In Memory

In Memory

In Memory

At the request of the family, I am removing my description of these events.  I am leaving up the photos as a tribute to Russel Falotico, as well as this reminder:
You never know when your time will come.  Be careful with your life, and do not wait to express your love to those who are important to you.

Gratitude

Gratitude

When you don’t feel well . . .

Some of life’s greatest blessings are things that we often don’t notice until they are gone.  It’s easy to forget that you are healthy . . . until you’re not.

For the last 6 months or so, I’ve been having some unusual and unsettling gastrointestinal issues, with symptoms ranging from abdominal pain, to strange bloating only in the upper-right part of my abdomen, to malaise, and even a few startling episodes of blood in my stool.  I’ve seen a host of health practitioners, of both eastern and western bents, and have had many tests and procedures to discover what is wrong.

The list of things we’ve ruled out so far is fairly long:

  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • H. Pylori (and ulcers, generally)
  • Colon Cancer
  • Food allergies to the common culprits (Milk, egg white, wheat, soy, peanut, shrimp, fish)
  • Hepatitis A, B, and C
  • Gallstones
  • A host of other blood tests, and probably things I can’t even remember.

They did find and remove 2 polyps from my colon, which were benign (ie. not cancerous), but were still concerning since they were adenomas (the kind that can sometimes turn into cancer) and I’m only 33 years old.

I have many more questions in need of answers, and this journey is far from over . . .

. . . Look At This.

This whole ordeal has meant plenty of time visiting various doctor’s offices and hospitals.  As I’ve been learning more about Evidence-Based Art (the study of what kinds of imagery can have a beneficial or detrimental impact on health and well-being), I’ve definitely been paying attention to the art, or lack thereof, everywhere I go.  Here’s what I’ve noticed:

The Naturopath and Acupuncturist I’ve seen have both taken great care to set up their spaces to be comfortable and welcoming, including with the display of beautiful calming images.  Ok, yes, in full disclosure, I am biased because they both chose to put MY art on the walls, but take a look at the images they chose:

I currently have insurance with Kaiser Permanente, so the western doctors I’ve seen, including my recent visit to the hospital for an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy, were at Kaiser facilities.

Now, as far as large institutions are concerned, you can’t be too hard on Kaiser.  They are among the front-runners in things like preventative care campaigns, the Open-Notes movement, and they are definitely working to bring in more appropriate artwork and design elements into their facilities.  That being said, I’ve found the Kaiser facilities to have a beauty that is only skin-deep.

Kaiser has invested a lot to upgrade the interior design of their clinics and hospitals, and when you first walk in they certainly give the impression of being nice facilities.  Most of their hallways and waiting areas are filled with artwork of varying quality.  Much of it leaves something to be desired, but some of it is quite nice, and more importantly, a large portion is consistent with the findings of Evidence-Based Art research.

Peel back the first layer of the onion, though, and the story changes somewhat.  All of the exam rooms I’ve been in have a decidedly more clinical feel, and usually feature one mediocre piece of art that feels a bit like an afterthought.

If you’re lucky enough to need further procedures after seeing your primary care doc, it only gets worse.  As things become more medical, they become decidedly less welcoming.  The hallway to the imaging room where I had a recent chest X-ray featured a strange, abstract piece of art that was wholly inappropriate for a medical setting (read my Brief Guide to Evidence-Based Art PDF if you want to understand why).  The ultrasound room had no art whatsoever, and felt very sterile.

I wish I were done here, but I have to take this one step further, because when I went in for a recent colonoscopy and upper endoscopy, the setting was about as unrelaxing as you could ask for.

IMG_7723 (900)

When they’ve got you hooked up to all the wires, with needles in your veins, it sure wouldn’t hurt to be in an environment that inspired calm.  Instead it’s fluorescent lights, beeping machines, curtains for walls, and not a single piece of art anywhere to be seen.

Not the end of the story

I’m not writing this post to lambast Kaiser.  As I mentioned before, they are actually ahead of the curve in many respects, and my experience would have been much the same in nearly every hospital in our country.  Thatis why I’m writing this post.  Every one of us will be a patient at some point, and improving the patient experience through simple environmental changes is low-hanging fruit.

For my part, I’m on a mission to bring beautiful, calming art into hospitals all over the country, and eventually the world.  The program that has most of my focus right now is my new Healing Art Cart, which is designed to give people who are in the hospital long-term an opportunity to choose the art to be displayed in their own rooms.

