Playalinda Beach

This Friday I have a booked family photography session on the beach. So, like any good photographer I headed out to the beach to play around with some “test shots” on the beach. My wife and I decided to go to Playalinda Beach here in FL, and let me tell you…Playalinda Beach is now our favorite east coast beach in Florida.

For those of you like us who do not like packed and over crowded beaches Playalinda Beach is the beach for you. We parked at parking lot 11 and had 400 yards of beach in either direction pretty much to ourselves.

Now it is worth mentioning that at and around parking lot 13 nude sunbathing is allowed. This probably is why there are so few people and specifically children around this beach. Now while we did not venture down to lot 13 we did see 2 nude male sunbathers and 1 female. To be honest it was what it was and it really did not detract from our experience.

Playalinda Beach is also known to be the best beach to watch rocket launches from the Kennedy Space Center, and from our vantage point at lot 11 we could see the launch tower, and plan to go back for a launch in the future.

The waves were awesome, the water…warm, and overall was an absolute delight to visit. 10 out of 10 recommend.

I Will Never Understand Christianity

Having a piece of content you created go viral is always a surreal experience. It’s usually unexpected, and the reaction from the audience is never what you think it will be. Over the years I have had 1 or two things go viral, and overall I can’t say I have ever really enjoyed the experience. When it happens you are filled with an intense sense of vulnerability as hundreds of eyes are watching you, and deep down you know you are being looked at by predators.

That is all the internet really is these days, a hunting ground for predators.

So I was not really surprised when one of my latest Instagram posts started attracting the attention of the right-wing, conservative, religious zealots. Desperate to save our Hell-bound souls through Jesus Christ and his forgiving love.

I will never understand how Christians can talk about God’s love and devotion to the human race, and in the very next breath belittle and name-call those who behave or believe differently than they do. I don’t recall ever reading any stories in scripture about Jesus doing such things. In fact, I seem to recall Jesus asking God to forgive the very men who crucified him. So where did Christianity adopt intolerance? When did Christians choose to behave as cruel people hell-bent on condemnation and punishment?

I don’t understand it, and I am not sure I ever will.

Planned Parenthood – Bans Off Our Bodies Rally/March – Orlando Florida

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend, support, and photograph the Planned Parenthood – Bans Off Our Bodies Rally/March here in Orlando, Florida.

This is the first protest I have ever attended in my life and I was fortunate enough to attend with my wife Leslie and our friend Carrie.

Now I am not one who usually speaks up about politics. I have found that most political conversations don’t usually involve people being willing to listen and/or understand. They have their point of view, often a continuation of how they were raised, or they are regurgitating their religious point of view, and they are unwilling to see the other side, or reason that they could be wrong. This kind of thought process often leads to intense feelings of anger and hate, with each side vehemently defending their side and point of view, neither side being willing to listen and/or budge, and often ending in name-calling, threats, and sometimes violence.

It is a symptom of the indoctrination we impose upon our children. I believe the phrase goes something like “When I was born I was given a name, political party, and religion, and I spent the rest of my life trying to escape.” What is even worse is within the indoctrination we impose on children we also imprint upon them a fear that anyone who thinks, behaves, acts, or does differently than us is inherently dangerous, and therefore must be crushed into submission.

This is what our political system has become. Two sides feel the other side is wrong, and so each side takes up arms against the other, trying to force each side to live and act in accordance with their beliefs.

Now I am not a political scientist, nor am I a politician or lawyer, so I am no expert when it comes to speaking on matters of law. However much has been written about the subject of Roe v Wade by people much smarter and much more informed than I, and I encourage you to read all you can.

What I can say is this. Yesterday’s rally/march was a community of people standing up for what they believed. They did so without violence, and walked side by side, together, in solidarity. As I watched my wife take a stand and walk for what she knew was right I was incredibly proud of her.

The issue of Roe v Wade is an important issue to be sure, and I encourage all of you to listen to those more knowledgeable than I and be willing to see things from their point of view. Forcing people to act, behave, or live as you have never in the history of the world gone well for anyone, and I hope that we do not try to do such things to the women of our country in the future.

Museum of Art

When I was younger I must confess I didn’t understand art very well. The passion, complexity, and heart that many artists pour into their work were lost on me.

I remember once when I was around 14 years old, my family took a trip to Washington D.C.. I was very excited about the trip because we planned to go to the Air and Space Museum, and the Natural History Museum. What could be better for a young 14-year-old boy than fighter jets and Dinosaures? The museums were wonderful, and I even walked away with my own set of dog tags that I wore well into my 20s if you can believe that.

As our time in Washington came to a close conclusion my Father offered for us to go see either the Modern Art Museum or the Classical Art Museum. Knowing next to nothing about art I remember our family deciding to go to the Modern Art Museum.

We walked around looking at the various sculptures and paintings, but I didn’t really understand what I was looking at. To me, they were just pictures and statues. I actually remember my father and me poking fun at a particular painting which was a large white canvas with a single black stroke of paint down the middle. To us, it was just a canvas for a single brush stroke. Something so simple that a child could do it. Why all the fuss? Why was it on display? More important why was it sold for several thousands of dollars? We didn’t get it.

