A Time to Reflect

Snow at Oak CreekDecember is a month when we mentally review the past year.  What were the highlights?  What did I accomplish?  Am I just existing?  Am I really happy?  Take stock of these questions, evaluate, then decide that 2012 will be the best year of your life! 

Don't be ordinary anymore, think "out of the box."  Look for new adventures, new people to meet, new places to go.  Start living with passion and purpose.

Visualize your new life and create the world you want to surround you.  Wake up in the morning with only positive thoughts and thank God for your health and wealth!  You might say "I'm not wealthy."  Oh but you are!  If you have 2 dollars in your pocket, something to eat in the refrigerator, and a roof over your head, you are wealthier than 95 percent of the world!  Celebrate your life now, give yourself a pat on the back and move forward with conviction!  Life is what YOU make it and no one can tarnish your vision unless you let them.

moneyMost people think that more money will make them happy.  But the question is how much money? There have been countless number of people who have won the lottery.  They purchased the mansion, the fancy car, and all the toys, but most of them are totally broke today and living in misery.  There are countless examples of people who have or had it all and they are not happy.  A host of people idolize Hollywood, but look at the life these people lead.  Adultery, divorce, alcohol, drugs, pornography, are the masters of their lives. When you can buy anything with the snap of a finger, what do you look forward to when you wake up in the morning?

Smiley 3So let's, you and I, make a deal right now.  Let's be happy and grateful for what we have. Let not money be our God.  Starting today we will "Live with passion, in a constant state of joy, and with an Attitude of Gratitude!"  Watch this two minute video to celebrate you.  After that if you're feeling pumped up, then watch this one to remind you to appreciate and be grateful for TODAY!  Be sure to watch all videos in the highest resolution, full screen, and volume turned up.  If the video is jerky, then lower the resolution.

An Unusual Experience

Every once in a while you experience something that is unusual and memorable, and such was the case on a recent camping trip.

We spent a week over Thanksgiving with lots of friends and our RVs, camping in the mountainous wilderness north of the old western town of Wickenburg, Arizona. 

During the day we rode our all terrain vehicles, exploring the unknown; old deserted gold, silver, and copper mines.  We have even found graves out in the middle of nowhere.

LamaSo, let’s get to the unusual.  We are riding along in a river bed and I see someone walking toward us in the distance.  Now keep in mind that we are miles from any campsite and I’m wondering what this person is up to.

As we get closer we see that it’s a woman and she is hiking with three friends.  A llama, a donkey, and her dog.  What a site!  So we pulled up and got acquainted. (Click on photos for larger view.)

The dog, a miniature collie, immediately treats us like long lost buddies, and the llama and donkey are equally as friendly. We had a great time getting to know all four of these characters.

Diane LamaHere, “Angel” is telling Diane that they have walked for miles and is ready to be back home as she is carrying all the supplies.  This woman must have been in good shape because they had already gone 5 miles and had more than that to hike a circle route to get back to camp.

Diane Donkey


The donkey drank out of Diane’s hand and they also had a good talk.  This guy was just too cute.

Well, after a while we mounted up and rode off, only to look back and see this group hiking off in the distance.

You just never know when you’ll have an unusual experience and this  will go in the books as one of them!

iPhone Photography

The world of photography has changed drastically since the advent of the digital age.  Gone are the days of spending your cash on film and developing.  You’ll also remember that picking up your order after processing you were often disappointed in the results of your photos.

Digital cameras did away with all this.  You can see instant results and take as many shots as you wish without spending additional cash.

In the last few years even simple pocket cameras have become very sophisticated offering lots of cool features and producing wonderful photos.

With the release of the iPhone 4, iPhone photography gradually became popular.  Some of your “top notch” professional photographers are taking photos with this camera with some amazing results.  Now with the release of the iPhone 4s, sporting an 8MB camera, the fun is even better!

Recently I came across a telephoto lens for my 4s.  Telephoto lens on an iPhone?  Sounds ridiculous and that was my thought when I first saw it on the Internet.

In a local ad I saw this lens on sale for $24.99, and I thought why not try it, might be fun.  I was pleasantly surprised by the results, especially at such an inexpensive price!

