Friday, March 25, 2011


Dave Phalen is an accomplished photographer, living in Columbus, Ohio. Since his story is from a long-ago memory, there aren’t any associated photos. Instead, we’ll intersperse some of his beautiful contemporary work throughout the text.

We all can probably remember a time when we've allowed others to make us feel small.  In "Hubris Descending," Dave shares an old memory that still evokes a twinge of pain.


I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog. If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my photography site. I'd love to hear from you!

By the way, you may get a better view of the photos and the text if you enlarge your browser screen.


Michelle Alton


Several decades ago I was taking a Creative Arts Program photography course at Ohio State University. Some of the class members were all-star photographers, at least in their own minds and were very vocal in sharing their opinions with the class. Since that time I have known several professional and many outstanding amateur photographers and have come to realize that my classmates were nowhere as good as they thought. In fact they were, at best, average photographers.

My Town

I don’t remember the specific assignment but we were to go photograph some subject and bring our photos in to a future class. I was shooting an all manual Minolta SR101. In preparation for my shoot I loaded my camera with a fresh roll of Kodak film I then pulled the film lead over to the windup roll and hooked it to the cogged wheel, closed the camera back and cranked the lever to bring the film completely across the shutter, and went on my way merrily shooting until the film was completely exposed. I then rewound the film back into its canister and took it to be developed.

Texas 2008

Chilled Chihuly

On class night all I could think of was how the self-important, arrogant “expert” students in the class would view me as a complete incompetent. If I knew then what I know now I would have just dared them to say something disparaging about me. And they would have been made to look as small as they were!

If These Walls Could Talk

I caught up with the instructor before class-- a young professional photographer picking up some extra money by teaching this class, and told her of my mishap.  She didn’t say anything but when it came time to show our work she merely said “Dave doesn’t have anything tonight.”  And she gave  no explanation .  I’ve always been grateful to her for her kindness not to expose me to a humiliating critique by fellow classmates.

Not Today

November Afternoon

Sunday Morning

  All photographs by David Phalen

David Phalen BIO 2011

Retirement and digital technology have re-energized my lifelong interest in photography. Subjects that I find most appealing are buildings, windows, doors and bridges. I like to focus on a specifically unique detail of a structure. Flowers are also frequent subjects, sometimes en masse but often just a single bloom or petal. I try to find details such as an insect or dew drop to add interest or texture to my flower photographs.

My work has appeared at the Mac Worthington Gallery in Columbus, Ohio, the High Street gallery in Worthington, Ohio and in 2009 I had a solo show at Caterina’s in German Village. One of my pieces won Best in Category at the 2009 Downtown Digital Arts festival. Last year my image “My Town” was the winner in the Columbus Monthly photo contest.

On line my work can be seen at and in my gallery on


Friday, March 18, 2011

Marta's Room

Jim Baines has adopted Texas as his home State after a career serving in the U.S. Army all over the world.  He is an avid Harley man, naturalist, observer of insects and spiders, grower of great clouds of Morning Glories, Patriot, and photographer of all subjects! 

This touching story will bring a tear to your eye and tell you a lot about the heart of the author.


I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog. If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my photography site. I'd love to hear from you!
By the way, you may get a better view of the photos and the text if you enlarge your browser screen.

  Michelle Alton


"Marta's Room" is on U.S. Highway 190 in Belton, Texas. Marta is a woman of Spanish descent with a very heavy accent, though she speaks perfect English. She is married but has no children or close family. Her husband is into his own thing and Marta has dedicated her life to her antique shop. I used to stop in periodically to see what interesting things she had; it was like walking into a museum. I always had an eye out for old cameras and photographs. She told me about a photographer in Austin who comes in often and leaves with all the old cameras that still work. He obtains bulk film and makes his own rolls for that particular camera -- and uses it. I purchased a Kodak Monitor 620, in working condition except for pin holes in the bellows. A nice conversation piece. I paid her the asking price of $35.00 and I keep it here on my desk collecting dust.

Kodak Monitor 620 and Author

The $35.00 reminded me of the photos I sometimes took of small business store-fronts. I'd print an 8 x 10 at home and put in an 11 x 14 black frame with white matting. Later, I would stop by the business and ask if they would like to purchase it. My asking price was $35.00.

