MPF: Multiple Points of Failure

The stress has been building for a week. Our road trip to film people across the South giving their opinions on the 2016 has any number of elements, and the failure of just one can stop everything in its tracks.

We were hoping to be able to leave bright and early Monday morning, April 4th. That's part of the stress. With so much going into making this trip successful, there was bound to. . . 

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Details, details. . .

The devil is in the details, they say. But so is God.

For this road trip and the film I'm shooting while traveling, I've faced a number of challenges in finding some of the things I need — batteries, lights, equipment of various types and rarity. But none have compared to the difficulty of finding someone to watch after my cat, SoongiddyDoongiddy Doo. (And, yes, that is his real name. For some reason it never fails to. . .

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The Toys! The Toys!

This is the only time I'm going to post about "toys."

One of the things I love most about working in digital art, photography, audio production, and video is all the toys. Boys and their toys, right?

In the end, however, they're all just tools. And I'm noticing some distinct differences between the "toys" for photography and those used for shooting video.

When I shoot photographs, my kit can be as small or as large as I want, depending on the job at hand. Shooting video is a bit different. Like many photographers who are making or have made the leap to shooting DSLR video, I'm finding. . .

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The Countdown Begins. . .

We’re so close to embarking on our 2016 Southern State Political Tour that we’re counting the minutes. Hence the clock. So, for all of you wanting to know when we are leaving, simply check in with us here for the current schedule. The clock will always be at the top of the current blog. We're planning a three-week tour. You can do the math on our return. But we'll probably have a countdown for that, as well, once we're underway.

If you're just now finding out about our little jaunt around the South, here are the basics: 1) 15 Southern states; 2) God only knows how many cities, towns, and hamlets; 3) 4200+ miles of Interstate. . . 

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We Are Polyglot! Meep!

Welcome to our new and improved website. Look near the top of the page for a new Google Translate button that will allow you to view the site in your language of choice — everything from Afrikaans to Zulu and everything in-between.

Simply click on the button and select your language. It's not perfect but it works pretty well and should allow us to reach a wider audience.

We were moved to make our site more accessible to non-English speakers because we have recently been both teacher and student to a person from Monterrey, Mexico. As we teach her English in preparation for her extended stay in Europe, she has, by simple osmosis, been helping us improve our Spanish. (¡Olé!) So, we decided to extend our newly developed language abilities to our website.

Let us know if you find any problems with the translation. Just click on the Contact form and tell us what's going on. It should also offer you an opportunity to give us what you think is a better translation.

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Coming Soon. . . .

For the past several months, starting in the last days of winter of early 2015, we have been producing a short-form audio program that runs on on a weekly basis. You may have listened to it, either on their website or here on ours.

When we started out, it became necessary to give the show a home on the Internet so listeners could hear the show, search through. . . 

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I’d like to talk about something that each of us will experience sooner or later — loss.

I’m not referring today to the kind of loss that takes with it a few photographs or even a few thousand for that matter.

No, I’m referring to the kind of loss that grips you by the throat and squeezes until you realize that you are just as vulnerable and might be taken, too. At any time.

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Walking the Talk

It's sometimes best to take your own advice. Last week, you and I explored how we could discover new images in our work by taking a little extra time to see what we could see in those lost frames packed away in the dusty folders of our photographic archives.

After a few days working on other projects (The SRO Show #019 / Journey and #020 / Pat Benatar) I came back to give the photos from my latest road trip for a second look.

I found a number of good shots that I'd overlooked before and ended up tweaking a shot that I'd originally included as my "selects."

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Let's Get Back to Normal, Shall We?

Second Passes

I want to talk about finding hidden gems on your hard drive. We all have them. I certainly do and you probably do, too.

In our rush to find the best images from a recent shoot (or one from some time ago), we often will miss some truly wonderful images that might take a little more polishing than the obvious ones we find on our CF or SD cards. 

Pulling back highlights, opening up shadows, cropping slightly different than usual, settling for a smaller print — or a web-only sized image, or masking parts of an image for use in a composite. . . these are all legitimate ways to reclaim images that previously we might have thought of as culls.

