27 February 2012

Alan Gegax on KNPR Discussing Some of the Perils of Hiking

Hiker at Calico Basin outside Las Vegas

Just about anybody who knows me, is familiar with my enthusiasm for hiking. I've always been an outdoorsman, being raised a Southern country boy from Texas. We didn't have all the electronic advantages that keep kids indoors today. To stay inside meant chores and Mama finding something for us to do. Behind my house were woodland plains and I explored it all. I didn't have a car, so when I needed to go somewhere I walked, but most often you'd see me wearing swim trunks and running.

Model Melissa

I joined the regular Army at 19. By the time I was discharged, I had been a regular infantry soldier, an Army Ranger, Pathfinder, and Scout. It kept me outside and I preferred the smaller manned squad operations. I enjoyed being elite. I fit well in that class of soldiers and it became my life for 10 years. Upon exiting the military all that stopped as I entered the workforce. New priorities kept me busy working and oriented on school and advancement. It wasn't until I got to Vegas, that all my outdoors endeavors burst out again. Part of that was due to the Las Vegas Hiking and Outdoors MeetUp.com group headed by Alan Gegax. I joined up when there were a little more than 300 people signed up. Now the group is the largest MeetUp group of any kind in Vegas with well over 5100 members. I went on my first hike led by Alan, which was one of his Moonlight Tunnel hike out at Lake Mead. I recall distinctively that Alan made me feel comfortable around a bunch of strangers and he welcomed me to the group.

Hikers at Calico Basin
Today, my favorite radio station, KNPR did an segment on State of Nevada about hiker Ron Kirk who came up missing around mid-January while hiking at near Calico Basin, one of my familiar places to visit. Host Dave Becker had Alan on to give some points on Hiker Safety as well as freelance journalist, Joshua Longobardy who discussed an article he wrote on Ron Kirk in LasVegas City Life. Alan touched on several pointers that, had Ron Kirk taken heed, he would have either been found already or not have been lost at all. But I have to admit I can understand Ron's mentality in this. Joshua Longobardy talked about the fact that Ron's experience and advanced skills could have actually contributed to his predicament and I understand this totally. Often, I've gone out hiking alone and have been caught in some hairy situations at times.

Hikers at Calico Basin
Sometimes you just don't want to wait on a friend to make up their minds to go with you. Other times, people in the meet up groups might not be doing a hike you'd like to do. So instead of waiting, you just go on your own. That independence can be inspiring. And with my familiarity in taking care of myself in the wild, I can become overly confident in my abilities and not give a second thought to telling someone where I've gone or  when I'll be back. Its really no different than you finding out you are out of eggs when making a cake. You get in your car to go to the grocery store and handle your business. You don't necessarily feel a need to play it safe and give someone your itinerary.

Hikers at Calico Basin
Two things made me become a bit more cautionary. Once while a hike in the same vicinity where Ron Kirk's car was found at Calico Basin, I had decided to explore this area and spent considerable time climbing and scrambling up some beautiful rocks. I had under-anticipated how long it would take to do this. I scrambled up fairly high, very fast, and over some arduous rocks. The sun was getting low and it got darker in the canyon quicker. Getting down was MUCH tougher than I had imagined. I encountered a cleft that I had to traverse which had a downward incline with a 60 foot drop to reward a misstep. I took about 15 minutes to weigh my options in my mind. I deduced that I could drop my backpack (which held my camera!) and increase my odds of success. But the backpack might also help protect my head in a fall. I rationally concluded to keep the backpack on and than if I did indeed fall, I needed to fall in such a manner that I keep my legs together and let the sides of my legs take much of the initial impact. I might sacrifice my legs, but if I could maintain consciousness, I could low-crawl my way back to the main trial where someone was bound to find me by morning. I found that I was also high enough to be able to switch my cell phone from 3G, back to the old EDGE network and get a call through. I called my friend Felix and gave him my sit-rep. Then I took the ledge.

The second thing that made me a little more cautious was "127 Hours". The scene where Aron Ralston, played by James Franco, having to finally cut though his arm to free himself was one thing. What got me was when he was shown trying to cut through that nerve. Woof! I don't know if I could do that. And the real kicker is that there are actually THREE nerves that run through the arm! To say the least, I quickly began to reassess my thinking when I go out alone. It didn't preclude me from going out alone, but SOMEBODY knows where I am and when I'm expected back!