On my way home I was thinking about shooting Marta's store-front and returning to sell her a framed copy. It was around lunch time on August 25, 2008, the Central Texas sun was glaring with outside temperatures way over 100 degrees. This trip was solely for the purpose of selling the store-front photo to Marta. Nothing more, nothing less.

As I drove into the driveway I saw Marta standing under the Live oak on the right side of the photo. She had a spray gun in hand and was painting an old wooden dining table and a set of chairs to match. I could see how miserable she was from the heat, sweat was dripping from her face, her dress partially wet. I had the framed photo in the passenger's seat in a plastic bag. As I exited the car I was reaching for the bag when something was vividly telling me, "Do NOT try to sell her this picture."

I approached her as she still painted and she shut down her work while we engaged in general conversation, mostly about how HOT it was on this bright August day. We chatted about some of her recent excursions, purchases for the store, and other items of small talk. Since she was busy I decided it was time to get out of her hair. I asked if I could get a quick photo of her as she painted a chair. She promptly replied, "NO! I am too fat, ugly and hot!" I quickly changed the topic and said, "Well, Marta, before I go I have something for you," She looked puzzled as I went to the car and returned with the plastic bag. I handed it to her, she pulled it from the bag, and I wish I could describe to you the expression on her face.

Marta's Room

"OH," She said, "OH! This is sooo beautiful! Are you sure it is for me?"

I said, "Yes, I thought you'd like it and I want you to have it." She broke into tears as I stood there not knowing what to say. Within a few moments she regained her composure and said, "You are the second person who has ever given me anything in my whole life" I was flabbergasted. I was speechless, We walked quietly into the store and she placed the photo on a white stand at the entrance. We had several more conversational exchanges as she told me of the only other gift she had ever received. It was a hand-made clay pot given to her years ago by a customer, and she obviously still cherished it.

On my way out the door, I turned and said, "Hey, Marta, would you have given me $35.00 for it?" She said, "NO! I NEVER pay FULL price for anything!! But I would have given you $30.00."
Texas Wildflowers on a Hot Day

Yes, Marta is the shot I never got. But I haven't given up! She has since relocated and I intend to find her new store and check up on her soon! Before it gets really HOT!
A Treat for Spring:  Texas Wildflowers

Jim Baines' Bio 

Jim is a self-taught photographer familiar with many different subjects in all types of environments, lighting and weather conditions. He does most of his shooting in Bell, Coryell and surrounding counties of the Texas Hill Country at various landscapes and points of interest. Jim is partial to rustic, nostalgic scenes, rusty tractors, farm equipment, trucks and old ranch houses. He is especially fond of windmills and only passes them up when there is no place to park safely. In addition to flowers, plants, insects and other nature scenes, he also enjoys shooting weddings, portraits, portfolios, QuinceaƱeras, sporting events and other special occasions.

More of Jim's images can be seen at Better Photo and Zenfolio.

  All photos by Jim Baines

One of my photographer friends, Debby Lewinson, suggested that I include a link to a truly harrowing story of and by a photographer in "Relentless Pursuit."  With the author's permission, follow this link to read Howard B. Eskin's story, and view the unbelievable photos.



Thursday, March 10, 2011

When Mother Nature Lends a Hand

Maryland Nature photographer, Bob Cammarata, shares some of his unique and entertaining experiences as well as some of the secret methods he's developed for "shooting" the animals.  You will really enjoy his stories and his magical photographs.


Bob has submitted two other stories of Relentless Pursuit.  Here are links to them:

"Next Stop Oz"

"On White Mountain"


I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog. If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my photography site. I'd love to hear from you!

Michelle Alton
When Mother Nature Lends a Hand

Nature photography is a challenging endeavor. A thorough working expertise of one’s equipment, acquired stealth prowess and species knowledge can take the optimistic outdoor shooter only so far. It’s always appreciative and obliging when Nature tosses that tiny crumb of providence his or her way. No matter what species or circumstance a nature photographer may choose to pursue, it’s his or her subject that will always have the final word…so I guess a little luck can never be a bad thing.

Where's My Carrion ?

