It’s Been a While…Part Deux!

Life…it has a tendency to naturally ebb and flow.  Obviously I’m not breaking any new ground with that statement, but there was a lot of ebb between my last blog post and where I find myself now…on the cusp of some flow.  It’s taken over two years before I could bring myself to write a blog post, let alone about the winter of ’13 and the personal tradgedies that occurred…

….so here goes:

Without going into too many details, I lost my mother and father to their fight with cancer in November and December ’13 respectively.  Although I know that my father would’ve eventually succumb to the effects of cancer, I firmly believe that he died of a broken heart and the sudden loss of his high school sweetheart and soulmate.  The only time the two of them were apart was when my father served two tours in Vietnam.  My relationship with both of them was very, very close and their loss has had a tremendous impact on my life (obviously)…there isn’t a day that’s gone by that I haven’t wished for just one more day, minute, laugh, phone call or to just hear their voices one more time.  One day…but not yet.

The spring and summer of ’14 was a blur of events, from taking care of my mother and father’s estates, trading the coast of California for the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and learning a whole new job in the military.  The new position at work was a firehose of information, followed by a year of seemingly never-ending series of crew shifts.  Making new friends, spending time with old ones and just enjoying the area proved to be very challenging, but alas my obligation as a full-time ‘crew dog’ has (thankfully) been reduced to a few shifts per month…which pulls the door open a little more for me to enjoy some of my neglected passions.

Since this blog is supposed to be focused (mostly) on my photographic journey, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out a few additions to my kit, including the Nikon D810 and a lens I’ve lusted after since it’s announcement in ’05, the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 AF-S VR.  I’m pulling together a bunch of ideas that I think will be very interesting, inspiring and fulfilling  (to me).

I’ll leave you with these parting words…never take your friends or family for granted, leave words unspoken or miss an opportunity to make the most of each day.  Be careful of the “one day…” promises, you never know if that day will ever come.  Hold on to life and love with all of your being…

Keep watching this space…more to come!


Its Been A While

Holy cow…I just realized that it’s been forever since I posted to my blog! Between getting my rear handed to me at work, family illness, the holidays, vacation and other life events I’ve been a little preoccupied. So, now that I’m in a breathing spell…expect a few short blogs to appear in the upcoming weeks.

More to come…

Looking up…

20120920-161213.jpg

I wrote a blog post recently about how to enjoy yourself while doing a mundane task such as driving to work. Unfortunately that blog post wasn’t backed up on my computer and the server on which this blog is maintained…crashed. D’oh! I guess I need to seek out a method to back up my blog posts on my local hard drive…

Anyway, what’s the purpose of this post you might ask? Well…lately my mind has been occupied by my life-long love affair with aviation (and if you know me you’ll understand that this is one of my reoccuring ‘phases’). I’ve been incredibly fortunate to grow up surrounded by airplanes, airports, maintainers and pilots alike. Heck, my father put in 20+ years as an aircraft mechanic (specifically egress systems/ejection seats) for the USAF, having worked on a bunch of different aircraft during his career, including (but not limited to), B-66s, T-33s, F-100s, B-57s, T-28s, A-37s, F-101s, F-4s, B-52s and F-111s. I consider my childhood incredibly blessed, not many get the opportunity to grow up in an environment surrounded by these magnificent machines and the people that flew and maintained them. To this day the smell of an old hangar along with the smell of Jet-A/JP-5 takes me to another place…instantly! Now don’t get me wrong, I still love my cars, motorcycles and just about anything automotive related…however there will always be a special place in my heart for aviation.

