A MOMENT WITH WALTDSGIRL
Waltdsgirl and Walter at Gulf Shores, Alabama
It's so nice to be back in the Natural State. Arkansas is so pretty, especially in the fall. There are few things as beautiful as driving along the country lanes and seeing the foliage changing from green to orange and brown as winter sets in. As I drove through only a small part of the 1.8 million acres of the Ouachita National Forest, with the Boston and Ouachita Mountains in the distance, I was humbled by the sheer splendor and majesty of so much untouched wilderness. Now, I understand this state's nickname.
I spent some time here years ago when I had the pleasure to meet our own Anicole (A Moment With Anicole), and it's nice to be back in the south. There is something refreshing about places where the streets are rolled up at 7 pm, people actually stop and say hello to strangers, and patriotism still runs strong through the veins of its citizenry.
Arkansas lays claim to quite a few famous people. Among her more notable native sons and daughters are Helen Gurley Brown, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan from 1965 to 1997; American porn star Gauge; James Robert "Jim Bob" Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting fame; John H. Johnson, the first African-American to appear on the Forbes 400 list; and Charles Portis, author of the 1968 classic Western novel, True Grit. Add to this list YPF's very own Waltdsgirl.
I met up with Waltdsgirl after her shift at the hospital. We met in the hospital's cafeteria; I got vanilla pudding with that little dollop of whipped cream in the center, and Waltdsgirl got a strong cup of hot tea. We looked for a place to sit, but all of the available tables were filthy. Why are hospitals—places that are supposed to be sterile—always so dirty? So, with snacks in hand, we wandered back down the corridors, toward the courtyard. As we walked, I spied the art on the wall. Some of it was quite exquisite; some of it...well, let's just say I was glad I was in a hospital. Waltdsgirl explained to me that the paintings were created by local "artists." We went through the doors at the end of the radiology ward and alit into a cheerful, sunny courtyard. There were two ginormous oak trees on either side of the courtyard providing ample shade on this particularly warm autumn day. We sat at one of the several picnic tables and commenced our conversation.
JC: Let's begin, like most of my interviews, with the basics. Tell us where your username comes from.
WG: It's pretty simple, really. My husband's Walter, and I'm his "girl."
JC: Now, thanks to Twitter and short attention spans, please tell us in 140 characters or less about yourself.
WG: I am determined, dedicated, devoted, complicated, and compassionate. I'm also a nurturer and animal and nature lover.
JC: While your describing yourself, please tell us, if you were a fast food, what would it be?
WG: A burrito.
JC: And if people still used CBs, what would your handle be?
WG: That's easy. Sparky. That was my handle when I was a kid. My dad was in a CB radio club. A lot of great memories from those days!
WG: Oh, no. I am originally from El Dorado, Arkansas. I moved all the way up here for my job at the hospital. The people are so much nicer here than where I was working before.
JC: And what is it that you do here at the hospital?
WG: I am the manager of Diagnostic Imaging and an X-ray technologist. I have also worked in ultrasound and the heart catheterization lab.
JC: That's very cool and sounds like quite rewarding work. It must be nice to help so many people. Good for you. Let's move into the realm that everyone is most interested in…photography stuff. Since your camera defines who you are in this hobby, let's begin with that. What was your first camera?
WG: A Canon AE-1 was the first camera I bought for myself. That was about 30 years ago. I still have it. Unfortunately, I never used it to its full ability because it was too expensive for me to learn manual techniques when using film.
JC: And what are you currently shooting with?
WG: I have a Canon Rebel EOS XSi. My only glass is the 55mm lens it came with and a 75–300mm telephoto. I love my camera. It more than suits my current level of photography now.
JC: Tell us what your dream kit would consist of.
WG: Right now, I am fine with the camera I have, but I would love a macro lens and a 500mm telephoto lens. I won't let myself dream about better right now. I have too much to learn with what I have.
JC: I can definitely relate to that. Let's get back to learning more about the real Waltdsgirl. Tell us, what is your favorite restaurant?
WG: Steak and Ale. We no longer have one here, but it was phenomenal.
JC: There was one by my grandmother's house. I never made it there. How about your favorite genre of food?
WG: Fourth of July.
WG: Paris. It's the most beautiful city I have ever seen.
WG: The Louvre.
WG: Classic Rock.
WG: Steven Tyler.
JC: TV show?
WG: Johnny Depp. Is there anyone else?????
WG: MAD Magazine, just kidding!
JC: Card game?
JC: Board game?
[Read the original story here.]
JC: How did you find YPF?
JC: What's your favorite picture you've taken?
WG: I'd have to say my Old Mill picture since I sold a copy of it. Profit is always welcome!
JC: Can't fault the lady for that! And what would you say was the dumbest or most dangerous thing you've done to get the perfect shot?
WG: I guess that would be driving around in the more seedy parts of Little Rock…alone.
JC: Was it worth it? Did you get some decent shots?
WG: Yes, it was worth it because I have found amazing architecture and histories that I would have otherwise missed. I guess I should add one from this weekend…ended up in a parallel universe with what I believe were skinheads. Not worth it at all—no good shots there.
JC: That sucks. So, let's get a little more detail on you. We know you're married, but do you have kids?
WG: Walter has a beautiful daughter, Lauren, who is 19.
JC: You seem to like you work here at the hospital, but if you could do anything, what would it be?
WG: I have a list…archeologist, geologist, volcanologist, meteorologist (in the field, not TV), forensic scientist, or National Geographic photographer. I love research.
JC: Me too. History is so much more fun than people give it credit. And speaking of history, how did you get into photography?
WG: I've been interested in photography since I was very young, but didn't devote any serious time to it until a few years ago. It was after the purchase of my Canon Rebel EOS XSi that the obsession grew. Photography is kind of a natural extension of my career choice too.
JC: I can see the similarity between sonos, X-rays, and photography. In fact, I remember reading about X-ray photography in a recent issue of National Geographic. If you could go anywhere in the world to take the picture of a lifetime, where would it be and what would it be of?
WG: The Galapagos Islands and hopefully photograph a beautiful creature not yet known to man.
JC: So, tell me honestly, just between the two of us, how much did you have to pay JonMikal for your four awards?
WG: An undisclosed amount that he can live off of comfortably for the rest of his life!! (He wishes!)
JC: Seriously, though, which of your 4 award-winning images do you like the most?
WG: I think I am still most partial to the first one. Trudy is the second oldest gorilla in North America at 54. I've always had a fascination with gorillas and chimps.
JC: What's your favorite thing to take pictures of?
WG: Landscape and architecture for the beauty. And animals for the challenge!
JC: Beside photography, what other hobbies do you indulge in?
WG: Reading, horses, hiking.
JC: And which is your favorite?
WG: Reading is probably my most favorite besides photography…goes back to the research thing. I enjoy reading about my interests rather than novels.
JC: So, sticking with the written word for a moment, if you wrote a book, what would the title and subject be?
WG: It would probably encompass my obsessions around photography—landscapes, churches, barns, outhouses, dilapidated houses, turn of the century homes, cemeteries, etc. It would include tidbits of little known history about each place. A title escapes me. That would be the hardest part of the book.
JC: I would think finding tidbits of little known history about outhouses would be the hardest part of the book. So tell us, which do you prefer, email or snail mail?
JC: Social media or just social?
WG: I'm on Facebook, but you just can't replace face to face.
JC: Mac or PC?
JC: Digital or film?
JC: HD or standard?
JC: Cable or rabbit ears?
WG: CABLE! Never so glad to see the ears go away…
JC: Beer or wine?
JC: Skirt/dress or pants/slacks?
JC: Rings or necklaces?
JC: Couch or sofa?
JC: Art or science?
WG: Hmmm…I like using both sides of my brain.
JC: Now or later?
WG: I confess: later.
JC: Beard or mustache?
JC: Back or shoulders?
JC: Long hair or short?
WG: Long hair on both men and women when it's taken care of.
JC: Stick or automatic?
WG: Sticks are so much more fun!
JC: Shoes or sandals?
JC: Day or night?
JC: Baseball or football?
JC: If, God forbid, you should disappear off the face of the Earth right now, what would you hope people most remember you for?
JC: What's your fantasy vacation?
JC: Sticking with fantasies for a moment, if you could invite anyone (alive or dead, real or fictional) to dinner, who would it be?
JC: Where would you meet Twain?
WG: On a river boat on the Mississippi.
JC: And you would serve…?
WG: Steak, cornbread, and fresh vegetables…his favorites
JC: Who is your biggest hero?
WG: Anyone who puts his or her life on the line for others. Those who have provided our freedom and those who still fight to defend it.
JC: Nicely said, especially since it's still November, the month of Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. OK, switching from being thankful to being evil, If you could ban anyone on YPF, who would it be and why?
WG: Anyone that gives degrading comments on images in the guise of "constructive criticism." I've had critiques on my images, but no one here has ever been anything but encouraging and insightful.
JC: What do you feel you still most need to learn about photography?
WG: Portraiture, lighting, and proper technique.
JC: You've been on YPF for a number of years now, who's work would you say has progressed the most over the years?
WG: Hmmm, perhaps Old Fire Guy. He has really honed his skills, and as Judy says, he "really tells a story" with his images. Particularly his images of people. He truly captures the essence of the person and breathes life into the still image.
JC: What's your best piece of advice about life in general?
WG: Pick your battles. Some things are better left undone or unsaid.
JC: And finally, what's your best piece of advice about photography?
WG: Strive to learn new things and try to see things from a different perspective.
It was starting to get cold in the courtyard, and I could see the neon lights starting to come on in the windows facing into the little yard. Day was turning quickly into evening, and a new crew of doctors and nurses were taking up stations in the hospital as the day shift transitioned into the night shift. Waltdsgirl and I headed back through the corridors, making our way to the main entrance. When we got to the parking lot, we said our good-byes. I watched as her red taillights faded from view; she was heading back to her husband and her home. I turned to my rental and headed to the airport, destination unknown.
