I really, really wanted to call this post “Downton Aby”, but I kept envisioning a variation of the opening of “The Prisoner”, where ITV and PBS send a copyright agent to gas me and I awake in the Village talking to the New #2 and asking him “who is number 1?”  And in the interest of the truth, up until today, I always thought it was “Downtown Abby” and the Brits were just mispronouncing it.

As the reader may have figured from the title, Apollo Aby is a former photography student of mine at Apollo High School.  Aby was one of the few students who took my class for a second year.  Aby was a good student and it was a pleasure to have her in my class.  We kept in touch after graduation through Facebook.

It was in the fall of 2012 that Aby messaged me and told me she was looking to take some photography classes and would I give her some advice on what camera she should purchase.  I advised her as to what her best options would be for a camera.  After that, I really never heard any more about Aby getting a camera.

That changed in February when I got a message from her which said that she had gotten a camera and she was scheduled to shoot a Quinceanera and would I be able to help her out? Aby had received a Canon T3i for Christmas as well as a couple of lenses.  I was more than happy to give Aby as much help as she needed in photographing the upcoming Quinceanera.  I had to admit to Aby that the last Quinceanera I had attended was over 31 years ago, so I really wasn’t sure about the traditional shots that one took at a Quinceanera.  After much discussion and looking at her Quinceanera photographs, we decided that I would basically act as a second shooter for her and let her take the lead on the shoot.  Having taught Aby, I was extremely confident in her ability to photograph the event successfully.

The setting was in a huge park in downtown Phoenix.  Google map was not quite up to date on how many entrances there were to this park, so I ended up in the wrong parking lot.  Aby called me and asked where I was.  I told  her and then she informed me that she could see my little blue truck.  I asked where they were, and she told me to look across the big lake in front of me.  They were on the other side.  Eventually I made it to the right side of the lake and got to join in the shoot.

By the time I got there, Aby had everything under control like an old pro.  Aby’s mom was also there giving us helpful suggestions and keeping Aby’s little girl entertained when needed.  I soon realized that my main role that day would be to provide moral support for Aby.  I kind of tagged along for the rest of the day taking a few photographs here and there of Sabrina, the star of the Quinceanera, and a few photographs of Aby’s mom and daughter, and the decorations at the banquet venue.

Although I never had any doubt, I felt very happy for Aby when she messaged me telling me how much Sabrina liked all of Aby’s photographs.  It was a pleasure working with Aby and I will say right here that I am very proud of this young woman.



Subtitle:  The Good, the Bad and the Scary.  (Cue the greatest movie western theme song here)

THE GOOD  Back in February I wrote about the Matsuri Festival and the wonderful young artist Airi and her 1,000 origami cranes.  The first week in April, I got an invitation to the opening reception of Airi’s show “Resilience” at the Method Art Gallery in Scottsdale.  The show was a combination of the photographs she took in the city of Ishinomaki, Japan, and the 1,000 origami cranes she made to sell as a fundraiser so she could go to Ishinomaki and help with the town’s rebuilding efforts.  In Airi’s own words:

Resilience” is a collection of photographs taken in the city of Ishinomaki in Japan where on March 11, 2011 the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami devastated the area. The reconstruction of the town has been extensive and filled with many obstacles. It is deeply rooted in Japanese culture that if something is worth having it is greatly sought after and requires dedication and perseverance. Rather than just documenting the destruction the tsunami left behind, these photographs symbolize the resilience that the Japanese have embraced.”

It was an invitation I couldn’t refuse.  And if my memory served me right, opening receptions usually meant snacks.  Of course I accepted the invite.

Of course, the cranes were as awesome as I remembered them. But I found myself equally impressed with Airi’s photographs.  Photography is used to capture those moments in time that tell the story in the vision and style of the photographer.  Airi’s photographs did a wonderful job of chronicling the efforts and the resilience of Ishinomaki and its people in her unique way.

I also had a pleasant time talking with Airi.  I met her sister, mother and father, who are Airi’s biggest supporters and fans.  They had been right by Airi’s side helping her put up the show the night before.  Her sister, Riho, had also lent a hand with the making of the origami birds.  In fact, mother and father have raised a couple of young women with a strong sense of community and humanitarianism.  Riho herself had spent 3 months in New  York helping with Hurricane Sandy relief.

The sisters shared an amusing story about making the origami cranes.  As they were mixing the chemicals for the cyanotype process, Airi discovered they were out of one of the ingredients; hydrogen peroxide.  As nothing was open and they didn’t want to wait until the next morning, it was discovered that Airi’s contact solution contained the much needed hydrogen peroxide.  Problem solved.  One has to admire that kind of ingenuity.

