Mount Dora, Florida

Normally, when you live somewhere you take for granted the surrounding cities or attractions around you. Driving through the orange groves in the middle of the night to catch sunrise, I drive into the city of Mount Dora. This morning we had planned to go out to an entirely new place to capture inspiration for some new photos and this city delivered.

At the elevation of 148 feet, this city is one of the highest places above sea level which is evident with the amount of hilly terrain that it is set on. The architecture of the buildings adds a certain village charm which has served as a winter retreat since 1887. There was even a lodge which looked like a big doll house set across from a park setup for lawn bowling.

If you are looking for a place to get out to take the spouse or family for the day to take in bite to eat, art or entertainment, this is a great destination!

About the photo:

These are still some of my favorite photos.

I absolutely love this section of stores and the lighting wound around the railing of the second floor cafe. I sat down on the sidewalk across the street and shot this with a tripod.

The yellow and silver topped dollhouse was home to the lodge 248 Free Masons. I am finding these masonic lodges littered all around Florida.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18 200 vr

Tempting A Path Less Traveled

Waking from a dream by the screaming buzzing of the alarm, I look over and see that my dog is sleeping right through it and the day has already begun with out me. The house is empty and I am ready to do something productive for the day. I get out of bed push the sleep mucus out of my eyes then stand up to stretch. I look down at the clock, and realize that this day has played itself out before. It is time for me to leave my life to go devote my time to an institution that continually reminds me that I am just there to work for a paycheck. Does this sound like a similar rut that you wake to every morning?

It is like I am living the life of Bill Murry in the movie “Groundhog Day”, but like a machine, I am doing what I’m programmed to do. In this day in age, we continue to keep doing this until we are worn out and can no longer keep pushing forward.

When I first took the job, I was excited that I was going to have a very secure place to work to insure the integrity of my family through retirement if I wanted. This excitement comes from the fact that I have a difficult time holding a job for one reason or another for extended periods of time. I do not believe that it is in my DNA to work for other people or be assimilated into the belief that I should depend on just one group to control my fate throughout life. A few years into working this job, I felt that I was due for a promotion, so I opened Tearstone Performance reselling automotive parts to fill in the gap where I was not getting a promotion. I was aggressively going after an increase of pay without having to beg or plead the institution I was working for.

I have learned that with money comes problems and that there may be something to living a simpler life. Most people grow up with dreams of having a nice car someday or having a big house or even being rich. The bigger house you have, the more money it is going to cost to heat that space, repair things when they go wrong and taxes you are going to have to pay on that property. The more expensive car you buy, the higher your insurance, repair costs and in most cases fuel will be also. On top of this, usually it is done by getting even deeper in debt slaving yourself away at lining the pockets of banks with extra money from the interest accrued which could have gone to buy twice to three times as much of what originally paid for to begin with.

The original reason why I was struggling to become more successful and build a better paycheck is to accommodate for all this extra stuff I have been accumulating. I was in debt so bad at one time, I was praying everyday that nothing would ever happen to me while I was working this job. I opened up Tearstone Performance for the soul purpose to help bail us out of the debt we were continually accumulating. I was a slave to work to pay for all my stuff.

Fast forward to today, after working intently from my very good friend, that debt is dumb. She coached me through pulling myself up by my bootstraps and charging head first into paying off this debt to get my head over water. Today, I have no credit cards and no car payments. I only owe money on my house which using the same principles as before.

So now, being debt free I am evaluating the need to work for someone else at all. The American dream is to focus your life at learning a marketable trade to eventually seek employment for someone else to make them rich so you can buy a bunch of meaningless junk that emotionally degrades your quality of life. I cannot help to feel that if I walked away from this career how many people would scratch their head to say “wow he walked away from a killer job, working at a killer company”. When I am lying on my death bed, I doubt I am going to say “only if I would have worked more”.

Sitting here at this company watching other employees fight tooth and nail to gain the admiration of the management in hopes they will move up in the company. These same people make this company their life by working late and taking time from their family and kids. They are caught in this rat race to pull out the stops to make more money to support a life that they continually grasping for constantly sacrificing time with their growing children they cannot get back. I am punished with reprimand because other people make these sacrifices and I do not. As I get older and begin to understand the big picture, that it is time to truly sacrifice things such as a big house or a new fancy sports car in exchange for focusing on being home and watching my children grow up. It is time to start working on getting out of this rat race and into a place where I can be in the driver’s seat of my own destiny.

I am sure there are many people that may feel guilty about the course their life has taken or may just be unaware of what they are giving up. Perhaps the greed of amassing a bigger income to have nicer things forces both parents to work while the kids fend for themselves at home. Even those who do not have kids, sacrifice their relationships to focus on their own careers instead of each other. This country in general has it’s priorities screwed up and admittedly I am no exception for falling in the trap.