A MOMENT WITH JUDY AND SNAPSHOOTER
Judy and SnapShooter at home
Texas. The Lone Star State. The 28th state. The second largest state. Meaning friends or allies in Caddo, Texas is 268,820 square miles and contains 24.7 million residents with 24.7 million stories. This is the story of 2 of those residents: Judy and SnapShooter.
I caught up with the couple one sunny afternoon while passing through the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. SnapShooter suggested we meet in the park behind their home between the saber tooth tiger and the wooly mammoth. Fortunately, Judy overruled this idea, and instead we met at The Museum, their cozy home, which they built 38 years ago. It's tastefully decorated with all sorts of curios. They still have their 30-year old refrigerator hanging around. I saw an ancient radio (that's the original way to receive information wirelessly for you kids—and no, it doesn't have a touch screen, it has a dial you have to turn, and it used tubes instead of microchips) that belonged to SnapShooter's grandmother. All around are all sorts of trains ranging from G to O and an N or two in-between. Sitting on the side table next to the chair I'm sitting in is an old buggy lantern. It's glowing faintly, and I can't really tell if it's the way the sun is hitting the lens or if there is a candle or bulb inside. The kitchen door is propped open with an old cordless iron. I wonder if they heat it on the Harvest Gold stove they still have.
We've been talking for about an hour, mostly about trains, photography, and Aunt Millie's button up shoes, which sit in the corner near the stairs. It was a nice relaxing afternoon, the kind that you enjoy because when it's all over you look back and feel that it's lasted hours longer than it really has. It felt like it must have when the Jews fought the Amorites and Joshua stopped the sun from moving across the sky. I learned a lot about this photographing couple.
JC: Let's start with the basics: what does your username mean?
SS: I take really great snapshots.
JC: What 5 words would you use to describe yourself?
SS: Only one…Perfect!
J: Happy, positive, married to Perfect!
JC: What was the first camera you owned?
SS: I honestly can't remember. It was most likely a Brownie.
J: I believe that that is true for me as well.
JC: What do you shoot with?
JC: And what would your dream kit look like?
JC: How did you become interested in photography?
SS: My mother was interested in photography, and I guess I inherited it from her.
J: Are you kidding? I'm married to SnapShooter! Seriously, I've always enjoyed taking what I've always considered to be snapshots…until 3 years ago anyway. One morning after we had a little rain shower, I took my Sony P&S out of my purse and took some close-ups of my roses. Then I emailed them to our daughter. I quickly received a reply saying, "Mom these are as good as Dad's!" Well, after I picked myself up off the floor I took another look at them. They sure didn't look like anything I had ever taken before! Thus The Father's Creations was born!
JC: I'm sure that it was love at first sight. So, Judy, how did he propose?
J: Actually he didn't. We just talked. Actually, SnapShooter says that I talked and talked about getting married. But I think we knew we were going to do it.
JC: That's very sweet. Sort of like me and my wife. We sort of knew after our first date. So, SnapShooter, you said that you transferred from PA. Where are you originally from?
JC: And Judy, do you hail from somewhere other than here.
JC: Getting back to photography for a moment, what's the dumbest thing you've ever done to get the perfect shot?
SS: I have no idea! I’m dumb 24/7. Can’t help myself! :)
J: I guess I'm still waiting for that perfect shot!
JC: What's your favorite stuff to take pics of?
J: Nature, Nature, Nature!
SS: Aside from my grandkids, about anything with a motor (lawn equipment excluded).
JC: So, SnapShooter, I'm always curious how people find their hobbies. How did you get into trains?
JC: Do you consider yourself a trainspotter?
SS: Heck NO!
JC: OK, great. I feel like we're really getting to know you, but I think a great way to get to know people is through word association. So, when I say, "Spring," you say…
JC: Smoke box
SS: Steam locomotive
SS and J: [at the same time] Paradise. Heaven on Earth
J: The Father's Creations is the name of my photography business. Nature is God's canvas for His masterpiece! I have always loved nature…trees, flowers, clouds, water, mountains, green grass, butterflies, etc, etc…and as I grew so did my love for nature! Thus The Father's Creations. I take photographs of nature, add scriptures or inspirational messages, and frame them for sale. These are beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces that make lovely gifts or additions to your home or office.
JC: Who would you say your greatest hero is?
J: Actually, I would say SnapShooter is! He is kind, loving (most of the time anyway) , generous, a hard worker, and a perfectionist in his work. He is a great father, adoring PawPa, loving husband, and my best friend. No, contrary to his belief, he is not perfect; but, he does get closer each year! He is a man of integrity and he really is humble (although you wouldn't know it from his answers!) I think he is a fantastic photographer, but he doesn't! I don't think that he really knows what great photos he takes.
JC: That's a very sweet thing to say about your husband. So, who has inspired you most in life?
SS: I guess I'd have to say it was my maternal grandmother.
J: My wonderful mother!
JC: How about your favorite book?
J: The Bible
SS: Any old B grade western.
J: The Sound of Music
JC: Sports team?
J: Grapes and watermelon.
J: PINK…all shades!
J: All good ones are dead.
JC: Aggies or Longhorns?
J: Longhorns…have to support my grandson's school!
JC: Pen or Pencil?
JC: Cigar or cigarettes?
SS: Gave that garbage up 45 years ago!
J: I quit for good 10 years ago!
JC: Hymns or Psalms?
JC: What's your biggest pet peeve?
J: Snobs, hypocrites, rudeness, and definitely negativeness! They all actually go together as far as I'm concerned!
SS: People who can’t keep appointments! People who can't be on time!
JC: After photography, what's your next greatest hobby?
SS: Family. Then things that have motors (lawn equipment excluded).
J: My Granddarlings.
JC: If you had the opportunity to write a book, what would the title be?
J: Thru My Daddy's Eyes!
JC: What is your dream vacation?
J: To go all around Texas capturing the beauty in all the different areas of this great state.
SS: Tour the USA.
JC: What do you still most need to learn in photography?
SS: Composure…perhaps, but that isn’t terribly important to me.
J: Everything my camera does!
JC: If you could be a YPF admin for a day, what changes would you make?
SS: I think I'd make the “Edit” button on a member's own post last permanently and not disappear after a bit, as it does now!
J: Like SnapShooter said, the "Edit" button would always be available to use on your own post and also a 'delete' button in case you post the same thing twice!
JC: What words of wisdom do you have for newbie photogs?
J: Be yourself! Don't try to copy and imitate any other photographer. God made you unique! Look and see all the beauty in everything around you and capture it with your camera to share with others. I like vivid, vibrant colors and my work shows it. Some think it is too saturated, but I like it and it's my style. That is the way I see the world! Trust your eye and what you see through your viewfinder and how you see it. Be yourself and trust your instincts. We all can look at the same thing and see it differently. I am not a "technical" photographer, I like a photo that tells a story to those who see it. I want others to get some kind of 'feeling' from my work. My prayer everyday is, "Lord, please let me see the beauty around me that You created through Your eyes." And He does!
SS: Do your own thing, and don’t try to mimic someone else’s style.
JC: And finally, what insight into life can you offer anyone who's willing to listen?
SS: You are unique. So be yourself. And don’t concern yourself about what you think you are or aren’t.
J: Life is all about choices. It is our choice what we make of it! Do you see the glass ½ full or ½ empty? We can choose to be happy or miserable. We can choose to be positive or negative. We can choose to love or be indifferent. When we choose happiness, love, positiveness, optimism and hope, we will have a full life and be able to bring sunshine into others' lives. The words you choose to speak are what brings things to pass in your life, so speak words of hope, blessings, love and positive not negative words! And always have lots of laughter in your life. Laughter truly is the best medicine, and it so easy to share. Don't judge others; you don't know where they are coming from or what is going on in their lives. Just love them. God says we are to love others, but He didn't say we had to like them or their ways. Just think…a smile doesn't cost you anything, but it is the easiest thing to share and you can brighten someone's day in one quick moment. When you share smiles you reap a healthy harvest of sunshine.
With that final, positive note, I closed my notebook and switched off my recorder. I gave a good long stretch, just as Serena, their cat, did. Unfortunately, I accidently kicked Saydee, the dog, or was that Bitsie…they all sort of look the same to me. I got up, shook hands with my gracious hosts, and walked to the door. I noticed that Dolly, yet another dog—or was that Dudley? Seriously, they really do all look the same to me—was following, trotting along in that dog sort of way. As I got into my car, I turned and waved goodbye to Judy and SnapShooter. It was a good day, and I couldn't believe that the sun was already sitting low on the horizon, casting long, lazy shadows on the streets. I felt good. I got to meet more members of the YPF family, and they were good people.
A MOMENT WITH ALYESKA
It took me longer than I expected to get out of the cemetery. I wandered the grounds for days. I walked past broken headstones. I passed faded and forgotten names: these were once mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children. It was a grim reminder of what’s to come and the vicious cycle of life. Indeed, these were once people who loved and were loved. There’s no doubt that at those eulogies many a voice swore that the newly departed would not be soon forgotten, yet, who remembers Sarah, Joseph, or Carolyn? Who lays a flower upon the grave of young Stephen, born 1846 and died 1848? I realize that this will soon be me, and who will mourn for Jo Cose 100 years hence? I am reminded of Pozzo’s exclamation that “they give birth astride a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” The only thing that would complete this macabre melancholy into which my current environs have hurled me would be the appearance of a shiny, black raven, whose single utterance of “nevermore” would peck deeper into my chilled heart than his razor-sharp beak could into my mortal flesh.
Fortunately, I am saved from spiraling out of control to the only possible outcome, and a lifeline appears in the form of a messenger with a telegram:
YOUR SERVICES ARE NEEDED ASAP STOP REPORT TO AIRPORT AT YOUR EARLIEST STOP TICKET WAITING TO TAKE YOU DOWN EAST STOP
I have no idea who sent the telegram, what will await me Down East, or how this young messenger on a bicycle found me in the middle of the cemetery, but I was grateful that she was willing to show me the way to the airport. As the telegram predicted, a ticket was waiting for me upon my arrival, and I couldn’t help but feel that I was no longer in control of my destiny. Nevertheless, as the plane climbed into the beautifully peaceful blue northern sky, I could feel my spirits lifting as we ascended to 50,000 feet above this small, insignificant Blue Marble that we call home.
