Monday, December 28, 2015

Southwest Happenings

Since the last blog entry, I’ve attended some pretty epic things here in Albuquerque.

The first that leaps to mind is the LanternFest, which though I’d never heard of it, sounded kind of cool - so I went.  Apparently they put these festivals on all over the country, but if there isn’t one near you, find out where they are and go.  It was one of the most fun and amazing things I’ve ever done.

There was live entertainment... 

each attendee received a box filled with goodies (s’mores ingredients included!) 

and a lantern that you get to light and watch float off into the sky with thousands of others.  

Like I said…EPIC!

A little time passed and I once again I visited the River of Lights at the Albuquerque Bio Park and Zoo this holiday season.  If you haven’t been…go.  It’s truly lovely.  I was ooo-ing and aw-ing all over the place. While it was relatively cold outside, I was bundled up and trotting around the Bio Park like a little kid in a toy store.  It was like I’d see one thing, trot over to shoot it, turn around and trot over to the next thing and shoot it.  Talk about being a pin ball.  It would have been a really funny video.

Unfortunately, I neglected to put that image folder into Dropbox (since I’m out of town for the holidays) and can’t share them here.  : (

Winter Sunset at the Coronado National Monument

The last thing I did before leaving town to spend the holidays with my boys was to visit the Coronado  National Monument for a Christmas celebration.  While Coronado was a pretty bad guy, the site and ruins are very cool. The only word I can think of to describe it is, historic.  There was a local choir and the snack table was manned by some one of our military members.  Many of the decorations were the traditional southwest faralitos and lined all the walking paths.  At the end was a huge Zia symbol - outlined in faralitos.  All in all, really a nice night.

Although I’m not native to the southwest, we really do have some pretty cool stuff here in Albuquerque.  Especially during the holiday season.  Plus, there’s always Chocolate Dude to warm you up afterwards with the best latte and champagne truffles in town!

Until next time…

Please also stop by and visit my fine art website at, my commercial website at for fun stuff, and

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Saving Big Cats

I took a trip last month to Tampa, Florida, to visit the Big Cat Rescue for a photography tour.  What a great place!  It’s located on 67 acres in the Citrus Park area. They began rescuing exotic cats in 1992 and it is home for approximately 90 big cats, many of whom are threatened, endangered or extinct now in the wild, including: Tigers, Lions, Leopards, Cougars, Bobcats, Lynx, Servals, Ocelots & Caracals.


They have large enclosures that are similar to what they might have in the wild, with a few extras - like toys, swimming areas, platforms to be up on, etc.  The keepers NEVER touch or handle the animals in any way.  That way, they remain wild and don't learn to depend on humans.  They have "vacation" areas where they can go relax in an open area that's larger than their enclosure and are "transported" there via a series of tunnels placed from their enclosure to the vacation spot.  They are guided through so they can get there safely and the keepers are also protected.  Videos showing the process are on the website.

Snoozing Leopard

Mostly, their residents have been surrendered by owners who thought (or rather, didn’t use the comment sense they were born with) a big cat would make a great pet.  Others were rescued from drug dealers who thought having a “guard cat” was a good idea.  Some were removed from owners who forced them to perform, were retired from performing acts, were saved from being slaughtered to make fur coats, or rescued as babies after hunters killed their mothers.


They have onsite veterinary care and are keenly aware of the health restrictions and dietary needs of all the animals in their care.  In the instance below, skin cancer was removed from this rare white Serval's nose.  Their food intake is tracked meticulously…even if it happens to be an unfortunate turtle who wanders too close to a cougar’s cage.

White Serval

All that said, they are a 501c3 and run 100% on private donations.  ALL of the money donated or spent in their gift shop goes directly back to the animals.  It is accredited by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries and is certified by Independent Charities of America as a “best in America” charity.  They are also a member of the World Society for Protection of Animals.  In addition, it is rated four stars by Charity Navigator (their highest rating) and has one of the highest scores of any animal based charity.  They are also part of a global coalition including HSUS, IFAW, WWF, GFAS, Born Free and other animal protection groups who are working together to end big cat abuse.  It's called the Big Cat Act. Please click on this link (Big Cat Act) and be part of ending this cycle of abuse.