Certain creatures can usually be relied upon to follow predictable behavior patterns. Unlike their larger cousin…the shy and reserved Turkey Vulture, Black Vultures have always been known to be a little more “camera friendly”. But who would have expected the antics of this particularly bold character? I was perfectly content shooting this bird perched high overhead in a nearby tree. From inside my vehicle, it was easy to get full-frame crops with my 600 mm pointed skyward. I was pretty much able to fire at will.

I took my eye off the bird for a brief instant to check my camera settings and when I looked back at the tree, the branch where my vulture once perched swayed empty in the breeze. It had been fun while it lasted but I knew that all good things must eventually end.

A few seconds later, I was startled by a strange scratching sound which seemed to be emanating from the roof of my Jeep. A quick glance through the window revealed that the intrepid bird had landed on my roof rack and was staring down at me!

Could it be this easy? Could it be possible to get close-up head shots of a wild black vulture without battling with huge glass? In an effort to find out, I quickly shed the 600 mm lens and attached a 180 mm. When I quietly opened the car door to step out, I was amazed that the vulture had held its ground (or rather, its roof). The bird was very cooperative and after having shot what was considered my share of intimate portraits from a few feet away, I shooed the avian invader into flight and got back into the Jeep to drive to my next stop.

But that same familiar scratching sound indicated that this rambunctious critter wasn’t yet quite ready to quit! After circling a few times, the bird had returned to its previous position on the roof rack. I slowly drove away, expecting the motion to prompt my hitch-hiker into flight but it wasn’t until I had accelerated up to speed that it finally abandoned its newly-found favorite roost and departed. I later learned that my accommodating photographic subject had left a fairly large deposit on the roof. (…payment for services rendered, no doubt.)

I Feel Pretty


Special Moments

White-tailed fawns are born scentless and with an inbred instinct to curl into a ball and remain motionless when approached or threatened…using an effective camouflage to “disappear” into their surroundings. To actually witness young fawns exhibiting this behavior in the wild is a rare and unique experience. I happened upon this newborn a few years ago while hiking in the Catoctin Mountains in central Maryland. As luck would have it, I was toting my full arsenal of photographic gear.

After grabbing a few photos from varying angles, it was apparent that my discovery seemed completely unconcerned with my close proximity. To take full advantage of this special moment, I quickly attached a second camera with a wide-angle lens to my tripod and used the timer to set up a few self-portraits. Throughout the entire session, the fawn did not move.

I was initially concerned that this was possibly a sick or diseased animal so I sent a few photos to Maryland D.N.R. They assured me that this was likely a healthy fawn exhibiting normal behavior. For that, I was relieved.


Part of the Act
This story-telling photographic opportunity could not have been any easier! It happened a few years ago during a local ladybug explosion…when my home was so full of the little buggers that I was convinced that my house was the primary winter layover stop for their annual migrations. One evening while sorting and editing a recent batch of photos, one of my resident ladybug tenants, with obvious aspirations of stardom, flew toward my workstation and landed onto one of my slides. After realizing the photographic possibilities of what had just transpired, I immediately grabbed my camera. A quick rearrangement of the slide trays and a propped up black background was my only involvement. The rest was pure luck.

A few seconds after her brief film debut, Lady Luck decided it was time to spread her wings and take to the air to rejoin the rest of her clan encircling my ceiling light.


Working for Peanuts

I’ve always been an ardent fan of “conceptual photography”. That truly special artistic genre in which an idea or concept is first envisioned in the mind’s eye. After which, tools and techniques are planned and implemented in an attempt to realize the artist’s vision. It’s relatively easy to achieve this objective when working entirely with inanimate objects. With live subjects…maybe NOT so simple! After enjoying and photographing the amiable antics of the ubiquitous array of gray squirrels that gather to frolic around my bird feeders each winter, I thought it might be kind’a cool to somehow get a photograph of one of the squirrels taking MY picture for a change. But how does one perform so seemingly daunting a task?

Knowing that gray squirrels are so easily bribed was half the battle. And, they’ll work cheap…literally for peanuts! So with my cache of specialized film camera equipment and a battle plan in hand…along with a few pounds of unsalted peanuts, I set out in an attempt to accomplish my goal. A “prop” camera on a table-top tripod was meticulously set up in an area frequented by squirrels, chipmunks and other back-yard fuzzies. A second tripod-mounted camera was positioned nearby. A radio slave remote system was wired to the motor drive of the main camera to allow me to observe the action and trip the shutter from a safe working distance. A few dozen peanuts were scattered around the prop camera with one peanut lightly secured to the back of the camera near the eyepiece with a piece of cellophane tape.