I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until we began our descent, whereupon I discovered that I was refreshed and ready to face this new adventure. After disembarking and getting my luggage, I saw an older man in a chauffeur’s hat and a sign that read “Jo Cose” I dutifully followed my driver to the waiting car, and we drove and drove. The road we were on narrowed down to a country lane, and as I looked upon the passing houses, I noticed the architecture—Colonial, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, all sitting side-by-side—that is so unique to this area of the country. The Widow’s Walk atop each house in which countless wives looked seaward in the hopes of spying their captain-husbands’ ships returning, sitting low in the water with their bellies full of fresh fish, whale oil, or seal skins. How smooth were the floorboards from the centuries of pacing women? How warped were those same boards from centuries of tears?
As the houses began to thin, and the grass turned to reeds, and the land turned marshy, we made a right onto a little dirt road and wound our way to the shore where an old decrepit wharf stuck into the Atlantic Ocean like a finger accusingly pointing to the sea as if to say, “You! You are the cause of so much grief and heartache.” As I stepped out of the car, I could once again smell the salt in the air, see the foam of the ocean, and taste the longing to return to the water—a magical place where time seems to slow and cares are washed away on the surf with the phosphorescence.
Around me lay a tranquil and idyllic landscape. To my left a few miles up the coast stood a well-built and proud lighthouse, a symbol of an almost forgotten time when seamen relied more on instinct and courage to beat Mother Nature’s fury than technology and gadgets. Closer to the wharf, a few sailboats were anchored offshore, and a little red tugboat lay at the wharf, waiting for the call to assist a ship over the bar. At the end of the pier were two chairs. I made my way down the wooden structure, and sat down next to Alyeska. It seemed I’d discovered who I would be interviewing next. We sat in silence a few minutes longer, drinking in the majesty of the vista before us. Finally, I turned on the tape recorder and began to get to know Alyeska a little better.
JC: Let’s begin with my usual beginning point: could you please describe yourself in 15 words or less.
A: Ohhh gosh. I’d say artistic, creative, funny, klutzy, caring, understanding, a good friend.
JC: And what product’s slogan best describes you?
A: “Takes a licking, but keeps on ticking,” you know, Timex
JC: I’m curious about your username.
JC: Where were you from?
A: I was born in Hyannis, Massachusetts, grew up here, and after high school, I went to Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida. I moved back to the Cape for a time, then Boston, London, and Austin. I came back to the Cape about 11 years ago, and I currently live about 12 miles from Hyannis.
JC: And for the eligible folk here on YPF, what about some vitals?
A: I’m single. No kids. One very loveable sweet cat named Max.
JC: I see. So that leads to the next logical question for the creepy stalker-types we seem to attract here, what’s your sign, baby?
A: Leo, and it suits me well.
JC: What was the first camera you ever owned?
JC: What’s your current setup?
A: Currently I have a Canon 400D with the kit lens, the EF 28-135 IS, and the EF 70-300 IS, a couple of extra batteries, UV filters, PC filters and tripod, a Tamrac Expedition 6 case. I also have my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3 and a few filters for that as well (now my backup camera).
JC: That’s some serious stuff you got going there. How did you get into photography?
A: First time around, when I was a child, my grandfather got me interested in it. I shot pretty steadily and often until life took over, and the cost of processing got to me. Most recently, I bought the Panasonic in February 2005, and it’s reawakened my love of photography.
JC: Who’s your favorite photographer?
JC: How did you happen upon YPF?
A: Chiller invited me to join.
JC: If you could go anywhere in the world to take your ultimate picture, where would it be, and what would it be a picture of?
A: I would have to say wildlife in Alaska. I wish I had owned a digital camera the times I was there.
JC: As a way to steer the conversation away from photography for a few minutes, what other hobby most consumes you?
A: Kayaking, I took up the sport about 8 years ago and can’t get enough of it. It’s almost as expensive and consuming as photography. I find it to be a very Zen sport, very peaceful and it brings me back in touch with nature and myself.
JC: What are you currently reading?
JC: Who has most inspired you in life?
A: I’d have to say my mother. She raised me—as a single parent—in a time when single parents were not the norm. She taught me strength and purpose.
JC: Here’s another one of my staples: if you could invite anyone, alive or dead, real or fictional, to dinner, who would it be, where would you go, and what would you have to eat?
A: I’d invite my friend Heidi who passed away 5 years ago after fighting cancer for 7 years. We’d go to Cook’s Fried Seafood and stuff ourselves silly with fried clams. We’d laugh and cry and promise to do this again when we’re old ladies.
JC: You say in your profile that you love to cook. What do you cook best?
A: I think my best dish is Linguini with White Clam Sauce.
JC: What do you cook worst?
A: I don’t do too well cooking hamburgers.
JC: And what would you love to cook if you could, but can’t?
A: I’d love to be able to cook a roast suckling pig, but I don’t have a large enough oven or grill for it.
JC: We all have talents, skills, and abilities that we are exceptionally good at. If you had the opportunity to write a chapter in a book, what would it be on?
A: Funny you ask that, I’m currently writing a book. It’s a humorous view of my neighbors…in the style of the late Erma Bombeck.
JC: Alright, now’s the point in the interview where we get to everyone’s favorite: games. Let’s start with Word Association. How about Flower?
A: Amazing photographer.
A: Best forum.
A: Pain in the butt.
A: Red Sox.
JC: Tea Party?
JC: New England?
JC: Yellow Pages.
A: My first job.
JC: Let’s try some favs. How about food?
JC: TV show?
A: “The Sopranos.”
JC: Radio station?
A: 107.5 FM, WFCC.
JC: Movie star?
JC: How about a few either ors? Let’s start with photography: digital or film?
JC: Stick or automatic?
JC: Pen or pencil?
JC: LP or CD?
JC: Dining in or eating out?
A: Both as long as food is involved.
JC: Cinema or video?
JC: Mac or PC?
JC: Jo Cose or JonMikal?
A: Even King Solomon couldn’t make that choice.
JC: Coffee or Tea?
JC: What do you do for a living?
A: I’m temporarily retired. I took a leave of absence from my job, as a project director for a hotel management company, which specialized in restoring classic hotels, to care for my elderly mother. It’s been a learning experience and very rewarding. I do miss my former work—especially the income—but I wouldn’t change things for the world. I do look forward to someday returning to the working world, maybe doing something new.
JC: What’s your fantasy job?
A: I’d love to be able to travel and work as a photographer…wow, that would be amazing.
JC: What’s your dream vacation?
A: I’d love to buy a big RV and travel to all the National Parks in North America, photographing all I can find.
JC: Nice segue back into photography. Tell us, what’s your favorite picture you’ve ever taken?
A: Ohhh gosh…I guess it’d have to be this one here. It’s an oldie. I shot it when I first bought my Panasonic. I found this funky pink and yellow dingy—I haven’t seen it since. Been back there many times looking to re-shoot it.
JC: What’s the crazies/dumbest/most dangerous thing you’ve ever done to get a shot?
A: I guess it was standing on the edge of a crumbly cliff here on the outer cape to get a shot of the surf. It was just OK, I’ve taken better shots.
JC: If you could be the admin for YPF for one day, what changes would you make?
A: I can’t think of a thing, I like it the way it is.
JC: What’s your favorite thing to take pictures of?
A: The beach, shoreline, water, birds…
JC: What in photography do you think you’re the best at?
A: Landscape.. I don’t do well with people photography.
JC: What do you think you most need work on in your photography?
A: I would say it’s exposure; I need to learn more in that area.
JC: What’s something in photography you’ve never tried but would love to?
A: I’d love to try underwater photography.
JC: What is it about photography that has made a hobby?
A: It’s reawakened my artistic side, I went to art school in the 1970s and put my art aside to make a living. Now that’s coming back to me full force, and I am trying to figure out where I can put a studio in my home.
JC: Finally, I like to end the interviews with the opportunity for you to offer whatever insight into life you may have, for posterity.
A: Shoot first, ask questions later.
With that, I shut off the tape recorder, thanked Alyeska for spending a wonderful afternoon with me, and leaned back in my chair to listen to the sound of the surf lapping against the beach. After what felt like an eternity just sitting there with my ears filled with the sirens’ song of the sea, I forced myself to stand up and, as I stretched, I saw that a bottle had washed up on the shore. Feeling self-consciously like Gordon Sumner, I made my way down to the beach, sure that the message in that bottle would lead me to my next interview.
A MOMENT WITH CHILLER
You may be wondering why it has taken so long to post the next installment. To say that I’ve been to Hell and back would not only not be a cliché, but it would not even be figurative. I left Tampa and headed east with the intent of spending a little time in Miami. This was not meant to be. I stopped in the thriving metropolis of Clewiston for a bite to eat. This was not meant to be. To say that I looked death in the face is an understatement. As I walked across the parking lot of the restaurant, a black, pimped-out hearse screeched to a halt in front of me. A figure looking like a cross between Charon and the murderer in the Scream movies jumped out of the black car and ran toward me. As anyone would do at a time like that, I reached into my pocket, grabbed the first coin I could find, and stuck it under my tongue. It was to no avail, the Ferryman grabbed me, threw me into the back of the hearse where a soft, satin-lined coffin cushioned my landing, and pealed out as fast as he had stopped. The journey felt like days, but I kept my mouth shut—who, after all, would argue with Death or his minions?
Finally, the vehicle began to slow and came to a gentle stop (as if we had run out of gas). I heard my chauffer getting out of the car, and next thing I knew, I was released from my rather morbid captivity. He held out his hand like a bell hop, and I offered him the shiny (and saliva-y) quarter that I had been sucking on. As he pulled away, I could see the neon letters alongside the hearse, seeming to glow in the foggy night: it read “Lost Souls.” As I looked around to get my bearings, I took in the scene. For one split moment, I thought I was in Transylvania. But the friendly sign clearly told me otherwise. It read, “Toronto Necropolis.” It seemed that I was unable to get away from the Land of Canucks.
