Being Thankful in Texas

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that everything’s bigger and better in Texas. Well that’s true. Big hair, big stories, big trucks, big land, and big sports fans. I’m a big Dallas Cowboys fan and the football game is the thing I look forward to the most on Thanksgiving. (Yes, even more than the food.)

true meaning thanksgiving

Shoot, Texas is a football state. You might think Pee Wee football is serious stuff but by the time you get to high school. . . . watch out. (Netflix Friday Night Lights, and you’ll see.) I was in high school band and the Dragon’s biggest rival was the Lufkin Panthers. Those games were a little scary too. Their scoreboard had a panther that screamed and the ferocious energy was. . . .well, it was Texas high school football energy.  And guess where Dez Bryant played when he was in high school . . . 

dez lufkin

AT&T Stadium – Art, Education, and Football

The world’s biggest domed structure, AT&T Stadium, is a great example of just how important football is round here. I mean, who else would have an art gallery in a sports stadium? (I’m an artist who loves sports so thumbs up from me.) According to their website, they also offer classes and an educational tour which will be the “experience of a lifetime.” (I love education too!) And that Jumbotron takes my breath away. 

jumbotron

The Food

You’re not just gonna get a ‘lil hot dog and a fountain coke here. On their menu you’re gonna see items like the Jumbo Texas Pretzel, The Big D, and The Legendary Double Burger. During the games they show footage of their grills . . . omg, it’s mouthwatering. Better bring a Texas sized appetite.

food

The Cheerleaders

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders set the standard for all cheerleaders. They’re beautiful and incredible athletes and they do a great job cheering our boys. They’re always ready to pose for photos, sign autographs, and volunteer their time to great causes, like the Salvation Army. 

Buccaneers Cowboys Football

Doing The Most Good

One of the biggest and most important contributions made by and through the Dallas Cowboys organization is their longstanding connection with The Salvation Army. All year long, but especially during the holiday season. Each year they serve an early Thanksgiving meal to families and starting in 1997 the Thanksgiving Day halftime performance became a kick off to the Red Kettle Campaign.

zeke kettle

They also encourage youth through the Play 60 program, by choosing 11 youth who are judged based on their performance and on how they demonstrate The Salvation Army’s 5 Core Values:

  • Passion
  • Compassion
  • Bravery
  • Uplifting Spirit
  • Trustworthiness    

You see we not only have big stuff and big Texas attitude. . . we also have big hearts. I remember during Hurricane Harvey all of the reporters on t.v. were just so shocked that we would help strangers. They just kept repeating it over and over again, until finally one guy said, “That’s what Texans do. We don’t care about race or anything else, it’s what we do.” We jump in our big trucks, drive over our big land, and we help our neighbors out. 

Dem Boys aint having a great season, but whether we win or lose I’m really looking forward to the game. I hope you’re having a Happy Thanksgiving . . . even if you aren’t watching the game 🙂 And go make a donation when you go out to do your shopping . . . and don’t forget to grab a bag of Tostitos too and help the Cowboys do some local donating.

 

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Happy Veterans Day

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My dad is retired Air Force, and he is a veteran of a foreign war, Persian Gulf. He worked with dangerous chemicals and things that go boom. He’s always been a good spirited, funny, strong, healthy, John Wayne kind of guy. He doesn’t get sick. He has God given stamina and endurance. He’s never had surgery or been to the hospital.

Until recently, 7 days before my birthday, he needed to go to the ER because he was having trouble breathing. I couldn’t believe it. He was even trying to grab his stuff for work, because apparently he thought he was gonna be going there after a quick visit to the ER.

need blood

They ran dozens of tests (seemed like 1,000’s) and just couldn’t figure out what was wrong. They finally said he was anemic. More like he was a starving vampire. He walked into that place with 3.7 units of blood. The normal level is 4.7 units. Even though it was obvious something serious was wrong he was talking, making jokes, and his skin wasn’t even pale. They finally diagnosed him with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, which we’re pretty sure he got from a weed killer. (Maybe you’ve seen the late night commercial.)

Of course the hospital’s concern was very focused on insurance. That’s when I felt so grateful for his service in the United States Air Force. They had a little trouble finding his info because like I said at the beginning of this post, he doesn’t get sick. So, he never actually completed the paperwork. He figured other people needed that insurance more than he did. Everything got sorted out, and just a little more than 2 months later he’s recovering remarkably well thanks to God, and the strong man he made my dad to be.

I told a lot of people in that hospital about his service and that he’s a veteran. I don’t know the exact number of people, but out of all of them, only 1 person thanked him for his service. Now that Veterans Day is here, I want to thank all of our brave veterans for their service. The way my dad faced these challenges, is the way our troops face their challenges to protect our freedoms.