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Should Have Stayed on the Road

Being on the road is difficult. Not excruciatingly so but, nonetheless, it is a distinct break in the continuity of one's life, the banalities that we take for granted.

That said, in reflection, coming home when I did was probably not the best choice I could have made. As I said earlier, the gas company (Atmos Energy) had the easements torn up and they were busy installing new pipes and meters, and city inspectors have been involved to approve ever step of the way (which, of course, slows everything down).


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Flagstaff is a Whole 'Nother Town

My memory of Flagstaff is from the late '70s when I passed through after leaving the Grand Canyon with my then-wife and her parents. (Don't even ask. Just know that I have lived the nightmare.)

Come to think of it, I'm not sure that it actually was Flagstaff. It was that different. Back then, it was just a dry-as-a-bone strip of businesses, one of them a diner we stopped at on our way to Oak Creek Canyon, and there was a small mountain behind this strip of ramshackle businesses. All the same height, basically a ridge that ran the length of "town."

(Picture should have gone here.)


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Road Trip and a Half

More Like Half a Road Trip

My trip out west ended abruptly Friday morning and I headed back home from Flagstaff. Let me tell you. . . that is one long drive. I can't claim to have driven non-stop, however. I stopped in Albuquerque for a couple hours to visit with a friend I met on last year's road trip, Pratt Morales. He and his son, Chris, own Golden Crown Panaderia. At 77, he has so much energy and passion for his business that he puts me to shame.

(Gallery of images from the Road Trip are below.)


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Early to Bed…

Can't say my body is tolerating the heat here in Tucson. Up the road, Phoenix is even hotter. And I haven't had the normal (for me) time to acclimate to warmer weather that I have in Dallas. This trip has put me through some radical changes in climate in a short period. I've been picked up out of the frying pan and thrown into the gaping maw of Hades. (Oh, my God! It's global warming!!!) 

(Photos included below.)


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Gimme Some Rhythm

You know, every city has its own rhythm. When people rise, when they eat, what and where they eat, the length of their commute — all the things that go into making up our daily lives. It's a rhythm. 

Tucson — and, I suppose, all of Arizona — share the rhythm of being out of sync with most of the rest of the country. While the rest of us are locked into Daylight Saving Time, Arizona & Hawaii do not observe it. It's the heat, they say. It's hot. And we don't need any more of it. No matter how dry it is.


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Drive to the Edge of the World

Well, the edge of Texas, anyway. That's where I gassed up before leaving my home state for points westward. Seriously. The gas station was a hundred yards from the TX/NM border.

The transition from Texas to New Mexico is quite distinct. Geographically and in terms of the state of mind. Now, in comparing and contrasting the two states, I'm sure to get in trouble with fans of both. That said, it seems to me that Texas is dirtier/dustier than New Mexico. I think it may have something to do with its political boundaries. Texas, of course shares 1254 miles of the 1954 miles of US-Mexico border. New Mexico. . . mmmm, not so much: 180 miles.

At least on IH-10 between the Texas border and the border with Arizona, and IH-25 from Las Cruces and Albuquerque, New Mexico seems to spend a bit more money per mile of highway than the Lone Star State. It shows. It's really a pleasure to drive on NM highways.

 Somewhere between El Paso and Las Cruces

Somewhere between El Paso and Las Cruces

The geography changes distinctly, though not dramatically. NM becomes less dusty and more like the scrub brush of West Texas. And flat. FLAT. Except for the bigger mountains in the distance.

I haven't seen so many clouds in quite a while. Big, puffy, white cumulus clouds. The kind that you'd imagine were dragons and airplanes and dogs and horses when you'd lie on your back with your best friend, staring up into the summer sky when you were 10 years old.

There were so many clouds, I simply had to stop and photograph them for stock purposes. I frequently use shots of clouds to liven up a "bald" sky. (Have I mentioned that?) It's hard to find images that are usable when you spend most of your time in the city, bounded by telephone poles and wires strung here and there and big (and sometimes ugly) buildings getting in the way of a clean skyline. So, I did a lot of shooting on the way to Tucson today. People passing by probably thought I was a little off.