As I have gotten older I have come to appreciate art more and more. Perhaps it is my own efforts to create art, or maybe it is just the wisdom of age and the collection of a lifetime of different experiences. Regardless, now when I see a work of art, be it a painting, a photograph, a sculpture, etc. I see the artist behind the work. Their life and experiences shape their creative mind and push them to express themselves. What is even more impressive, to me, is when an artist chooses to display their work for the world to see.

Many artists, myself included, use art as a way to express the pain and hardships that they carry within themselves. The artistic craft they choose to practice offers a path to a stiller and more quiet mind. A mind that is often very loud and filled with doubt. Yet, despite their demons screaming at them that they are no good, these brave artists choose to not only create art but share it. If that isn’t an example of bravery then I don’t know what is.

So the next time you are looking at someone’s art, don’t just see the thing itself but look deeper. See the artist, see the passion, see the struggle, and applaud the bravery.

Just a reminder that if you would like to see more of my photography you can support me on PATREON or follow me on Instagram.

Adventures in Scouting – Part 1

I am, and was fortunate enough, to have grown up with a father who enjoyed the outdoors. Around the time I was 8 years old my father started taking me on campouts with the local Boy Scout troop, of which he was the Scout Master. To be honest those early years of camping were difficult for me due to my age. Being a young child I was still in Cub Scouts which included boys up to the ages of 11. Once you turned 12 you could join the Boy Scouts. But that didn’t stop my Dad from taking me on all the campouts with the older boys.

As you can probably imagine I was picked on and teased a little, being the youngest, and weakest, but I loved being in the outdoors, surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. Sitting by a warm fire, far away from any city lights, I could look up into the sky and see too many stars to count. Being outside brought me peace. Being in nature I felt safe.

Taken at Wekiwa Springs State Park 2022

Being around humans, specifically older boys was another matter entirely. Being the youngest and smallest I was an easy target. One campout I remember I was picked up into the air by an older scout who was probably 16 or 17 and literally body slammed down onto a protruding stump. I was lucky that I wasn’t seriously hurt, and the scout that had picked me up soon saw the fury my Father could wield as he came out of no where, and “calmly” explained to the young man what he thought about him body slamming his son. I wish I could say that experiences like this “toughened me up” but they didn’t. I was just a naïve little kid who just wanted to be left alone, and allowed to enjoy going on campouts with his Dad.

Thankfully not every campout that I tagged along on was bad. For a few years my family lived in Hollywood City FL, and the church we attended had an annual father and son canoe trip. This was one of my favorite annual activities, and I always looked forward to it. One year, after we had made it to our campsite for the night, me and some of the younger boys were sitting near the edge of the water listening to what we thought were frogs. We were talking about how big these frogs must be because the night air was filled with their sounds. That was when one of the fathers of the group came over and shined a flashlight out onto the water, and suddenly we could see all the glowing eyes of many alligators floating in the water. As you can imagine, me and the other boys decided not to sit so close to the water after that.

A few years after that my family and I moved to Plano TX, and eventually I was old enough to join the Boy Scouts. This meant that I could now earn merit badges, and go to summer camps. Now I am not really sure why, but at this time in my life I had decided scouting was not for me. Maybe it was the endless and never ending bullying I had received, or maybe I just wanted to stay home and read more comic books. Who knows, but I wanted out. Now you can imagine, my Father was not a fan of this new found desire to leave scouting, and he made it very clear that I was not allowed to leave scouting until I had earned the highest rank scouting offered its members, the Eagle Scout Award.

To obtain your Eagle Scout Award at the time there was a long list of requirements that a scout had to meet. This included earning many many different kinds of merit badges, going on a certain number of campouts, doing a certain amount of community service, and completing an Eagle Scout Service Project.

Taken at Wekiwa Springs State Park 2022

The merit badges were not a problem. Much to the irritation of my fellow scouts I sort of collected merit badges with ease, and very little effort. You see, like the Eagle Scout Award, merit badges had lists of requirements you had to do in order to earn the merit badge in question. These requirements, and more were always listed inside the specific topics merit badge book. Now most scouts who were going after a merit badge, say wilderness survival, would obtain the wilderness survival merit badge book and study it. Each book would be filled with helpful information on the specific topic, like how to build a fire with no matches, and how to make a shelter out of sticks, and the information would relate back to whatever the requirements of the badge were. A lot of scouts would spend a lot of time reading and studying these books before they would ever even think about trying to “pass off” the checklist of requirements for the merit badge. I however, had a different approach. I had a reputation within my troop of NEVER reading the merit badge books. Just wasn’t my style. When I wanted a merit badge I would just find the list of requirements, and I would just figure out how to “pass off” each and every item on the list on my own. I didn’t need a book to tell me how to do something, I would go find someone who knew, watch them do it, and after seeing it once or twice I would inherently know how to do it myself.

