The Pot of Gold Rainbow Over the Las Vegas Strip?

Rainbow Over the Las Vegas Strip from McCarran Airport
Rainbow Over the Las Vegas Strip from McCarran Airport

I thought I would post something a little different this Thursday for my Throwback Thursday post. Some of you may or may not know that we lived in Las Vegas for a while, and being close to a very accessible airport, photography wise, I shot more images from the Las Vegas McCarran Airport (KLAS) than probably any other single location. Since that was the case, I have several that were my favorites at LAS, but I was also able to get way beyond the normal observation area shot through the fence, which is the standard tourist shot. I was even able to shoot Air Force One when President Bush flew out, and then some just really freak things like this shot, a rainbow opening up right over the Las Vegas Strip. Rain is rare out there, and being in the location where I was in this shot was rare, and the aircraft taking off toward me from this runway was rare as well. They almost always take off and land on the parallels from east to west, so taking off to the south was unique for this day.

This should have been on the cover of any number of Las Vegas Tourism industry publications, but when I took this shot 10 years ago I couldn’t get anyone to even respond to an email, let alone look at a handful of images. Well it’s a different time and a different day. I have a Stories Section where I have some random stories to be told about random images, this is one of those stories. I was told the other day the old adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, well, I’ve never tried that, so next time, I’m going to do a picture, and a thousand words to go along with it. Today it’s only 350.

Our Next Team Headed to Kampala Uganda is Leaving Today

Uganda Team June 2012

Today our church sent off the next team that heads over to Uganda. This is our second group to go over to Uganda this year, and we have 2-3 more teams headed over to Kampala Uganda in the coming months. This team is a great group of seniors who have saved, found donors, and been preparing for months to get to the point of this photo above. In just about 24 hours they will put their feet on that red Uganda dirt, and somewhere in the back of their mind I know they will be thinking, whoa, we are in Africa.

I’m really looking forward to hearing all about how they are able to partner with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Uganda. If you would like to follow along as they post, you can head over to Rusty Hutson’s blog. If all things go as planned, Rusty will be sending blog posts over to the church as often as possible once they get on the ground and get to the house. Their first day is going to be a five hour drive out into rural Uganda, so once they get back from that first day on the ground we should start to see some new posts. To see more about past trips just click here or Uganda in the drop down menu at the top.

Greyhound MCI-9 Bus Conversion We Called Home :: Throwback Thursday

MCI Bus Conversion Before Painting

The post for this Throwback Thursday is an “On This Day 10 Years Ago” post (from this point forward OTDTYA), which I now realize is actually getting into a time period that is presented on my blog. The very first posts on my blog were in March 2001, which we posted three articles about our bus conversion in the photos above. I still need to go back and post-date some blog posts for that time period to fill in the gaps, but the two shots above was what Deborah and I were doing on this day 10 years ago. After we picked up our used (former Greyhound) bus from Ocala, Florida, we drove it back to Alabama, stripped it down on the inside, and then “shelled” it with plywood (image on the right side at the top), starting a long long long process of converting it into a motorhome we would use and live in for about 5 years.

It was about 10 years ago when we got our first digital camera, an HP Digital Camera 2MP gem, we used until I bought my first DSLR, the Nikon D100 a few months later. These photos were the very first set of images that were taken in digital form. From this period prior, almost all our images are taken, and still stored, on film. One item on my list is to take 1,000,000 photos, and since I can’t count the film images until at some point I can get them all scanned in, this started a count of digital images that still goes on today. So far I’m up to about 350,000 images taken, and it all started about 10 years ago, just about this time of year.


Aviation Photography Spotting at Las Vegas McCarran Airport :: Throwback Thursday

Las Vegas Departure of America West Cactus

Early this morning I was looking through some previous photo shoots from about 10 years ago, which today is my next edition of Throwback Thursday. In one respect, I can’t believe this was 10 years ago, it sounds so long ago when you say it like that, but when I look at the images, I can remember each day, each image, like I just drove over to the KLAS observation area yesterday.

Ten years ago, in my “off” time from work, I was all about aviation photography, and aviation spotting at whatever airport I could get to that week. I shot aviation photography for years until it just became too much of a hassle with local police and the FBI, who harassed me constantly about taking photos of planes in a post-911 world with big glass (most of the time the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 zoom). Most of my aviation images were posted over on airlines.net and more specifically mine are still at planephoto.net. These in particular were shot at the Las Vegas McCarran Airport observation deck. Back then, Deb and I lived in Las Vegas for a while, long enough to know Vegas as well any city I know, so I found every angle possible to shoot at KLAS, including when Air Force One showed up one afternoon.

One of the many things I loved about shooting in Las Vegas was the smog and dust from the desert of Nevada made for some incredible sunset photos, both aviation and the Las Vegas strip buildings. I probably took thousands of sunset and night images in Las Vegas but the one above was always one of my favorite, simplicity in flight.