The lens comes with a special protective cover for the iPhone so that the lens can be attached.  It’s a 2 second operation to do this.  A small tri-pod is even included.

iphone 11-12-11

I took the lens out of the box, snapped on the cover, and walked outside to the front porch where I snapped this picture looking up the street.

Then I attached the telephoto lens, which you can do blindfolded, and took another shot standing in the same spot.

iphone 11-12-11 Telephoto

I was very pleasantly surprised by the results of this 8X zoom lens.  (You may click on the photos for a larger view.)

Both photos were enhanced using Paint Shop Pro X4 and Topaz Filters, but that didn’t change the fact that this little lens did a very decent job.

The nice thing about this lens is that it is only 3” long and can be carried in your pocket.  And, of course the beauty of your iPhone is that you always have a camera with you!

If you shoot photos with your iPhone, you’ll definitely want to add “Camera +” to your phone.  This app will let you shoot with constant light, or flash, shoot with amazing burst rates, set the focus and exposure points, edit your photos, and send them to email, instant messages, Facebook, Twitter, and more.

Just more fun in the digital age of photography!

Have fun with your picture taking.  Here’s my final word on this:

“Your birth certificate proves that you were born.  Your death certificate proves that you died, and your photos prove that you LIVED!

Take Your Best Shot

Nikon D7000-Blog

There are many types of photographers, casual, intermediate, advanced, and professional.  There are many types of cameras from inexpensive point & shoot to very expensive pro DSLRs.  Just because the person standing next to you has a pro model and you’re using a point & shoot doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she will take a better photo.

Some of the advantages of a DSLR are the ability to change lenses, much faster start up time and writing time to the card.  Other advantages include more menu choices, faster burst rates, the ability to use lens filters, and higher ISO settings.

canon sx110 -DiWhether your camera is a 5 megapixel or an 18 megapixel you won’t tell the difference on your computer screen.  They both will produce a very nice 11x14 print.  The rule here is simple: the benefit of more pixels is the ability to render larger prints. Another advantage of more pixels is when cropping a photo you will still have enough pixels left for an 8x10 or an 11x14 print.

Most people don’t like to read manuals but it is a great advantage to learn as much as you can about your camera.  An important part of your knowledge should include white balance.  Sometimes auto WB will do a decent job, but most of the time a custom WB setting will create a better photograph.  After studying your manual…then practice, practice, practice! 

Before shooting be sure all your camera settings are correct.  Now study the light.  Often the best shots are achieved 90 degrees from the sun.  Take horizontal and vertical shots and lots of them.  Be creative and use different angles.  When shooting children or pets, get down on their level.

Red Rock Crossing-OrigVery few photos come out of the camera looking perfect.  Learn the art of post editing to make your photos “pop.”  For example this photo taken in Sedona, Arizona, is right out of the camera.

Red Rock Crossing

After a few minutes of editing, that photo looks like this!  (Click on photos for larger view.)

After editing save your photo using the “Save As” command, thus saving the original.

Now that you’re proud of your photos, you will want to share them.  You can email them to friends, print them, frame them, post them to the Internet or even make a photo book.

Lastly you’ll want to protect your photos.  Be safe, not sorry, by copying them to an external hard drive!

Attitude is Everything!

Attitude-2I wish it possible that every person, at a young age, could realize how “Attitude” is so important in our lives.  Every situation that presents itself is perceived by a person’s attitude.

It’s as simple as this:  Good attitude, good results, bad attitude, bad results.  I admit that it’s tough sometimes.  Negative situations will arise because we don’t live in a perfect world, but it’s up to us to take the positive away from any negative situation by changing our attitude. 

It’s easy to be judgmental.  You can always find fault in other people but rather than dwell on the negative, think about what you like about that person.  Doing this will automatically change your attitude.

Life is built on continuous choices.  We have a choice the first thing when we wake up in the morning; to be positive or to be negative.  We have the ability to choose our thoughts.  It’s impossible to be in a bad mood if you’re thinking a happy thought!

