Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Two years ago I celebrated Thanksgiving with my in-laws in Corning NY. It was all I could do to drive that hour long drive over the hills to their house. Sitting on the chairs around the table, I bruised my sit-bones (yep, my ass!) because there was no muscle left from my sedated time in the coma. We were all on eggshells, not really knowing what I could handle. Afraid that I might exhaust myself just sitting up for too long.

I sat there, looking around at my family. The family that sat by my bedside... that worried every time the doctors wouldn't meet their eyes.... that banished fear with every breath they took. The family that took Aurora and I in and made us part of their family, no question.

I sat there, looking at my family and was for the most profound moment, thankful.

Each moment I have had since waking from my coma has been a gift. The most precious gift I have ever known. Time with my family. It doesn't matter whether it is an hour of quiet, ten hours of insanity, or just pushing the shopping cart through the grocery store. If I am with my family and friends, it is time well spent.

Two years ago, I woke up grateful. To be free from where I was. To be back. To see my wife's crying laughing eyes. To be loved.

Tonight, on the eve of Thankgiving, I am grateful for the time I have had lately. Time spent healing. Time learning about feelings. Time to breathe and grow. Time with the people who care about me deeply. Time spent preparing for another surgery. Time preparing for a whole new me. Time with my loving puppy.

My words fail to say what the tears in my eyes say so eloquently. I am so thankful to be here. So grateful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giggles Galore

 I think it is amazing the effect that color can have on the tone of an image. In the first image, in black and white, there is a certain degree of humor, but not joyously so. Maybe it is cynical humor.

In the second image, I think the boisterous color allows the humor to show through. Perhaps the vibrancy of the color relays some of the life inherent in the laughing ?

Do you have a preference? Which speaks more to your idea of humor and laughter?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Turning Grey Walls Red

As I have worked on my lighting technique over the past two years, I have tried to avoid using gels. Not sure why, but they have stayed in the box. This week I decided to go through the box of stuff that I never use, and lo and behold, there were the gels. I tossed the red one onto the holder, set up the strobe and let it rip. I was surprised by how much light transmission was cut due to the darkness of the gel. Fascinating.

This image is just to give you an idea of how saturated this red gel is. I love the juxtaposition of the blue backdrop color and the red filter. I have a few ideas I hope to try in the next few weeks.

Have you used filters and gels much? If so, which ones do you use regularly? Which ones left you cold?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stop Everything

In the past few weeks life around here has been topsy-turvy. I think the roller-coaster ride we've been on may finally be showing signs of slowing down. Somehow my favorite season screamed on by and didn't really stop to let any riders on. The wind and rain last night blew away the last vestiges of color.

Before this week ends, I will have a few more high school senior portraits to photograph. I love working with teens. Something about their vulnerability and their tentative nature. Once you get through the wall, everything else is so rich and interesting.

I am really excited about doing more location photography this winter. Aiming for more pet portraits. I love the idea of working with families with pets! Trying to capture the spirit of the animals in their element (with THEIR people!)... should be a blast!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dark and Twisty

A few months ago, Gordon Bonnet asked me to create a portrait of his hands, for inclusion in a fellow writer's blog. Well, that blog post has finally happened....  . Kendall Grey came up with the idea of trying to put writer's hands on display. Tools of the trade as it were.

While the thought of asking you to remove a hand and mail it to me in a red satin-lined box has a certain appeal, I’ll refrain from indulging in that messy proposition. Instead, I want a picture of your hands doing something that embodies you, the writer. -K.Grey

When Gordon asked me to photograph his hands, I had a good idea of how we'd go about it. In the end, it was completely 180 off from where we started. Looking back at the images, I think that my original idea was so vanilla... and Gordon's writing is so twisted... it's no wonder we had to let the ideas sit and stew a while. The final image is interesting to me in that it represents more than just the visual representation of Gordon's hands. They also encapsulate all of the other intangibles: the fear, the tension, the anxiety, the grittier side... and all of this comes through so readily in his writing.

I am honored to have been asked to try to capture that in an image for him. I think Kendall Grey's challenge to try to do this with other writers is awesome! Can't wait to see more of them.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Trying to Explain

Two years ago, I left the hospital and came home to the biggest unknown I have ever faced. I could barely walk with the aid of two canes. I could manage to walk from bed to the bathroom, maybe from a chair to the kitchen. Within a few days I could manage a few hundred yards... just far enough down the road to reach the neighbor's house, or maybe if I was feeling great, the next farther house.

I couldn't sleep when I came home from the hospital. After having spent the previous month in a hospital recliner and hospital air-bed, I was wholly unprepared for my old bed (which I love!) and a recliner my mom had found on the road. Try as I might, I couldn't get comfortable no matter what I did. Our friends Carol and Gordon came to the rescue with the biggest darned Barcalounger I have ever seen. Barely made it through our door.

Each day was filled with enough confusion, pain and medication to make time pass ruthlessly slowly. Watching movies or listening to music made it worse. I could feel each minute pass.