In theory, the scattering of nuts would attract the squirrels to the area of the camera and after they were all consumed, some brave soul might wish to press its luck and reach up onto that weird contraption to snag that final peanut…thus positioning itself into the perfect pose for my intended photograph.

Throughout the earlier stages of this enjoyable, multi-hour project some valuable lessons were learned. The first realization was that gray squirrels are much heavier and stronger than they look. My prop tripod was tipped over several times when the ravenous rodents quarreled over the nuts close to the tripod legs. To combat this problem, a few heavy rocks had to be wedged against the feet of the tripod (…out of frame, of course).

And I learned that gray squirrels are really fast! My plan seemed to be working as perfectly as intended…except that I’d miscalculated how quickly they could snatch the nut off the back of the camera. I had to be lightning-quick on the remote trigger because in the blink of an eye it was all over and the squirrel was back on the ground munching its prize.

Another interesting fact I discovered was that chipmunks can sense the presence of free peanuts from  great distances but unlike their larger cousins, they prefer their meals “to go”. They would emerge from tiny holes a dozen yards away, snag a nut, then scurry quickly back to the safety of their underground burrows.

I also learned something new about Tufted Titmice and Chickadees. They like peanuts too! On several occasions, these tiny birds would land on top of the prop camera and either fly off with the bait or just repeatedly peck at it until it fell to the ground to be quickly consumed by whatever lucky squirrel fortunate enough to be next in line.

But eventually, I fell into my groove. All of the bugs and pitfalls had been worked out, my “customers” were eagerly awaiting the next handful of handouts…and I could usually anticipate with relative certainty the exact micro-second to trip the shutter when that full-body stretch for the last key peanut was attempted.

And even though this photo session ended up consuming several hours and three rolls of slide film for just one keeper, the memories of times invested in search of any inner-visions are truly immeasurable.

As a side note: A few folks have asked me what ever happened to the pictures that squirrel took but I’ve never been able to locate that roll of film.

(…you think he buried it?)


Bob's Bio:

I am a Maryland photographer who specializes in nature in all its forms. For as long as I can remember, my love for the outdoors has inspired me to capture nature's beauty and intrigue. My primary interests photographically involve traveling the country and getting up close and personal with subjects in nature. My travels have taken me to every corner of the U.S. and parts of Canada but in today’s economy, it’s becoming evermore difficult to plan a road trip unless it’s all downhill!  I prefer to shoot in full-manual 100% of the time because I believe that it affords the ultimate in control and accurately represents the challenges and rewards that this great art has to offer.  I’m an active member of and a regular contributor to their Forums and Newsletters. My photos have been published in business brochures and on Bugguide and other popular wildlife sites and many have been sold as fine art prints. Lately though, I do this for fun.

I believe photography to be the therapy which keeps one sane in a crazy world.

Feel free to visit my website at .

  All photographs in "When Mother Nature Lends a Hand" by Bob Cammarata.

(If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment by clicking on the link below.)

Friday, March 4, 2011


This story, by Ron McEwan has everything—humor, pathos, and a wonderful lesson about little dogs! Ron hails from the great state of Missouri.

Ron McEwan


I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series.  Please leave a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.  Also, contact me if you have a story to post here.  And be sure to take a look at my photography site.  I'd love to hear from you!

  Michelle Alton


Wisdom of Oscar

It was a beautiful fall morning in October 2009. The sky was clear after a stunning sunrise; the air crisp enough to sting the nostrils. Your breath would hang in the air for moments, before dissipating.  Oscar, our loyal four-legged sidekick was anxious to be out of the truck and hiking down a trail in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. He loves to sniff and poke his nose into every hole and crack that comes along.

Oscar (Photo by Ron McEwan)

We love these hikes because we get our well needed exercise and the photo opportunities are invariably more numerous than those along the Interstate.

