Monday, July 20, 2015

Palo Duro Canyon

I love the panhandle of Texas, and especially Palo Duro Canyon - the second largest canyon in the United States. My family passed this way on our vacation a few weeks ago and saw the 50th Anniversary season of the Texas play here at the canyon on a gorgeous (and surprisingly cool) evening.

This is Texas, y'all.

Canon 5D Mark III
1/400 sec; f/7.1
ISO 100

Friday, July 17, 2015

Frio River at Sunset

Yes, places like this exist in Texas.

The Frio River in the Texas Hill Country is a simply beautiful place. I shot this a few days ago near Concan, Texas at sunset.

Canon 5D Mark III
f/13; 3.2 sec
ISO 100

Monday, July 6, 2015

Farewell, Michael Quintero... and Thanks.

I have a heavy heart today because I found out yesterday that a friend took his life in the early morning hours of July 4th.

I met Michael Quintero about three years ago. He and his then-fiancee, Carla, were both veterans who met while deployed and were planning their wedding. They hired me to photograph their wedding on the recommendation of one of my co-workers for whom I had just done a maternity session. They didn't know it at the time, but it would be the first wedding that I would photograph solo - not as a second shooter.

As I met with Michael and Carla one Saturday afternoon at the Starbucks in Brenham I felt a bond with them instantly. They were a playful, joking and loving young couple. Their casual attitude helped to ease my fear about photographing their wedding. As we sat there it felt a lot more like I was having a conversation with longtime friends than a client.

Michael and Carla's wedding was held in Salado, Texas on a gorgeous, cool fall day. The main thing I remember about that day was just how much they made me and my wife feel like a part of the family. They took us in and embraced us in such a loving way. They were genuinely concerned that even though we were there to photograph that we were enjoying ourselves, too. We had so much fun with Michael and Carla's families.

I could not have asked for a better wedding to be my first solo experience. It - and they - were such a blessing to me and to my fledgling photography career.

A few months later I got a message from Carla asking me to do a photo shoot with Michael and Carla and Michael's daughter, Emileigh. This made Michael and Carla my first repeat clients, as well as one of the first family shoots I had ever done. We met at Antique Rose Emporium one May evening to shoot in the evening light.

That session was - and still is - one of the favorites I've ever shot. Once again, Michael and Carla were so gracious and accommodating. And the light was simply, fittingly gorgeous that evening. Michael was about to leave for his final deployment. It was his fifth. There was something that just felt magical and surreal that night.

I've kept in loose contact with the Quinteros in the last couple of years. We are friends on Facebook, and I enjoy a lot of the funny things that Michael shared. My family was hoping to go by and visit Michael and Carla on out next trip through western Oklahoma where Michael was stationed.

A little more than a year ago Carla and Michael welcomed their own little girl into the world. I haven't yet gotten to meet her, but I enjoyed their family posts on Facebook and hoped to get the opportunity to photograph their family again someday.

Yesterday morning I woke up to find a Facebook message from that co-worker who originally recommended me to the Quinteros. She said that in the very early hours of the morning on July 4th that Michael had taken his own life.

I was - and still am - stunned.

It turns out that Michael has been battling some serious PTSD and depression lately. Apparently, it finally just became too much for him to bear. He mentioned to my wife, Kristi, the last time we saw them that he felt like he was made to be a soldier and that he didn't know if he could do the "normal life." He enjoyed being a soldier and being deployed. His enthusiastic posts while he was deployed showed a true joy for his job. But he also loved being a father and a husband to Carla. That was plain for anyone to see.

Please join me in praying for Carla and Michael's families during their difficult time. Please also say a prayer for all of those who have served who are suffering silently with PTSD.

Thank you for your service, Michael Quintero. You were a good, brave man. Our world needs more like you, and you will most certainly be missed.

Thank you, also, for being such an integral part of my life story. I don't know if you ever realized how big an impact you and Carla have made on my life and on my career.

I am truly grateful to have known you.