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.


PS. Happy birthday Erica!! Love you!

Photo Credit: David J. Phillip/AP

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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 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.


Veterans Crisis Line #BeThere

Make the Connection 

State by State Veterans Affairs Offices


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!


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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

A Tale of Two Horses


Do we follow the camera or listen to him?

When I first met Rocco and Chumley, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve been around animals all my life, I’m not skittish around them, and they’re usually pretty friendly with me. Then there’s these two guys. Friendly, yes. Aloof divas? Absolutely! Rocco was first off the trailer. We had spoken so much about the “guys” I already had their names mixed up. Here came the proud, tall Rocco. Beautiful, sleek. I walk up and pat his neck saying, “Hi Chumley.”  “Uh, that’s Rocco” came a voice from the trailer. Great, way to go Elliott! So much for first impressions. I talked with Rocco at the side of the trailer for a few minutes, trying to downplay my mistaken identity, while the real Chumley came out of the trailer. Here he was. Chestnut brown, beautiful, a few more oats than Rocco, not as tall, well, sort of like how I resemble George Clooney, only different. (We are both from Kentucky).


I know I heard something in those trees!

Being a fan of Tennessee Tuxedo and his pal Chumley many years ago as I watched Saturday morning cartoons from the old lime green couch in our den. I was anxious to meet this edition. If I remember correctly, this Chumley is 14 years old. Been with his Texas family, now living in Northern California, since he was 3. The horse and his rider know each other well, to say the least. Have I mentioned the rider? Well, let’s just say, I KNOW her trailer is full of many blue ribbons from over the years, and I’m sure her home is even more decorated with awards and trophies. Friends, this lady can ride. It’s a true pleasure watching someone who knows the nuances of her animals and even more, they understand what she wants also. She’s always the boss, but, as any parent knows, the kids get a little rambunctious at times and need a steady hand to guide them in the right direction. It was fun watching her. I found myself forgetting to create images at times, as I stood and admired the way she handled them and they would respond. That Chumley though…….


Somebody had to do it. I was holding the camera…….

Everyone has a job on my photo shoots. Whether they came with me or my model. That’s all I’ll say about that….I’ll just leave this image here, and say, “I told ya I got ya!” 😉

horse, beach, ocean

Grace and Beauty as One

Rocco went to the beach and saw the ocean for what I think was his very first time. At 7 years old, he seemed to really enjoy it, but the sounds of the crashing surf made him decide to keep his hooves dry. Chumley, or as I now call him, Mr. Attitude, was left in the trailer. I was told handling 2 horses and doing photos, was just too much for the 3 of us. I still say, he was in time-out for trying to eat my camera and nibbling on my arm. 😉
This was a blast of a photo shoot for me. My friends and I had just as many out takes of silly shots, as we did actual edited images. It was that much fun. The only bad part was it had to end. Sunset came, and we needed to get back to Chumley. Luckily, the skunk we encountered on the trail was not interested in us, as we stood to await his departure before venturing on. Rocco enjoyed speaking with some of the cattle along the trail, and Chumley, well, with a name like that, I bet he talked trash about me all the way back to the barn! Much love and many thanks to K and A for their friendship and the fun laughs we had. (By the way, that’s a great-coat!;)

Keep an eye out on my website for new images created these last couple of months. Updates are coming, along with a new “tab” of fun and silly outtakes! Be sure and share this with your friends and keep me in mind when you want your story told in pictures!

Be good to yourself and take care of each other,

Till next time,


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It was February 16th, 1994. I was stationed on the Coast Guard Cutter Diligence (WMEC 616), stationed out of the beautiful city of Wilmington, N.C. We were currently patrolling off the coast of Haiti, searching for migrants that may try to leave their small island country for the shores of America. This story isn’t about Haiti, or migrants, or even the Coast Guard. This one is about my dad.

