. This is the sort of place that you’ll regret not visiting while stationed in this part of the country.

November through March may be the best time to visit. Summer months pack between one and two million tourists, and the crowds and weather are far more tolerable in the off-season. No automobiles are allowed in the park from April through weekends in November, so you must ride the shuttle bus. That means you don’t have the same freedom to drive into the park or go where you want to go until the off season.

Hotels are much easier to book November through March and nearly impossible during peak months. In fact, unless you book months in advance if you are visiting between June and September, don’t count on getting a hotel any closer than 35 minutes away in the town of Hurricane, because everything in Springdale is likely to be booked solid.

Entrance fees to the park are $25 per private vehicle, $12 per motorcycle and $12 for individuals (say if you’re walking into the park to hike) and are valid for seven full days. The national parks of Utah are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so if you enter after hours they put you on the honor system and hope you’ll pay the next day. I love the fact that they let you in at all hours because, let’s face it, these are your parks, America.

If you have military identification, you can request an Annual National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass at the entrance, which gives you free access to all national parks, forests and monuments anywhere in the U.S. This is a very valuable benefit to Soldiers and family members and you’ll find you will use it frequently!

Entrance through the southern gate of the park leads right into the famous Virgin River and onto Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. You could spend weeks exploring just this small area of the Scenic Drive. There, you’ll find the Emerald Pool Trails, the Grotto, Angel Landing, Weeping Rock and the Temple of Sinawava, “the Narrows,” and the Virgin River. Other parts of the park include the curvy, steep Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. This will take you meandering through Zion’s heights, through tunnels and amazing scenery, which in turn leads to the Checkboard Mesa and some weird rock formations, along with a good lot of wildlife. Automobiles are only allowed on this highway during the off season, which is another reason to consider going during those months.

Literally weeks could be spent exploring Zion National Park. It truly is a national treasure. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime places that anyone would want to explore, so your time stationed at Fort Bliss makes it a perfect FOB for the Soldier or military family.

Visit www.nps.gov/zion for more information about this amazing park.

Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso Hosts Adventure for Singles, Families

My weekly article for The Fort Bliss Bugle posted this week.  It came out early for Thanksgiving, of course. Here's the virtual copy!

Franklin Mountains State Park hosts adventure for singles, families

By Amy Proctor, Special to the Fort Bliss Bugle:

The entrance to Franklin Mountains State Park is located 3.5 miles east of I-10 on Transmountain Road and is a 15- to 20-minute drive from Fort Bliss. Photos by Amy Proctor, Special to the Fort Bliss Bugle.

The entrance to Franklin Mountains State Park is located 3.5 miles east of I-10 on Transmountain Road and is a 15- to 20-minute drive from Fort Bliss. Photos by Amy Proctor, Special to the Fort Bliss Bugle.

The Franklin Mountains are arguably the most identifiable geographical feature in El Paso, spanning about 23 miles from the south-central corner of El Paso north into New Mexico. In it lies Franklin Mountains State Park, the largest urban park in the U.S., surpassing even New York City’s Central Park.

Well known for its many hiking trails, bike paths, camping areas and picnicking, Franklin Mountains State Park has been a popular spot for Soldiers and their families at Fort Bliss for many years. It presents an opportunity for them to escape the confines of the installation and explore a wide variety of activities that can be both rejuvenating and challenging.

Single Soldiers with a sense of adventure will be enticed by opportunities for mountain climbing with designated climbing areas in McKelligon Canyon as well as mountain biking trails throughout the park. Families with children can enjoy daylong or short hiking excursions meandering through the mountains. The Franklin Mountains State Park map given to visitors at the park’s entrance can help pinpoint the most appropriate hikes, from easy loops to strenuous climbs.

Hikers enjoy a view of the Franklin Mountains as they make their descent from the Upper Trail.

Hikers enjoy a view of the Franklin Mountains as they make their descent from the Upper Trail.