The path less traveled would constitute securing a means of self employment which would give the flexibility of time without having someone manage my time for me. It would be nice to be able to go to my daughter’s open house at school or to a doctors appointment without having to be chastised by management about creating a pattern or taking too much time out of work on taking care of personal matters.

After the long day is done, it is time to go home. Within that time, the family is preparing for tomorrow to do it all over again.

Live simple, live happy.

Ham Radio

Just about everywhere you look on the horizon in any major city, you a tower with an array of antennas installed on them. Perhaps, most people do not even notice them, or had no idea they were there, but we all use them! These are the towers are primarily known for hosting the services that breath life into our cell phones. The closer you to one, the more bars you have. There are some towers that are cleverly repainted to look like fake trees in some of the more affluent neighborhoods.

People have gone so far as to terminate their land line in favor of just paying for a wireless cell device. They put their whole world and trust in this, even in the even of an emergency. Imagine if as a result of a disaster we lost these precious towers and we were to rely on another form of communication?

A lot of people believe radio or the radio hobby is dying or dead. Amateur radio hobby is still shared by over two million people around the world. Unbeknown by most but still willing to license anyone of any age that can pass the standard technical exam. It’s a hobby and service where amateur radio owners can communicate through various radio to other amateur radio owners for recreation and public emergency coordination.

What separates a licensed amateur radio operate from someone who can just pick up a walkie-talkie or CB is that amateur radio has more freedom to work with frequencies and output power to communicate over longer distances. In one night, one man can communicate with 100 different places over seas to other amateur radio hobbyists or communicate with a friend on the other side of the city.

I primarily communicate on a 2 meter band with a local repeater to talk with other amateur radio owners around the city. Normally, when you communicate with someone on a frequency, they also have to be tuned into that frequency to listen. Each frequency acts as a chat room for all parties involved, depending on the frequency you may only be able to go a certain distance or be blocked by hills or mountains as some of the lower bands are more line of sight oriented. In order to accommodate a larger chat room, antennas that are usually mounted centrally in the city are mounted high enough to increase the availability to other operators to talk to others through longer distances. Repeaters receive the transmission and retransmit it out to everyone else who is tuned in. The most popular repeater here in orlando is 147.120 operating on the 2 meter band.

To communicate over seas or at greater distances that require bouncing your signal off of the atmosphere (or ionosphere to be more precise), to follow the curvature of the earth. This would require separate equipment than what you would use to talk locally with.

I officially appeared in the ULS database as a new General HAM on 2/23/10 and go by call sign “KJ4SLR“.

For more information, check out the FCC Amateur Radio home page:

About the photo:

This particular antenna was directly across from the Orlando Amtrak train station. I have a fascination with antennas, and for the most part they do not photograph well for exciting pictures. However, this one had a lot of equipment on it and the sky painted a nice backdrop.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18 200 mm vr

Orlando Amtrak Station

Orlando AmTrackApproximately one mile south of Church Street station in downtown is the Orlando Amtrak station. This station was built in 1926 for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad then later by the Seaboard Coast Line rail road. It is still an active rail road station, and will be upgraded with the implementation of the Sunrail system planned for 2013. Due to it’s location adjacent to a cluster of Orlando hospitals, it will become known as “Orlando Health/Amtrak Station“. Over the years, this sector of hospitals has grown considerably and expected to employ over 19,000 people in the next 25 years.

About the photo

I was actually in this area to visit an organic brewery on the other side of the tracks. We were hoping to get a tour of the facility, however they were not hosting tours that day. In driving around to find that place, I spotted this Spanish-mission style building that looked rather appealing.

After some experimentation with the monochrome setting on the Nikon D90, I realized that it still captures pictures in color. There is a flag in the file that sends a request to the Nikon computer software to present it in black and white. When RAW images are brought up in Google’s Picasa, they come out in color anyways. Which is fine, this allows you to work with the colors and tones a bit before converting it over to black and white.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18 200mm VR2

Board of Directors

Group of VulturesI have been working for the same company for nearly 10 years. I came in this morning to find that someone who has put over 18 years at this company is leaving to follow his passion to become a professor and to get out of this city. Keep in mind that this company pretty much hires people for life. In my 10 years here, I’ve seen people work here for 30 years and die before they even hit retirement. One of my co-workers calls this place the “Hotel California”, you check in but you do not check out. So undoubtedly, this individual who is making the move to leave after such a long tenure was brave.