I had spent many vacations in my youth just a few miles away at Wrightsville Beach, N.C. and I was happy to be living in Wilmington. Wrightsville Beach in the early 70s of my vacations, didn’t have a lot to offer a kid from Kentucky, except great fishing, walks along the beach and girls in bikini’s. Well, maybe there was a lot to offer, even back then.

I always wondered why mom and dad chose the Wilmington area for our one week of vacation each year. It wasn’t till I grew older that I understood it’s mystique. It was a 12 hour drive one way, over the W. VA. turnpike, through the western portion of VA, then across the state of North Carolina, in an Oldsmobile Delta 88. Otherwise known as the blue tank! I remember the trip time even shortening to a little less than 11 hours once construction was finished on any mile of the highway between Eastern Kentucky and the Atlantic coast. I think that also coincided with times my mom fell asleep and dad would push the speedometer to 65! I know dad was in a hurry but at the same time, he could have taken 2 days to drive and simply enjoyed all the scenery along the way. It was, and still is beautiful country.

I haven’t been to Wrightsville Beach since I left the Dili (I can call her that, if you’re not a shipmate, you can’t, sorry), in 1996. Twenty one years. Wow, a lot has happened since then. I bet I can still drive right to the Carolina Temple though. Take a right off the bridge, in front of the old Newell’s Department Store. Go past the Blockade Runner about 3 blocks and you’ll take a left, down a small side street with sand as its edges. Take a right and drive down about 2 more blocks and you’ll pull into the parking lot of  the “Temple.” Ran by the Smith family, last I heard, Steve Smith was still running it. A small two story two building paradise where I grew up. With a new love each summer and the music of the 70s wafting through the air. Next door was the Doak Apartments. That’s where we stayed many times, simply because the temple was booked already. (They had window a/c in some apts.) Dad didn’t need air conditioning. He had the ocean breeze. They didn’t have telephones in the rooms either. He didn’t want to hear one ringing. It was his vacation, my brother and sister, and mom of course, were just along for the ride. The Doak’s were ran by an old southern gent, Russell Hunt. He showed me what seahorses looked like in his office aquarium. He also told a lot of crazy stories! He once said, he bought a car without an engine…..and he didn’t know it till the guy had taken off with his 200 dollars! Both the Temple and the Doak’s had characters and character.

Dad needed these places. He had fought in WWII, he had a steady job with the phone company, for 36 years if I remember correctly. This was his one week to “get away from it all.” No phones, televisions, radios blaring, just the ocean, some seagulls, fishing, and enjoying the beach. He would sometimes even let me have two Yahoo’s in a day! I love  the beach. That one especially. I have walked some of the most amazingly beautiful, crystal clear water and white sand beaches in this hemisphere. They all pale in comparison to Wrightsville.

Remember February 16th, I was out on patrol. That morning I spent cleaning surgery instrument packs and sterilizing them. My little sterilizer made turnip greens cooking, smell good. That sterilizer put out some strong odors due to the chemicals. I had 2 more years on the Dili after that day. I never could use the sterilizer again. I made sure during imports the local clinic would do them for me. Why? While the machine was running, word came from the Red Cross way out toward Haiti. I was tapped on the shoulder by the XO Dane Egli and Admin Officer, Seth Vanessendelf. One of our Radiomen, Dave Powell was out on deck talking to me, asking how I was, as both men came by. The next two minutes were about to change my life. Dave knew it. He was on watch when the message came across. He came to check on me. My father had passed that very morning.

Take the time this week to talk with your dad. Ask him how he’s doing, what’s going on with him. Get him a tie, take him fishing, take a walk with him, hold his hand, listen to his stories, laugh with him and more than anything, just be with him. Notice the wind, the air, everything in those moments. Store them in your memory. I can still see dad laying on his bed at the Temple, looking out the window at the Atlantic just 50 yards away, taking in all the silence. That joyous silence, energizing and helping him keep calm, when I broke one of his fishing rods by letting the door slam on it and chop it in half!!

Till next time, share with your friends, and take care of yourself.


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