Thursday, April 29, 2010

Grandma's Wine Glass


When my Grandmother moved from her senior citizen apartment into a nursing home, she wanted to divide up her belongings. She knew she would have no room to store her things. She began earmarking her possessions for her loved ones. I wanted nothing to do with any possible bickering over who was going to get what, so I went into my cocoon. I could not escape her gaze. Resistance was futile and she insisted that I have something. I asked if I might have her little wine glasses. A big smile grew on her face when I said it. Everyone else thought I was joking. I wasn't. She was over the moon that I wanted them.

My Grandmother's wine glasses were acquired one by one. Each was a freebie with a fill up at the local gas station. She thought it was terrific that she would be given a free wine glass for filling up her tank. We didn't have the heart to tell her she was likely paying for the glass in the process of paying the price per gallon. That wasn't the point. My Grandmother had the most grateful heart of anyone I've ever known. She was delighted to be alive... serving her Heavenly Father and spreading her love and gratitude like pixie dust over her family.

I remember a time when Grandma was given a giant block of government cheese. You would have thought she had died and gone to heaven. She said to me, "Danny, can you believe they gave this to me? I'm the luckiest person I know."

As an adult, I tried to visit my Grandma as often as I could. I lived in Michigan and she in Minnesota. I would blow into town and insist that I take her out to dinner at a nice restaurant. I would have taken her anywhere. "Money is no object, Gram. Where do you want to go? Let's make it a *nice* place." She'd say, "I'd like to go to Old Country Buffet." And I'd reply, "Come on, Gram! Pick someplace NICE!" Grandma would say, "That's what I like. And it IS nice." We'd always argue about it (in a fun way) and we'd always end up going to Old Country Buffet.

My Grandma has been gone for quite a few years now. She lived to the ripe old age of 94. Every year on her birthday, March 10, I take myself out to eat at Old Country Buffet. Just me. I think about how much I love her and how much I miss her. And every year after I have my meal at OCB, I walk up to the cash register with a big lump in my throat and tears in my eyes….just like I have at this moment…..

I am so grateful she was my Grandmother….and to have her wine glasses…that she was so grateful for...that she held in her hands….and held to her lips….

I pray she knows how much I admired her for her attitude of gratitude.

We should all be so lucky.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Seeing - Part 3 (repost)

A few days ago, a friend of mine told me she is more aware of her surroundings as a result of knowing me. Wow. What a great compliment.

"Seeing" is very important to me -- not just looking, but seeing. There is a big, big difference between the words "looking" and "seeing". Her kind words reminded me of a series of posts I did many months ago. The 3-post series was the result of a weekend workshop I was asked to give. When I'm asked to do anything instructional, I try to put my own spin on it. Anyone can pick up the technical requirements of how to use a camera. It's far more difficult, however, to have a unique sense of vision. In my opinion, we can develop our ability to "see".

Here's the post. This one's for you, Liz.

Improving Our Ability to See


I have lived in Michigan all of my adult life. There are areas of Michigan that are incredibly beautiful. I live in central Michigan. It's as flat as a pancake. I've heard many people complain about it being bland and mundane. Maybe it is. But for me, it is not a beauty contest. In my mind, beauty is just needs to be discovered.

"The best pix are right in front of you"
- Joe McNally

I suspect that living here has made me a better seer. When I hear people criticize this area, it saddens me. Not because they're badmouthing the area I've chosen to live, but because they are choosing not to see. They're being lazy with a God-given gift. They are putting their brain in neutral. There is beauty here, they just don't see it. It's on a different measuring stick. They prefer that their version of beauty be displayed like an opulent feast…an over the top, in-your-face beauty. Don't get me wrong, I love that kind of beauty, too, but I've learned that I prefer to discover beauty. I find it far more fulfilling…like finding a tiny gold nugget in a big bucket of stones. I have never thought that standing in front of a beautiful tourist attraction and mindlessly snapping a photo was nearly as fulfilling as finding a buried treasure.... To me, a magnificent vista is no more impressive than finding a hidden cactus flower in the desert. I'm an oddball that way.

I would much rather discover beauty than have it handed to me on a platter. I don't need overused clich├ęs of beauty. I have seen the beaches of Thailand and the Caribbean, the rainforests of Brazil, the Swiss Alps, Venice, Rome, Nice, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, the canals of The Netherlands, Mount McKinley and more. I loved them all, but if I didn't see the more "pedestrian" beauty around me, I'd be missing an important and fulfilling part of life.

Maybe I am naturally curious. I have a thirst to see. Thankfully, it's a thirst that I never seem to quench. And it's the element of discovery that propels me. Capturing a photo is secondary. As a kid, I loved finding an Easter egg…a penny on the ground, a wildflower, a frog, or a baby bird in a nest. I still love it. Just because we are adults doesn't mean we can't have fun with discoveries. Come on people, let's live life.