As my eyes adjusted to the gloomy conditions of a dense 19th-century-London like fog and full moon, I heard one of the eeriest sounds I have ever heard. It was the squeal of stone on stone—somewhat akin to the sound of nails on a chalkboard. As I oriented myself toward the sound, prepared for anything, I saw that the door to the crypt at the end of the lane (by the “dead end” sign) was slowly opening. I braced myself for…I didn’t really know what—zombies, skeletons, Dracula. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the next thing that happened.
As the door opened, the light of several flickering candles inside the tomb painted preternatural shadows upon the ground. A figure appeared at the door, silhouetted by the dancing candlelight. In that moment, I became Ichabod Crane to this emerging black-cloaked figure’s Headless Horseman, and I shrunk back in fear. From deep within the folds of this Prince of Darkness’ velvet wrap issued a voice as melodious as it was frightening. It said, “Hey bro! Haow’s it gohin’, eh? Haow, aboot thaht pimped-oot Hearse, eh?”
To my great relief, I realized in an instant that I had not been summoned by Beelzebub, but rather by none other than Chiller. Once I had settled my nerves enough to write, I pulled out my pad and pen, sat down on a stone bench with the Chilly One, and began the interview:
JC: So, Chiller, besides “Scary as Shit,” what would you say is the expression that best describes you?
C: I have always believed in the motto, “Everyone has a dark side.” I think it’s true; it’s just that most people are afraid to show it.
JC: Tell us about your username.
C: The name Chiller came to me years ago, while a member of a Halloween forum. A guy I worked with said I was “creepy” because of my fascination with Halloween. He called me Chiller one day, and it has stuck since then.
JC: While we’re talking about usernames, what’s the deal with Ch1ller?
C: I guess I had better tell the truth; I know they are going to read this. Basically, Ch1ller is multiple personalities come to life. They were bottled up inside me, till one day, after an electrical accident at Halloween, the 4 of them came to life and took on my human forum. Now they won’t leave me alone. Sure, we go out and party together sometimes, but most of the time I try to do my own thing. I always have to watch over my shoulder, though, ya know, to see if they are watching over my shoulder too. Click here to see a shot of us foolin’ around one night.
JC: Were you born and raised here in the grave yard?
JC: And what do you do for a living here in Scarborough Ontario, Canada?
C: I’m a warehouse manager for a large format reprographics company. We do blueprints, sell large format plotters, engineering copiers, and media. We started this company from the ashes of a bankrupt company. It has gone from 4 employees to about 35, with 6 different offices in 5 years.
JC: Sounds like it’s pretty cool, and you seem proud of the company, but if you could have your dream job, what would it be?
C: I’m sure most of the folks on the Forum will assume I’m going to say working in a cemetery, but actually, I have always wanted to get into the movie industry, in the special effects departments. Either building miniatures, or designing sets. I think I have watched Lord of the Rings 5 times, and I still don’t know what most of the movie is about. I get too involved in watching how the movie was made. I have always loved building things, and I guess that is one place where my love for Halloween comes into play. Everything in my home haunt was scratch built. Maybe one day....ya never know, I might be doing my dream job.
JC: So what if you won the lottery and never had to worry about money or work ever again. How would you spend your days?
C: That’s a tough question Cose. I know there are a lot of places I would love to visit. I think I would take the time and actually visit them. On the list are Wales, Greece, DC (again), Australia, and New Zealand.
JC: Let’s move over the real bread and butter of this Forum, shall we? How did you get into photography?
C: I just fell into this hobby. I had no idea how deep I would get into it. A few years ago, I decided to take a cycling trip to Niagara Falls. I had trained for many months to make the 320km [198.8 miles] round trip. All I had packed was a cheap point and shoot film camera. After taking 48 pictures, I ended up with about 6 pics worth keeping. That was when I decided to get a “real” camera, a Canon Rebel film camera. Then I just got addicted to taking pictures.
JC: What type of gear do you have in you camera bag?
C: I have the Canon Digital Rebel, 18-55mm, 28-80mm, 70-300mm, 170-500mm, and a Sigma 28-105. Some accessories are 2Xextender, 250d close up lens, Lensbaby, and 17 assorted filters ( I won’t list them all), Sunpak Flash, wireless remote, and my Canon Rebel film camera which I blow the dust off of every now and then…usually when I forget to charge the batteries for my digital cam.
JC: Wow. That’s a lot of stuff. So, when you go out with that small lens store, what’s your favorite thing to take pictures of?
C: Flowers and Babies…nah, kidding, bro! Cemeteries, actually. I find the models here very cooperative.
JC: Right. Of course. So, what’s the one photographic technique that you have never done that you would love to try?
C: HDR. Sometime over the summer, I’m going to try it.
JC: What is your all-time favorite picture?
C: I have to say this one. I call it “The Uninvited Guest.” Mostly because it makes people laugh. Sometimes the pic does not have to be the best technically, but if it creates an emotion, it has done its job. I captured this shot while wandering through Edwards Gardens. There was some wedding photography going on. This dude comes over the hill, takes his shirt off, cracks open a bottle of water and a chocolate bar and plants himself here. I call it my gift shot.
JC: I remember when you posted it. It is a great shot, and I always get a chuckle out of seeing it. Although it’s your favorite, what is your dream shot? That is, if you could go anywhere in the world to take any shot at all, what would it be of and where?
JC: Who is your favorite photographer?
C: I don’t have a favorite photography. I don’t even know the work of any famous photogs. I’m constantly inspired by the photographers on the forum, no matter what their level of photography. I’m always amazed at how people see things.
JC: So who inspires you the most?
C: I’m inspired by anybody who can see an image and make it work. I have never watched the “professional” photographers, so I’m not really up on the who’s who of photography. All of my inspiration comes from the forum. JonMikal’s visions of the DC are an inspiration to anyone. Sir Ray, and his wildlife images, blow me away. Woody’s imagination in The Darkside and his HDRs are all framers. To be honest , the list can go on and on. Everyone has their own eye for photography, and all can be an inspiration.
JC: Photography is interesting and all, but let’s get back to finding out more about Chiller. Who’s the first girl you ever kissed?
C: Karen…I think…Or maybe it was Susan…Or was it both?
JC: Have you ever made out in a (real) cemetery?
C: Not yet, but I have found the place. I just need a willing combatant.
[I would swear that Chiller winked seductively at me after that last comment. I adjusted myself on the bench, and as nonchalantly as possible, I tried to slide a little further away. Then again, it may have merely been the moonlight flicking across his piercing yellow eyes.]
JC: What other hobbies have you tried in addition to photography?
C: Originally, I wanted to pursue a music career. I started playing drums at 13, and I played in various bands around the Toronto Club scene. I tried my hand at cartooning and illustration as well.
JC: I’ve heard the name Kane here and there. Who exactly is he?
C: I met Kane 10 years ago. I had heard about this dog that was living in an abusive home. I took him away, and Kane and I are best friends, and hiking partners.
JC: So, what’s the deal with all the death motif? How did you get into the macabre?
C: I have always had a fascination for the darker stuff. It pretty much started as a teenager. No, I never listened to my metal albums backwards, but I was more impressed by horror movies, and at that time all the classics were hitting the big screen. The screeeeemer movies: Friday the 13th, Halloween, The Evil Dead. They all came out at that time. I have been doing a haunted house for 11 years, I did dress up my parents house a bit. Yeah...they wondered. I really started to enjoy scaring the pants off people back then. The fact that my house backed onto a funeral home helped. My friend Doug’s parents owned it, so we got to wander around inside quite a bit. Still today, I’m as fascinated as I was years ago.
JC: Let’s move to something a little happier, eh? Why don’t you tell us your favorite joke?
C: A horse walks into a bar and steps up to order a drink. The bartender approaches him and says, “hay. Why the long face?”
JC: Er…yea, I’d probably stick with that gig at the warehouse. OK, so moving on. Let’s comment on that unique Chiller look. Have you ever had short hair?
C: Many moons ago. I have had long hair since I was 17. I just can’t cut it. Even my friends and family say I would not be me if I cut my hair. I wish I had a pic I could share. That was before the digital world, and those shots are safely stashed away at my Momma’s place.
JC: If you were given the opportunity to write a chapter in a book on anything you think you are an expert on, what would it be about?
C: Probably creating a Halloween home haunt.
JC: If you could invite anyone, alive or (un)dead, real or fictional, to dinner who would it be?
C: My Dad. I never spent enough time with him when I was younger. I would love to sit and have a chat with him over dinner, and most of all apologize for not spending the time I should have spent with him. I was too busy being cool in a rock band and forgot what you can learn from your father.
JC: Who is the one person who has had the most profound impact in your life?
C: Neil Peart the drummer from RUSH. I spent many an hour learning how to play drums like him. Not only his drumming, but also his way of writing lyrics has always inspired me when it came to music. If it was not for his drumming, I would never have played drums
JC: Let’s play everyone’s favorite: Word Association: Black.
C: Let’s hope I do this right. All those years on the forums, and never once played Word Association. OK, Black…let’s see, how about car.
C: Prime Minister.
JC: You did great. Let’s move on to Choices. I begin with Black and White or Color?
JC: Er…OK. How about Video or Cinema?
JC: Nikon or Canon?
C: Canon...I’m not sure what that other one is.
JC: Digital or Analog?
JC: O or OU?
JC: Eh? or Y’all?
JC: Coffee or Tea?
JC: Rap or Rock?
JC: Shoes or Sandals?
JC: For the ladies: Boxers or Briefs?
C: Briefs (grey).
JC: How about some Favorites: Movie?
C: The Exorcist.
JC: TV Show?
C: “Trailer Park Boys.”
JC: Radio Station?
C: The Rock 94.9 FM.
JC: Vacation Spot?
C: My backyard.
JC: Canadian Province?
JC: US City?
C: Washington, DC.
JC: Historical era?
C: WWII era.
JC: Great. Let’s move back to photography. How did you find your way to YPF?
C: The Coven hexed me.
JC: I know that you, like many of us, have found your way to YPF via several other photography forums. You have been a very active member of all of them, but never in a leadership position. What makes this forum different?
