Who is this guy?

It’s a question I get asked occasionally walking around Petaluma. I’ve been told, “You talk a little different,” “You look like a cop,” “Oh, you take pictures.” “Oh, then you’re a right-wing, white christian male terrorist!” (No, I did NOT make that one up)! A small sampling of statements I’ve gotten over the years, most delivered in fun (not that last one) and being inquisitive, which we all are. Truth is, I’ve lived in Petaluma and traveled the San Francisco bay area for the last twelve and a half years! “Really, and you still have that accent?” (Again, not a joke).

In 2005 my wife and I moved across country to Petaluma for assignment to the Coast Guard Training Center at Two Rock. After retiring from there in 2011  having served 27 years, I was lucky enough to still have most of my GI Bill available to me. I was unable to pass it on to my children and I definitely was not giving it back to the government, so in June 2014 I found myself sitting in classes with the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Three years later, my degree would be a Bachelor of Fine Art in Documentary Photography of which I’m very proud of.

During class instructors would ask, “Who are you? What does your art and images say about you?” I would always answer, “I’m a kid from Kentucky, spent 27 years in the Coast Guard, and now I take lifestyle, documentary type images.” The usual reply was “So” and the occasional really honest instructor would say, “really, that’s your opening line, you need to work on that!” It took me awhile, but I did come up with an answer. More on that in a bit….

You may see me walking around our farmers markets asking for the opportunity to take images of the beautiful produce this area offers. Or if you spent the day with me, I might be doing a photo shoot at Point Reyes with an awesome young lady and her two horses, or as many have, I documented the terrible fires that struck our area. Depending on the time of year you might find me on a local farm helping weed row upon row of amazing foods or beautiful flowers being loved and grown by some awesome & strong lady farmers I’ve gotten to know. Or I may be walking around in my Disney mouse ears! You really just never know!

When you visit the front page of my website you’ll see my tagline has become “The Visual Storyteller of Your Life” Go ahead, take a look 🙂 You’ll also see I photograph Lifestyle, Documentary and Fine Art Portraits. What does all that mean? What’s a “Visual Storyteller?” You may hear my accent a little…I like this part!

Lifestyle photos – These are simply orchestrated photos to make them look like you’re out living your life and the harmony of the image is perfect. Nothing wrong with this at all. I love doing them but they are orchestrated. I’ve provided direction to move this way, turn your right shoulder, etc. I may locate some spots that if you trust my vision, will appear this is a natural occurrence and location in your everyday life. But how often do you really spend your day sitting beside a Ronald McDonald statue?  Mostly your home, sometimes the park,wherever your favorite location,  I love finding new areas, lets make it happen!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Documentary photos
– Probably the strongest most thought-provoking photographs you have seen throughout your life. There’s no interaction between the photographer and subject. Some argue there is still direction of some form, but that’s not a subject for my blog today. The only thing actually planned is the session itself. Think of a mom sitting at the kitchen table helping her son and daughter make a bird house for their back yard. In documentary photos, the photographer does not intrude and suggest to mom, “bring your arm up, and kids turn and smile at the camera.” I’m with you to document the day, the excitement of a life event, nearby and prepared to provide you with the memories of the day as it unfolds. Here are two documentary examples the Woodacre Marin County Fire Crew taking a much needed break during the Nuns fires, & a precious friend holding her sweet young niece.

Visual Storyteller – That’s me 🙂 Remember I mentioned instructors would ask who I was, and what my art represents? As you might have guessed, between the lifestyle and documentary type images, I tell the story of your life by creating images that become a precious keepsake for you and your family to have. I show what you do at work, or when you go out to play on your day off. I’m there with you, crafting your story, your life, to someday show your grandchildren how much fun you had on that day and throughout your life.

