Lens Artists Challenge #139: Special Moments

When you’ve lived 77 years, you gather, in your heart, many special moments. There’s the usual life cycle moments that you work toward and totally enjoy, the personal achievements you’ve worked hard for and the moments that brought you fun and delight. In her challenge this month, Tina wants to see our special moments and what made them special.

I’m going to begin with our cross country trip in 2013 to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.

This is the mighty Mississippi and the push boats that continually move their cargo. We were told that they move 24/7, stopping at certain points to pick up supplies. Being near and on this river was important to me because my mom always wanted to take a Mississippi river cruise on a paddle boat. We did take a short cruise in her honor.

This was also my first time using my Nikon d3100 and entry into the hobby. Next is a picture from Central High in Little Rock Arkansas. The Little Rock Nine integrated this school in 1957. When I saw that we could visit the school I needed to go. To our surprise it is now a National Historic Site, and we were able to join a tour led by a ranger. She was so graphic about what happened to those children, it broke my heart. Hate has just got to stop.

On to 2015 and a picture of photo buddy Greg Morris. He has since passed away from brain cancer, and I still have fond memories of him. He didn’t like that I rarely used a tripod. He also had a great sense of humor. He’d pick up Marlene and I in the morning, taking us away for a day of shooting. Of course, because he always used a tripod!

The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, in 2016, saw me climbing through Laura’s sunroof to capture the eagle below. He was on a tree limb that crossed the road and looking straight down. Laura’s seats are leather. I was trying to balance a heavy lens while trying not to slip on the seat. But it was worth it!

In 2017, I did use a tripod to capture these wine barrels at the Ironstone Vineyards. Shooting in a dark place was a first for me. My shutter was at 1.6 seconds and my ISO was at 1000. And, of course, I used a tripod!

Every year we photographers travel to find Fall color. For me, these trips are more than to shoot photos. They are fun time and memories made with friends. Marlene and I found this patch in 2018. It was one of the best trips.

This last photo was a total surprise for me. I guess I happened to be doing the right thing at the right time. I was taking a picture of this train in Old Sacramento, October 2019. I was shooting at night and decreased my shutter speed and increased my ISO. I was just practicing on getting this train at night with ambient light. As I pressed the shutter the train moved. My exposure was 2.5 seconds What a treat! I call it trainsparency.

So these are just some of my special photographic moments and their meaning to me beyond photography.

There’s always a new day, RIP Jim VanWinkle: Sundial Bridge, Redding

No matter what happens, a new day always dawns. That’s what friends and relatives of Jim VanWinkle are living through right now. Jim and Shellie have been friends of ours for about 37 years. Even though we moved away from Los Angeles, we kept in touch.

In retrospect, we should have kept in touch more frequently, but life always interferes. We went down for every life cycle event; they came up for ours. When our family’s needs brought us to L.A., they always made time to see us. In fact, some times they invited us to stay with them. And they were always welcome to stay with us.

They visited us last September with Ron and Lois. But, we didn’t expect to be going to L.A. for Jim’s funeral this past weekend. He died suddenly from a blood clot. I have so many memories of when we lived in the San Fernando Valley. Two stand outs:

When personal computers came on the scene, Jim decided that the ladies should learn how to program and use them. So he taught or tried to teach us Basic Language. We were fairly successful and Jim managed to keep his sanity.

We also went on many camping trips with the VanWinkles when our kids were young. We introduced the pie iron to Jim who immediately saw beyond its use for apple or cherry pie, in the campfire, and started making s’more pies. We enjoyed several before the handle came out and the pie maker stayed in the fire.

There’s so much I could tell you about Jim, but the fact that people were standing in the back of the chapel, no seats available, at his funeral is a testament as to how well he was liked and loved.  He will especially be missed by his four children and nine grandchildren.

Yes, there’s always a new day and a sunrise. This post and images of the Sundial Bridge in Redding, California at sunrise is dedicated in Jim’s memory.

A dedication to Carol Toth, RIP: Redwood Regional Park and the Cathedral of Christ the Light Church, Oakland

My dear friend Carol Toth passed away this afternoon. She was my hero because she fought death for more than 20 years and won. I remember being with her when she was diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disease. The doctor wanted to put her in a wheel chair saying she wouldn’t live very long. She refused. He offered her a walker. She refused. She did accept a cane.