Those wishing to get away from it all need not fear hiking alone, as the park hosts several weekly events to accommodate them. Individuals can reserve a spot on the Women’s Beginner’s Hike, fitness challenges and guided mountain biking excursions, to name a few. This is a great way to experience the uniqueness of El Paso’s outdoor life with no excuses or fear … a readymade group will be there waiting to enjoy the adventure alongside those who have to go without family or friends. There is no fee to participate in these frequent group activities, except for the cost of park entrance, which is $5 per person over the age of 12.

A quick Internet search of the Franklin Mountains State Park will pull up the official Texas Parks and Wildlife Division’s website from which the Events page for Franklin Mountains can be found (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/franklin-mountains/park_events). Upcoming activities hosted by the park are quite fun with a variety of holiday activities, such as the Thanksgiving Turkey Trail Trilogy, “T’was the Hike Before Christmas” and Jingle Dog Hikes, as well as holiday mine tours and mountain biking. Again, there are usually no fees to participate (occasional $3 activity fee depending on the activity) but an RSVP is required.

For those not looking to hike, bike or climb, the state park offers a place to relax, picnic and enjoy the great outdoors with its scenic vistas and vibrant colors.

 Things to know:

– The main entrance into Franklin Mountains State Park-Tom May’s Unit is 20 minutes from Fort Bliss. There are two easy ways to find the park: Travel west on I-10 past the Sunland Park area taking the Transmountain Road exit. The park entrance will be 3.5 miles on the left. Traveling on US-54 East and making a left onto Woodrow Bean Transmountain Road will be the scenic route, meandering high through the mountain pass for 6.5 miles until the entrance is seen on the right.

– The entrance fee for Franklin Mountains State Park is $5 per person per day, with children 12 and under admitted free. Groups are $2. The Texas State Park Annual Pass is $70 and covers up to 15 people per vehicle of an annual pass holder. Passes can be purchased at the park entrance.

– The entrance station is usually unmanned Monday through Friday so visitors are on the “honor system” and envelopes are available at the booth for self-payment. The envelope can be deposited into the designated area.

– Bringing water is a must. There is no water or electricity provided within the park.

– Pets are permitted on leash only.

Call 566-6441 or visit http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/franklin-mountains for more information.

Travel Guide to White Sands National Monument

I'm happy to announce that I am now writing travel articles for the Fort Bliss Bugle, the army post's official newspaper.  The crew at the Fort Bliss Bugle and Laven Publishing Group are a wonderful bunch of folks.  My first article on the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico was published yesterday.  The online version is HERE.

White Sands National Monument offers breathtaking glimpse of natural wonder

By Amy Proctor, Special to the Fort Bliss Bugle

The sun sets over the gypsum dunes at White Sands National Monument, N.M. Photo by Amy Proctor, Special to the Fort Bliss Bugle.

The sun sets over the gypsum dunes at White Sands National Monument, N.M. Photo by Amy Proctor, Special to the Fort Bliss Bugle.

When a Soldier or military family assigned to Fort Bliss is ready to look beyond El Paso for adventure, one Southwest destination stands out. It’s a perfectly ethereal place that attracts visitors from around the world wanting to play in one of the Earth’s most unusual natural spots: White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

Described as being “like no place else on Earth,” the monument is in the center of the Tularosa Basin, surrounded by the San Andres Mountains and is the world’s largest gypsum dune field. That means it is the biggest white-sand dune area on earth, making it one of the world’s great natural wonders.

It’s a very tolerable 90-minute drive from Fort Bliss to White Sands, New Mexico – a ride on US-54 East toward Alamogordo, New Mexico, with only one left turn onto US-70 West. It really is that easy to get to this amazing location.

The dunes are accessible by automobile on Dunes Drive into the park. It’s about an 8-mile drive to the end before it loops around for the return trip, but along the way there are a variety of nature trails, a boardwalk, picnic areas, spots for horseback riding, places to sled, and of course, lots of white, sparkling dunes. Most amazing is the perception that a blizzard just swept through the park as everything is covered in white sand. The sight is surreal, particularly when the weather is warm, making what the eye sees so completely different from what the senses feel. The dichotomy is quite fun.