Now here I am, looking back on that time and wondering how the next surgery will go. Today I had to explain to one of our friends what the next surgical procedure will be and how it will effect me. I am planning on having a "sleeve gastrectomy"
Sleeve gastrectomy is a surgical weight-loss procedure in which the stomach is reduced to about 25% of its original size, by surgical removal of a large portion of the stomach, following the major curve. The open edges are then attached together (often with surgical staples) to form a sleeve or tube with a banana shape. The procedure permanently reduces the size of the stomach. The procedure is performedlaparoscopically and is not reversible. - wikipedia
The goal of this bariatric surgery is to help my body shed the mass that it has regained over the past two years. Some of the side effects of the surgery: should cure my diabetes... should alleviate my sleep apnea,... should help heal my heart issues... should reverse the liver issues I have been dealing with... and on top of it all, I should lose about 75-100 pounds. 

Once that weight is down, the abdominal pressure will have lessen to the point where my colo-rectal surgeon can go in and fix the colostomy and repair the two major hernias. But first, I have to shed the pounds. 

It is hard to explain that no matter what changes in diet I have made over the past two years, regardless of food type or calorie count... the pounds are simply not coming off. When I talked with both of my surgeons, their explanation is that my metabolism is off due to the peritonitis having damaged my pancreas. In addition the visceral fat surrounding my organs is now acting more like an organ and less like fat. Lovely. Not really dinner conversation.

The reason I bring this up is that the prospect of going in for another surgery is not something we are taking lightly. It has to be done. If there was another way, I would be THRILLED. I am scared to death about the potential outcome. So hard to let go of what little control I have.  And this is what I have been trying to explain... the letting go. The accepting that I have tried my best... that I need help. 

Kickin' Ass and Takin' Names

Friday, November 4, 2011

Searching for the right words

This week Nancy and I got news that one of our family friends was diagnosed with ALS. Unfortunately, this is not our first encounter with ALS. Back in 2004 another one of our friends, Carol Buckley was diagnosed with ALS. Carol passed away the following June. Seventeen years ago, Nancy's grandfather Toby passed away from ALS.

When I try to type out my ideas and feelings, I am dumbstruck.

On the one hand, there are all the analytic ways of viewing the disease and its effect on families and friends. What has me at such a loss for words is the emotional component.

There is the selfish side of me which feels shortchanged and cheated. The altruistic side overcompensates and looks for ways to make things easier. In the end, both fall flat.

Thus far, our friend Kim has taken an approach to ALS that I have never seen. Her path through this disease has opened my mind and my heart in ways I was wholly unprepared for. I encourage you to read her blog. And after you've read it once, and cried, I encourage you to read it again. And when you've stared at your own fears and insecurities, I hope you'll read her words again. Her rally against fear is the most impassioned plea for understanding I have ever read. This has made me question my own intentions, assumptions, feelings... everything really. The bottom line is that she asks that anyone thinking of her to banish fear and to only share joy.

Having been the recipient of the healing thoughts of many many people (plenty of whom I have yet to meet), I have a strange window through which to see Kim's request. I never would have imagined that having folks think about me would make a difference in my healing process.

But it did. It still does.

You can't go through an experience like this and not be changed.

So please, read Kim's words and before you react, before you say a word to the person next to you, banish fear and try to find the joy in your heart. And then share it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sampson State Park Photo-Safari

Aurora and I took a few hours last weekend to drive up Seneca Lake to the Sampson State Park. We have driven past this park dozens if not hundreds of times, and yet never stopped there.  This weekend, the leaf-peeping forecast said that the last of the Fall color would be peaking (they lied - it was gone).... so we went out with the intention of getting some great fall color.

Few parks have such a complex history as Sampson.  Named for Rear Admiral William T. Sampson of nearby Palmyra, New York, Sampson served as the country's second largest naval training base from 1942 to 1945--the height of World War II.
After World War II, the many buildings and barracks, connected by miles of roads, were converted into Sampson State College, which educated returned serviceman and -women.
Then, during the Korean War (1950-1956), Sampson served as a training base for Air Force personnel. It is estimated that the combined number of men and women trained at Sampson was close to 750,000.

Strangely enough, after suffering through the grey-ist, wettest, rainiest three months of my life, this weekend was starkly clear skied. Blue heavens and white fluffy clouds. A sharp chill was in the air, but the sun more than made up for it. We spent the better part of an hour roaming around Sampson St. Park. We explored the marina and gave Georgia Rose a chance to get out of the van and explore a bit. I think the next time we are up this way we'll have to bring our bikes and plan on an afternoon of exploring the area. From the online information it sounds like we could bike back towards the nearby town of Willard. Might be a fun Spring ride.

One of the other things I would love to see is the Museum at Sampson. We arrived on a Sunday and they were closed. My hope is to head up sometime during the week or maybe a Saturday and see what the museum has to offer. So far, from what we saw just outside the museum, we were captivated.