SPRING BREAK

SPRING IS IN THE AIR

Ah Spring! birds are chirping, flowers are blossoming and nature is in its full glory. With it comes its most anticipated ritual: Spring Break

Due to a lack of chairs this young woman found a way to improvise

Another young woman makes a similar choice

Let the dancing girls begin!: bikini clad young women demonstrate their dancing skills as they crowd the stage at Cabo San Lucas

A multitude of Spring Breakers, armed with tents and canopies, descend upon the otherwise small town of San Felipe in Baja California, Mexico

(Next blog: April 15, 2012)
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AIR SHOW

The Naval Air Facility (NAF) in El Centro California is the winter home of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron otherwise known as the Blue Angels. Each March NAF kicks off the Blue Angels’ season with their spectacular air show. Other feats of skill and heroism are also displayed as shown below by an aerial helicopter rescue.

Commissioned in 1946 as a Naval Air Station, the base was previously viewed as a Marine Corps Air Station. Through the years it served as a Naval Air Facility, a Naval Auxiliary Landing Field, a Naval Air Station, and the National Parachute Test Range. The main attraction for air show enthusiasts however, are the Blue Angels. The image below captures four Blue Angel jets as they fly in formation at the annual Air Show at El Centro California

The F/A-18 Hornets (Blue Angels) perform at air shows and special events to boost recruiting for both the United States Navy and the Marine Corps. They first performed in 1946 and is currently the oldest formal flying aerobatic team.

Spectators walk beneath the C-17 Globemaster III carrier. Capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops as well as all types of cargo, the C-17 is the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft in the airlift force.
These demonstrations of might and skill attest to the miltary power of the United States armed forces.

(Next blog: April 1, 2012)

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GOT HOBBIES?

Don’t know about you but I’ve been a hobbyist and, more specifically, a photo philiac (if that’s a real word) since childhood. As time went by, my passion for photography increased. I became an aficionado, then a hobbyist and finally a professional. Prior to that final step however, I spent several boring years employed in the financial industry. While the pay was sufficient, the passion just wasn’t there. The passion for photography however, was. Now, at this ripe old age, I’m still going strong, loving what I do. Many others have followed similar paths to their own destinys. Some are content to remain hobbyists, while still enjoying the fruits of gainful employment. Others, however, have abandoned their yokes to follow their passions. Take offroad racing for example.
When most people think about hobbying the words “danger” or “mishap” is not the first image that comes to mind yet certain hobbies expose these enthusiasts to danger. Take, for example, rock climbing. Think there might be some chance of mishap there?

Every year the city of Ouray in Colorado holds an Ice Festival where daredevils climb up and down an immense ice canyon. Do you think there might be some chance of mishap there?

Then there’s the young man who makes an upside down flip on his BMX bike at the annual Indianapolis, Air Show.

Aficionados of hot air balloons float high above enjoying an exhilarating experierce, notwithstanding many past catastrophies.

Even photographers have lost their lives while straining along narrow precipices in hopes of capturing that one great shot. For me, I have great respect for those hobbyists and professionals who pushed the ultimate envelope, but in the end my Canon camera and I are content to trudge along doing the best we can, hoping to catch tomorrow’s great shot. Thank you very much!

(Next blog: March 15, 2012)

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PEOPLE at WORK

Recent times have seen employment, or should I say unemployment, become a key issue effecting many sectors of society. This issue has impacted, not only U.S workers, but also our neighbors south of the border. Despite this hardship however, many have managed to secure gainful employment. As an editorial photographer I have chosen to take to the road, and with camera in hand, document those who were successful in their quest for work.

When looking for work it helps to have a skill or a trade as these two welders prove.

Crop workers, on the other hand, are considered to possess neither trade nor skill. They earn their pittace by the sweat of their brow as they pick fruit or vegetables in the oppressive heat of the mexican sun. These hard workers provide the staples a majority of americans and mexicans cannot do without. Though not technically skilled as tradesmen and women, what they do provide can be considered as such.

