Nothing was ever so beautiful

cross with blue backlighting

This picture was originally posted back in August. Every Sunday, some other days as well, I sit in the service at First Baptist Church in Stockton and think how beautiful this cross is. During last evening’s Maundy Thursday service the cross, bathed in a red rather than blue glow, tore at my heart as it stood as a stark reminder against the backdrop of an emotional communion worship. As I walked down the aisle to receive the communion elements, symbols of Christ’s suffering humanity and shed blood, I looked up at the cross. Tears flowed. Everything around me, the people, the music, faded. All I could sense was Jesus, the Passover lamb, taking my sins to the cross. I hear his words, “It is finished.”

Nothing was ever so beautiful.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:3-5 (KJV)

Let me know what you think in the comments section, or you can email me with your thoughts or questions.

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If you could prevent a child’s death…

…would you?

Watch this short video, and if at the end you haven’t shed a few tears and fallen in love with Judah, well…I can’t imagine you won’t. I still do.

You might be thinking that six million children, every year, is a staggering number. Incomprehensible. Overwhelming. Something should be done, but there are too many. You would be right. The numbers are overwhelming, staggering beyond comprehension. But you can do something about it.

You don’t have to help all six million. One will do. By sponsoring a child through Compassion you can help a child to get medical care and so much more. You could potentially prevent a child’s death.

And if you’re thinking that one among six million isn’t going to matter…it matters to the one.

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Dusting the fields of Lodi

Click on the images to view a larger version.
Crop duster over a vineyard

Driving north of my long commute to work this morning I started to hear the opening theme from the movie Pearl Harbor. You know the piece, Tennessee, by Hans Zimmer. It plays as a crop duster is seen soaring over the fields of Tennessee during opening credits. It is a beautiful piece of music.

Anyway, as I hear this song playing in my head, I look out the window and there is this crop duster spraying the vineyards along the highway. It isn’t a bi-plane, like in the movie, but I guess a crop duster in the early morning is forever to be accompanied by Tennessee.

When one is presented with the possibility of such a beautiful shot on a beautiful morning, it must be taken. So, I pulled off the freeway and got as close to the field he was spraying as I could. It did cross my mind that I might get splattered with whatever nasty chemical he was spraying on my future wine, but then, if I’m ingesting the stuff when I drink wine what harm is a little on the outside.

And since I’m on the subject of wine, I just have to say that I am impressed with the quality of wine that comes out of the Lodi region. Just last night I had an incredible Old Vine Zinfandel by St. Sophia here in Lodi. I knew it would be excellent. Paul at Mile Wine Company in Stockton would serves only the best.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled crop duster…

Crop duster close-up

This is exactly the reason I have my camera with me all the time. Well, almost all the time anyway. You never know what picture worth things you might see out there.

Crop duster straight on

Shot Notes

My Canon 60D with the 18-135mm lens was set to ISO 400 for all three shots and I used the AL-Servo setting to keep the focus tracking the movement of the plane toward me. Shutter speed and aperture from top to bottom: 1/1000 sec at f8, 1/200 sec at f16, and 1/250 sec at f16.

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Governor Jerry Brown at the 2014 CA Democratic Convention

Governor Jerry Brown

CA Governor Jerry Brown addresses the 2014 CA Democratic Party Convention in Los Angeles.

Last month I attended another California State Democratic Party Convention. Not sure how many this makes for me. My first few were as a delegate and county party chair, the last few as a photographer and husband of a delegate. I request a press credential each year so I can get on the floor and usually walk away with some decent pictures, like these of California Governor Jerry Brown.

Jerry Brown, CA Democratic Convention

California Governor Jerry Brown at the 2014 CA State Democratic Convention

Toward the end of the Governor’s less than thirteen minute speech he was heckled by a not terribly loud group of sign waving protesters who called on Brown to put an end to the practice of fracking. It was humorous to me that their feeble attempts to disrupt Brown were reported as a boisterous. They were anything but. Not that I could hear at least. There were a few signs waved in the hall, but the loudest protest took place outside the convention center. Still, the Governor did seem to get knocked off his speaking stride just a bit.

Another Democrat against fracking

A fracking protester holds up a sign during Gov. Jerry Brown’s speech at the CA Democratic State Convention.

I haven’t finished processing all the convention images I made. When I do they will be posted in an album on the main site. There will probably be some more posted to the blog as well.

Interested in watching Governor Brown’s thirteen minute speech? It is available here.

About the images

The convention took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center. In the very large hall where we were meeting the audience lighting was very low. The lighting on stage however, was bright enough to shoot at mid-range ISO, between 400 and 800, for most of the images I made. A flash was used on some images, but I chose not to use one on these and shot manually with the ISO set to automatic.

It is never easy to capture a good image of someone speaking. Unless they are “camera aware” and want to let you have a good shot, speakers are caught with mouth open or some contorted look on their face in most frames. The solution is to shoot, shoot, and keep shooting, until you get the image you want. Bursts come in handy in this situation, though I did not shoot in burst. This is also one of those instances where I would say go ahead and chimp.