C: I think with YPF it is the people, and the fresh start. I have always believed that you respect the person first. Everyone has their own visions, and a photograph is a reflection of what that person has seen at a specific moment in time. With YPF, I hope we can make everyone feel comfortable, and no one should be afraid to post his or her images.
JC: If you could share one vital thing with everyone reading this, one pearl of Chiller Wisdom, what would it be?
C: Enjoy life every day. Always hug your loved ones, especially your kids, and always love your pets. They are just as precious. All they want is your love. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Your friends are your friends for a reason. Always love them too. We are on this planet for a short time, try to make it the best you can. Love what you have, cause there are people who have less. Never listen to Ch1ller. They think they know everything.
With that, he flipped his cowl over his head, buried his hands deep within his sleeves, looking more like a Prince of the Church than the Earl of Hell. As his cloaked figured glided over the grounds and back to the crypt, I was left to ponder how I had gotten here, what we had talked about, and more importantly, how I was going to get home.
A MOMENT WITH DEE
Although it is true that I have begun to tolerate the taste (and texture) of poutine, all good things must come to an end. With the frozen tundra of the Great White North in my rearview mirror, I headed to warmer climes to thaw. Having been as far west as I could go in the U S of A, it was time to head south. I drove for hours, passing through the Heartland of America and into the Sunshine State. Riding down Route 75, I pulled into Tampa just as the sun was setting over the Gulf of Mexico. As it was getting dark, it took me a while to navigate through the town as I made my way to the white rancher with the corrugated red roof. Dee was sitting on the porch swing, waiting patiently for me to arrive.
I stepped onto the porch, she got up, shook my hand, and held the door for me to enter her home. As I walked into the living room, I must confess, not a little fear and concern passed through me. It was as if I had entered an abattoir or a medieval torture chamber. As I looked around me, there were all sorts of instruments of death hanging from the walls, a sickle (reminding me of sadder days in Washington), a scythe (reminding me of the Grim Reaper), crossed swords (reminding me of knights), and an old gun (reminding me of the Civil War), which I later learned was an 1862 Tower Musket. Completely out of place in this macabre setting sat a saddle and a horse collar. When she offered me a seat, I thought for one brief moment she was expecting me to sit in the saddle. Fortunately, she was offering me the rather comfortable La-Z-Boy. As I sat down and pulled my notebook out of my sack, I noticed the largest set of longhorns I’d ever seen outside of UT-Austin’s stadium hanging on the wall over the door that we had come through.
Once my nerves settled from my eerie surroundings, we got underway with the interview.
JC: So, Dee, let’s start with what is becoming my standard opening question. Could you describe yourself in 15 words or less?
Dee: Opinionated, stubborn, funny, kind, caring, uni-tasker (hey! I invented a word!), ditsy, goofy. My real name is Dori, anyone see the movie Finding Nemo????
JC: OK, so that didn’t work so well. Let’s try something different. How about the cliché that best describes you?
Dee: Oh, sorry. I suppose that was more than 15 words. OK, how about this one: Illegitimi Non Carborundum…“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
JC: I like that one a lot. I wish I knew that when I was taking Latin 101 in high school. What food do you consider yourself to be like?
Dee: Peanut Butter. I tend to stick around.
JC: So, tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from and if you have a family.
Dee: I was born/hatched in Germany. in Munich. I grew up in Liberty Hill, TX, where I met my wonderful husband. He is from Minnesota so we moved up there. He then was transferred down here to Florida. We’ve been married for 20 years. He adopted our oldest who was mine from a previous marriage, and we had two more: Jeni, 22; Shelli, 18; and Sammy, 15. Jen just made us grandparents!!!!!!
JC: Mazel Tov! My parents are about to be grandparents, too. So, I know all too well the excitement that comes with that. I guess since you were born in Texas and then moved to Minnesota, that’s where the term “Texasotan” comes from?
Dee: Well....Ah waz raized in Teksus an met mah huzband thar. Then we moooved tooo Minnesoooota wheerrr he grew up, dooon’ cha nooo, eyyy wat? My accent tends to drive people nuts. Unless I get mad then I am ‘Pure Texun’!
JC: And what do you do for a living?
Dee: Up until 2003, I worked in the steel industry, manufacturing structural hangers and connectors. I did CNC programming for presses and drove a killer forklift. I was forced/chose to quit because I was diagnosed with Epilepsy and had to forfeit my driver’s license. Right now, I am a clerk in a dry cleaner. It isn’t too bad except when these stupid customers walk in wanting their clothes when I am trying to shoot something.
JC: If some distant cousin died and left you enough money that you never had to work again, what would you do?
Dee: Well, traveling around finding things to photograph would be great!
JC: Yea, that would be great. OK, that’s a nice segue. Tell us how you got into photography.
Dee: My Dad. He was always taking photos of anything and everything. He started a small business in the late 70s after he retired from the Army. Sadly, it didn’t work out for him.
JC: And what was your first camera?
Dee: A Kodak Instamatic! I photographed my first sunrise with it!!!
JC: What is in your camera bag right now?
JC: If you could go anywhere in the world to take your ideal shot, where would it be?
JC: What’s your all-time, hands-down favorite picture that you took?
JC: What’s the craziest/stupidest/most dangerous thing you’ve ever done to take a picture?
Dee: Standing on a small island in the middle of a busy road trying to take a shot of a kid on a skateboard. The shot didn’t come out.
JC: What’s your favorite thing to take pics of?
Dee: Anything in nature.
JC: What’s the one thing in photography that you’ve never done, but would love to try?
Dee: Infrared! I have always thought it so awesome!
JC: Tell how you found this little forum we call YPF?
Dee: On a search engine. After lurking for a bit, I noticed that all threads are answered in some way or other. No one is allowed to rule, all are made to feel important regardless of skill level. In other words YPF is a level playing field.
JC: OK, here’s were we play some games. Let’s start with word association and the obvious: Photography
Dee: Are not allowed in Texas Chili!
Dee: Sorry Dad!
JC: How about favorites? Movie?
Dee: Harold and Maude
Dee: Anything by Stephen King
Dee: “Hey Jude”
Dee: My Nikon
Dee: The Website for The Schnitt Show, from a local AM radio show
JC: Historical figure?
Dee: Abraham Lincoln
JC: Historical time period?
JC: Ice cream flavor?
JC: And choices: Stick or automatic?
JC: Digital or film?
JC: CD or LP?
JC: Disco or Punk?
Dee: Disco! Showing my age here.
JC: Opera or Musical?
JC: Pen or pencil?
Dee: Pencil, I can erase my boo boo’s
JC: Beer or wine?
JC: Excellent. Who would you say has had the biggest influence on you in your life?
Dee: My Dad. When he would come home on leave he would take me everywhere with him. He never seemed to tire of my endless questions and would answer them honestly.
JC: Where do you get you inspiration when taking pictures?
Dee: From what others have done.
JC: What’s your advice to people new to photography?
Dee: Never compare your work to someone else’s in a negative way, learn from them. Never think you can’t do what another does. Keep asking the same question until you understand the answer. If you honestly look at it, my photos are not as good as many others. All that really means is that I need to try harder and learn more.
JC: And finally, what’s your greatest piece of advice?
Dee: Don’t ever think you know everything. If you do, then you know nothing.
Night had set on this coastal town. As I stepped back out onto the porch, I could hear the ocean crashing on the surf, could smell the brine in the air and taste the saltiness. They say that smell is the sense most closely tied to memory, and it is little wonder that nostalgia for my days working on the water tugged so strongly at my soul. I drove down to the beach and just sat there on the sand, watching the waves as the water was illuminated by the phosphorescence. Before I knew it, the back of my neck was being warmed by the morning rays. I roused myself back to the present, got into the car, and headed to my next destination.
A MOMENT WITH AIRIC
Due to catastrophic world events, my schedule of interviews has been somewhat changed around. As I mentioned in my last installment, I was headed to the airport to take a long trip to interview the next YPFer. When I reached Oshawa Municipal Airport, I realized that it was not the international airport I was told it was. Clearly, I was going to miss my flight out of the correct airport. Resolved that I was destined to stay in the Great White North a little longer, I walked over to the Industrial and Military Museum, wandered around for a bit, and finely settled into a table by the window at the airport’s restaurant. It was a lovely view of the runway, and as I ate a bowl of poutine (it actually grows on you), a gentle-faced, pleasant fellow approached and sat down across from me, sipping a steaming cup of coffee.
I am embarrassed to say that I had no idea who he was, but he had recognized me immediately (thanks to the many pictures JonMikal has posted of me over the past year and a half). The friendly fellow with the warm and inviting smile was none other than Airic. Of all the airports in all the world, I was lucky enough to walk into his.
As I had plenty of time to kill, and I wanted to take advantage of such a fortuitous and serendipitous opportunity, I pulled out my mini-tape recorder, pen, and pad of paper and got down to business.
JC: How would you describe yourself in 15 words?
A: Responsible but a free spirit, loves to photograph, laugh and teach, punctual, passionate, and compassionate.
JC: Given your avatar, do you really fly?
A: I do not have a pilot’s license, but I have flown, landed, and taken off an aircraft several times. It is a dream to solo, and I hope one day it will come true. I have been lucky enough to fly with many instructors who have given me valuable training and experience but the cost of a license and maintaining currency has been prohibitive. As for the avatar, the shot was taken during my first aerobatic experience. It’s an avatar that I have maintained since my first message board. The aircraft is a WWII era North American Harvard Trainer. The pilot was a retired RCAF pilot, and he has taught me more about flying then any other person. We had spent the weekend at an airshow doing barnstorming rides, and this was on the way home. We turned the hour flight into two hours, and we did loops and rolls all the way home until the sun went down. Another fantastic memory that money can’t buy.
JC: Are you actually from…where are we again?...Oshawa?
JC: While we’re on your personal life, tell us a little about your family.
A: My wife, Bernadette, and I have been married 16 years. We do not have kids but share a house with Bernadette’s sister’s family, and her kids have become ours. Most of you are well aware of the three Ns we share our life with, Nathan, Natalie, and Nicholas. We have lived with them for six years, and Nicholas has never known a life without us around. Bernadette and I can’t even imagine how lonely we would be without the kids around. It is a great family environment, and despite seven of us in the house, it works really well.