This poor mexican man below gets down on his knees to create a walkway. The entire process involved scooping sand, turning it in to clay, creating a wooden frame, then pouring the soft clay into the frame where it would later harden. As I looked on, I could see the man took great pride in his work. Standing alongside, I was impressed by his precision and his accuracy. In the end the proceeds of his efforts equalled the cost of a Big Mac in the U.S. Nonetheless, he was thoroughly gratified with his work and happy with his pay.

Turning my attention to another hardworking, poorly overlooked and underpaid group, I drove to Aspen, Colorado. It was there I found them, hard at work; a mass of photographers. It was pre-dawn and they had gathered there to take photos of a famous mountain. Although I, too am a photographer, I chose not to join them but rather, make them a subject of my blog.

BTW: That last segment was meant as sarcasm.

(Next blog: March 1, 2012)

The JOURNEY HOME

Way back when, in those halcyon days of yore, slides, negatives and film ruled the world of photography. It was during that era I had the pleasure to tag along and document the actions of a proud band of brothers. The images I photographed at that time however, began to take on less significance and less marketability with the onset of the digital era. Recently however, I came across those old images, and with a smile on my face decided to resurrect a few of them. The images and the story they tell is a classic one, and remains a true American story regardless whether or not they are marketable.

1st LT. JOHNSON PREPARES TO MOUNT FOR THE JOURNEY HOME
In 1866 a law was passed authorizing the U.S army to form cavalry and infantry regiments consisting exclusively of African American men, though under the command of white officers. As a result, the 9th and 10th cavalries were born, along with the 38th through 41st infantries. These men, (called Buffalo Soldiers by the Indians) served heroically from 1867 to 1896. In September 2002, Phoenix Arizona members of the 9th (Memorial) Cavalry set out on horseback to ride the more than 2200 miles to New Orleans, the birthplace of the 9th U.S Cavalry. These riders were more than just re-enactors, they were a unique brotherhood committed to the legacy of those brave men who went before them. Their goal, once at New Orleans, was to honor those brave men who gave their lives for their country.

CAVALRYMEN PREPARE TO RIDE
In the beginning Buffalo Soldiers were members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. They were formed in 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and later subdivided into four regiments. Of these, the 9th Cavalry served the longest. As fierce Indian fighters they were the major participants in the Lincoln County Wars of New Mexico. They also played a key role in retaining the lands in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) for the Indians, including the five so-called civilized tribes who were displaced from the southeastern United States in the early 1800’s. Of the four “colored” cavalrys, the 9th regiment received the largest number of Medals of Honor during the period of the Indian Wars. At the height of its relevance the 9th U.S. Cavalry fought, protected and helped civilize the wild west during the mid to late 1800’s.

The JOURNEY BEGINS
Arizona State Troopers escort the 9th Memorial Cavalry as their ride begins.

ON THE TRAIL TO NEW ORLEANS
The primary mission of the cavalry regiments was to control Indians on the western frontier. The soldiers took part in almost 200 engagements. Noted for their courage and discipline, they had the army’s lowest desertion and court-martial rates.

Many of the great cattle drives in the American West were protected by the 9th U.S. Cavalry and, during their 26 years on the western frontier, they also made it possible for the Southern Pacific Railroad to become established and grow into one of today’s major railroad carriers.

With the sinking of the battleship USS Maine, in the harbor of Santiago, Cuba in 1898, the 9th U.S. Cavalry was among the first complete regiments to be called to war on a foreign shore. Again, they served with distinction and honor, helping to establish the United States of America as a world power.

After more than 130 years, the 9th Cavalry’s excellent service record and devotion to their flag and country is being brought to light by the 9th Memorial Cavalry, as inheritors of their legacy. These standard bearers carry with them a copy of the Regimental flag, along with a chest bearing soil from the final resting-places of the original 9th Cavalry regiment. At last the cavalry have finally completed the JOURNEY HOME.

A BUFFALO SOLDIER

(Next blog: February 15, 2012)

POVERTY

I know, I know. I can hear readers saying ‘didn’t you begin the blogging year talking about homelessness, and now you’re following up with ‘poverty’? Besides, aren’t homelessness and poverty pretty much the same thing?. Well, I promise this is not going to be a running theme with me. Its just that those two topics are pet issues of mine and so I chose to begin the year with them. Now that I’ve gotten these two topics off my chest however, I will be free to move on to other topics. I promise.