I tried following that itch to fly…actually a couple of times now. The first time I had the opportunity to fly was in ’96 shortly after my brother began taking lessons. He went on to earn his pilot’s license he was afforded the opportunity to fly F-16s for the New Mexico Air National Guard (aka the revered ‘Taco’s’). Seeing his success really inspired me to follow suit and obtain my license. Since I was barely making above minimum wage working for one of the local banks, I borrowed some money from my mother to help finance the flying lessons. My instructor, Scott, said I was a natural ‘stick and rudder’ guy and before too many hours I was making landing bets with him (which I won more than I lost). I had a whopping 3 hours in the Cessna 152 (N1684Q) and 6.2 hours in the Piper Warrior (N5857V) when Scott instructed me to land, pull to the terminal and leave the engine running. He jumped out

20120920-162409.jpg
Photo Credit: Frank Moody

I don’t know how to adequately explain what happend next. I was anxious, scared, even a little overwhelmed, but Scott helped clear all of that up when I was taxiing out to the run-up area. He called out over the Common Area Traffic Frequency (CTAF) and told me to do the run-up as usual and to make sure to check for traffic. Hearing his voice eased some of my apprehension. After the run-up and a final check of the pattern, I lined up on runway 22, took a deep breath and pushed the throttle to the firewall. The speed came on faster than I anticiapted and before I knew it I was lifting off the runway. I remained focused on my climb speed and once I reached 500′ began my crosswind turn. Normally I made this turn out over a farmer’s field, however this time I had just cleared the departure end of the runway. This caused me to meet my downwind/pattern altitude really early so I ended up crusing for a little longer than normal so I didn’t crowd the runway. It wasn’t until I was on the downwind leg that I was able to reflect on and comprehend the situation. It was the first time I’ve truely experienced total freedom…it was one of the most sublime experiences of my life up to that point. I was only able to reflect for a moment as I quickly reached the point I needed conduct my pre-landing check and start my descent. Before I knew it I was lined up with the runway centerline on final approach. One thing I didn’t anticipate enough was how much longer it takes to reduce airspeed and I ended up in ground effect longer than normal, causing me to touchdown further down the runway than I wanted. My goal at that moment was to not repeat the oversight and make good on the next attempt. I’m happy to say that by my third time around the pattern, I had figured out my approach marks and speeds for picture perfect landings.

I pulled N5857V onto the ramp and tied it down, Scott was standing next to the wing with a pair of scissors in-hand. The shirt-cutting tradition is something just about every general aviaiton pilot has experienced. You get the back of your shirt cut off and you get to decorate it to commerate the moment. I don’t think I stopped smiling for weeks.

I ended up running out of money during my solo cross-country flights and quickly found myself surviving off of student loans while attending Texas Tech University. During that time I was farily broke and flying took a backseat. Once I graduated and commissioned in the Air Force, I thought I would have time and money again to finish my license (for anyone in the military, you understand how the best laid plans, more often than not, do not succeed). I made my second attempt to obtain my license when I was stationed in Cheyenne WY and flying with a small outfit down in Fort Collins, Colorado. I aced my exam, knocked out the physical and quickly obtained my student certificate to find myself soloing again. The sensation was the same…sublime, complete freedom! The dream of finally finishing my license quickly died as I received orders to Baghdad, Iraq. Once I returned from my deployment my attentions were diverted elsewhere (again) and soon we found ourselves near Cocoa Beach Florida. I remained focused on my job of launching rockets and the dream of flight faded into the background. One day I will pick up the torch again and finish my license. Recenly I attended the annual Cub Fly-In at the Lompoc CA Regional Airport and found my eyes pointing to the sky and my heart throbbing the flying tune again. More to come…

Cheers!

Nervous…Undecided…Scared

Okay, here goes nothing.  I always knew that eventually I’d have to write a blog post about something a little deeper than I’d normally discuss in a public forum (not that many read this blog…I appreciate those that do…thanks!).  The thing dominating my thoughts at the moment is the upcoming Google+ Photographers Conference being held in San Francisco between 22-23 May.  This event is the brainchild of photographer, author and media legend Scott Kelby and Google+’s own, Bradley Horowitz.

The event promises to be very exciting and judging from the schedule, two full days of non-stop activities, lectures, demonstrations and image/portfolio reviews (I’ll get to that last one in a minute).  When this was announced a few weeks ago, I was incredibly exicted…not only because it’s Google+ (dominated by the photographic community) and that some of my favorite photographers will be guest lecturers, but it just so happens to be a few hundred miles up the road in San Francisco.  I’ve never been to San Fran and it’s on the “list of places to see” while we’re stationed here at Vandenberg AFB.