Model, Melissa
I pray, Ron Kirk is found alive. Its been more than a month already. Is that possible? Who knows. I say, yes. Unless God has other plans for the man, it's possible he can survive even for this long. I wish I could help in the search. Rock scrambling with crutches is seldom done for good reason. Please listen to the State of the Nevada podcast and take heed to Alan's suggestions while on the trails. Its great advice and speaks volumes of wisdom. And take advantage of the Las Vegas Hiking and Outdoors Meetup group if you live in the area. Somebody is always doing a hike ranging between the simple and easy to the more skilled. There's a hike for everyone and you should really get out and see the parts of Nevada that have nothing to do with The Strip. You won't believe how helpful these group members are and the new friendships you'll make. Actually, Alan met his wife while out hiking!! I can't wait to get back on the trails. You can also listen to Alan and myself talk about the Group and what we get out of hiking these back trails of Valley of Fire from a Spring 2011 NPR State of the Re:Union podcast. Catch us at minute 12 when you click on Segment C.

26 February 2012

"A Year in Review of the Nude"

Another look at 

Cover Model, Mercy:  "A Year in Review of the Nude: 2011"
I think I'll make an attempt to refocus on my book, "A Year in Review of the Nude: 2011". I've had several more inquires about it and recently, my friend James and I were discussing it over lunch at my friend's restaurant, Thai Pepper, here in Vegas. In all the events dealing with post-operative recovery from my microfracture knee surgery, I hadn't done so much to promote the book. In my last post in which I talked about it, my own copy was still on order and had yet to arrive. Even after it did finally arrive, I showed it off a little, but I was still in considerable discomfort at that time and the name of the game was pain-management. So I think I can bring a little focus back to the book.

Art Model, Panda,
"A Year in Review of the Nude: 2011" 
"A Year in Review of the Nude: 2011" is a self-published, print-on-demand Fine Art Photography book that I had printed by Blurb.com. I've used this company over the last almost 4 years and they have been quite impressive. Over the years, they have made several strides in both the development of the book template designs as well as the quality of paper stock in which they make available. They just created an even better premium line of print paper that I am very happy with and have chosen to utilize it exclusively in this book, making it more costly for me, but your costs stay the same. In most cases, you can purchase books in any variety of paper quality or even a soft-cover. For this book however, I want it to be more representative of my own art. After seeing it in the best paper stock they make, I decided to go with it exclusively. I prefer to stick with the same concept I use for the rest of my art. So to remain consistent, I only want it presented on the best paper I think I can get at that value. At WPPI, I came across some other print and book vendors who also have fine paper. So far, I have to stay with Blurb.com for the value. Printing the same book with some of those vendors would have taken my own costs upwards of $350 to produce each book. Through Blurb, I am able to offer it to you at this level of quality for $149.99. So for now, Blurb it is.

My book is currently listed 4th when doing a search for NUDE in the blurb bookstore. Cool, huh?

When I first got the book in hand and opened it up, I was instantly pleased with the product. Its not just thicker paper but better quality all around. I compared it to some of the other promotional books I've made and it is indeed superior to those. As I mentioned, I've used this company for almost four years. This has mainly been for the benefit of private clients. I've shot everything from a baby's first birthday to more intimate concerns like a wife's Christmas present for her husband. "A Year in Review of the Nude: 2011" is notably the first book I've done just for my own interest. Every other book has been made to satisfy client needs. Several are not available for preview to the public. This book however will become an annual review, but there will also be others I do to showcase a particular model or event. In fact, I had planned on doing one exclusively on art model, Panda to be released in March. In light of recent concerns and diverted attentions, I think I'll delay it for a month or two, but I already have enough work on her to produce a book right now.

Art Model, Enyo,
"A Year in Review of the Nude: 2011"
I don't see the book as pricey as many have implied. I don't think I could emphasize enough to not look at this book as a regular book. Most people don't spend $150 on a book. I know that. Instead, understand that this is my own art. Many people will purchase art for more than $150 that depicts only one visual subject. Mine has 114... probably way to many at that price. I didn't make this book for you to look through and then shelve. You don't purchase a painting, look it over and then archive it in the attic. Its meant to be displayed and that's how I see this book. I could have sold it in a smaller size, soft-cover, on less quality paper, all for $35! But that is not what this book is. Preview "A Year in Review of the Nude: 2011" and order your copy from Blurb.com right now!

20 February 2012

WPPI and Some New Directions

"When you’re finished changing, you’re finished." 
- Benjamin Franklin

Model, Viki Vegas
This past week has been the start of WPPI, (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International). Its quite a big event and is being held at the MGM Convention Center. In spite of my current condition, I decided I'd attend WPPI University, or WPPI U at the MGM Grand Convention Center here in Vegas. It was 2 days of workshops, seminars, and lectures dealing with photography and its related issues. Some of it was motivational and some instructional, but we had the benefit of 13 speakers who are leaders in their trade come talk to about 400 attendees. I think without a doubt, Joe Buissink was my favorite. He was informative and inspiring, as well as a great speaker. Sue Bryce was also a talented host and speaker. The thing that seemed to be a common denominator between several of these speakers is the notion that they came from nothing special and built themselves into million-dollar studios. They all faced challenges and had to overcome obstacles, but they weren't given any advantages that made them any more special than the rest of us. So if there was any one message that I think they were trying to say collectively is that if they can do it the rest of us can too.