After that, she developed two additional auto-immune diseases and suffered a major heart attack. Through the 20 some years, Carol never complained about her health or the constant pain she endured. As her battle waned, she accepted her fate and was grateful for the years she had lived past the initial diagnosis.

Still, sitting at my computer, the grief is difficult. I was supposed to go there to San Jose this morning, but I became sick. I wanted to say good-bye to her. I couldn’t and now I feel empty.

She filled my soul when I needed it, and encouraged me with my photography. Carol sent my blog on to her friends and I heard from them also. She built up my confidence and pushed me along as I advanced in my photographic abilities. I think she would appreciate the lady bugs and church in this post.

She is now soaring with the angels. I will miss you Carol, my dear friend.



Bernie Sanders lost a vote and supporter: RIP Greg Morris

First of all, my photo buddy, friend and mentor, Greg Morris was never one to not speak his mind, especially on politics. So, when I first got the news of his death during the morning of January 31, the first thing I said to my husband was: “Bernie Sanders just lost a vote.” Richard knew what that meant because we’ve been expecting that phone call for a couple of weeks.

Greg not only introduced me to his candidate, Bernie Sanders, but to a great deal about photography. He loved HDR, his tripod and talking to people. He’d always remind me to bring my tripod along on photo outings. Just once, I caught him hand holding his camera.

Greg chats with a homeless man in Midtown, Sacramento.

He also introduced me to towns (Locke was a favorite), rivers and out of the way places I would have never known existed. The greatest part, he never took a freeway! That’s why it took us so long to get anywhere. He was our driver and guide, never taking gas money. So, Marlene and I would treat him to lunch at various places he knew of. Small restaurants with great food. Only once did he disappoint us. He promised us the best pizza in Downieville; however all the restaurants in that small town were closed for the season!

Greg poses as the famous Mona Lisa in Locke. He then had me pose in another cutout.

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Thank goodness the Downieville grocery was open. It may not have provided us with pizza, but my rice bowl was good.

We never got a chance to go back for that pizza during the season. Greg passed away from a cancerous Glioblastoma brain tumor. From the diagnosis to the end was three short months. Soon the guide became the guided as Marlene and I took him out locally for photo shoots. It amazed me that as frazzled as his brain was becoming, once we arrived at the shoot, he’d get his photo gear ready and was once again the amazing photographer.

Greg’s outing with us was to Discovery Park, Sacramento.

As much as he loved photography, he loved his family: daughters Tiffany, Erica and Mimi; his two granddaughters, and niece Shonna and her family. We are all going to miss this guy with the wonderful sense of humor who would sing to cows, do weekly crazy selfies and post them on Sacramento Photographers, chat with strangers, give restaurant wait staff a humorous time (It was usually the same old line.), help new photographers and not only post great pictures, but give us a history lesson too.

RIP Greg. And, Bernie, don’t worry, I’ll vote for you. Greg did convince me.



Taking a different course: Plymouth and Fiddletown, California

It was Tuesday with seniors. I was still hobbling. it was the three of us me, Marlene and Greg. But, we took a different course into Plymouth and Fiddletown.

I’ve been to Plymouth, but not to photograph the sights. We used to square dance and went to a yearly festival there. And, just the name Fiddletown was attraction enough for me. So off we went, with Greg taking us down every back road he knew! I was still in the back seat with my foot up.

Plymouth is a city in Amador County, and the 2010 census shows a population of 1,005. This is a very small town with the downtown area maybe three blocks long. It looks like they are trying to create an upscale yet old look with new construction on the main street.

This is in contrast to Fiddletown where the main drag shows buildings empty and almost falling down. A census designated community in Amador County, Fiddletown’s population was 235 as of the 2010 census. It  is registered as a California Historical Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. But, it has a charm to it.

Our guide, Greg, also took us to D-Agonstini Reservoir which I thought was a large pond! And we had crossed the county line into El Dorado County. I’m sure I mentioned in a previous post that you never know where you’ll end up when Greg is driving!

So that’s where our course took us last week. See for yourself in this two-part post.

Memories are made from this: Shooting with Leanne Cole on the California coast.

Memories, they’re those warm, wonderful, sad and fearful feelings that emerge when you think of something from the past. Shooting with Leanne Cole, an Australian photographer, is something I looked forward to, totally enjoyed and now is a fond, beautiful memory.

You see, I met Leanne online by following her blog when I first got my D3100 three years ago. During that time I’ve seen her morph her photography business into what it has become today. She’s an amazing photographer, artist and now publisher of Dynamic Range–a magazine about and for women photographers. We’ve corresponded since meeting on the blog with her giving me encouragement and advice. Hopefully I’ve been able to do the same for her–well more encouragement, not advice! It is truly a small world.