"Don't take photographs. Be taken by photographs."
- Ernst Haas

Here's my advice.
Carve out some peace and quiet as often as you can. Shed the chatter of civilization - your cell phone, iPod, computer, TV, radio, pager, and yes, this blog. Listen to what silence sounds's probably been a while. Let your creative spirit take you over....and challenge yourself with a photographic self-assignment.

For example:

  • Shoot a series of things that are blue (or your favorite color).
  • Shoot a series of things that say "no" (a stop sign, barbed wire, a locked gate, a child-proof cap, a neon sign that says "Closed").
  • Shoot things that are round.
  • Shoot the letters of the alphabet that create your name, your child's name, or a verse.
  • Shoot signs that bear your name or part of your name.


  • Shoot arrow shapes.
  • Shoot the four Rs (rust, ruin, ramshackle & ruble).

Go without expectations. Expectations are a killer of creativity. You will see things you've never seen before. I promise.

    "Go out empty and be filled with what you see"
    - Jay Maisel

Now get out there.

And give me a call...I'll go, too.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Birds of a Feather




Thursday, April 15, 2010

Northern Michigan Splendor



Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jamaica Blue Mountain Sunset


A friend recently asked me if I had any images of sunsets. Like an idiot, I said I didn't have many. I honestly didn't think I did. Since then, every time I open a folder of photos I come across a sunset photo I forgot I had. Oops. Sorry about that, my friend. I'll make it up to ya.

Sigh.......Thankfully, I never admitted to being the sharpest knife in the drawer.



Monday, April 12, 2010

Peace Lily


Even the indoor plants are coming to life.



Friday, April 9, 2010




Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010



American Goldfinch (male)

Now THIS is my idea of tweeting.

I registered a Twitter account many moons ago and I have yet to touch it. Don't hold your breath, friends, because my idea of tweeting is pictured above. There aren't many things I like better than hearing these little guys singing. All of these beautiful creatures were photographed in my backyard. If I have spare time, it won't be spent tweeting from my computer -- I'll be tweeting outside with God's creations.


Eastern Bluebird (male)


Eastern Bluebird (female)


Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Fork in the Road - Repost


This was originally posted nearly one year ago, on Saturday, April 25, 2009. I am re-posting it today for two reasons:

  1. It is still on my mind nearly a year later.
  2. I've become infatuated with the simple act of holding hands and the powerful connection it creates.

When I originally posted this, I was considering throwing in the towel at 100 posts...ready for another adventure. Now I've posted more than 260 times and I am so glad that I have stuck it out. I've met some amazing people between #100 and #260.


As I approach my 100th blog post (this is #98), I find myself at a crossroads. I would have never dreamed back in October that I would have posted nearly 100 times in six short months. Who knew? I sure didn't. I'd been thinking about it for months, but it took my good friend, Ron, to give me a shove. That's what friends are for sometimes. This photo journal idea has been a fun adventure. I've met many people through blog "comments" that I now consider friends.

My original motivation to blog was to keep me thinking, doing, & creating. If there is one thing I've been good at over the years, it has been giving myself assignments to keep the momentum going. I've always felt that is important for me. As a commercial photographer, I'm usually shooting stuff my clients want and that can be unfulfilling.

I've discovered during this journey that some of the things I shoot for myself end up being very personal and not necessarily for public consumption. Therefore, many of the things I shoot never make it to the blog...yet they tend to be the shots that are the most meaningful to me. I'm making an exception with the photo above. I'm not sure why. I guess I just feel like it today. I'm posting it before I change my mind.

I had to fight back tears after I captured this early today. I knew this fellow was in "desperation mode". I could see it clearly written on his face. He needed help...and he needed it right now. He sat down to pray with a clergyman. He had tears in his eyes. They joined hands. I chose not to shoot their faces. It wasn't necessary and they needed their privacy and anonymity. The simplicity of their hands tells enough of the story. From a distance, I clicked one frame and moved away...and I tried to choke down the lump in my throat.

There is an age-old question that photojournalists have to rationalize: Is their work somehow benefited by the despair of others? The flip side of that question is: Can society be benefited by exposing the human condition to the light of day? I've never really considered myself a photojournalist -- at least not a good one. And if I put myself in the role of a photojournalist at times, I struggle mightily with those two questions.

Maybe what I saw today put me in a reflective mood. One hundred posts seems like a good time to examine, adjust, re-jigger, or maybe just look back. I'm not sure where I go from here. Maybe it's time for a new and different self-assignment...maybe not. Time will tell. In any case, thanks to *you* for coming along for the ride.

I appreciate it more than you know.





Friday, April 2, 2010




Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Brand New Day


New life...renewal...a brand new day.