I’ll go deeper into Lifestyle & Documentary soon. For now, I hope you enjoyed a little insight into who I am. You’ll see me downtown, sometimes even laying on the ground to capture a certain image. Yeah, I do that sometimes. I’m harmless, I’m not a cop, I do talk a little different, and I’m definitely not a terrorist. 🙂 I like a good hot white mocha & if you happen to notice a guy with a camera strapped around his shoulder (the blue strap is a dead giveaway), give me a shout. Chances are I’ll probably have some kind of Kentucky shirt on, I have lots of those! Let’s meet, talk about life, let me show you pictures of my kids, step kids, and awesome 4 grandchildren I have! Tell me your favorite Cabernet or Zinfandel wine!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about one of your neighbors. This kid from Kentucky would love the opportunity to create some lasting images for you and your family. Lets book a Spring shoot now! I make my home in Petaluma so I’m always around! You can find me on Facebook talking & posting about something silly, or my Instagram too! Oh, and if you do see me, ask about the day I mistakenly took my dog’s tranquilizer!! That’s a great story!

Till next time, be good to yourself and each other,

Roger

 

 

 

 

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California Dreamin’

Driving around Petaluma, you might recognize these two lovebirds. Where they “live” isn’t as important as who they are. Scorpio and Aries, and no, that’s not really their names, first met in Florida back in the 90s. She was a waitress and while he had already known her for a couple years, he got a job at the restaurant just to be able to talk to her more. As songs signify distinct times in our lives, California Dreamin’, the 1966 hit by the Mamas and the Papas, was a favorite of Aries, and together they both had a dream of moving to California to strike it big.

In the late 90s they loaded their car and headed west. Scorpio was excited to bring his artistic talent to the West Coast, and Aries felt comfortable and loved next to him. They ended up in the bay area and eventually made Petaluma their home. They’ve fallen on some tough times but they are nothing if not resilient. Through it all they rely on each other. They know they have friends and people who reach out to them, but at the end of they day, they have each other, and that’s good enough for them both.

Scorpio spent 5 years as a Marine, and of course, no one ever stops being a Marine, he speaks fondly of his time with the Corps. It was there he really built on his ability to draw and paint. He was affectionately called “Private Disney” due to his pencil drawings of friends in the squad bay, plus Mr. Spock, John Wayne, and John Lennon.  Though of course, that was eventually replaced with “Sarge!” He could, and still can, draw most anything that comes to his mind.

I first met Scorpio in 2016. He was doing artwork on a local pizza store’s windows for the autumn season, with scarecrows and pumpkins in all the fall colors. He allowed me to take a few images and thus began our friendship. His skill and talent level is quickly noticeable when you look through his work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scorpio signs his artwork as the “Local Hobo.” He creates paintings that are amazing to look at, somewhat abstract in form, and he’s happy to explain his thought process as a painting starts to come together. Just don’t ask him how he does it, that’s his intellectual property!

On sunny weekends, he spreads his paintings against a concrete wall near a local supermarket on the East side, not far from the new big box stores. He has a sign that says, “Gutter Art by the Local Hobo.” If you’re driving too fast, you may go right by, but he’s not hard to find. Some have stopped to talk with him and purchased his pictures, which they are both very happy about.

Always close by, Aries watches Scorpio work with admiration and respect. She’s shy, kind, and has the prettiest blue eyes. They share glances with each other, finish each other’s sentences, a nod here or a motion of something the other needs. They are in sync with each other and share a bond that many of today’s couples can only dream of.

 

Yes, they’re homeless and they have a story just like the rest of us. Bad luck has happened, yet they smile, will happily chat with you about the beauty of the day, and gladly share part of their story. They know a lot of people on the streets here in town and feel like mentors to some of the younger people. They listen to friends stories, share cigarettes, and try to help when and where they can, and at the end of the day, they know they have each other.

If you see them, pull over and look at his artwork. Or maybe provide some more art materials in the form of brushes, paint, canvas or whatever you can. Reach out to them and realize they’re just as human as you and I, and have their own story. Be sure to ask about their kids and grandkids, watch her blue eyes light up and you might find out the precious name his grandkids call him!!

Till next time, take care of yourself and be nice to one another!