They’re not just heroes in war but they’re heroes in the everyday. I was reminded of that when my dad went into the hospital. (BTW, 2 months earlier he fell off my roof, and got back on the roof to finish the job.) He was brave and cracking jokes and making everyone else feel comfortable when he couldn’t even hold his head up. Bigger than life. That’s the kind of people that join up.

thank-you-for-your-service

Right now on the holiday we make an effort, but we can show our appreciation all year long. After all, they do that for us. It really means a lot to them to hear it. I pray that God blesses you and your family like he blessed mine.

Happy Veteran’s Day.

Two Invaluable Traits We can Learn from Former White House Photographer Pete Souza

pete souza taking a pic

Meet photojournalist Pete Souza. Former Chief Official White House Photographer for two former American presidents: Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. He’s just come out with a book, Obama: An Intimate Portrait, where he shares 300 of the nearly 2 million photographs that he took during President Obama’s two terms in office. With that kind of CV we photographers need to pay attention to this guy.

Trust

I happened to catch Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning interviewing Souza, and he asked him how he earned complete trust from President Obama. Any photographers out there know that if you’re following someone around documenting them you’re going to be apart of intimate moments.

Souza told Charlie Rose that he actually knew Mr. Obama for 4 years before he became president. They had already built a professional relationship and over time he built on that trust each day.

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It’s very important for the photographer to earn trust so that the people getting their photo taken will feel comfortable. The first engagement shoot I ever did was really easy because I was best friends with both the bride and the groom. When I asked them to kiss we all turned deep red for a moment.

Kim and Dex flirty copy

We quickly finished laughing and they let their guard down and I captured the fleeting moment. It helps when you ask them how they met or how he proposed. They’ll quickly get comfortable, forget you’re there and give you plenty of photo opportunities. Which brings me to the 2nd invaluable trait:

Invisibility

invisible

Who hasn’t wished they had the super power of invisibility? Co-anchor Norah O’ Donnell mentioned how President Obama actually forgot that Souza was in the room; that he pretty much became invisible. Wow. I have no problem becoming invisible while shooting birthday parties and weddings . . . but this guy did it in the White House. Color me impressed! I’m sure his previous experience with President Reagan didn’t hurt.

I don’t have any tips on developing your invisibility . . . it pretty much came naturally to me. (I’m short.) Or maybe the camera is actually a cloaking device . . .  people do want to look good and natural in their photos, so they just live in the moment.

sam elliott the ranch

I like the show on Netflix, The Ranch. Sam Elliot’s character has a running line where he says in his deep drawl that he hates everyone, except [fill in the blank]. In one he says, “I hate everyone, except Ronald Reagan.” lol Cracks me up. Check out some awesome photos taken by Souza. Notice the one of Michael Jackson and Ronald Reagan.

By the way, I recommend that you study Pete Souza’s photographs. Pay attention to light, composition, what he chooses to include in/out of the frame, etc.

So how do you build trust with the people you photograph? Do you have any trouble blending in? I’d love to hear any tips you have on building trust and becoming invisible.

 

A Leonardo da Vinci Painting with an Illustrious and Deceptive History Re-Surfaces

new salvator mundi

I love how the art world has a history filled with intrigue, mystery, and conspiracy. I heard on the news this morning about an unquestionable and unexpected 21st century discovery of a finished Leonardo da Vinci painting. My ears perked as I was pulled away from my Clash of Clans game. The journalists were very excited about how much money it will be going for at the auction, and how much the painting reminded them of the Mona Lisa.

I can see right away that technically the painting has the luminescent quality of Leonardo’s work, especially in the careful detail of the curls in the hair. Notice the hair in this detail of the angel from Verrocchio’s, The Baptism of Christ, which was painted by Leonardo da Vinci.angel hair da vinci

When I first laid eyes on the Salvator Mundi painting I didn’t think of the Mona Lisa. I saw differences in the background, in the placement and the position of the figure, and in the symbolism of the hands. Also notice the absence of the cleft chin in the Mona Lisa painting.

Instead, I thought of Albrecht Durer’s most famous Self Portrait from 1500 where he expressed his divine creative inspiration by painting himself in the reminiscent style of Christ.

Here we have many similarities with the background, with the straightforward positioning of the figure’s body and with the positioning of the hands. You can also see that both figures seem to have a cleft chin. (The beard on Durer does make it a little bit hard to tell.)

The experts aren’t 100% sure when the painting was done, but they have narrowed it down to around 1490 – 1500. The experts are however confident that this painting is an authentic Leonardo da Vinci. It first resurfaced in 2005 disguised as a copy. Over the span of 500 years it had disappeared, had been damaged, had been painted over . . . and at the same time, had been remarkably preserved in some areas like in the curls and the hands.

I hope you check out this website to learn more about the interesting history, and the unusually unanimous authentication of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi painting. I love art . . . it never fails to amaze me.

While very different from Leonardo’s version, Albrecht Durer also painted a Salvator Mundi portrait. It was unfinished and kinda creepy looking.

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