One of the best features of the park is its tangibility. Visitors are not discouraged from hiking or walking on the dunes. To the contrary, they are encouraged to explore, walk, play, ride, hike and climb. You can sled down the dunes. These white hills of sand don’t need to protect the locals from an impending hurricane or the shoreline from erosion, so there is freedom to wander without worrying that the human impact is destructive. Whatever footprints are left behind will be taken care of by the strong winds.

Things to know:

– There is a visitor’s center at the entrance, but the area is quite secluded. There are no restaurants or gas stations before turning left onto US-70 West from US-54 East in Alamogordo, which is about 20 minutes from the park’s entrance; consider turning right onto US-70 East where you’ll find fast food, grocery stores and gas stations. At the very least, bring food and drinks from home to last the day. The center does have a small snack store next to the gift shop, but you won’t find enough food for a decent meal.

– There is no water inside the park except at the visitor’s center, so it is a good idea to stock up at home or bring a Camelbak, especially if hiking is on the agenda.

– Pets are allowed, but they must stay on a leash the entire time.

– Bring a camera. The photo opportunities are incredible, particularly at sunset.

– Bring a compass. It is possible to get disoriented in the middle of the white dunes as everything begins to look the same.

– Sleds can be rented from the visitor’s center.

– The entrance fee is $3 per person ages 16 and older and anyone under 15 is free, but anyone with a military ID gets in free with a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass. They are available upon request at the fee station and are good for any national park, national forest or other federal recreational areas in the United States.

Visit www.nps.gov/whsa for more information, including park hours, special events and map information.

Colorful Daegu

This is what South Korea calls "Colorful Daegu".  This city of over 2.5 million is, in my opinion, one of the most under-appreciated travel destinations in the world.  This south-central city is bustling, full of culture, color and history. Like Seoul, it has a skytower (called the Daegu Tower), mountains to climb, religious sites, the arts and high tech colorful cityscapes.  But unlike Seoul, you don't have nearly the congestion or traffic. 

A small part of the city of Daegu, South Korea.  

A small part of the city of Daegu, South Korea.  

A Buddhist Temple in the middle of the city surrounded by apartment buildings.

A Buddhist Temple in the middle of the city surrounded by apartment buildings.

A pretty little walkway on Apsan Mountain.  This is just after exiting the Gondola, this path takes you up the along the top of the mountain.  GREAT hikes in this area!

A pretty little walkway on Apsan Mountain.  This is just after exiting the Gondola, this path takes you up the along the top of the mountain.  GREAT hikes in this area!

Lots of Buddhist Temples... everywhere....

Lots of Buddhist Temples... everywhere....

Pavilion in the city center.  

Pavilion in the city center.  

There's a lot more to Daegu but this is a good start!

A Travel Guide to Monument Valley's Only Hotel, The View

Monument Valley as seen from the observation deck at The View.  Photo taken at dusk. 

Monument Valley as seen from the observation deck at The View.  Photo taken at dusk. 

If you've ever wanted to visit the iconic location of Monument Valley in Arizona just over the Utah border, you'll have to do some preparation.  There's only one hotel in Monument Valley; The View.  

Monument Valley is in Navajo Nation and The View owned and operated by the Navajo.  The hotel is careful to respect the culture and people of the Navajo and therefore is unobtrusive... it fits very naturally into a corner of the valley as a mountain descends next to it.  While out in the valley, you won't even notice the hotel because it's color and formation blend right in with the rock it is built upon.  That really gives it a very natural, respectful feeling making it more experiential than touristy.  

Since Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park, there is a $5 entrance fee per person to enter and there is no alcohol permitted.  But it's okay.  You'll be intoxicated with your surroundings and won't even miss that nightcap.  

Last year, my road trip out west took me to Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Arizona.  Monument Valley, with it's famous buttes and reputation for famous western American movies, is less than 2 hours south of Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, and about 2 hours east of the Antelope Slot Canyons in Page, Arizona. It's an easy shot from Moab down Rt. 191 to Rt. 163 with a couple easy turns and you're there.

I went in early November and the rooms at The View were nearly sold out, even though the high season had ended.  The double-edged sword in visiting during the low season, which is typically November through March, is that you have a better chance of getting a room but if you don't book far enough in advance the locally run dive hotels will all be closed until late spring and you'll be out of luck.  Unless you don't mind camping.  I'll get to that in a bit.