Roger

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  • Nikki - How can I share this lovely story of my parents? This was very beautiful, thank you for positing this!ReplyCancel

    • Roger - Hi Nikki,
      Thanks so much for wanting to share. If you go to the bottom of the story you will see a SHARE IT TWEET IT PIN IT line bar. Just click on the Share it and it will open up your FB sign on/page. The story will be on your timeline and all you have to do is click Post at the bottom! If for some reason that does not work, simply cut and paste the web address up above and copy it into your FB timeline then post that way.
      Thank you again!
      RogerReplyCancel

Hurricane Harvey and his older brother Andrew

There are times in our lives Mother Nature comes knocking on our door, and whether you answer or not, she’s coming in. Hurricane Harvey did just that to the Texas Gulf Coast. On August 24, 1992 it was my door along with millions of others in South Florida. I was the on duty flight medic with Coast Guard Air Station Miami that night and next day. Not wanting to be separated from my family, my wife and I made the decision to bring them down with me. The building was safer and if I had to leave, I knew they’d be taken care of. I still remember hearing the wind whipping around the building. My daughter definitely does, because she’s still not a fan of thunder and loud trains, 25 years later.

I’ve experienced the enormity and strength of hurricanes, having been in smaller ones also, luckily I don’t remember the names of. They’re not to be played with, as anything in nature really should not be. In response to many articles, newscasts, live streams, and stories, I’ve compiled a quick list of both national and local organizations in the Houston area that are accepting donations. Most websites provide a list of items they could use immediately. Cash is your number one option at this point, but please be aware of wiring cash to the “We gonna help all the people of Harvey in Houston” (made-up name) scammers. See my note from the Federal Trade Commission below!

Using research attributed to Charity Navigator is how I’ve comprised the list. I do not endorse ANY of the sites listed below, but I’d like to think I’ve made it a little easier for you to decide how you want to donate. There are also many links for animal relief organizations. People, animal or both it’s your preference, but take it from someone that’s been there. The pictures we see do not show the enormity of loss and damage any justice. You would have to live it, and my friend, you really don’t want to.

National Organizations

Red Cross
You must use their drop down box to specify how you want your donation used.

Samaritans Purse
Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational, Christian organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to people affected by disaster and poverty around the world. It focuses on helping victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine.

Local (to Texas) Organizations

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
Set up by Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, which is administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

Houston Food Bank and the Food Bank of Corpus Christi are asking for donations.

The Texas Diaper Bank in San Antonio is asking for diapers and wipes, which can be mailed to 5415 Bandera Road, Suite 504, San Antonio, TX., 78238.

The United Way of Greater Houston flood relief fund will be used to help with immediate needs as well as long-term services like minor home repair. Visit their website to donate or text UWFLOOD to 41444.

The L.G.B.T.Q. Disaster Relief Fund will be used to help people “rebuild their lives through counseling, case management, direct assistance with shelf stable food, furniture, housing and more.” It is managed by The Montrose Center, Houston’s longtime community center for the area’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population.

For more options, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends checking with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster for a list of trusted disaster-relief organizations in Texas. Federal Trade Commission has advised to never wire money to someone claiming to be a charity. Scammers often request donations to be wired because wiring money is like sending cash: once you send it, you can’t get it back, the site said. And never “provide your credit or check card number, bank account number or any personal information until you’ve thoroughly researched the charity.

Animal Relief Organizations

Greater Good

If you are an animal welfare professional and want to volunteer your skills to relief efforts you can submit this online form. Volunteer information will be shared directly with Houston SPCA and SPCA of Texas.

Austin Pets Alive is seeking families to foster cats and large dogs. In addition to cash donations, the organization can also use in-kind donations like large plastic or metal bins with lids. Safe from the harm of hurricane weather, this facility has transported over 330 animals already and expects to take in hundreds more over the next few days. With a stock of animals already waiting to be adopted (these are not orphans from the storm), this is a great place to find your next best friend or volunteer to foster some of the more vulnerable animals (preferably in homes with no other pets). Space for some items is limited so check with the organization first before you gather supplies.

The Animal Defense League of Texas is providing shelter and care for displaced pets and are desperately seeking fosters, supplies, and financial assistance in their efforts.

Wings of Rescue and their Home page here. This amazing, unique animal rescue has chartered several flights already to evacuate homeless animals from the San Antonio area to make room for the influx of lost and surrendered pets to come.