All the images were made with a Canon 60D and a 18-135mm lens, hand-held with manual exposure at 1/60 sec. and aperture set at f6.3. Using a tripod was impractical in this situation, and none of the photographers I observed was using a tripod except the ones remaining stationary in the press area.

The only difference in the shots was the ISO and the focal length. The top one was shot at ISO 640 and 135mm, the second one at ISO 800 and 18mm, and the third at ISO 4000 and 33mm. It isn’t often that I work with such a high ISO, and I think the Canon 60D performed very well at this extreme.

There you have it, and as always, your comments are appreciated. You may also want to sign up to receive my not-more-than weekly e-newsletter.

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Pat Withrow for San Joaquin County Sheriff

Withrow for Sheriff

Supporters gather in Lathrop to walk precincts for San Joaquin Co. Sheriff candidate Pat Withrow

It is that time of year where many of my Saturdays, and not a few Sundays, are spent doing something for a political campaign. This morning it was at a precinct walk to help get Pat Withrow elected Sheriff of San Joaquin County. Not even the threat of a soaking rain could deter these supporters from coming out to walk for Pat. But then, we had Marcie with us. As the story goes, “it doesn’t rain when Marcie is part of a precinct walk.” Today was no different. The rain held off until after every walker had returned. Marcie’s perfect record remains intact.

Pat has earned my support by actually wanting to be sheriff. He wants to do things that will make our county safer and shut the revolving door that seems to have been installed at the county jail. I think I’m in good pretty good company too. Every law enforcement association in the county has endorsed Pat for Sheriff, along with an outstanding list of other leaders in our community.

If you are registered to vote in San Joaquin County vote for Pat Withrow for Sheriff. If you need to, there is still time to register for this election. Go to the San Joaquin registrar’s Website for more information and online options.

Find out more about Pat Withrow and his campaign for Sheriff of San Joaquin County by visiting his Website. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Withrow for Sheriff 2014

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Ban Fracking Now!

Ban Fracking Now

Click image to see a larger version. | Image licensing information.

As delegates to the 2014 California Democratic Party State Convention were entering the LA Convention Center for the opening of their annual meeting, a group of protesters gathered outside to give them a message to relay to Governor Jerry Brown. “Ban Fracking Now!” Of course, they were preaching to the choir. Most of the delegates were already firmly in the no fracking camp. Later that morning the governor spoke to delegates and was heckled regarding the fracking issue.

Apparently, the Governor hasn’t come out strongly enough to satisfy the more progressive faction of the party. What that faction fails to realize is that office-holders, whether they be governors, members of city councils, or somewhere in between, have to represent everybody. That often means office-holders don’t have the luxury of being positional for position’s sake and must govern from the middle; which happens to be where the majority of voters, regardless of party affiliation, really are. There is a reason both major parties are losing market share (or as they like to call them registered voters). Both parties are sorely out of touch with most Americans, but the radical elements that dominate the leadership of the parties are too busy pushing personal agendas to see the bigger picture. Which leaves us with a governor who governs in a practical, sensible way, while his party survives only because it is abhorrent to fewer eligible voters than the other one. The way I can tell Governor Brown is doing a great job is every political party is mad at him.

That being said, access to clean, safe, fresh drinking water is a global problem, especially in developing nations. It is an issue that needs a response. Banning fracking may be one way to help, but there are others. Several members of my church just returned from digging wells and educating people in Haiti about clean water and hygene. Several organizations are travel throughout the world teaching about and supplying water across the globe to those who have limited or no access.

Do I think fracking should be banned. Yes. Ban fracking, develop alternative sources of energy, and keep our water safe.

I am not an activist on this issue, and don’t plan on becoming one. I just think clean water is important and want to do what I can to help people get it. If you want to know some more maybe the information supplied by this site, Food and Water Watch, will help. In an act of shameless self promotion I will also mention that a portion of every sale of my images at will go to helping to bring clean, safe water to communities throughout the developing world.

As I said, I’m not an activist on this issue, but I do think we can find better ways to meet our energy needs than destroying our clean water supply, particularly during a drought.

Here are a couple other post about clean water you might find interesting.

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What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

What do you want to be when you grow up? It is a question kids get asked everyday. Compassion International recently asked some of the children in their program this question, and the answers really aren’t all that surprising. These kids are no different that our kids. They want to be doctors, engineers, pilots, teachers, artists, architects. etc. Yes, even firefighters and police.

What’s really amazing is how easy it is for you to help these kids achieve their dreams. All it takes is an investment in them of $38 per month. That’s it. Just $38 can help a child reach his or her potential and become that teacher, pilot, engineer, doctor, or whatever they want to be.