This is me enjoying the private balcony on my first floor room.  The view was beautiful. 

This is me enjoying the private balcony on my first floor room.  The view was beautiful. 

Booking for The View must be done months in advance during May through September.  Prices are higher and being the main (and in the off-season the only) gig in town, chances of availability are slimmer.  I planned on being there in October but because of the government shut down last October I had to redo my schedule (what with National Parks closed and all) so I was able to book two weeks out, but I checked before my arrival just for kicks and the rooms were completely sold out.... in mid-November.  So planning ahead is vital.  I would leave at least a month to book in The View at Monument Valley from November - April and 2-3 months during the summer peak season.  

As for rooms and pricing, in the off-season they range from $179 (after taxes) to $303 per night.  Although in the dead of winter, December through January, you can book a room for $123 to $258 per night.  Imagine pricing for the high season........ if you're lucky enough to get a room in say August it'll run you $236 to $371. 

The rooms, from top to bottom, are the Premium Star View (3rd floor), Premium Valley View (2nd floor) and Valley View (1st floor) rooms.  The higher you go, the higher the price, but the truth is that even the "worst" room has the best view.  All rooms are basically the same but for the level and price.  Each room comes with a fabulous bathroom, nice bed(s), space and a private balcony overlooking the valley.  I'm not the only one saying there's no need to pay $300 for a room on the top floor when the ones on the first level have nearly the same spectacular views.

The View Restaurant is just down the hall and I admit I only ate there once but was happy with it.  The service was so-so but I ordered take out, so I could eat from my balcony overlooking the buttes as the sunset.  The Navajo Taco is huge... it's 2 meals for a single person... and it was fantastic. By far the best taco of any kind I've ever had.  And the Navajo soups are fabulous so don't be afraid to sample.  But if the restaurant isn't to  your liking... you don't have much choice because there are no other choices!  So make the best of it.  :)

Just outside of the restaurant is the observation deck, which wraps around to the side of the premises.  This is where many famous photos of the valley are taken and serves as a photographer's camp at sunset and sunrise.  I was up before 5am to set up my equipment and it took perhaps a minute to get from my room to the observation deck.  No need to get up super early to get great shots.  

Now if the only hotel in the area has no rooms, the park does allow for camping.  Monument Valley's Campgrounds allow you to pitch a tent or park an RV (recreational vehicle) for a reasonable fee (fee list here).  There's a store in the registration office, located in The View, for water, ice and other supplies to make your stay more comfortable and a nearby bathroom with shower.  Who knows, it might be a more memorable experience to sleep in the valley's floor rather than a hotel, anyway.  Certainly less expensive.  

So remember..... if you want to visit this iconic location in America's great southwestern desert region, book early!  The View is the only show in town and fills up fast!  

Looking out over the valley towards the famous buttes.  The View hotel is out of frame to the upper left.  

Looking out over the valley towards the famous buttes.  The View hotel is out of frame to the upper left.  

Confusion Abounds over U.S. Forest Service's Proposal on Commercial Photography

The U.S. Forest Service has proposed restrictions on filmmaking and commercial photography that is alarming many photographers, with fines for not having a license to shoot in National Forests $1000 if caught.  Pop Photo puts it this way:

           "The rules would require members of the media, commercial outlets and non-profit groups to apply for special use permits (which could cost up to $1,500) except in cases of breaking news. Photographers and filmers shooting without a permit could be fined up to $1,000."

The U.S. Forest Service has always required a license for professional filming within it's borders, but the gray area worrying independent and professional photographers refers to "commercial photography".  So if you are doing a portrait session or plan on selling your images, or are taking images for a client, you will need a pricey new permit to do so.  

The U.S. Forest Service insists that "the proposal does not change the rules for visitors or recreational photographers. Generally, professional and amateur photographers will not need a permit unless they use models, actors or props; work in areas where the public is generally not allowed; or cause additional administrative costs."

On the other hand, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell tried to reassure those concerned that “The fact is, the directive pertains to commercial photography and filming only – if you’re there to gather news or take recreational photographs, no permit would be required. We take your First Amendment rights very seriously.” 