JC: What do you do for a living?
A: I work in an Imaging Support department for one of Canada’s largest photo retailers where I maintain, fix and train on minilab equipment. Why I took a job where I have to fix broken equipment I will never know, and I ask myself that question every day.
JC: Do I sense a hint of disillusionment in you voice? I’m sure it isn’t as bad as your first job.
A: Definitely not. My very first job was stocking shelves in a local variety store. It helped me raise money to buy my first camera along with a little help from my father. My first full time job was a delivery driver.
JC: What is your ideal job?
A: Aviation photographer which I do as a weekend job. It is purely a labor of love and a job I have desired since I was nine and started taking photos and reading aviation magazines. In 1988, I had my first photo published in FlyPast magazine and have not looked back. I do, however, want to keep this as a part time job so I can maintain my love and desire for it. In 2005, I fulfilled a goal by shooting out the back of a B-25 WWII era bomber, the ultimate photoship. The rear gun position is removed and the whole back end taken off. Once you are airborne you crawl on your knees to the back and hook up a harness. This is a photo a fellow photographer took of me in the back during a pass at an airshow. You can barely see me in the back. This is a shot of my feet hanging out the back of the aircraft waiting for the subject aircraft to arrive. Here are two photos from the shoots I did that weekend out the back of the B-25 (click here and here).
JC: I just want to go back to something you said a minute ago; your first job was to save up for your first camera. What kind was it?
A: A Praktica 35mm. I can’t remember the model but I destroyed about 5 of them before I got my first Nikon. I have always shot 35mm except for experimenting with a few of my father’s and grandfather’s larger format cameras. (If you want to see some of the 50+ cameras in my collection, click here.)
JC: You’ve mentioned your father and grandfather were into photography. Is that where you developed your interest?
A: Some of my earliest memories are spending time with my father in the darkroom listening to classical music and developing black and white prints and film. (Here is a photo of my father in the dark room. I still have the enlarger seen in the background.) My father and grandfather were both avid amateur photographers and, although my sister and brother were also exposed to photography, they did not take it up with the same passion as I did. I’m now in possession of my family’s photo collection that dates back to the early 1920s and consists of hundreds of thousands of negatives that include historic events like the arrival of the R-100 Airship in Canada and photos of personalities like Jayne Mansfield and Bob Hope.
JC: Those are some great pics of Jayne. I mean they’re all great, but Jayne! Speaking of pics, I have to ask, what’s the deal with the birds (the real ones, not the metal ones)?
A: I like to shoot anything and everything, and wildlife is very high on my list of stuff to shoot. Birds are easier and more plentiful to find then other animals so that is my main focus. I was not into birding much until two years ago when I found out my brother-in-law was an avid bird watcher and photographer. He has taught me a lot about birding and is my source for information on the subject. There is nothing sweeter then finding an owl or hawk in the wild and getting a good image of it—very challenging and frustrating at times but rewarding when you nail an image. My hat goes off to Raymond who has followed wildlife photography with the same passion I follow aviation. I would have to say this set of photos is what sparked my interested in wildlife photography, a Great Grey Owl I stumbled across on a hike. From that point on I was hooked.
JC: And what gear do you use when you go out shooting? I am assuming that you don’t use a 50mm prime to get up in those raptors’ faces.
A: I’m not a real gadget or technical person when it comes to cameras, and I like to keep it simple. For the past few years, I have used two Nikon D70s and have recently upgraded to a D200 body. I currently use a Sigma (Bigma) 50-500 lens that is excellent for the price point. Very versatile and sharp. Talking about getting in a raptor’s face, this photo was taken the moment I realized I was about to be attacked by an Osprey.
JC: What’s your dream camera setup?
A: I would have to say a Canon D1 MKII with a prime 300mm 2.8 and 500mm f.4. Throw in a wide angle and I would be happy. I’m a keep-it-simple kind of person.
JC: Can we see your favorite picture?
A: Sure. It’s here. Most photos I take have such good memories attached to them. I have so many that are dear to me; but, I would have to say this one sticks out the most, and I get the most amount of response about. It has been published in several calendars and magazines. I heard that a company called Fighter Factory from Virginia was going to be at an airshow I regularly attend with a Mk IX Spitfire, the dream Spitfire. The airframe is a WWII veteran that has one of the best photo documentations of any airframe in existence. It was photographed by Oscar winning director William Wyler on Corsica in 1944 and many photos of this airframe exist from its historic past. Anyway, I contacted the owner, and he granted me an exclusive air-to-air shoot at the airshow. We met on the Friday of the show and made plans for the next morning to do the shoot at 8 am. Obviously, I did not sleep the whole night in anticipation of my first Spitfire shoot. The morning saw heavy clouds over the field, but my photoplane pilot and Jerry (the plane’s owner) were still willing to play. So off we went. Soon after take-off he formatted on us, and I remember thinking how terrible it was we were flying under clouds: the photos would not look as nice as I wanted. All of a sudden sunlight hit the Spitfire, and I saw some puffs of white go by. I lowered the camera to see the Spitfire climbing through a hole in the clouds. To me, it was pure heaven, and I still get goose-bumps thinking about it: blue sky above, white puffy clouds and green countryside below. We climbed above the cloud base and played for 20 minutes in the early morning sun. For me, it was one of the most magical moments I have ever had.
JC: OK, let’s move away from photography for a few minutes. If you could invite anyone, alive or dead, real of fictional, to a concert, who would it be and which concert would you go to?
A: May I change that to “If you could invite anyone, alive or dead, real of fictional, to an airshow, who would it be and which airshow would you go to”?
A: The person would have to be WWII Canadian fighter Ace George Beurling who my father played with as a kid. The airshow would be the History of Flight in Geneseo, New York. George flew Spitfires over Malta in WWII, and, of course, we would have to do an air-to-air shoot with him flying a Spitfire.
JC: What’s your favorite joke?
A: I don’t know…What building has the most stories?
JC: Don’t know. What building?
A: The Library.
JC: OK, moving on. Let’s play everybody’s favorite: word association. Here we go: Duck.
A: Waco, the aircraft.
JC: Uncle Sam.
JC: Great. And now some preferences:
JC: Digital or film?
JC: LP or CD?
JC: US or Canada?
A: OH CANADA!
JC: Hockey or Cricket?
A: Hockey. I don’t like bugs.
JC: Indian or Thai?
JC: Deaf or blind?
A: Deaf, anything but my vision.
JC: Pen or Pencil?
A: Ch1ller, dude.
JC: Mom & Pop or Chain?
A: Mom & Pop.
JC: Coffee or tea?
A: Tim Hortons.
JC: And favorites: Car?
A: One that does not need repair.
A: Spitfire Mk. Ixe MJ 730.
A: Led Zeppelin.
A: John Dibbs.
A: He! He! He!
JC: Tell us about your worst dating experience.
A: I went out with a girl who would not talk during the date. I guess it wasn’t that bad; it only lasted a few hours, and I never saw her again.
JC: Tell us about your best dating experience.
A: The day I met my wife. I knew she was the one for me. I was in love.
JC: Who has influenced you the most when it comes to your photography?
A: My father.
JC: Who is your all-time greatest hero?
A: My grandfather.
JC: What is the one type of photography you haven’t yet tried but would really like to?
A: Under water photography but I should learn how to swim better first.
JC: If you were invited to write a chapter in a photography textbook, what would the chapter be about?
A: Air-to-air photography
JC: If you could go anywhere in the world to take your dream shot where would it be and what would it be of?
A: A dream shot anywhere? Hmmmmm…Well, it would have to be an airplane. I would have to say England to shoot the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster and fighters. Then I would have air-to-air shots of the only two flying Lancasters left in the world.
JC: What’s the most dangerous/craziest thing you ever did to get a pic?
A: Well, for me it is what I love to do every day, and I don’t consider it that dangerous but strapping into the back of a B-25 WWII era bomber and doing an air-to-air shoot. Imagine being in the very tail of an aircraft with a harness that will allow you to move right to the edge of the aircraft and lean out. It is such a rush. My wife took this photo of me sitting in the open doorway of a Cessna 172. I was shooting the aircraft she was in.
JC: What’s the best piece of advice you could impart to the great folks of YPF?
A: Live life and do the things you have always dreamed about doing, and just be nice and tolerant to other people.
JC: Very good advice that more people in this world should heed.
A MOMENT WITH ANTARCTICAN
With the conclusion of my interview with Oldfireguy, I made it to the far edge of the United States. As such, it was time to wander back east. I worked my way across the northern states and slipped quietly and undetected into the Canadian Rockies. My next destination: Toronto. Once in T-dot, I headed straight to a restaurant to get an order of poutine, as I’ve heard that it’s the national side-dish of Canada. If you have never tried this delicacy, this dish par excellence, this fine Canadian cuisine, consider yourself lucky.
After downing some Tums® and undergoing an angioplasty, I headed over to the courthouse to hold my next interview. Because of the discomfort from the aforementioned venture into local flavo(u)r, I was running late. I had to double-park on Queen Street; but, given my destination, I figured that it wouldn’t be a problem. As I walked into Old City Hall, heading toward the Court Office, I saw a tall, white-haired woman walking swiftly toward me. I was fascinated by how the flow of the long, black robe made the figure appear to be gliding across the mosaic floor of the Entrance Hall. I had flashbacks of another tall, white-haired woman in a habit. As she moved closer to me, however, I realized that the white hair was not real, but rather a wig atop her head. I was relieved to see that this was not Sister Mary Ignatius from my high school (because when she would go on and on explaining everything….well, let’s just say you wished corporal punishment was reestablished because a swift ruler to the knuckles had to be less painful), but just the person I was looking for. It was none other than Antarctican. She had just gotten out of court, and from the smile on her face, she must have put some poor canuck away for a very long time.
We sat down on a bench in a quiet nook of the Entrance Hall, and after the usual pleasantries and catching up from the last time we met, we got down to business.
JC: Well, I guess we can start with one of my new favorite questions. How would you describe yourself in 15 words or less?