We, Leanne, her friend Nicci and I, had a delightful day in Santa Cruz, Capitola and Monterey. The three of us fit; it was as if we had gone shooting together before. In fact, Nicci and I hit it off and will go shooting again. I’ve added an Australia visit to my bucket list, and I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll get there.

In the meantime, I’ll have the memories of that fun day shooting with my new friends.

Earth Angels: Happy Birthday Carol and Alyse

If you’re lucky you have earth angels, you know, the people who are always there for you no matter what. I’m fortunate to have had three. Judy was there when we were young, raising our children. She’s never forgiven me for moving away. We don’t talk often, but she’s in my heart. My two other earth angels are celebrating their birthdays this week.

They are the same age, just one week apart. Carol and Alyse were there when I was at a tremendous low point in my life. They picked me up, took me to the ocean, out to lunch and made me feel that I was worthy. I’ve never forgotten that. They were also there when I woke up in CCU after heart valve surgery. They drove from San Jose to Sacramento just to make sure I was okay. I remember waking up and seeing them sitting there. They said hi, that they loved me and left. I went back to sleep. That was a five hour drive and sitting I don’t know how many hours just to say a few words!

This is also significant because about 20 years ago Carol was diagnosed with a degenerative auto immune disease. The doctor wanted to order her a wheel chair, saying she wouldn’t be walking for very long. She refused. He offered her a walker. She refused. He offered her a cane. She accepted.

Since then, she’s been diagnosed with two more auto immune diseases and has suffered a major heart attack. She’s still walking with a walker around the house, but uses a chair when she and Alyse go out. She is my hero, bucking the doctors who would have made her an invalid before her time. She’s determined and maybe a little precocious.

Alyse, Carol’s friend and roommate, has been her caregiver this whole time. She’s also my hero, never giving up even though she’s had surgeries and medical issues of her own. The challenges these two women face are enormous and their joys are numerous. They are always there to help their friends. And, if a person is in need, they become their friend.

They wanted to celebrate their 75th birthdays with one lunch on Carol’s day and another on Alyse’s day. Alyse tells everyone that Carol is older! I’m thrilled to be among their friends who gathered for Carol’s birthday. If we could say that we have touched so many people and affected their lives for the positive, then we would be walking in Carol and Alyse’s shoes.

Happy Birthday my dear earth angels!

On the road again: Sedona, Arizona, part 3

How can a week go by so fast? We start our trek home tomorrow, hoping to take three days and drive through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. 

But, our time here has been wonderful. I didn’t tell you that we met our friends Sandy and Ken here. We also came to Sedona five years ago with them. It’s been great sharing this beautiful area with them. Tonight I’m going to show you some more highlights. Please understand that we did not go into Sedona proper, just through it. It’s become crowded and commercial with so many timeshare companies wanting to sell their plans. And, now if you don’t want to go on one of the many jeep tours, you can rent your own.

We didn’t rent one, didn’t go on a jeep tour, but decided to take the scenic Verde Canyon Railroad 4-hour ride. None of us was up for long hikes this trip. We also walked and stepped over the stream at the Call of the Canyon, state park. So here are some images from those activities.

Yes, the week went by so fast that I’ll have to continue showing you this trip on the way home.

A cause to celebrate

She calls it her “Birthday Celebration.” Harriet Baum is 20-years sober and considers her sober anniversary her rebirth. I was fortunate to be invited to this Birthday celebration on Sunday, January 19, 2014.

Before she made the decision to enter the 12-Step Program she describes her life as one of depression and terror. She was doing things that were not good for her body and couldn’t share her feelings with anyone. She felt alone and friendless. “I had a birthday party for myself and nobody came–not even my family,” she says.

Now life is wonderful for Harriet. “People love me, want to spend time with me. I’m hanging out with people who are not drinking alcohol or taking drugs. I finally have the life I’ve always wanted,” she says.

But, maintaining this happy life is not easy. It’s still a daily struggle for Harriet who goes daily to an Alcohol Anonymous meeting and talks with her sponsor. And, she’s helping others by sponsoring someone. “I’m still working on staying sober. I’m very blessed,” she says. “I’m back in college, working towards being a doctor. I’m a work in progress, and I’m not backsliding!”

Happy Birthday Harriet.