As I mentioned above, PLEASE do your own research on any organization you choose, and for the lawyer’s out there, I do NOT endorse ANY of these organizations. This blog post is for informational purposes only.

Do what you can, however you can. If you can’t make it down there, or you’re unable to send a donation or supplies, how about helping your neighbor? Give someone a ride to town, visit with the elderly in your town, be nice, forgive and always remember everyone around you is fighting their own battle, be especially kind.

Till we are able to chat again, take care of yourself.

Roger

PS. Happy birthday Erica!! Love you!

Photo Credit: David J. Phillip/AP http://abcnews.go.com/US/hurricane-harvey-wreaks-historic-devastation-numbers/story?id=49529063

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Hey everyone, I hope you’ve been enjoying your last couple of weeks since we last spoke. I want to take a few minutes and talk about actually studying the art of photography. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into enrolling in the Academy of Art photography program, but I was certain I wanted to study the art. I learned the art, and a lot more from AAU.

Youtube videos are great short snippets for quick reminders to brush up on bracketing, light direction, Canon vs. Nikon, a ticklish camel or the greatest ever putt-putt shot. Yet, we aren’t really studying the true art. Photography has come a long way in the last century and we have many people to thank for that. We all know the name of Ansel Adams who helped us understand the environmental landscape with his breathtaking images we all recognize. But when you click on that 5 minute video to refresh your memory, think of Alfred Stieglitz and how he worked to create his photography in the late 1800s and further into the new 20th century. Stieglitz once said, Artists who saw my early photographs began to tell me that they envied me; that my photographs were superior to their paintings, but that unfortunately photography was not an art…I could not understand why the artists should envy me for my work, yet, in the same breath, decry it because it was machine-made—their ‘art’ painting, because hand-made being considered necessarily superior…There I started my fight…for the recognition of photography as a new medium of expressions, to be respected in its own right, on the basis as any other art form. Luckily for us all, Stieglitz was both a scientist and photographer, and in 1924, after they started dating in 1917, he married Georgia O’Keefe. Yes, that very one, whom he created over 300 images of her over the years, using different darkroom processes, some of which he invented himself. My favorite? Thanks for asking, you may have heard of it. During WWI platinum was at a premium so he used palladium paper & salts which turned the image a light brown. Today, we know it as Sepia! Thank you sir! May I recommend you take a look at “The Steerage” when you have a chance.

You see, many have come before us. Many have struggled with our art just as we (I) do daily. Many still don’t regard photography as an art form. Then again, some believe there was a shooter on the grassy knoll too….but I digress. If you have it in your mind to call your self an artist and you use any camera for your profession, then you owe it to Ansel and Alfred and so many others to study the art. Don’t tell me you have ever picked up a golf club and hit a drive 200 yards the first day. You had to learn the fundamentals! This is what I have done, just as many of my classmates and instructors have also. Maybe you can pick everything up on Youtube, and if so, good for you! However, my way of thinking is to show me how we got here, what’s been done before? What worked? What didn’t? Why didn’t it work? What made this work?

Many of you are good at post-processing. I’m okay at it. I know it, I need refresher’s from time to time. However, I’m not afraid to get up at 4 in the morning to get the right light, instead of sleeping in and creating it in post. I’ll drive to that magical spot where the sun hits for all of 7 minutes a day, and I’ll create more art in those 7 minutes than you did last month sitting in front of your computer. I work with models willing to do the same. If a business wants me there from 3am till 8am, I’m there! I’m your competition, and I’ve studied the art of photography. Have you?

Till next time, take care of yourself and check out my galleries page Galleries Don’t forget to connect with me on Facebook, tumblr and Instagram

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  • Anne vastellon - It sounds like
    U have learning a lot.ReplyCancel

Early Years

Pretty good smile, don’t you think? Good hair, 9th grade (I think), and the always present Kentucky Wildcats shirt. Happy days and happy times as I grew up. Surrounded by a loving family, with our own bouts of an older brother and older sister having arguments, slamming doors, but overall, a great childhood and safe neighborhood and town. Why did I leave? I’ve always searched for more, I guess I have a little gypsy soul in me. There’s not much I’m really afraid of. I wanted to explore and experience more than those Eastern Kentucky hills could offer.