Although the concept of homelessness and poverty seem redundant, there is, in fact, a distinction between them. A poor person for instance, is not necessarily homeless.

See the scene below of a poor Mexican father and his son. They are not homeless, but they are most certainly impoverished.

Ordinary poverty is generally defined as the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty however, is the inability to afford basic human needs, such as clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. Today nearly 2 billion people are estimated to live in absolute poverty. In the U.S alone more than 46 million americans are impoverished according to the most recent census.

Here we find daily life on a hillside shanty town in Ensenada, Mexico.

Children in this rural Indian village have never known any lifestyle than this.

A volunteer nurse administers health care to an elderly Indian man.

Tai-O, is a small fishing village on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island, and a colorful tourist attraction for many. For those who fish for a living and who live on their stilt houses, life can be precarious, and poverty a way of life.

You may ask, what can we do? There are lots of worthy causes in this world and we all have our own problems. Truer words have not been spoken. I’d bet however, there are things we can do to help without having any negative impact on ourselves. For example, I am a photographer and can use my camera to shine a light on this issue. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m doing in this blog. I bet you too could find something of your own to contribute.
Think about it.

[See ya February 6]

The HOMELESS

As the song goes: “It’s the most happiest time of the the year”; time to wish a Happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all! The annual pilgrimage of distant families has begun. The turkey dinners are on the table, and all the symbols of the season are in full swing; that is of course, unless you happen to be this unfortunate guy. Now I don’t mean to bring you down at this most cheerful time of the year. Ironically however, there can be no better time than now to shine a light on the separation between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nothings.’

How many times have we walked past these ‘street people’ and felt uncomfortable at the mere sight of them? Oftentimes we lie to ourselves that we don’t even see them. Other times we console our consciences with the fact they’ve brought their circumstances upon themselves. Indeed some did, but then again maybe they are merely the victims of circumstances beyond their control.

Who ARE these people? The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimate there are more than 600,000 sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons nationwide. In addition upwards of 2 million people use some sort of emergency shelter or other transitional housing program.

The homeless also include those who reside in homeless shelters at night, in warming shelters, and domestic violence shelters. These unsheltereds also include people who sleep in pulic or private places like subways and cars.

There is an additional aspect to this tragic tale; one rarely acknowledged. In one recent year alone nearly 1,600,000 people used emergency shelters or transitional housing. This is equivalent to 1 in every 200 persons in the United States. This total included 1,115,000 individuals and 485,000 families. Many of these were children and many others were military veterans.

Adding to their misery, these unfortunate men and women are often forced to endure a further insult, one rarely addressed. It is violent crime. A 2007 study found that the rate of crimes against the homeless are on the rise.

To illustrate the depth and desperation of homelessness many
have committed crimes merely to be sent to jail or prison in order to find food and shelter. In police slang, this is called “three hots and a cot” referring to the three hot daily meals each inmate receives along with a cot on which to sleep.

Over the last decade, data concerning homelessness has greatly improved, due in part to initiatives by (HUD),the US Department of Health and Human Services, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and several nongovernmental organizations working with homeless populations. Furthermore, (HUD) has issued an Annual Homeless Assessment Report, which “reports to Congress the number of individuals and families who are homeless in the previous year, both sheltered and unsheltered.”

Ever wonder what street people carry in their backpacks or pushcarts? It’s their most urgent and precious belongings: bedding, clothing and possessions. These must be carried at all times for they are the things that provide shelter, warmth, quiet, and privacy, especially for sleeping.

If you ever wondered how these street people became homeless in the first place, here are some causes:
mental illness or the lack of needed services,
substance abuse and lack of needed services.
low-paying jobs.
child support enforcement
prisoner release.

Though I don’t want to overwhelm you with statistics there are some you might find illuminating.

Children under 18 make up 27% of the homeless population; People between the ages of 3 and 50 makeup 51%.