Model, Wonderhussy

My challenges were just in the attending. I decided at the last minute to be there after I read about some of the course schedules. My main focus was on day two, where a few speakers were discussing some of the business aspects of photography which is my main focus right now. Just getting from my car to the convention center was my biggest challenge. Then I realized I had to depend on the kindness of strangers to help me just get a simple cup of water back to may seat. I met a few people who sat around me that proved helpful as well as good company. The bathroom wasn't that near when you're on crutches. I woke up this morning with sore palms from carrying my weight so much on the handles of the crutches. Day two was incredibly exhausting. It was 12 hours of class time and when I got home, I was beat. I got to bed about 1am and woke up around 5am. But somewhere right before I was getting ready to make myself some waffles, I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew my phone was ringing and it woke me up around 3 in the afternoon! I have no idea how I got back in bed, nor do I recall even falling asleep. I was due back up at WPPI that afternoon to meet with some of my NILMDTS cohorts at 2pm. I totally missed it.

Model, Wonderhussy
Taxes and accounting best practices, branding, back-up protection, etc., are some of the WPPI U topics I had an interested in. I have a MBA. I know management, marketing. I can do a lot of this on my own. But WANTING to do it is something else. I hate taxes and record-keeping. I don't want to concern myself with branding. I'd much rather have someone else do that for me. I've been rereading and reevaluating my business plan to see what has changed. Several aspects of my focus is indeed going in a different direction. My initial back-up solution is going to be different from what I initially outlined. The website will be changed and eventually another blog will be put in place. While Photo Anthems will be the primary domain name, I've recently registered some more. I picked up a speaker Craig Heidermann's Legal and Business Forms for Wedding and Portrait Photographers. He's has two careers as a full time attorney and a full-time photographer. I want to review all my current contracts after he pointed out a few things I hadn't considered in my own.

Model, Brittany V
Julieanne Kost, from Adobe, has got to be one of the most entertaining lecturers on nerd-related topics. She's a Photoshop wizard/guru/freak/nut. I'm telling you this woman can work layers like nobody's business. Check out her blog and get educated. She did a presentation on Adobe Lightroom and I now believe I'll start using it. She outlined some benefits I think I can actually use whereas before, I couldn't see how I was missing anything by using Bridge. All the other speakers where motivational or dealt with lighting and posing techniques. While informative, it wasn't where my interests currently lie. Some of the advice they gave I had to totally dismiss because it just wasn't my style. I identified most with Joe Buissink because his shooting style was closer to my own. Some of the people sitting next to me where surprised by his approach to photography while I just smiled, feeling validated to some degree.

The rest of this year is going to be way different from anything I had initially imagined last year. My goals have changed and my priorities have altered. I just need to heal so I can get started on it all.

11 February 2012

See it in FULL LIFE

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

I guess I will have to ask for your forgiveness and apologize for that rant in the last post. I'm myself and again and once more have full and sole retention of my cognitive faculties. I'm a very passionate person. I've got my own goals and aspirations as well as problems and challenges. But pain, as I so eloquently put it in the last post, can be a bitch. That's what makes torture so long-lived.

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

I'm still in the same predicament, only the agonizing, debilitating pain has become less pronounced. A good analogy might be that I've been thrown back into my prison cell after cruel attempts to "get me to talk". I'm still limited in my mobility and have to really concentrate on taking it easy for a bit longer. So I try not to go anywhere unless I absolutely have to. All this past week, I left the house twice. I think I shall go visit my pals at B&C Camera and talk photography and gear with some of the regulars. It'll be good to see Joe and the crew again. Outside of that, I'll root myself again in my computer chair and bed.

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” – Rudyard Kipling

But this is still all for the best. I had this surgery because I hated dealing with the aching pain and weakness that interfered with my ability to live life to the fullest. I talked about this last April in a post, describing how I had met with a doctor who felt he could refer me to an Orthopedist with some answers to get me back on the trails and to eventually start up on the Appalachian Trail. So now, I'm at least getting started on that fix. I've had the surgery. Now I just need to let it heal. Plans are in place to take me abroad later this year, which will be the first of many quests that I set out on, not to "find myself", but rather just to start living life to the fullest. That may mean different things to different people. For me, it means to experience other cultures and see new lands. As a kid, I hardly ever left a 200 mile circumference from my home in East Texas. I used to wonder what might lie beyond in other countries and relied on the TV and World Book Encyclopedia to show me. As good as those sources were, I learned from my military travels that they just didn't do it justice.