Military Life

Go forward 17 years or so after this picture above, and I had been in the Coast Guard since 1983. Living the life of a sailor, the Coast Guard Cutter Diligence was my lady at sea. As the ship’s “doc” or “medic,” “corpsmen,” or “health services technician,” I was in charge of the medical needs for a 70 man crew. From administration of their shots, medical record upkeep, sniffles, cuts, payment of their civilian medical and dental visits when inport, to sometimes letting them vent their frustration at life, their boss, or a shipmate who hadn’t showered in a few days.

Spring of 1994, my sick bay phone rang from an outside line. It was a familiar voice on the other end calling from the Coast Guard medical bill payment center in Virginia. A good friend, I had worked with previously, said, ” Rog, man, what’s going on with you?” “Not too much, getting ready for another trip soon” came my reply. He pushed, “Roger I have a bill sitting in front of me for antidepressants with your name on it. Man, if anyone else had gotten this, you might be off that ship and possibly getting processed for discharge right now.” Nervously, I asked what he was talking about. It was the mid-90s and the CG or even the entire military had not gotten to where we are today about this disease. I asked what I should do. He suggested getting off the meds and dealing with whatever was bugging me, and not let anymore of those bills come that way. I wasn’t sure yet if they were working, so I quit taking them and quit seeing a therapist. I can handle this, I thought. It’s just life and everyone has their issues. Go home, love your wife and kids, things will be fine. This was my thinking back then, do I risk being discharged because I’ve had a few down days or do I suck it up and deal with it? I dealt with it. Or did I?

Now let me be clear about something before I move on. I was never sent overseas, never saw war, didn’t play in the “sandbox” and never had to use my weapon in assault or defense. There are MANY veterans returning from the battlefield with severe mental health issues, PTSD, not to mention other medical needs. I respect my brothers and sisters who have taken that route and I want to help them as much as I can, but today, today this is my story. One I’ve struggled with mightily for many years. Was there a specific incident? Maybe my first medevac patient off a Gulf of Mexico fish trawler. A Vietnamese man, caught in the line and partially pulled through the “cathole” (hawsehole)? Or the man with a possible broken back, laying in a pile of freshly caught fish, shrimp, and other sorts of sea creatures barely able to move. That was a 4 hour boat ride back in to shore with him, since there were concerns with further injuring his spine in a helicopter hoist. Perhaps it was a burn victim. Or simply the times we didn’t make it out fast enough and the patient was DOA. Maybe it was the 5 hour amputation surgery I assisted on in a small field hospital, Halloween night 1995, in Malaga, Columbia. So many memories. Memories that come back to visit at times. What brings them to the forefront of my thinking? I wish I knew. This is my battlefield.

Memories and Symptoms

You know what hurts more? The times I had to leave in the middle of dinner with my family, saying someone needed me to help them. Yes, it’s a factual statement, but try saying it to a 9 and 7-year-old, the ones who needed me even more, as they sat watching me grab gear and rush out the door. I’ve never had that discussion with either of my kids, I probably should. What do they remember? How did (does) it impact them? I was serving the greater good, but the needs of the few would be with me forever. I hope one day my children can understand why I chose to do what I did, but today and almost everyday, I cannot understand why I chose to help a stranger when I had the two most precious beings on this earth right in front of me saying “bye-bye daddy” with tears in their eyes. When the ship pulls away, and you leave your loving family behind, there is a mind shift. Some come onboard with it, some develop it over the next 24-48 hours. We have a job to do now, we’re at work, no deep thoughts of family or friends. That gets in the way of performing your job. No really, that’s how I felt.