Having an “Attitude of Gratitude” will change your life!  Most people are always wanting more and never stop long enough to realize how blessed they really are.  When we are grateful life will give us more.

Imagine good things appearing in your life.  Albert Einstein said:  Imagination is everything.  It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

Use your imagination to build an image of the world you want to live in.

“Live life with passion, in a constant state of joy, and with an attitude of gratitude!”

“We are what we think about.”  ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING!

Watch this amazing video from the producers of “The Secret.”  Turn up the sound and click the arrows on the bottom right of the video to view in full screen.

What are your goals?

Goals-2I try to be a better person each day of my life. Not saying that I'm always successful but at least it's on my mind.  We all have wishes and wants, but often times miss the boat.  Why?  Maybe it's because there was no road map, no strategic plan.  

We set goals such as "I will lose weight" but that's too general, we need to be more specific.  I will lose 10 pounds in the next 10 months and I will do that by not snacking while sitting on the couch.  Now that's a plan.

I like to associate life with the game of football.  There's a goal at the end of the field and you get there with a game plan.  On each down the quarterback calls a play and that play has a specific plan.  No plan, no goal!  You can do anything in this world, the only thing that will stop you will be you! 

I found a web site that is chocked full of good stuff to help us travel down the highway of life in the happy lane.  Lots of good articles such as "7 questions to find passion" or "A better person in 7 days."  This is a site where you could spend all day reading and getting motivated!

Star Tracking

I know next to nothing about the heavens above us but there have been many a night, when we have been camping in the Arizona wilderness, when we have studied the stars and watched for satellites.  This has aroused my curiosity on how to photograph the stars.

With the purchase of my new Nikon DSLR and thought I’d give “star tracking” a try on a recent camping adventure.  We spent 10 days camped at an altitude of 7,200 feet and it was clear each night with no moon, so the conditions were just perfect.

I understood that the North Star is stationary and that the rest of the stars in our galaxy revolve around it.  So late at night I set up the camera on a tri-pod and found my way to a clearing in the middle of 90 foot trees about 100 yards from our campsite.

StarsI was very excited with this first attempt, but as you can tell the North Star was out of the picture. (Upper left)  I thought it was located off the handle of the big dipper.  Over the period of three nights I shot several photos trying to get that full circle.
For you camera nuts the stats are: Manual mode, 801 seconds, 18mm, F3.5, ISO 400, Tungsten WB, EV 0.

Shooting StarThe outside temperature was 34 degrees so I only took two or three shots per night as my hands and feet were cold, and to tell you the truth, it was a little spooky in the pitch black.  In this shot I was lucky enough to get a shooting star.  You can see the streak in the lower right 1/3 of the photo.  (Click on images for larger view.)  I am very pleased with the results, but so far I’m not finding the North Star and the above photo is even further away.  You can see the type of picture that I was striving for here.

I'll call it beginners luck that these shots turned out because there are so many variables with camera settings.

When we got back to Phoenix I could hardly wait to do some research on this and found out that the North Star is actually off the handle of the little dipper.  So, the next time we get out in the middle of no where, far away from city lights on a moonless night, maybe I can get that circular shot.  In the meantime I have found a new sideline to tie in with my love for photography!  See more shots on my Photo Site.

For an in depth look into the heavens, you might enjoy watching this video taken with the Hubble Telescope.  It’s mind boggling!

Adventure Trip to Utah

DunesLast week we and another couple took our RVs and quads and travelled to Southern Utah.  We spent four days camped in Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  This is quite a unique and beautiful place and we had fun riding and taking photos.


During one of those days we took a side trip to Zion National Park.  It was only about a 30 minute drive from where we were camped and the weather was perfect.  Zion has many unusual features and provides a casual adventure, especially if you are into hiking.

We had an enjoyable lunch just outside of the South entrance and after spending the better part of the day, we headed an hour North to Bryce Canyon N.P.


This place is breathtaking!
There are lots of observa-
tion points from which you can take photos and enjoy the splendor that this place has to offer.  The altitude is over 8,000 feet so take your time walking from the parking lots.