Please join me in this – believe me, when it’s you in the hospital gown, you’ll be glad you did.  Here’s what you can do to help:

  • Take a look at the program page on my website, or download my PDF info-sheet.
  • Share these things with your doctor, or anyone you know who works in or around a hospital.
  • Contact Me to let me know that you did so!  If appropriate, give me the phone or email address of the person you shared with so I can follow up.
  • Finally, dream up your own way to make life as a patient better.  I’d love to hear about it in the comments, and I’ll talk to my hospital connections about the good ones!

From Sofa Safari to National Parks Tour

Epic Adventures

Those of you who follow along with my sporadic blog and social media posting will already know this, but I just got back from an incredible adventure driving coast to coast with The Bug Chicks as the camera man for their Sofa Safari video series.  The idea was to take an antique green couch from sea to shining sea, place it in a wide variety of ecosystems, and film all of the incredible insects and arthropods that can be found right here in our country.  I have to hand it to them for making such a nutty idea come to fruition!

PCB_130827-0065Along the way, I got to see many parts of this country that I’d never had the chance to visit before.  I love to travel, but I’ve focused so much on overseas travel that until now I’ve overlooked a great deal of what our own country has to offer.

Image

The Grand Canyon is a prime example.  I could have spent weeks there just staring in wonder at this giant crack in the earth.  Unfortunately, our break-neck schedule meant we got there after sunset, and would have to leave mid-afternoon the next day, giving us just one opportunity to see the golden light of sunrise work its magic on the canyon.

I submitted this photo from that morning in a contest to be the photo on the 2015 Federal Recreation Lands pass, and to my astonishment and delight it has rocketed to the #1 position by popular vote among more than 11,000 entries!!  Click the photo (or click here) to cast your vote and help me win!  The U.S. Department of the Interior even posted this photo on all of their social media as their welcome-back posting after returning from the government shutdown on October 17th – what an honor!

I’m still in first place, as of this post, but there have been a few others that are climbing in the ranks, so please help me stay on top!  Once you have voted, don’t miss the chance to win a free print of the photo by sharing the cover photo from my facebook page!

National Parks, here I come!

All of this has also got me thinking.  Our national parks are bloody amazing.  Every one I’ve been to has been shockingly, breathtakingly beautiful.  As a photographer, the draw for me is obvious, but the recent government shutdown also brought into sharp focus how fortunate we are to have these wonders of nature, preserved for our enjoyment, and just waiting for us to visit them.

It’s inspired me to begin dreaming up a plan.  A GRAND plan.  I’m going to orchestrate a tour of our national parks, take photos of these incredible places, and set the whole thing up as a fund-raiser for the National Parks Foundation.

The details are still forming, but stay tuned – this will be epic.

Mexico

In my last post I told you that I would soon be posting photos from my recent trip to Mexico.  I suppose as long as you measure time like the Ents of Middle Earth, I’m doing pretty well.  I still haven’t gone through and finished all of the photos from my trip, but here are several of my favorites.

Finding Hope At Every Turn

Finding Hope At Every Turn

My trip started with many dear friends, gathered in San Pancho for a wedding.  Our diverse group from all over the world got the hair-brained idea to go for a horse ride into the jungle on a very rainy day.  I packed my camera in a waterproof bag just in case, and I was very glad I did when I saw this amazing gathering of butterflies on a branch next to a stream.

Delivered To Dreams

Delivered To Dreams

When we returned from our adventure, I heard from a friend who had stayed behind that a conservation organization had released baby turtles that evening, and would likely be doing so again the next evening.  This I HAD to see.

Destination Known

Destination Known

These amazing little creatures have incredible instinct and strength, despite their vulnerability.

Exploring Completion

Exploring Completion

It was a beautiful evening, and the beginning of many more great adventures.

Pondering Plenty

Pondering Plenty

A few days later I traveled with new friends through San Sebastian and then back for a jaunt through Puerto Vallarta.

The Wings Are Wide

The Wings Are Wide

I continue to learn many things about the generosity of the human spirit whenever I travel or interact with new people.

In Our Nature

In Our Nature

At last a friend and I parted ways with the others, and made our way to Chacala for relaxation and adventures of our own.

First Light Of Creation

First Light Of Creation

This pre-dawn photo is a 3 minute exposure of the waves lapping between the rocks on this shore.  The bird you will see if you look closely was almost completely still during the entire 3 minutes, giving me a fantastic silhouette.