Single adults who are homeless are most likely to be men. They account for 45% of the single adults who are homeless. Single women make up 14%

Ethnicity- African American – 57%; Caucasian – 30%; Hispanic -10%; Native American – 2%; Asian – 1%

50% of America’s homeless women and children are running from domestic abuse.

Veterans – Of all homeless men 40% of them have served in the armed forces. Only 34% of the total adult male population has served in the armed forces 19% of the urban homeless population are veterans.

So, the next time we see a man or woman laying on a street corner we might want to stop and engage him or her in conversation, not merely as a curiosity or a statistic but as a real person. If you can’t find anything to say, the least you can do is care. Remember that same homeless person started life with the same hopes and dreams as you. Who knows what awaits us in our own voyage through life. A sudden change can alter our situation in a blink of an eye. You might find some compassion for him or her.
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This blog began with a reference to a joyous song. I’ll end it with cautious one: “I’m talking ’bout the man in the mirror”. (MJ)

BEYOND ARCHITECTURE

The American Heritage Dictionary defines architecture as “the art and science of designing and constructing buildings”. I guess its fair to say the dictionary is correct, but only up to a point. Beyond that point however, buildings, memorials or monuments are merely cold structures designed to inspire or to serve some practical purpose like building a house. But as an old 60s song rightfully reminds us, “A house is not a home”. Inside that house we expect to find furniture, photos, families and memories. Its as if, time, the house and its contents have formed some weird symbionic relationship. It is the human factor that converts a house into a home. Likewise, many other architectural structures require that same human factor. The Riviera del Pacifico below is a colorful example of the marraige between architecture and those who give it life.

Construction of the building began in the 1920’s. The Playa Ensenada and casino, its former name, opened in 1930 as a glamorous casino, hotel, restaurant and bar. It was visited by several Hollywood stars, wealthy Americans and Mexicans alike during the Prohibition era. It was said Al Capone financed the construction of the casino and Jack Dempsey once managed it. Today the complex serves as Ensenada’s social, civic and cultural center.

There are times when architecture can inform, not necessarily with a building itself but with the anecdotes about it. For instance, almost everyone is familiar with San Francisco’s Transamerica pyramid, but how many know why it got its shape? In 1968 businessman John Beckett noticed that the trees in a nearby city park – unlike the surrounding, box-like buildings – allowed natural light and fresh air to filter down to the streets below. Wishing to achieve the same effect with Transamerica’s new headquarters, an unconventional pyramid shape was chosen for the building. Indeed tidbits like this can engage us even to inanimate things.

When Mexico’s President Porfirio Diaz ordered the construction of this palace in the early 1900s his plan was to unveil it as part of the celebration of Mexico’s centennial independence from Spain. The Mexican Revolution broke out in 1910 however, interrupting the construction, and was not completed until 1934. The palace has a mixture of a number of architectural styles, principally Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

Architecture can also inspire as seen in this beautiful circular monument-cemetery, the resting place for the military, politcal, and artistic elite born in the state of Jalsico, Mexico. This, the Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres is a monument erected in order to honor the memory of various characters who stood out in the history of Jalisco. The stone markers stand in a double circle around an eternal flame. Among the famous buried here is the artist Diego Riviera.

I must acknowledge however, that unless you are an architect or in some way connected with architecture, you’re probabbly not going to care much about it. But on those occasions when you have nothing to do and your mind wanders on nothing in particular, it might be revealing to fixate on those masses of stone, concrete or wood which we call architecture in order to find the human element within. That is why I photographed these structures and why I wrote this blog.

HARD ROCK

This blog is about rock, though perhaps not the kind you might have had in mind. Instead this rock is the kind that removes the clutter from your head and forces you to focus on what lies before you.
Although I love what I do, (as I hope and assume you do as well), there are times when I just need to get away. The complexities of life, the daily grind, the day’s news, to say nothing of being stuck in traffic on the freeway, all seem to unwittingly conspire to reduce us to mere automotans. I don’t know about you, but at these times I just need to escape. Last month, that is exactly what I did. I grabbed my camera, jumped into my old SUV and drove to Pep Boys where I got a tune-up, checked my tires and headed off to the mountains. First stop, the Grand Canyon.