As a gift for those of us that she invited, Airi made each person their own origami crane.  According to the tradition, “when someone makes an origami crane, the crane is invested with a gesture of goodwill for the person to whom it will be gifted.”  I like that.  Airi’s gift to me is hanging right beside me as I type.  I can use all the goodwill I can get.

Thank  you, Airi, for your lovely gift.  I wish you the best of luck as you start the next phase of your artistic endeavors.


THE BAD  My first field trip with my brand new digital camera was to the Japanese Gardens in downtown Phoenix.  It is quite a lovely place.  They have ducks.  I like ducks.  According to the hostess, the ducks are not supposed to be there.  All of the ponds and lakes at the Gardens are for the Koi.  I guess nobody told the ducks.  I got a couple of really great action shots of a duck coming in for a landing.  Several months later, when I was putting together my website and my Facebook business page, I used my favorite duck picture of that day as a featured photograph.

Remember as a kid if you showed your mom a piece of paper with a stick man drawn in grape jelly that drawing was a sure sign of of artistic genius and immediately hung up somewhere in the house?  I am happy to say that my wife doesn’t do that.  Don’t get me wrong, she likes the artwork and photography that I do, but she doesn’t think everything I photograph needs to be hung in a gallery.  But she LOVED that duck picture.  Hopefully, I have made it clear. Although she greatly likes the photographs I do, this duck picture was the only one she LOVED. This last Wednesday she came to me and said ” this may sound silly for an anniversary gift, but would you consider getting the duck picture I LOVE printed and framed for me so I can put it my new office at work?”  I didn’t think that sounded silly at all.  In fact, it was a great idea.  I have been wanting to try out some high quality prints for myself.  This would be perfect.

The reader might be wondering at this moment “Where is the bad?  Your wife LOVES your stupid duck picture, Tim, and wants to hang a print of it in her office.”  Good question.  The bad enters this story on the Sunday before she asked for the print.  On that day, I deleted my original file of that print. Not only that, I had deleted the image from my website.  And the topper was, I never posted it on Facebook like I thought I had.

It is never a pleasant feeling  starting a conversation with  “Dear, I am afraid I have some bad news…”

Yes, I could always go back to the Japanese Gardens and take more duck pictures, but it just wouldn’t be the same.  There didn’t seem to be any hydrogen peroxide in MY contact solution.  I was defeated.

But sometimes bad has a happy ending.  Just this very afternoon I was working on my Facebook business page and I started thinking that I remember posting that stupid duck on Facebook.  Just maybe I had posted it to my business albums instead of my personal site albums.  I looked under albums and sure enough, there was an album of 2 pictures titled “Japanese Gardens…Ducks”  I will be getting the framed order in about 14 days.


THE SCARY A little over a month ago I posted a blog about an episode on the TV show Thriller.  The episode was called  “Pigeons from Hell”.  I finally worked up enough nerve to watch the whole episode on YouTube and I did a full analysis of why this episode scared me so much that I can still see the dead guy coming down the stairs with an ax buried in his head.  I came to the following conclusions:

1. It was in black and white.  Everything is scarier in black and white.

2. It had scary music.  Not just scary music, but scary woman music.  Every time the scary woman started singing, it meant someone would go into a trance, go upstairs and get killed.  Whenever you heard that, it was time to shut the eyes.

3.  The main character’s name is Tim.  I was too young to know at the time that in most horror movies the character named Tim usually dies.  But I know my dad and my Uncle Ed.  I can’t prove it, but I am absolutely positive that they spent the entire show saying things like “they are going to get you Tim!”  Not cool.

4.  It had zombies in it.  Not your Zombie Apocalypse type zombies, but the more traditional voodoo zombies.

Viewing it 52 years after the first watching of the show, I felt it held up well.  It was more creepy than scary this time around.  And back then, the censorship pretty much meant that the mind had to imaging all the blood and gore.  The theater of the mind.  For example, in the most famous slasher scene ever, the shower scene in the original “Psycho” we never see the knife penetrate any flesh at any time.  The music and the screaming is what made the illusion seem so real, and the chocolate syrup.

I also was reminded that our minds play tricks on us over the years.  I can still vividly see a man walking down the stairs of this creepy old house with an ax sticking out of his head.  NOT TRUE!  He walked down the stairs with the ax in his hand, with the intent of burying the ax in Timmy’s head.

I am pretty sure that is when I heard my first “he’s coming to get you, Timmy!”  Muahhahahahahaha!!!