Irritable, yep. Sleep, some good some bad. Feelings of worthlessness, no hope, guilt, recurring thoughts of suicide. Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or remembering? Let me say it like this….if I click off this page, or my wife asks me to help her for a minute….It can take me another 20 minutes to figure out what my thoughts were before I left. Not going outside for an entire weekend, closing the blinds and just sitting, thinking. The signs are there. Trust me. Learn them. I can fool anyone with my smile and laugh, except my depression. Why should we reach out though? We’re tough, we can fix this! RIGHT!? Right……Bullshit. No we can’t. I’ve tried. It wasn’t pretty. November 2009, I was at work, crying my eyes out in my office with a do not disturb sign on the door. I left work early that day, not saying a word to anyone. I had a plan. Wait. You had a “plan” for what? I had a plan to kill myself. This is not a joke friends. Luckily, I kept thinking of my kids and in some perverse way, started wondering what others would say about me if I actually did it. Coward, chicken, never could handle things. What would they say about me? REALLY? Yes really. I went to the movies instead.

Get Help

Is there help? You bet! Tons! First off, before you scoff at the Veteran’s Administration, I’ve received some of the best care in my life through the VA. Specifically, my local Santa Rosa VA Clinic and the San Francisco Veteran’s Medical Center https://www.sanfrancisco.va.gov The care and concern have been top-notch. There are so many resources for veterans suffering right now.

We’re tough yes, but we have limits. Our breaking points are different for everyone. For myself, I’m not sure when I hit my limit. What I am sure of, is I kept on going. Yes, I’m now under the excellent care of the SF VAMC, have regular checkups, my medicine keeps the demons at bay, for the most part, but not always. There are people who want to help. You’re not showing weakness by asking for help. The ability to recognize your need is foundational to you moving forward in life.

Friends, shipmates, brothers and sisters, we only get one life. I want to laugh everyday, hug my grandkids, play jokes on their parents with them, buy them popsicles and ice cream. Sit around campfires and talk. Take pictures, love life, giggle, love, be kind, drink wine, and most importantly love yourself. That’s the toughest one.

Please get some help, and check in on your friends. Be real with them. Don’t coddle and pacify. They can handle it. Go with them, drive them to their appointments, or help them find the resources they need. Flood their inbox with links, call that person that knows someone in the VA that might be able to help them navigate the maze. Below, I’ve attached some resources to help us out. Click the links below, read, learn, donate, support, volunteer, anything you do might save the life of one of us. Today is a good day for me.

Resources

Veterans Crisis Line #BeThere

Make the Connection 

State by State Veterans Affairs Offices

CalVet

National Alliance on Mental Illness

One last note

This is a photography blog right? Yes, by all means, but it might be best to call it a “Photographer’s Blog.” I want to reach out to people, and this is my avenue. It’s who I am. A fun-loving guy that knows photography, studied the art itself and strives for continual learning daily. I’d love to add you to my client list! Let’s have some fun together!

Take care of yourself till we can chat again!

Love all y’all!

Roger

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  • Amanda - Your story is so well written and so eye opening. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and all of your openness. By sharing your story I know it will help someone. Even if it’s just me knowing I am not alone. We know too well how easy it is to hide and not let others in. I know you have worked hard your whole life and are a very successful man sharing this will reach someone that feels that they can’t ask for help because of their success. Thank you for being you.ReplyCancel

    • Roger - Thank you Amanda. We are not alone, vets, spouses, friends and family. We’re in this together, for the long haul. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Dave - Roger, I am so glad you went to the movies that fateful day. Life is so much fuller with you in it and all you’re sharing with us through your words and your art from your great photos that you post online. Thanks for being you my friend. Give us a ring sometime so we can have that board game night with some nice cold beverages.ReplyCancel

    • Roger - Yes sir! Let’s plan that soon. I happen to have a lot more free time coming up! Tell the ladies to set something up 🙂ReplyCancel

  • John - Those are tough things to share. Nice job sharing, caring, and looking out for your fellow Veterans. Thanks for baring your soul and for being a good friend. Take care!ReplyCancel

  • Cindy Stambaugh - Roger,

    I know exactly where you are coming from. In 1991 I was hit with some severe depression and contemplated suicide as well. No one knows what depression is until they have walked in our shoes. Not wanting to get out of bed, not eating, keeping yourself shut out from the world.
    But I tell you this one thing, Jesus brought me out of depression and I hope to never return there again. Good luck in coping with all that you have been through. I will pray for you.ReplyCancel