ANTY: Friendly; compassionate; loves a good laugh, a good challenge, kids, animals and photographs. Rarely punctual.
JC: Pretty good. 15 words exactly. But, as Polonius reminded us in Act 2, scene ii, “brevity is the soul of wit.” So, what 1 word sums up Antarctican?
JC: I see.
ANTY: Funny as in “haha,” not “oooEEEooo”… according to the poll I did in the office anyway.
JC: I see. So, tell us about your rather tongue-twister of a username.
ANTY: I had the great good fortune to be invited by a friend, who was the co-owner of an expedition company, to go to Antarctica for a fraction of the regular cost of such a trip. Travel there is by boat. My first trip, lasting 9 days (of which 4 were spent crossing the Drake Passage between Argentina and the Antarctic peninsula), was in 1998. I fell in love with the place. It was like visiting another planet…no hotels or fast food restaurants to be seen, just clean water, icebergs, tons of exotic wildlife (including penguins, albatross, whales), and snow-covered mountains. It was magical. (You are welcome to share this picture I took there with everyone.) I felt like I left a piece of my heart there. Shortly after my return, when I had to come up with a screenname on some site or another, I chose Antarctican. (I loved the place so much that I did a longer—18 day—trip in 2001, which included stops in the Falklands, South Georgia, the South Shetland Islands, and the Antarctic peninsula.
JC: That sounds awesome, and the picture is just majestic. I’d love to go one day. I know that NASA sends people down to the Antarctica Research Station. Maybe I can get a detail down there. Now comes the part where we get to know a little about your past. Where were you born?
JC: What’s your sign?
ANTY: Either “No Smoking” or “You must be this tall to ride this ride” [I think that Antarctican may have seen my eyes pop out with this last “sign,” for she quickly regrouped.] Ohhh, you meant astrological sign….I’m a Leo.
JC: What part of law do you practice?
ANTY: I defend municipalities, police forces, and school boards when they are sued.
JC: So, let’s say, hypothetically, a YPFer happened to be in Canada and illegally parked in front of the court house and sort of had a run-in with the RCMP and was sort of, you know, arrested. Would you be willing to represent them?
ANTY: For a fee. Oh, the retainer you gave me by way of “cheque”—or as you Yanks call it, “check”—bounced. Your first court date is in a week, so you better pay up. Fast.
JC: And “bounced” means what exactly in Canadian English? Surely it’s something different than what it means in the US. OK, moving right along, if you could have any job in the world what would it be?
ANTY: An animator/creative consultant working with Matt Groening.
JC: Let’s switch over to photography for a moment. How did you get into photography?
ANTY: I’ve taken pictures for many years, but only got interested in trying to learn more about taking better photographs within the last year. That coincided with when I was first introduced to a photography forum by Chiller, who I met at the Toronto Zoo when we were both taking pictures. I was just blown away by the amazing images people were posting. It’s truly inspiring. On YPF, I particularly like the Tips & Tricks section and the Photography Projects/Lessons section, as both are a wealth of information for a beginner like me. The Photography Projects/Lessons forum especially has made me think a lot more about my shots before taking them. I hope more people take part, as the feedback on everyone’s shots is really interesting and helpful.
JC: Who are your biggest influences in photography?
ANTY: Ansel Adams. I’ve just seen an exhibit of his work here at the Art Gallery of Ontario—jaw-dropping stuff to see in person rather than in a book. Annie Liebowitz is another strong influence…her superb use of lighting…not that I can do portraits even remotely well. And Margaret Bourke-White.
JC: What was your first camera?
ANTY: Oh dear, my first camera was a gift from a boyfriend. It was one of those “disc film” cameras that were supposed to be the cutting edge, but were a piece of junk.
JC: What is your ideal camera?
ANTY: My ideal camera would be one with an image stabilizer, a great glass lens, and a huge zoom.
JC: Moving away from photography for a moment…Tell us about your worst date.
ANTY: In high school, I went out with a guy to a party. He had too much to drink and threw up on my pant leg and shoe.
JC: And your best date?
ANTY: A guy I was crazy about cooked dinner for me, then we went for a long walk along the boardwalk on a warm summer night. We talked for hours, laughed lots, held hands, kissed, watched the moon rise over the water. It sounds so boring, but it was lovely.
JC: Mushy perhaps, but not boring…just lounging on the couch eating popcorn and watching Jeopardy! can be romantic and fun. Speaking of fun, I know that Canadians are blessed with a great British sense of humor. Tell us your favorite joke.
ANTY: Hmmm…a joke…
[Beads of sweat begin to break out on her forehead. This was a pause to make Pinter proud.]
Okay, I’ve got one…Two blondes are sitting in Starbucks. One glances at the newspaper and sees the headline “12 Brazillian Soldiers Killed in Conflict.” She gasps in astonishment, then looks to the other blonde and asks, “Just how many is a Brazillian?”
JC: Priceless. Perhaps we should turn our attention back to photography, eh? What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get a picture?
ANTY: I jumped into the Arctic Ocean—in a dry suit, which I prayed was watertight—to try to get a picture of a friend kayaking past an iceberg. Although the dry suit was indeed watertight, your hands aren’t covered by it and they get terribly cold terribly fast. You know, like the times you’ve fished for the last can or bottle in the bottom of a cooler, and your hand burns with the pain of the cold within seconds. Imagine trying to push the shutter release, and then keep the camera out of the water while you swim back to and haul yourself into the Zodiac, all while unable to feel your hands.
JC: How did the pic turn out?
ANTY: It was blurred.
JC: If you could invite anyone, alive or dead, real or fictitious, to dinner, who would it be?
ANTY: I’d choose Leonardo da Vinci as my dinner partner. He was brilliant: a skilled painter, architect, anatomist, sculptor, engineer, inventor, mathematician, musician, and scientist. For someone from the 15th century, he conceptually invented the helicopter, tank, calculator, and the use of solar power. Amazing. We’d dine in an air-conditioned, five-star restaurant. Then I’d shave off his beard and take him rollerblading…for no particular reason.
JC: Let’s play some games. The first is Favs: Let’s start with Food?
JC: TV show?
ANTY: Rick Mercer’s Monday Report.
ANTY: Mercedes Benz SL600.
ANTY: Giant Panda.
ANTY: Frans Lanting. I love his wildlife and penguin shots.
JC: OK, how about Word Association?
ANTY: Me, play Word Association? That’s a lie! Down. Feathers. Ticking. Bomb. Blast. Dang…
JC: mmmkay. Let’s start with Photography.
JC: Wigs and robes.
JC: Pro bono
ANTY: Sonny Bono.
JC: OK, how about these? Black & White or Color?
ANTY: Color…with the “u.”
JC: Film or Digital?
JC: LP or CD?
JC: Pen or Pencil?
JC: Boxers or Briefs?
JC: Jock or Intellectual?
JC: Stick or Automatic?
ANTY: Stick…still dreaming of that Mercedes Benz SL600.
JC: Tell me about your best vacation.
ANTY: My trip to Africa just under a year ago was awesome. It started off with me climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with extremely little training, and virtually no previous experience with hiking or camping. It was a physical and mental challenge, and I’m thrilled that I made it to the top. That’s really what made the trip special…“conquering” the mountain. Afterwards I did a safari in Tanzania where my group saw the ‘Big 5’ animals—Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhinoceros—up close and personal. I love seeing wildlife in its natural habitat, and it doesn’t get much better than seeing it on safari.
JC: How did you find YPF?
ANTY: One of the Admins told me of the brand spanking new forum so I signed right up.
JC: What picture do you have that has the best story behind it?
ANTY: There are two: here and here. This was the sunrise we saw at the top of Kilimanjaro, one hour away from the summit. Our water lines had frozen, and we were tired after climbing uphill on volcanic skree (read: marbles) for 7½ hours overnight. The beautiful sunrise, at the “top of Africa” gave us renewed energy to make it to the top. Two hours after this was taken, one of that day’s summiteers (but not anyone in our little group) died after slipping into a steep valley from the ridge at the top of Kilimanjaro. That sad fact seemed to sum up Kilimanjaro—there is joy and sorrow in such close proximity.
JC: What’s your favorite thing to take pictures of?
ANTY: Wildlife. The ever-changing view from my window. Sunrises and sunsets. But from the various meetups I’ve attended, I’m now interested in architecture and urban landscapes as well.
JC: What is the one thing you would love to try in photography but haven’t yet?
JC: If you could go anywhere in the world to take your dream shot where would it be and what would it be a picture of?
ANTY: For what is actually doable, I’d love to get a shot of Machu Picchu at sunrise. A dream shot that is less likely to happen is to go kayaking on the west coast of North America and get a shot of a killer whale gliding past, fin out of the water, or a humpback spyhopping closeby.
JC: What advice do you have for the readers? It can be about life, love, photography, whatever…
ANTY: Life is short—don’t put off doing the big things you want to accomplish. Call your parents. Play nice. Wear sunscreen.
Before I could ask another question a bailiff came running through the hall heading straight for us. Antarctican was needed in chambers. We stood, hugged good-bye, and she again glided across the mosaic floor with the young baliff in toe. I headed out the door to see if my car had been ticketed, booted, or even toed. Fortunately, none of the above. I hopped into the car and drove away, grateful that Canadian meter maids are not as diligent as their counterparts south of the border. I was headed to the airport. I had a long way to go to get to my next interview, and I didn’t want to miss my flight.
A MOMENT WITH OLDFIREGUY
It is only a hop, skip, and jump from the frozen tundra of the Canadian Northwest Territories to Washington State. I crossed the border at Vancouver and took the ferry through Puget Sound. I alit at the pier below Pikes Market in Seattle. I spent a few hours lounging in the original Starbucks, where I enjoyed a hot cup of chai, which warmed my bones from the dampness that engulfs Seattle this time of year. Ere long, I was on a train bound for Tacoma to meet yet another YPFer. I pulled up to the Puyallup Station House and walked into one of the most stereotypical scenes I’ve ever encountered. There were 3 or 4 firemen lounging on chairs and a bench, the bay doors were open wide with a fire truck pulled half out, making the building appear to be a lapping dog with a tongue hanging out for all to see. Curled up at the firemen’s feet was an old, tired Dalmatian (I assumed his name was Spot or Sparky). The only thing that could have made this scene appear more like a Norman Rockwell painting was either snow on the ground or the firefighters in a heated game of Spades.
