I was lucky enough to have back to back photo shoots on that last weekend in February.  As a matter of fact, at the wedding reception I was seated with the two people I would be shooting the next day; Hillary Rodriguez and her daughter Emily.  Hillary and Van are former co-workers and friends and I am linked to both of them and friends with both of them because of a botched haircut some 5 odd years ago.

I had let my hair grow long for around 3 years.  I would get a little bit cut off every six months, usually on the last day before Christmas break and the first day of summer break.  So one fine summer day I went to one of the chain store hair cutting places.  I had decided to get my hair cut back to a little longer than shoulder length, figuring it would grow out over the summer.  The cut was a disaster.  I looked like Buster Brown but with one side of my hair longer than the other.  Even my wife laughed at me.  So it was back to the short hair for me.  Eventually my path led me to Floyd’s Barber on the west side.  Hillary worked at that Floyd’s and I ended up getting my haircut and shave from her.  Then one day, it may have been a February day, I get an email from Floyd’s telling me they were out of business.  As Hillary told me later, the stylists found out they didn’t have a job when they showed up for work.  I hadn’t gone to Hillary enough for us to have exchanged contact information, so I went on a search for a new stylist.  I ended up going to Floyd’s in Chandler where Van worked.

Forward to February.  Hillary was out of the hair cutting business entirely and working for a dentist.  She and I connected again through Facebook.  Around February 6th we started messaging about Emma’s upcoming  9th birthday party and agreed that I would come and photograph the event.  As a wedding/event photographer-to-be, I was needless to say ecstatic.  A wedding and an event back to back.  And there would be plenty of smiling, happy children at the birthday party.  Exciting times.

If one read the previous post, one knows the frustrations of the two weeks leading up to the events.  If I was not well enough to make the wedding, probably wasn’t going to be well enough to get to a Saturday children’s birthday party.  Of course the equipment problems were the same for the birthday party as the wedding.  Being well enough to make it to the wedding, I made one concession by leaving the reception around 9 pm.  An aside on this: as a partier I am a bitter-ender.  I stay until last call and the cleaning crew comes in.  It took a lot of self-discipline to leave the reception, but I figured I had got all the pictures I needed and I didn’t want to miss Saturday.

Saturday arrives.  I head to the party ready to shoot, but a bit apprehensive.  I don’t have kids and my only experience with kids has been with teenagers.  Am I going to get along well with a roomful of 9 year olds?

I had a blast.  The children were fantastic.  The party activities were wonderful.  Hillary got some great ideas from Pinterest.  I meet wonderful parents.  I shot, in my opinion, some great shots.  I got two more bookings; a baby shower and another birthday.  God is blessing my efforts.  Life is good.  The only “Debbie Downer” was when people asked me for a business card I had to sheepishly tell them that I wasn’t at that stage of my new business yet.

Forward to today.  During the course of talking to Hillary at the reception and the party she spoke of her unhappiness with her job at the dentist office.  Hillary loves to do hair.  She was one of the hairdressers at the wedding.  It may be a trite cliché, but it is true:  it’s important to work at something a person is passionate about.  I am happy to say that since the birthday party, Hillary has opened her own shop and is working and Floyd’s in Chandler and doing wedding hair.  And she is happy at what she does.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Hillary is a great mom.  It was a great site to see the family love that Hillary and Emma have for each other.  It was a fun time for me and a great way to start out my fledging career.  Thanks, Hillary, for the opportunity to shoot Emma’s party and build my portfolio.  And I promise that someday I will take you up on lunch at Pete’s Fish and Chips.

Hillary works at The Nearly Famous Salon Studio and Floyd’s Barber Shop in Chandler.





With apologies to CSN&Y.

One of the people I discussed my career move with is Van Nguyen.  Van cuts my hair.  And because she also does wedding day hair styling, she is well plugged in to the wedding scene. She gave me the name of Diana Elizabeth as a wedding photographer to contact.  She also invited me to her wedding and gave me permission and encouragement to take photographs of the big event.  Needless to say I was a bit surprised and but very happy for the chance to do that.  I can honestly say that at this point on my journey I wasn’t really sure if I would enjoy shooting weddings and events.  Something I believed I would like to do, but in all honesty, I hadn’t been to a wedding in 10 years and I left halfway through that one.  I was enthusiastically excited about this opportunity I was being given.

Preparation was in order.  Since I was not the main or second shooter but the “Uncle Bob” shooter, I had to figure out what kind of shots I was going to go for at the wedding.  I basically decided I couldn’t go wrong if I took pictures of smiling, happy people.  Everybody likes pictures of smiling happy people, right?  The next thing I was planning on doing was upgrading my equipment.  I had a enough money saved up to by a 70-200IS/2.8 lens and a Speedlite 580EXII.  ( I hope that is enough camera jargon to keep the technology fanatics happy)  So as I was happily planning and attempting to put everything together, I forgot one thing:  February.

Since my junior year in high school, bad things always seem to happen in February.  As a matter of fact, back then I dubbed it Black February.  Some are worse than others, but just as Caesar had his Ides of March, I have my February.