 A few miles closer to Las Cruces

A few miles closer to Las Cruces

Arriving in Tucson about 8:30pm local time, I found my hotel (a Best Western near the airport) and was not terribly impressed. That'll happen when you stay at the Soluna Hotel in El Paso. I've become jaded.

Okay, I've got to get up at 4am because local sunrise is at 5:19am and I'm not sure where I need to be at the crack of dawn.

So. . . night-night.


It's amazing what a good night's sleep will do to refresh and replenish the body, mind, and spirit. Staying at the Soluna Hotel has proven to be my oasis on the road and I highly recommend it. It's like staying at home.

This morning I dragged myself out of bed (it's a me thing not a road thing) and headed out to meet the sunrise. Finding the same spot as last year, I had rays of sun across my left shoulder striking the façade of El Paso High School as I photographed it again, this time without the gray skies to contend with. ¡Mucho mejor!

 El Paso High School

El Paso High School

I headed downtown to see the progress made on the plaza that had been under construction for at least a couple of months at the time of my visit last year. Couldn't believe my eyes! STILL under construction. It's a freakin' park, people! So far, it's been over a year since they started it and it's scheduled for completion in the fall. Over thought, over engineered, and under facilitated. Word on the street is, no toilet facilities. Yikes!

But, I found a little coffee shop right on the plaza called the Coffee Box. GREAT coffee! Very nice lady running the place, too. I'll have to find out who owns it. It's built with two railroad container boxes staggered lengthwise. An outside stairway leads up to an art-filled seating area. Very cool idea. And they don't gouge you for a cup of coffee like the green logo guys. Hope they're very successful.

 Coffee Box in El Paso. So much better than the green logo guys.

Coffee Box in El Paso. So much better than the green logo guys.

Ran into another shooter, Christ Chavez, who was downtown shooting a ground breaking for an Artspace (live/work spaces for artists) and he recommended a diner up the street on Mesa for breakfast. I was out of sunlight by 9:30am so I headed up the street for a mordida. . . a bite.

Although I can't say the breakfast was very good — surprisingly — I met and had a great conversation with a young man named Joseph Cyr. He teaches French and Spanish in Tucson and he writes part-time for, an Arizona travel guide. At least, his part of it is about AZ.

Joseph gave me a lot of tips on what to see and where to eat in Tucson and surrounds. So expect some of those to show up in the next couple of days.

As we were eating and talking, who walks in but my friend, Christ (seriously, he goes by Chris to avoid any confusion) and his buddy, Mitsu. It's like old home week. You know, I've been accused of being a people person but it's the camera that gives me carte blanche to start a conversation with virtually anybody. Without it? Not so much.

 Josephine and Julia, my hosts at the Soluna Hotel.

Josephine and Julia, my hosts at the Soluna Hotel.

Staying at the Soluna Hotel is always refreshing. Just as it was last night. And it was all the more enjoyable because of the owner/operators of this little boutique hotel, Josephine and Julia, mother and daughter, who were most accommodating and helpful. Not to mention curious about my road trip. I think I've found two new fans. Yay!

Time to check out and hit the road. Goodbye Soluna Hotel and El Paso. Hello Tucson.


Headed to El Paso after a long day. I'm staying at the same boutique hotel I stayed at last year — Soluna Hotel. Lovely place. Freshened up and went to a restaurant, at the suggestion of the desk clerk, Josie. It's called Carlos & Mickey's and I had a wonderful baked cod veracruzana. Delicioso!

Came outside right at sunset and was reminded how beautiful the light is here in EP. So I grabbed my camera and shot some stock images of clouds of the gray and white variety. I'm constantly needing them to replace "bald" skies; that is, when the sky is completely blue and boring.

 Clouds for a rainy day

Clouds for a rainy day

Think I'll go by El Paso High School in the morning to re-shoot it. Last year, it was a gray, overcast day and the lighting was really flat. Unfortunately, sunrise is at 6:01am. Which means, I need to be up by 5am. (!!!)

Not sure what else I'll shoot. I may upload some images while I have a fairly fast Wi-Fi. In any event, checkout is at 12 and I probably will hit the road toward Tucson.