Photo by Ron McEwan

Arriving at the trail head, I got myself loaded up with all the camera gear (that I won’t use 99 percent of the time). Fellow photographers will chuckle here. I have been down too many trails, caught without the right lens. It’s the familiar sad story of the shot that got away!

By now Oscar was pulling on the leash to get going. We have to keep him on a leash because he will be out of sight before you know it, most likely never to be seen again. Because he is a dachshund and hunting is bred into him, his 18 pounds of small stature becomes 500 pounds of bad attitude when something catches his eye! Dachshunds will not back off; they will stay focused until they win or die trying!

At last we were heading off down the trail, looking for a natural bridge in the Red River Gorge. We knew that it would be difficult to find because photos of it are rarely found in most photographers’ archives.

It was a fun hike, rubber necking along, shooting photos everywhere I looked. Beautiful fall colors, vistas from overlooks and all of God’s creations appeared around every bend.

Photo by Ron McEwan

Arriving at a point on the trail about two miles in that should have been close to the natural bridge, I was standing on top of the ridge. But I wanted to get a better view from a lower point of view.

Photo by Ron McEwan

Then the adventure started to unfold. We stepped off the trail onto a path that was barely visible and arrived at a “T” intersection. My wife, Shirley, thought we should go left. I said that we should go right. After 26 years in the Army with night compass training, I know “which way is up!”  So we took the path on the right.

Things began to change rapidly. With Oscar on a leash, I was strapped with cameras and other equipment. The trail became so narrow that we were sliding along the cliff with our feet pointing 180 degrees from each other. Oscar adamantly refused to take another step forward. So I picked him up and carried him.

This was getting to be too much. Protecting the camera, carrying a dog that does not want to go further and also trying to push mountain laurel away from my face, we concentrated on trying to keep our feet from slipping off the ledge, a hundred feet or more above the valley floor. At last we found the end of the trail, but we did NOT find the natural bridge. And for lack of a better description, we were standing on a giant rock peninsula.

Photo by Ron McEwan

So we turned back with Shirley now leading the way, muttering something like “We should’ve went left,” and I was embarrassed to realize, and to be told that I really don’t know everything.

By now Shirley was carrying Oscar. He was terrified of being so high up with barely enough room on the trail for him to walk. A dog can often be smarter than humans; they know their limits and learn to live with them.

As fast as a blink of an eye, actually faster because I saw it happen, the ledge gave way. Shirley and Oscar were gone. My first thought was that I lost the love of my life and my best friend all at the same time. There was no sound of any kind. Shirley and Oscar had disappeared in a flash!

Photo by Ron McEwan

Shirley fell perhaps 11 or 12 feet straight down. She had fallen onto another ledge into a pile of leaves and pine needles-- a blessing! She landed on her rump, still holding Oscar. If she had not held onto him, he would have fallen another hundred feet or so down.

It took some careful maneuvering to get down to them without falling myself. It had rained a lot that month, and everything was soft, so grabbing onto small brush was dangerous, because it might pull out from the water-soaked soil. Eventually, we made it.

Besides our prides being wounded, Shirley had pain spiking in her hip for a week or two afterward. But all seems well now.  She missed the hikes we were planning with a couple of photographers that I know from posting on, Randy Dinkins and Carol Fowler. We hiked for a couple of days down into Cumberland Falls. Shirley read a book while sitting by herself in the truck.

We did not get a picture of the Natural Bridge, but we learned a lot from that hike. Do not “push the envelope on a hike. If you have a dog with you, don’t ignore his signals! Pay attention to his wisdom because it just might save your life one day!

Shirley, Ron, and Oscar  (Photo by Ron McEwan)

 Ron's Bio:

I’m a retired soldier, with 26 years of service, living again in my home town halfway between Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri.

Also, I am an avid amateur photographer, that applies very little editorial enhancements. I have learned that a bad shot is a bad shot!  I have loved photography ever since the eighth grade when I purchased my first little 8-dollar brownie camera. I thought I had paid a fortune, and even to
keep film going through it was a financial struggle.

Today I enjoy just about any photo op. I am drawn to high overlooks and vistas and wild flowers as I go along the trails. And am always looking for the out of the way places that are not often photographed. I do travel as much as I can as long as the money holds out.

Ron McEwan