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My first military tour of duty was Germany. Spend 18 years with 200 miles of one place in Texas and then you find yourself on the far side of the Atlantic. It was glorious. I don't recall exactly what church it was, but I remember looking at a building in either Mainz or Frankfurt that I could recall from pictures from school studies. And now, I was standing in front of it looking at it in full LIFE. Being a photographer now, my desire to see more things in full life has taken its toll on my future agendas. Everything I do now is in preparation for that. I hope to become a better photographer and also one who is more fulfilled in his work. Those of you who can't, won't, or don't believe you too can do this can live vicariously through me. I'll be blogging and posting pics of my experiences and escapades. I can't wait. Its what keeps me going while I am incarcerated waiting to heal fully.

01 February 2012

Stay Positive! (....right...)

"Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind."

- Aristotle

(...Still working on that one!)

Art Model, Mercy ©2011 Terrell Neasley
I had originally looked forward to chronicling my events and happenings as it relates to me recouping from my recent surgery. Now, not so much. Originally, this was going to be an adventure of discovery and re-invention. Now its turned into more of a bitch-session of my rants about how bitchy this process has become. I've got 5 and a half more weeks of this mess on crutches. Then another 6 weeks of rehab. I have ABSOLUTELY no clue how to do this. I'm inclined to head back to Texas and just let moms take care of me. But you know...MOM's got a life. Dealing with the pain and limited mobility is only one aspect of what's got me pissed off. However, the loss of independence has to be more than 50% of it all. Asking somebody for help is okay to some extent, but when it comes to just the menial tasks of doing for one's self... Its just not in me to do that and living on your own in this sort of situation is a bitch. There ain't no getting around it. It's just pure-BITCH!!

Joanie, © 2010 Terrell Neasley

Granted, I am relieved when a friend comes by to visit. Sometimes I enjoy going out to dinner with good company or something that is a distraction from the everyday crap. But that's about 6% of my time. The rest of the 94% of my day is spent just trying to not go crazy, keep busy with productive things, don't fall, and don't accidentally (or willfully) do something stupid! I was actually doing so well yesterday. I took note of the fact that the swelling was going down. The pain had considerably lessened. I was still limited on range of motion as well as mobility, but everything was looking up! That is until I started to go to bed. In an oblivious and euphoric lack of concentration, I jubilantly jumped into bed. If a full bound, I lifted off with one leg and sprang with the other. Can you feel my pain, yet? I actually never left the ground. And the leg that I "attempted" to sprang with was the wrong one, or should I say the one I JUST had surgery on. All I could basically do was crumble against the side of the bed. There was no elevation. I didn't get an inch off the floor. The moment the muscles around my knee tried to accommodate the pressure of my body weight... well, I call it white pain. That's the only way I can describe the blinding, searing, hot sensation that squeezed tears out of my eyes like Summer's juicing machine. My prayers of relief were not immediately answered. I prayed I'd just pass out. I wanted to just friggin' pass out. I've never wanted to die. But right then, I just wanted to pass the F*** out. It didn't happen. I lived through every eternal minute of that...damning my stupidity the entire time.

Wow. Did that paint a picture? Its starting to hurt again just from the thought of it. Have you ever had pain so bad, you actually lose weight from it? I kid you not...I KNOW I burned about 3 pounds on the writhing on the floor last night. There should be pre-op therapy sessions designed to prepare you for this. You shouldn't even be allowed to have this kind of surgery unless you have a stay at home wife or can afford a live-in nanny. I have no idea how many other people endure this sort of ailment or what they do to cope. I know many have endured far worse. Yes, there are others who don't even have a knee to even have surgery on. But you know what... NONE of that has anything to do with what's going on with me right now. Showing me a guy who's an amputee does not help me manage pain or my affairs. Dang, I forgot to even pay my bills til my cable got turned off! This is how disorienting all this is. My phone, car insurance, and some utilities were on the verge of getting suspended.

Okay. Like I said. I'm trying to stay positive and look forward to getting a knee that's in much better shape than it was before all this. I just don't know what to tell myself when something as uneventful as last night takes place. I mean, Damn! I just about wish I was still in good standing with an ex-girlfriend, but she's no longer in town anyway. I know that wouldn't be overall good for me, but at the moment, if you merely suggested that crack would advance me through the next several months in relative ease, I'd be spending a lot of time trying to talk myself out of it and can't say with a high degree of certainty that I'd be successful. All I know is this. This sucks. I gotta deal with it. I gotta get better. But I'm also gonna be bitchy. Where's my next nude model??!!