Pigeon from hell


Their love story begins at a soccer tournament. Katie was asked at the last minute if she wanted to participate in a weekend soccer tournament. She agreed. On her way to the tournament, Katie picked up a maple iced donut for pre-meet nutrition. During the usual pre-game milling around, Katie was getting ready to eat the afore mentioned donut when a strapping young soccer player walked up to her and struck up a conversation. It was primarily about what motivates all strapping young athletes; food, specifically the donut that Katie was about to eat. The young man introduced himself as Jason and informed Katie that he was a huge fan of maple donuts and asked if she would be willing to share. Katie agreed that he could have half. As she was about to tear the donut in two, Jason was called away to join his team in their pregame warm up. After he left, Katie ate her half and put Jason’s half away for safe keeping. After all, she thought, a deal is a deal.

A couple of hours later, during a break in the action, Jason found his way back to Katie and jokingly asked if she had saved him some of the donut. Much to his surprise Katie pulled out the half of the donut she had kept and gave it to him. Jason told Katie he was kidding around and didn’t really expect that she had saved any for him. Katie explained to him that she had told him she would give him some of the donut and she was just keeping her word.

As the day is drawing to an end, Jason wandered over to where Katie was and suggested to her that they exchange phone numbers, just in case he needs another maple donut sometime. By the time Jason returned to his team’s camp, he realized that he had used one of the dorkiest “let’s exchange phone numbers” lines….ever! When the crush of regret and remorse got a firm grip in Jason’s wheelhouse, he texted a girl he knew telling her that he had just used the dorkiest “let’s exchange numbers” line…ever! The rest of the text pretty much bemoaned the fact that he had blown any chance he might have had to get to know Katie, etc. etc. It just so happens that the girl Jason texted is also a friend of Katie’s and she shared Jason’s text with Katie.

I am happy to say that Jason’s fears were unfounded. Katie and Jason are engaged to be married in June.

Who knew that Cupid’s arrow would come in the shape of a maple donut?

I am pleased to share these images from Katie and Jason’s engagement session.

“Live hand in hand and together we’ll stand…on the threshold of a dream.”

from “The Dream” by the Moody Blues


Cupid’s arrow…with maple frosting


About a month or so ago Sarah, a young lady I met at the Help Portrait event in December, contacted me and asked if I would consider joining her and Frauke, another Help Portrait person, in photographing the activities at the Down Syndrome Network’s picnic on World Down Syndrome Day on March 21st.

It was quite a picnic!  Grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, pizza, and vast amounts of salads and desserts were available for consumption. The organizers rented those big, inflatable buildings for the kids to play on. The park was rocking with the great tunes the DJ was playing.  Psy’s “Gangnam Style” got the boys and girls and even a couple of adults up and performing the “Gangnam Style” dance.  A couple of young ladies were doing face painting, and a couple of clowns were creating colorful animal balloons for the kids.  (I did yell at one clown “MAKE ME A CAR, CLOWN!” but apparently he isn’t as big a fan of Wedding Crashers as I am).  As I surveyed the scene and circulated around to take pictures, I saw that the kids had those bright and wonderful faces a child gets when it is their birthday, or it’s Christmas morning.  It was a wonderful time.

As much as I hate the use of cliches, I am going to use one now.  I want my pictures to speak for themselves.  This is just a small sample, but I think the images will speak the story better than I can write it. One more thing: when I was editing the images, the song “Shining Happy People” by REM kept running through my head.  I am linking it here.  Give it a listen while you look at the images.  You’ll leave with a smile in your heart.

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I met Nilza during my last year of teaching at Apollo High School.  She was a sophomore when I met her.  I was hanging out in my friend Dave’s classroom while he was having an Academic Decathlon meeting.  Nilza was a member of the team.  After the meeting she and Dave started to discuss guitars and music.  I found out that Nilza is a huge Beatles fan.  I just love it when the youth of today appreciate the classics.

Nilza is a smart, talented and, as can be seen in these images, a beautiful young lady.  In addition to her participation on the Academic Decathlon team Nilza is also a member of the Apollo Marching Band.  She taught herself to play guitar and has quite the singing voice.  Just a few days after we shot this session,  Nilza sang her way to a first place finish in the Apollo Talent Show.  Quite a finish as Nilza wraps up her senior year.

And of course, she has impeccable taste in music.  Did I mention she is a Beatles fan?

IMG_9601-6 IMG_9617-9 IMG_9622-10 IMG_9623-11 IMG_9688-14 IMG_9785-17 IMG_9809-18 IMG_9824-19 Nilza 1 Nilza 2