The following happened to me within two weeks of the approaching February ceremony.  An old back issue flared up.  So much so that I had trouble walking  without supporting myself.  On top of that, I caught a cold.  I hadn’t had a cold in years.  Between the pain killers and the cold medicine I spent most of the days before the wedding in a stupor.  I really didn’t know until the day of whether I was going to make the wedding or not.

And what about purchasing that grand equipment I was saving up for?  Didn’t happen. First, my POC Ford decided it needed major repairs.  Goodbye Speedlite.  Second, my sewer line broke.  Goodbye 70-200IS lens.  The money saved to buy those wonderful upgrades was now buried in my front yard.

Attempted to put a positive spin on events, I realized that as untimely as the needed repairs were, I did have the money to pay for them, so that was something to be glad about.  I did have working equipment.  I was determined that I would make it to Van and Duc’s wedding.

So fortified with Dayquil, Ibuprofin, a 50mm lens, a 27-90mm lens and a pop-up flash I made my way to the venue and my first set of wedding photos for my portfolio.

Thank you, Van.  You gave me this opportunity out the goodness of your heart, expecting nothing in return.  I will always be grateful.


The first step on this journey of mine began with buying a digital SLR camera and learning how to use it.  I had been using the old student grade Pentax K1000 film camera.   I figured there would be quite a learning curve to this new camera of mine.  Being a practical man, I decided to find a class to take.  I settled on an online class taught by local wedding photographer Diana Elizebeth Steffen.  Having just retired and basically went from doing something, a lot of something as a matter of fact, to doing nothing, I was really looking forward to taking this class in October.

About a week or two before class was to start, I got a notice from Creative Groove, the company that sponsers the class, informing me that the class had been cancelled.  Aw, man!  I felt like Christmas had just been cancelled.  I felt like I was adrift on a raft and Wilson was floating away.  But a week later, Creative Groove let me know that they had reconsidered and that Christmas was on and Wilson was ok and, oh by the way, the class is back on.

I really enjoyed the class.  I was learning new information, so much that I often thought about this statement “the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.”  Basically the process for the class was an online session, then a week to shoot the assignments, upload the best shots and get feedback.  I was happily going about my assigned tasks when Diana posted the following suggestion “go outside and take your pictures.”  Up to that point, I hadn’t left my house.  I was shooting everything inside using window light or the light from the chandelier.  I also pretty much limited my shooting to flowers and cats.  I might have thought I was doing a good job, but it was pretty dull and ordinary.

I knew Diana was right.  I needed to get out and start photographing people.  After all, as a wedding/event photographer, I wouldl be expected to take pictures of people, so I might as well get used to it.  My friend Dave’s son was celebrating his 5th birthday.  The party was being held at a local park.  I asked Dave if I  could come and shoot the party for my class project.  He said yes and my first ever “event photography” session took place.

I found out a few things that day.  Always bring some sort of bubble making device to a kids party.  There is an opportunity for some great pictures using the bubbles. I  also learned  that feeding the ducks at the park is forbidden. I love feeding ducks and was very dissappointed.  But the most important thing I learned from this session is that I have a lot of work to do to get to the level of photography I desire for myself.  The old saying is correct.  Having a fancy camera does not make one a great photographer.

In my first post I talked about the “theys” that are having a positive impact on ny fledgeling career.  Diana Elizabeh Steffen is one of the “theys”.  I enjoyed her class and am taking two more classes from her.  She is knowledgable, engaging, and very passionate about her subject and her profession.  She is above all a great photographer.  Thank you, Diana, for all your help.  I look forward to your next class July 9th.

To see some of her amazing photographs, or perhaps you are planning on getting married, check out her website at  If you want to take a class from Diana, or see other class offerings, go to


You know the “they” I am talking about.  The mythical “they” that always seem to have the right knowledge about whatever the topic may be.   In my case the topic is wedding/event photography.  After retireing from a stellar (in my opinion) 31 year teaching and coaching career, I was ready to find something new and meaningful to do with my life.  Since my last teaching assignment was photography, I decided I was semi-good enough and interested enough to pursue photography as my second career.  So I’ve been doing research and taking classes on wedding/event photography and the one constant that all the “theys” talk about is that a photographer needs a blog.  Another thing “they” tell me is I need to write about myself.  That’s just the right thing to tell me because I am my favorite subject.  So here I go.  I will be sharing with you my journey into this new career of mine.  I will be talking about some of the “theys” in my life, people who are inspiring and mentoring me, and sharing my the best of my photography on this blog.

This is going to be quite different for me.  As a teacher I was the smartest person in the room, at least in my subject matter, and I had a captive audience.  I am no longer the smartest kid in the room and I have to pay attention.  This career is more than just taking “pretty pictures”.  If that’s all I wanted to do I would just take my camera out every day and take pictures of my cats.  It’s about capturing the joy and emotionality of that special day, that special time and preserving those moments.

There is a line from “Blade Runner” that goes like this: “All those moments will be lost, in time, like tears in rain.”  I see myself as a vehicle for people to preserve those moments, keep the memories real and alive.