So... then..... an independent freelancer such as myself would only need a pricey permit if I were using a prop or working with a model or actor, yet the directive pertains to commercial photography, which essentially refers to work done for a client or that is meant for profit.  

Yes, it's a bit confusing.   

Photographers at Zion National Park.... thankfully this doesn't apply our National Parks... yet, unless they have designated national forestry areas in them.  

Photographers at Zion National Park.... thankfully this doesn't apply our National Parks... yet, unless they have designated national forestry areas in them.  

The question I have not been able to find an answer to pertains to the proposal itself.  My assumption is that any "proposal" from federal agency such as the U.S. Forest Service would require Congressional approval before implementation.  Surely a Federal Agency cannot simply issue edicts at will without oversight and accountability.  Although, now I'm recalling some of the actions of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and I'm starting to wonder...

The bottom line is that it if you didn't need a permit before, you probably won't need one now. The difference is the hike in price.

U.S. Forest Service's directive on Commercial Photography and Filmography can be located here.

To Recline or Not to Recline

The frequent traveler already knows that most airlines have small, packed seating which can be tolerable if you only have a short flight.  If you get claustrophobic, however, you might be in trouble.  The need to recline in flight for some is a no-brainer.

But there is a debate as to whether its appropriate to recline the seat in flight.  Of course it is. You paid for that seat and that tiny bit of plane space and the seat does come equipped with a reclining button, and it's not as if the recline is all that spacious anyway.  Yet if you're like most people, you'll worry about the person behind you losing their space because of your desire to recline. And we are all so polite after all that we really do care.

I tend not to recline for short flights but on an 11 hour flight from Seoul to Auckland or a 13 hour flight from Atlanta to Seoul you'd better believe I'm reclining.  It's usually the larger planes that make those international flights so reclining isn't as impactful an issue... Korean Air and Delta are great for those long flights... but domestic flights with smaller cabins or smaller leg room are trickier.  

I  choose not to recline on smaller planes for shorter flights, unless there's a vacancy in the seat behind me.  On longer flights a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do and I recline if I need sleep.  It's always good to keep the peace with the other inmates, so to speak, so I let decorum be my guide but I also reserve the right to recline if I need the rest.

To recline or not to recline... what do you do?


Visit the Desert Thrift Store When in El Paso

When in El Paso, be sure to check out the vintage Desert Thrift Store on 1821 Hunter Drive on the southeastern part of the city.  This little eclectic shop has great prices for some really old time collectibles.  An unopened Lucille Ball Barbie-type doll for $20?  Shaun Cassidy records for $5?  It's a really fun story.

Love this place!

Security Concerns over ISIS on Ft. Bliss

Last week Judicial Watch reported that the out of control terrorist group ISIS may be planning an attack on the military base at Ft. Bliss, TX in El Paso as ISIS has a presence in Juarez, Mexico.  I live on Ft. Bliss and this is how close we are to Juarez:

The view of Juarez, Mexico from I-10.  I thought this was still El Paso because there is no distinguishable wall or marking to differentiate it from Mexico.  

The view of Juarez, Mexico from I-10.  I thought this was still El Paso because there is no distinguishable wall or marking to differentiate it from Mexico.  

As a newbie to El Paso, I've been warned by a local photographer to "avoid Juarez at all costs".  It is easy to get funneled into Mexico with the road system and if I happen to have a shell casing in my car, it'll mean "serious trouble".  Apparently just accidentally cross over the border can be a scary ordeal.

That said, with ISIS reportedly planning a potential terrorist attack on Ft. Bliss from Juarez, security has been stepped up on post. The Department of Defense is denying that the increased security measures have anything to do with an ISIS threat, it's just there to keep family members and visitors safe (from????  And why start strict security measures on post only after the report on ISIS in Juarez surfaced?  I hate it when the DOD isn't honest.  It's not like they're fooling ISIS or deterring an attack by denying why security is ramped up).

The 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 is tomorrow.  I am of course hoping it will come and go without incident but this border town is particularly vulnerable, as are border towns all across the south in which the government is not taking seriously this threat to our nation.  