White Tiger

Some of these majestic cats have been "thrown away" because they're perceived as not being pure as in this example. The only crime this white tiger committed was being born with cream colored fur (instead of pure white) and brown stripes (rather than black) so she was not considered a "pure" white tiger.  And the image above indicates how she feels about it.

I was also made aware that there are NO regulations in place via the USDA regarding having big cats as personal pets, guard cats, or anything like that at all.  The cage below is the only "regulation" in place.  The tiger (or whatever big cat) only has to be able to stand, turn around and lay down. That's it...seriously.  Shame on us and whoever's brainchild this cage was! 

Tiger Enclosure

Big Cat Rescue does ask that you support their efforts to get HR3546 (Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act) passed if you’re so inclined. This is the most important piece of legislation to ever be introduced to protect lions, tigers and other exotic wild cats from being kept as pets and in miserable roadside zoos. It has more than 120 co-sponsors.

At the end of my tour, I could hardly speak because I was so choked up at the knowledge of the former lives of these beautiful, majestic animals.  If you go, ask for Chelsea.  She was a wonderful, compassionate guide and took her time so I could get the images I was hoping for.  I also sponsored a big cat (a black leopard) which while it wasn't a huge thing, it made me feel like I was at least contributing to the care of the big cats.  Go there.  It’s so worth the trip.  And the big cats will appreciate your support.

Until next time…

Please also stop by and visit my fine art website at, my commercial website at for fun stuff, and

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Shooting" Wildlife

In light of the recent cruel and senseless killing of a majestic, not to mention gorgeous lion, I feel compelled to title this article ""Shooting" Wildlife" because frankly, wielding a camera is the only kind of shooting that should be done when it comes to the magnificent creatures that roam this planet with us.  But I digress...

In an earlier post (Don't Try This at Home...) about an encounter with a rather large wolf on display in front of the Petco near my house, I talked about the wolves that live at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. What I didn't know is that they not only provide sanctuary for wolves, but also for (very cute) little red foxes, Australian Dingos (who give kisses freely) and Singing Dogs (yes, they really do sing!). Add to that the many arctic wolves and high content wolf dogs and you have a plethora of beautiful animals all within the same facility.  While it's not really "freedom" for these animals, it is their forever home and they are well cared for in very large enclosures where they are free to run and carouse with their enclosure mates and neighbors in the next enclosure over and they no longer have to worry about fending for themselves or being abused by ignorant humans.

Red Fox

Australian Dingo
Singing Dog

I recently visited the sanctuary to do what amounted to be a private photography tour for myself and another photographer friend.  We had quite the experience.  Photographing wild animals up close and personal is something not a lot of people get to do.  Further, how many people can say they've been kissed by a Dingo or sung to by a dog?  For that matter, how many can say they've been loved on by a ginormous Arctic Wolf?  The encounters of this day were nothing short of amazing and truly a once in a lifetime happening.

Arctic Wolf

High Content Wolf Dog

If you get the chance, please do visit the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary for your own amazing experience.  Ask for Leyton.  He was a very patient, knowledgable guide and told us what to expect and how to behave inside the enclosures.  After all, they really are wild animals. That said, the only "weapon" you'll need for shooting these wild animals is your camera.

Until next time...

Please also stop by and visit my fine art website at, my commercial website at for fun stuff, and

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Victoria: A Canadian Jewel

I’ve been to Victoria, British Columbia exactly twice in my life with nearly 30 years distance between trips.  The first time was to visit the 1986 Worlds Fair in Vancouver, BC and Victoria was a side trip.  Sadly, we don’t have world’s fairs anymore, but we should.  It gives us a taste of what other places and cultures would be like should we have the opportunity to visit those places individually.  

The second visit to Victoria was recently and I have to say, this time was far superior to the first.  I actually stayed for a few days this time and discovered that the island I once thought small, is actually home to over 375,000 residents, and really quite large.

Victoria itself is surrounded on three sides by water.  At least that's what the locals told me. The climate is mild all year long and is the perfect place to bring your family, young and old.  People are friendly and the list of things to do is seemingly endless.  It also happens to be the capital of British Columbia, as evidenced by the large, old and beautiful government buildings and hotels near the harbor.