An example I remember vividly was during a week long scout camporee. I had decided that I wanted to earn my sailing merit badge, and as one might expect, one of the requirements for the merit badge was to actually show a certain skill for sailing. Easy…There was just one small problem…I had absolutely no idea how to sail and had never done it before. So I went down to the marina, and watched. For hours I watched every kid sailing out on the lake. I watched how they moved, the knots they tired, and how they steered these small little one man sail boats. The requirements for the sailing merit badge were pretty straight forward. You had to show you knew the proper safety procedures in case something went wrong, you had to pass a swim test, show basic understanding and demonstrate skill with tying certain knots, and then you had to sail a boat, on your own, out and around a buoy, and back. Easy right?

So after spending the better part of the day watching all the kids sailing I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing. So the next day I walked down to the marina, found one of the leaders who could sign off on my requirements, and told him I wanted to pass off all the skills for my sailing merit badge. The leader must have been having a slow day because he was willing. I passed the swim test with both hands tied behind my back and my eyes closed. My parents had put me in swim lessons practically the day I was born and I was a natural in the water. Afterwards the leader called out a few basic knots and asked me to tie them, which I did. I do recall getting one of them wrong, but the leader showed me my mistake and allowed me to do it again. Once the knots were out of the way he questioned me on the safety procedures of sailing a boat, and I passed, having memorized the list the night before in my tent. Now came the big check off item. Now I had to actually sail a boat. Something that I had never done before, and for which was the big main requirement of earning your sailing merit badge.

As you can imagine, I was a little nervous, but I had watched carefully the day before and I was confident that I could sail this boat. I pulled the boat down to the water with the aid of the leader, and set about inspecting the boat, the ropes, and the sails as I had seen the scouts do the day before. Finding no damage I jumped into the boat and the leader shoved me off into the water. Copying the movements of what I had observed the day before I got the sail up, and within a couple minutes the wind caught the sail, and I was moving. I remember being REALLY surprised at how much lean there was to the boat, and for a split second I thought how silly I would feel if I tipped the boat over. But I managed to steer the boat straight, and the wind wasn’t strong enough to pull the boat over. After a few minutes I reached the designated buoy and steered my boat around it and back towards shore. I had done it.

About 10 minutes later I was back on shore pulling the boat up onto land with the leader, and after it was tucked back into storage properly he signed me off on all my skills for the sailing merit badge. I had accomplished in 2 days what most scouts took all summer to do, and I was pretty proud of myself that I had found a loop hole in the system.

Looking back on that now as an adult I shake my head with a smile. Had I found a loop hole, yes. Had I found a way to use my skill in learning to my advantage, also yes. Had I missed the point of what earning merit badges was all about, you betcha! I was so focused on getting out of scouts, which required me to earn my Eagle Scout Award, that the only thing I was paying attention to was the long list of requirements I needed to accomplish. Had I technically done everything I was supposed to to earn my sailing merit badge…Yes. Did I actually learn how to sail? No. A classic case of being too focused on the destination, not the adventure of the journey.

While I had found a loop hole in the system, my friends spent all summer out on the water. Each time out was a new memory, and a new story to tell. Their summer was filled with learning something cool, while I was busy figuring out how to cross something off a list.

The Wedding Weekend

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Woodstock GA with my beautiful wife Leslie to participate in my baby cousin’s wedding. Hannah and her now-husband asked me to even perform the ceremony, and it was my great honor to do so.

This is the second wedding ceremony I have had the honor of performing, and I hope it won’t be the last. As I prepared for these two wedding ceremonies I thought of all the bad advice I have been given and heard over the years. So I wanted to take the bad advice I had received and turn it into good advice for the couples I was marrying. It occurred that some of this advice could benefit others, not just those rare couples who ask me to perform their ceremonies. So below I would like to share some good marriage advice.

  1. Go To Bed Angry – Nope, you all heard me correctly, I said go to bed angry.  In marriage disagreements and fights will happen.  It’s a fact of life, and when these small arguments become a reality, we have a choice to make.  We can either solider on tired, worn out, and arguing into the wee hours of the night, or we can respect our partner’s need for sleep, we can respect their boundaries, and give them time to process.  It has been my experience that things don’t always feel or seem as bleak in morning rays of light.
  2. The little things matter more than the big things. –The moments in my marriage with my partner, that mean the most to me is when she cooks me breakfast because she knows I am exhausted from work. When she agreed to watch all 11 seasons of Frasier bc she knew it was my comfort show. And when she was my safe place when I needed to cry.  Those were the moments that meant the most to me.  You both probably already have some of these small moments together…When you find those small moments…Cherish them.
  3. Communicate – This is the holy grail of all relationships.  Talk to your partner and tell them what you want, need, and feel. Too many people will say something like “If my partner truly cared for me, they would just know______” or they will say “If my partner really knew me they would just know ______” These kinds of thoughts poison relationships.  If you haven’t communicated something it is not your partner’s fault for not being psychic.  If you need something ask for it.  If you want something express it.  You should always feel safe communicating with your partner.

I don’t have very many photos of my parents. OK, that is a lie. I don’t have very many good photos of my parents, and that’s because my parents are very good at making faces whenever a camera is pointing at them. However, during the reception, I was walking around like a Gremlin taking photos, and I am so pleased to have gotten some really nice photos of my parents. I am even happier to know that I was the one to take and create those images.