With the state of the economy, the constant trend for companies is to lay off people to cut costs until recently the tide has turned much to the surprise of companies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of voluntary resignations has surpassed the number of layoffs in February of 2010 for the first time since October 2008.  One such cause is that with the cost cutting that companies do, they are no filling in where people have left or cut thereby stressing those that are staying in the job. Companies have been taking advantage at increasing the load on their workforce because people were too afraid to let go of what they already have. Personally, I have a great paying job, with great benefits. The greatness of the job has degraded since one of the people on our 4 person team left, and they did not refill the position. They did not promote me into his position and I am left to do all the work he was paid to do.

Another big reason why people are leaving their jobs is also attributed to career advancement. With the job shortage, people were too gun shy to leave their jobs and it has created a backlog of workers looking to aggressively promote themselves into new positions in other companies. The days of devoting yourself to one company and rising through the ranks through hard work is in the rear view mirror. The companies that you can actually do that at are far and few between. Even the company I am employed with has a trend to hire outside this office.

We have been staring that these same cube walls for years. We spend most of our days watching our kids grow up through pictures on our cube walls at the expense of making someone else rich. Through that time, we have been a slave to our debtors, buying things we cannot afford and now chained to a desk working off our illusions of fancy lifestyles and conspicuous consumption to live the American dream. This is a voluntary life release program, you can go home every day to live your life, but you better be back.

About the photo

I took this photo in Mount Dora on a photo walk one morning. Those vultures were all hanging out on the chimney, and my buddy said “Look it’s the board of directors”. Vultures are a sign of death and bad luck. Working for someone else, you are sacrificing your life so they can squeeze all the good qualities out of you for their gain.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-200mm VR2

Bank Owned

Anyone who is going through turmoil as a result of an unstable economy or even a financial situation should feel like what this picture exemplifies. Most Americans rely on banks to provide things that we would normally not be able to afford on our own. Through that, they rely on a great source of income. Those who have lost that source of income, are now faced with the heavy burden of handling the finances for investments that at one time were a “sure bet”. The bank, alone is a master standing tall over you, thirsting for your pittance in return for your freedom to continue on until the next time it is demanded from you.

Some people, never wake up from being slaves to this financial institution. Most people are so blinded by consumerism and keeping up with their neighbors, they gladly give up their financial freedom to give off the illusion of status.

The bible states Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” There is no doubt that debt can take over the choices you have in life. The more you have the more it limits those choices.

About the photo

I managed to make my way to downtown Orlando to work on night photography. I love going downtown because it is busy with life, lights and architecture. With this shot, we managed to scale an open parking garage at the base of the BB&T building. Unfortunately, due to the high wall surrounding this particular parking garage, we became limited with our options. Framing up shots with the wall in the way without having a low building perspective was not easy. However, I figured I would take advantage of that perspective and shoot this building from the bottom up. Other than some slight contrast updates this picture is right out of the camera.

I took this picture with my Nikon D90 mounted on a tripod with a remote release.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-200mm VR2

Sleepy Marina

As the sun fell into the far off distance of the St. John’s river out in Sanford, I turned just the opposite direction and really liked the blue tone setting on the Marina. The amount of light left after the sun had disappeared was still enough to provide a reflection of the the boats on the water. The streaks of illumination in surrounded by lights added a nice touch to the picture, bringing in a bit of color to the overpowering blue tone.

I had my camera mounted on a tripod and used a remote release.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18 200mm vr2

Busy Bee

On my first photo walk at Henry P Leu gardens, I was lucky enough to come across a bee tending to a flower. When photographing flowers around the gardens, I did not switch to my macro lens but used the full length of my 200mm zoom lens. I was aiming for the same results that is implemented with portraits while diminishing sharp longitudinal features and building a nice bokeh in the back ground. However, a macro lens would have been ideal for this shot as it would have sharped up the subject while retaining the nice bokeh.

Bokeh is derived from the Japanese word boke or verb bokase, which literally means blurred. Parts of the images are blurred intentionally to create depth. Using the right amount of bokeh in the right places can truly make your subject “pop”. Bokeh should represent soft and rounded edges to the objects, which is commonly described as “smooth and creamy”.

Nikon D90, 18-200mm vr.


At the park that I shot the boathouse, I happened to walk by this bench on the way out to the lake edge you can see in the background.

As ordinary as a park bench may seem, it is a holding station for taking in the scenery around you. A park bench can help you work through problems, change your mood or become a stage for making memories. The way that I wanted to photograph this with the lake in the background was purely for contemplation. Imagine, for a moment that if you lost something important to you like a friend, job or spouse etc. You spend time contemplating the past, present and future.

I simply shot this with my zoom lens, taking account that since it was not in direct sunlight that I would bring down the shutter speed to grab as much data as I could so I can brighten it up just a tad in post. I added a tiny bit of saturation to bring up the vibrancy of the greens.

D90, 18-200mm vr