Simply Choosing

Simply Choosing

Though the trip ended before I was ready, I had many great things to look forward to upon my return, so I said adieu with grace and optimism for my next adventure.

Maui

Image

I won’t make excuses for how long it’s been since my last post, but I will say that I’ve kept myself busy in that time, including two overseas trips.  In this post I’m featuring a few of my photos from my trip to Maui in November.  I’ll do another post soon to feature photos from my more recent trip to Mexico. 

Image

I spent 5 days on Maui, but most of my favorite shots came from one marathon adventure day, beginning with this shot of sunrise atop Haleakala (the 10,000+ ft. volcano that crowns the larger landmass of Maui). 

From there my fellow adventurers and I embarked on the journey through Hana, which involved several stops along the way. 

Image

We stopped at a place called Ohe’o Gulch, also known as the “7 sacred pools.”  (A fun side-note is that the pools have never been sacred to anyone, and there are not 7 of them.  This name was apparently created by a clever entrepreneur in Hana who was trying to create alluring destinations along the way that would bring more people, and thus business, to Hana.)

Image

Regardless of what you call the place, it’s definitely worth visiting.  As I hiked up the hill above a certain point, I found myself in an incredible bamboo forest.  It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been!

Image

Synapses

Synapses

“Synapses” 2010

I took this photo in February of 2010, and it has since garnered a fair bit of attention.

In the fall of that same year, I was selected to be a contributing artist for a literary journal called The Grove Review.  While delays in publishing mean that this is still “coming soon,” this image was the one they finally settled on as the one they wanted to feature.

More recently, I submitted 5 photos for consideration in the Annual Member’s Showcase at Newspace Center for Photography, and they selected this image to be included.

I like this photo quite a bit – it’s unique and interesting – but it’s not my usual style of photography, nor would it rank if I were to make a list of my top 10 favorite images that I’ve created.

Why, when selecting only 5 images to submit for the showcase, would I choose an image that doesn’t make my top-10 list?  Glad you asked.

In my journey from hobbyist to professional photographer, I’ve learned a great deal more than just how to take good pictures.  I’ve also learned that people value many different things for many different reasons.  When going through my portfolio with clients to choose art for their walls, I’ve never once had a client stop at this image and say “wow, that would look really good over here!”  They find it interesting, then move on to find a beautiful landscape or floral shot for their wall.

And yet, when I submit those same beautiful landscapes to juried exhibitions in the art world, they are almost always turned away.  What’s going on?

Washed Over

“Washed Over” 2010

I actually asked for feedback after a submission including this image from the Columbia Gorge was rejected, and I was told that my images looked “too much like something you would see in a magazine.”

. . . so, I’m going to try not to sound too cynical here, but don’t magazines usually feature “good” photography?  Like, you know, pretty pictures . . . right?  Well, when it comes to art in a gallery, this is apparently not the goal.  Better to take a photo left-handed with an expired disposable camera, then project it onto crumpled paper.  Most of the audience won’t know that the paper is crumpled like that because you used it to cover the window in your first apartment when you were still a “starving artist,” but the few who read your artist statement will get it.

Whoa – this guy is good.  Definitely worth the $14,000 price tag.

Ok, I think I failed at not sounding cynical.  There is a great deal of genuinely creative and interesting art out there – stuff that really does inspire me and others to consider a new perspective, etc.  It just seems to me that the search for things that are edgy or different has pushed the appreciation for things that are simply aesthetically beautiful almost completely out of the world of fine-art photography.

Fortunately, this only seems to apply when you are “in the art world.”  Back on planet earth, where people are choosing art for their own homes, offices, and clinics, people do seem to appreciate images that are simply beautiful, even if they aren’t strange or “cutting edge.”

I enjoy stretching boundaries a bit, and certainly hope that part of my exploration as a photographer will always include experimental images and the pursuit of the interesting, but I also find great value in the simple beauty that I see everywhere in nature, and I’m sure that it will continue to inspire me to take these “magazine” images for years to come.

So, even though I originally titled this photo because the image itself reminded me of the dendrites in our brains, it has come to embody its title with far more gusto, offering a small psychology lesson for me as I continue to explore the world of photography.

Galactic Salamander

Salamanders are so darned cute, but nearly impossible to photograph well.  I spent a weekend with a couple of friends just relaxing by the lake, and admired these little creatures going about their business.  I think my favorite picture is this one – he looks a bit like some kind of space monster flying through the cosmos.