We left the Coral Sand Dunes Friday and spent the weekend at the Lake Powell RV Resort. We used this as a base while we explored Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend, and Lower Antelope Canyon.
The lower & upper slot canyons are located just 5 miles east of Page, Arizona on a Navaho Indian Reservation and as a photographer there is no greater thrill.

After parking your vehicle, you’ll transported by an Indian guide a couple of miles to the Upper Canyon.  It can be explored casually and is an easy walk through its beauty.

EntranceThe Lower Canyon is a different story.  After paying a fee, you can walk a short distance to a slit in the ground.  You turn your shoulders sideways as you make your way into the bowls of the earth.  You’ll descent down many steep ladders, and on the canyon floor you will stop every few steps and take photos in all directions.  You will be in total awe of what your mind is trying to absorb.  This is a spectacle like no other, carved out over thousands of years by Mother Nature.

LowerI have visited these canyons 4 times and have probably taken a thousand pictures.  It is hard to pick out one that describes the breathtaking beauty of this experience!

The canyon twists and turns and around every corner is another indescribable view.
At times the floor is so narrow that you have to put one foot in front of the other.  Each movement of your eyes captures beauty in your memory and then in your camera.

This was a week jam packed full of fun and adventure.  You can see a whole gallery of these canyons (more to be added soon) on my Photo Site.  Click on photos for larger view.

Life is good! 

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona Welcome

Having an aviation career and flying to cities all over North America, I have to say that Sedona is maybe the most beautiful place of them all! 


Since moving to Phoenix 16 years ago I bet we have driven there close to 50 times.  It’s only an hour and a half north and we love to take visitors, or just go there to spend the day taking photos.

Two of the early settlers to this area where Theodore Schnebly and his wife.  When trying to establish a post office he submitted the name “Red Rock Crossing” but the Government said it was too long, so he tried his wife’s name, Sedona, and it was accepted.


A must stop on your visit to Sedona is the “Chapel of the Holy Cross.”  It was completed in 1956 and has attracted millions of people from all over the world.

This is a Catholic church but no matter what your religion, this is a very special place.  You will find spending a few minutes inside to be inspiring as you take in all the beauty that surrounds you.


You probably would enjoy the Sedona airport which is situated high above the city.  All kinds of airplanes land here and the view from up there is incredible!

Red Rock CrossingDon’t even think about being in Sedona without your camera and if you really like taking photos, you will want to visit a place off the beaten path,  Red Rock State Park which is located a few miles south of town. 

The secret here is to park your car and hike the trail along the creek.  It’s easy walking and this is nature and beauty at its best! 

You can click on these pictures for a larger view, and see more photos I’ve taken in Sedona here.

American Idol

PiaBack in January I wrote about American Idol and that I thought this was the best season of the past 10 years.

It was until last night!  The talent is better than ever but the producers of the show have to change the voting procedures.  With unlimited votes the tweens have taken over and the whole thing turns into a bust!

Pia Toscano has been a huge favorite since day one and most, including the judges, predicted her to be one of the last ones standing.

In my opinion if they are going to let the public vote then it should be limited to one vote per telephone number.  That’s the only fair way.

I am a music lover and consequently have enjoyed watching this show, but Thursday’s ending really made me mad and it took all the fun away from the season.  (Photo from www.Americanidol.com)

Our recent visit to Vegas


The world’s most exciting city, Las Vegas, is a fun place to visit and we like to do it at least once a year.  A lot can happen in that city in 12 months as it is constantly re-inventing itself.  One of the latest additions is “City Center,” and it is simply awesome!  The Aria Hotel is part of this complex and was featured on a recent episode of “The Bachelor.”  We spent the good part of a day exploring, shopping, having lunch, and taking photos.  When I took this photo it seemed like I was standing in the middle of Disney World! 

To Vegas and back home to Phoenix we drove across the new 240 million dollar Hoover Dam Bridge.  I was a little apprehensive the first time (because of my fear of heights) as the bridge is almost 1,000 above the Colorado River, but they put 4 foot walls on both sides so unless you are driving an 18 wheeler you don’t even realize you are on it. 