Government Building
The Empress Hotel

Upon arrival at the hotel, I was famished, so I asked for a local recommendation where I could get a snack and a glass of wine.  Chorizo & Co. was the answer.  The owner, Tomas Dosil, was very nice and even though it was between lunch and dinner, he fixed me a great nosh-type plate of dried prociutto, serrano ham, fig bread, manchego cheese, baguette (the best I've had since living in France) and two very nice spreads - one made from olives, but much smoother than tapenade, and the other made from quince. Both were quite good. He also served a nice Sauvignon Blanc to accompany the food.

Following the food, I opted for a latte and an almond tart for dessert that was exceptional.  It was neither too sweet or too bland.  A very nice accompaniment to my coffee.  They also have freshly made Churro that is served hot with a small cup of melted chocolate should you decide you want to dip.  As an FYI - all of their coffee drinks can be “spiced up” with a shot of brandy if you choose.

Fresh baked Churro with chocolate for dipping
I returned to Chorizo & Co. a few days later during lunch time and found that while it was busy, it wasn’t overly crowded which made for a nice return visit.  The crowd consisted of locals and tourists alike.

Victoria, in general, has a lot of tourists.  That said, it never seems crowded; any tours you take are never jam packed, and there are a surprising amount of things to do and see.  The people are friendly and happy to accommodate everyone and photo opportunities abound.

Butchart Gardens
I did the BC Museum, the Aboriginal Cultural Festival, Beacon Hill Park (really lovely), the Night Market, the Butterfly Gardens and the Butchart Gardens (both must-sees), and walked the city on foot ending up at Craigdarrock Castle.  I also did a bus tour that encompasses much of the island, including Chinatown, and allows visitors to see how really great it is to live here.

Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel
The architecture of the island is varied, from modern to Victorian, rich to middle class, but always thoroughly livable. While I stayed at the legendary Empress Hotel for a few days where afternoon tea is a must, I also stayed at the Quality Inn, and the staff was friendly and accommodating at both locations - all the way from the front desk staff to the housekeeping staff.  All seemed to enjoy living and working in Victoria.  It definitely doesn’t feel like you’re staying on an island.  

All in all, a very enjoyable trip.  Maybe next time it won’t take me thirty years to get back here and do it again!

Until next time…

Please also stop by and visit my fine art website at, my commercial website at for fun stuff, and

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Let's Have Some Fun Up in Here

I have been away for too long now.  Not that I haven’t been shooting and editing and shooting and editing some more, however, I seem to not have any extra time for attending to my blog.  So…here I am once again, getting ready to talk about what?  How about the before and after of images?  

Put through an App (or two!)

Face it, not every image is great.  Wait, what did she just say?  Yes, I said it.  Not every image we take is great. However, I have a policy (with myself mostly) not to delete disastrous images because somewhere down the line I’ll be going through my library(ies) and find something that at the time I thought was awful.  On second glance though, it’s either not so bad or it can be turned into something I didn’t think was there.  It becomes a challenge to make it not just good, but great!

Black and White with Silver FX plug-in
Original (boring!)
Maybe just changing them to black and white will recover what you thought was a lost cause.  Maybe throwing them into a plug-in will remedy the situation.  And then, there are apps on the iPhone, iPad and iMac that we get to play with.  Fun, fun, fun!!!  I love that!  I’m a big fan of playing.  It keeps me fresh and intrigued with where I can go with photography.

It took a long time for photography to even be recognized as art, so we should be able to create our art how ever we choose, as artists.  Yes, there are purists out there who say playing with photography is not art, however, I challenge them to pull out the finger paints (metaphorically speaking) and dive in! There was a time when I was also (gasp!) a purist.  Then I got over it and started having fun.

An original of this particular pose.

Changed up a bit with an app.

I’ve never been an Andy Warhol fan (yes, I know…try not to judge too harshly),  but he must have had a ball doing all his weird, now priceless, art.  My goal as an artist, or one of them at least, is to never take myself too seriously.  Seriousness takes all the fun out of life and if you’re an artist, takes all the fun and pleasure out of your art.  Ease up and have some fun.  That’s all I’m saying.

Until next time…

Please also stop by and visit my fine art website at and