So, how does the blog post title fit in with all of this and how is it ‘deeper’ than my other posts?  I’ll tell you…patience young Padawan (did I just give away my geekiness?).  I’ll first tackle Nervous.  I’m nervous because of the level of talent of the instructors, but within the audience as well.  The conference is limited to only 750 attendees (a very small number compared to a lot of the other conferences out there); if you do the math of number of instructors to attendees, it puts you in fairly close-quarters with those people in a way that most conferences/conventions can’t.  I suspect that due to the quality of this conference, the audience will be predominantly made up of pro-level photographers (since that’s who this event is geared towards).  It’s this group of folks that I’ll be interacting with the most and forging some kind of relationship(s) with (I hope).  That’s fine, the “networking” (I cringe every time I hear that word) opportunities are a big part of this conference and I really have to figure out my game, suck it up and put my best foot forward (something I’m really good at when I’m “in the zone”…it just takes me a little while to warm up).

Wall Beach, Vandenberg AFB

Wall Beach Overcast Sunset, Vandenberg AFB: Nikon D700, 14-24mm f/2.8 lens @34mm, 13″ @ f/1

Undecided.  Andrée saw that I was pining to go to this conference and suggested that I go ahead and pick up a ticket.  That was all the nudging I needed to make the jump…we could afford it even though we’re on a tighter budget than we were in FL.  I registered online and had to wait a couple of days for a response to see if I made it in time before they ran out of seats.  Lucky for me, I received an email from the fine folks at the Kelby Group with the ticket to the event attached…it’s official, I’m going (yea)!!!  Now that I have the ticket in hand, I started searching for nearby hotels and my heart immediately sank.  The event is being held in the downtown area, which means that hotels within walking distance are going to cost a premium.  Ouch!  Since we’re down to one steady income, it sure makes the wallet tighten up a bit and this unexpected turn of events tightens it that much more (especially when its added on top of taxes, parking, gas, food, etc..).  I think it’s just sticker shock…an unexpected slap in the face if you will…but I think once I get over it and look past the fiscal, I’ll be able to fully appreciate the opportunity and make the best of the situation.

Finally, the big one…Scared.  This conference has four blocks of time devoted for one-on-one portfolio reviews and I just signed up to have my work looked at (appointment pending).  As I mentioned above, this conference is targeting a more pro-level audience rather than serious and/or weekend hobbyists (though there will be many of those/us there).  That being said, I know my work isn’t in the same ballpark of what many will be showing…but we all must put our best foot forward and hope for the best right!?  When I look through my portfolio, I find myself struggling to come up with 10-20 images that I feel would ‘cut it’ at this level of review (at least within the same (or related) genres that folks conducting the review specialize in).  Looking at sites such as 500px and seeing the quality of images being displayed there (not only outstanding image quality, but quality of imagination, thought and execution) it really hits home that I need to get out there and keep plugging away and fine-tuning my craft…maybe one day I’ll be on the other side of the desk conducting reviews for those that are a mirror of me right now: nervous, scared and unsure.  One day…but there’s a lot of work to be done to get there.

Wish me luck guys!!

Until next time…

Cheers!

We’re live!!

I’m nervous…more so than I’ve been in a long time.  Today I clicked on the ‘go live’ button on my website (www.billfergusonphotography.com) to take it from being in a “draft” status to an actual living, breathing thing on the web (well, not actually living and breathing…that would be scary!!).  Now people can look at my images in high-res instead of the not-so-great quality I have them set at for my facebook page.  I’m nervous because in many ways I feel like I’ve just stepped to the edge of a cliff and am about to take a giant leap of faith (hoping like heck that I don’t fall flat on my face).  Every good thing has a beginning and we all have to start somewhere right (fingers, toes, eyes, etc. crossed)!?

Please stay tuned as I continue to develop my photographic skill, vision, portfolio and business.  My goal for this blog is to have a place where I can give something back; an outlet to express myself in a way that isn’t limited to just photography (though there will be some of that) and to have a living dialog with interesting people about interesting topics.  I promise it’ll be a ride you don’t want to miss.

Until next time…

Cheers!