My wife and I are new sponsors. We chose to sponsor a girl in India a couple months ago and are enjoying a growing long-distance relationship through letters, photos and prayers. That reminds me, I need to write a letter…soon, and I will be sure to ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, and find out how I can help her achieve her dream. I know that she likes art, reading, singing and running. Imagine what she could become. An artist or singer perhaps. Or maybe an Olympic athlete representing India. I also know that her dreams becoming reality can be made a lot easier because of our sponsorship.

So, go ahead, do it. Go to Compassion International and search for a child who you can help reach their dreams. Search for a child in a particular part of the world, by gender, or age. You can even search for a child with your birthday or one of your own children’s birthday. The important thing is, a child is waiting for you.

Thank you.

The video above is embedded from the Compassion International You Tube channel.

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On Being Mean and a Christian

Let’s just start with you can’t do both. You can’t be mean and call yourself a Christian. Well, I suppose you can, grace being what it is and all. But really, being a mean Christian? Don’t you think the world hates us enough?

Look at these two and take a lesson from nature. They are similar in that they are both shore birds, but they are very different from one another as well. Yet, as I was watching them I saw no animosity displayed by either. As a matter of fact, the bigger sandpiper is helping the smaller plover out by allowing him to have the scraps from his table, as it were. He could have easily chased the smaller bird away been left undisturbed to enjoy his meal, except for that photographer who keeps bugging him. The plover waited patiently for something good to come popping out of the sand. I see no meanness here. Why can’t people be like that.

There is also a lesson in this post from Ron Edmondson, a pastor in Lexington, KY. You will have to go read it because I haven’t asked his permission to post it here, though I am certain he would give it.

Here is a another lesson about not being mean. It comes from Jesus and is found in The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells us to not be mean. He says such radical things as, don’t be angry, and if you are angry go and be reconciled before worshiping (23-24). Settle your disputes before they get to court (25), don’t retaliate for an insult, but go the extra mile as you seek to heal relationships (38-42). In short, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (44).

Growing up, I remember singing a song that I don’t hear much these days. It had a great simple yet very powerful message. I remember singing it a lot. We sang it, because we believed it, and I am convinced we lived it as best we could. The song is, “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love.”

Do they. Does the world know we are Christians by our love, or do they look at us and think, “see how mean they are to each other”?

Let’s set an example for others. Not be so mean. Actually be nicer. A kinder, gentler breed of Christians. Let’s learn how to disagree with one another the right way. Full of grace and truth. Let’s love one another. And, demonstrate the peace of Christ to those who are seeking peace. –Ron Edmondson

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California Democrats to Gather in Los Angeles, March 7-9, for 2014 State Convention

CA Governor Jerry Brown

California Governor Jerry Brown at the 2012 CA State Democratic Convention

The California Democratic Party will hold its annual convention this week, March 7-9 in Los Angeles at the Convention Center and Westin Bonaventure hotel. The event will be the largest gathering of Democrats in California this election year as delegates finalize statewide, congressional and legislative endorsements as well as adopt the 2014 Party platform. Yours truly will be there, camera in hand, ready to document anything worthwhile or newsworthy seen, said or done.

Convention delegates and observers will be hearing from Governor Jerry Brown, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, as well as statewide Democratic officials and Legislative leaders. So it is a good bet that there will be something to report. Others scheduled to speak include, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, CDP Chairman John Burton (always good for a colorful quote or two), Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Controller John Chiang, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Houston Mayor Annise Parker will also address the delegation while Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro will headline the Convention Luncheon and Dinner sessions respectively. I may have to see if I can get some time with my fellow Marylander Governor O’Malley. I would like to know how the crab is expected to be this year. Maryland Blue Crab are about the best you will find anywhere. Hmmm….there’s an idea….replace the Redskins team name. After all, they don’t actually play in Washington, so why not call them the Maryland Blue Crabs. Never mind. Not a good idea. My family would certainly disown me.

Delegates will be addressed by Governor Brown on Saturday.

I used to go to these things as a delegate and county party chair, but in the past few years I have forsaken politics and have decided to "press on" (Philippians 3:14) toward higher things. Much higher things. Don’t for a minute think that means I’ve turned toward another party. It does not. I am a registered Democrat, but not a fan of either or any political party.

For the few who might care about what is going on at the Convention this weekend I am including a link to the full schedule:

Thanks for reading. Will you be at the convention? Comments are always appreciated.

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American Kestrel

American Kestrel

My photo of the day for Thursday, February 20, 2014 is an American Kestrel. I found him in a tree in the parking lot as I was leaving the cube farm for the day. Keeping a careful eye on me as I went to my car this small falcon, often mistakenly called a Sparrow Hawk, watched me open my trunk and retrieve my camera. He waited patiently while I changed lenses to a longer focal length, and allowed me to get into position for the shot. I was allowed one, and only one, shot before he flew off and circled back to another, more distant, tree. This is a game we will play throughout the spring and on into summer until the kestrel leaves for the season. When he returns next year we will likely pick up where we left off.

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