Additional images will follow.  If need be. Hopefully there will be no need.  


When to Use LED Lighting Instead of a Flash

I've written several times about my Manfrotto Continuous LED Light, which is an essential part of my gear.  Now I'm going to suggest the best usage of this LED light, based on my year long experience with this type of lighting.

Verses a flash (such as a Canon Speedlite), an LED comes in the handiest in low lighting situations. The darker the better.  While that may sound obvious, LED has its limitations, which is why its important to know what your intent is in a particular photo shoot.  

For example, I used my Manfrotto Continuous LED Light when shooting my model in natural light.  When natural light is not enough, you'll need to rely on an alternative light source to fill in the shadows to adequately illuminate the subject.  

In the shot below, the model was too far away for the lights in the LED to be of any consequence.  She was perhaps 8 feet from the camera.  I simply used auto ISO in this instance instead of a flash.  This was not a good instance to use the LED light because of the distance and brightness of the natural light.

However, the LED is perfect for close-ups.  In this natural lighting, my model needed just a bit of illumination and since I was 3-4 feet from her, it did the trick perfectly.  

I shot some behind-the-scene footage at the Traditional Latin Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Savannah, GA in July.  The sacristy of the Cathedral is dim but with some natural lighting... again, the perfect scenario for an LED light.

I highly recommend an LED continuous light such as the Manfrotto for low light situations when a flash and diffuser is overkill.  The LED gives the photography the ability to control the light brightness manually and it can be hand held as well.  At about $330, it's a pretty good deal.

Wanna Be a Landscape Photographer? Don't Quit Your Day Job

It's a sad fact that very few people can make a living as landscape photographers.  Check out these depressing quotes from these 3 photographers interviewed by Digital Camera World:

Colin Prior:  It’s very difficult to make money from landscape photography, full stop. In terms of stock I think we’ve reached a point where it’s largely worthless. People are expecting not to pay for photographs, and if they do pay they don’t expect to have to sign a licensing agreement for a limited time. Magazine editors increasingly tell me they don’t have a budget for photographs. The only way a photographer can make a name for themselves is by being extraordinary, otherwise there won’t be any publishers willing to risk investing in their body of work. I would advise young landscape photographers to do something else for a living. It’s sad, but anyone who tells you anything different isn’t looking at the marketplace properly.

Paul SaundersI would keep landscape photography as a hobby...

Tom Mackie: The money is gone, unfortunately, especially if you’re thinking about getting into stock landscape photography. If you’re a photographer starting out and you have a few hundred images, forget it. You have to have thousands to make the sort of money we were making back in the good days.

Ye, gads, that's depressing!  In my experience, those comments are becoming more and more true.  The field is gutted with amateurs and unless you're the incredibly talented and entrepreneur-literate Trey Ratcliff, you're not likely to make a living being a landscape photographer.  Most of the jobs at magazines and newspapers are not only taken, they're dwindling.  

Photographers have to multi-task.  That may mean taking on clients for portraits to bring in the main money if you want to be a full time photographer or having an editing business on the side, but I cannot think of a single person who sustains himself by just selling prints alone.  And yes, you have to be exceptional at what you do.

In my case, I struggle as a landscape photographer, which is a shame because it is my passion.  But the days of Ansel Adams are being replaced by Tom, Dick and Harry with iPhones making money on Instagram.  As a military wife, it's hard to build a solid clientele when I move every 11-24 months on average.  That's why being cyber-savvy is so crucial today, as Trey Ractliff has mastered.  

But as this is my dream and I absolutely love photography and photojournalism, I will press on in an effort to snag the right opportunity.  I will announce future endeavors as they open up, such as photo walks and photo trips with perhaps some tutoring, but in the meantime I'll be out there shooting.  

These were taken in our new home in El Paso, Texas in the past couple weeks:


Documenting the Latin Mass

I'm excited that I've been asked to document parts of the Traditional Latin Mass for the last two weeks that we'll be living in Georgia.  My husband is an active duty soldier and is currently stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga, but we will be PCSing (as they call it... it means moving to our new duty station) in Texas in two weeks.  I'm very excited about photographing the vesting of the Priest in the sacristy before Mass, which is a beautifully meaningful ritual practiced in the Latin Rite.  Also the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist has the most amazing cantors and I will be photographing them as well. 