As I sat there at the Mather Point lookout, watching the setting sun paint those monumental structures that define the canyon, my mind became a blank canvas. At that moment all that my thoughts centered on was what Nature wanted me to see and which laid right before my eyes. Suddenly, the world I had just left behind a mere 526 miles ago suddenly seemed not to exist; in fact, it seemed not to matter.

As the sun slowly descended, the mountains, formally red, gave way to a bluish hue.

The following day, after leaving the Canyon, I drove on to Arches National Park in Utah. By luck, I happened to snap a photo of a young couple walking past Delicate Arch illustrating the enormous size of the arch.

Next stop, Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona. Though often photographed, this slot canyon, never loses its magic. Indeed, a certain mysticism seems to permeate its narrow caverns. The Native American guides too, add much to the understanding of this magical place and represents a stark difference to the modern everyday hustle and bustle that brought me on this pilgrimage in the first place. Now its time for me to get back to the reality that is my life.

While driving in southern Utah I came across a gigantic round rock near highway 191. I’ve seen this rock before, but have never learned what it is called, or if it had any special significance. Its huge mass standing alone in the midst of the desert begs the question whether it has any appeal as an attraction. If not, it certainly needs to be. All of sudden a silliness struck me. If someone doesn’t name this rock soon I thought, I will be forced to name it myself. I am including it here in this blog so that someone can tell me what it is called. If noone acts soon, I will be forced to name it myself. I’m thinking of naming it HARD ROCK. That’s a threat, so beware. Driving home it seemed the euphoria of the previous days had given way to silliness. Nonetheless, getting away was just what I needed to clear my head and prepare for what I love to do.

HUMAN & ANIMAL INTERACTION

Let me start by saying I am an unabashed animal lover. Dogs, cats, lizards or gophers, they all share this planet with us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I would welcome worms, rats or diamond back rattleesnakes in my home, but merely that all creatures share this planet in common. Both humans and non-humans have specific niches that serve distinct purposes. Animals however, are limited in their ability to reason and make decisions. We on the other hand, are able to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil. Why then do we sometimes feel the need to exploit and murder those creatures who pose no threat to us at all? Yes, some animals are dangerous and because of that we must take whatever steps necessary to protect ourselves, but at what point do we justify the wholesale slaughter of creatures merely for entertainment, or what some call ‘sport’? Is cock-fighting or dog-fighting actually a ‘sport’? Call me crazy but I always thought sport to be defined as a contest between two or more competitors who made a conscious choice to engage in an activity that might result in physical harm, or even death.

Does the image below suggest such a choice exists between man and beast? Although both appear to compete for survival, is it truly a fair fight, or is the outcome pre-determined?.

Though painful to watch, I am compelled to document the demise of this bloodied and mortally wounded creature soon to succumb to his fate. In the end my camera lens is the only weapon I can employ in his defense against a primitive culture and barbarous tradition.

For every matador or dog fighter however, there exists legions of veternarians, animal rescuers, and millions of ordinary animal lovers. I photographed the vet below in the course of a neutering operation. These operations are important since they help the mother and stem the tide of puppies who would otherwise be at risk. This is especially true in third world countries.

Another vet neuters a cat.

Who says animals don’t have a sense of humor? This California gray whale surely does as she sneaks up behind three marine biologists who are looking for her from the opposite side of the boat.

Sadly, a harbor seal barks out for help but is fatally trapped by a fishing net entangled around its neck, carelessly thrown by a seaman.

The role animals play in the lives of humans is insurmountable. They range from microscopic one-celled animals to cadaver dogs. Dogs in fact, serve as seeing eye dogs,cancer sniffing dogs, search and rescue dogs and of course, companions and pets. Insects pollinate and fertilze plants. Methane is made from pigs. Horses help create snake anti-venom. The list goes on. Nonetheless I am not so naive as to expect a renaissance of animal awareness any time soon. Whether we acknowledge it or not however, we and they are mutually connected. To borrow a line from Benjamin Frankin “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Till that day comes, my camera and I will continue to document our peculiar relationship with our non-human friends.
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blog by: Ron Saunders

view my photography at: 345.PhotoShelter.com

also: http://www.bajareflections.com
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