As I gazed upon these brave men who enter burning buildings, the one in the middle stood up and said, “You must be Jo Cose.”
“I am indeed. And you must be OldFireGuy. It’s great to meet you,” I replied.
With that, he excused himself from the other men, patted Spot/Sparky on the head (who only ½ acknowledged the affection, rolled over, and returned to sleep), and led me into the firehouse to an out-of-the-way office where we could chat.
JC: In exactly 15 words, describe yourself to the readers.
OFG: I would have to say, “A fairly normal, friendly, talkative, fun/life loving, spiritual, family/people loving, kind of guy.”
JC: Not bad. You didn’t even have to count on your fingers. I’m impressed. But how succinct can you get? What about the one word that best describes OldFireGuy?
OFG: [Without even a beat, he blurted out] Compassionate.
JC: I don’t mean to disparage this quaint, little Pacific Northwestern town, but surely you didn’t actually originate from here?
OFG: A car.
JC: I meant what caused you to move from one town to the other?
OFG: Ah. My job.
JC: And you are a fireman?
OFG: That’s right. I’m a Lieutenant with a very busy engine company. I have the best job in the world. You get to truly help people in their time of need, the pay and benefits are good, and you only have to work 8 days a month. The rest of the time you can be out taking photos or spending time with your family.
JC: Nice segue…Speaking of photos, when did you first get into photography.
OFG: I was about 13 when I first became interested, but my interest really spiked when I was in the Army. I was given the choice between carrying a rifle or a camera.
OFG: Yea. One of the scariest things I ever did for a picture was when I was in the Army. I was tied to the skids of a helicopter by a harness to get a training shot. Even though I was young and crazy, it scared the crap out of me.
JC: Man, I’d love to see that pic, but I’m sure it’s classified, so we should probably change the subject before some government goons show up. What was your very first camera?
OFG: It was a Brownie Hawkeye. My mom gave it to me years ago, and I still have it.
JC: Let’s try to get to know the real OldFireGuy. Are you married? Kids?
OFG: I am married—to a wonderful teacher and woman! We have 2 boys and 2 girls. No grandkids…yet.
JC: That’s great that you are happily married, but honestly, you weren’t always that way, so tell me, do you remember your worst date?
[OldFireGuy chuckles to himself a moment as the memory floods into his conscious thoughts. Once the nostalgia wears off and he can articulate the memory, he continues.]
OFG: I used to teach at a local community college. I went out a couple of times with one of my students who was in her late twenties. I thought things were going well until she mentioned she was married. The funny thing was, she wanted to continue to date. I guess I’m just to old fashioned and feared for my life.
JC: It could just be that mustache you are sporting, but you look like you’re a bit shifty. Have you ever done anything illegal like stealing?
OFG: Just my wife's heart when we first met. One of those love at first sight things.
JC: That’s so touching. Sounds very much like my parents…but this interview is about you, and not me, and I refuse to interview in the Oprah style (you know, where the interviewer tries to outdo the interviewee), so let’s just move on to some games, shall we? Everyone’s favorite section: FAVES.
OFG: Let’s do it.
OFG: Edward Sheriff Curtis.
OFG: Band of Brothers.
JC: TV Show?
OFG: “Ghost Whisperer.”
OFG: Jesus Christ Superstar.
OFG: The Hobbit.
JC: Vacation spot?
JC: Historical figure?
OFG: Abraham Lincoln.
OFG: American Civil War.
JC: Genre of food?
JC: Let’s get back to your profession. You know, I was in my local fire department for a brief time. It wasn’t really for me, but I have tremendous respect for all the men and women who do it. Tell me, they all look the same to me, but do you have a favorite fire engine?
JC: When you were still YoungFireGuy, did you play with fire trucks, or did your parents force you to play with dolls, and your profession is how you rebelled against them?
OFG: I doubt that I was forced to play with dolls, but maybe those are suppressed memories.
JC: Do you speak any foreign languages?
OFG: Spanish. I’m not amazingly gifted with it, but I can speak well enough to get by.
JC: Magnífico. Está bien, asociemos algunas palabras. Tu sabes, cómo trabaja cuando yo digo X, tu dices Y. ¿Listo?
OFG: Oh sh*t!
OFG: Pain in the ass.
JC: Hook and ladder…
JC: Depth of Field…
JC: Sometimes the cliché questions are cliché because they’re tried and true. So, I feel no shame or embarrassment in asking the same questions over and over: If you could invite anyone, alive or dead, real or fictional, to dinner, who would it be?
OFG: My dad passed away in 1992, so it would have to be him. I’m sure we would go to some kind of a pancake house because he loved that kind of food. I would just let him know that everything turned out OK and how much I miss him and just say thanks.
JC: That’s very touching. I like that everyone I’ve asked this question to has had a very sincere and honest response. Thanks.
OK, let’s do some more fun stuff before we need to end this interview. Here we go:
Beer, wine, or liquor?
JC: Standard or automatic?
JC: Film or digital?
JC: Desktop or laptop?
JC: Beard or goatee?
JC: Pen or pencil?
JC: Cinema or video?
JC: Ice cream in a cone or cup?
OFG: In a cup.
JC: Convertible or hardtop?
JC: Car or motorcycle?
JC: Ambulance or fire truck?
OFG: Fire Truck!
JC: Tell me a little about your favorite picture.
OFG: I shot this photo in Mexico 2 years ago. It is my wife and one of the local girls from a shelter we work at. We had taken a bunch of kids to the park to play and have ice cream. My wife, who speaks better Spanish than I do, has a gift of connecting with poor and abused women and kids. This photo shows that connection and the love the two of them share. It taught me that you don’t need to speak the language to love someone or touch their heart.
JC: If you could go anywhere in the world to take your ultimate picture, where would it be and what would the picture be?
OFG: I would go back to Peru; back to the garbage dump outside of Trujillo and photograph the people digging for food along side the pigs who are also digging for food. It would be a photo that I would hope would show people just how crappy things can really be, and that the next time you think your life sucks, you should pull it out and look at it.
JC: What’s the most memorable experience you have had when taking pictures?
OFG: I was in Mexico about 8 years ago taking photos of migrant farm workers who at that time were making $8 a day for a 12-hour day. I saw a dead rattlesnake hanging outside of one of the huts people call their homes. I went over to take a photo of it, and the man who lived there just happened to be home and told me he had killed it in his hut. He had several small children, none of which had shoes. They all lived and slept on a dirt floor, and he had a 55-gallon drum cut in half to use as a stove. The camera I had around my neck was worth about 7 years’ pay for these people; but what really touched me was that he invited me into his house and wanted to share what little food he had with me. I was speechless; it was a moment that changed my life forever. This man who had nothing by our standards wanted to share his last bit of food with someone who, in his eye, had everything. What a life lesson.
JC: Wow, you’ve traveled quite a bit.
OFG: My wife and have been leading short-term mission trips for about 10 years. We have taken 8 teams to Mexico, 4 to Chile, 1 to the U.K., 2 to the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, and 1 to Peru and will be going there again in July of 2007.
In Mexico, we work with migrant farm workers, build houses, work at a shelter for abused women and children, and for the last 2 years have been building a church.
In Chile, we have worked with street kids in Santiago but my favorite place is 500 miles south, in a small town named Lautaro. There we work with the local Indians who are farmers. During the last 2 trips there, we’ve been building a school with a vocational center attached to it to train the locals so they can fit into the expanding work fields.
In the U.K., we spent most of our time meeting with local church pastors and missionary friends there. Also, we worked with exchange students in the Birmingham area and then over to Swansea in Wales at the college there. We came back a year later and did a vacation there and stayed with people we had met. No offense to those who live in England, but we fell in love with Wales and Scotland.
At the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, we built houses and worked with alcoholics and drug addicts. These teams were from Tennessee, so it was very different getting stuck between two very different cultures. It was also different to work with such poor people in the United States, which is the richest country in the world.
Peru was more of a recon trip for next year’s team. We went over and spent time in the poorest areas of Trujillo, which is north of Lima. I have some friends over there building community centers and working with college students. By far the poorest place I have ever been to—40% of the population lives on $2 a day and 30% of the birth mothers are under the age of 13.
JC: When you look at other people’s pics on the forums, what are you looking for? That is, are you looking at them just to enjoy them, or do you immediately think about the technical things?
OFG: I’m not a real technical person. I try to see what that person was trying to see; then I think about how I would have done it. I wonder what they felt when they snapped the shutter.
JC: What’s one thing in photography that you’ve never tried but would love to?
OFG: I would love to use a vintage view camera. The type from the 1860s that used glass plate negatives and made the tintype photos.
JC: If you could pass one thing on to the newbs on YPF, what would you tell them?
OFG: Treat all people the way you expect to be treated no matter who, what, or how they appear. People, no matter their conditions, deserve the same respect that you would want. They are not just subjects for a photo.
JC: The last time you were really drunk, and you woke up in the middle of a cornfield with a strange woman half naked in your back seat, and her bra on your forehead…
Just then the alarm sounded. Spot/Sparky jumped up barking hysterically, the other firemen leapt to their feet and ran to the walls of the house to don their protective gear. OldFireGuy, too, jumped up from the couch he had sprawled himself upon, turned back to me, gave a quick handshake, and said, “Sorry to cut this short, but we got a call. Take care, and good luck getting to the next interview.” I just barely uttered “thank you, OFG,” when one of his colleagues fired up the sirens and all sound was obliterated except for the ear-splitting scream of the fire engine’s klaxons.
I walked to the bay and watched the fire engine disappear in the distance. These men and women were heading into the unknown—it could have been a false alarm, it could have been Fluffy stuck in a tree, it could have been the beginning of a 5-alarm fire that would cause millions of dollars of damage and claim lives…even one of these firemen’s. But they didn’t think about that, they had a job to do, and off they went.
And off I went as well, for I, too, had a job to do.