My main concern in photographing the Latin Mass is always reverence and respect.  I never want to interfere with anyone's ability to assist at the Mass or experience the Mass. I wrote about how to photograph a Latin Mass in a previous entry and i will be following those same guidelines. 

I'm really looking forward to this!  I love documenting the beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass!

I'll Miss My Church!

It's hard for me to believe I've only got 2 weeks until we relocate to El Paso, Texas at Ft. Bliss from our home here on Fort Stewart, GA.  A lot goes into a military move... or I suppose any move... although it's old hat now since we've been doing this for 21 years.  All 6 of us will be starting over again.  Two of my kids will be in college, one working full time and looking into a possible vocation in religious life and the other starting high school.  

And I am tidying up my portfolio, websites and plan on hitting the ground running.  In the meantime, I still have some photography obligations that will keep me busy.  I'll keep ya posted along the way!  You can always check me out on my social sites like Facebook, Instagram and Google+.  

In the meantime, here's what I'll miss most about leaving Georgia.... the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Savannah.  We commute an hour one way every Sunday to go to the Traditional Latin Mass there, and it's a thing of beauty!  But thank God there is a Latin Mass community in El Paso, as well.   

Why I Don't Like "WanderLust"

"Wanderlust" refers to a strong longing or impulse to wander and explore.  I get it.  It's a disease that afflicts people with adventurous spirits to have an overwhelming urge to travel. Is it nature or nurture?  Who can tell, but most photographers and travel writers have it.    

I'm not judging, but there's something personally unappealing about the term "wanderlust".  I'm sure it's the "lust" part because the "wander" part is awesome.  It connotes something illicit or undisciplined and for me, loving travel and photography is something very good and pure.  It brings out joy, which is innocent, and wonder, which is humbling.  

It's also something very serious.  This may sound like a judgment but I'll say it anyway. Wanderlusters choose the adventure to satisfy themselves whereas to me these adventures are about bringing a profound respect to the place being visited and to learn from it like a student from a teacher.  In a sense, no matter how good I get at my craft (I understand the term "good" is subjective), I am always subject to my surroundings, to God's creation and to the history of what has brought the place to where it is today.  That usually entails some sort of war, death or struggle mixed in with the beauty, so for example a to visit Vietnam couldn't be just a vacation or professional opportunity, it would be a reverent endeavor to find the truth there in that place.

On my trips to New Zealand, I experience the epitome of what I'm talking about.  It isn't "wanderlust", it's something completely superior.  It's about joy, happiness, giving and taking, learning and teaching, innocence and wisdom all in one.  I'm more like a child looking for her long lost parent and finding him day after day, or like a sojourner who finally finds home sweet home. It's a permanent satisfaction, not a temporal one. Which doesn't mean I don't want to do it again and again and again....

The world's best road trip.... Rt. 94 into Fiordland National Park in New Zealand's south island toward Milford Sound.  Image here. 

The world's best road trip.... Rt. 94 into Fiordland National Park in New Zealand's south island toward Milford Sound.  Image here

It's really about discovering God, even though you believe you already know Him completely.  It's about being thoroughly freed and empowered by His creation while feeling an overwhelming sense that you are, for some inexplicable reason, being permitted the privilege of entrance into the inner sanctum of some grand kingdom.  It's the juxtaposition of feeling like a totally free slave.  

The experience of then bringing the back-story and the photography of these mystical places to the eyes of others is one of sheer joy.

It's more a matter of enlightenment, sojourning or living the exploration than anything associated with lust, and maybe I'm too hung up on words, but I will someday find the phrase I am looking for to replace "wanderlust".  I'm at a loss today, but on my next adventure?  Maybe not.   Maybe I'll find it there.

This isn't a sight you see every day!  The Delicate Arch and the stars in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.  Image here.

This isn't a sight you see every day!  The Delicate Arch and the stars in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.  Image here.