Southwest Airlines in Las Vegas Departs Over Excalibur

Frontier Airlines Lands in Rain at Las Vegas Airport

Scott Fillmer Shooting in Las Vegas

Singapore Airlines in Las Vegas Strip

Heading to Entebbe International Airport for the Long Ride

This is the last trip post before we get on the plane in a few hours. I will continue to post some photos from the trip over the next several weeks and months as I go through the thousands of images I’ve taken over this trip. I can’t reflect over this trip any more, especially since we really have no distance in time for all our experiences over the last 7-10 days. For now I will leave everyone with the photo above that sums up our awesome driver, who took care of us the entire time. Everyone who has been over knows what this photo means. We love Eddy.

In this post are some shots of us in the crazy fast Eddy van along with one of Olive we all just loved. She was a super nice lady who went with us just about everywhere. It’s hard to sum up this trip. I think I probably will find it hard to sum up the trip for months to come, but overall it was a learning experience, a humbling experience, and hopefully one where we lived out the love of Jesus.

Trying to Remember the Why in the Go in the Middle of Life

The last few days has really kicked me in the back side, and I know it’s just because I’m just trying to get too much done before I leave. That time is gone now since there is no time left, but packing all this stuff reminded me of the why in the go. I get frustrating with packing all this stuff, because it’s stuff, and stuff just seems to get in the way, it takes up time, money, and in the larger scheme of things, probably isn’t necessary. But, on this side of eternity, we all need a certain amount of stuff I guess. A good friend of mine put it to me like this today when I said that I hate cars, “you do until you need to go somewhere”, which pretty much makes the point.

At some point tonight I did manage to get all that stuff, stuffed into a suit case, and then I looked at the photo above and remembered why all the effort to actually go is worth everything is takes to get there. I can’t wait to get under way tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to seeing Joanita again (the girl in the photo above), there’s just only so much packing and preparation one can do before it about drives you in sane.

Finishing Up Atlanta to Denver and Back Home Again

On one hand traveling anywhere on a plane today is such an incredible pain, and seems to take forever, but in the view of history, two thousand miles in a few hours isn’t so bad I guess. We went from a remote-ish cabin in Estes Park Colorado at 8,000 feet to our house, at sea level in Auburn, in about 12 hours. I have always loved airports, at least at long as I can remember anyway. Today the airlines pack as many people into every single aircraft as they possibly can, which makes for extremely crowded airports, and cabins. My perspective of airline travel has changed tremendously over the last twenty years, but airports, especially the major airports like Atlanta Hartsfield or DIA, are still a great place to just relax, people watch, read, do some photography, and generally take a break from the normal routine of things. I do love visiting different parts of the country, and the world for that matter, but as the cliche goes, there’s no place like home. I have visited every state in the country, lived in a dozen or so, and I can say without a doubt that the south really is a great place to live.

For all the craziness that is involved with traveling today I only have to look at the photo below to remember the reason why all that was worth it. To be there for the birth of our second grandson was an experience we will be able to remember as he grows up, and to be able to photograph his arrival into the world makes those memories even more vivid. I always feel very privileged to photograph specific events. They are all little pieces of history, frozen in time, never to happen exactly that same way again.

The photos in this post are sort of a hodge-podge of images from our trip home. I never did get a chance to do my 50mm airport shoot at Denver International Airport because by the time we got through security we only had about 30 minutes left before we got on our sold out flight, and we arrived hours before our departure time. I have several more photos of baby Luke than just the one below but I will save those for another post sometime.

This season, to me, seems so crazy right now that I find myself looking desperately for some margin (or balance). Fall is always a very busy time of year, but between football season, our multi-site movement at Cornerstone, a grandson being born trip, a niece to be born sometime this week, seminary classes, and a trip to Africa in two weeks, I’m feel a little frazzled (that a very scientific technical term) at times, just like everyone does.

I look at baby Luke in this photo below and it amazes me. God spent nine months to create the perfect little boy who right now knows nothing of the hustle and bustle of this world, and by the time he is my age, around the year 2050, he will no doubt feel the same pressures and anxieties that come with living in this extremely modern world. Maybe he will some day pull out this photo on his whatever electronic fangled device he has and remember that one day he too had no cares in the world other than to be warm and sleep in the sunlight.

Is Mission Work a Success Without a Tangible Objective?

It’s hard for me to believe that in just three weeks our next team will be on our way to Uganda. I am basically still processing what our previous team did while we were there in early August, but our next team has been meeting now for months to prepare for our trip, which leaves on October 5th. The mission of these two teams couldn’t be more different in planning, people, and objectives, while all being unified under the banner of Matthew 28:19.