Hoover Dam
You do have the option of going just a little out of your way, parking, and hiking to the new bridge for a spectacular view of one of our National Treasures.  The hike was easy and wheel chair accessible.

The dam is located on the Arizona – Nevada border and you will experience a time change when crossing the bridge.

We thoroughly enjoyed our 3 day adventure!  Now I have to sift through over 500 photos and post a few of them on my Photo Site.
(You may click on the photos for a larger view.)

HP Shafted Me!

HP 2709m

I have been involved in the world of technology most of my life and have experienced the magnificence of this ever changing industry.  Things are moving fast and I am one who tries to keep up with the latest computer, cell phone, etc.

The downfall in our society today is customer service for these products.  Manufacturers don’t seem to care whether you are happy or not.  I am in a position of recommending products, especially laptop and desktop computers and always steer customers toward HP.  I have a studio full of HP products and especially love the three HP monitors that I use.   My main monitor is a large 27” and in less than a year it failed.  I called HP and they sent me a new one.  That part of the story is good.  Then within 90 days the second one failed with the exact same problem, and HP refuses to do anything about it.

The first frustration was that I had to talk to several people with very broken English who were in India.  I was informed that the replacement has no warranty.  When I asked to speak to a supervisor I was put on hold for 30 minutes and just left hanging.  I’ve heard of that trick from other people.  Two different HP representatives said that someone would call me, but I’ve never heard a word.

The second frustration is that you’ll never get past that level one technician in India.  Talking to someone “higher up” is impossible.  I even tried to leave a comment on HP’s web site as to this situation, but couldn’t.  You can leave a positive comment about one of their products, but you can’t leave a negative comment.  I wonder what would happen if I drove to their corporate office in California and asked to speak to the CEO?  How about maybe I take a film crew with me?

So, Hewlett Packard you have cost me $350 to replace your monitor that worked for less than 3 months.  Thanks so much, as I have certainly lost all my enthusiasm for your company!

SmashWhat I’d really like to do is to take that 27 inch monitor and bust it into a million pieces with a sledge hammer, then put the video on YouTube, for the world to see, but that would be wasting my time!  I’ve already wasted several hours on this project especially talking to people in India that can’t speak English and are computer illiterate!

The Possibilities of a Photograph


I just attended a two day Nikon Photography School 
and thoroughly enjoyed it.  No matter how much you think you know about a subject you never stop learning and after attending a seminar you are usually fired up. (Click on Photos to enlarge.)

So today, I was taking pictures of just about anything around the house.  I took this shot sitting in my studio at an overhead spotlight.  I started playing with it in my photo editor and came up with the ones below.

Art45Once you start fiddling with a photo the possibilities are endless and this could have gone on all day.Art44

It’s amazing what you can come up with if you do some creative thinking when you’re taking the shot and again in post editing.

Art42These effects were achieved in Paint Shop Pro X3 with their built in special effects.  At other times I use filters from Topaz Labs.  They are very professional and a welcome addition to any photo buffs toolbox!  The “Photo Art” Gallery contains these pictures on my Photo Web Site.

American Idol

imageBack in March l wrote that I have always been a music lover and in my early years played the drums.  I was lucky enough to spend 12 years on the radio spinning records, so American Idol has always been a program that I have enjoyed.

I mentioned how boring the 2010 season was with four blabbering judges and the lack of talent from the contestants.  In order to keep a show like this on top, you have to keep it fresh and I think they have done that this year with two new judges 

Steven Tyler of Aerosmith has added flavor, and I like him.  His group has sold over 20 million albums, so he certainly has the credentials for this position.  Of course Jennifer Lopez is no slouch, and you know what?  I don’t miss Simon in the least bit.  His nasty comments and just the way he treated people was way over the top.

So far the pre-season auditions have been much more entertaining than in previous years.  More raw talent is being featured and not so much of the ridiculous stuff.  Some very heartwarming stories have been featured, such as this one from contestant Chris Medina.

In my opinion the glue that has held American Idol together for 10 years is Ryan Seacrest.  He has done a masterful job of being the MC.

I think this season of American Idol will be a good one!