Over the last few weeks I have been trying to figure out how to explain, in actual words, what it means to “go”, at least in the context of going to Uganda. Since coming back from my last trip I have been asked many different questions, but the questions that are the most difficult for me to answer are the ones that require a tangible objective reached to be valid. They are perfectly valid questions when it costs so much to “go”, but it’s also mutually exclusive to the directive in Matthew 28:19, and a tangible result (or lack of one) doesn’t always equate to success or failure of the mission.

There are so many different churches, groups, and organizations working in places all over the world like Uganda that most “trips” are setup to specifically achieve objective A-B-C, and when they get back, they can say, it was a success, we did A-B-C. These are “clean straight lines” as our beloved staff member likes to say. Problem is, as I have learned, it isn’t that clean, and the lines are rarely straight. They aren’t arranged efficiently to move down from point A to point B while all done in the proper order. Of course this is mainly because we are dealing with people here, not data points or entries on a balance sheet to put it in accounting terms I’m familiar with myself.

No one travels over 16,000 miles without planning and preparation, and specific objectives they would like to see accomplished, but the words of Matthew that say “make disciples of all nations” isn’t a precise checklist, thank goodness. I took many classes in seminary that were specifically discipleship classes, and one basically spent the entire semester discussing those five words. For some teams “make disciples” means installing rain catch systems, for others it’s digging a well, or building a church building, or playing soccer. Sometimes, “make disciples” means building relationships, and how do you quantify that into points A-B-C, and why would we want to. And that’s what I love about our mission. We have done and are doing the specifics, but it’s for the purpose of building relationships with those brothers and sisters in Christ and for those who have yet to hear the Good News, and the results are not always quantifiable in western terms.

Our team that leaves in three weeks has every single day cram-packed at this point. For the first time we are going to be working with 60 Feet, an organization that “bring[s] hope and restoration to imprisoned children“, research in the science of clean water at the university level, and a host of other things in Buloba and the orphanage. Will these translate into tangible objectives reached? I have no idea, and I am starting to ask why it is so important other than to satisfy our western view of productivity and progress. If we were a corporation it would be totally different, but we aren’t, we are working for the objective of Matthew 28:19. Accountability and using the always limited resources of any non-profit is of the utmost importance to everyone, but I still think the end result has to be balanced with the goals of Matthew 28:19.

Years ago I probably wouldn’t have ever written this post, but then, a few months ago, I met the girl in the photo I took above, and realized that she doesn’t care about any of that. David Platt did a much better job explaining this than I just did in his book I reviewed back in March, Radical. This journey didn’t start for me back in March, or during this previous trip in August, and I don’t expect it to end with this next trip in October, because this is what God has commissioned us to do for those who believe in Him, and I hope I will always be involved in God’s objectives, tangible or intangible.

Amsterdam Airport Photos and a 50mm Lens :: AMS-EBB

This is a continuation of my series, airports and a 50mm lens. Since I was in Europe this time I didn’t really get quite a much material as I normally do in a place like Atlanta. For one thing, once I get outside the United States shooting [photos] in an airport isn’t quite the same. The laws are different all over the world. I know what I can and can’t shoot in the U.S., and I can stand my ground in most cases in my own country. Not so much once I get outside the U.S., so this series changes a bit, to err on the side of caution.

Europe is usually ok about photographers as long as you aren’t obnoxious and you don’t look too suspicious but Entebbe is another story. I didn’t take hardly anything once we landed over there but on my next trip I know on the way back home there are a few things I would like to capture. I’ll see. In October I may be as tired as I was when we left in August, but EBB right now is about one single shot.

Here is a quick shoot of Amsterdam. There was a lot I didn’t get since our connection was so short, but next time I have a 5 hour connection so I should be able to improve upon this shoot. If you are wondering what’s the point… well, I actually consider this street photography, something I have really come to love over the years. Trying to capture a mood, or an expression, without someone standing in front of you going “smile” isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but sometimes it’s just more genuine. To me it shows a more realistic view of life. Everything in this (and all my 50mm airport series) is shot with one single focal length lens (obviously a 50mm), and to me, it tells a totally different story than the post from Atlanta 8 hours earlier told.

Almost Finished with an Initial Review of Uganda Photos

I have been back for almost two weeks now and it has taken me this long just to get through an initial run-through of all the images I shot in Uganda. What’s amazing to me about the images we captured is how many individual stories there are, waiting to be told, at some point down the road. I tried to go to Uganda with as few preconceived notions about I was going to be able to shoot as I could, and I’m glad I did. Not really having any idea what I would be able to capture gave me the freedom to shoot journalistically per se.

Looking back at the entire shoot in it’s complete unedited form showed me a greater story that is impossible to tell in one blog post, or even several. That’s the great thing about being part of something bigger than just an individual process, and I love that about the mission work our church is involved with in Buloba. It’s not about an individual effort but a collective group of teams over many years building countless relationships with people. Now that I have gone through the whole set of photos over the next few weeks, a little at a time, I’m going to post some short individual stories that came through to me.